You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Coming Up for Air, will be out later this year.
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Last week, Chloe Cooper, in search of a future she could believe in, was on a shopping trip in Burlington with her younger sister, Lisa. You couldn’t ask for two sisters more different that Chloe and Lisa Cooper. So while Lisa is lusting after the push-up bras in Cherries Jubilee, Chloe’s off to the library.
If you need to catch up, you can read part one of our Fairy Godmothers’ saga here.
Chloe walked off in the general direction of the library, turned a corner and nearly stumbled over a colorful sandwich board sitting at the entrance to a store. “Learn to quilt today!” the sign read. “No prior experience necessary. Come on in!”
Chloe was inside and seated at a sewing machine before she took another breath. The intense color in the shop, called She’s Sew Fine, dazzled the young woman’s winter-weary eyes. The reds throbbed, the yellows sparked, the purples pulsed, and all of the greens made her yearn for spring. Chloe’s whole body tingled with anticipation while she waited for the class to begin.
“First-timer?” a motherly woman asked as she placed a small, glossy booklet on Chloe’s sewing table.
“Yes.” Chloe glanced at the booklet’s cover. It featured a quilt that made her think of Twitchell Two’s clothes—mouse-brown, pea soup green, and worn brick building. The air oozed out of her enthusiasm.
“Don’t worry,” the motherly woman said. “You can choose any color to make this.” She pointed toward the bolts of fabric in the shop. “Pick out whatever you want and we’ll cut it for you.”
Chloe popped up, all eagerness again, and headed straight for the purple section of the store. She stood in the middle of the aisle, entranced, gazing at the feast on the shelves. Concord grape dragonflies flitted across a lilac pond on one bolt. Next to it, voluptuous pansies that seemed to have dripped from Matisse’s brush vibrated against an emerald green background. The pattern on the next bolt made Chloe think of jazz music with its repetitively random shapes. And the one next to that was all dots of purple in every shade of that color. That choice felt safe so Chloe tipped the bolt off the shelf and carried it to a table where a woman wearing pumpkin-colored glasses looked up at her. “How much would you like?” she asked, raising a tool that looked like a pizza cutter.
“I…I don’t know,” Chloe said. She felt a hot blush rise to her cheeks. “Enough to make the quilt they’re teaching in there.” She pointed toward the classroom.
The woman dropped her glasses to her chest where they dangled from a rhinestone chain. “First timer?” she asked.
Chloe’s blush deepened from rosebud to crimson. “I guess it shows, huh?”
The woman smiled, and her dark brown eyes twinkled. “Yeah. We all had that deer-in-the-headlights look when we started.” She waved her hands at the fabric. “Too many choices. It’s overwhelming. Would you like some help narrowing it down?”
Chloe fought the urge to run but she said yes.
“I haven’t seen the pattern you’re going to use so why don’t you get it and meet me in the purples, since you seem to like that color,” the woman said.
She wasn’t sure how it happened but when Chloe finally sat down in the classroom, she had a small pile of fabrics in purple, lime green, bright turquoise, and yellow. She laid them out in a fan so she could admire them, stroking them as if they were newborn kittens. Then she spotted the teacher and quailed a little at the disapproval in her glance. Unlike the warm woman who looked so lovely in her pumpkin-colored glasses, this specimen of the female gender stood tall, dry and brittle. It was obvious that the folds of her face had been sculpted by a lifetime of frowns.
“This pattern works best with traditional fabrics,” the teacher sniffed. “I suppose you can try it with other choices but I won’t be able to help you with the color placement.”
Once again, Chloe thought about fleeing but then someone closed the classroom door and the lecture began.
“Good morning,” the teacher said. “My name is Lynda Lynch.”
Lynch, Chloe thought. How appropriate. But then she looked at her fabrics again and resolved to stay no matter what.
The next three hours passed in a blur of embarrassment and confusion for Chloe. She flinched every time Lynchie issued a spiky new command:
“No, you do not put pins in that way.”
“Never pull the rotary cutter toward you. Do you want to slice off your thumb?”
“Keep your seams one-quarter inch. You do know what a quarter inch is, don’t you?”
One of the students in the front, an eager bride-to-be judging by the way she flaunted a large ring on her left hand, quickly assumed the coveted position of teacher’s pet. By the end of hour one, Bridey had a pile of perfectly-sewn triangles on her table. Chloe had small pieces of scrap.
By the end of hour two, Bridey had a pile of perfectly sewn blocks that resembled maple leaves.
Chloe had added some larger pieces of scrap to her small ones then she arranged them all on her table so they looked like leaves. She moved the colors around until she was happy with them.
By the end of hour three, Bridey had sewn her blocks together, and the teacher’s approval settled on her like manna from heaven. Chloe gave up, and gathered her scraps together. She would never be a quilter.
She heard the teacher coo to Bridey: “Oh, my dear, it is always so satisfying when you finish a top. Why, I finished one just last night. It’s for my god-daughter. Every one in my family who has a child eagerly waits for my quilted gifts.”
“Do you have it with you?” Bridey asked.
“Why, why yes I do,” Lynda Lynch said, her wrinkled lips parting in a smile that somehow made her face more difficult to look at. “Would you like to see it?”
Bridey fluted her acquiescence while the other students murmured their assent with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Chloe scooped up her scraps and rose to her feet as Lynchie pulled her quilt top from a bag, and held it up for the whole class to see.
Chloe stared, blinked, stared and then blinked again. The main fabric in the quilt, and there was a lot of it, was yellow—screaming-banshee yellow. Hurt-your-eyes-to-look-at-it yellow. A child-could-go-blind yellow.
Chloe smiled, suddenly glad she had stayed to the end of the class. She knew Lynda Lynch’s quilt was hideous. That woman may know how to sew, Chloe thought, but she doesn’t know a thing about design or color.
Chloe looked down at the purple, lime green and turquoise in her hands and thought about the beauty stitched by Twitchell Two. Then she pushed her way into the shop, and walked up to the woman in the pumpkin-colored glasses. Chloe loved the way they looked against the woman’s honey-colored skin and silver curls.
“So, what did you think?” the woman asked softly, raising her eyebrows in the direction of the classroom.
“I think I need to add some bright blue to this,” Chloe said, putting her pile on the counter. “What do you think?”
The woman smiled. “I think that’s a great idea. And I would suggest getting a book for beginning quilters as well,” she said.
“Oh I’d love to but I can’t afford it,” Chloe said, thinking about the state of her wallet.
The woman placed her hand on Chloe’s. “It will be my treat,” she said. “You’ve already got a good eye for color, something that many people never have.” Again her eyes strayed in the direction of the classroom where Bridey and Lynchie stood talking in the open doorway. “Think of it as my gift. I’ve always wanted to be a fairy godmother.”
By the way, you can read a whole lot more about Chloe and Lisa Cooper in my first Carding novel, The Road Unsalted.