"Ouch." My Darling Wife said.

"Something hurts?" I asked. Sometimes she said "Ouch" when she was hurt. Sometimes, however, she said "Ouch" when she made a mistake in quilting. She was coming out of her sewing room as I brought her up a new bulb for her Ott Light.

"I need quilter's insurance," she said.

"We have theft insurance," I said, though I was certain none of her quilts had been stolen or were going to be any time soon. A quilter scorned is dangerous, and nothing scorns a quilter more than someone trying to take a quilt. A thief would be rotary cut into prison strips and stripes.

"We need an QHMO," she said.

'Does this have to do with your saying "Ouch'?" She turned to face me. I began to hand her the bulb.

"I almost broke my chin," she said. "I need a health plan for quilters." Sure enough she was rubbing her chin with both hands and was wincing. I put the bulb down on the cabinet in the hall. The cabinet had been, no doubt, intended by the builder to hold towels and sheets. Hah! It was packed with fabric.

"How did you break your chin?" I asked.

"Ripping fabric," she said. Her tone told me that I should have no trouble accepting that as an obvious answer.

"The fabric broke your chin?"

"Not the fabric. My fist."

"Well, that makes more sense." No, it didn't. "Go on," I said. I was absolutely sure she would have a perfectly rational answer for me, for she had injured herself quilting before, and each time she had given me a logical answer to how she obtained her very weird injury. Just the week before she had pulled all the muscles in her neck as she pushed down on her sewing machine to lower it into the sewing cabinet where it lived. Normally, sanely, she stood and pushed down. Last week she had remained sitting and pushed down, twisting her neck in the effort. She called that a quilting injury.

"I'd have to show you," she said.

"All right," I said, waiting for a demonstration of her latest injury. She usually demonstrated to me how she injured herself while quilting. Every injury was unique to quilters, she always told me. For example, she incurred a common injury when she had to baste her quilts, reaching her otherwise healthy body over the tables where she had laid out her squilt, her quilt top and batting and quilt back. She wasn't quite tall enough to bend over enough to reach the center of the table, so in order to put in the pins and close them, she stretched her back beyond what common sense and nature set as a healthy limit. But she was a quilter, and quilters stood on their tip toes and stretched themselves all over the place to get the quilt basted regardless of pain and injury. Only her back didn't always want to bend and stretch and reach. Ouch.

She motioned me into her sewing room where she picked up a piece of fabric. "Sometimes I just rip the fabric," she said as she made a snip at the required width on one side of the yard of fabric along the grain where she wanted to rip. She held one side of the fabric in her left hand and tugged down while she tugged up with the right hand, ripping off a neat strip of fabric. "That's what I usually do, but I was in a hurry and the fabric resisted a little and my right hand came up too hard and I hit my chin as the fabric ripped too quickly." She demonstrated again and as her left hand went down her right fist came right up and punched her in the chin. Ouch.

"So you need a quilters health maintenance organization plan?" I acknowledged.

"It's dangerous work," she said.

"You have to really be careful," I counseled. "An ounce of prevention is worth...."

"Go away, I have to heal," she said.


"You have fungus under your nails," I told her a day later as I dragged her out of the house, her hand in mine as we walked on an unusually warm fall day. She had been in her sewing room too long.

"What? What are you talking about? I don't have any fungus." She dropped my hand and looked down at her nails."

"It looks like a fungus," I said as she curved a finger from one hand and dug its nail under a fingernail on the other hand. She scraped out white fungus.

"It's not fungus," she said. "It's just paper," she said.

"Paper fungus?" I asked.

"I was picking paper out of the quilt top and some of it was hard to get at and sometimes I used my fingers and some of the paper got under my nails. It happens all the time."

"Quilters paper-piecing fungus," I said. I know my medical terminology.


Once, after she had spent a long time rotary cutting a lot of fabric, she sat at the dinner table and began to cough, hacking and choking. "Are you all right?" I asked, puzzled, as she hadn't begun to eat yet. I stood up and went behind her and reached down to squeeze out whatever was choking her, using the Heimlich maneuver.

