Quilt with a Purpose





"A dog wouldn't have any trouble," she said in the midst of taking the roasting pan out of the oven. I stood by the cabinet, reaching for a serving dish. I took down the dish and put it on the counter and turned to her.

"What dog?" I asked.

"Any dog," she said. She placed the pan holding the chicken on the counter next to the plate and set down the quilted pot holders she had made two years before when she had thought quilted pot holders would be just the thing to make with some scraps left over from a wall hanging.

"Are you talking about dinner or quilting?" I asked. She had earlier come down from her sewing room in a dither, which is an emotional state somewhere between "frustrated" and "resolved to get on with her project."

"A dog is colorblind," she said. "Only black and white."

"No, not exactly. It's believed they see in shades of gray, but they may be able to see green and blues, maybe yellow. Studies show they have problems with red and orange. Are you having a color problem?"

"Dogs wouldn't see the red and orange in my quilt," she said. "I can't see them anymore."

"The book again?"

"Yes, the book again. The picture of the quilt is printed on bright shiny paper and some of the tiny pictures showing what colors to use look the same to me, and, as far as my eyes can see, some of the fabric doesn't match the colors in the book."

"The chicken looks done. Nice and brown."

"Some of the colors in the book look brown, too. They all look the same. My eyes have had it."

"Let's eat," I said. "The food will put color back into your cheeks." She did look a little pale.

"Very funny," she said. "Maybe I should just eat a lot of carrots for my eyes."

"Carrots are orange," I said. Or was that yellow or yellow-orange?


"I give up," she said the next morning. She held out a sketch she had made of the quilt pattern where she had marked each section of the quilt with a number to match the color of the fabric. She then opened the book to the pattern. "These two colors look exactly the same and I can't match them to the fabric. Look," she said, and she thrust the book up to my face.

"No, one is orange-brown and the other is brown-orange," I said, pointing to the two minuscule rectangles of color among about a thousand similar looking rectangles of color. I ate my carrots.

"Neither one matches up with the fabric and I even if they did match, I couldn't get them right."

"Why don't you forget the colors in the book,?" I asked. Sometimes it was my job as the spouse of the frustrated quilter to ask question that might guide her in the right direction. Often, that didn't work, but I kept on making suggestions. My role as a husband demands it.

"I'm going for a walk and look for red roses and yellow daffodils and bluebells," she said. "You can finish my drawing. Just match up the colors."

"What?" I asked after a long pause, but she was already gone to meet her friends for their morning walk.


I tried. I did try. But carrots or not, I gave up after three tries to match two colors. "I tried," I told her when she returned from her walk.

"It's impossible, but that's all right. I know what I'm going to do," she said.

"Give up?" I asked.

"Of course not. I'm going to close the book and use my design wall and put up all the pieces and look at them for a year or two and then arrange them the way I want them, and if they look good, then they look good."

"Sounds good," I said. I was sure it wouldn't be a year or two. Maybe a day or two.

"I have most of them sorted out from the book anyway."

"I thought you might," I said. I had thought that.

"Humph," she said.


"I'm adding an extra two rows," she said. We were starting out on our afternoon walk. She can only sit at the sewing machine a short while before her back starts protesting, so walks are necessary for her, though she said they are more necessary for me because I sit too long at the computer writing about her when I should be pulling weeds or sweeping the sidewalk, both of which I can't do because my back is always hurting from sitting and writing about her.

"You're adding two rows to the quilt,?" I guessed.

"I can't make another quilt that doesn't do anything," she said.

"A quilt has to do something?"

"Of course. To every quilt there is a purpose...."

"Is that a religious saying?"

"Quilting is religious," she said.

"And quilts need a purpose?" I was catching on.

"You can't have slothful or indolent quilts," she said.

"What about lethargic?"

"Even pot holders which don't do much sometimes serve a purpose. But I've done pot holders and placemats and pillowcases and wall hangings and cozies. Even orphan squares can be donated to a charitable cause, so this quilt also has to do its share."

"So you're adding two extra rows?"

"That's what I said," she said.

"To what purpose?"

"A Tablequilt, of course."

"As in, like, a tablecloth?"

"I measured it to fit the table."

"We have two tables," I said. We did. One was in the dining room for when we had guests. It already had a quilt on it, but it wasn't a tablecloth quilt. The quilt was draped there because, as she said when she put it there, "The table was naked."

"This is for every day use," she said.

"It will get dirty fast. I'm sloppy when I eat."

"It will wash out," she said.

"So all those colors will be under our food and under our forks and knives and plates and cups and napkins."

"It's a tablequilt," she said with a fierce determination.

"With a purpose," I said.


"The colors are all arranged," she said with a smile. She draped the finished quilt over the table.

"Just like in the book?"

"No, just like I did them."

"Your own arrangement?"

"We shared. Most from the book but some from me. I did one whole row which I didn't like at all because one of the colors looked wrong, so I undid the whole row and changed it, and now it works."

"So you could distinguish one color from the other, pick out the reds from the oranges?"



"Did I sound like a dog?"


"Of course not. I'm not colorlind."



Copyright 2003 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Useful Quilt"

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