Back to School





"I'm finished. Finished!" she said as she refilled the hummingbird feeder. "Go hang this," she said to me, and she handed me the feeder which was full of red nectar for the impatient birds that waited in the back yard for their food. They were used to the good life.

"You're finished filling the feeders?" I guessed.

"Not the feeders, the quilt."

"You were finished with that last week," I said.

"I finished the quilt but I didn't finish thinking about the quilt. It takes about a week to clear my mind of whatever I was working on when I finished."

"So, now what?" I asked, for there had to be a "what" coming.

"Now go hang up the feeder," she said, and she opened the back door so I could go out into the yard without having to open the door myself and possibly spill the red nectar which would stain everything it could reach as it usually did.

I stretched myself up onto my toetips (sort of like tiptoes but less harmful to the tiny bones in my toes), and I hung the feeder. Then, I returned to the kitchen to wash my hands, now red with rivulets of the red nectar which, of course, had spilled. "So, now what?" I asked again.

"I'm going back to school," she said.

"A quilting class?"

"No classes. Home schooling."

"Quilting shows on television?" I asked.

"No quilting shows. Practical training. Hands-on learning. Self improvement. I need to learn a lot," she said.

"You've been learning for over four years already," I said.

"I've only been learning what I've been learning. I haven't learned any of the skills and techniques I didn't learn before. I skipped a lot of learning I still need."

"That makes sense," I said. Actually, I wasn't too sure about that. Of course, it made sense to her, and, no doubt, it would make sense to the billions of busy quilters around the world. But, having watched her make quilt after quilt after quilt, I thought she might have learned an awful lot already.

"I'm going to learn some blocks and some designs and use up some of the fabric that's been sitting too long."

"Fabric that needs to be used or waste away?" I asked, knowing a little about her way of thinking.

"More like using the fabric in news ways, doing things a little differently."

"You always did it your way," I said.

"Some my way," she corrected. "Now I have to do more another way. I have to cut a little differently and arrange a little differently and sew a little differently," she said.

"And you'll learn all that at school?" I asked.

"Home school," she said. "I'll learn some things. I'll never really learn enough."

"Who does?" I asked wisely.


A few days later she was sitting at the kitchen table sipping her morning green tea. She was reading the morning newspaper. I was shocked. "You're reading the newspaper," I said.

"I always read the newspaper," she replied in a reading-the-newspaper way.

"Not during tea when you have two new quilt magazines waiting," I said.

"I can't read quilt magazines while I'm at school," she said. "It would clutter my head and distract me and my learning curve would go around in circles."

"You're still at school?" I asked. "I thought school was upstairs in your sewing room."

"Recess," she said.

"Oh, recess. Of course."


That afternoon she was upstairs sewing away when I called up that dinner was ready. I was making dinner more often now that she was back in school so that she could study more and give herself good grades when her project was done. She didn't come down. I called again. "Dinner," I said up the stairs and through the doorway to her room.

"Deeennnshhhnnn," was her reply, the sounds falling down the steps and landing at the foot of the stairs. I went up the stairs to call her again.

"Dinner," I said to her. She was sitting at her sewing machine threading the needle, bits and pieces of fabric covering the cabinet top.

"I can't right now," she said.

'But...," I began.

"Detention," she said.


"I have to stay after school," she said.

"How do you stay after school when your doing home schooling and you make the rules?" I was really curious. Detention?

"I failed a test" she said.

"But you're the teacher," I insisted. "You make up the exams."

"I made a beginner's mistake," she said, "and I have to stay to correct it."

"What beginner's mistake?"

"This," she said, and she showed me two blocks she had finished.

"They're cute," I said. "What are you making?"

"A baby quilt. I can't make anything bigger when I'm just learning something new. I expected to make mistakes and didn't want to waste too much fabric by trying anything big."

"They look fine for a baby quilt," I said. "But a little small," I joked.

"I had to make nine blocks all together, and now I can't, so I'm staying after school."

"I don't see any mistakes," I said. I looked carefully at the two blocks.

"Not these. I cut out the first block and tested it to make sure all the measurements were correct."

"That's what you learned to do a long time ago," I said.

"I didn't learn well enough. After I finished the block, I cut out the pieces for the second, and that went the way it was supposed to, so, to save time, I cut out the fabric for all the rest of the blocks."

"That was a mistake?"

"Some of the pieces were supposed to be three and seven-eighths inches long," she said.

"And?" I knew that the answer to why she was keeping herself after school was coming next.

"I cut those pieces two and a half inches each, which is too small, of course, and now I have to start all over and begin again with different fabric because I don't have enough reproduction fabric to finish the quilt," she said. She seemed to be in after-school detention misery.

"Well, can't you do that after dinner?"

"I don't have any appetite left," she said.

"How long is your detention?"

"I don't know. You go eat."

"I'll keep the food warm for you," I said.


I went downstairs and prepared to eat dinner without her, knowing no amount of urging would get her to leave her schoolwork until she was dismissed by the teacher, and since she was a strict teacher, it might be days before she ate again. I was wrong. In less than a minute after I sat down, she was at her place. She sat, her face a smile.

"The teacher let you go early?" I asked.

"I solved the problem," she said.

"What problem?" I'm sure there were several with her version of home schooling. "Did you retake the test?"

"I don't have enough fabric to make the nine-block baby quilt...." She turned toward the dish of lasagna to scoop out some food and put it on her plate.


"And I'm not going to make a baby quilt," she said.

"Because you ran out of fabric when you cut some of the fabric wrong," I finished for her.

"I measured and I have enough fabric left for only three blocks all together," she said, singing the words.

"Three blocks," I repeated, not sure where she was going, but she seemed happy that detention was over.

"I'm going to make a doll quilt," she said. "Or a baby-changing-table quilt or something small."

"Doll" is all I heard. "You're making a quilt for a doll? Is that what you're learning in school?"

"Schools out for today," she said in answer. "Is there bread on the table?"


Copyright 2003 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Doll Quilt"

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