Tag Archives: quilting

Sew and Sew, Part the Last

SH-Edies houseToday, we reach the conclusion of this part of Carding’s town meeting saga.

Dismayed by G.G. Dieppe’s starchy disdain at her first meeting of the Carding Quilt Guild, newcomer Brenda Underwood is in the midst of a strategic retreat when she takes a wrong turn…and ends up in the right conversation with Reverend Gordon Lloyd, pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

This chance meeting could have meaningful ramifications, not just for Brenda but for the whole town of Carding.

You can catch up on parts 1,2 and 3 of “Sew and Sew” right here, if you so desire.

Glad you could stop by. It’s good to see you.

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Brenda Underwood is one of those New Englanders who left church-going in the past long ago. So she was surprised to discover that the balm of sanctuary still held a place in her heart.

Or soul, as Reverend Lloyd might have put it.

She found it soothing to sit in the almost-dark of St. John’s Episcopal Church with the priest, quietly discussing her recent move to Carding, her doubts about living on a golf course, and her disappointment in the tenor of the Carding Quilt Guild meeting, from which she was hiding.

For his part, Gordon Lloyd did what he did best. He listened to the mood of Brenda’s confidences, doing his best to discern the woman among the words.

She was intelligent. Of that he had no doubt. Brenda’s language sparkled with precision, revealing a mind that revered both logic and emotion. She understood the crux of her dilemma and appreciated the trauma that her move from her beloved Boston to this tiny town in Vermont represented.

“Is the whole town like that?” she asked, nodding her head toward the community hall where the guild was meeting.

Gordon pressed his lips together, thinking fast. Somehow, he sensed that this woman—a stranger until this evening—might represent a way to get out from under the gloom that accompanied G.G. Dieppe wherever she went.

“I am happy to answer your question but first allow me to ask you one,” he said.

“Okay.”

“You just met Mrs. Dieppe this evening, am I right?”

“Yes.”

“Would you be so kind as to describe how you see her?” Gordon asked.

Now it was Brenda’s turn to assess the priest. “Let me guess, she’s a relatively new member of this congregation, right?”

“Yes.”

“And you’ve noticed a change since she arrived?”

One corner of Gordon’s mouth curved up in a smile. “Yes, quite a change.”

Brenda nodded. “It’s good to know that things were different before she came here. That’s hopeful.”

Gordon shifted around in his seat, mindful that the cushions in the choir loft where they sat really needed to be replaced if only to preserve the sanctity of his backside. “I’m not a quilter. The closest I come to a craft is writing my sermons for Sunday. But there are a lot of makers in Carding—they’re a big part of the town’s heritage—so I have a familiarity with fabric and color and how blocks are put together. So tell me, if G.G. Dieppe was a house block, what color would it be?”

Brenda’s whole face snapped-to with surprise and she blinked at the priest. “Well, two colors, actually. Black and white.”

Gordon nodded. “I thought you might say that. Come with me for a moment. I want to show you something that I think will answer your question about what the town of Carding is like away from the golf course and people such as G.G. Dieppe.”

He hopped down from the loft, and switched on a light that revealed a short hallway. “Edie’s not a member of my congregation though she does attend from time to time. But we are friends. In fact, she was one of the first people I met when I came here. She once told me that I need more color in my life, especially at this time of year when everything is…black and white. So from time to time, she shows up at my door with what she calls ‘a color thing.’

He pointed to a small wallhanging. “This is her latest, and I think if Edie Wolfe was a house block, this is what she would look like.”

Brenda gasped and then began to laugh. Edie’s house was anything but black and white. Its roof was an electric pink fabric festooned with vivid leaves. Its windows were lime green with yellow bubbles. Hot red and green stripes erupted from a blue chimney, and the grass growing by the front door was a moving sea of phosphorescent hues.

“Do you like it?” Gordon asked.

“I do. And I want to meet the woman who made it.”

“Her house in on the green, opposite the Crow Town Bakery, which is owned by her daughter and son-in-law, by the way,” Gordon said. “But the best place to find Edie during the day is at the Carding Academy.”

Suddenly they heard meeting-breaking-up noises coming from the community hall. Brenda turned to the priest, and shook his hand. “Thank you. I think I’m going to duck out now but I am going to follow your suggestion.”

“Good. Let me walk you to the door.” Gordon’s smile was a bit bigger now. “There’s one more thing I think you should know.”

“What’s that?”

“Mrs. Dieppe is running for the open seat on the Carding select board, and some of her plans for the town are, shall we say, quite controversial. Edie is opposed to all of them.” Gordon swung the side door open, and Brenda realized she could get to her car before any of the other guild members emerged from the building.

