Rip Tide




"Look at this," she said as she pushed the quilting book over toward me. I pushed aside my cup of coffee and, once again, looked at a page of quilts as she pushed the book under my nose.

"Very nice," I said, and I pushed the book back. I needed my coffee.

"You didn't even look," she said.

"I looked. It was a page of quilting designs." It was not too hard to guess that. All the pages of all the books she pushed under my nose had quilting designs on them. My life was one big quilting design.

"Not the designs," she said. "The quilting on the top quilt." She pushed the book back. I sipped my coffee, put the cup down, wiped my lips with a napkin, and looked at the page of quilting designs. The top one was a picture of a miniature quilt, blue six-pointed stars on a background of white.

"Nice quilt," I said. I pushed the book back.

"Look at the stippling," she said. She pushed the book back one more time.

"Nice stippling," I said.

"It's blue," she said.

"It's blue," I agreed. I really needed that coffee.

"It makes the stippling stand out. I'm going to try that," she said.

"Uhmmm," I said. I was already sipping the coffee as she pulled the book back.

That was yesterday morning. By ten o'clock she had begun quilting the beautiful table runner she had completed the day before. By ten-thirty she had stippled the center squares of several stars. The stippling was blue. Blue against white. Blue on white. Blue!

"What do you think?" she asked as I stood at the bookcases looking for a book I had misplaced. We were in the living room. It used to be a living room. Now the furniture was all pulled back and three six-foot banquet tables filled the room. She sat at her sewing machine, the table runner spread out before her. One third of the runner had been stippled in blue.

There is a time in every man's life when he must stand up for truth and justice and the American way. Yesterday morning was not one of those times. "Uhmmmm," I said, hoping I would get away with evasion. Ever since I had become a QS (Quilter's Spouse), I had learned there is a time and place to be silent.

"I didn't think so," she said.

"You didn't think what?" I asked. I hadn't said anything incriminating me.

"You don't like the stippling," she said.

"It's very nice stippling," I said. It was. But it was blue and took away from the design of the runner.


"Uhmmmm," I said.

"It's too blue," she said. "I know. It takes away from the design of the runner."

"It's a little blue," I said.

"It looks worse every minute," she said.

"Uhm," I said, my grunt abbreviated.

"Maybe I should start all over," she said.

"Make a new quilt?"


"That's a lot of work," I said. I had watched her working on it for days. "Can't you just redo the stippling?" Now, to me, that was a logical suggestion. All she had to do was remove the stippling she had already done and redo it with white thread. Right?

"That's impossible," she said.

Sometimes it's foolish to ask the following question to a committed quilter, but foolishly I asked, "Why?"

"Tiny stitches. Millions of tiny stitches," she answered in a tone that suggested that any husband of a quilter should know that.

"I know that," I said. "But isn't it easier to take them out than start a new quilt?"

"Billions of tiny stitches through the quilt top and batting and backing," she said. She lifted up the runner and showed my a six inch square of stippling. I saw billions of tiny stitches.

"Oh," I said.

"You want to rip them out?" she challenged.

"I don't quilt," I said. I silently moved my feet, turning them toward escape.

"Go ahead, try," she said.

"Do you have a seam ripper?" I asked.

"Hah!" she said.

"What's 'Hah'?"

"Too big. There are no seams."

"Well," I began, but I didn't finish my thought. I had no thoughts.

"Why are some of the stitches so close together?" I asked.

"Free motion," she answered.

"Free what?" All I knew was "Free Willy."

"I can't always control the stitch size. The feed dogs are down."

"Oh, that explains it," I said. I don't understand quantum physics either.

I looked around her table and saw a tiny pair of embroidery scissors. I lifted up a section of the runner, turned it over and picked at one of the stitches. She stood by my side silently, but I knew she was laughing out loud. Two minutes later, I had cut out a stitch. I caught my breath, and began a second stitch. That took only a minute. I took another deep breath and began the third. "A billion stitches?" I asked. She nodded.

It took me two hours, well past the time for lunch, but I removed the stitches from about five squares. She had joined me and had done about ten. Of course, she had chosen to do the long stitches, about a very easy free-motion inch apart, and I had to do the short stitches, something like eight hundred stitches to the inch. My back was broken from bending over the table. My eyes would never see anything close up again. I lost eight or ten pounds. My fingers were gnarled and stiff. My clothes, my face, and every bit of my body was covered by a quilt of shredded stitches.

"You're a good ripper," she said as I pulled the last blue thread through the quilt sandwich.

"Ripper?" I thought I was a quilter. I earned being called a quilter. I wanted a badge, a trophy, some recognition.

"You should have told me the blue wouldn't look good when I showed you the picture in the book."

"Would that have stopped you?"

"No. It looked like a good idea."

"So what are you going to do now?" I asked as I hobbled over to the sofa and collapsed.

"I'm going to stipple," she said.

"In white?"

"What else?" she said.

I kept my mouth shut.

I am now revising my list of New Year's resolutions. I am adding one that has something to do with stitches and stippling and ripping and ripping and ripping.

Copyright 1998 by A.B. Silver

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