Tag Archives: quilting

Teal It Like It Is

SH-teal miniYou 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, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

Please share these with your friends, co-workers, and all the family members you like best. I understand they go great with morning coffee.

This week’s story was inspired by and dedicated to all the folks who participated in a great fundraiser for ovarian cancer research, the Teal Mini Swap organized by Beth Helfter of Eva Paige Designs. Together, the talented folks who joined in raised over $4,700 for this important cause.

Enjoy!

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Human beings are masters of many things, not the least of which is procrastination.

When faced with a deadline that’s a month away, most folks won’t make a move until the must-be-done-by date is a week away.

And then there are some folks who wait even longer.

Carding’s mail carrier, Ruth Goodwin, wasn’t as bad as some when it came to putting things off. As she often told her friends: “I like to have at least five minutes to sit back and appreciate what I’ve made before I give it away.”

But it had been such a busy month. In a joyous moment approaching rapture, her daughter got engaged to “the right man,” a fact that brought a grin to Ruth’s face every time she thought about it.

It took a lot of time for Ruth to make sure that everyone who needed to know did know about Sarah’s engagement, particularly her ex-husband, the man known locally as the “Good Dentist.” Ruth especially liked the part when she informed him that he would, indeed, be financially responsible for their daughter’s wedding.

In Ruth’s view, it was only fair because Sarah had been ignored by her father all her life.

When he protested, Ruth administered a bit of arm-twisting, threatening to tell his current wife—What’s Her Name—about his current mistress—Whosit. And since the Good Dentist was already supporting three ex-wives, he couldn’t afford a fourth.

On top of the engagement news to spread, Ruth was taking three classes at the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts—one in shibori-style fabric dying, another in advanced embroidery techniques, and a third in calligraphy. Ruth had never allowed herself to take three classes at once but when she looked ahead at her fall schedule, her calendar appeared to have enough space in it.

That turned out to be a serious miscalculation.

And now, on top of everything else, Ruth had a teal problem, as in how on earth was she going to make a mini-quilt to be mailed on Monday when it was already Saturday night?

When her friend Edie Wolfe asked her to join the Teal Mini Swap to raise money for ovarian cancer research, Ruth said yes without even thinking about it. It was such a good cause, one that never got enough attention—or funding.

The rules were simple—every participant paid $15 to participate with $5 to cover the costs of postage and paper and $10 to support research. Once the participation deadline passed, the swap organizer, Beth Helfter, paired folks up, mailing out contact information and a small piece of teal fabric to everyone. So someone in Ontario could end up with a partner in Florida while someone in Texas might have a partner in Vermont.

Then each partner incorporated the teal fabric in a mini-quilt or a mug rug to swap with the other. Pictures of all the minis appeared on FaceBook when they arrived at their destinations, and  when Edie showed her the pictures, Ruth had to admit their beauty was breathtaking.

She wanted hers to be breathtaking too, and breathtaking takes time. But somehow the minutes of September dribbled away, and she hadn’t sewed a stitch.

She fingered the teal fabric as she sat at her sewing table. Its pattern was softly swirled, and easily matched with other colors. But as she stared at it, all of Ruth’s breathtaking ideas burst like soap bubbles.

With a huge sigh, she dropped the fabric on top of her machine, and turned to her odd-block box to rummage for ideas.

Every crafter and artist has one of these, a place where things that are useless-at-the-moment but too-good-to-throw-away are kept. For woodworkers, it’s pieces of cherry or a cherished burl. For knitters, it’s tiny leftovers of favorite yarns. For quilters, an odd-block box could contain a single block made to test a pattern or squares left over from a long ago quilt or the last bits of a favorite purple batik.

“There’s got to be something I can use in here,” Ruth muttered as she paged through her collection.

Now here’s something you need to know about quilters and their odd-block boxes (or bags or totes)—these collections function like scrapbooks. A bit of leftover orange binding can bring back memories of a shopping trip with friends. A stack of white circles may be left over from a frenzied Christmas-present making event with a child. A square of flannel from a shirt may encourage memories of a lost Dad or brother.

It didn’t take long for Ruth to be lost in her own fabric reveries, leaving her teal problem unsolved.

