When the roles of men and women were well-defined, there were, of course, hunters and gatherers. The men would go out hunting to bring down a wooly mammoth and the women would gather the fruits and berries and other foods to round out the diet. Nothing much seems to have changed in the eons of time. When it comes to quilting, hunting and gathering are still going on.

"I'm going to use up some more of my scraps," my Darling Wife Joan told me as she held the quilting book out to me. "I'm just going to use up the last of the black batik and some of the other colors." She pointed to a paper-piecing design.

"Something small?" I asked. She had been complaining about making too many large quilts again after she completed another large quilt that she said she wouldn't make because she had made too many large quilts.

"It depends on how much fabric it takes. I'll just keep making squares until I use up the fabric I have."

"We can buy more," I suggested lightly, for she had been promising lately not to buy any more fabric. And with a few small exceptions, she had been good about it.

"Use-ups," she said.

"Use-ups," I agreed.


That was not to be. "I don't think I have enough black batik," she said several weeks into her quilt.

"Use another color," I said. I am very practical in regard to use-ups.

"I do have some charcoal batik, but it's not exactly the same," she said.

"Is it close enough?" I asked. Close-enough is allowed in quilting she often had told me.

"I'll see," she said. "Maybe."

"Maybe is good," I said. I wasn't going to go near the idea of telling her how to put together her quilt, but I was her husband, so I suggested, "You can mix them so the pattern comes out looking good anyway." I was only suggesting, nothing more.

"I'll see," she said. Enough of you, that meant.


The hunting came the following week when we went far afield to find a new organic food store. As we drove into the parking lot, the store among a half dozen small stores flanking the market, she let out a tiny gasp. "Gasp," she said.

"What is it?" I asked.

"I'm fine," she said.

"Fine?" I asked.

"Did you bring the shopping list," she answered.

"Yes," I said. I had it stuffed somewhere in my pocket. I was fairly certain of that.

"Good. You can do the shopping."

"I can do the shopping?" I asked, a bit puzzled at the way the conversation was going, but, as I was busy parking between two oversized monster cars, both across the white lines of their spaces, and I concentrated on protecting the sides of our car as I edged into the narrow space, I didn't hear her reply clearly, but it sounded something like "I'llgogathhhheeerrr."

"I'll catch up to you," she said a moment later as we left the car and walked toward the market where she started to turn away from me.

"Where are you going?" I asked, but before she said a word, I saw the large bold sign of the fabric store to the right of the market. Oh, no, a new fabric shop (ALARM BELLS in my head).

"I'll just be a minute. I just want to see what the shop looks like inside."

"A minute?" I could have grinned, even laughed, both the result of knowing what a quilter's minute in a quilt shop really meant, but I had a long list and was eager to get the hunting, well, the shopping, over with.

"I don't need anything," she said.

"I'll see you inside," I said, and we parted, she off to the quilt shop and I to look for the ingredients for a healthy dinner.


I never saw her inside the market. I saw her as I came outside. I pushed a cart. She held a large plastic bag. "New fabric?" I asked carefully. No hint of concern was in my voice.

"I found some black" she said.

"The black you need?" I asked. If a passer-by had happened to pass by at that moment and heard our conversation, that innocent soul would never have realized that we were discussing quilting and that my Darling Wife had gone back on her promise to use up the use-ups. After all, she had never promised not to break her promises. For the good of quilting, she had often explained, sometimes plans and promises had to be undone,. A quilter makes adjustments. "It's a big bag of fabric," I added. There seemed to be a lot of fabric in it. I took the bag.

"The shop didn't have the exact fabric, so I bought four kinds of black. The one on top is a close black, a half a tone off with a blush of blue," she went on, "but it should mix in nicely. The other blacks are just in case."

"How much did you buy?" I asked. The bag weighed about two tons.

"Just enough to use up to finish the quilt," she said. "Well, maybe more. I don't want to have any leftovers, but I want to make sure I have enough fabric this time. I opened the bag and peeked at the black on top.

"A good black," I said, looking at the fabric at the top, not really sure I wanted to see the other three blacks. "It's convincing. A nice bouquet," I added as I sniffed the fabric in the bag.

"It's not wine," she said. "Did you buy wine by the way?"

"I hunted up a good wine," I said.

"I gathered up a few yards of fabric," she said.

"Then we best return to our cave," I said.

"What are you talking about?" she said.

"Dinner and your quilt," I said.

"My quilt will be all right now," she said.

"Why wouldn't it be?"

"If the shop weren't here I couldn't have found all this fabric and I would have to live with an unfinished quilt." She looked me right in the eye. Both eyes.

"Or a smaller quilt than you had planned." I lowered my eyes.

"I didn't plan a size. It would be only as large as I had fabric for it. Now, with more fabric for use-ups, it will be larger, of course."

"Of course."

In time, she finished the quilt and the wine.

Copyright 2005 by A.B. Silver


Click here to see finished "Black Emeralds Quilt"

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