Tag Archives: quilting

A Solemn Promise

SH-fabric stashIf you are a creative type—a painter or gardener or woodworker, knitter, mechanic, cook or whatever—you understand the obsession that a quilter has with fabric.

With all of the amazing fabrics made now—from hand-dyes to batiks to brilliantly colored prints—it’s difficult to remember that the whole do-it-yourself phenomenon is only about a generation old.

Yep, thirty years or so.

Which is about the same span of time that digital technology has been creeping into our lives with its irritating promises of eliminating the need to make anything by hand.

Personally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

Anyway, I digress. Let’s look in on Edie Wolfe and Ruth Goodwin as they attempt the impossible—resisting temptation.

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They did it every year, Edie Wolfe and her friend Ruth Goodwin. Usually right after they’d both spent too much money on fabric during the Vermont Shop Hop.

“Really, we’ve got to use up some of what we’ve got in our stash,” Ruth would say as she struggled to find more space on her shelves for the batik fabrics she didn’t bother to resist because they were on sale.

“You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right,” Edie would say.

And they’d make that solemn quilter’s promise to “not buy any more fabric until we use up a lot of our stash.” But the promise was usually made over wine and easily forgotten the next time fabric went on sale.

This year was different, however. It was the death of Genevieve Makepeace that did it.

Among quilters in Vermont, Genevieve had been something of a legend. She started quilting back in the 1970s when concepts such as “quilt shops” and “quilting fabrics” were more or less unknown. When she moved off this earthly plain, Genevieve left behind more than 3,000 yards of fabric, all of which was sold to a wholesaler.

Believe me, that made everyone in the Shades of Emerald Quilt Guild sit up and count their own yardage, and think about how their families would cope with all their unmade projects.

Ruth and Edie decided that if they made a big production out of their annual promise and did it in public, they just might stick to it.

So when their guild got together for the annual post-holidays potluck supper, the two friends stood at the front of the room and made a genuine, sincere, heartfelt promise not to buy “any new fabric for a year.”

Off to the side, Agnes Findley collected dollars from the other quilters as they placed bets on how long the promise would last. The pooled money would be donated to a local food pantry while the winner got bragging rights.

January slipped by. Then February and March. As far as their quilting compatriots could tell, neither Ruth nor Edie joined the annual quilt shop hop.

“Do you suppose they’re going to make it all the way to the end of the year?” they asked one another, rather amazed by the two women’s willpower.

But…but…but…April can be such a challenging month. It’s way too cold to garden and yet the sun is strong enough to heat a car’s interior up into the uncomfortable range. In the hills where folks in Carding like to hike, frost is still coming up out of the ground, making the pathways a treacherous patchwork of deep puddles and slick, half-frozen mud.

And traveling by motor vehicle on anything but an interstate is a lot like driving a bouncy castle because of the frost heaves.

Cabin fever is real in April in Vermont.

Finally, Edie just couldn’t stand it another minute, and decided that frost heaves or no frost heaves, she was going to do a spring reconnoitering of her favorite charity shops. It’s always best to do that when you’re not looking for anything in particular because that’s when you always find something.

So she bundled her cocker spaniel, Nearly, into the back seat of her car and headed west on Route 37, happy just to drive with her windows rolled down a little.

First stop was the Re-New-Ables store. This was a particular favorite of Edie’s because it’s where she found her favorite bang-around fall/spring jacket. It was a favorite because no matter how dirty it got from gardening or hauling wood, the jacket came back refreshed from a trip to the washing machine.

Once inside, Edie idled in the glassware section of the store, caressing everything in the color blue. A small vase, perfect for a single rose, found its way into her basket.

Next came the tightly-packed racks of clothes. You had to be very patient and persistent here but Edie was rewarded with a silky black skirt and two lovely summer blouses, all three items on sale from the already-remarkably-low prices.

Last but not least was household goods—mixing bowls, utensils, a few appliances (mostly disappointing waffle irons), casserole dishes, and a huge pile of fabric.

Edie did a double-take. Was it really yardage? It was, all cuts of a yard or more piled on top of one another.

Was it any good? As any quilter will tell you, low-quality fabric can ruin a quilt. Sometimes it bleeds but most often it stretches out of shape, and that has an impact on every piece of fabric around it, skewing a whole block or quilt top.

Tentatively, half hoping the fabric would prove to be useless, Edie plunged her hand into the pile.

She smiled at the smooth, firm feel of good quality cotton.

The fabric on top of the pile was a rather uninteresting green, too muddy in color to do much of anything for or against a quilt top. But just underneath it was a sturdy dark red with a repeating small figure in black.

Edie glanced around. She was alone. The red piece slid into her shopping basket.

She flipped the next two fabrics over, both very dark brown, in order to inspect a large folded offering of swirling black and white interspersed with oversized red butterflies. It was dramatic, yes, but as a backing for a quilt…well, it would be perfect.

Time slipped away as Edie plunged deeper and deeper into the pile, filling and then over-filling her shopping basket. She was in the midst of assessing a yard of bright yellow solid when a voice made her jump.

“Ha! Caught ya!” Ruth said.

Edie whirled around to see her friend, four full bags at her feet, grinning the grin of the deeply satisfied.

“Oh uh. Hmm, hi Ruth.” Edie felt blood rising to her cheeks as she looked down at her soon-to-be-acquired pile of fabric. Then she noticed the four bags at Ruth’s feet.

They were all filled with fabric.

“Yeah, I got here before you,” Ruth said, splaying her hands wide and shrugging her shoulders. “I was just heading out to the car when I saw your Toyota. I figured you’d find this pile. Need a hand getting to the bottom of it?”

Edie laughed. “If you wouldn’t mind.”

“No problem. You’re going to need a second shopping basket.”

“Or a truck,” Edie said as they plunged in together. “I do suppose that next year’s another year, am I right?”

Ruth sighed. “If at first you don’t succeed… At least we’ll find out who won the bet.”


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 June 15, 2018. And yes, it will be available on 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.

If you would like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.

LiWD cover 5

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