Judging a Book by Its Cover

A Freddy House block made by Lynn Wheatley
From A Passion for Patchwork by Lise Bergene

I FINALLY got through the “pre-washing my whole stash” project when I ironed and folded the last piece of fabric on Saturday, a nice rainy day for that sort of activity.

Then I cleared my sewing table of the scraps still hanging out from my last couple of quilt tops.

I’ve learned to recognize this need to clean and organize as the meditation portion of my internal design process. So I try to savor it while it lasts.

The design project occupying my thoughts these days is the cover of my upcoming novel, The Road Unsalted, the first of my Carding Chronicles.

I’m accompanied on this journey, which is also a new phase in my business, by a wonderful consultant named Deb Eibner whom I met through the Vermont Small Business Development Center. Our collaboration has evolved into these inspirational business brainstorming sessions.

When we got together last week, Deb started off by asking me to describe the town of Carding, Vermont, the star of my novels. The words “beautiful,” and “outdoors” and “not of this world” came up first. How do I convey those ideas in a book cover—and then on the home page for the upcoming website?

And, of course, there’s the plot of the book itself. There should be a hint of that on the cover as well.

The Corvus River runs through Carding, and on its way through, it slows down in a sweet little place  called Half Moon Pond. Years before The Road Unsalted begins, a religious group built a retreat on the pond. The religious folks are now long gone, and the cabins they built are owned by local families.

Carding Campground plays a rather prominent role in my book which is why the cover image floating around in my head is a house or cabin created in fabric. Since I haven’t decided exactly what I’m going to do yet, I’m cleaning and organizing my quilt space waiting for my ideas to gel.

I’ve posted a few pictures here of ideas that have attracted my attention. At the top is a traditional quilt designed by Debbie Mumm for a book called Fast, Fun & Fabulous Quilts. Should my cover be a collection of repeating house blocks like the cabins in the Campground?

My second inspiration was made by a quilting friend of mine, Lynn Wheatley. It’s one of twelve blocks that I have in this style, fashioned after the quilt designer Freddy Moran, and part of a block exchange in my guild. I’ve long envisioned using these blocks on my website’s home page.

The third and fourth choices are from books by two Scandinavian designers, Lise Bergene (A Passion for Patchwork) and Kajsa Wikman (Scandinavian Stitches—note the little house on the cover). I love Scandinavian design, and Bergene’s book is probably my favorite quilt book of all time. Just looking at her free and easy style—even when she’s creating something in a traditional pattern—frees up my neurons.

Traditional? Ultra-colorful? Freeform? Hmmmmmmmmmmm. My design elves are busy!

Time for Our Midweek Garden Visit

The last of the lupins I planted so many years ago, crowded out by other flowers. Guess I’ve gotta plant more!
A pair of Phoebes are raising their 2012 brood right outside my office window.
You can see where the idea for trumpets came from.
I have a gardening friend who freaks out every time I introduce a “wild” flower into my gardens. But I love buttercups and dames rockets and Queen Anne’s lace. And don’t you think these buttercups make a great partner for Johnny Jump-ups?
A few years ago, a friend up the hill gave me root stock for three of the peonies in her yard. This red beauty is always the first to bloom. Isn’t that color magnificent?

Hoeing and Weeding and Composting, Oh My!

Dames rockets, also called dames violets, are in full bloom now
We watched swallowtail butterflies on the dames rockets in my gardens all weekend

I had a difficult time getting motivated for gardening this year. Part of it was Irene-us Interrupt-us. Part of it was uncertainty of what gardens and plants had to be moved because of the Irene construction that’s revving up around here.

And part of it is a growing (or maybe that should be groaning) reluctance to take on the body hurt that comes with gardening.

But by mid-May, the general weediness gets to me, and armed with trowels and shovels and a wheelbarrow, I get out there to dig, rip, and tear.

