Cold Turkey*





She blinked. My Darling Wife blinked again. I looked at her carefully. When she blinked for the third time, I knew she was off the hook, clean, clear, her brain normal again. It had been six weeks since she had made the pledge, a difficult six weeks for her, her life lately driven by her need to quilt, and, therefore, to accumulate fabric, which in her case meant buying fabric. Lots of fabric. From every source imaginable. Once, even, I had to hold her back from ripping the tablecloth off the dining room table of a friend where we had been invited to dinner. That gorgeous piece of cloth was African mud cloth in a design my sweetheart just fell in love with and had to have.

BUT, when she had begun her latest quilt, she spent days rummaging through the house, into every nook and cranny upstairs and downstairs, committed to overcome her compulsion to buy new fabric for each new quilt regardless of the ten-thousand yards or so she already owned, some of which she had tucked away somewhere and had not seen in months, "I'm committed," she said. "I shall overcome," she said. "No new fabric. I promise."

Now, I am not one to say she doesn't always keep her promises when it comes to quilting and anything to do with quilting, but she doesn't always keep her promises. "You've said that before," I said. "You broke that promise when you made the last quilt."

"I didn't break the promise. I just didn't have the fabric I needed."

"And now you have all the fabric you need for the new quilt?" I was dubious.

"I'm only going to use what I have. The whole quilt will be planned, created, and designed around the fabric I already have."

"All right," I said, still not sure.

"I will," she emphasized.

And she did. Though on occasion she would get desperate for that perfect little scrap of fabric she needed, she didn't go out to the quilt shops. She stayed away from the internet. She didn't go through my cotton shirts or underwear and rip them into usable pieces she needed. Oh, once I did find her crawling out from under our guest bed pulling a flat plastic tub of fat quarters she had put away from a trip to a quilt show three years before (just days before she realized that she would no longer buy fat quarters because three yards of everything was better). And twice I had to help her get down after she had crawled up onto a shelf in one of her numerous fabric-hoarding closets to reach a bundle of half yards bought in a bargain sale of batiks over the internet. But not this time.

She had not been to a quilt shop, nor had she given me a list of have-to-have florals to order for her. In fact, when I kept reading about the economic troubles the country was having, I thought it was because no orders were being delivered to our house by UPS and FedEx and the Postal Service. At least that's what the drivers suggested when they often asked why our address was off their delivery lists.

And she paper-pieced all month long, finding every piece of fabric she needed somewhere in our house. Some fabric she found right away, remembering having seen it during her occasional tour of her shelves and drawers, including the time she rummaged through 365 shades and tones of green for a two-inch scrap she needed. Other fabric she sweated to find, tromping around the house, throwing open closet doors, opening large shopping bags packed in the garage from before the time of the dinosaurs. BUT, she found what she needed, and day by day went by, her quilting non-stop; still, she did NOT buy another piece of fabric.

Oh, she was tempted, all right. Quilting magazines piled up. Fabric catalogs piled up. At first she wouldn't look at them, not wanting to be tempted by the quilts, the fabrics, the ads offering every quilter eternal happiness if she (or he) would only buy 640 yards of scenic prints. But then she gained inner strength and began to read the magazines and browse the catalogs, and she would not give in. Scrap by scrap. Block by block. Seam by seam. Point by point. Line by line. Stitch by stitch, she pieced the quilt top. She sewed together the 25 finished blocks and continued to use only the fabric she already had in her stash.

"I did it!" she said yesterday morning as she came down the stairs carrying her quilt top down with her. She spread it out on the carpeted floor and looked down at it. I looked down at it. "I didn't buy one single piece of new fabric," she exclaimed, giddy with the power at having broken her overwhelming compulsion. She had torn her need-to-shop to shreds. And then she blinked again.

"Why all the blinking?" I asked. I knew why, but she had to tell me.

"I never blinked once at fabric the whole month, maybe six weeks, not since that first day. And all I used was my own stash."

"You have a lot of stash," I reminded her.

"It's never a lot," she said.


"Still, I never made it through a quilt before without having to buy new fabric."

"And it's all finished now," I said, trying to share her pride.

"All except the border, and I have fabric for that all picked out. I picked it out before I began."

"You sure you have enough?" She had often been a half yard or inch short of what she needed, which is why she had gone from fat quarters to half yards to yards to three yard purchases. She wanted to try making quilts that required seven or more yards of any one fabric, but I continually reminded her we still needed to eat and pay our taxes.

"I'm sure," she said, a great smile on her face as she picked up her quilt top and ran up the stairs to her sewing room. I stood there with my own smile.

But moments later I heard her scream. Oh, it was no monster scream or the type of scream one yells when faced by a rampaging pride of lions aiming for a human snack. No, it was a quiet, gentle scream that barely made it down the stairs, sliding over each step and bouncing down and up to my ears.

"What?" I asked as I pushed myself up the stairs. My "what" was the sound one makes when one finds a cliff sliding down a mountain onto one's head.

"Look," she said. I looked. She had her quilt top hanging on the design wall where it dazzled me.

"It still looks great," I said, dazed by the colors and design.

"Look at the border,' she commanded.

I looked. "And?" I asked before making any comment that might be the right or wrong comment. I still never knew exactly what to say when she told me to look at something.

"I can't use the border fabric. It clashes. It doesn't work. It ruins the quilt."

"So, use a different border," I said. Uh-oh!

"We have to go shopping," she said, blinking furiously then closing her eyes and opening them again.

"For border fabric?" I guessed.

"What else?" she said, but she wasn't really asking.

I blinked.

*Cold turkey: Immediate, complete withdrawal from something on which one has become dependent, such as an addictive drug--or quilting.

Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Cold Turkey Quilt"

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