Less Is More





It was early Sunday morning, and the evening before we had discovered an opossum in our back yard. "It was a nice possum,' I said.

'"Yes, it was," she said.

"Maybe it will stay around a few days," I said. 'We could give it a name."

"Possums move on," she said.

'"It's nearly winter. Do you think it's cold out there," I said. I knew it wasn't. It had been an unusual 75 degrees out the day before.

"No," she said. "No quilt," she added quickly.

'What?" I asked.

"I'm not making a quilt for an opossum," she said.

"I didn't say anything about making a quilt for it."

"You were probably thinking it," she said. "Anyway, I have to finish the quilt I'm working on."

"I thought you were finished."

"I am, but I have to think about it for awhile to make sure it's really done."

"You don't think it's done?"

"I never made a quilt with only two fabrics," she said. "It seems incomplete. I'm used to more fabric, a more complicated pattern, more pieces."

"Your last quilt had lots of pieces. You said there were too many pieces."

"Each block had 48 pieces and 9 colors," she said. "This one only has twelve pieces and two colors in each twelve inch block. Don't you think that's strange?"

"No," I said.


She had found the pattern on the internet, printed it out, and looked at it for several days. "Maybe," she finally said, but the next day she copied out dozens and dozens of the paper-piecing pattern.

"You're going to do it?" I asked.

"I have just the fabric," she said.

"You're not going to buy more fabric?" I asked, surprised.

"I'm using the Kokopeli fabric I bought two years ago as one color. I hope I have enough."

"The fabric you said you would never cut up because it was too nice?" She had a lot of fabric that was too nice to cut up. I had once believed that fabric was for cutting and sewing, which she always told me was true--except for fabric that was too nice to use.

"It's going to be difficult to cut it. I'll need your support," she said.

"Comfort for the cutter?"

"I'm not sure I can go through with it. I'll need you to stand by me if I weaken."

"All right," I said.


"No! Yow! Oh, no. Ouch. Poor fabric," she said. She had eaten a healthy breakfast earlier, completed her exercises, put a new blade in her rotary cutter, brought out her sharpest scissors and her best ruler. Then, she had begun. By the tenth grunt and sigh and shiver and exclamation of emotional pain, she had begun cutting her fabric.

"It's a good thing there are only two fabrics in the quilt," I said, doing my job as her quilting companion.

"Less is more," she said.

"What?" I asked before I answered. A quilter's friend has to be sure to say that right thing. As her husband, I have to be even more careful.

"I'm beginning a quilt with only two fabrics in each block, and by rights that shouldn't amount to much, but sometimes it does, so less can become more. We'll see when I finish. I'm just in the hopeful stage now."

"And you're all right with the cutting now?" I asked just to make sure. At one time or another I would have to leave her side, and I wanted to be reasonably sure she would be able to live with the knowledge that cotton farmers and textile workers and quilt store owners and the UPS driver all contributed to bringing her whole cloth that she was going to chop up, her rotary cutter whacking away through the fabric.

"Fabric is made to cut. How else would I make this quilt?" she asked.

"Well...." I had no answer.


Unfortunately, when she had bought the fabric, she was in her beginning days of quilting and hadn't yet learned a valuable lesson about quilting that only experience would teach her.

'"I learned a valuable lesson," she said at one point in her quilting apprenticeship.

"Uhmmm?" I asked, my mouth having just bitten into a non-fat blueberry muffin.

"Always buy more fabric than you think you'll need. Lot's more."

"Oh, of course," I agreed, not really knowing then what I had agreed to.

"At least three yards of everything," she had said then.

"I was right. I don't have enough of the Kokopeli fabric," she said now. "I need to make one more twelve-inch block and I'm running out of fabric."

"I'll order more for you while you quilt," I said.


Two days later, after trips to all our local quilt shops and after five hours on the Internet searching on-line quilt shops, I surrendered to the fact that I couldn't find any more of the fabric she needed. "I can't find any more," I admitted.

"I'll see if I can scrap by," she said. She didn't say "scrape." She said "Scrap." That was her way of telling me once again that she would have to take the scraps left over from her cutting and try to piece together enough fabric to complete the last block she needed to finish the quilt. She had done it enough times before.

'Well, with fewer scraps you should make more blocks," I said. She looked at me. "Well, you said less is more."

"Less of your talk would mean more time to quilt," she answered.


"I finished twenty-blocks," she said. She carried the quilt top in her hand and displayed it to me.

"I didn't know you had finished putting the top together already," I said, surprised.

"I just finished. But I have to make the border now." She refolded the quilt top.

"Is there a message here?" I asked.

"I don't know if I'll have enough fabric for the border. The border print is in two different sizes so I can't use all of it and that means...." Her voice trailed off.

"I already looked," I said. I had. As the print for the quilt and the border print were coordinated, I had looked for both in the Internet search.

"I'll have to do with less," she said. "Maybe I can get by."

"Of course you will," I encouraged.


She didn't have quite enough fabric to complete the border. "Maybe I can use cornerstones," she said. "I have a few scraps of the second fabric."

"I agree," I said, not absolutely certain I knew what she was saying, but I trusted her.

"It won't be perfect," she said.

"It'll be just fine," I said.



"It's time for the tables," she told me the following morning.

"All done?" I asked, knowing she was. The tables were my job. I would move the car out of the garage, set up the three folding tables, level them, and get out of the way as she basted the quilt layers together.

"Do you want to see it?" she asked. It was one of those questions she always asked and which I never had to answer, for in the time my mind sent a message to my mouth, she showed me the quilt top.

"Nice cornerstones," I said.

'"I didn't have as much border print as I thought I didn't have," she said. "The cornerstones are sidestones."

"Sidestones?" A new quilting term?

"They're longer than cornerstones and are reserved for those times when I foolishly didn't buy enough fabric two years ago, and so I don't have enough fabric for the quilt or borders."

I looked at the quilt top. "Looks just right," I said. It did. "In the hands of my favorite quilter, less can be more," I said.

"Put up the tables," she reminded me.


I watched her spread the backing and the batting on the tables and tape down the edges. I watched her spread the quilt top out. I watched her reach for the bucket of pins she would use for basting. "Have fun," I said, knowing that she never enjoyed the backbreaking work of leaning across the table and poking the pins into the quilt-to-be. She nodded, already too busy to answer. "I'll be out back," I said. She nodded again. "Looking for the possum," I said. "Is it all right if I promise it a quilt if it stays around for a few days?"

Now, why didn't she answer?

Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Less Is More Quilt"

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