The Puzzle




I was out back picking the last of the Fuji apples off our single apple tree when I heard the tapping. I turned to look for a scrub jay or woodpecker trying to poke a hole in our wood shingle roof, but no birds were in sight. I picked another apple, and then I heard the tapping again, this time louder. I realized it was coming from the window of the sewing room at the back of the house.

I went over to find the reason for the tapping, knowing, of course, that it was meant to get my attention, and that darling Wife insisted that my attention belonged to her right then and there. I looked at the window and she looked back. She waved me into the house as her lips formed into a "Come here immediately, or else," message. I went.

"What is it?" I asked as I entered her room. She had been working on her new project that morning when I went out to pick apples. Now she sat at her sewing machine looking perplexed.

"I'm perplexed," she said.

"Again?" I asked. She had been perplexed frequently the last few weeks as she worked her way through the directions of a dozen different quilt blocks.

"This time it's a puzzle," she said.

"What kind of puzzle?"

"You tell me," she said, as she handed me two sections of a paper-pieced design she had begun that morning. She had sewn two corners of the square, each corner a square itself, using several pieces of fabric in each.

"It looks nice," I said. She had used her new batik fabric, handpainted swirls of colors cut to shape and sewn together.

"They're supposed to fit together," she said.

"How?" I asked, turning the two pieces around as I tried to place them together into one design.

"That's the puzzle. They don't go together."

"Are you sure they're supposed to go together?" I asked. I had seen some of her other patterns. Some required the cutting of strips or triangles or squares that never went together as they should have. Twice before we had checked the pattern only to find out the pattern was wrong. Several times, she had misread the pattern. But this was paper piecing, and the pieces were supposed to follow the pattern exactly.

"Here's what the block's supposed to look like when it's finished," she said, opening the book to a color photo of the stained glass block. I looked at the photo and at the two pieces of the square I still held in my hands.

"Looks easy enough to put together," I said.

"You do it then," she said.

I turned the pieces around. They didn't seem to match. I turned them around the other direction. No match. I turned them sideways and rotated them and placed them together again. "It's a puzzle," I said.

"This is the pattern," she said, and she turned a page in the book and showed me a square and a bunch of triangles with a number in each one. "All the number are the order for sewing the different pieces of fabric together."

"And you followed the numbers?" Of course she did, but I had to ask.

"Of course I did," she said.

"Then the pattern is backwards," I said. It could have been.

"The pieces are in the wrong places," she said.

I looked at the pattern again. Then, I looked at the colored photo. "Maybe the photo is turned around and is backward or upside down," I suggested.

"I was never good at this kind of puzzle," she said. "Maybe I should take it all apart."

"No," I said. Of course, it was easy for me to say no. I didn't have any idea how the pieces went together or why anyone would want to cut up all the nice expensive Bali batiks into small pieces and sew them together through some thin paper only to sew everything all together again and rip out all the paper she had sewn in.

"You're right. I'll do the other two pieces of the block and then I'll see where I made the mistake."

"IF you made a mistake," I said. I was her support in time of need.

"It's still going to be a puzzle," she said. "I should stick to scrap quilts."

"Go, do it," I said, and I handed her the two pieces of the big puzzle and left here there for three days.


Three days later she let out a whoop. "Whoop," she said as I passed her in the hall. I was going to the bedroom. She was going to find me. It was amazing how we found ourselves together in the hall.

"I heard your whoop," I said.

"I finished it," she said.

"You finished what?" I asked. Three days is a long time to remember what my Darling Quilter was working on. There have been three hours in which she had been working on a half dozen different projects all at once.

"The card trick," she said.

"You're learning tricks instead of quilting?"

"That's the name of the block I couldn't put together."

"The impossible puzzle?"

"It's not impossible. It's not even a puzzle."

"It was a puzzle," I said. I definitely remember her saying it was a puzzle.

"It depends on what your definition of was is," she said.

"So, show me," I said, not taking that bait.

"Follow me," she said, and she led me into her sewing room and pointed up at the design wall. The block was finished.

"You took it apart and redid it?"

"No, I just finished the rest of it, and when all four sections were done, it all fit together."

"Just like that?"

"Just like three days of torture and agony."

"So, if you hadn't stopped to try to put the first two pieces together, which didn't go together in any way and caused you great confusion, you could have finished all the parts and then there wouldn't have been any puzzle?" I asked.

"Probably," she said.

"So everything's fine?" Gosh, I hoped so.

"For now. I still have the other three blocks to finish and then I have to see if they all go together the way they're supposed to, and then I'll be finished."

"And you're not going to try to put the sections together until they're all done?"

"Why would I do that?" she asked.

Click here to see Puzzle Quilt

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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