Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quilter's Math

This is from a story a friend gave me years ago, but my husband and I refer to it often!
"How do you afford it?" our friends always ask. "But doesn't all that fabric cost a fortune, and all those quilting supplies cause bankruptcy?" I always answer that we can't afford it, that fabric costs a fortune, and quilting supplies causes bankruptcy. Darling Wife, the quilter, however, has a different answer for each question. All have to do with the fact that she has developed a quilter's brain, which is probably at an angle or pointed or squared off or stripped. No doubt her brain cells form a kaleidoscope or her brain is now pieced together following some pattern from a manual for beginning quilters.
"How much did that fabric cost?" I asked in her second month of quilting. She had just come back from some trip to some quilt shop where quilters talked to one another in secret code and encouraged each other as if they were members of a 12-step quilting support group. All twelve steps, no doubt, had to do with spending more money at each step of the addiction that quilting brought to the innocent.
"Not much, " she said.
"Not much, how much? I asked. Before she took up quilting, she would tell me what she spent. Now, no doubt after she had taken some quilter's vow of secrecy, she might evade, sidestep, mislead, or circumvent, but she would never lie.
"I got a great bargain," she said, sidestepping, misleading, evading, and circumventing.
"How much did the bargain cost?" I asked. The trick was to be persistent. Our retirement depended on it. We didn't have social security yet, and wiping windshields at stop signs didn't exactly appeal to me as a future job.
"Less than I thought," she said.
"How much less?" My tone of voice was designed to show my impatience with her answers. "Do you want to know exactly?" She recognized the tone. "How much did the fabric cost? I asked.
"Twelve ice cream cones," she said.
That was eleven months ago and the beginning of her version of quilting accounting. Quilter accounting, according to my DW's new way of thinking, was designed to show that through careful budgeting, all her quilting was essentially cost free. In fact, she was going to prove over the next quilt-filled shopping months, if would save money.
"Ice cream cones? I asked her that day. "Twelve ice cream cones?"
"I'm not going to eat twelve ice cream cones," she said. "And?" I asked her that day. "Substitution," she said. "The money I save from not eating the ice cream cones will pay for the fabric." She was delighted with her version of new math, quilter's math. "You're not going to eat twelve ice cream cones? I asked, but I didn't expect any further explanation. She fooled me.
"Remember when you bought the computer four years ago?" she said. "Yes," I said cautiously. "Remember what you told people when they asked how you could afford such a nice computer?" "Go on," I said. "You told everybody that you didn't buy the more expensive car you wanted but settled for a less expensive one and used the difference to buy the computer."
"I said that?" I did say that. It made sense to me at the time. "I'm not going to eat twelve ice cream cones, so I can buy the fabric with the money I don't spend. "That makes sense." I said.
"I have four dollars a day to spend because I don't smoke two packs of cigarettes." "You haven't smoked in forty years." "So I bought the sewing machine with that money." "I thought we bought the sewing machine with the money from the trip we didn't take to Fuji." "We used that money for the trip to Paducah to see the quilt museum." " I thought we paid for that trip by not eating caviar for breakfast each day." "You don't like caviar," she said. "I like turkey," I said. "Yes, and I was able to buy all that batting by not buying a hundred cans of cranberry sauce." " And we didn't have yams this year," I said. "You don't eat yams. I bought bias tape with that money."
"What else that I don't eat didn't you buy?" "You're allergic to shrimp, so that paid for the quilt templates." "How much shrimp didn't I eat?" "About ten cans. I could have not bought fresh shrimp, and saved even more money." " I don't eat squid. I suppose you didn't buy any?" "I didn't think of that. I do need some more black thread for the next quilt. I think not buying squid would take care of that."
"I seem to be making all the sacrifices." "I gave up having my nails done." "For what? You've never paid to have your nails done in your life." "And I don't plan to in the future. I used that money to buy the three rotary cutters and the three Olfa mats."
And so it went and so it goes. Whenever I show her evidence of our going broke, she begins to sacrifice new things. This morning she was looking through the catalogs to find some new fabric for sashing the quilt she's working on. Halfway through the second catalog, she looked up at me as I crossed the room. "What?" I asked.
"Let's not climb Mount Everest for New Year's Eve," she said. "I don't plan to go anywhere," I said. "Good, then I can get that new quilt book, too."
"As long as it doesn't cost us anything," I said. And with her doing the accounting, we will probably make money!"


ElizabethandJeff said...

That is great thinking! There's a case lot sale I was going to go to this week at the grocery store. I'll be saving more money than if I bought the stuff at regular price. I do need a few quilt backs........

Ulla said...

I like this kind of math! I have also used it in another way; I have thought how easy it would be to loose some weight if I would stop using sugar in my 5 cups of tea. 10 bits of sugar per day per year, I would reach my ideal weight so easily. But I have not used sugar in my tea in 42 years:(.

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

I've read that story before. I forgot about it. I'm going to have to use some of those tricks. Its such a cute story.