All posts by Sonja Hakala

I have been a professional writer since 1987. I've written for newspapers, magazines, worked in the book publishing industry, and published novels and non-fiction books. In addition, I've guided numerous authors through the process of independent publishing, and offer workshops in that same vein. I'm the founder of the Parkinson's Comfort Project and over the course of six years, we gathered and gave away over 500 handmade quilts to people with Parkinson's disease.

Half-finished Projects: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Crazy quilt squareChances are pretty good that you have some unfinished projects lingering in your attic, garage or closet.

I know I do.

Edie Wolfe, Ruth Goodwin and Agnes Findlay have a LOT of things they started but never quite finished. In today’s entry to the Carding Chronicles, the loss of a friend acts as a reminder to them about their unfinished business.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

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Edie Wolfe sat back with a sigh as she checked off an item on her current to-do list. Nearly, her cocker spaniel, pricked his ears up with anticipation. In his experience, his human took walks for two reasons—to serve his daily needs or because she had something to ponder.

That airy sound she’d just made had a pondering quality to it so maybe…

“It never seems to get shorter,” she explained to her dog as she carried her empty tea mug to the kitchen sink. “There’s always so many projects to get done, so much…”

Her phone’s ring tone cut Edie’s sentence short.

“Hey Edie, it’s Ruth. I just got a call from Fred Makepeace, Genevieve died yesterday morning.”

“But she was at the guild meeting only three nights ago,” Edie protested. “She looked fine. What happened?”

“Heart attack, I guess,” Ruth said. “Fred woke up in the morning. Genevieve didn’t.”

The air hung word-free on the phone between them for a long moment as their familiar world rocked gently around them.

“Oh my, and they just finished building that big quilting studio for her last year,” Edie said, “and she was so excited about it. That is not fair, so not fair.”

“Yeah, Fred wants to know if we’ll go over to the house to help him figure out what to do with her fabric stash.” The two friends sighed as one. “Will you come?”

Edie looked at the to-do list now lying unattended on her table. It was tempting to say no because going through someone else’s creative paraphernalia felt like an invasion of privacy, like going through someone else’s underwear drawer. But there was no way she would leave Ruth to face that task alone.

“Of course. Should we ask Agnes to come too?” she asked.

“Yeah, the more, the merrier, I guess,” Ruth said with another sigh. “I told Fred we’d make it over tomorrow morning, if that works for you and Agnes. Does it?”

“Sure, sure.”

**************

Genevieve Makepeace had been a quilter for longer than just about anybody else in Vermont. She had made her first patchwork project when Jimmy Carter was President, long before the quilting industry could count its worth in billions of dollars, long before there were shops dedicated just to quilting fabric, long before 16 million other people decided to take up fiber arts as a hobby or vocation.

Before she retired from teaching elementary school, Gen made only five or six quilts a year. After retirement, that number shot up to five or six quilts a month. Everyone in her guild knew about her voracious appetite for new fabric, and it had been a long time since any vacation she took with her husband didn’t include stops in quilt shops or at shows.

So Ruth, Edie and Agnes thought they were prepared for what they were about to see when Gen’s daughter Clara led them to her Mom’s sewing room.

“I hope you folks can help,” she said as she swung the door wide open, “Dad and I are just overwhelmed.”

Edie felt a chill jog across her shoulders as she turned in place. The longest wall in the brightly-lit room was covered with a drawer system consisting of large metal baskets suspended between slides. And each basket—about three feet square and a foot deep—was filled with fabric.

Most of it was sorted by color—blues, greens, reds, browns. Some of it was sorted by design type—stripes, dots, florals, geometrics. One whole group of baskets was filled with batiks, another with flannels, another with children’s fabrics.

The opposite wall was covered with bookcases, each of them groaning-full with craft books, art books, the thrillers that Gen had loved to read for pleasure, and volumes of history.

“Either one of you have any idea where to start?” Agnes said. Ruth and Edie shook their heads while they mentally measured the task ahead of them.

“There’s no way any of us could incorporate this into our own stashes,” Ruth finally said. “I’ve been trying to reduce my fabric for a couple of years now, and it’s finally beginning to show. I don’t want to leave something like this to my daughter.”

“What about that place over in New Hampshire, the one that buys inventory from stores that close and remnants from manufacturers?” Edie suggested.

Agnes and Ruth nodded in unison. “I like that idea,” Agnes said.

Ruth dropped her purse on a nearby chair. “I suppose we should start by figuring out how much yardage is in here so we can give them some idea of what we have.”

“Okay, let’s pick a basket and measure it out, piece by piece,” Edie said.

After a bit of hemming and hawing, the three friends chose a basket in the middle of the wall. It was filled with a variety of striped fabrics, mostly in blues and greens.

“How much do you suppose is in here?” Ruth asked as she and Agnes lifted it to Genevieve’s cutting table. “Ugh, I don’t know why but I am always surprised at how heavy this stuff is.”

“I’m not sure…thirty yards maybe?” Edie said. “I’ll keep a running total if you two measure, is that okay?”

