There she was again, missing from the bedroom, not in the kitchen, not in the bathroom. There was only one more place to look, so I opened the door to the sewing room, and there she was, curled up on the floor sound asleep, the pattern for her new wall hanging spread out in front of her, her hand still clutching the paper. It was 2 a.m.
I awoke her gently. "Time to go to bed," I whispered.
She opened one eye, looked at me with it, then opened her other eye and turned both eyes toward the pattern and then toward the sewing machine. "Just a few more stitches," she said slowly. I'm getting ready to sew around the appliqués."
"Time to go to bed," I said again as I put my hands under her arms and helped her up. She clung to the pattern, bringing it up from the floor with her. "Get some sleep and then you can finish." I didn't know what she had to finish because she was never finished. Once she had begun quilting, she lost all track of time. Her body clock was on Pacific Quilting Time.
"I just have to set the machine to the zigzag stitch. Did you know you can you can use different stitches around the appliqués for different effects?" she said sleepily, looking at me expectantly, as if I was interested at 2 a.m. in learning how to stitch around a piece of cut out fabric. In her case, the appliqués were tropical fish for the latest seascape she was making.
"Satin stitches are nice," she said as if I had come into her sewing room in the middle of the night for a sewing lesson.
"That's a good idea," I said.
"Or maybe something else?" she asked herself. I knew she wasn't asking me. The only stitch I knew was the stitch in my side.
"Couldn't you do stitch-in-a-ditch?" I asked. She used that expression a lot when she was actually doing the machine quilting, and I did want to her to think I cared.
"That's not the right stitch for fish," she said, her voice reminding me how foolish I could be.
"What about stitch-in-a-fish," I said. I really wanted to get her back to bed and asleep.
"That's a good idea," she said. Really? "But I'm going to try zigzag stitching first," she added quickly. She tried lifting her head to look at me as she spoke, but her head kept nodding down. "Do you think I should zigzag?" she asked.
"Just zigzag yourself back into bed," I said. I tried to remove the pattern directions but she held it with an iron grip.
"Just a couple more minutes and I'll have the appliqué straight," she yawned.
"Just take a couple of steps in this direction," I said as I steered her toward the bed.
"I have to turn off the sewing machine," she said. She broke free from my hold and turned toward the machine.
I looked at the sewing machine. It wasn't on. "It's not on," I said, but I was too slow. She was already at the machine and she turned it on. She put the pattern by the side of the machine. She spread out the wall hanging she was working on, all of the top complete except for the stitching around the fish that swam merrily through the sea. Those fish should have been asleep as well.
"Yes, it is so on," she said as she slumped down on the chair. She was still half asleep. "I'll turn it off when I'm finished," she said as she set the machine to zigzag. "I promise."
"Your promises are worthless when it comes to your quilts," I said. I always said that. It never mattered. Quilters have a built-in barrier to any ideas that suggest quitting quilting, even for a minute. You don't know how to stop," I said.
"I can stop quilting whenever I want," she said in the manner of the truly addicted.
"I've heard that song before," I said. In just a few days since she had begun this new project, she had become more of a quilt junky than ever, I thought. She needed her fix and would make any promise to get it. "How about now?" I asked.
"Not now," she said.
"You really need to sew now, don't you, in the middle of the night?" I asked. I wanted to go back to sleep, but I worried that she might sew herself to the quilt top, and any kind of stitch that she used would really hurt.
But she did not answer. Her head had fallen against the front of the machine, her nose just touching the feed dog lever. Her right hand was now pressed against the satin stitch button. She was sound asleep again.
Not really wanting any of her precious face appliquéed to the quilt, I turned off the machine. "All done," I said as I lifted her again and began dragging her back to bed.
"Did the stitches come out all right?" she asked between zzzzz's.
"They're perfect," I lied. It was a very light teeny white lie those of us who were married to quilters knew how to tell--and when. Whatever it was she had planned to do would be perfect the next day, but not just then, not that night. Maybe if she slept as much as she needed to she would be ready to quilt again in the year 2010.
I tucked her in. "Fusible interfacing," she said in near-slumber.
"That's fine, dear," I said.
"I appliqué you," she said romantically, and then she was out.
"I appliqué you, too," I said, but if she heard me, she said no more. It was time for me to go to sleep. I really wanted to go to sleep. But I lay there in bed and wondered if the fish would be all right until morning.
Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver
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