Mostly Mayhem




I suppose it was a result of her going to two quilt shows in the same month. One quilt show would have energized her, inspired her, kept her busy with new ideas and lists of new projects. Going to a second quilt show in the same month, long before she had settled down from her visit to the first, that brought her to a frantic state of activity and chaos.

I should have known when we walked into the quilt show in Vista, California, the show decorating every nook and cranny of historic Guajome Adobe with quilts, and my Darling Wife asked to borrow some of my exclamations.

"I need to borrow some of your exclamations," she said to me before we had reached the first quilt.


"I can't look at the quilts unless I can appreciate them properly," she said.


"I need some exclamations," she repeated.

"Like? As? For example?" I asked. I would have exclaimed my question, but I didn't want to confuse the moment. I was already confused by her request.

"Look at that quilt," she said.

I looked at a patriotic quilt, reds and whites scattered across a field of blue, the quilt recently finished after the September 11th tragedy.

"Oh, nice," I said.

"I need something like that," she said.

"Like what I just said?" I asked. I had a hunch.

"I need some ooohs and ahhhs as well," she said.

"Ooohs and aahhhs?"

"And some wows," she said.

"You want me to give you some exclamations like ooh and ahh and wow?" Don't question a quilter.

"I used up all my exclamations at the last quilt show. I need a new supply."

"Ooh," I said

"I need more than just one," she said.

I gave her all the "Gees, goshes, awesomes" and other exclamations I knew, and we saw the show, and she used them all.


That was two weeks ago. That show caused all the turmoil, furor, bedlam, chaos, commotion, confusion, disorder, excitement, hubbub, hullabaloo, pandemonium, tumult, and uproar that followed. Before we had even come home from the show, she was already in a state of excitement that, I knew, would mean, without any doubt, a new quilt. But I didn't know how inspired she really was.

Sparks came off her skin and charged the air as she walked into the house. "I'm full of electricity," she said.

"Maybe we could use it here in California if we have another power shortage," I said. What was I thinking?

"Not that kind of electricity. Quilting electricity. It's full-blast energy. I need to use it or I'll short-circuit. I'll blow my fuse. My circuit breaker will explode."

You're exaggerating," I said. No, she wasn't.

I'm capable of committing mayhem," she said. She was at the foot of the stairs leading up to her sewing room.

"On your fabric?" I had seen her somewhat like this before, many times, but I hadn't seen her THIS way before. Two quilt shows in one month. Was that a mistake? With her foot on the bottom step and her hand on the banister, the stairs shook from her energy.

I need to cut and cut and sew and sew. I don't have any direction, any goal, any plan. All I have is energy in my head right now. That energy has to be channeled.

"I can tie you up in some copper cable," I said, hoping to help settle her down.

"I HAVE TO DO A QUILT NOW," she shouted. "I have to start a new quilt now and it can't be any normal quilt. It has to have some energy in it. Mayhem. Havoc. "

"Mayhem?" What was this now with mayhem? Havoc?

"I'm going to quilt now," she said.


I visited her in her sewing room two hours later. Oh, it wasn't a sewing room that anyone except a quilter would recognize as being a sewing room--or even a room. There was mayhem everywhere. Her fabric was strewn across every surface in the room, the sewing machine, the cutting table, the chest of drawers where she kept her backing fabric, her ironing board, the floor, her chair, the closet where drawer after drawer of fabric was pulled out. "It's a little messy right now," she said as she saw me come in. "I'm selecting fabric."

"You have a quilt in mind?" I asked as if I had never asked that question before.

"I'm making a mayhem quilt," she said.

"Seems logical. You already have the mayhem."

"It's not a logical quilt. It's a quilt of scraps and pieces."

"I don't see any scraps and pieces," I said.

"I have to cut them out," she said.

"You have to cut out scraps and pieces."

"Lots and lots of little pieces. Lot and lots of colors. I'm not sure yet what kind of mayhem it will be."

"I thought mayhem was havoc and chaos?"

"It needs to be just the right kind of mayhem."

"And selecting the fabric and cutting up lots of little pieces and sewing them together will channel your energy and use up all the electricity in your brain?" I asked. "And then everything will be normal again?" I thought but didn't ask. I wanted to, but I didn't want any mayhem committed on my body.


"I think so. I'm not sure. There's too much bad stuff going on in the world right now, and I'm going to stay in this room and work frantically on my quilt and maybe when I sew all the parts and pieces together it will look all right."

"But right now you still have all this energy so you will use it to make a quilt that will take all the madness out of the mayhem?" I asked.

"What?" She had moved to the cutting table and was rotary-cutting the heck out of a piece of some kind of brownish-orange batik fabric. Cut, cut, cut.

"Never mind," I said. I had no energy in me, no electricity, only a desire to check all the calendars in the house to see if any other month had two quilt shows in it and to tear that month out of the calendar,


She finished the quilt this morning. Quietly and peacefully she moved down the stairs and faced me. "It's done," she said.

"What's done?" I asked, checking to gage her mood. Usually I could tell a lot about the success of her quilt from her mood, but her calm confused me. There was only one last small spark of electricity that fell from her body as she spoke. I stomped on it so it wouldn't start a fire.

"Take a picture of the quilt and hang the quilt up on the wall and find me the new quilting book that came two weeks ago," she said. "I need to do something different now."

"Oh, that quilt," I said.


Copyright 2001 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Mayhem Quilt"

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