In a matter of minutes, the friends established a system, Agnes unfolding, Ruth measuring, and Edie adding up the yardage. And then, just as they reached the bottom of the basket, Agnes gasped.

“Oh look at these old crazy quilt squares,” she said as she lifted up a small pile of fragile, embroidered fabric patches. “Where do you suppose these came from?”

Edie smoothed one of the squares with a gentle finger, lingering over two small holes where moths lunched together at some point in the past. “Wasn’t Genevieve’s mother a quilter? I wonder if these were hers.”

“Oh, just look at the embroidery,” Ruth said as she spread them out.

“A lot of work went into these,” Agnes said. “Don’t you just love that herringbone stitching?”

“I remember my grandmother doing this kind of work,” Edie said. “I think there are enough blocks here to make a quilt top.”

Agnes shook her head as she looked around the room. “How many unsewn quilts do you suppose are in this room?”

“Well, I can tell you that there’s enough in this basket alone to make a bunch,” Edie said. “You just measured out 70 yards of fabric.”

“And how many baskets are there?” Ruth asked, starting to count. Agnes joined her, starting at the opposite end of the wall.

“Forty,” they said together.

“That’s 2,800 yards of fabric,” Edie said, shaking her head. “And I’ll bet she’s got scraps stored somewhere as well as other stuff left behind by her mother.”

“All unsewn and unfinished,” Ruth said. “That’s a lot of projects to leave behind. A lot of making left unmade.”

“And now it will be sold or given away to be used by someone else,” Agnes said.

Edie thought about her untouched to-do list at home, and then about her own closet full of half-finished projects. What would her son and daughter do with all her stuff?

Sell it? Give it away? Throw it away? Diana enjoyed quilts but she had no interest in sewing. And Daniel wouldn’t have a clue what to do.

And her friends? Edie glanced from Ruth to Agnes, knowing full well that their closets were just as full as hers. They all shared the same love of making. The problem was—what do you do with what you make?

She suddenly felt the full weight of the fabric that Genevieve had left behind pressing down on her shoulders. Too much stuff, she thought, we all have too much stuff.

“You know, I suddenly feel the need to go home and sew,” she said to her friends. “I vote we contact that store to see if they would be interested in buying Gen’s stash. I’ll be happy to make the call.”

Agnes nodded. “That’s as good a place as any to start.” She stroked a yard of silver and pale blue striped fabric, perfect for making holiday gift bags.

“You should take that,” Ruth said. “To remember Genevieve.”

“Yeah, I think I will.

Edie reached out to touch a soft green and beige piece. Its stripes had centers of gold thread. “This is lovely,” she said. “Gen had such exquisite taste.”

Ruth picked up a yard of turquoise stripes that reminded her of the sea. “Maybe I’ll take just one piece,” she said. “For Genevieve.”

Then Agnes pointed at the embroidered squares. “What about these? The store in New Hampshire won’t have any use for half-finished projects.”

The three friends looked at one another, each aware of the others’ thoughts. “Shall I ask Clara to make us some tea?” Edie said. “I think we should rescue all of Genevieve’s half-finished projects before I call that store in New Hampshire, don’t you?”

Ruth nodded. “And right after that, we’re going home to work on our own stuff. Right?”


Remember, you can visit Carding any time by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Half-finished Projects

Chances are pretty good that you have some unfinished projects lingering in your attic, garage or closet.

I know I do.

Edie Wolfe, Ruth Goodwin and Agnes Findlay have a LOT of things they started but never quite finished. In tomorrow’s entry to the Carding Chronicles, the loss of a friend acts as a reminder about their unfinished business.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

SH-Crazy quilt square

Ms. Shakespeare: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Mrs. ShakespeareYou know how it is with brothers and sisters sometimes—they’ve just got to stick their nose in your business.

Well, Wil Bennett is doing just that with his younger sister Faye. Wil loves his sister (don’t tell her) but he gets annoyed with her adamant opinions sometimes. And he figures it’s his job as her brother to get her to loosen up.

And if he can’t persuade her one way, he’ll try another.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

————————————–

Faye Bennett did not like masks. It unnerved her when she couldn’t see the ripple of emotions across a face.

Suffice it to say, Halloween was not her favorite holiday, and as for acting and drama classes, well they came in dead last in any competition with any other subject.

So why was she sitting cross-legged on a mat in the high school gym on the first day of school facing a teacher whose last name was—don’t laugh—Shakespeare?

As in Beverly Shakespeare.

Because if there’s anything guaranteed to make Faye Bennett do something she does not want to do, it’s a dare. And this dare had come from her older brother, Wil, which made it especially potent.

“Look Faye, Intro to Improv fulfills one of your humanities requirements, you’ll learn more than you think possible, and Ms. Shakespeare is really fun,” Wil had said as he watched his sister puzzling over her schedule for the spring term.

“Nope, no thanks.” Faye picked up her list of options to scan it once more, hoping to find some acceptable humanity for her third period slot. But as a budding historian and a (secretly) wannabe writer, she couldn’t find anything she hadn’t already taken.

