"Don't worry, it's not going to hurt too much," my Darling Wife said. "It's good for you. This will hurt me more than it will hurt you. It will be a learning experience for you. You'll come out of this much better than you expect. Be brave."
I could have interrupted her at any time as she spoke, but the look on her face, somewhat sad, somewhat tense, that look made me wait until she was finished. And when she sighed and took a breath, I asked her, "Are you talking to someone at this table?" I looked from one end of the kitchen table where we sat having tea to the other.
"Rehearsing," she said.
"For what?" I asked. I looked directly at her for some sign, some gesture, that all was all right in her world.
"I've made up my mind," she said.
"That's it? That's an answer?"
"It's not going to be easy to say what I have to say," she said.
"You plan to tell me something?"
"Not you," she said. She laughed. "The fabric."
"The fabric?" Oh, so here it comes, I thought to myself. She was between quilts. Too much time had gone by since she had finished the last quilt. She had been walking around the house for days in that trance of hers, that look of the tragically unemployed, that quilter's look that came over her every time she finished a quilt and was in a quandary as to what to do next.
"I'm going to cut up some of my favorite fabrics," she told me directly. No hemming and hawing. No hesitation to come clean with me.
"You have a lot of favorite fabric," I said. She did. Too much for her own good. Whenever she talked about it, whenever she dared to look at it or to show it to me, she accompanied the event with cries of anguish.
"It's too...." she began, and that look of anguish was back.
"It's too nice to cut up. I know that. The fabric doesn't want to be cut up," I said. She looked at me as if she expected me to ask her how I knew that the fabric didn't want to be cut up, but when I turned silent, she went on.
"I have to convince us both that it's for the best. The whole will be better than the parts."
"You say that about all your quilts. You always say that when you cut up any piece of fabric and then sew it back together into a quilt."
"I'm not sure this time. It's like Humpty Dumpy. I'm not sure I can ever put the pieces together again."
"Humpty was an egg," I said in an attempt to reassure her, though I was certain she didn't need assurance or reassurance. "Humpty could have been made into a nice omelet if the king and his men had been more clever."
"I'm not talking food here. I'm trying to find the right thing to say to give me the courage to cut my favorite fabrics into a gazillion little pieces."
"More than any other number," she said.
She cut fabric into little pieces for two weeks straight. At least that was what I assumed she was doing, for when I asked her every day how the quilt was coming, she would say, "I'm working on it."
"Is the fabric going along with the project?"
"Not happily," she said.
"You did tell the fabric not to worry, that you would be kind and gentle and that it was for the good of the quilt?"
"I said what I had to say, but that's not always enough. It needs to know it will be part of a great quilt, and that's the problem."
"You're having a problem?"
"I'm not sure I can promise a great quilt. I keep thinking that I'm making a mistake."
"You can let the fabric know you have any doubts," I said. Hey, I am a certified quilter's counselor. I've had enough courses from her to qualify as a quilter's helper.
"I'm trying not to show it, but when I sew some of the pieces together, all the little squares and rectangles making a square, I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing. But I've already cut so much."
"You already cut the fabric and you can't go back?"
"Tell me it will be all right," she pleaded.
"It will be all right," I said.
"There are so many pieces," she said.
"Quilting is piecing the pieces together," I said in my most comforting manner, which normally when it comes to fabric and thread isn't necessarily all that much comfort. She would have to provide that comfort herself.
"I'll remember that," she said.
"So you'll continue on?" I asked.
"My quilt has four hundred fifty-six pieces," said the red-headed woman said as we stood in line at the quilt shop a week later.
'That's a lot of pieces, but it's not a very lot," said the tall woman standing in the aisle. "My last quit had seven hundred eighty-four pieces."
"Postage stamps," said the clerk who was cutting the fabric at the table behind us. "Twelve hundred pieces in my quilt.. All the size of postage stamps. I thought I'd cut off a finger getting the pieces so small."
"I have twelve hundred and one pieces, and they're as big as post cards," cried out a voice down the aisle.
"A gazillion pieces of my favorite fabric," said my Darling Wife as she paid the bill for a set of rotary cutter blades.
"Oooh! Ahhh! Her favorite fabric. I couldn't do that. Not my favorite fabric." The voices all came together, a cacophony of quilters' sounds.
"You win," I said to my pieceful wife as I hurried her out of the store. Behind us the competition continued.
"Thirteen hundred fifty pieces," said a final voice above the sounds of understanding about cutting up favorite fabrics.
"Not as much as a gazillion," my wife said. A gazillion always won.
"So, how many pieces did you really cut?" I asked when we were back home. She had replaced the dulling blade on the rotary cutter.
"Fourteen hundred sixty-four," she said. Most were piled around her room. Some had already been sewn into blocks.
"So, you still won."
"If I made a king-size quilt, then I'd need more."
"We don't have a bed that large." I said.
"No, we don't," she said, "but it would mean a lot more pieces."
"I thought you were tired of pieces."
"My next quilt will be made from only two pieces."
"Two very large pieces. If that's too many, maybe just one piece."
"One piece that you don't want to cut?"
"I owe it to the fabric."
"You feel guilty cutting up your favorite fabrics, don't you?"
"Sad. But I think the pieces will be happy in the new quilt."
"Then you're happy with the new quilt?"
"Not yet. I still have a long way to go."
"But it's all piecing now, not cutting."
"The pieces are ready for piecing," she said. "I'm going to need more thread."
"To hold the pieces together," she said.
"I know that," I said. I did. I do.
Copyright 2003 by A.B. Silver
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