"No, no, no," she yelled at the book she was reading. She was standing over the large ironing board in her sewing room, the book on one side, the strips of binding she was making for the new quilt on the other.
"You can't take that away from me," I finished, but from her tone and the frown on her face, I knew she wasn't singing some old song. She was upset and frustrated. "You upset?" I asked.
"I did the binding wrong," she said.
"How wrong?" I asked. I had become used to her saying she had done something wrong in her efforts to complete five hundred quilts in ten days, or so it seemed. I hadn't seen her much since Christmas passed. She came out of her sewing room only on rare occasions, and lately that was to exclaim that another quilt was finished. And she was never satisfied. Something was always wrong, she complained. A crooked square, a wavy sashing (I told her to wave back), a border that was off by a thousandth of an inch, a six-pointed star that only had five and a half points. "Looks good to me," I always said.
"I followed the new instructions in this book," she said, holding a strip of blue fabric up to my face. "Just look at how this binding looks."
I looked at a blue blur as she passed it quickly in front of my eyes. "Looks fine to me," I said. I wasn't just being nice. It was a fine blur.
"I know it's fine. It's almost perfect, but it's not what the book says it should look like."
"Get another book," I said. And, that, of course, was the real problem. She had too many quilting books.
"But this is the new one I got for my birthday," she said, dropping the strip of fabric and lifting the book up to my face. "Four Billion and Eight Ways to Create the Perfect Binding," the book title read.
"So, which one did you use?" I asked.
"I did Binding Number Forty-three. It says to cut the fabric on the bias and turn it toward the sunny side of the house and iron it with a cold iron while stretching it to the left," she said.
"Did you stand on one foot?" I asked. Sometimes quilting directions are a bit odd. But she always told me the Quilter's Creed was, "Anything that works."
"Don't be silly," she said.
"I'm silly?" I asked. "I didn't turn the fabric to the sunny side of the house during the foggiest day of winter."
"You know I'm making that up. The instructions are clear and useful and easy to follow."
"So why are you yelling, 'No, no, no,' and frowning?" I asked.
"Because the book doesn't agree with my other books," she said, and she dropped the large book to the ironing board, right on top of the blue binding.
"So it's a book war?" I asked.
"It's a directions war," she said.
"You're having problems with the directions again?" I knew she had screamed early in her quilting life when she had followed the directions to cut out fabric to make a quilt only to find out after all the fabric was cut out that the measurements in the book or magazine were wrong. After the second time she had done that she had learned to make only one square before she built the largest scrap heap in Quiltland from wrongly cut or wrongly sewn or wrongly batted or wrongly quilted fabric.
"I'm having trouble because I learned how to make binding a good way, and then I read directions for a new better technique for making binding, and then I read directions for a superior way to make binding, and then I read an article on eight hundred ways to avoid making bad binding, and then I read another article in a quilting magazine on how to make simple binding in an easy way, and the binding holding my head together is getting frayed." She said that all in one breath. Quilters can do that.
"Why don't you just go with what works," I suggested helpfully.
"They all work," she said, "but then an article in the latest issue of "Quilting Made Darn Easy" or the newest book called, "Cooking, Cleaning, and Making Binding in Your Spare Time," comes along, and all the books say there's a new miracle technique for me to bind my way into heaven."
"How many quilts have you made so far?" I asked.
"A couple," she said, underestimating the truth by about a dozen, maybe two dozen. Lately, she's become a quilt factory.
"And they all have binding?"
"And you did the binding?"
"Who else lives in this house who has a terminal addiction to stash and stitches?" she asked.
"And all the binding fits the quilts you made?"
"Yes," she said, looking at me now, her attention undivided, which was rare, as ninety percent of her attention the past year was always on some aspect of quilting.
"And you've made mock binding, and straight binding and bias binding with mitered corners and diagonal seams and French kisses--?"
"That's French binding," she said. She was paying attention.
"And lapped binding and single-fold and double-fold and scalloped--?"
"Do you know what your talking about?" she asked.
"No, but sometimes you read out loud, and I pick up things."
"How about picking up the telephone and ordering me some more fabric so I can make more binding," she said. It wasn't a question. It wasn't a request. It was a quilter's command.
"What kind of binding?" I asked.
"I don't know yet. I'll see what the new book says."
"The one you're going to order for me."
"What book am I ordering for you?"
"Dream Binding and Butter Churning Your Way into the New Year," she said.
Copyright 1998 by A.B. Silver
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