"Happy birthday," she said. She was coming out of the closet of her sewing room carrying a bundle of fabric.
"Whose birthday?" I asked. I was on a ladder changing a light bulb in the ceiling fan.
"This fabric I bought two years ago and never used."
"A birthday for unused fabric?" No, my question was not silly nor did I wonder why I was even holding this conversation with her from the top of a ladder. An ongoing and long-lived association between a quilter and her fabric made as much sense as the sun being in the sky and not falling down. Of course, I still don't know why the sun stays in place. "What about a birthday present?"
"I'm going to use the fabric in my new quilt. That's the present."
"You plan to start a new quilt?"
"After the last quilt which I didn't finish, yes, I am going to start a new quilt, and I'm going to finish this one," she told me. "The last quilt was a tough unfriendly quilt to make. Nothing worked on it, and I didn't like it anyway, so I didn't finish it, and I need to do something new that's not so tough and make sure it's something I like."
"So instead of finishing the unfriendly unfinished quilt, you're going to start a new quilt and finish it?" I asked just to make sure I understood the quilting message. One can never be absolutely sure. "Are you sure?" I added. It was a good question, for she had begun the last quilt with every intention of finishing it, but the quilt had somehow gone berserk and hadn't wanted to be finished.
"Of course I'm sure. Do you want to know why I'm sure?"
"Sure," I said.
"Go ahead," I said.
"Go ahead what?" she said.
"Go ahead and tell me simply," I said. At that moment I couldn't handle a complicated explanation.
"I'm not simple. The new quilt will be simple."
She looked at me to see if I understood. I looked back. "Go on," I said carefully.
"I need to recover from the last quilt, so I'm going to make a simple quilt. I need to get my strength back. So I found a simple pattern. Simple directions. Simple sewing. Simple quilting. I even have simple batting."
"Simple batting?" The rest I could understand, but simple batting? Batting was never simple. Not only did I have to take the car out of the garage to make space, I then had to set up tables. And then she had to tape down the backing, the batting, and the quilt top. Then she had to stick a million pins through all three layers. Then she had to close the pins.
"I'm going to try the new fusible batting I bought. Iron-on. No pins," she said.
"Well, that should be simple," I said.
"It's so wonderfully simple," she said to me that evening as she as she came down from her sewing room. She had worked on her new quilt the whole day.
"What is?" I had spent the day cleaning out the garage and washing the car and had forgotten all about quilts and quilting. Sometimes I can do that. I close my eyes and think of anything else and I can forget fabr....or qui...or threa...or batt...or patter.... See, no thoughts about quilting at all.
"The new simple quilt I started. I already had the fabric so I didn't have to shop. I already had the pattern, so I didn't have to break my head looking for one. The design is simple. The cutting is simple. The sewing is simple. It's the easiest quilt in the world."
"You made a cheater quilt once," I said, reminding her of one of her very first quilting lessons which required using preprinted fabric and just stitching it along the printed lines."
"That wasn't a real quilt. This is a real quilt, and after the last quilt I started, which wasn't simple at all...." She looked to see if I needed her to go on and explain again how difficult and impossible and hateful the last quilt was from the first moment up until the moment she had given up in loud despair and hidden the quilt away in some mysterious tomb of forgotten quilts.
"That was a tough quilt and this is an easy quilt," I said to show her I understood.
"Not easy, simple. I still have to do all the work, put it together, sew it, quilt it, and bind it."
"You're right. Simple isn't necessarily easy." It's simple being married to a quilter. It's not always easy.
"I finished the top," she said. She had been working on and off all week. Every time she came out of her sewing room she had a smile on her face and she whispered "Simple" to me.
"And now you have to set up the tables so I can make the quilt sandwich and not pin it."
"Fusible batting," I said, remembering. Whew! Now she would realize once again that I was a committed quilter's spouse.
"Right on, Kiddo," she said in some kind of childlike glee.
"Kiddo?" I asked.
"Whatever. Go set up the tables, Sir," she said, directing me to the garage.
"And I'll need an extension for the iron. I have to bring the iron downstairs to iron the top of the quilt to the batting and the backing to the batting, or something like that. I hope it's simple."
It was. In less time than it would take her to put in one pin, she had ironed the top and bottom to the batting. Actually, it took longer than that, but she was so happy to be able to do it that it seemed like a minute to her. "It seemed like a minute to me," she had said. "If I made a mistake and the top or bottom was crooked, I could fix it just by lifting the fabric and repositioning it and ironing again."
"Now what?" I asked. This "simple" stuff was frightening me.
"Now I'm going to quilt and not break any needles or puncture my fingers," she said as she rolled up her fusible-batting-basted quilt sandwich and carried it off to her sewing room. But she stopped after a few steps and looked at me.
"Aren't you going to ask me to explain what I just said?" she asked.
"No. I assume that without pins holding your quilt sandwich together, you won't run over them as you lift and turn and push your quilt through the sewing machine and run over a safety pin or two and break a needle or two when the pins accidentally hit the needle. You also won't put the points of a few dozen pins through the tips of your thumbs and fingers because you don't have to open pins and take them out as you quilt."
"Right on!" she said, and she gave me a "quilts up" with the rolled quilt she carried. A thumbs up would have been just as good.
"Done. Done. Done!" she said when she was done three days later.
"The quilt's done?"
"Absolutely," she said.
"Even the binding?"
"Of course. What about the word 'done' don't you understand?"
"I'm glad it's done," I said.
"It will be a good quilt for Shira's birthday," she said. "Shira's going to be ten, and being ten requires a new quilt."
'That's not for six months yet," I said.
"I got it done sooner than I thought. It was simple," she said.
"So, now what?"
"Now I have to find a new quilt to do. Something more of a challenge. Something more difficult."
"Not simple?" I asked.
"Not simple. I just did simple."
"Did I ever tell you what happened to Simple Simon and the pie guy?"
"Pie and tea would be good now," she said.
"Sounds good," I said.
Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Simple Quilt"
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