The Feel of an Old Quilt

Posted by Jim Mize on November 3, 2023

As the days get shorter and the nights chillier, there's nothing like the comforting feel of an old quilt. Writer Jim Mize shares the story of his favorite old quilt and how it's kept him warm and secure throughout many seasons of life.

Family heirlooms take many shapes. Old watches, silverware and antique beds are examples of items left in wills or gifted along the way.

Their value is often sentimental and increases over time as stories are added to the item’s history. One of my favorites is an old quilt.


I remember exactly when I received the quilt because I was headed to college in the Virginia mountains

My grandmother thought it might be cold up there, so she gave me a quilt to take with me. My 1967 Mustang was already packed so full I couldn’t see out the rear window, but the quilt got wedged in among the boxes just the same.

She was right about the winters at Virginia Tech. I remember one stretch where we went for over a week without getting above freezing. The winds whipped between the buildings as if they accelerated as they pressed against those stone walls.

That old quilt was a welcome bed covering on those winter nights.

The history of the quilt before it was given to me I never heard. It was already old when I got it. I don’t even know if my grandmother made it or if it was given to her. I was just happy to receive it at the time.

The quilt itself I’d describe as a star pattern, though I’m no expert on the subject.

The quilt is yellow with black diamonds forming the star. One of my friends looked at it once and said it reminded him of Charlie Brown’s sweater. It’s a description that stuck with me.


One of my favorite features is the weight of the old quilt

It’s heavy. Modern bedspreads just don’t have the same feel. 

It’s like the quilt holds me in place when I go to sleep. On a cold night, the weight seems to contribute to the warmth and lets me know that it’s doing its job to keep out the cold.

My old quilt also has a unique smell I’ve gotten used to. It doesn’t smell dusty or dirty so much as just old. It’s hard to explain. Somehow the quilt retained its sense of place, originating from the house my grandfather built rather than a store or warehouse in some distant city. 

Even after cleaning, the quilt retains that smell. Over the years, it’s become comforting, sort of a reminder of its history.

When I left college, I bounced around the country for a few years, and the quilt traveled with me

It covered me on cold winter nights in the Colorado mountains and on the front range of the Rockies. 

It was a mobile time in my life, and both the quilt and I racked up the miles.

Sometimes the quilt was used in the car to keep objects protected from breakage as we bounced down the highway. Then, when I arrived at my destination, it went back to its role as a bed covering.

My quilt led a tough life in those early years.

 After a while, I moved back to the South and started a family

As rooms were outfitted and updated, the quilt got bagged and stuffed in the back of a closet. There it remained unused and forgotten. Newer quilts and bedspreads took its place.

A few years ago, I moved my writing office to a small cabin in the mountains. The winters get cold for short spells, and the Lab and I both enjoy a cool house. So, the quilt came along for the move, much like it did when I went to college.


It’s worn a bit now, as we both are. The fabric has faded, and the yellow is no longer the shade of a banana as it once was.  The black diamonds are mostly intact, though a few have torn off, and the stuffing shows. The smell remains just the same, reminding me of the years gone by.

But on a cold night, when the mercury dives in the thermometer, and sleet bounces off the tin roof of the cabin, I reach for the old quilt. It weighs me down in bed and holds me in place while the weather outside batters the pine siding, and the wind roars over the top of the mountain.

Sleeping under an old quilt doesn’t just keep you warm; it keeps you secure.

Maybe that’s what my grandmother was hoping for when she gave me the quilt before I left for college. For the most part, I’d have to say it’s done its job.

And over time, I’ve come to appreciate the feel of an old quilt.

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Jim Mize

Jim Mize has written humor and nostalgia for magazines including Gray's Sporting Journal, Fly Fisherman Magazine, Field & Stream, and a number of conservation magazines, picking up over fifty Excellence In Craft awards along the way. His most recent book, a collection of humor for fly fisherman entitled A Creek Trickles Through It, was awarded best outdoor book in 2014 by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. More on Jim and his writing activities can be found at acreektricklesthroughit.com

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