Except Intro to Improv.

“Why don’t you want to take that class?” Wil asked as he sprawled across their kitchen table in order to watch his sister’s face with greater ease. Wil thought it important to make sister squirm from time to time. Faye could stiffen up if you didn’t mentally shake her once in a while.

Faye rolled her eyes at him. “Improv’s hardly useful, is it? What’s so great about learning to be silly in front of a bunch of other people? I’ll just end up feeling stupid or embarrassed or both.”

“Look, Ms. Shakespeare…”

“Did she make up that name?” Faye interrupted him. “Or did she decide to go into theater to take advantage of it.”

Wil shrugged. “Does it matter? She’s really cool. Are you afraid to take the class because you might not get an A?”

“Hmph, as if.” Faye scooped up her scheduling paperwork. “I just don’t want to waste my time on frivolous stuff like ‘Intro to Improv.’ I’m surprised the school even puts it on the schedule.”

Wil leaned back in his chair. “So you are afraid of not getting an A. Man, wouldn’t that just ruin your perfect report card?”

Faye stormed off toward her bedroom, unwilling to let Wil see the tears in her eyes that his truth-telling had prompted. She slammed the door behind her, and wedged a chair under the knob to keep him out.

Wil turned his head in order to watch the minute hand spin around the kitchen clock as he counted one, two, three. Then he stood up and quietly padded down the hall until he stood outside Faye’s door. Of course he’d expected to get a rise out her. If he didn’t, his teasing would have been a waste of time. But Faye’s vehement reaction troubled him a little.

He remembered how anxious he’d been in his first Improv class, how he avoided looking at anyone else as they settled on their circled mats in the gym. But his nerves disappeared as soon as Ms. Shakespeare asked her first question: “Okay, how many of you are cringing inside because you don’t want to make fools of yourselves in front of one another?”

Heads snapped up, and then a few hesitant hands rose in the air.

“Okay. How many of you have known one another for more than a year?”

Lots more hands went up. In fact, Brian Lambert’s hand was the only not raised because he was the newest kid in school at that moment in time.

“So of all you sitting in this circle, the only one who should be nervous is Brian because he hasn’t known any of you for very long.” Beverly then pointed at Wil and Brian. “I see you two walking together in the hallways quite a bit. Would it be correct to say you’re friends?”

The two boys nodded. “Yeah. Totally.”

Beverly looked around, and then said: “Here’s the thing that’s really bothering you—the word no. You all walked in here just like every other class that’s ever walked in here carrying the word no in your heads. No I can’t do this. No I don’t want to look like a fool. No, no, no, no.”

She indicated that she wanted Brian and Wil to stand. “The key to improv is in these simple words—yes and then what. Let me demonstrate.”

She held her hands up, palms facing each other about nine inches apart, and cupped them. “I am holding a basketball.”

Then she moved her hands in and out a couple of times. “Hmm, it seems to be soft. What do you think Brian?”

She handed him her “basketball” and after glancing around the room, Brian took it, moving his hands in and out. “Yeah, I think it could use some air.” His hand stopped moving as he looked at Ms. Shakespeare. “Is this where I ask ‘now what?’”

She grinned. “You’ve got a basketball that needs air. I know you’re on the school’s team so what do you do with a deflated ball?”

Brian shrugged a little but then turned to Wil. “Hey man, can you hold this while I go get the air pump?”

Wil took the ball, saying “okay” in two long, doubt-filled syllables as he looked at the teacher for clues about what to do next.

She grinned, and said: “Yes and then what?”

With a twist of his face, Wil pushed his hands together as he held the “ball” up to his ear. “I think it’s got a leak.”

Brian leaned in close to listen and Ms. Shakespeare let her eyes slide quickly around the room, noting that all of her students were now attentive, waiting to see what would happen next.

“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Brian said. “Do you know who’s got the keys to the supply locker so we can get another ball?”

A girl named Patty stood up at the back of the class. “I do but let’s see if we can fix this one first. Anyone got a patch kit?”

Wil grinned as he stood outside his sister’s door as he remembered that first class, and how much they had laughed as they tried to fix the deflated “basketball,” creating more and more ludicrous scenarios. He didn’t want Faye to miss  the chance to learn “the power of yes,” as Ms. Shakespeare called it.

He knocked softly. “Hey Faye, why don’t you give it a try even if it’s to prove me wrong. If it doesn’t work out, you can drop it and take some other class. They’re always looking for people to fill the seats in physics.”


Remember, you can visit Carding any time by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Ms. Shakespeare

You know how it is with brothers and sisters sometimes—they’ve just got to stick their nose in your business.

Well, Wil Bennett is doing just that with his younger sister Faye. Wil loves his sister (don’t tell her) but he gets annoyed with her adamant opinions sometimes. And he figures it’s his job as her brother to get her to loosen up.

And if he can’t persuade her one way, he’ll try another.

Here’s a sample of what’s in store for tomorrow. Hope you can stop by.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

SH-Mrs. Shakespeare