Strike While the Iron's Hot




"Help!" she called out from the garage. She seemed in great and immediate pain, so I finished lunch, rinsed the dishes, put away the paper I had been reading, checked the messages on the telephone, then rushed to her aid. I found her with her arms deep into the washing machine bringing out a load of "wash." Her pain was a lot of grunting as she lifted the load.

"I can't go on like this. I want to quilt," she said, muffling her voice with the damp laundry.

"You want me to help carry that?" I asked kindly as she dumped the large mountain of rags against me to take. I took the load. It was 100 degrees out that day and hotter in the garage. The damp laundry felt good.

She bent back inside the deep cavern of the washing machine for a few stray pieces which she piled on top of what she had already given me. "Take that to the ironing room," she said.

"Ironing room?" I asked in panic. Did we now have an ironing room hidden somewhere in the house.? My office was the last free space in the house not already taken up with her quilting empire. Had she taken over that room too in her quest for more territory?

"The sewing room," she said in answer to my desperate question.

"You need to do some more ironing?" I talked into cotton.

"Go," she said. I went as she guided me into the house, through the kitchen, down the hall to her sewing room. Finally, I was able to dump the load onto her sewing table, but she guided me and the wash over to a plastic bag she had spread out on the floor next to the ironing board.

"What are you going to quilt?" I asked as I caught my breath.

"I'm not quilting anything," she said. "I may never quilt again." She picked at the pile of wash.

"May I ask why not?" I asked.

"I have to iron," she said.

"Oh," I said in my most comforting manner.

She glared at me. "All I ever do is iron," she said.

"I'm not that dirty," I said, looking now for the first time into the pile of "wash" to see how much of my clothing had added to her work. All I found were pieces of colored fabric. Large pieces of fabric. Smaller pieces of fabric. Tiny pieces of fabric. Blue, black, green, yellow, red, brown. Lots of black. None of my clothes was in the pile. "It's all your fabric," I said.

"I know. It's some of the fabric we bought yesterday," she said.

"You washed it and now you have to iron it," I said. It was not a question. She always washed her new fabric before she sewed anything. It was "Rule twelve," she had long before told me. Or maybe "Rule twenty." Quilting had a lot of rules.

"I have to iron it and fold it put it away so I can be ready to quilt," she said.

"So, what's the big problem?"

"That's only the fabric I bought yesterday."

"Yes, I know," I said, remembering the long drive to the fabric shop, the long drive home, the long drive back after I discovered I had left my credit card at the shop, the second pile of fabric she bought since we were already there and "why waste the trip?" and the long drive home again with six more yards of black cotton fabric for the Amish quilt she planned to make "later in the summer."

"UPS came this morning," she said simply. She turned on the iron and put it on the ironing board.


"The twelve yards of white-on-white muslin came today. I still have to wash and iron that."

"So, you have a lot of ironing to do?"

"More ironing to do than all the laundries in the city."

"You didn't have to buy so much fabric," I said. It was a reasonable thought. "No fabric, no washing, no ironing." It was also a very dumb thing to say to woman who has found that life without fabric is a life without sustenance.

"I have to have the fabric for the quilt I'm making for you." She paused, and I was going to tell her she had enough fabric for a hundred quilts, but she wasn't finished. "And all the projects I have to do that I haven't thought up yet."

"And they'll all require pre-washing and pre-ironing and pre-folding?"

"Lots of ironing," she moaned.

"So, when will you be finished?"

She looked down at the pile of fabric in thought. "Next year," she said confidently.

"That soon?"

"Maybe later."

"You bought all this fabric, which will support three or four fabric mills, you know, just so you can use it all up quilting and then have to buy more?"

"Quilting's what I do now," she said.

"And ironing," I said. "Lots and lots of washing and ironing."

"I could iron you," she said.

"I'm leaving," I said.

"You have to come back for the folding," she said.

"The folding?"

You're in charge of folding."

"I am?" Of course I was. And since she took up quilting, I've gotten very good at it.

"You don't mind?" she asked as she lifted her iron.

"Folding's what I do," I said. "Folding's what life is all about."

Copyright A.B. Silver 1998

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