The Case of the Missing Seam Ripper


This October, in the spirit of the season, we offer you spooky stories as only quilters could appreciate. The name for this collection of ghoulish tales is Night Stitches.

A project is included with each story. Here’s this week’s pattern:

Night Stitches Mantel Cover

Welcome to the first of the Night Stitches Stories, The Case of the Missing Seam Ripper. Enjoy!


The Case of the Missing Seam Ripper

by Emily Cross & Betsey Langford

“Stop!” Harold shouted from atop the ladder. “It’s bad luck, woman!”

“You’re going to make me late,” Mildred protested as she ducked under the ladder, cherished family casserole dish firmly in her grip. “The only bad thing happening around here is you blocking the front door.”

Mildred balanced the casserole as she opened the car door before depositing the dish in the floorboard.

“I left your lunch in the oven cooling. Don’t forget,” she added, not waiting for Harold’s reply as she slammed the car door.

He shook his head. That woman. In sixty years, he’d learned when it came to guild, nothing could make Mildred late.

Turning hard off the country highway towards the community center sent Mildred’s casserole dish careening. Half an eye on the road, she leaned down to return it to level ground. As she righted herself, Mildred saw the black cat run in front of the car. She slammed the brakes in time, and the cat turned to give her a moment of consideration before continuing across the road at a leisurely pace.

“You’re welcome!” she called after it, glad to be free of the guilt of killing a cat, but annoyed it was a nearer-death experience for her, the way her heart was booming.

The kitchen bustled with women cackling over casseroles and pies. Mildred deposited her dish on the counter.

“Morning, Milly!” said Gladys, Mildred’s best friend since second grade. “Ready for the big day?”

“Glady, you have no idea. I nearly didn’t make it. Between Harold on his ladder and an unfortunate cat running in front of the car, it was almost the end of me and my famous Three Layer Bean Casserole.”

“Three Layer Bean Casserole? That’s my favorite. You always make it perfect.” Gladys beamed at her friend.

“Cat? You hit a cat? Where? What color was it? Whiskers has been out all morning hunting. Oh Mildred, tell me you didn’t kill Whiskers. I couldn’t live without him. He’s such a good cat. He only has one eye left. Of course, he couldn’t see you coming. You drive so fast. My poor baby.” Fay stopped just long enough to let out a long sigh of despair for dramatic effect.

“Gracious, Fay, no. It was black cat, it wasn’t Whiskers, and I didn’t hit it. There’s no need for you to get so worked up.” Mildred huffed.

“Bad luck! Oh Mildred, that’s bad luck, don’t you know.” Fay shook her finger at Mildred. “That black cat will bring you bad luck.”

Mildred took a half step back from Fay and her wagging index. “You and Harold and your bad luck. I don’t believe in that nonsense.” With that Mildred turned to join Gladys, who had found them chairs far from Fay.

At ten o’clock sharp, President Grace called the guild meeting to order. After settling the usual business, it was time for the special ceremony to begin.

“Today is a special day for the ladies of the Gingham Gals Guild,” Grace said in her formal voice, suspiciously like her normal voice. “Today, we honor one of our charter members for her years of service. Today, we award the cherished Golden Seam Ripper for fifty years of membership. Not only has this member completed one hundred of her own quilts on the guild frames, but has stitched alongside all of us on our quilts as well. She has participated in our Charity Auction and Annual Pie Supper for each of the fifty years. She’s served in many positions on the board through the years—”

A strong cough broke Grace’s rhythm. Fay covered her mouth, failing to hide an incorrigible grin.

Throwing a glare Fay’s way, Grace continued, “Right. It is with great honor, I ask Mildred to step forward.”

The room filled with applause as Mildred strode to the front. Face to face with Grace, Mildred received acknowledgement for fifty years of quilting in the Gingham Gals Quilt Guild. It was an honor few made it to and one Mildred spent the last thirty years anticipating since the award’s inception.

“Mildred, I present you the Golden Seam Ripper.”

“I’ll do my best not to need it.” Mildred smiled as her small joke was met with appreciative laughter. “It’s been a long, wonderful fifty years together.”

“And here’s to fifty more!” called Gladys.

The entire group applauded again before breaking to serve lunch and drop the quilt frames from the ceiling. As so often happens when good things occur, the afternoon passed in a soft blur of warm importance for Mildred. All her favorites were served at the potluck, and her Three Layer Bean Casserole praised above all other dishes. She was banned from kitchen duty. And her presidential quilt from five years before was in the frames ready for quilting.

Mildred settled at the frames with Gladys to her right and Jo to her left. Jo was one of the newest members, with the guild for less than ten years. Mildred liked to stick close and show Jo the ropes while they quilted. Most importantly, she wanted to protect her from Fay and her critical eye.

“We should be ready to roll in an hour. Let’s not fall behind,” Fay announced. Fay’s cronies congregated around her side of the quilt, thimbles clicking on their needles. Not a moment was to be wasted.

