The Absent-minded Quilter




Of course it began on a Sunday morning, a morning when she had planned to get out of bed early, have breakfast, and go for a walk. She forgot to do all of that. She slept and slept until, worried that she had been mysteriously taken away by a flying reptile that had gotten into the house, I went to see where she was and awakened her.

"Pohmflutt," she said.

"You forgot to wake up," I said.

"A senior moment," she said.

"Up," I said. "You have a lot to do today."

"Ferpflip," she said. "What?"

"You have to finish the quilt. Another human child is due any day," I said.

"Oh," she said, and in twenty minutes or so she opened one eye and started her day.


"I lost the sewing room," she said at breakfast.

"What?" It is a common enough one-word question in anyone's vocabulary, but in the mind of a quilter's spouse, it is used more frequently, much more frequently, and for good reason. Quilter's do strange things and say strange things more frequently than the average person.

"I went in to turn on the sewing machine, but I went into the guest room instead. The sewing machine wasn't there."

'Where was it?"

"In the sewing room, of course. I went in there next."

"So you found everything you were looking for?"

"I'm not sure, but I'll check after I look for the missing needle."

"Your needle is missing?" I don't know for sure, but I assume she has more needles for her sewing machines than does your average needle manufacturer.

"I thought I put it in the machine when I turned it off last night as I always do when starting to do the final quilting, but it wasn't in there."

"It's not in my food, is it?" I asked. I had no reason to expect that it was, but I moved my fork around in the eggs just to be sure.

"It's where I left it on the throat plate. I just didn't remember not putting it in."

"So, you're ready to quilt and all is well in the world?" I asked.

"Not everything in the world. But I'm ready to finish the quilt before someone goes into labor and a new baby is born naked without a new quilt."

"Remember, you promised a walk after breakfast," I said.

"Did I? Oh, yes."

We finished breakfast, went for our walk, and returned home. I began to water the plants in front of the house, and she went off to quilt. When I went into the house a while later, she was sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea.

"Is it tea time?" I asked. I looked at the wall clock. Our regular time for tea was still an hour away.

"I thought it was later," she said. "I'll go quilt now."

"I'll have tea now, then," I said.


By late afternoon, long after lunch and a second walk to the market, she came down from her sewing room. "I forgot the batting," she said.

"I thought you already had the batting," I said.

"I did, but it wasn't there, so I have to get it again and iron it on and begin quilting," she said.

"Are you all right?" I asked.

"I'm fine. Where's the batting?"

"I'll get it," I said. The batting was in storage in the garage, four or five rolls of queen-sized fusible batting she had ordered a while back. It was in the garage because when I had sensibly asked her why she didn't store it up in her sewing room or one of the four closets she had taken over with her fabric and notions and sewing machines, she had told me she didn't have room for the bulky rolls of batting. It was difficult for her, I knew, to be that far separated from her supplies­the garage was sixteen steps down and two minutes away from her sewing room­-but I also knew she had no more room for anything in her warehouse of supplies. Once a mouse had gotten into the house and up the stairs and looked for a place to call home, but there was no room in Quiltworld-USA. The mouse searched for even the tiniest place to call home, but it was soon discouraged and, shaking its head in wonder, the mouse left the house for a better life.


"How's the quilt going?" I asked as we sat down for dinner. I had that question down pat. I could have asked, "What's Up?" or "Well?" or Finished yet?" but if I had asked any of those or any other stupid questions, she would have stared me down, her eyes throwing wicked punches at my life. So I always asked easily and safely, "How's the quilt going."

"I finished ironing on the batting, and the top and bottom are quilted together, and I'm going to do the binding as soon as I find out where my head is."

"You've lost you're head?"

"That happens to quilters," she said. "Things don't always go perfectly or even well, or even matter-of-fact fairly," she explained.

"What went wrong?" I thought about injuries to the quilter, but as I looked at her, her body a little bent with weariness, I saw no signs of injury. Puckers? Uneven points? Crooked seams? Backward squares? Broken stitches?

"Nothing went wrong. Everything went right. That's what's wrong." She said. She straightened a little then.

"Everything went right but you lost your head?"

"I have my head now, but when I finished the quilting I didn't know where I was."

"You were upstairs in the sewing room," I said, trying to be helpful.

"I know where my body was, but my head was gone. I quilted the whole quilt without the walking foot. I forgot to put on the foot. I always use that foot so I wouldn't have any puckers, but I used the regular foot and, for some reason I do not know, I still didn't have any puckers. How could I have done that? I should have realized something was wrong when the sewing machine was so quiet. The walking foot goes clackety-clack. It didn't even go clickity-click. I should have known."

"You're telling me a good thing, right?" I urged, hoping.

"I quilted the quilt using the wrong foot and nothing bad happened."

"That's good," I said. "Isn't it?"

"Where was I when I was doing that? My mind was absent."

"Absent-minded," I said.

"Don't be cute with words," she said.

"Everyone's a little absent-minded," I said. I patted her back, gave her a hug, and smiled. "Let's eat," I added,

"It's like eating dinner with your hands and afterwards wondering where the knife and fork were."

"It gets the job done. You got the job done." I bit my tongue then, a little late, hoping she wouldn't have just heard the word "job." To her, quilting was never a job. Even when she thought she hated what she was working on and went full-steam ahead just to get the quilt done, she never thought of it as any job. It was quilting. It was the blood in her heart pumping away. It was life lived to the fullest.

"I can't believe it," she said.

"Can I see the quilt?"

"I haven't put on the binding yet. I hope I don't just sew the edges together and forget the binding."

"You'll bind perfectly," I said.

"Maybe I'm just quilting too much lately," she said.

"Do you think so?" She had completed a lot of quilts lately.

"No, of course not. I'm fine. I need to quilt more, that's all." She winked at me and smiled. "Now, did you see where I put my fork?"

"It's in your hand," I said softly.

"No, it's not," she said, and it wasn't. It was in my hand. I held two forks in my hand. Now, how in the world did that happen?

Copyright 2005 by A.B. Silver

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