Frazzle Dazzle





'Twas the night before spring, and all through the house, fabric was scattered, as was my spouse.

"It's impossible," she said as she dashed past me in three directions at once, twisted and turned, and finally stopped still. Her face was flushed and her brow slightly damp with perspiration (a little sweat, too).

"Why are you running around in such a frenzy?" I asked in my most caring voice. I took the dish towel I had been holding and wiped her brow before she began spinning away from me.

"It's not a frenzy," she said. She took several short breaths and then sighed. "I'm just getting ready to begin getting ready to start my new quilt."

"So, you're not really ready yet?"

"I'm in the frazzle stage."

"But you already have the project picked out," I said. "You said you were making a new quilted tablecloth for spring. Bright and cheery. An easy traditional quilt with nothing fancy."

"I am, I am," she said. "But some of the fabric ran off and is hiding somewhere in this house. I'm just trying to bring it back home."

"The fabric ran away?"

"You know what I mean," she said, and she began moving again.

"Maybe," I said. Maybe not.


What I thought she meant was that she was in stage two or stage three or maybe stage ten. It all depended on how she began her quilt. Did she have an idea for the quilt? Did she have the fabric and not an idea? Did she try several different ideas out first? Was she mesmerized by a quilt she saw at a quilt show? In any case, the first stage was usually her brain getting itchy, which led to her scratching her head , which led to her saying, "I can't make a new quilt" or "I'm all washed up as a quilter" or "I'm going to take up finger painting." When she finally settled down, she entered stage two, which usually meant buying new fabric or searching for her treasures of stash in her fabric warehouse (formerly considered our house).


Spring had sprung and she had found the fabric she had decided to use. Spring colors. I was outside shouting at swallows that were trying once again to splatter mud under the eaves of our roof to build a nest. I had offered them a miniature quilt if they promised to go away, but they had laughed at me.

"I'm frazzled," she said as she came outside. "Let's go to the beach."

"I thought you were cutting up your fabric," I said.

"I cut up fabric for four hundred blocks. I've been sewing together blocks forever. Forever!"

"And that turned you into a frazzle?" She didn't look frazzled, though her glazed over eyes and flung out hair might make a stranger in the neighborhood think so.

"Sand from the hourglasses is draining out of my brain and cluttering up my body. I think I've sewn together my eyes and my fingers. I need a time out," she said.

"What sand? What hourglasses?" I asked.

"The ones in my quilt. There's no sand left in the hourglasses," she said. Quilters I have known make statements like that. I had no idea what she meant.

"You're making an hourglass quilt?" I asked. I had even less an idea of what I was asking, but I didn't have to ask anything more.

"It's a quilt with hourglasses and nine patch blocks." she said. She smiled. Her eyes sparkled and flashed. I wondered if she had a fever.

"An hourglass," I guessed. "So you can tell what time it is?"

"It's time to get back to quilting," she said.

"But you said you're frazzled and needed a time out," I said.

"Do I look frazzled?" she asked.

"You look fine," I said.

"Sometimes, I'm a little frenzied."

"But not now." I could tell. When she was frenzied, she was a blur, quilting a thousand yards a minute.

"Do you know how many nine patches and hourglasses I have?" she asked. She stared at me.

"Four hundred?" I guessed.

"How did you guess?"

" That's what you said."

"More like a quadrillion," she said.


On a relaxed morning on a relaxed day, with a relaxed look on her face and a relaxed slack to her body, she gave me a three inch block of fabric, the small block made up of nine one-inch squares, four muslin and five green and flowery. "This is a leftover," she said.

"You finished them all?" I asked. Of course she had. Giving me the block was evidence.

"And all sewn together," she said.

"Then you're done?" I looked for some sign that she was. She just smiled a quilty smile.

"I still have to do the border."

"That should be easy enough after all the pieces," I said.

"Appliqué," she said. "I have to cut out the leaves and flowers." Her smile changed as she spoke, and in that instant, I saw that the twinkle that moments before had been in her eye was now gone.

"How many?" I asked.

"Did you ever see a tree in spring? A giant tree? A hundred feet tall tree? In full leaf?"

"A lot of leaves?"

"Yes. And spring flowers."


Three blind mice. Three blind mice. See how they run. And run. And run. A few days later, I found a dead mouse in our small backyard pond and scooped it out with a leaf skimmer. I wondered where the other two were. My favorite quilter came out of the house then. "I'm frazzled," she said.

"You look fine," I said. She looked fine. In my hand I held the pole of the net with a mouse in the net. In her hand she held a pile of leaves and flowers. Fabric leaves. Fabric flowers.

"I'm ready to attach the leaves and flowers to the border," she said.

"I can't wait to see the finished quilt," I said.

"Aren't you going to get rid of the mouse?" she asked.

"If you're all right," I said. I didn't see any signs of frazzle yet.

"I'm all right."

"The mouse is gone," I said, and I took the mouse around the corner of the house and wished it well in mouse heaven as I put it into a plastic bag and into the trash. When I returned, she was gone.


She sewed and attached the border to the center of the quilt and did the appliqué and quilted it all together. Hours and days and weeks went by. Every now and then she ran through the house shaking her head, waving her arms, sighing, but also, now and then, cooing. But no frenzy, not even frazzle. And when she was done, she covered the table with the quilt, surprising me at breakfast.

"It dazzling," I said. It was springtime in the kitchen now for sure. "Is there any toast?" I asked.

"One crumb on that quilt and you're toast," she said. No, she wasn't frazzled at all.



Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Frazzle Dazzle Quilt"

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