"It's just a lint ball," she coughed. She pushed my hands away.

'A lint ball? Like a hair ball in a cat?"

"Like a quilter," she said. "I'm all right."

"I didn't know quilters got lint balls."

"Now you know," she said. But I'm still not sure about that.


"Ouch," she said as we left the house and walked across the street in our neighborhood.

"Step on a stone?" I asked.

"I got pedal foot. It's hard to walk on a level surface."

"Pedal foot? "I looked at her. "You're limping," I said.

"I'll be all right when we get to the hill," she said.

"The hill?" We were heading up a nearby hill to the foothills where the city was about to build a new park. Every few days we went to see what progress had been made.

"Maybe I can walk better on a slant," she said.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"I was sewing all morning, and using the foot pedal on the sewing machine too long caused my foot to slant too much, and it hurts to walk."

"Is this another quilting injury?" I asked.

"It's the same as when you complain after a lot of stop and go driving."

"That's a driving injury," I said, "And I don't look for hills. I avoid them."

"Try sewing for a while," she said smugly.


"Churn dash," she said as she looked up at the full moon as we sat in the back yard.

"All right," I said. It had to be about quilting, which was not unusual, so I did not reply.

"I have pattern eyes," she said.



"Is this going to make sense?"

"I was looking at patterns for the last hour, in that book of ten million big blocks."

"You looked at ten million blocks?"

"And now I have floaters in my eyes."

"Everyone has floaters," I said. I looked at the sky away from the moon and stray spots and specks floated into my vision.

"Mine are different. I see patterns. Log cabin and flying geese."

"You want to go to an eye doctor?"

'There's nothing wrong with my eyes."


"Ouch," she said as she backed away from her cutting table after rotary cutting several strips of fabric.

"What now?' I asked. I was in her sewing room to fix a latch on the window.

"Belly crease." she said.

"Is that a disease or an injury?"

"It's an injury," she answered.

"Another quilting injury?"

"I have a crease in my belly from pressing too hard against the edge of the quilting table as I cut."

"Don't press so hard."

"That's your advice?"

"I'm your QHMO's home representative. I've had experience, you know. I'm becoming an expert on quilting ailments."

"Fix the latch. And don't hurt yourself."


"Do you think they have callous pads for knees," she asked. She was rubbing her right knee.

"Do you have a callous?"

"I have a sore knee," she said.

"Etiology?" I asked in my best bedside manner as I sat on the edge of the bed across from her.

"That means you want to know what caused it?"

"I know what caused it. Quilting. I want to know how it happened so I can add it to the list if I ever write an encyclopedia of quilting medicine."

"The knee peddle on the old sewing machine I used for the quilting."

"Just like your slanted foot?" I asked. "That old sewing machine is a torture machine."

"It's repetitive knee injury," she said.

"It's a sore knee," I said. "Stop quilting so much. Take a vacation. Quilt by hand for awhile."

"Dimpled fingertip," she said.


"That's what I got when I was learning how to hand quilt the Hawaiian quilt. I kept trying all kinds of thimbles to protect my finger tip, but the needle would slip or I would punch through the leather thimble or the needle would slide around the metal thimble. By the end I had a million dimples. My fingertip looked like Swiss cheese and a colander combined."

"Ouch," I said. I picked up her hand, guessed at what might have been the injured finger, and kissed it better. I kissed all the fingers to make sure.

"That was a long time ago. It's all healed now," she said.

"Just in case," I said.


I finally started a QHMO for her. Whenever I hear "Ouch," I buy her a yard of new fabric. I have learned that fabric possesses amazing healing qualities. In return, she has to promise to avoid injury and illness as best she can. It's not a perfect plan, but at least she hasn't run a needle through her finger or cut herself with the rotary cutter in a long time. She hasn't ironed over her hand or scalded herself with steam or fused her fingers together with fusible interfacing or glued her lips together as she held the glue stick in her mouth just for a second.

Now, about my aching back, After all, it was her fabric that had fallen on the floor that I had slipped on....


Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver

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