It probably was the bigger bed that caused her to panic, changing from a twin bed in the guest room to a queen-sized bed. Not only queen-sized but thicker from top to bottom. In the showroom, amidst dozens of other mattresses, the mattress set didn't seem that large. But it was. And, of course, my Darling Wife knew that the quilt from the old bed, even spread flat, would not fit the new bed. Not even a queen-sized quilt would fit the fat mattress. It was necessary to give thanks for the quilting life she had so far lived and to pray that she had the strength to make one final large quilt, a king-sized quilt for a fat queen-sized bed. So, out of necessity, she went to work. It was certainly going to be a challenge, but she could handle the challenge.
"I'll never get it done," she said."
"It's way too big."
"I've been working on it forever."
"It's too long to make. It's too wide to make."
"I'll need king-sized batting and king sized backing."
"I'll never be able to baste it."
She finished sewing the top in record time. Very slowly. She was making a larger version of a quilt she had already completed months before, and as she really disliked making the same quilt twice, she had to tell herself it was a new design because it was larger and the colors were slightly different. But it was the same quilt.
"It's boring now," she said. "I already did this quilt before."
"I want to quit."
"Maybe I'll just make the top."
'It's still boring."
"Maybe we can squeeze two twin beds into the room and return the big bed."
"Is it all right if I scream for awhile?"
She spread the batting across the room to air out, and then she ironed the backing.
"I had a dream about puckers," she said.
"I won't be able to baste it without puckers."
"I hope I can keep all the puckers on the backing."
"I don't have enough tables for a quilt this big."
"It's impossible to put the quilt sandwich on just four tables."
"How much would it cost to hire someone to quilt this?"
I took the car out of our garage and set up our collection of four banquet tables. She hadn't used the tables in a while as the year before she had discovered fusible batting, and with her big-board ironing board and making smaller quilts, she was able to fuse the top and bottom to the fusible batting and escape the stretching and smoothing and masking tape and pinning and backaches, all of which went with the tables. But now it was necessary for her to face reality. Reality was that the quilt top and batting and backing were all too large to use the tables as they were.
"I know I'll have puckers," she said as she tried to spread the quilt parts over the tables.
"I can't get the batting smooth."
"The top keeps stretching."
"Maybe I'll just bind the top and throw it over the bed."
"Can't you at least help?"
I helped. Together we smoothed and stretched, and taped down one side. She trimmed the backing and cut the batting to size as well. She put in a row of pins down the center. The backing and the batting and the quilt top hung over the tables and down to the floor on three sides of the tables.
"We need more tables," I said.
"I think so, too," Frustrated Wife said.
"Can you use another table?" The voice came from the sidewalk. Jan, a neighbor, looked in from the sidewalk. Her small dog looked in as well and sniffed at the fabric.
"That might help. Two more tables, maybe," I said.
"That won't help," Disgruntled Wife said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"I won't be able to reach the middle to pin it," Sensible Short Wife said.
"I can do the middle," I said. After all, I was seven inches taller.
"Hah, hah," Realistic Wife said.
"Well, maybe not. How about if I put you in a harness and hang you from the ceiling over the table. Or we can get half a dozen neighbors to hold you and pass you over the table while you pin. That way you can reach the center-- Ooof," I said as she punched the air out of me with one of her looks, her 'Keep Quiet!' look.
"Well, if you change your mind," our good neighbor offered.
'Thanks anyway," I said, catching my breath.
"My back hurts," Darling Wife said. "Let's go for a walk."
We went for a walk. After we returned, she attacked the quilt with determination as her weapon. I went to make tea. While the tea was steeping, I returned to the garage.
"This may be a pucker quilt, a stretched quilt, a lumpy quilt," she said.
"It looks flat and smooth and just right," I said. She had placed another two dozen pins down the center.
"I'll do one side and then shift it all over and then do some more and then some more," she said.
"Then you don't need me here," I said.
"This will be my last big quilt," she said.
"You say that every time you make a big quilt," I said.
"I'm saying it with passion this time. This quilt is the biggest quilt I ever attempted, and, if I really finish this, I'm not going to ever do it again. Maybe longer than that."
"That's a long time not to make a quilt," I said.
"I'll make teeny-tiny quilts. No bigger than a dollar bill."
"That'll save fabric," I said.
"That'll save you having to live with a worn out quilter."
"But you're having fun, aren't you?" I asked. I hoped so.
"Go do something with your life," she said. "Go, get."
"You're not in a good mood, are you?" I asked.
"If I ever finish pinning this, then I may be in a good mood."
"And that good mood will last a long time?" I asked.
"Oh, no," she said quickly and with a gasp.
"What if I can't? I mean, WHAT IF I CAN'T?"
"Can't? Quilters don't say they can't. You're doing fine." I put on my most encouraging smile and spoke in my most encouraging voice.
"The sewing machine," she said. "What if the quilt won't go through it? The last large quilt I made I had to put together in thirds, and that was impossible to do. This is all one quilt that's way, way too big."
"It'll go through. You have the larger opening in your sewing machine than you did with the last big. That's why you bought the bigger sewing machine last year. For bigger quilts."
"Not this big. The weight of it dragging will break all the needles. The quilting will be crooked. I'll run out of thread. I'll have all those puckers. I know I will."
"It will be fine," I said. "We can live with a pucker or two."
"That's easy for you to say."
"I can help you pin," I said.
"No. No, I'm going to do it myself. I'm going to do it all. For the sake of the bed. No bed should be naked. I have to dress the bed. We can't have the new bed shiver and be forlorn and sad, can we?"
"No, of course not," I said.
"Then, I'll get on with it." She turned from me and stared at the quilt top and the quilt back and the quilt batting stretched out on the table. "You're not going to win," she said to all three pieces of the quilt. "I'm going to win. Oh, yes, I am," she threatened.
Days and days and days later, she completed the quilting. The quilt back had only a sprinkling of puckers.
"We'll never turn it over," she said. She was almost smiling. "The puckers don't have to show."
"What's a pucker or two?" I said.
"I can live with a few tiny puckers." She smiled.
"And now you're all puckered out," I said to lighten her dismay.
"Yes, I am all tuckered out," she corrected. I was sure she had another look ready for me, but instead she just smiled even more. "It's done," isn't it?" she asked, pride in her voice now, a sparkle in her eyes.
"Of course it is, better even than perfect," I agreed.
"Yes, done, done, done," she said. "Let's put it on the bed."
We put the quilt on the new bed. The puckers do not show at all. There are no puckers. There are no puckers....
Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Necessity Quilt"
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