Quilt Abuse




"I'm going to jail," she said to me the first thing this morning.

"What jail?" I asked, knowing I had to tune into her way of greeting this new day.

"Any jail they put me in," she said.

"Who wants to put you in jail,?" I asked.

"The quilt police," she said straightaway, matter-of-factly, as if I knew there was such a group of law enforcement people and that there were laws of some kind that would cause the members of that law enforcement agency to arrest my Darling Wife.

"I didn't know there were quilt police," I said politely, but earnestly, for I wanted to keep the conversation going until I knew what she was talking about. Of course, I suspected that it was possible that there really were quilt police. She had entered into some parallel universe when she took up quilting three years before, and strange things occurred in our house regularly, almost all of them attributable to her quilting.

"I'm sure there are," she said.

"But you're not absolutely sure."

"I'm still guilty," she said morosely.

"Guilty of what?" I asked.

"Quilt abuse," she said.

"Quilt abuse?" I asked. "I didn't know there was something called quilt abuse, let alone a law against it." I really didn't know that.

"There are a lot of people who abuse quilts," she said. "So there has to be a law to protect the quilts."

"You know cases of quilt abuse?" I asked. Now, if she were feeling guilt about something, and she felt that some quilt police were going to soon be banging on our door to arrest her, I thought for a moment I'd like to see those police and ask how serious a crime it might be, if there was such a thing, and I was sure there wasn't. I had no doubt she was just feeling guilty about not quilting as much as she thought she should.

"I always tell you about quilt abuse," she said, slightly indignant that I couldn't remember what she had told me.

"Tell me again," I said. "You know I'm getting older and my memory is not what it used to be." I don't know if that would placate her, but she made no immediate reply. She stood there in front of me thinking. Finally, as I stood there waiting, she spoke.

"That time the woman at the quilt shop told us that she had spent months on a quilt for her aunt only to find out when she went to visit the aunt several months after having given her the quilt that it was being used as insulation to plug a long crack in the baseboard of her kitchen.

"That's outrageous," I said, wondering how long a quilt would last in that situation.

"That's quilt abuse."


"The man who used his wife's quilt for a pad while he worked under his car."

"I remember that one," I said. I did.

"And the grocer who used his mother's antique quilt to shade his produce on his outside stand."

"A quilted awning," I guessed.

"Quilt abuse. It rained on the quilt several times and it rotted in the sun after a few weeks."


"The woman who hand-quilted a double wedding ring quilt as a wedding present for her cousin only to find out that the newlyweds had hung it on a wall behind a crib that they were spray painting with blue paint. Quilt abuse!"

"It was probably an accident, forgetfulness as they looked forward to having a child," I said to apologize for the newlyweds.

"It was still quilt abuse. But it wasn't as bad as the man who wrapped his mother-in-law's gift of a wall hanging around his cat's scratching post because it was soft and it would make his cat happy."

"Ouch," I said.

"And the many, many quilters who complain when they find that the quilts they so generously made for people were lining the trunks of cars or used as beach blankets or dragged off into the woods by teenagers for who knows what non-quilt-related activities."

"Those terrible kids," I said.

"And then...." she continued as she began a long list of examples.

"You don't do any of those things to your quilts," I interrupted. "You love your quilts," I said.

"I do, I do, but I'm still guilty."

"Should I dial--what is the number for the quilt police?" I asked.

"I'll be dropped from membership in all the guilds. I'll be scorned everywhere I go."

"Tell me," I said.

"I use the quilt in my sewing room for a bulletin board," she said, her tone one of pain and agony.


"I pin things on the quilt when I'm working at the big board on the ironing board." She looked at me to see if I knew what she was confessing.

"I remember that list of directions hanging on the border," I said.

"And patterns, and a color chart, and photos of the grandkids, and the measurement conversion chart, and the pins I take out of the blocks as I iron the seams on them. I'm a quilt abuser and I can't stand the guilt anymore. Arrest me."

"I'm not a quilt cop," I said. "I'm your husband and I won't turn you in. And if you are arrested, I won't testify against you," I said.

"I didn't realize how much I was abusing the quilt until this morning when I went into the sewing room and the quilt was completely covered. I couldn't see the quilt at all."

"Not even a few patches of color?" I asked, trying to lighten the moment and help her through her ordeal.

"I put up some paper-pieced houses I finished last week and some scrap binding I had made, and then the quilt disappeared. I'm an abuser," she said. She held her hands out, her wrists turned over. "Cuff me," she said.

"Is the quilt still there under all the abuse?" I asked.

"Of course it's there. I love that quilt."

"Then let's go unabuse it," I said, and I took her wrists and turned her toward the stairs and prodded her up to her sewing room and helped her unpin every piece of paper, every pattern, every completed block or patch, every needle with a tail of thread hanging down. It took eight minutes. "There," I said. "You're free to go. But you're on probation. One more offense, any more abuse, even the smallest amount, and I will call the quilt police."

"I'm free to go?"

"Yes," I said, "but there's a sentence of thirty days of community service. You can start with breakfast."

"Free!" she exclaimed. I gave her a judge's scowl, and she went to make breakfast. I piled all the litter from the quilt onto her cutting table. I looked back at the quilt hanging on the wall. It was free as well, and it smiled at me. A nice smile.

Copyright 2001 by A.B. Silver

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