In advertising food and clothing and cars, the people who write the copy know only a few basic buzz words, words like bigger, better, best, new, reformulated, tested, and guaranteed. When it comes to quilt books, says my Darling Wife, publishers only know one word designed to take in the gullible beginning quilter whether she is first beginning or has been a beginner for over two years as my Darling Wife has. She has learned from experience that when it comes to believing what she reads or hears, it ain't always necessarily so.
I found this all out when she asked me where I had put the extra-heavy-duty aspirin.
"A headache?" I asked.
She glared at me.
"What kind of headache this time?" I asked. She did have a variety of headaches to choose from, most of them having something to do with quilting. There was a headache for continued thread breaking. There was a headache for magazine that left out the last few paragraphs of an article. There was a headache for running out of the impossible-to-find-again fabric she had run out of. The list is forever.
"I have ten books on my shelf that have the word 'Easy' in their titles," she said as I handed her the aspirin bottle. "Easy log cabin and easy stars and easy crazy quilts and easy miniatures and easy big blocks and easy this and easy that."
"Sounds easy enough," I said. I shouldn't have said that.
"I fussy-cut two hundred two-inch hexagons and 400 triangles for an I Spy quilt," she said.
"That's a lot of little pieces," I agreed. If I didn't agree, she would teach me about little pieces.
"And when I put them on the design wall to arrange them the way the directions tell me to, they don't go together in any way that resembles the pattern in the book."
"You want me to help?" Now, I asked that question because once in a great while when she is brought to the edge of desperation, when instead of an aspirin she needs a bottle of aspirins and a loving, caring husband, then I can sometimes look at what she is doing in a calm manner and maybe, just maybe, see what it was that drove her to near-madness and offer a solution.
"Go help," she said as she poured water into a glass and gulped down two aspirin in the hope of some relief for her achey-brakey head.
I went into her sewing room and stopped in front of her design wall. On the wall, the felt-like back of a large soft-vinyl tablecloth, there were half a dozen hexagon-shaped pictures that she had fussy-cut out of fabric. Some of the hexagons had two triangles sewn to them. Others had one triangle. Each hexagon was a fussy-cut of an animal or sports object or other images a child would like.
"I had to cut out two hundred different pictures for this quilt," she said. Somehow she had come quietly into the room and stood behind me. "Everyone is different," she said.
"That's enough for a headache right there," I said comfortingly.
"The headache's in trying to fit them together," she said.
"I'll try," I said. Now, if I know anything, it's that she is the quilter and I am not. She understands seam allowances and pressing to the dark side and I do not. She knows how to chain-stitch a million pieces of fabric together and I do not. She knows what she is doing and I do not. But I could try.
"It's impossible," she said in way of encouragement.
"It looks easy," I said. Wrong word. So, I tried. I looked carefully at the sides of the hexagons that were free of their triangular corners. Then I moved in for the kill. I put two together and then added a third. I turned one piece one way and another piece the other. I turned each piece upside down. I rotated the pieces ninety degrees and one hundred eighty degrees and 360 degrees. None of the pieces fell easily into place. None fell into place in any way.
"It supposed to look easy," she said. "That's how they snare you."
"It probably is easy," I said in a burst of bravado. I attacked the wall again but was soon forced back. I retreated in defeat. I took a deep breath. "Let me see the pattern for this," I said.
She pointed to the design just to the right of the I Spy pieces. I looked at it. It showed the hexagons arranged in even rows and odd rows. It had arrows for directions. The blocks were clearly laid out one after another. "That looks sensible enough," I said, encouraged by what now looked like a simple design.
I attacked. I moved pieces to the right, and I moved pieces to the left. I looked at the pattern then at the wall. I arranged and rearranged. I got three pieces matched up and was soon on a roll. At five pieces, I turned to Darling Wife and smiled to acknowledge the coming victory. I began to place the sixth piece. It didn't fit. "I'm getting a headache," I said.
"Does that mean you're giving up?" she asked.
"It means this is a crazy pattern," I said. I did wonder in my mind for the briefest part of a second if she had cut out some of the pieces backwards or attached the triangles the wrong way, but I knew better.
"Does that mean you agree with me?"
"I agree with you?" I agreed. "About what?"
"About the definition of easy," she said.
"This isn't easy," I said. "It's impossible."
"No, it's just difficult," she said.
"I'd say," I said.
"I'm going to take a break and when my headache is gone I'll come back and try again."
"You're braver than I am," I said, my own headache now getting worse. I looked back at the design wall and the clutter of misshapen hexagons I had twisted every which way in my frenzy to figure out their placement. "It still looks impossible," I said.
"Go lie down and rest," she said, comforting me now.
"All right," I said, and I went to lie down and rest. I needed a long rest, maybe a month or so.
But I only rested twenty minutes. I was interrupted from calm and serenity by her call.
"I got it," she said. "Come see."
I came and saw. Displayed on the wall were three rows of hexagons with their triangles perfectly placed in order so that they all matched, all the design clear and clever and complete. "Wow," I said. "How'd you do that?"
"You helped," she said. "When you made such a mess of it, I just unmessed what you had done and it all fell into place. It was easy."
I'm going to write a book, I think, "Ten Easy Ways to an Easier Life." Chapter one will try to explain quilters.
Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished I Spy Napping Quilt
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