She was just about to shut the box when her fingers flipped up a small patchwork heart. When she rummaged it out from the bottom of the pile, two more hearts came with it.

“Andrea,” Ruth whispered. “I haven’t thought of you in a long time.”

Among quilters in the Corvus River Valley, Andrea Karlsen was a legend. A tiny woman with the briskness of a January cold snap, Andrea had played a key role in the formation of the Carding Quilt Guild back in the sewing wilderness of the 1970s when nobody made quilts much less talked about them.

At that point in time, there was no such thing as a quilt shop, no quilt shows, no quilt classes or even teachers. And the fabric…Ruth shuddered at the memory of the loosely woven, too-often synthetic, blah colored stuff on a bolt that talented women such as Andrea had endured before somebody recognized there was money to be made in high-quality, colorful cotton fabric.

As she smoothed the three hearts out on her sewing table, Ruth chuckled over her favorite “Andrea story.” It was about making her first quilt, crafted without a pattern or any idea how much fabric a quilt needed.

Andrea had finished the quilt top and was shopping for something to use for its back in the old Woolworth’s store in White River Junction.

“The only thing they had that was remotely acceptable was this wretched dark orange stuff,” Andrea said. “But I wanted to finish my quilt so I picked up the bolt, and brought it to the counter to have it cut. The trouble was, when they asked me how much I needed, I had no idea. But ten yards struck me as a nice round number so that’s what I bought.”

Now Andrea’s first quilt was small so she had a lot of the godawful orange stuff left over.

An awful lot of it, in fact.

It sat in her stash cabinet ignored, unloved, and alone while Andrea helped form the Carding Quilt Guild, served on the committee of the first Carding Fair and Quilt Show, and taught at the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts as its first quilt teacher.

In fact, the orange stuff didn’t resurface until the members of the guild decided to do an ugly Christmas fabric swap. Everyone put a quarter-yard of fabric in a wrapped box, all the boxes were placed on a central table, and each participant chose a box not her own.

As you can imagine, the quarter-yard of Andrea’s godawful orange stuff got the biggest groan of the evening. As a matter of fact, it got the biggest groan the Christmas after that and the Christmas after that.

By the fourth Christmas, guild members watched carefully when Andrea arrived, noting the wrapping paper she used because nobody wanted to get stuck with her godawful orange stuff. But as soon as she knew her box had been noted, Andrea slid a second, unnoticed box onto the table. She knew she’d take the first package home but the second one…well…that one always went home with someone else.

Ruth took home three of them.

When Andrea finally moved into an assisted living apartment near her daughter, she proudly told her friends that she had only one yard of the godawful orange stuff left.

Ruth offered to dispose of it lest anyone else suffer as she had.

The patchwork hearts on Ruth’s sewing table had been among the last blocks Andrea made for her fellow guild members before she moved. As luck would have it, they were the perfect complement for the teal waiting for Ruth’s attention.

She glanced at the clock. It was late but she decided to sew anyway. She could sleep some other time. Now she had a deadline to meet, and a dear friend to remember.

To Teal You the Truth

Tomorrow is Thursday and time for another Carding Chronicle.

This one was inspired by a very real online event that raises money for ovarian cancer research called the Teal Mini Swap. It’s run by Beth Helfter of Eva Paige Designs in honor of her Mom who passed away because of this disease.

I’ve participated for the past three years, and always enjoy seeing the incredible creations made by the participants.

And this year, we raised over $4,700 together.

I usually start cogitating about my next Carding Chronicle while I’m doing something else on the weekends. And this week, as my head was considering and then rejecting one idea after another, I realized that inspiration was literally staring me in the face in the form of the mini-quilt and awesome extras sent to me by this year’s partner, my new friend in Texas.

This Carding Chronicle. is dedicated to the incredibly talented folks from all over the U.S. and Canada who participated in this year’s Tealie event.

Here’s a taste of what’s in store tomorrow in Carding, Vermont.

SH-teal mini

Fairy Godmothers, Part Two

SH-Murray quiltYou 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.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

Please share these with your friends, co-workers, and all the family members that you like best. I understand they go great with morning coffee.

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.

The Truth About Fairy Godmothers

SH-Fabric stripsYou 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.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

Please share these with your friends, co-workers, and all the family members that you like best. I understand they go great with morning coffee.