Every year, I use the three-day Memorial Day weekend to tackle my gardens with a full-court press. And every year, by the time Monday ends, I hurt everywhere that didn’t get used during the winter. And every year, I swear I will not do this to myself again.

And then, of course, I do.

So glad to be sitting at my desk today.

On Grafton Pond

One of two broods who welcomed us to Grafton Pond
Grafton Pond is serene early in the morning

Our kayaking season started today. We rose at five (yes, that’s in the a.m.) to get to Grafton Pond in Grafton, NH early in the morning.

This is a popular fishing and kayaking spot around here. The pond is festooned with lots of small islands around its perimeter, and it’s home to several pairs of loons. In fact, Grafton Pond is the place where we’ve had our best loon encounters yet.

But this morning, two broods of Canada geese greeted us, and mosquitoes masquerading as small hover craft accompanied us on our turn about the water. We spotted a flock of loons way off on the horizon, and heard their calls off in the distance. But there were no close encounters of the loon kind.

But kayaks, silence, the scent of pine, cool air.


The First Writer

I found this wee weaver along the path by our river yesterday. She’s a member of the Arachnida tribe, named for the mortal woman from Lydia, in Greek mythology, who challenged the goddess Athena to a weaving contest.

Arachna won the contest, with dire consequences. It does not do to challenge a goddess.

Spiders play many roles in the ancient tales of the world. They are, in many respects, an otherworldly creature, dropping from on high along invisible threads, enticing prey with intricate webs.

Who has not been attracted to a bedewed web dangling among twigs on an early morning? I know I’ve tried my best to take pictures of them, and have yet to be satisfied with my results.

My favorite Spider story comes from Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson. In this book, which accompanies a wonderful deck of cards suitable for meditation, Spider wove the primordial alphabet as “she wove the dream of the world to become manifest.”

So what tale is this riverside weaver creating for you?

Spring Gardens—Because It’s Wednesday

A bachelor button in paintbrush formation
Bachelor buttons and bleeding hearts
Dames rocket (sometimes called Dames violet) just before it blooms. One of my favorite wildflowers, I imported this into my garden a few years ago.
For such a dainty flower, lilies of the valley are amazing hardy. I dug the roots of these out of the area where earthen steps descend on the east side of our house. This spring, the lilies are back in the steps.
Snow in summer. This is one of my favorite ground covers. I think I’m going to pick up some more of this for spring planting.

What Is True Blue?

Blue—or is it purple—columbine
Creeping Veronica—a study in blue?

I love all flowers but the ones that stir my passion the most lie in the cool blue range.

But blue can lie in the eye of the beholder.

Behold this wonderful columbine now in full flower in a garden right in front of my house. Blue? Blue-purple? Purple? At different times of day, in different lights, the red contribution to this flower’s color can swing it more toward the purple spectrum.

These terrific flowers came to live here courtesy of a yoga teacher who lives in Lebanon, NH. Her studio is in a barn behind her double-decker house, and at this time of year, both sides of her driveway were lined with these. So, of course, I begged for seeds.

We had a rough start, these columbine and I, because that first spring, I mistook them for weeds and pulled nearly all of them out of the ground. Thank goodness a couple of seedlings hid among some rocks where I finally recognized them.

We’ve been good friends ever since as I’ve spread these little lovelies among my gardens, and shared seeds with friends.

The second picture is of another one of my favorites, creeping Veronica. The originals of this plant came home in small pots from a gardener in Hartford village who sells perennials in her front yard every year at this time.

Blue? Sky blue? Pale blue?

Once this plant gets a good grip on the soil, it thickens up like music lovers in a coffee house, spreading by root action. The flowers are tiny, about the size of my little fingernail. And as an added bonus, it transplants easily, and makes it difficult for most weeds to get any action. Though this year—which I have dubbed the year of the ubiquitous maple seedling—there are tiny trees sprouted up everywhere, even among the thickets of creeping Veronica.

Yet another example of the power of botanicals.

Don’tcha just love it? Chick-a-boom.

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.