Waste Not, Want Not




"It's your fault, you know," she said.

"How is it my fault?" I asked.

"You bought that book for me."

"I didn't say you had to buy six thousand yards of fabric," I said.

"I only bought six yards," she said.

"Six yards of this and six yards of that," I said.

"Stack-n-Whack takes a lot of fabric," she said.

She was just finishing up her first Stack-n-Whack quilt and the hook was already in and set. She was being pulled up into a boat that was taking her into unknown waters. But she was a willing catch. "I'm going to do a lot of these," she said as she looked up from the final stages of her first kaleidoscope quilt.

"And you need all that fabric for each one?" She had been talking about cutting away from the selvage, cutting long strips, design repeat lengths, and a lot of other quilting gobbledygook. All right, jargon. All right quilting terminology.

"More fabric than you would believe," she said.

"The book says so?"

"The book says so." Yes, I had given her the book as a Tuesday present several weeks before, but now I doubted how good an idea that had been. She had begun the new Stack-n-Whack quilt a week before as an experiment, an impossible dream, a quest for some golden quilt grail.

With fear of failure in her quilting head and trepidation shaking her quilting hands that day, she had scrounged through her pile of "Last Resort" fabric, flea market and 90 percent-off-sale fabric that she thought she would never have any possible use for. It was fabric that she would lose no sleep over if a gang of thieves broke in late and night and stole it. I think she had it because it only cost ten cents a yard.

She had begun expecting complete failure, a total mess, a frustrating voyage into quilting hell, but she had managed to put together a throw quilt. She had whacks and points and a backing and a border and a binding. She had a finished "Stack-n-Whack" quilt. And now she was over the edge. Though, like some Rumpelstiltskin changing flax into gold, she had turned "cheap' fabric into a "priceless" quilt, she now wanted to make another one, and she wanted first-class fabric, quality fabric, and in six-yard lengths.

"Miniature quilts," I said. You have three books and four magazines devoted to miniature quilts." I tried to divert her back to reality and less fabric.

"What?" she asked, her full attention given to the sixteen tons of new expensive fabric she was unfolding.

"Here's a pattern for an Amish quilt that only needs only a half yard of fabric total," I said, pushing a magazine article toward her eyes.

"I'm busy here," she said, dismissing me.

"You're busy with enough fabric for a hundred miniature quilts or wall hangings or lap quilts or twin or full or queen or king-sized quilts," I said.

"What?" she asked.

"Why do you need six yards of fabric for a quilt?" I asked. I knew it was a hopeless task to try to get her attention back when she was in quilting mode.

"The books says...."

"The books says you need six yards of fabric," I answered for her. "I know. But isn't there a smaller quilt in your book?"

"Of course," she said. She had both hands full of fabric, her arms encircling enough fabric for her to become another Christo and drape the Empire State Building. "But how much depends on the distance between the repeats," she said.

As I did not understand a word she said, I tried again. "Are you going to forgo all the other quilts you plan to make, the zillion projects you said you had to do in this and the next lifetime?"

"They can wait," she said.

"So you're only going to make Stack-n-Whack quilts from now on?" I asked. I tried to calculate what six yards per quilt for ten or twenty years of quilts would cost.

"I like this quilt," she said. She began to spread the fabric out flat on the table. "I like it so much I am going to make some more and more and more," she said. I knew she still wasn't paying attention to my great argument that she should make small quilts, quilts which would be less costly to the household budget.

"But--" I said. How could I reason with her? Then I remembered watching her cut the first strip of fabric for the very first "whack" of her quilt. "But you only use a small part of fabric when you cut it the way you have to for stacking it even if it's eight layers high." I spoke as if I knew everything there was to know about what she was doing. "Some of the fabric is wasted," I added.

That caught her attention. "Waste? What waste? I do not waste fabric! The only wasted fabric in this house is the lint I clean out of the sewing machine or the dryer." I thought I saw her stomp her foot for emphasis, but maybe that was my imagination. Her words were emphatic enough. "And I'm still trying to think up a way to make a lint quilt," she added.

"But, but, all those pieces you cut off and you don't use--?" I sputtered.

"They're leftovers," she said.

"Like turkey leftovers you can eat later?" I asked.

"Exactly," she said.

"All right," I said. That sounded good to me. I can understand leftovers. "Waste not, want not," I said, but she was lost to me again. She had her ruler out and was measuring the designs on the fabric.

"Maybe I should have bought eight yards," she said.


It wasn't until today when she came into the house with more fabric that I learned that the six yards for the next quilt was only for the kaleidoscope blocks. Today I learned that she needed three yards or more for the background and almost half a yard or more for the accent, and 3 yards or more for the backing, and about a yard or more for the binding. I think I'll go lie down now.

Click here to see Finished Quilt

Copyright 1998 by A.B. Silver

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