This week, we’re going to spend some time learning about Chloe Cooper and how she decided to become a quilter and textile designer. Like most people, her choice had a bit of serendipity to it.

Or was it the fairy godmothers?

This is the first of two parts. Enjoy.


Growing up, Chloe Cooper always thought of herself as an “in-betweener.” It started when her battling parents finally decided to lay down their verbal weapons and get a well-earned divorce. As she shuttled between their houses, Chloe never felt comfortable in either place. At her mother’s, she was pushed out of the spotlight by her younger sister, Lisa, who lived for nothing but the latest hairdo, the most outrageous makeup, and clothes that left little about her physical attractions to the imagination.

The whole hair-makeup-clothes thing bored Chloe but her mother, Angela, reveled in it as much as Lisa. When she was at her mother’s overnight, Chloe always tried to block her ears as the two of them hooted and chortled together in the bathroom so she couldn’t feel how lonely she was.

Her dad, Charlie, tried to ease the rub of being an in-betweener but he was never sure how. He was a man of paper. By day, it was the torts and filings that underpinned his lawyering activities. By night, it was the books that fed his history habit. Chloe liked paper well enough but she preferred it with paint on it.

As her senior year of high school drifted by, Chloe began to panic over the idea of leaving Carding for college. It mystified her how her teachers, her father, her friends, and even her mother (who rarely noticed anything beyond herself) thought Chloe should be thrilled about leaving town for some strange school. But as she lay under her blankets at night, Chloe wondered why none of them realized that fitting in some place else was going to be even harder for her than finding a place in Carding.

What Chloe needed was a fairy godmother. She knew that. She needed someone to change her pumpkin of a life into an elegant carriage that would sweep her away to a future that made sense.

But she figured that fairy godmothers were rare in Carding, Vermont.

She was wrong.

The local librarian, Jane Twitchell (who turns out to be one of the fairy godmothers in this story) looked nothing like the magical ladies in the tales kept in the 398.2 section of the Frost Free Library in Carding. Chloe knew every book in that section because 398.2 was her favorite Dewey decimal number in the whole catalogue. It’s the designation for fairy tales, mythology, and lore. It’s the place to go if you’re looking for sumptuously illustrated tales by Arthur Rackham, well-thumbed copies of the Blue, Red, Yellow and Orange Fairy Books by Andrew Lang as well as stories by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.

Chloe loved them all and the librarian noticed.

As her senior winter sauntered toward her senior spring, Chloe withdrew more and more from the people around her. Her sister and mother didn’t notice—they never noticed Chloe at all—while her father tried but failed to reach her. The only place Chloe felt comfortable was the library so she took to wandering there every afternoon after school. The ageless Jane Twitchell worried, telling her sister Isabel that Chloe became “more ethereal by the day.”

Now it must be as apparent to you as it is to me that Chloe Cooper was stuck, not the spin-your-wheels-in-the-snow kind of stuck but more like the can’t-get-out-of-neutral stuck. She had no direction in her life, no passions, no idea how to go forward or even backward. She was stuck, plain and simple.

Now sometimes when you’re in that state of mind, it’s easier for new ideas to find you. This is where fairy godmother number two, Isabel Twitchell, comes in.

Twitchell Two, as Chloe called Isabel, arrived in Carding every year with the redwing blackbirds whose chatter animated the trees by the Corvus River on the first day of spring. At some time or another, Twitchell Two had worked for the state of Vermont before retiring with a pension in a size commensurate with a state legislature that thought of itself as fair but frugal. In other words, Two had enough to live on if she was prudent.

And Isabel Twitchell was always prudent. That’s why she confined her travels to visits with family. In return for their free accommodations, Twitchell Two cooked meals, spent time with the nieces and nephews in her preferred age range—after diapers but before raging hormones—as well as performing other services when she observed an unmet need.

Normally Twitchell Two limited her visits to three days: “Long enough to be helpful but not long enough to be tiresome,” as she liked to say. The only time Isabel broke that rule was when she visited her younger sister, the librarian.

By the time of this story, Twitchells One and Two had spent several years making plans to live together once Jane retired with her pension from the library. They were careful women so before that day arrived, they wanted to be sure they were compatible. To that end, Twitchell Two lengthened her stay with Twitchell One by three days every year. And at the end of Two’s stay, the sisters would discuss the tenor of their time together.

