The Argument





There were only two other quilters left in the quilt shop. They stood at the rack of patterns as Darling Wife and I carried a bolt of multi-dye fabric over to the cutting table and waited for the clerk who had gone to pull a curtain on a display window as the sun had shifted and was coming into the shop and onto a display of fat quarters.


"It's not easy to machine quilt," said the taller of the two women as she turned the rack and pulled out patterns to look at.

"It has to be easy if you can do it," the second woman said. She gave the rack another spin away from the first woman.

"A lot you know with your betweens, said the first woman. She stopped the rack and held on to it tightly in place.

"Hand quilting takes some talent, which you certainly don't have," said the second woman trying to move the rack again.

"If you got near a machine, you'd run the needle through your thumb. Most likely your knee as well." She released the rack and turned a packet over and looked at the back and then the front again.

"Ha, ha," said the other. She grabbed at the pattern. "You don't know how to appliqué. Put it back. You're only fooling yourself."

"At least I know the difference between puce and teal," said the first woman. "All your quilts blind anyone not smart enough to look away."

"At least I finish my quilts. You only make squares and blocks. When are you going to put some of them together, huh?"

"At least my squares and blocks match up and are even. You're like a crooked woman with crooked eyesight. Even a ruler doesn't help your lines. And I won't even mention your points that never match up."

"Crazy quilts don't need to be straight. Crooked is much better. More artistic. You think art is a man's name."

"Susan, you should take up painting broken furniture. That's a hobby you'd understand."

"Susanne, you should know what you're talking about before you start criticizing someone who can quilt and knows one fabric from the other."


"They're both named Susan," I said to my wife as she unrolled some fabric off the bolt.

"One's Susan and the other's Susanne," Darling Wife said, emphasizing the difference in pronunciation I hadn't heard.

"You know them?" I asked.

"Everyone around here knows them."

"Why are they arguing?" I asked.

"They're not arguing."

"Oh, that's right, quilters never argue," I said, having heard quilters argue at shops and shows and in casual conversation for several years. Usually the arguments were over which yellow is better, lemon yellow or buttercup yellow; or they argue over batting, high loft, low loft, fusible, non-fusible, all cotton or a blend; or they argue over the size of stitches in hand quilting, ten to the inch or twelve to the inch; or they argue over needle size; or they argue over paper piecing or foundation piecing or sewing machine brand or type of iron or templates or freezer paper or--or--or--anything.

"Quilters don't argue. They have discussions," my sweet spouse said. "The Sue Sisters are just considering quilting in general."

"That doesn't sound like a discussion," I insisted. "It sounds like an argument. Sue Sisters?"

"That's what they're called. They're not really sisters. They're in the same guild and shop here a lot so we all know them."

"They are still bickering," I whispered. I listened.


"You read the wrong magazines," said Susan or was that Susanne? I think it was Susan.

"You couldn't follow a pattern if you could read," said Susanne.

"That's because I'm creative and don't need a pattern while you would be lost without a template."

"Well, I'm going to buy this pattern," said Susanne.

"It's too difficult for you. I'll buy one and show you how a quilter quilts."

"Humph," said Susanne.

"And all you can quilt are those teeny-tiny miniatures. When are you going to make a real quilt," said Susan.

"They're wall hangings and take more skill than those monster quilts you make. You don't know when to stop. You could have used your last quilt to cover your house for fumigation."


"Wow!" I said to my spouse who was now giving directions to the clerk who had returned to cut the fabric.

"Don't get excited. They love each other and are just having a discussion. It's their own little quilting bee."

"It sounds like war to me," I said.

'No, they're the best of friends and they can outquilt most quilters I know."

"But­" I began.

"They're both prize winners," she said.

"Quilt prizes?"

"They argue over who has the most awards."

"I thought they weren't arguing. You mean they discuss who has more prizes?" I thought I was catching on, but I wasn't sure.

"They've been in competition with each other for thirty years."

"And everyone knows this."

"Of course." She turned to pay the clerk and take her fabric. I turned back toward Susan and Suzanne.


"Prewashing is better" said Susan.

"I don't wash anything," said Susanne.

"That's why your quilts are so lumpy."

"I use the best fabric, not your ninety-percent-off old style fabrics on the bargain table."

"I know a bargain when I find one, and it's always the best quality you would have overlooked."

"I have a better feel for the fabric."

"I know the difference between design and chaos."

"So, do you want to buy that pattern Or I will," said Susanne.

"I will unless you want it."

"No, you can have it. I'll find another one."

"Then we're finished here," said Susan.

"Are you coming over for lunch?"

"Of course. I have to show you how to make a sandwich. You still don't cut the bread straight."

"At least I know the difference between bread and cardboard."

"Well, I'm starving. Let's go."


"They're the Sue Sisters?" I asked again to be sure as we left the store. I have a poor memory for names, but I would remember theirs.

""You should really see their quilts. They've done several together that are unbelievably beautiful."

"They quilt together?"

"And argue every stitch of the way."

"You mean they discuss quilting as they quilt?"

"No, they argue," she said.

"I won't argue with that."

"Not if you want me to finish your quilt."

I didn't argue. I never argue with a quilter.


Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver


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