"I'm out of the blues," she said.
"That's good," I said.
"What's good about it?" she asked. With that question, I knew that somehow, in some way, whatever it was that she had said had come in through my ears, had gotten torn apart in my brain, and had emerged in the wrong response.
"I like it when you're happy," I said, trying to recover, though I didn't know what trauma I had just gone through.
"I didn't say I was happy about it," she said.
"Well, the blues are gone," I said, trying again.
"That's not a good thing," she said.
"It's not?" I asked.
"I'll have to do something else," she said.
"Something to keep you happy," I said.
"I'm happy," she said. "I'm not happy about not having enough blues for the new quilt, but I'm happy. I'll work it out."
Of course it had to with quilting, and as soon as I guessed that our conversation was about fabric and her not having enough of whatever blue fabric she had to have, I felt relieved. But two days later, she came down from her sewing rooms and said, '"It's a mystery."
"Are you telling me something? I asked kindly. It pays to be kind with a quilter.
"I'm just talking to myself," she said.
"A mysterious conversation?"
"No, I know what I'm talking about," she said.
"Then what's a mystery?" I asked.
"How the quilt is going to come out without enough blues."
"The same blues you were missing before?" I asked. "You can go buy more blue fabric," I said. She knew that. She always bought more fabric.
"I promised myself I would make this quilt with only the fabric I have on hand, so I'm working around not having the blues I need. I'm quilting without them, adjusting the design to quilt with fewer blues, but I don't know what kind of quilt I'm making now, so it's a mystery."
"You're making a quilt that's a mystery and you don't know what you're doing?" I asked. I couldn't believe she wouldn't just buy some more fabric.
"I know what I'm doing. I just don't know what I'm doing."
"Oh," I said, "now I get it." Nope. I was just giving up for awhile. When she was ready to tell me more about her mysterious quilt, I would know more. But I wasn't sure when that would be. I never knew.
"Whoopee," she said as she came down to the kitchen for dinner two weeks later.
"Is that about dinner or a quilting term?" I asked. It was my turn to make dinner and I just wondered if she was giving me a progress report on her quilt, as she did twelve times a day, or she was thrilled at the leftovers I was putting on her plate, a creative dish made from old chili and some leftover Thanksgiving turkey and half a bowl of re-heated mashed potatoes that should have been thrown out when freezer burn had turned it to frost.
"Quilting," she said, adding, "but dinner looks delicious."
"And?" I asked, waiting for the news about her quilting which was obviously on her mind and waiting to be served along with dinner.
"It came out all different, but it does kind of look the way it should. I can't believe it, but it came out better than I thought, and so I think whoopee is the right feeling to have."
"Whoopee," I said. "Let's eat." I'm usually more excited about her quilting successes, but the leftovers winked at me that they were anxious to be consumed before they became leftover leftovers.
"I'm going to finish it," she said as she took a bite of chili.
"The chili or the quilt?"
"The quilt. Maybe the chili, too. But I'm definitely going to finish the quilt now. I thought I would have to make a hundred pot holders with the hundred blocks I made."
"We don't have a hundred pots," I said.
"That's why I'm going to absolutely finish the quilt," she said absolutely.
"You didn't know that before?"
"It could have come out looking horrible before."
"But, it's not, is it?"
"I still have to do the borders, and I don't know what to do with the paper. Should I take it out or leave it in?"
"You usually leave it in," I said, knowing, of course, she was talking about the paper-pieced squares in her quilt. I knew that because she had told me. I also knew that no matter how I responded to her question, which she wasn't really asking me but herself, she already knew what she was going to do.
"Leave it in," I said.
"I have to take it out or it will be too hard to sew on the border."
"Yumm," I said. "The chili tastes good with the turkey."
"I picked out some of the paper but I had to put it back" she said a week later. I had just finished washing the car and was too tired to move, so I lay on the sofa and waited for her to tell me why I hadn't seen her for most of the day and why she hadn't helped wash the car. "I thought the whole quilt top would be too heavy to sew, so I began removing some of the paper from the blocks along one side, but then I couldn't add the border because the quilt top needed the foundation for strength or it would all sag. After I tore the fabric for the border, the naked blocks needed some backing so I could sew it to the quilt top without making a mess of it."
"You didn't tear the fabric. You ripped it along the grain," I said, not daring to ask her about the naked blocks. The first time she told me she had "torn" some fabric I assumed she had torn it and it was ruined. She corrected me with an hourlong lecture on the benefits of ripping the fabric versus cutting the fabric, cutting the method she usually used with her deadly rotary cutter. But sometimes ripping was better because the fabric tore in the kind of long straight strip that she needed for the border, and cutting long border strips with the rotary cutter often resulted in rather imperfect thin and fat and wobbly strips with large V's in them which she declared "horrible looking and totally useless." I think that was what she told me.
"You put some paper back on?" I said that with my mouth full, so it came out as "Yuupummbbblllppippnnnn."
"I just replaced the foundation paper along the edge where I'm sewing the border on. Taking it off was a mistake." She looked at me. I looked back. "Well,' she added, "not the original paper, just a replacement of paper strips with a quarter-inch seam allowance marked on them." I don't think she understood what I had mumbled, but she knew me enough to know what I would have asked had I taken the time to swallow all my food.
"And you're happy with the way the quilt is coming out?" I asked after I swallowed.
"It's my whoopee quilt," she answered.
"Because it was a mystery, and you solved the mystery, and you did it without all the blues, and it pleased you so much when you saw it up on your design wall that you couldn't believe it right away, but then finally you realized what you had done, and it was more than you expected, and you just had to release all the weeks of tension you had building in you, and you said, "Whoopee!'"
"Whoopee except for the second border," she said.
"Huh?" What was that about a second border?
"I don't have enough of the border blue I thought I had, but I don't have it, and I still need it for the final border."
"I thought you were making do?" I asked. That was a question that wasn't necessary to ask.
"We'll go to the fabric shop tomorrow so I can finish the quilt," she said without needing to answer my question.
"To get more blue for the border?" I didn't need to ask.
"Whoopee," I said. And of course we went to the fabric store the next day and bought enough blue for the second border. Oh, yes, and a little bit extra (guess how much) to replace the blues she had used and to keep her stash of fabric healthy and happy. Whoopee!
Copyright 2001 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Whoopee Quilt"
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