“Really?” Brenda’s voice and eyebrows rose as she pulled on her gloves. “It sounds like this could be interesting.”


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, Light in Water, Dancing, will go on sale on May 18, 2018. And yes, it will be available from Amazon.com

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

Sanctuary

The build-up to Carding’s town meeting, like all town meetings, is an accretion of small details.

This year, a joke about the cold made to an unappreciative recipient sparked a contest for the open seat on the town’s select board that is turning out to be very controversial.

Right now, that unappreciative recipient, G.G. Dieppe, feels she has the whole town—or at least the part of it that counts with her—in the palm of her hand.

But a chance meeting at St. John’s Episcopal Church (another one of those small details) may be the key to turning the tide.

Here’s a sample of tomorrow’s Carding Chronicle. I sure hope you can stop by.

SH-Edies house

Sew and Sew, Part III

SH-quilts to be boundCarding is careening toward town meeting and local elections, and so far, no one is running against the local eminence grise, G.G. Dieppe.

It seems as though she will be a shoo-in for the open seat on the selectboard because of the support she’s getting from the country-club set who live on Mount Merino.

But not everyone who lives on the golf course is enchanted by G.G. And sometimes, all it takes is one plain-spoken woman—someone like Brenda Underwood—to shatter the illusion of a fait accompli.

If you’d like to catch up on “Sew and Sew,” part one is here and part two is here.

Enjoy!

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The church hall was buzzing when Brenda opened the door. Some women were setting chairs around a quartet of tables, and some were busy with food while others chatted near the coat rack. No one looked up when Brenda walked in. No one greeted her even though they’d seemed eager enough to invite her to the meeting.

She stood off to one side, watching the human ebb and flow to see where she might fit in.

Finally, one of her yoga classmates spotted her and waved, indicating an empty chair. Taking a breath, Brenda made the plunge.

But a voice shattered the peace of the chattering mass before she reached the chair.

“What is that under your arm?” G.G. Dieppe asked, pointing to Brenda’s sewing box.

Brenda smiled, holding up her prized sewing box for all to view. And they were all viewing. In fact, Brenda had the distinct impression that the other women in the room were viewing and holding their breath at the same time, waiting for G.G.’s next words.

In the few seconds it took Brenda to size up the Carding Quilt Guild’s president, the words “troll tower” came immediately to mind. It was the name her son had given to the carefully balanced stacks of rocks they found when they took family hikes in the White and Green Mountains.

Everything about G.G. was gray or black, like granite—charcoal turtleneck, black skirt and shoes, black-framed glasses, and a head of gray hair that was so stiffly starched with mousse, Brenda wondered if it was a wig gone bad.

On top of that, G.G. carried herself like a tall person who’d been squashed down to fit in a suitcase. In other words, troll-like

To Brenda, the scene was ludicrous—a room full of women who shared a passion for color and design standing like porcelain figurines in a formal garden.

“This is my hand-sewing box,” Brenda finally said. “I was told to bring it for tonight’s meeting.”

“Yes.” G.G. sniffed. “I’m going to teach a lesson on the best techniques to use when hand sewing the binding on a prize-winning quilt.”

Brenda must have looked unimpressed because G.G. continued: “We have a number of items here tonight that require binding.” She pointed to a pile of folded quilts in a rocking chair. “You need to know that we strive for prize-winning quilts in this guild, and the process of excellence begins with our selection of tools and the way we organize them. And what you have in your hands is not an excellent sewing box.”

Sniff.

Brenda glanced around the room looking for a friendly face. It was then that she noticed that every sewing box in the room was exactly the same size and type, varying only in color from red to white or pink.

“Well,” she said, “this sewing box is mine and it will have to do.”

Someone at the back of the room gasped, and all of the features on G.G.’s face—from eyebrows to chin—compressed in disapproval.

“Yes,” she said, drawing out the single syllable. “I suppose it will.”

Sniff.

No one at her table would look at Brenda as she sat down. But as soon as G.G. turned her back, the women on Brenda’s left and right reached over to give her reassuring pats under the table.

G.G. raised her chin as she began her lesson, giving pointers about starch, and the proper use of pins and thimbles. But Brenda heard little of it, her ears blocked by an anger that she knew would get her into trouble if expressed.

“It’s not worth it,” she told herself. “I just need to get through this and go home.”

By the time everyone broke for snacks and trips to the bathroom, all Brenda had managed to do was give herself a giant headache. She waited until the room filled with chatter and eating then slid the top back onto her sewing box—now more prized than ever—and headed for the coat rack.

