The Test




"How long has it been now?" she asked me.

"How long has what been?"

"Since I started learning how to quilt."

"About eighteen months."

"How long exactly?"

"Eighteen months and three days and seven minutes, more or less.

"All right, then. I'm ready."

"You're ready for what?" I asked. What did she want now?

"My test."

"You want a test?"


"What kind of test?"

"A quilting test."

"You want me to ask you questions about quilting."

"Yes. And I'll answer them."

"Any kind of question?"

"Only hard questions," she said. "Graduate school questions."

"How many questions?" I was being suckered into something, I knew, but I went along.

"Until I get a hundred percent."

I didn't think about that one. I thought deep and hard for a quilting question. "What is thread?" I asked.

"It ties other thread together," she said.

"Other thread?"

"Fabric. All fabric is made up of thread. Thread just joins the other thread. They become friends."

"You have a hundred percent so far. You want to stop now?"

"No, I'm just getting warmed up. Next question."

"Why is a rotary cutter called a rotary cutter when you use it to cut strips and squares and triangles."

"Axial rotation," she said.

"Is that a quilting term?" I was suspect.

"It's a rotary definition," she said without hesitation. "Next question?"

She had me going in circles. I thought a long time about my next question. "What is the difference between blue and red fabric?"

"Looks," she said quickly.

"Looks? What kind of answer is 'looks'?"

"Red looks one way and blue looks another way. It depends on how you want what you're quilting to look when you hang it on a wall or use it on a bed."

"That's still a hundred percent so far," I said.

"Make the next one a really tough one," she said.

"If a piece of fabric shrinks five percent when you wash it, should you wash it?"

"Yes and no."

"Yes and no? What kind of answer is that?" I wasn't a testmaster for nothing.

"Sometimes you want to shrink it and sometimes you don't."

"Is that the whole answer?" I hoped it was.

"I wash everything first, but some of it I wash after. It's better that way. Don't you think so?"

I didn't answer. I couldn't answer. My thoughts were shrinking. Still, I went on. "What's the difference between a miniature quilt and a queen-sized quilt?" Let her stew over that one for a while.

"A lot of money," she said.

"That's not a quilting answer," I protested.

"In a small quilt you use a small amount of fabric and thread, and in a large quilt you use a lot of fabric and thread. The difference is a lot of money."

"You're cheating on this test," I said.

"You ask easy questions," she replied. "Now, I want an impossible question about quilting technique."

"You want a difficult quilting question?" I didn't let her answer. "All right, Smarty. What kind of needle do you need in your machine to sew one applique onto another applique and both of them onto a background of white-on-white muslin?"

"A sharp one," she said.

"I meant what size?"

"You didn't ask what size."

"All right. What size?"

"Long enough to go through two appliques, the fusible interfacing, the front of the quilt, the batting, the back of the quilt, and reach the bobbin thread."

"I thought this was a serious test," I said.

"Why should I take a serious test? I'm not in school here. I quilt for fun. Now, is that one hundred percent?"

"Absolutely," I said.

"Good. Now here's a test for you."

"A test for me?" I didn't need a test.

"A quilting test."

"All right." I expected a good zero.

"How much thread will I need to make a quilt this size?" She stretched out her arms about fourteen feet apart.

"More," I said.

"More? What kind of answer is that?"

"Whatever amount of thread you need, you'll always want more."

"How much more?"

"A whole spool."

"Wrong. Ten spools. Ten different colors. You get zero."

"Is the test over now?"

"No. One more question."

"Just one more?" She nodded. "All right," I said.

"When are we ordering the thread?"

"That's a tough question." I thought long and hard. "Now?"

"You get a hundred percent," she said.

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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