Tag Archives: quilting

Half-finished Projects: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Crazy quilt squareChances are pretty good that you have some unfinished projects lingering in your attic, garage or closet.

I know I do.

Edie Wolfe, Ruth Goodwin and Agnes Findlay have a LOT of things they started but never quite finished. In today’s entry to the Carding Chronicles, the loss of a friend acts as a reminder to them about their unfinished business.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

————————————–

Edie Wolfe sat back with a sigh as she checked off an item on her current 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 much…”

Her phone’s ring tone cut Edie’s sentence short.

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

“But she was at the guild meeting only three 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 building 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 to-do list now lying unattended on her table. It was tempting to say no because going through someone else’s creative paraphernalia felt like an invasion of privacy, like going through someone else’s underwear drawer. But there was no way she would leave Ruth to face that task alone.

“Of course. Should we ask Agnes to come too?” she asked.

“Yeah, the more, the merrier, I guess,” Ruth said with another sigh. “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 teaching elementary school, 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 knew about 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 at shows.

So Ruth, Edie and Agnes thought they were prepared for what they were about to see when Gen’s daughter Clara 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 was covered with a drawer system consisting of large metal baskets suspended between slides. And 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 design type—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 volumes of history.

“Either one of you have any idea where to start?” Agnes said. Ruth and Edie shook their heads while they mentally measured 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 stores that close 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 a variety 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 yardage. And then, just as they reached the bottom of the basket, 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 that herringbone stitching?”

“I remember my grandmother doing this kind of work,” Edie said. “I think 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. “You just measured out 70 yards of fabric.”

“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 to be 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 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 such exquisite taste.”

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

Then Agnes pointed at the embroidered squares. “What about these? The store in New Hampshire won’t have any use for half-finished projects.”

The three friends looked at one another, each aware of the others’ thoughts. “Shall I ask Clara to make us some tea?” Edie said. “I think we should rescue all of Genevieve’s half-finished projects before I call that store in New Hampshire, don’t you?”

Ruth nodded. “And right after that, we’re going home to work on our own stuff. Right?”


Remember, you can visit Carding any time by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Half-finished Projects

Chances are pretty good that you have some unfinished projects lingering in your attic, garage or closet.

I know I do.

Edie Wolfe, Ruth Goodwin and Agnes Findlay have a LOT of things they started but never quite finished. In tomorrow’s entry to the Carding Chronicles, the loss of a friend acts as a reminder about their unfinished business.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

SH-Crazy quilt square

The Great Teacup Challenge: A Carding Chronicle

 

TeacupQuilters the world over use their love of patchwork to support good causes and provide comfort to people in need all the time. They are a generous tribe.

Many of the quilters in Carding include the Great Teacup Challenge in their annual charitable efforts. It raises money for ovarian cancer research.

Ruth Goodwin has participated for a long time but this year, she just can’t seem to get started.

But then she rummages in her scrap box looking for inspiration. Let’s join her to see what happens, shall we?

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

————————————–

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 got to inform 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 verbal arm-twisting, threatening to tell his current wife—What’s-Her-Name—about his current mistress—Whosit. And since the Good Dentist was already paying alimony to three ex-wives, including Ruth, she knew 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 at her fall schedule back in August, her calendar looked like it had enough space in it.

That turned out to be a serious miscalculation.

Because now Ruth has a teacup problem as in how on earth was she going to make a mini-quilt that featured a teacup to be mailed on Monday when it was already Saturday night?

When her friend Edie Wolfe reminded her about the Great Teacup Mini Swap to raise money for ovarian cancer research, Ruth was as enthusiastic as she always was. 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 going to cover the costs of postage and paper and $10 to support research. The deadline was September first and once that passed, the swap organizer, Edie’s sister Rosie, paired everyone up with each member of a pair making a mini-quilt with a teacup for the other by October 20th. 

As the teacup quilts were made and mailed, pictures of them appeared on the Great Teacup Challenge website to the collective oohs and aahs of the group.

Now Ruth prided herself on her quilt designs and she wanted her teacup mini to be breathtaking.

