Stitch by Stitch




"I want a new finger," my Darling Wife said as she sat down to dinner last night.

"You need a new finger?" I asked, not surprised that she would say what she said. Though another wife, an ordinary wife, might have chosen that moment to ask me to pass the salad dressing or pour her a glass of water, my wife wasn't that ordinary.

"I want a new middle finger," Darling Wife said as she poured herself some water.

"You still have a forefinger you can use, or you can use your index finger," I said, knowing both were the same but wondering why we had two names for the same finger next to the thumb, especially as neither one of us had done any indexing for about 150 years.

"My forefinger is my index finger, and it is not a quilting finger," she said knowingly. "I need a brand new middle finger." I looked at the middle finger of her right hand and the middle finger of her left hand.

"The old ones look good," I said.

"This one is ruined," she said as she held up her right hand. Indeed, it did look as if her middle finger were ruined. The finger had a large bandage around the tip.

"It looks ruined," I said, which is the same as asking, "What happened?"

"I have forty-two puncture wounds in it," she said.

"That's a lot of holes," I said. "Are you sure?"

"Well, just one, but almost forty-two."

I paused before I began my next question, to see if she would go on, to gather my thoughts, and to pour my own glass of water. She went on.

"The needle went right through my finger, right through the leather thimble. It slid off the fingertip protector and slid four or five inches right through my poor finger. I almost stitched my finger right into the quilt." She wagged her turbaned finger at me.

"Ouch," I said sympathetically, then empathically, just to be sure.

"It was a big ouch and a bloody mess," she said. "Ask me what caused it," she commanded.

"What caused it?" I asked.

"Hand quilting," she said.

"Oh," I said. I know a little about her and her hand quilting. Every day since she began her Hawaiian wall hanging last month, she told me a little bit more about the impossibility of ever hand quilting anything, let alone the small quilt she insisted I forced her to begin because we had been in Hawaii and I had asked her to make me a nice little Hawaiian quilt.

Every day she came out of her sewing room yelling, "I hate it, I can't do it, I don't want to do it," and a few minutes later she went back in to work some more on it. "I can't stop working on it," she said. "Just one more stitch."

"You can stop if you want to," I said each day.

And every day at breakfast or dinner or before bed or anywhere and any time it was convenient for her, she said, "No, I can't. I have a love-hate relationship with this darn thing." And she would go on and tell me how awkward it was to learn how to use that giant eighteen inch hoop, how difficult it was to "needle turn" the appliqué, and how impossible it was to quilt through four layers, the appliqué, the top, the batting, and the back. "I hate it," my normally content machine quilter said at every hand stitch, but she kept on stitching, stitch by stitch.


"Don't you dare," she said one morning as she was echo-quilting around the blossom of the hibiscus in the Hawaiian design.

"What? Who? Huh?" I said innocently as I watched her stitch.

"You're looking for a mistake," she accused.

"I was just looking at how to hand quilt," I said, and she backed away a little, but then I foolishly went on. "So, how many stitches are you supposed to have per inch?"

"Stitches? Inch?" She pointed her number eight "between" at me. It was a small needle, but it looked very sharp even through my aged eyes and dirty glasses.

"Twelve?" I guessed. I overheard a woman at a quilt show once talk about a quilter who could quilt twelve stitches an inch.

"I'm not a machine," my Darling Wife said.

"How many?" I persisted.

"One," she said.

"One?" I looked at her quilting. She had more than one stitch per inch.

"It doesn't matter as long as I'm consistent," she said. "Now ask me how many I can do?"

"How many?" I asked, very sure that whatever she told me, she would tell me the truth.

"Some," she said.

"Some? That's it? Some stitches."

"I'm consistent," she said.


So, back to the blood and her need for a new finger. "You don't need a new finger," I said. "Why don't you use one of your old metal sewing thimbles that could stop a speeding bullet if need be?" She had about eighteen thousand of them tucked around the house from her before-quilting sewing days..

"I can't use them. They squeeze my finger and the needle slips off anyway," she said quickly. "After dinner we're going to get a thimble that I can use."

"What kind of thimble are we going to drive five miles in the rain to get?" I asked. The nearest shop was five miles away--and, of course, five miles back.

"I read about a coin thimble. It has a small piece of metal inside that will protect my new finger when I get one."

"Get a new finger or a new thimble?"



The store didn't have the kind of thimble she wanted. It had plastic thimbles and wooden thimbles and steel thimbles and indented thimbles and thimbles that protected a $35.00 manicure, and even a thimble that was advertised to cure arthritis, but no coin finger.

"Why don't you put a small coin in your leather thimble?" I asked as I drove back through the rain.

"What?" she began, but then her quilter's brain processed my idiotic idea. "I can try that," she said.

She began with a dime, my dime, of course, and that worked, but then she found a nickel was larger and protected her finger better--her old finger. The store didn't sell new fingers for quilting.

"How's it going?" I just asked her as she came out of her sewing room a few minutes ago.

"I put in a quarter," she said. "It works great!"

"So you love hand quilting now."

"Don't push it," she said. And I didn't. I won't. But it's nice to know she's doing more stitches per inch now. How many more? Some.


Copyright 2001 by A.B. Silver

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