Quilting 1A




During the two years my Darling Wife has been quilting, through thick and thin, I have made very attempt to stand by my quilter. I have traveled with her to quilt shops, visited quilt shows, and stood by as she bought fabric, cut it up, and sewed it back together. At times I thought she lived in some land of fantasy where a strange breed of people lived, people who communicated in a strange language and kept in touch in milling crowds at huge temples where they came as often as possible to worship the quilted products of their craft, hanging them on specially made alters where the worshipers could pass by and make religious sounds such as "Ooh," and "Ah."

I had once hoped that our donations to this organization, association, religion, guild, and sometimes quilting cult, would be tax deductible, but when I listed my deductions on the tax return, the government found reason to deny my list that contained items such as fabric and thread, square rulers and templates, marking pencils and tracing paper, butcher paper, and tissue thin typewriter paper (this, the only thing inexpensive about her quilting).

I had once thought that her obsession would only take a small part of her time, that daily life with her in our retirement years would consist of time spent together, both in quantity and quality. I had heard of loneliness of golf widows and television widows and football widows, but I had never heard of quilt widowers before. And when a friend suggested that is what I might become, I vowed to fight that kind of abandonment. Instead of withdrawing in pain and sorrow from the loss of my spouse to 100 percent cotton, I learned, I adjusted, I survived--I even endured. I endured the steady trickle of funds out of our bank account. I endured the chattering of her sewing machine and the snipping of her scissors, the rolling slash of her rotary cutter. I endured the loss of space as our house became a warehouse for her stash. I endured losing our walls and doors and furniture to her quilts.

And I became stronger in the process. I learned to go without and to make do. I learned patience and tolerance. I learned to fight alongside her in a quilt store for that extra inch of fabric that might otherwise have been cut off for the extra pennies of profit. I learned to block aggressive shoppers to open space for her to shop during fabric and notion sales at the local fabric shops, guaranteeing she would get her fair share of bargains. I learned to wait while she spent an hour deciding whether to buy the pink roses on black or red roses on navy blue. I learned to search 2000 bolts of fabric for the one fabric she needed for a project she might never start. I became stronger and stronger. And I became wiser. I learned more than I thought my aging brain could handle.

I even learned a whole new vocabulary. I took what I thought I knew from growing up in a home where my father was a tailor and my mother was a dressmaker and pushed that information aside to make room for a new terminology, new words that possessed macabre definitions meant only for members of Darling Wife's private quilting world. For quilters often used common words to fool the rest of us, each containing hidden meanings foreign to outsiders. At first I was an outsider and the words were gibberish, but eventually I paid my dues, went through the initiation, and earned my enameled quilting-spouse guild lapel pin to wear proudly as I became a member of the secret society.

To help those whose spouses are into quilting, here is the first chapter of my dictionary of quilting definitions. Study them with care.

Quilt: A word which can be used in several ways and not always meaning the same thing. She has a quilt. She is making a quilt. She quilted a quilt. Mainly, sewing or tying together a bunch of cut up fabric (see below) into a design which follows (or doesn't follow) a pattern (see below) which may or may not be pleasing to the eye of the quilter or anyone else who may see the finished or unfinished project. Machine quilting and hand quilting: aren't the same. Which one is better? I'm not going to go into this one. I value my life.

Fabric: (I still call it material.) Anything that is flat that can be cut up in little pieces and sewn back together (may or may not include crackers and pancakes depending on the skill level of the quilter but can include bed sheets you currently enjoy sleeping on and clothes you really enjoy wearing). Quilters do prefer that this fabric be made of 100 percent cotton. I don't know why. You can tell if fabric is cotton by burning it to see if it leaves a clean ash. Of course, then you can't make a quilt out of it.

Pattern: Something to look at as a source of an idea on how to put the pieces of fabric together. Ha, Ha. A pattern can be cut up to use or templates can be made. When Darling Wife first began quilting and said, "Templates," I thought she had said "ten plates" and offered to buy her a package of nice paper plates. Sometimes a quilter may curse the pattern when it is wrong or when the directions for how to use it are wrong or when the finished quilt comes out wrong. (If it is a bad pattern and the quilt comes out perfect, that is due only to the quilter's skill.)

Thread: Something which is hard to do through the eye of a needle. Something a quilter runs out of too often, especially when only two or three inches more of puce thread are needed. Something which sticks in the bobbin. Something which shreds as often as not. Something which comes out of the top of the quilt when it should be on the bottom. Something which seems to cost about a hundred dollars a spool.

Block: Something a child uses to build towers with. Something to run around in a race with your friends. A square (see next) of fabric made up of smaller pieces of fabric which could be squares, triangles, rectangles, semi-circles, all sewn together because those shapes by themselves can't be called blocks.

Square: Sometimes called a block to confuse people who believe a block is made up of squares. Not a piece of fabric cut in a square but rather several pieces of fabric sewn together in the shape of a square which is also the shape of a block. Go figure.

Design: No one agrees on this one. Any two quilters may give three definitions. To guess at what it means, you have to own a book called "Five Million and One Designs," along with twenty other books with alternative designs, and that's not all of them. Designs sometimes are labeled nice or beautiful or amazing or ugly or demanding or simple-minded or impossible. There are quilters who devote their lives to designing squares, blocks, and quilts. We are not among them, so we should applaud them.

Wall hanging: If the quilt can be hung on a wall it can be a wall hanging. Some wall hangings are six inches square. Some are the size of a wall. Some are too big to hang on any wall in our house.

Bed quilt: If it can be spread on a bed, it is a bed quilt. Wall hangings can be bed quilts if they are spread over a bed, even if they are too small to cover more than a corner of the bed.

Other quilts: In addition, there are also little quilts, miniature quilts, and lap quilts. Quilters are capable of making quilted toaster covers and tea cozies and pot holders and back packs and tote bags and wallets and coin purses and circus tents. If it's quilted, it's a quilt. Call your quilt whatever you want.

I and my quilting spouse encourage you to use these terms frequently until they are part of your vocabulary. But use discretion. Remember, this is very secret stuff.

Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver

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