"I only have one yard and thirty-five and three-quarter inches," she told me as she came out of her fabric closet, a closet I was once shared but which had long before been taken over by creeping fabricosis, a disease she had that never could be cured and required more and more medication in the form of yards and yards of fabric just to keep her mind and body stabilized.
"Not enough for whatever it is you're doing?" I asked.
"I need two yards for the inner border," she said.
"Close enough," I said. I could have empathized with her need for another quarter inch of the batik fabric she was showing me in her agony of not having enough, but I knew that a quarter inch, a fourth of an inch, sixteen sixty-fourths of an inch would not please her. If she needed more it would mean three yards.
"I guess I could get by," she said.
"Did I hear you say get by?"
"I can get by," she said, but I wasn't sure she was sure she could, and so I asked that important question.
"Do you want to go to the quilt shop and look for some more?"
"Of course not. This should make do."
Get by? Make do? Was this my Darling Wife speaking?
"All right," I said.
"Maybe the ruler is wrong?" she said, but she was no longer talking to me or with me or knew that I was in the room. She was moving quickly to her cutting table.
"I'm going to feed the fish," I said.
"Thirty-five, thirty-five and a quarter, thirty five...."
She began making the quilt two hours and forty minutes after she had completed her last quilt, that period of time longer than usual only because she and I had gone for a walk, eaten lunch, and, most of all, she did not have a new project in mind. But during lunch she had gone through four quilting magazines that she had previously marked with possible projects, and while turning pages in the fourth magazine, as she motioned for me to clear the table while she was busy with something "more important," her eyes glazed over, her breathing became deep, punctuated by her not breathing at all, and then she said, "This is it."
That was two weeks or three or four weeks before (quilters use a different time system than we mortals do, so I can not say exactly when she began the wall hanging). That was at a time when, as usual, she went through the first-step agonies of wondering whether she had the right fabrics and enough of the right fabrics to make the wall hanging. She had sworn again (on a stack of bali batiks) that she would "try" to use fabric she already had, but within two hours of her search, she was in misery.
Now, for most people, misery might mean starvation, running out of gasoline on a deserted highway when it was one hundred and twelve degrees out and wiley coyotes were attacking, or even having an ingrown toenail that left one's big toe throbbing, as mine did just because I happened to have an ingrown toenail at that time. For her, misery could easily mean that the best choice for fabric she had was a hundredth of a tone off, a shade too dark or too light, a color that did not immediately say, "I am lovely and perfect for your quilt."
"What do you think of this green for the shells?" she asked.
"What shells?" I asked. We had been to the beach on our walk, and she had picked up a few shells, but I sensed (based only on my experience of living with a quilter) that she had something else in mind. I did not know yet that she was talking about her new project.
"The turtle shells," she said in a tone of voice that carried with the words an opinion of my question that was less than high.
"For a quilt?" I said, knowing, of course, that any answer I gave which mentioned a quilt was probably very close to the correct answer.
"Of course for the quilt," she said.
"The turtle quilt," she said.
"The ones with the turtles," I guessed smartly. "Green turtles," I added, seeing that she was holding green fabric.
"This green isn't what I had in mind...."
"But I guess it's close enough for one or two turtles," she said. "I'll use some other greens for the other fourteen turtles."
"Make the turtles happy," I said, and she left. But she was back faster than a turtle.
"I ordered some sand a few days ago," she said.
"For the background. The turtles need something to walk on."
"The turtles will be walking?"
"It should come this morning. Let me know."
"If I see a dump truck," I said, but I said it after she had already gone back to her sewing room. Sixteen turtles walking on a quilt?
"The sand's here," I called up to her three hours later. I was holding the small package. It felt more like fabric than sand.
"Just in time," she said when she came down.
"The turtles will be happy now," I said.
"Oh, no, it looks too dark," she said as she opened the package and showed me the fabric.
"It could be dark sand," I said.
"Well," she said as she touched the fabric and looked at it and touched it again, "it's close enough."
And so it went. Nothing seemed to be exactly as she had first wanted, but she always could be satisfied with what she had. "Close enough," was what she said as her spirits sank and then rose to new heights with each decision to work with what she had. It was the same with the turtles.
"I'm making sea turtles," she said during the turtle stage. She had cut out turtle shells from the green fabrics and had been sewing the shells on the turtles, but the directions called for one appliqué technique and one type of thread and she had used another technique, something about Wonder-Under, which I thought would give the turtles nice shells, but which had to do with how the shells were attached so that the turtle would look alive.
"They have to be able to walk on top of the quilt rather than lie there looking ready for turtle soup," she said.
"Walking on top?" My mind felt a little twisted.
"So they can be happy on the sand when they're not swimming in the sea," she said. Oh, of course!
"And the way you're cutting them and sewing them is a little different than the directions call for?" I asked.
"Close enough," she said. "Only I and the turtles will know."
I could have said that I would also know, but I kept my lips sealed so as not to upset the balance of nature. Her nature.
"I used a few smaller seams," she said, "so the border is fine," she said.
"The missing quarter inch?"
"It's not missing anymore."
"So, you are almost done?"
"Just the outer border and the basting and the quilting to go."
"How does it look?" I asked.
"I still have to decide what kind of quilting to use on it," she said.
"And then it will be done and it will be perfect?" I asked. She was far enough along for me not to worry about how it would look. It would look fine, I knew.
"Not perfect, but close enough," she said.
Copyright 2003 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Turtle Walk"
Back to Home Page * Top of Page
E-mail Popser if you'd like.