In her rush to get out, Brenda turned the wrong way and found herself in the church sanctuary. Irritated to be so shaken, she decided that sanctuary was just what she needed. So she picked her way to the front pew where a low light illuminated the altar, and waited for her pique to pass.

“Are you all right?” a soft male voice asked.

Brenda jumped and turned to see Reverend Lloyd sitting in the choir loft.

“Sorry,” he said, “but I didn’t know how to speak up without startling you.”

“It’s all right.” Brenda sighed. “It’s just been an unexpectedly irritating evening.”

“At the guild meeting?”

“Yes. I’m afraid so.” She shook her head.

The priest chuckled softly but the sound didn’t have much humor. “You’re irritated because G.G. Dieppe set out to irritate you.” Gordon’s eyebrows rose as he heard his own words. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be saying that to a stranger.”

Brenda stood up and extended her hand. “I’m Brenda Underwood. My husband and I recently moved to Carding.”

“And you’re a quilter,” Gordon said, indicating the seat next to him.

“Well, I thought I wanted to be a quilter. Now I’m not so sure.”

“Ah, I see. G.G.’s been trying to rob you of your joy. She’s good at that,” Gordon said with a very long sigh. “Too good, I’m afraid.”

“Is everybody in this town afraid of her like the women in there?”

“No, not at all. But she does seem to have undue influence over the country club set.” He cinched up his mouth. “I’m sorry, I’ve probably spoken out of turn again. You probably live on Mount Merino.”

“It’s close to our son and grandchildren, and it seemed like a good idea at the time,” Brenda said. “But I don’t play golf. I think it’s a bore, and I’m convinced that golf courses are a bad deal for the environment.”

The priest took a moment to peer closely at Brenda’s face, carefully weighing his next words. “Well, I’m no expert on quilting but I do know something about people and the sin of hubris. I think the ancient Greeks were right to peg that as the original sin, and Mrs. Dieppe has it in spades,” he said, this time with a genuine chuckle. “You won’t tell anyone, will you?’

Brenda laughed. “Our secret, I promise.”

“Before you make a decision about quilting, may I recommend that you have a conversation with a woman named Edie Wolfe,” Gordon said. “She’s the executive director of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts, and a very dear friend.”

He nodded toward the door to the community hall where G.G. was now holding forth on the correct way to hold a needle. “The guild that’s meeting in there used to be the only such organization in Carding. Then Mrs. Dieppe split it in two. As I said, she’s very good at sowing ill will and irritation. The women who left formed another guild, and they may be more your style. What do you say?”

Brenda pulled her sewing box closer as she considered the priest’s advice. “How does this Edie feel about people who live on Mount Merino?”

Gordon tapped the top of her scallop-shaped box with his finger. “I think she will love this, and that will count for far more than your mailing address. What do you say?”

Brenda nodded. “So where do I find this Edie Wolfe?”


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, Light in Water, Dancing, will be out in 2018.

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

A Process of Excellence

As the years pass, Brenda Underwood finds she has far more patience for some challenges—people who walk slow, cranky children, waiting for Christmas—while having much less patience for others.

High on her list of “I have no patience for this any more” is other people’s need to grandstand at the expense of others. She witnessed far too much of that from the CEO of her former employer when she was fighting for pay equity for female auditors.

Now, the Carding Quilt Guild is pretty small potatoes in comparison to that. But the principle is the same.

Or at least it is to Brenda Underwood. Quilt guild president G.G. Dieppe has other ideas.

Tomorrow is Carding Chronicle day, and we’re rejoining newcomer Brenda Underwood as she figures out who is who and what is what in Carding, Vermont.

Here’s a sample of what’s in store.

SH-quilts to be bound

Sew and Sew, Part II

SH-guild meetingThere’s nothing like being the Queen Frog in a Small Pond. At least, that’s what G.G. Dieppe believes.

She thinks she has a better-than-average shot at winning the local election to the selectboard where, if successful, she plans to make great changes in the way Carding operates.

So far, she has support from the residents of the Mount Merino Landowners Association, members of St. John Episcopal Church, and the Carding Quilt Guild.

But as John Lennon once sang: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

If you need to catch up, you’ll find part one of “Sew and Sew” right here.

In the meantime, let’s see what G.G.’s up to this week, shall we?

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As the afternoon wore on, the ripples in Clark Underwood’s eyebrows became more pronounced as he watched his wife flit from room to room in their condo.

“It’s only a quilt guild meeting,” he reminded her gently. “Not a speech in front of the U.N.”

Brenda stopped, her hands twisted inside one another. “I know it’s silly to feel so nervous but we’re new here, and it will be my first time meeting most of these people, and I’m just a beginner at quilting.”