It was during one of those discussions that the sisters Twitchell agreed to acquire some crafty skills to fill their evenings at home, the passive watching of television being deemed a waste of time.

So Jane learned to knit socks while Isabel learned to quilt.

Twitchell One knit her socks from sweaters she bought at secondhand shops. After unsewing their seams, she’d carefully unravel the yarn, wash it and then rewind her treasure into balls. Twitchell Two haunted the same type of shops on her travels, scooping up men’s tropical shirts and women’s summer dresses for quilting fabric.

Anyone devoted to the art of quilting will tell you there are so many ways to put fabric together, you can spend a lifetime learning them all. It didn’t take long for Isabel Twitchell to discover she loved hand sewing more than the machine variety because it was more portable and the cost of tools fit her prudent budget. Eventually, she settled on appliqué as her favorite technique.

The technique called appliqué began with the mending of clothes when smaller pieces of cloth were sewn over holes in  larger pieces of cloth. Over time, some creative folks realized they could use appliqué in decorative ways by cutting the smaller pieces of fabric into shapes like hearts, flowers, stars, leaves, and birds.

Twitchell Two may have been a staunch traditionalist in most ways but when it came to choosing color for her quilts, she was anything but. Isabel’s appliqué danced with brilliant scarlets, blazing yellows, pop-you-in-the-eye greens, and bright sky blues. It was looking at all the beautiful colors in her sister’s quilts that gave Jane an idea about how to help Chloe.

On one especially desolate, drizzly March afternoon, Jane persuaded Isabel to take her sewing to the alcove near the fairy tale section in the library. At first, Chloe ignored Twitchell Two and her flying needle. But as she ran her finger over the spines of the books in the 398.2 section looking for favorite tales to re-read, it suddenly struck Chloe how many references there were to textiles in her preferred reading material. Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on a spindle, Cinderella wore patched rags, and the young heroine in Rumpelstiltskin is commanded to weave gold out of straw.

These thoughts made something stir inside Chloe. At first, this stirring was uncomfortable but the young woman decided not to chase the feeling away because the novelty of it amused her. That’s when she started paying attention to Isabel Twitchell and her magic needle.

If Twitchell Two noticed Chloe’s intense gaze, she gave no sign as her needle and thread transformed scraps of purple into lilacs, reds into roses, and yellows and browns into sunflowers.

After all, creation is a seductive act, and it is fair to say that Twitchell Two had been seduced.

As Chloe studied the older woman’s face, she realized that Isabel’s eyes sparkled, and the wrinkles in her cheeks disappeared into soft smiles as she sewed. For the first time, Chloe saw something she wanted to do, and the craving to create woke her up.

But now that she was awake, what was she supposed to do next? She thought about asking Twitchell Two for help but she didn’t want everyone in town to know her business, particularly her shallow sister and no-less shallow mother.

No, Chloe decided, learning to sew had to be a private learning experience.

Strange as it seems, Lisa was the one who made that experience possible when she decided she “had to have” some new spangly something-or-other from the Cherries Jubilee store in Burlington. Since their mother had to work, Chloe got stuck with the driving duties to Vermont’s largest city.

When they finally got to the store, Chloe took one look at the bejeweled thongs and feathered push-up bras in the front window and refused to go inside.

“Oh my gawd, Chloe,” Lisa squealed, “are you planning to grow up to be a nun or something? Come on!”

But Chloe snatched her arm away. “I’ll be back to get you at…,” she looked at her watch, “at three.” Then she swept her arms wide to encompass the length of Church Street, Burlington’s renowned pedestrian mall. “I’m sure you can find something to amuse you until then.”

Lisa crossed her arms. Even in her heavy coat, her ample endowments drew glances from the men walking by. “And where are you going? The library?” she asked.

“That’s a great idea,” Chloe said. “See you at three.”

Lisa smiled as her sister trudged away then headed for the thong section of her favorite store.

398.2

Tomorrow is Thursday and time for another Carding Chronicle.

This story was inspired by my many interviews with creative types when I was writing for newspapers and magazines. One of my favorite questions was: So, how come you dance or write poetry or sculpt stone or make music or act in plays? In other words, why is this (whatever this is) your preferred form of creative expression.

