She was back in the quilting section looking for a new rotary cutter blade, her last one worn down to nothing in a frenzy of rotary cutting fabric for the quilt she was making for me. I had been wandering the store and had stopped at the display of sewing machines, each rising on its own table like some monument to modern technology. None looked like the Singer my mother owned in my distant childhood. These were white and sparkling, spools of colorful thread on each one, sample pieces of fabrics showing off the machine's quality stitching. Standing by one of the machines, a pink-faced woman stood, her face in rapture as she touched the top of the machine. Sitting at the machine was another woman, her look one of ecstasy.

"I have two machines at home now," said the sitting woman. She was tapping the spindle and the spool of thread that sat like a yellow bonnet on the top of the machine.

"Nothing less will do," said the standing woman. She had picked up a brochure that described the machine.

"If I buy this one, that will make three. Do you think that's too many?"

"Do you have a serger?"


"Then two sewing machines aren't too much.

"Betty has three machines. She keeps one in the kitchen to use while she's waiting for the microwave to finish cooking her Lean Cuisine meals."

"June does that, too. But it's an old machine."

"I'd like to have three machines. Then I could keep different colored thread on them."

"And for different jobs. I hate to change needles."

"So do I. Margaret said she had four machines, but I've never seen the fourth one."

"I saw it. She has it in her daughter's old room. It's an old Singer Featherweight."

"Well, that makes it all right. You can't count old machines like that."

"Some people like to brag about how many they have."

"They're just show-offs," agreed the sitting woman as she stood abruptly. "I think I will buy this machine."

"Good for you. I have five myself now, you know."


When I repeated that dialog to my Darling Wife as she got ready to quilt the border design on a wall hanging she had just finished, she did not seem surprised.

"A second machine is a good idea," she said.

"That's because you have a second machine," I answered just in case she thought I might be wondering if it was a good idea for her to have a second machine she'd bought this past March.

"This is my old machine. It's my quilting machine now," she said.

"And this is the living room, and you've taken it over completely. If a guest came over, we'd have to meet in the kitchen.

"The kitchen's good," she said. "At least I don't have a sewing machine in there."

"You would if you could."

"No, then there'd really be jealousy."

"What?" Sometimes I don't understand the direction our conversations take when sewing is any part of them.

"Well, they do get jealous."

"Who gets jealous?"

"The sewing machines, of course."

"The machine's get jealous of each other."

"That's what happens. They're very sensitive."

"Have you ever had a jealous machine?"

"Of course."

"You never told me."

"They'd be embarrassed if you knew."

"Just when did this happen?"

"It began when I brought home the new machine and put it into the sewing room."

"So there was jealousy from the start?"

"As soon as I put the new machine on the table and took away the old machine."

"It knew right away it had been downsized?" I wondered if there was workmachine's compensation for laid off sewing machines.

"It turned itself on. I had to unplug it before it started crying and short-circuited itself."

"Didn't you explain what you were doing?"

"I took it into the living room and told it that it was now going to be my designated quilting machine."

"Did that help?" I could picture the conversation between her and her emotionally distraught old machine. Two years my Darling Wife had been faithful. No longer.

"I had to sew something to prove I still cared."


"It helped for a while. But every time I went to the new machine, I could feel the jealousy."

"You felt its pain?"

"It's only a machine. It doesn't feel in the same we do." She looked at me as if I would never understand her relationship to the old machine.

"But it does get jealous?"


"Did it get jealous of the serger when it was in the same room and you were sewing on it."

"Once in a while. But they were close friends." I let that one alone.

"So if you ever get another machine, what will happen?"

"Can I get another machine?" she asked hopefully, wistfully.

"Do you need one?" I asked. An asteroid would have to be headed toward earth before that happened.

"No, but if I put it in with the old machine in the living room the two of them could become friends. That might help."

"You said you were only using the living room until the quilt was finished." She did make that promise to me.

"I met a woman at the quilting class that has six machines. She even has the one she used in junior high school when she took sewing."

"You're changing the subject, aren't you?"

"Her machines are violently jealous of each other," she said without pause. "It's all she can do to try to keep them happy."

"And do they cry or throw fits?"

"Sometimes they tangle the bobbin thread up or use their feed dogs to chew up the fabric."

"It must be tough on your friend."

"No. She can handle them. If one acts up she uses tough love."

"Tough love?"

"She just tells it she'll use one of the other machines until things get better."

"And that does the trick."

"She's thinking about getting another machine."

"So she can have different colors of thread in each one."

"That's a good reason. Maybe I'll do that."

"And different needles?"

"That too."

"And that'll prevent your machines from getting jealous."

"I'll take turns. I have enough projects to keep them all busy."

"Do you know what I think?"

"You think I'm making this all up, don't you?"

"No. I'm just thinking that if I ever again overhear people talking about how many machines they have, I won't tell you."

"Yes, you will."

Yes, I probably will.

Copyright A.B. Silver 1998

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