But breathtaking takes time and somehow the minutes of September and then October had dribbled away and she still hadn’t sewn a stitch.

Ruth chose and fingered several different fabrics as she sat at her sewing table but to no avail. Her angels of creativity had fled the scene. Finally she turned to her scrap box to rummage for ideas.

Every artist has a scrap box of some kind, a place where things that are useless-at-the-moment but too-good-to-throw-away are collected to be used at some unknown point in the future. For woodworkers, scrap boxes are filled with pieces of birds-eye maple or cherished walnut burls. For knitters, it’s usually scraps of favorite leftover yarn. For quilters, scrap boxes are filled with bits of beloved fabric, test blocks and leftovers-from-quilts-past.

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

Now there’s something you need to know about quilters and their scrap boxes. Not only do they hold odds and ends of fabric, they hold memories. A bit of leftover orange binding can bring back memories of a shopping trip with friends. A stack of white circles can be a reminder of a frenzied Christmas-present making event with a child. A square of flannel from a shirt recalls a lost Dad or brother.

It didn’t take long for Ruth to get waylaid in fabric reveries while her Teacup Challenge problem faded into the background.

Discouraged, she was just about to shut the box when her fingers flipped up a small piece of godawful purple fabric.

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

Among quilters in the Corvus River Valley, Andrea Karlsen had been 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 that talented women such as Andrea had endured before somebody recognized there was money to be made in high-quality, colorful cotton fabric.

The godawful purple reminded Ruth of her favorite “Andrea story.”

Way back when, after a lot of trial and error, Andrea finally finished her first 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 purple stuff,” Andrea would tell her audience. “But it was the only vaguely acceptable choice if I wanted to finish my quilt. The trouble was, I had no idea how much fabric I needed. Ten yards struck me as a nice round number so that’s what I bought.”

Now for those of you who don’t know, ten yards is a whole lot of fabric, far more than you need for a quilt backing. Of course this meant that Andrea had a lot of the godawful purple stuff left over when she finished her quilt.

That fabric sat for years in the back of her stash cabinet while Andrea helped organize the Carding Quilt Guild, served on the committee of the first Carding Fair and Quilt Show, and became the first quilting teacher at the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

In fact, the purple stuff didn’t resurface until the members of the guild decided to do an ugly Christmas fabric swap. The idea was simple—everyone put a quarter-yard of fabric that they didn’t like in a closed bag then all the bags were placed on a central table and each participant chose a bag not her own.

As you can imagine, the quarter-yard of Andrea’s godawful purple got the biggest groan of the evening. As a matter of fact, it got the biggest groan at the Christmas fabric swap after that and the one after that.

By the fourth Christmas, guild members had started to watch carefully when Andrea arrived, noting the size and shape of her paper bag. But as soon as she knew no one was looking, Andrea switched the bag she brought with another containing the godawful purple.

After a while, every member of the guild owned a piece of Andrea’s godawful fabric.

When she finally moved into an assisted living facility near her daughter, Andrea proudly told her friends that she had only one-half yard of the stuff left and Ruth promptly offered to throw it away.

Ruth sighed as she rubbed the fabric between her fingers, thinking about her friend. Then she straightened up in her chair as a new idea struck her.

“It’s not about brilliant ideas,” she whispered out loud. “It’s about friendship.”

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, a dear friend to remember, and a tiny bit of god-awful purple to use in her mini-quilt.


I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to enjoy this Carding Chronicle . Please share it with your friends and be sure to subscribe.

Do a bit of good in the world today.

The Great Teacup Challenge

Quilters the world over use their love of patchwork to support good causes and provide comfort to people in need all the time. They are a generous tribe.

Many of the quilters in Carding include the Great Teacup Challenge in their annual charitable efforts. It raises money for ovarian cancer research.

Ruth Goodwin has participated for a long time but this year, she just can’t seem to get started.

But then she starts rummaging in her scrap box looking for inspiration. Let’s join her tomorrow to see what happens, shall we? Here’s a sample of what’s to come.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

Teacup

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.

———————————————–

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