Strangely enough, the answer was always pretty much the same. “It felt right,” artists would say. Or “it just fit me.” In other words, the creative medium somehow chose its messenger.

So the question is: Why did Chloe Cooper choose to become a renowned textile designer and quilter?

Was it the fairy godmothers?

This is the first of two parts. Enjoy this sample of upcoming attractions!

SH-Fabric strips

A Quilter’s New Year’s Resolutions

I wrote this set of resolutions when I was president of my quilt guild in 2013. Even if you’re not a quilter, I’ll bet you’ve got a passion that lights your fire like this one.
Sonja Hakala

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

January 1, 2017: I resolve not* to buy any fabric this year. I will sew only with what I have in my stash.

*Exceptions:

• Unless it’s something really pretty that just came into Hen House Fabrics in White River Junction or Barnyard Quilting in Fairlee.

• Except for something really cool that I find on sale in the back room of Country Treasures in Chester during the Vermont Shop Hop in March.

• Or anything else I find during the Vermont Shop Hop that I know will get sold out quickly if I don’t buy it now, especially when I am encouraged to think this way by the friends fellow enablers that I’m Shop Hopping with.

• Except for shopping the vendors at the Vermont Quilt Festival in June because I often find things there that I just don’t find anywhere else.

• Unless it’s fabric at a summer stash buster sale put on by a guild member fellow enabler because I know the prices will be incredible.

• Unless it’s something at the Textile Company in Greenfield, Massachusetts because I’m driving south on Interstate 91 and I rarely go that way so I might as well stop.

• And while I’m at it, I should probably stop at Frank’s in Charlestown, NH on my way south on Interstate 91 to see what he has on the shelf.

• And then there’s the stuff on sale in the bathroom at Quilted Threads in Henniker, NH which is not that far off Interstate 89 on my way back from a visit to the New England Quilt Museum.

January 1, 2018: I resolve not to buy any fabric this year because I have run out of space in my stash cabinet, and my husband says he’s not building me another, and I’ve run out of places to hide fabric in the house.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wishing all of you and yours the very best in 2017, no matter what your resolutions bring!

Projected Outcomes

old-crazy-quilt-block-for-web

Hi folks,

We’ll resume our regularly scheduled programming after the New Year begins. In the meantime, I’m re-sharing the Chronicles that have meant the most to me over the past year. This story was inspired by what a quilting friend left behind when she passed away a year ago this month.
………..
What do you do with the creative paraphernalia that someone else leaves behind?  And how does that make you look at your own stockpile of unfinished projects?

Those are the question faced by three friends in Carding, Vermont this week.

Please share the Chronicles with your friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. The more, the merrier, eh?


Edie Wolfe sat back with a sigh as she finished her 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 many chores to do before winter freezes us in place, so much…”

Her phone’s ring tone cut Edie’s sentence in two.

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

“But she was at the guild meeting two 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 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 long to-do list now lying unattended on her table. It was so tempting to say no. Going through someone else’s creative paraphernalia felt like an invasion of privacy, like going through someone else’s underwear drawer. But she wouldn’t leave Ruth to face it alone.

“Sure, of course. Should we ask Agnes to come too?” she asked.

“Yeah, the more, the merrier, I guess,” Ruth said. “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 school teaching, 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 understood 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 shows.

So Ruth, Edie and Agnes thought they were prepared for what they were about to see when Gen’s daughter 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—floor to windows—was covered with a drawer system of large metal baskets suspended from slides that connected to one another. 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 fabric pattern—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 history.

“Either one of you have any idea where to start?” Agnes said. Ruth and Edie shook their heads while they took in 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 closing stores 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 all sorts 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 yards. And then, just as they reached the bottom. 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 the herringbone stitching?”

“I remember my grandmother doing that kind of work,” Edie said. “Look, 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. “There’s seventy yards of fabric in this basket alone.”

“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 or 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 about 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 exquisite taste.”

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


 Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning along with food photos and recipes from the Crow Town Bakery (on Fridays), and other green peak moments from Vermont (Mondays and Tuesdays).

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please share them and encourage your friends to subscribe to this website. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who share Carding, the more books I get to write, and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life