“How’s it going, Milly?” Gladys asked, not looking up from her row of small stitches.

“Almost there.”

“Fay’s brigade is gonna roll us over if we aren’t snappy.”

“Don’t you think I know that? Fifty years, Glady.” Mildred snipped the tail of her anchored knot and glanced to her left. “How about you, Jo?”

“Right behind you.”

With a frown, Mildred sat back and scrutinized their side of the quilt. Her section blended into Gladys’ section, but the pattern broke halfway into Jo’s area.

Jo caught Mildred’s inspection from the corner of her eye and did a double take. “What? Did I mess up?”

“Oh, that’s hardly a mistake at all. She just quilted into the next border a couple inches at the end. No one will notice,” said Gladys, sitting back from her completed section and taking in the quilt as a whole. “That part of the quilt will fall in the drop at the foot of the bed.”

“No, no. If I made a mistake, I’ll fix it.”

“All ready to roll?” Fay asked with her loudest expectations.

“You’re sure we can’t leave it?” Gladys asked Mildred.

“It will give me a chance to use my new golden seam ripper.”

Gladys sighed. “Fine. Hold your horses, Fay. We’ve got a spot to fix first.”

“A mistake?” Fay asked.

Grace rose from her seat and wandered over to observe the offending stitches.

“Nothing my new seam ripper can’t fix in a jiffy,” said Mildred.

“This is that bad luck of yours!”

“Fay, there’s no such thing as luck, and even if there were, mine would certainly not be bad.”

“We could leave that,” said Grace. “It’s barely noticeable as a mistake.”

But Mildred already had her golden seam ripper unsheathed and sliding cooly between thread and fabric with a snick-sniiiick-sniiiiiiick until the tail was long enough to use. Jo caught the end of the thread and made a second run at the design before burying the knot.

“See? Nothing to it,” said Mildred.

“Now may we roll?” asked Fay.

Grace smiled indulgently. “Of course.”

The rest of the afternoon passed with the usual exchange of stories, latest happenings, and snack breaks. As four o’clock rolled around, the gals worked to get one more roll of the quilt in before quitting. Fay led the charge as Mildred soaked up the last bits of her 50th anniversary meeting. She tried to help clean up in the kitchen, but was once again shooed out for the day.

“Go pack yourself up. We’ve got this,” said Gladys, barring the door with a ladle in her hand and a wild grin on her face. Mildred obeyed with a laugh.

As Mildred snapped her thimble case shut she realized something was missing, something important. She hadn’t seen her golden seam ripper in her things she collected from the quilt. She double checked her quilting supplies and purse, but it wasn’t either place. She went back to the quilt to look for it. It wasn’t there either. From the floor to the bathroom, her golden seam ripper was nowhere to be found.

“My seam ripper, I can’t find my golden seam ripper. Oh gracious, I can’t leave without it.” Mildred said with an edge of panic as she searched around. She could have sworn it was right beside on the quilt top the entire day. Yes, she was certain.

“Let me help you look.” Gladys joined the search.

“What are you going on about?” Fay hollered from across the room.

“I can’t find my golden seam ripper. It’s up and disappeared. It was right beside me all day.” Mildred felt more sentimental than she expected towards her new treasure.

“It’s that bad luck!” Fay announced.

Mildred turned to Fay, having had about enough of her for one day. “I walked under Harold’s ladder on my way out the door, too, but that still has no bearing on my lost seam ripper.”

“You keep dismissing it, but I’m telling you, it’s bad luck. You’ve had it on you all day. When you saw that black cat you should have turned around and went home. Called it a day.”

“Oh Fay, you don’t mean that. I think your afternoon nap is due dear. Your getting a tad grouchy,” Grace interceded in her soft spoken diplomatic way.

“It is. I probably am grouchy, but that doesn’t change Mildred’s luck any. A big ol’ case of bad luck! Mark my words.” Fay put in one last barb.

“I’m not leaving until I find it.” Mildred announced and the search grew more intense with everyone pitching in. Even Fay checked under her coffee cup.

As the ladies carried on, Jo began to loosen the quilt to raise it until next week’s meeting. As she released the frame at Mildred’s end, out fell the golden seam ripper.

“Mildred, I found it!”

Cheers rose around the room as the ladies gathered around to congratulate Mildred once again.
“Where was it?” Fay asked.

“It just rolled out of the end where Mildred was sitting when I loosened the quilt,” said Jo.

Mildred tsked in disgust with herself. “I must have put it between the layers. You know, like I do with my embroidery scissors usually. Thank you for finding it, Jo. And everyone. Thanks for looking.”

As the group walked out of the community center, Gladys slowed to fall back in step with Fay. “Well, Fay, it seems like Mildred had good luck after all.”

“Oh? Because she just stepped on a crack.”


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Emily and Betsey, quite a yarn…uh, had me in stitches? Great story, thanks.

Julie Miller

Cute story! Perfect for this time of year.