Pick A Peck of Paper




"Darn," she said, which meant much more than the word might otherwise imply.

"Problem?" I asked. I knew frustration when I heard it.

"Nobody told me it would be like this," she explained.

"Nobody told you what would be like what?" I asked.

"Taking off the paper."

Now, I have a fairly good grasp of the meaning of a lot of strange expressions in her quilting vocabulary, but I truly had not heard "taking off the paper," before. But then again, she was new to paper piecing. And that was what she was doing. She told me that as she took off after breakfast, leaving me to put away everything that breakfast entailed. She told me she was going into her sewing room to work on some paper-piecing block she found in the paper-piecing book she had been reading at the kitchen table during breakfast. She also said she "...didn't want to be disturbed while she was learning something new."

That had been two hours before. So when she said, "darn" and "taking off the paper," I assumed it had something to do with the block she was constructing out of a lot of fabric or paper or thread or whatever.

"Two hours is a long time to make a block out of paper," I said. Perhaps she had been doing origami, folding the paper and fabric together and folding it again and again, but I was wrong.

"I finished the block a long time ago," she said. I watched her playing with a stiletto, attacking the paper and fabric she held down on top of the ironing board where she was standing. She made all her blocks standing, most of all because it was a good height for her, and, more importantly, because she had a bad back and could not sit too long at one time.

"Why are you attacking that block you say you finished a long time ago. It doesn't look like a block to me." I had seen her other blocks. THEY looked like blocks. This, whatever it was, looked like something which had gone through a shredder and had been pasted back together.

"It's upside down," she said. She had put down the stiletto and was now using tweezers to "pluck" paper hairs from the skin of the block.

"You're playing Jaws with an upside-down block?" I asked. There was definitely something sharklike in her approach.

"I'm trying to take off the paper," she said.

"Doesn't it just tear off?" I asked. I knew the answer. She had been ripping paper all week, trying out every grade of paper, every weight of paper. She had finally settled on sheets of primary school newsprint which, after searching a dozen office supply stores without success, we had found in the garage. She had reams of it, and though it was lined with faint blue lines, it copied in the copy machine and tore easily.

"It tears off in some places, but a lot of it gets stuck between the lines," she said. She lifted the clump of shredded whatever and showed it to me close up. "There's not much space between where I stitched along the lines." She turned it over, and indeed I could see a gorgeous block, a small sailboat floating on a sea of blue.

"It's a great block, but why didn't you make it bigger?" I asked. I could see that it was indeed a block, but a very small block compared with the nine and twelve inch blocks she had made before.

"It's a four inch block," she said. "It's for a wall hanging, not a big quilt, and it's bigger than some paper-pieced blocks. You should see the size of the miniature quilt blocks."

"But the little pieces are so little," I said. "You need to be Alice and drink some potion to make you tiny so you can cut and sew that." I didn't want to see a miniature anything.

"That's why it's so hard to take out some of the paper pieces."

"Why don't you leave them in?" Now that was a reasonable question to me, but I knew it might not be reasonable to her. But she surprised me.

"Some of the paper is left in. Many quilters leave the paper in. Some old quilts have paper that's been in them for years. It even makes the finished quilts warmer."

"So why are you working so hard?" I knew why. She was following directions.

"I'm just trying to follow the directions. I'm just learning."

"And the directions say to tear away all the paper?" I was catching on, I thought.

She nodded her head. "But it takes forever on some of this."

"Then find something else to do while you're doing it. Watch Oprah or something."

"I could listen, but I couldn't watch. I have to watch what I'm doing here."

"Why don't you LISTEN to Oprah while you're doing that?"

"Oprah's not on until this afternoon."

"Then wait until you talk on the telephone to your sister. You could tear out the paper from a dozen blocks during just one conversation." I was gambling my life with that one. But she was attacking the paper again and paid no attention to me.

"I do kitchen chores when I talk to her."

"How about listening to the news?"

"I hate the news lately."

"You want some music to listen to?"

"Maybe some nice music."

"How about, 'It's only a paper moon'?"

Click here to see Joan's First Paper Piecing

Copyright A.B. Silver 1998

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