Quilter's Gold





My Darling Wife has been in quilt training for three years. Now she is going for her personal best. She asked me to be a judge, and I agreed.


That was this morning. After I made the long climb up to her second floor quilting stadium and took my seat in the judge's chair facing her design wall, she put half of her first paper-pieced block up. I jotted down my judgment and held it up for her to see: 6.0.


"How can it be a perfect score," she asked. "It can only be about a five-point-three," she said.

"You can't judge your own performance. That's why there are judges. Only judges can judge the finished project."

"It's not finished yet. It's just half of a block. It's like the preliminaries," she said.

"I'm just judging the technical performance, such as the machine stitching. I'll judge the performance later when you're finished."

"I'll never be finished. This is a never-ending quilt."

"You've said that before," I said. She had. Many times. Many quilts.

"Look at all the pieces," she said, and she pointed around the room, to piles and piles of small cuts of fabric

"Twelve blues, ten greens, eight pinks, fourteen purples, forty-two piles here, twenty piles there. Or maybe it's the other way around. I'm all mixed up. I started counting them out according to the directions, but I'm not good with numbers, so I just made a lot of piles, and later I'll move the piles from one place to another, and then I'll paper-piece the pieces and then rip some of them out because some of the pieces and the colors will be out of order, and when I'm done, I'll just be beginning to understand what I have and what I need."

"A perfect six," I said.

"For what?"

"For that sentence."

"What sentence?"

"The one you just finished in which you explained that it takes an Olympic champion to take all the pieces of fabric in this room and organize them and arrange them and sew them and quilt them into a finished product."

"I just said that I have a billion pieces piled high in this room and that what you see now on the design wall is all that's done so far after two weeks of cutting up stash for a stash quilt I may never recover from. And I'm still at the beginning."

"One step at a time," I said.

"What are you stepping about?"

"Start at the very beginning," I said.

"I'm way past the beginning. Choosing the project was the beginning. Choosing the fabric was the beginning. Cutting a trillion pieces was the beginning."

"You're right," I said. "That's why you received the high score."

"Go judge the garage," she said. "You said you were going to clean out the cabinets."

"I'll be back when you need me," I said.


Often she has said she would never enter any quilt of hers in any show or competition. "I'm not an expert and I don't need ribbons or awards."

"You just quilt for fun and a sense of accomplishment," I said, knowing that's why she quilted.

"I quilt because I quilt," she said.

"What's that mean?" I asked.

"It means what it means," she said.

"All right," I agreed. "But you always ask my opinion about the quilts you quilt," I said.

"That's part of quilting," she said.

"Oh," I said.

"But I'd rather quilt a good quilt than a bad quilt."

"All your quilts are good," I said.

"Some are good. Some are in the closet or in a drawer or out in the garage where I don't have to look at them."

"Some are hanging on the walls and some are on beds and some you've given away," I said.

"So what are you getting at?"

"That you are judging your quilts all the time."


"And you'll judge this new quilt, too."

"You can judge it," she said.

"I'm a rotten judge."

"If it's a bad score, I'll throw it out. I can do that."

"All right."


"What do you think?" she asked several days later after calling me back into her quilting arena. She had several partially completed blocks now arranged without order on the design wall. "I don't know if I should keep on going. I'm not sure what it will look like when I put the blocks together."

"Three-point-six," I said.

"What? Three-point-six? What kind of judging is that?"

"You told me I was too high last time, so I took into consideration that you haven't finished piecing one block completely yet and that you have no idea what it's going to look like when it's finished."

"I'm piecing the blocks in sequence, piece by piece. I'm doing it the way it's supposed to be done. I won't know if it's any good or if I'll like it until I put some blocks together."

"Are you arguing with the judge?"

"The judge is a blockhead," she said.


"Now what?" I asked as she pinched my shoulder and beckoned me to follow her up to her quilting room. It was two days later, and she had been busier than ever.

"I need an opinion," she said.

"Any opinion or mine?"

"Yours will do. I can't decide if what's it's going to be will be."

"Que sera sera," I said.

"You're no help."

"Judges aren't supposed to help. We have our ethics, our rules. We have to be non-judgmental to be judges."

"So, what do you think?"

"Seven," I said.

'The scores only go up to six, and that's a perfect score."

"An extra point for not giving up."

"Who said I was giving up?"

"You told me you didn't know if you could go on because you didn't know what the quilt would look like when you were finished," I said. "Do you know what it will look like now?" "No, and even if I did, I'd see it through."

"See it through?"

"Finish. All the way."

"That's why you're a champion," I said.

"So what do you really think about what I've done so far?"

"I'm reserving judgment."

"I'm going for the gold," she said.

"When will you be finished?"

"It'll be a long while," she said.

"I'll be waiting," I said. I'll be waiting for the gold.


Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver

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