She held the scissors in her right hand, snipping at the air, the blades flashing. She walked past me, snip, snip, snip.
"Didn't your mother tell you not to run with scissors in your hand?" I asked my Darling Wife.
"I'm not running. I'm walking."
"You're walking fast," I said. "Is something wrong?" Now, even though it was unusual to see her downstairs from her quilting room only minutes after she had gone up to start a new quilt, there she was, snipping her way through the cool autumn air that came through the kitchen window. That was not normal behavior, so my question was reasonable. I repeated, "Something wrong?"
"My fabric needs to be cut, but it doesn't want to be cut. Every time I get close to it on the cutting table, it yells at me."
"Your fabric yells at you?" That was unusual. Though she and her fabric often talked to one another when she was quilting, I had never heard any shouting before.
"It just doesn't want to be cut up. It's spoiled fabric, bratty. It think that's because it's been sitting on the shelf for three years. I was never going to use it. Now it's time, and I am going to cut it up. I am."
"So you came downstairs to practice cutting it up?" I was still a tiny bit confused, but I wasn't at all surprised about anything she had said.
"Well, I'm not really sure I can do it. I don't know if the quilt is worth it."
"Can you use other fabric?"
"No, I'm going to make a large quilt, and this fabric is just right for it. It has great color and a great design, and I'm going to use it. I am."
"All right," I said. "Just don't run with the scissors."
She cut up the fabric and put the pieces in piles and began the quilt. That's what she told me several days later. There was no more talk of the fabric yelling or any problem cutting the fabric. She seemed happy and content, and each time she had gone upstairs to work on the quilt, she came back down again smiling.
"It's going well?" I asked finally.
"I think so. I'm not so sure. I don't know yet."
"Are you satisfied with the way it's going?"
"I think so. I'm not sure. I don't know."
"It's a horror," she said two days later.
"Is this quilt talk?" I asked.
"The colors don't work. And I cut up all that nice fabric."
"You've said that before," I said. I said that at some point in every quilt she made. It was at that moment when she was unsure, when the quilt she was working on didn't seem to be going right, when she saw the first few blocks on her design wall and hated what she saw. "It will be fine," I said. It usually was fine, good, great, but not always.
"Come take a look," she said.
"You want me to look now?" Whenever she asked me to look at a quilt in progress it was when she was unsure, uncertain, pessimistic about the value of the quilt, so certain that it was going to be a terrible quilt.
"Now," she said.
So I looked. I saw a row of blocks. They were not yet sewn together, so they looked crooked and overlapped and the points didn't match and the colors were very bright and the lines of the design seemed to clash in a wild splash of colors. "Looks fine to me," I said.
"No it doesn't."
"I can't tell from just a few blocks," I admitted.
"It's a horror," she said.
"Do you want to stop?"
"I already have too many pieces cut to stop."
"Then go on. You know it will look good when you're finished." That was one of a hundred responses I could have made. I had a little book of responses for moments like that stuck in my brain. But that one seemed to work.
"I'll do another row. But I won't like it."
"You always say that," I said. (Response #12)
"Well?" she asked. It was several days and another row later. She had taken me away from trying to fix a leaky faucet to the more important chore of checking out her work.
"Bright," I said. "Wild," I said.
"You don't like it," she said. "I don't like it either," she said before I could search for a better response.
"You don't have to finish it," I said.
"I have to save it," she said.
"It might be a good table runner," I suggested. It would.
"Maybe," she said.
"It was supposed to be a queen-sized quilt," she said this morning.
"But?" I asked,
"It isn't, but I'm finished."
"Are you sure?"
"It's a perfect quilt now."
"But not queen-sized?"
"It's a quilt for a tall very thin person," she said.
"There are lots of tall thin people," I said. That was a response that was not yet in my response book, but it seemed to work.
"Do you want to see it?"
"Only from a distance. It looks better from a distance."
"How far back?" I asked.
She showed me the quilt, holding it with her arms stretched high. She stood ten feet away."
"Looks great from here," I said. "Can I come closer?"
"If you don't say anything or make any faces."
"Promise," I said, and I moved up close.
"Wild" I said.
"That's a compliment," I said.
"I don't need another runner," she said.
'It's not a runner," I said. I moved quickly and took the quilt from her and moved toward the only free space in the room, a room which was otherwise decorated in a southwestern style. I stretched myself and held it against the wall. "Well?" I asked.
"It looks good there," she said. "Wild."
"I told you," I said.
"What did you tell me?"
"I said this space needed a wild paper-pieced wall hanging with bright bold colors." My arms and shoulders hurt from stretching to hold the quilt in place.
"I don't remember you saying that."
"But it does look good here," I insisted.
"Yes, yes it does. Maybe I'll make another one and use different fabric."
"Another wall hanging?"
"I don't have to plan ahead," she said. "We'll see."
"That's a good plan," I said.
"Of course it is," she smiled.
Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Hanging Wild Quilt"
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