Clark thought about that for a moment. “Do you have to pass some sort of test to get into a quilt guild?”

“Well, I know there are entry requirements for some high-end art-quilters guilds but not for this one, no. It’s just that I’m having a hard time fitting in here so I want this meeting to go well,” Brenda said as she zipped out of the room again.

His wife’s remarks left the air of the Underwood sun room disturbed long after Brenda departed, and Clark suddenly found himself considering how easy it might be to sell their condo if this experiment in country club living didn’t work out. Then he shook himself, and returned to his book.

But the echoes of the disturbance remained.

There are a few facts about friendship that become apparent with maturity. When you’re ten, friendships form quickly over jump-rope or playing tag or through carefully arranged play dates. At that age, friendships come and friendships go easily.

The stakes of friendship for teenagers are higher and far more explosive. Every living human can relate some horror story or another of being snubbed, excluded or picked last for a team during the acne years. At that age, the arrows of life are many and quite pointed.

Friendship seems to settle into discernible grooves as we age. By then, relationships are most often work- or family-related. Couples with kids make friends with couples with kids. Co-workers socialize before and after work. In-laws become friends.

Or not.

By the time we reach fifty or so, the human resistance to change has kicked into a higher gear, leaving us with a tendency to “dance with the one that brung ya” rather than expend the energy necessary to make new friends.

But of course, life never stands still, and in the Underwood household, life had moved on in the form of grandchildren, retirement, and the desire to downsize.

All of which explains Brenda’s desire to make friends to replace—or at least replicate—some of the good times she had had with the folks she left behind in Boston.

“Remember,” Clark said as she shouldered her purse, “there are other ways to get to know folks in Carding. You’re just exploring this quilt guild. Don’t invest the effort unless you feel it’s worth your precious time.”

“Thanks,” she whispered as she kissed him good-bye. “I’ll try to remember that.”

Information about the Carding Quilt Guild had been hard to come by so far. Someone, she still wasn’t sure who, had forwarded Brenda a “letter from the president” with the meeting time and location, cost of annual dues, and a request “to bring your hand sewing box to the January meeting.”

Brenda’s sewing box was nothing special in the grand scheme of things but she loved it. Inside was a hodgepodge of mementoes, favorite tools, and a couple of handmade needle cases, called etuis, passed down from her grandmother. The box’s latest addition was a small cloth bag, a gift from her daughter-in-law at Christmas, embellished with a quote from author C.S. Lewis: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

In addition to being a sentiment that Brenda wholeheartedly endorsed, the tiny container was the perfect size to act as a thread catcher. It fit right in with all the other oddments cached inside her violet-hued, scallop-shaped plastic box, and every time she saw it, Brenda remembered to smile because her son had definitely married the right woman.

The church hall was buzzing when Brenda opened the door. Some women were setting up chairs around a quartet of tables, and some were busy with food while others chatted near the coat rack. No one looked up when Brenda walked in. No one greeted her even though they’d seemed eager enough to invite her to the meeting.

She stood off to one side, watching the human ebb and flow to see where she might fit in.

Finally, one of her yoga classmates spotted her and waved, indicating an empty chair. Taking a breath, Brenda made the plunge.

But a voice shattered the peace of the chattering mass before she reached the chair.

“What is that under your arm?” G.G. Dieppe asked, pointing to Brenda’s sewing box.


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, Light in Water, Dancing, will be out in 2018.

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

Etui* Brute?

Tomorrow is Carding Chronicle day, and you’re invited along to Brenda Underwood’s first meeting with the Carding Quilt Guild.

This organization has had a rather tortured history in the past year or so, splitting in two when G.G. Dieppe staged a coup to supplant some longtime members who took issue with her meeting tactics.

Brenda’s feeling a little uncertain about this because she’s not a social butterfly or an experienced quilter.

So you’d think that being the guild’s president, G.G. would go out of her way to make sure Brenda feels comfortable.

Or maybe not.

One thing you should know is that G.G. is running for the lone empty seat on the town selectboard. And she’s counting on the members of the guild to put her in office.

Here’s a sample of what’s in store in part two of “Sew and Sew”. I hope you will stop by and set a spell.

 

SH-guild meeting

Sew and Sew (Part I)

SH.sew and sewLife is made up of small details, don’t you think? So much can depend on the lift of an eyebrow at a certain moment or the angle of a tone of voice that leaves hurt in its wake.

In the run-up to this year’s town meeting, a lot of folks are learning it’s important to watch G.G. Dieppe’s eyebrows and tones of voice.

She’s running for the empty seat on Carding’s selectboard, and so far, she’s unopposed.

