Quilter's Workout





"Ahhh, oogh, Ahhh," she said. I was sitting in the living room reading, and she was close by, standing by the window. I looked over at her to see if she were really making those sounds.

"Are you making those sounds?" I asked.

"Argghhh, uumph," she said. She raised her arms over her head.

'You are making those sounds," I said.

"I'm, arffff, in training," she said through her nostrils.

"In training for what?" I asked. She lowered her arms and then raised them again slightly away from her body.

"Picking out a quilt," she said through a small pucker in her mouth.

"I see," I said. "Then what you are doing is only some kind of exercise?" I asked.

"Whoop whoop," she said, whooping.

"Why don't you take a break and explain?" I suggested. I needed a break from the odd noises she was huffing and puffing out her mouth and nose.

"One more routine," she said, and with that she raised her hands again and held them over her head.

"You're lifting weights?" I asked. It looked as if she was lifting weights, and she did seem to be holding something.

"Ummmahh," she answered. I took that as a yes. She lowered her hands to show me her weights. In one hand she had a needle and several quilting pins. In the other, she had a fat quarter folded up small.

"Quilter's weights," I guessed.

"I'm getting in shape for the next quilt," she said. "If I ever choose one."

"Oh," I said. "Oh, oh."

"Choosing the right quilt takes a lot of strength and some daring," she lectured. "I'm working on both." She pumped her needle and fabric up and down, spread her legs out, lifted her weights up again, and held that position. She looked the way an Olympic champion would look if there were quilting in the Olympics and she were a contestant, which there wasn't and she wasn't. She was just making me wonder if quilting was a progressive disease with no cure in sight.

"I thought you had dozens of quilt projects in mind," I said.

"A lot you know," she said. She started curling her arms as if she were lifting real weights.

"Why not add two or three needles, a half yard of fabric? You'll get in shape faster," I coached.

"I'm already in shape from choosing the last three quilts. I'm just toning up a few extra muscles."

"May I ask a question?" I asked.

"That is a question," she said with a smug look and an extra thrust of her arms toward me.

"Why do you need super strength to choose a quilt to do?"

"Because of the woe," she said.


"As in woe is me," she said.

"Woe is you? What do you have to woe about?"

"I need to be in better physical strength so my mind works better."

"Your mind works wonderfully," I said.

"But I don't really know what I'm going to do next," she said. "I'm all worn down."

"You're depressed and weak?"

"Not knowing what I'm going to do next is difficult for me. I usually know. I have hundreds of projects yet to do, but none of them seem right, and so I thought a quilt workout would help me sort my mind out while I also got in shape. I went through all my projects and looked through all my patterns and checked the internet for ideas and I still don't know what I want to do except that it has to work for me."

"The quilt has to work for you?"

"You know that. All quilters know that. I could hurt myself if I chose the wrong quilt to do for me. You know how many I never finished...."

"Hurt yourself? How? Sprain a block? Pull a seam muscle? Batting tendinitis? Stiff and sore trapunto? Repetitive stippling syndrome?"

"Go away," she said firmly. She looked at me. She began to stretch her arms and legs. "Whatever project I do, I'd better be in shape," she added, and she dismissed me with a turn of her head.

"I'm going," I said.


She moped around for the next few days, but she kept up her fitness routine. She worked up to a hundred repetitions of each exercise, practiced her rotary cutter movements, ripped some fabric, threaded and unthreaded her sewing machine, cut fabric for binding, and she even looked as if she were quilting, but in between her quilting workouts, she walked around woefully.

"I'll never get a project," she said.

"Yes, you will. You always do," I said. And I was right, of course. After a week of her agonizing, on a bright Sunday morning, she came down the stairs smiling.

"Yes," I smiled back.

"Everything is extremely wonderful," she said.

"You have a quilt picked out?" I guessed.

"You can't see it until I'm finished," she said.

"I can't? Why not?"

"It's a different kind of quilt, and I'm not sure I can do it, so you have to let me work on it, and then I'll know if I can let you see it. It's paper-pieced and has an extreme number of pieces and most are extremely tiny and I need about 670 different colors of fabric more or less...."

"That's a good choice," I said. I didn't know then what she had planned but she had complained many times before about quilts with too many pieces to make sense to any normal human being. I always reminded her that only quilters cut nice large beautiful fabric into tiny pieces of chaos and turmoil just for the joy of sewing them all back together so everyone would say "Oooh and Ahhh" when a quilt was finished.

"Not if I keep it small. Maybe just a wall hanging."

"So all your worrying and all that exercising were all for nothing?"

"I wasn't worried and the workouts were important. I was irritated and upset that it was so difficult to pick out a quilt to do that would be a challenge and exciting and rewarding and fun. And getting in quilting shape helped my brain, too. After all, quilting isn't just quilting."

"And quilters aren't just quilters," I said, "and you're a shining example."

"What does that mean?"

"It means let me know when you're finished the new quilt."

"It will probably be a long time," she said. "An extremely long time," she added.

"I'm extremely patient," I said. At least I hoped so. Maybe I can find a waiting workout. Something that involves napping.

Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver

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