I Don't Quilt




"I don't quilt, don't ask me," I sung silently to myself. I made no sound, not even a whisper, but my Darling Wife heard me.

"What's that about not quilting?"

"I was thinking about a women at the quilt shop yesterday who asked me how to do reverse appliqué."

"What did you tell her?"

"I told her I don't quilt."

"What did she say?"

"She asked me why then was I in a quilt shop with a packet of fat quarters in my hand."

"What did you say?"

"I told her they were for you."

"What did she say?"

"She said, 'That's nice. So, how do you do reverse appliqué?'"

"Did you tell her?"

"I told her I don't quilt."


I don't quilt. My Darling Wife quilts. She quilts all the time. The closest I come to quilting is obeying her when she gives me a quilting order, and a quilting order can range from having me set up banquet tables so she can pin up her quilt sandwich to calling up delivery companies to ask where her fabric order is to vacuuming up the house of stray fibers that fall from her clothes where they clung for awhile in an attempt to escape her sewing room where they belong. But I don't quilt.

I've never even thought of quilting. Do I want to take a nice piece of fabric that costs a lot of money and chop it up in some futile attempt to sew it onto another piece of chopped up fabric. If I want to chop something up, I'll take liver.

I believe in quilting, but I don't in any way have the disposition, the patience, the skill, the determination, the fortitude, the strength, the ambition, and the quilted brain that are necessary to take time out of a happy life to entangle myself in thread or punch a hole through my finger with a quilting needle or cry over dull points or know the difference between puce and ochre.

I do not quilt because I can't draw a straight line, let alone cut one on a piece of fabric which stretches in thirty directions or has the grain facing the wrong way or consists of four sides which are all selvages.

We have quilts on the beds in our house. I find that normal and, now that it's winter, quite warm and comfortable for us and any guests who visit. But I didn't quilt them. Nor did I quilt the quilts that cover every wall of the house. I did not think of the design of any quilt or create a quilt to place on every chair or sofa or couch or hassock or table or dresser or refrigerator or toaster or sink or bathtub or toilet seat in our house.

I like quilts. I love my Darling Wife's quilts. I am happy to live in a world where an unending supply of fabric is manufactured every day, just in time to be on some quilt shop shelf in case some creative spark, flame, or explosive big-bang of an idea takes over her mind and body and she begins another quilt. But I don't quilt.

"So, how's the quilting coming?" my friends ask me. Strangers ask me, too. "How long have you been quilting?" If my wife is standing next to me or near by or within sight, I point at her and say, "She's the quilter."

"How's the checkbook," some people ask me, those people wise enough to know that quilters write a lot of checks. Credit cards are only an illusion, a temporary pause on the way to the creation of a piece of paper on which will be written a large number, and that piece of paper and many like it will be sent in the mail to waiting merchants who smile a lot when the checks come in.

"She writes her own checks," I say. "We live in a state which has community property," I say. "We share," I say. Why do they laugh at my answer?

I do know something about reverse appliqué. I know something about Sunbonnet Sue, too. I know about fabric and color and machine quilting and embroidery and paper-piecing and which quilt store charges eight dollars a yard for the exact same fabric that another quilt shop charges six dollars and eighty cents. Some of it is in my blood, my childhood spent in my parents' tailor shop. But most of the little I know was forced into my head by living with a woman who, for nearly three years now, says it is important for me to know what she is talking about when she is talking about quilting, or else. I never once for a moment asked, "Or else what?"

Yes, when we are around and about, when we are on the road, I do go into quilt shops with her. I look around, find fabric I like that I think she'll like, help her locate that spool of thread she has been looking for all month, and help her carry out more than she needs to have for her new quilt that day or week or month. And though I continue to have people in the shops look at me, stare at me or smile at me, when they assume by my presence in the store that I must be one of those rare men who quilt and ask me if hand quilting requires eight or ten or twelve stitches to the inch, I smile, point at another shopper or the store clerk or even my Darling Wife and say, "Ask her. I don't quilt."

Sometimes I am asked why, if I don't quilt, am I in a quilt shop. Sometimes I answer, "I'm lost. I was looking for a yogurt shop." Or now that it's nearly winter, I say, "It's cold out." Sometimes, I point to my spouse, who does quilt, and I say, "She makes me come here to save our marriage."

"Oh, you poor, poor man," I once got back in reply to that tongue-in-cheek answer.

"It's not so bad," I said, a bit embarrassed that she had taken me seriously.

"Well, what about this fabric?" she went on, showing me a fat quarter of red batik. "Do you think it will work with yellow crush in a Mariner's Compass?"

"I don't quilt," I said.

Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver

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