The Sounds of Quilting




"Yessireee," my Darling Wife cried out.

"Now what?" I asked as I rushed to her sewing room. She was sitting at her machine, her new quilt splayed across the top of her sewing cabinet.

"Now what what?" DW asked.

"You cried out," I said.

"No, I didn't," she said.

"You yelled," I said.

"I was just making a comment to myself," she said.

"You weren't screaming in anguish that you broke the thread or missed a stitch?" It had certainly sounded like a wail of anguish.

"I just finished quilting around the edges of my quilt," she said. "And nothing happened."

"What did you expect to happen?" I asked. I was still not clear on why she had cried out.

"I've been quilting two hours now," she said.

"Two hours today. You've been quilting for days on end."

"Two hours today. I can't believe it."

"I can believe it when you quilt ten hours straight. Why can't you believe two hours?"

"I know how much I quilt. I just can't believe I quilted two hours straight just now and the thread didn't break."

"You set off a vocal alarm that everyone in the city could hear simply because your thread didn't break?"

"I just said, 'Yessiree.' I wasn't screaming or wailing or sounding any alarms."

"I thought you were." Of course I thought she was. In the two years now that she has been quilting, I have gained an insight not given to mere mortals about the sounds that a quilter makes and what they mean. She has several hundred different squeaks and squeals and groans and moans that tell me what's going on in her quilting. If something goes wrong--well, here are a few common examples of what I think she's saying:

"Oh, pigsty," tells me that the border of a quilt stretched and now has waves in it and curls around like a pig's tail.

"Dernpoo," tells me that she sewed the last two strips of fabric together and didn't know the thread on the bobbin had run out.

"Funderstikle and goose darn," tells me that not only didn't two points come together during the block assembly, the points weren't even in the room with her.

"Yowp!" That's an easy one. She ran the sewing machine needle through the tip of her finger.

"Sputter-butter." That's a hard sound to explain. It can mean that the quilt got caught on the edge of her sewing machine as she was pushing it through and, as she tugged to free it, she accidentally pushed the button that changed the stitch from straight needle to zigzag, or it can mean that the free-motion foot fell off.

"Spittle-bittle!" She has run out of the exact piece of fabric that she only needs two inches of to complete a quilt top she has been working on for two weeks, but she doesn't have any left in the house and that one design hasn't been manufactured for three years.

"Dash-bucket." The power to our neighborhood is out during a storm for more than one-eighth of a second.

"Oh, heck!" She reversed the appliqué when she traced it and has already cut out the fabric backwards.

"Help." She needs me immediately (even if I am in the middle of a shower, the middle of dinner or the middle of the freeway ten miles away). And, in case of the last, she doesn't need to have a cell phone to let me know that if I'm not in her sewing room in seven seconds the government's disaster people had better be standing by. Her cry will reach me anywhere.

"Nothing went wrong," she said, bringing me back to the present.

"You were telling yourself that."

"I was going to tell you eventually."

"Someday when we are in our dotage, when I am senile and my senses are gone, then you were going to tell me that everything was all right?"

"Sooner than that," she said.

"If two spools of thread with the exact same color number are different from each other by such a small amount that no sane person would care about, you tell me immediately. If your fabric order arrives eight minutes late one day because a relief driver changes the route and delivers to the other side of the street first, you tell me immediately. But when things go right, you only tell yourself?"

"How can I tell you when I can't believe that it happened?" she asked. "Not only didn't I break any thread, the needle didn't break, the bobbin thread stayed in place, the stitches were all the correct size, and my stitch stayed in the ditch."

"Yessiree," I said.

"What did you say?"

"I said what you said to me." I was in over my head again, floundering around in deep something. "You said that 'Yessiree" means you are happy that everything went right the last two hours," I guessed.

"Of course I'm happy. If I weren't happy, I would probably let you know."

"And you're going to finish the rest of the quilting and everything's going to continue to go right?"

"I didn't say that."

"But you hope so and, therefore, I am also going to hope so," I said. "But if anything bad happens, if a thread breaks or the batting beards or if your bobbin case comes out of the machine and rolls all over the floor leaving a trail of bobbin thread, you won't screech or caterwaul or squawk or vociferate or clamor, will you?"

"I'll count to ten first, just like I'm going to do now," she said. "One, two, three...."

Any husband knows the meaning of those sounds. Yessiree.


Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver

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