But if I’m any judge of how things happen in Carding, that is about to change.

Carding’s town-meeting saga continues with this two-part story about how a small detail builds into a much larger movement. Unless, of course, we get the chance to find out more about G.G. Dieppe and her new antagonist. Then this story could grow to three parts.

Stay tuned.

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, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out in 2018.

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

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In all the years that he had been rector of Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Carding, Vermont, Reverend Gordon Lloyd could not recall a time when he had dreaded going to work.

Oh sure, there were crises from time to time—personal, professional, and financial—among his parishioners. But as a group, the members of Gordon’s church had learned how to amicably help one another weather storms of all sorts.

But over the past year, that camaraderie had all but disappeared, and Gordon despaired that it would ever return.

Though he would never say it out loud among his flock, he could readily finger the source of the discontent—G.G. Dieppe.

“It isn’t that the woman doesn’t recognize the anger and hurt she sows in her wake,” Gordon explained to his sister during a family visit over the holidays. “It’s that she relishes it. If you watch closely, you’ll see this tiny smile in the corner of her mouth when she cows someone into submission or gets them so irritated with her prying or her way of judging everybody that they quit coming to church.”

“Does she know that you see that smile?” his sister asked, her forehead crinkled with worry.

Gordon had to think about his answer for a moment. “You know, I believe she does.”

“Then I would be careful if I were you, dear brother. People like this Dieppe woman do everything they can to obliterate anyone who sees them as they really are. The one thing they cannot abide is the truth about themselves,” she said.

But what is a good priest to do? G.G. couched her activities in such sweet, deceptive language while rallying the parish to support a wide variety of good causes, none of which she (or her husband Anthony) contributed to in any way.

She usurped the committee set up to decorate the altar by bringing in her own store of plastic flowers and decorative containers, explaining that she was saving the church money for more important activities. Of course, this activity meant that her name was always in the church program.

Gordon knew folks were complaining about the shabby altar decorations but after his sister’s warning, he decided to wait for the moment when G.G.’s hypocrisy became visible. Most evenings before bed, he dedicated his prayers to the fervent hope that that moment would soon arrive.

Imagine the priest’s surprise when the answer to his prayers turned out to be a quiet woman who sat in the back of the church every Sunday.

Being the third of four girls meant that Brenda Underwood was often overlooked while she was growing up. The eldest in her family became the pretty one while the youngest was the star athlete, and the second sister crept deep into the world of books and seldom came out.

That left Brenda with a meager menu of distinctions from which to choose.

She was content with her lot almost all of the time. Invisibility had its advantages, after all. But Brenda’s quiet exterior belied an inner strength that always took would-be bullies by surprise.

In high school, Brenda landed like a meteor in the midst of a controversy over handicapped access to the local hockey rink. As her parents watched open-mouthed, their quiet little girl fought the school board, reluctant voters, and a nasty athletic director to widen doors and make space for folks in wheelchairs.

In college, she stood up to a formidable prof whose misogyny kept female students out of the campus newspaper until the man was forcibly retired. She demanded (and got) equal pay for her work as an accountant, and then demanded pay equity for all of the other women in her firm.

“You’d never know it to talk to her,” her husband Clark told their friends. “But my wife turns into a super-hero when she sees injustice.”

Now in their seventies and retired, Brenda and Clark had settled into a peaceful Vermont life of grandchildren, pottery making (Clark), and quilting (Brenda). That’s how she met G.G., through the Carding Quilt Guild.

Like most quilters, Brenda learned the rudiments of sewing through a home economics class when she was about twelve. After that, she made Halloween costumes for her kids and patched blue jeans, sewed on buttons, that kind of thing. She’d never considered herself a high-end sewer, just someone who knew enough to get by in the world of needle and thread.

But now that she was released from number crunching, Brenda decided to stick her toe into the world of geometric patterns and color.

“I don’t want to spend a lot of money until I know this is something I want to do for a while,” she told her husband when she bought a second-hand sewing machine. “I’ve been warned that quilting can be quite the addiction.”

“Oh, you’ve got to join our guild,” several women purred to her after their yoga class. “You’ll meet a lot of new people and we have great programs so you’ll learn all these techniques and how to make different blocks.”

“And G.G., our president, is great,” one of them added. Brenda thought she saw a couple of the other women’s faces cinch up with fleeting distaste at the mention of G.G.’s name but it passed so quickly, she wasn’t sure if she imagined it or not.

“When and where are the meetings?” she asked.

“Oh, the third Thursday of the month in the Episcopal church hall.”

“The next one is the day after tomorrow.”

“Oh, please say you’ll come.”