There she was bent over her cutting table, her back to me. A lamp cast its natural light over the table. Her hands were busy, running back and forth over the fabric which lay before her. She had a seam ripper in her right hand, and with one quick jab, she sliced the seam apart. The threads which were tight before, were now free.
"What's up?" I asked as I came into the room.
"Sick block," she said, her voice slight, her head moving slightly as she answered. Her seam ripper struck again, slashing another row of stitches.
"Sick as in ill?" I asked.
"Sick as in doomed unless I operate," she said.
"You're the doctor," I said.
And so she was, her lifetime of experiences all adding up to this, all coming down to this, all bringing her forward to this moment. The patient lay on her cutting table spread across her Olfa mat, my darling wife's hand swift but careful as she made each incision.
"So what's the diagnosis?" I asked as she operated.
"Some pieces didn't piece and the squares not square," she said.
"And the prognosis?" I knew my quilting medical terms. I had seen this all before.
"I can save it," she said. "Go boil some water."
"A tricky procedure?" I guessed it was. She needed to give it her full attention.
"Go," she said.
There are always times when things go right and I hear not a peep from her, not a complaint, the beginning, the middle, and the end of her quiltmaking all planned and completed successfully. But sometimes, oh, yes, sometimes, a quilt succumbs to forces beyond her vision. Sometimes things go wrong and her quilt needs a doctor.
A day after the surgery on her quilt block, that pastiche of batik scraps doing nicely in the recovery room, I heard her voice in the distance, that voice transformed from a cheery sound to a sound from the bowels of the earth. "Oh, gosh darn doofangle," she said.
"Something go wrong?" I asked.
"Of course something went wrong. How often do you hear me say doofangle?' she asked.
"A little problem with your quilt?" I gave her a questioning look as I spoke, but she did not see my experienced look of concern. She answered before I could begin a nice little frown so that I could commiserate.
"A big problem. A very big problem. My quilt is in the emergency room."
Now, understand, she only has one room, which is her sewing room, and that really means quilting room, for though she sewed on rare occasion if something needed sewing, ninety-nine point ninety-nine percent of the time she quilted. However, that one room can be many rooms. Before it had been a recovery room. Now it was an emergency room. Soon, no doubt, it would be an operating room again.
"In triage?" I asked. I know my emergency terminology, and only she could decide whether the injury to the quilt was minor or major or really, really desperate.
"We have to go to the quilt shop and get a new blade for the rotary cutter. My last cuts were ragged and crooked, and I can't help the quilt without a new blade.
"You already have a new blade," I said. "You have five new blades. You ordered them six months ago. They are somewhere in your medical supply closet," I said. I could play doctor, too, or at least an assistant to the doctor.
"Oh," she said. "Never mind."
"Pee-yew," she said the next morning. "Can you smell that?" She had just come down the stairs from her sewing room, and she was holding her nose.
"Not a thing. What should I be smelling?"
"I scorched a goose," she said.
"I was planning to make flying geese for the border and one of the geese got burned a little. Just scorched." She let go of her nose and sniffed the air.
"You burned your quilt?"
"I ironed a goose at the wrong setting, and then I knocked some pins off the ironing board and left the iron on the fabric when I bent down to pick up the pins, and I made toast of the goose and a bit of the border."
"Is it all right now?" I asked.
"I freed the geese to fly away home and I patched the speck of the burned border."
"In the burn center?" I asked.
"Did you do a fabric graft?" I asked. I'm sure she had a burn center in her quilt hospital even if she didn't need one as she had never burned any fabric in her life before. Her iron shuts off automatically if it smells a whiff of trouble.
"The flying geese are flying again," I said. "I'm sure they're happy."
I assumed the burn treatment was successful, for she didn't mention the quilt again for five days. On the sixth day, she yelped. "Yelp," she said.
"A problem?" A yelp meant a problem, but, if so, it was a little problem, one she could usually solve herself. But she yelped again, so something was going on.
"My batting is fused," she said.
"It's fusible batting," I said.
"I broke a nail on the batting," she said.
"What nail?" I asked. She had no nails to speak of. She had long ago in her life gotten tired of snagging her nails on her fabric, on her quilts. Now, her fingernails were filed down so smoothly she couldn't scratch an itch.
She raised her little finger. "The nail got caught unfolding the batting. Help me," she said.
"I'll help," I volunteered. I understood what she was asking. The batting was queen-sized and came compressed in a plastic bag the size of a postage stamp, and removing the batting from the bag and unfolding it sometimes required a whole staff of quilt doctors along with a nurse, an assistant, an aide, and an orderly or two to help her unpack the fused batting and then unfold it inch by inch.
"It's going to be a healthy quilt," she said.
"I hope it has medical insurance," I said.
After I broke a nail helping her bring the batting to life, she smiled and dragged the spread-out batting over her shoulder up to her sewing room. I went into the kitchen and had a cup of tea to calm my nerves. I had a certain feeling of exhaustion in dealing with the agony and pain of quilting, but after successfully helping the quilt doctor breathe life back into fabric and thread and seeing a bright future open up for the quilt, I felt good about what had gone on. I drank my tea and relaxed.
Oh, yes, there were several more crises as she continued on with the quilt, but she resolved each one. Of course, she did. All her training, all her experience along with her vision and hope for better quilts, all combined to make her eligible for her deserved title: Darling Wife, Quilt Doctor.
Copyright 2005 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Well Quilt"
Back to Home Page * Top of Page
E-mail Popser if you'd like.