The Frog Challenge





She promised herself she would make the quilt that had been waiting for her for far too long. That meant she would have to commit herself to some kind of pleasant torture, endure the cutting out of about a billion pieces of fabric that were required for the paper-pieced, foundation-pieced and block-pieced quilt, so much cutting and sewing and quilting and binding for one small quilt. She had looked at the project a hundred times and always refused to commit herself to trying to make what she saw as a fabric jigsaw puzzle. Now, as she stood at the entrance to her sewing room, she seemed to have made up her mind. I could tell because she was calm for the first time in the days she had been trying to decide.

"So, what have you decided?" I asked.

"I've just made up my mind about the quilt," she said.

"The one with all the pieces?" I asked.

"It's going to be a challenge," she answered.

"That difficult?" I asked.

"I don't know how difficult. The pattern says intermediate, two spools, but to me that means it will be a challenge. Anything beyond beginner is a challenge."

"Aren't there easy challenges?"

"Sometimes. And sometimes they're impossible."

"How can you tell the difference?" I asked.

"Hah," she said.

Now, what that all meant was that she would not be easily taken in by the promises made by the designer or pattern maker or magazine where the pattern appeared. Experience is a teacher. What her experience taught her was that easy wasn't always easy and intermediate wasn't always intermediate and advanced usually meant really, really difficult. The most difficult quilt she ever made was supposed to be for beginners, but she found out that any beginner attempting that quilt would be beginning a trip to some asylum for frustrated beginning quilters.

"Never take a pattern for granted." My Darling Wife read my thoughts again.

"You don't trust the labeling?" I asked.

"Sometimes there's truth in labeling. Sometimes not," she said. "There are labels and there are labels. We need more specific labels."

"Such as?" I asked.

"E-Z-Does-It quilt pattern," she answered.

"As easy as breathing in and out."

"So easy you should be ashamed."


"Guaranteed to be foolproof."

"Easy--if you know what you're doing."

"You can make this with your eyes closed."

"No experience necessary!"

"Easy, it's not."

"Intermediate." (We'll see!)



"For experienced quilters only."

"Not for sissies."

"You may not survive this quilt."

"Fifty-thimble rating."

"Three strikes and you're out."



"Pure torture! Quilt at your own risk."

"Danger: This quilt pattern not for the weak-hearted."

"We dare you to try to make this quilt."

"Too advanced for you to even think about trying."


"So how do you really know how difficult a quilt will be?" I asked

"Ask ten quilters and you'll get twenty different answers," she said.

"But you're going to do the quilt anyway?"

"Of course. It will be a challenge."

"But you say that every quilt is a challenge."



She began the quilt as she usually does by searching her stash for two or three days to see if she has the colors and the quantity she will need. It takes two or three days because she keeps stopping her search to yell or sigh or sit down or tell me she needs to go to the quilt shop for something else. After a few days she tells me that she has started.

"I started," she said.

"Which quilt?"

"One with frogs and bugs and lots of grass," she said.

"They go together," I said.

"Flies and bees and dragonflies and a turtle," she said. "I was afraid to start because of the flying bugs. Bugs are hard," she said.

"Challenging," I said.

"Just hard. They're small and I keep chopping off their wings."

"No bug wants that," I said.

"Do you want to see my frogs?"

"Like the one in the backyard we heard last night?"

"The frogs that are going on the quilt. They don't croak."

"All right," I said. "Show me the frogs."

She showed me the paper-pieced frogs. They were neat looking frogs even if they didn't make a sound. "The quilt looks challenging," I said.

"What's with the challenge you keep talking about?" she asked.

"You said this frog quilt was going to be a challenge, so much a challenge you put off making it for a year."

"I've had another year of experience," she said. "And now both my sister and our daughter-in-law like frogs. That decided it for me."

"Do you start with a polliwog" I asked. I wanted to really understand about the frogs.

"If you mean a tadpole, there are no tadpoles in the quilt."

"Just frogs?"

"Frogs and flying bugs and a turtle and lots of grass. I told you that already."

"When will you finish the quilt?" I asked.

"It will be done when it's finished. All my quilts are done when they're finished.

"But some are easier than others," I insisted.

"Sometimes the easy ones take a long time and the difficult ones only take a short time. This one's intermediate."

"That's because some are big and some are small," I guessed. I didn't know about intermediate.



"It depends on whether I know what I'm doing when I do it. I still don't know a lot and it takes time to learn how to do something I don't know how to do. That's why I don't always believe the labels. Labels can be challenging."

"You know what's a challenge?" I asked. She looked at me. I Looked back. "Being married to a quilter," I said.

She didn't answer. But she finished the quilt.

Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Frog Challenge Quilt"

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