"Help," I heard. The muffled sound came from the back of the house. I put down my book, waited a moment until I heard a second cry, "Helfffflllgggg," then moved down the hallway to her sewing room. The door was closed, and when I tried to open it, it opened very slowly. I pushed harder and opened a wedge large enough for me to see into the room.
'Hon," I called into the room. My own sound was muffled, dampened by the piles of fabric hiding the floor. "You in here?" I asked as my eyes took in the piles of fabric covering the sewing machine, the serger, the chair. A cyclone had come into the room and deposited the contents of every trash can from every fabric store in the city.
"Mmmmphhhhh," I heard from the corner of the room, the sound squeezing out from between a pile of multicolored scraps, a flower garden of scraps. I realized the whole room was inundated with scraps. I realized that somewhere in that madness of a gigantic fabric storm, my Darling Wife was calling for help.
I plowed through fabric squares, triangles, strips, cut and torn pieces of every size and shape. Behind me as I moved, a wake of scraps rippled toward the walls. I steeled myself, took a deep breath, and reached through mounds of trimmings and clippings toward the moving hump of fabric. I found my Darling Wife and pulled her up into daylight.
She choked and sputtered and coughed and hacked her mouth clear of lint and thread. "You all right?" I asked. I didn't ask her what happened. I didn't ask her what she had been doing buried in an avalanche of fabric detritus. I already knew.
I knew when three days before she had watched a video she had rented on how to make a scrap quilt. I knew during the three days I watched her search every room of the house, every box in the garage, every shelf and every drawer to gather her hidden stash of scraps. She had been saving her scraps for two years. "I might need them some day," she had told me for two years as she squirrelled away the "leavings" of her sewing in every spare inch of space. For three days she had been "moving" the scraps into her sewing room.
"I'm fine. A few of the scraps fell off the shelf," she said calmly.
I brushed her off. "About a hundred pounds of scraps," I said.
"I forgot how much I had," she said. She was breathing normally again.
I brushed some small diamonds of paisley fabric out of her hair. "You have a lot," I said. "How big a quilt are you planning to make?"
"I'm not making a quilt yet. I've only had one lesson so far."
"But I thought I could practice making a small scrap square. I don't have to worry too much about getting it perfect."
"Are you going to sew some of these scraps together, is that it?" I asked. She nodded. "How large a square?"
"Six inches," she said meekly.
"So you needed thirty truckloads of scraps to make a six inch square."
"I need lots of practice. Besides, it's hard deciding which scraps to use."
"Why don't you close your eyes and reach down a grab a handful and use them?" That's a logical question, right?
"Oh, no. The scraps have to match."
"They have to match?" I was genuinely puzzled. "Isn't it called a scrap quilt because you use scraps?"
"They still have to match. They have to be the right colors, the right designs, the right shapes. A quilter can't just sew any two pieces of fabric together." She was indignant now.
"So quilters need to have enough fabric in their sewing rooms to outfit an army before they can make a six inch square?"
"Experienced quilters don't. I'm a beginner. Experienced quilters just blink at the fabric and they have all the colors, all the tones, all the pieces coordinated perfectly. I can't do that yet. I'm just a beginner. It will take me a while to learn how. Now let me get to work." She kicked at the fabric on the floor and opened a path so she could move around.
"You won't go under again?" I asked.
"Not unless I'm looking for a special scrap."
"And then you'll be careful?"
"I'll try to be careful," she said.
"All right, then," I said as I turned to make my own path out of the room. It was a very colorful room, I admit.
"But a beginning quilter can't promise to be perfect," she added. She picked up a handful of scraps and examined them. I was dismissed.
I went back to the living room and began to read my book, but I couldn't concentrate much. I kept hearing scraps falling. I know I did.
(Note: Darling Wife insists her sewing room is not THAT bad.)
Copyright A.B. Silver 1998
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