Rule One




"No," I said.

"No? How can you say no?"

"Because you said no."

"I'm saying yes now," she said.

"No," I said again. "You can't break the rule."

"But it's my rule," she said.

"You took an oath on the book."

"It's only a quilt book," she said.

"Quilt books are holy," I said. "You told me that."

"I have to break the rule. The oath doesn't count if I have to break the rule."

"There's no rule that you can break the oath if you have to break the rule." I wasn't sure what I had just said, but it sounded about right. When dealing with an ardent quilting fanatic, it is easily obvious that, regardless of right or wrong, SHE will eventually win.

"I need the fabric," she said. And that was that. The final word. One quilting lady against the world. And, as usual, when it came to quilting, she won.

When she had decided to make just one small paper-pieced square from a design out of her new Carol Doak book, "Easy Stash Quilts," she had told me that Rule One was to only use fabric from her existing stash, those odds and ends that had gathered around the house in mysterious ways, left over stash from other projects, stash bought in a frenzy but then lost in the closets, or just those hundreds of piles of fabric put away for a rainy day. Well, we still didn't have any rain, but she went to work on that first square, and she planned to stick to the rule.

But that was forty-four squares and eleven blocks ago. In the middle of her twelfth block, she ran out of the purple, pink, and green prints she had dug out of her stash. And she had dug deep. After she completed the first square, she asked me to look at the design. It was nice, but, like so many beginnings, it was just a bunch of colored fabric stuck together. Pieces of paper still clung to the back of the square.

"I can't tell what it is," I said when she showed it to me.

"It's just a design so far," she said. She turned the square so she could look at it in all four positions. Then she did it again for my viewing.

"It looks like a nice design," I said, fudging the truth a little, for it was nice but it didn't yet appear to be anything. It had color and some kind of design. It was just nice.

"That's what I think. I'll have to make a block to see what it becomes," she said.

"All right," I said. What was I going to say to a woman who couldn't say no to a piece of fabric that might be a quilt some day.

"I'm only going to make one block, just to see," she said.

That was a week ago. Now she had eleven and a half blocks on her design wall, the overall effect of the small squares blending together in a glorious design. Every time she added a block to the arrangement on the wall, she stood back and peered at the design with a smallifying glass which visually brought all the blocks together into a miniature quilt. The effect so pleased her, she couldn't stop piecing the squares and making blocks. Once a day she dragged me into the sewing room, put the reverse magnifier into my hand, the way a nurse would slap a scalpel into the hand of a doctor, and told me to look at what was happening on the wall. Indeed, I was impressed.

"It takes me an hour to do a square and four hours to put together a block," she said, both in weariness and pride.

"You've been busy," I said each day.

That she didn't eat much or sleep much as she stayed day after day in one of her hypnotic states, as one square led to another and the design began to emerge, as she told me once and again that she didn't know what was wrong, that the squares had taken over her life, that she had never been so addicted to a paper-pieced design before, none of that surprised me. But then she ran out of pinks and purple and green, three of the colors she had been using.

No tornado, no cyclone, no hurricane hitting our house full force could have swept through each room with as much force as my Darling Wife produced as she looked for more pink, purple and green. Somehow in the past months her stash piles had gotten pregnant and created more stash piles, two or three generations of stash taking up every spare inch. Somehow during the past two years, the UPS trucks and the Priority Mail deliveries, the Federal Express stops and the Airborne Express packages, all had led me to believe that she had enough stash stored away in our humble home to make a quilt large enough to reach from earth to Mars so that future space probes, if they were successful, would at least have a quilt to safely land on.

She searched and searched and searched. She tore up the closets and cupboards and all of house, leaving a wake of stash-pile destruction. She found dozens of pinks and purples and greens, but none was quite right, none could match the already completed blocks. She was out of the exact type of fabric she needed to continue her orgy of block construction. That was the truth of it.

"I need more fabric," she said.

"Rule One," I reminded her. "No new fabric."

"I have to make more squares. I have to make more blocks," she shouted. "I can't stop now."

I tried to help. Hours later, for example, we were at an electronics store buying some speaker wire for our stereo. She stood tense, nervous, jittery, beside me. Then she yelped, "Jo-Ann Fabrics has fabric!" She remembered there was a Jo-Ann store within a hundred yards of where we were. Realizing what was going through her mind, I grabbed a large spool of speaker wire from the shelf, tied her to a 54 inch high-definition display television, and hoped the wire would hold until she calmed down and I could get her out of the store into the car and home again.

I tried everything I could to keep her mind off the fabric. I covered her design wall with a sheet so she wouldn't see the blocks. I put her new book under the living room sofa. I spread patterns for a dozen new patterns around where she would see them. I dug out her UFOs and other projects she planned to work on.

"I tried," she said to me this morning. "I finished up the rabbit appliqué. I removed the paper from the blocks I made last month. I rearranged my room. I cleaned up the mess I made looking through the stash. But it's all no use. I need the new fabric."

She ordered the fabric. "Rule two says there is no Rule One," she explained. Of course!

Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished Emeralds Quilt

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