Category Archives: plotting

Not so haunted….

Several weeks ago I was perusing this blog, for what reason I can’t recall today.  But I stumbled upon a post written over five years ago concerning the inner editor and a novel I wanted to write.  Then my husband played for me “Pay My Debts” by Sharon Van Etten.  As if those two elements were fated in the stars, I’ve been giving serious consideration to an idea that never went further than a blog entry, yet somehow was waiting for one rather ponderous hawk to move out of the road.

A table runner’s underside; I added ivory sashing to make it a wee bit wider.

And speaking of getting out of the way….  I’m heading off to help out at The Burrito’s house, where I hope to further consider a future WIP in addition to enjoying my nieto and his family.  I’ve completed the table runner for my eldest daughter, which came about as suddenly as how a five-year-old novelistic notion seems to have embedded itself firmly in my gray matter.  I’ve solved the issue of how to handle my squeamishness; just throw in some social issues, lol!

Working on hexies early this morning while my hubby slept in, wrangling a nasty cold. I took this shot long after I’d been basting, too dark to get a good photograph.

Now to figure out backstory, and not only for the main characters.  I’m going to set this tale in another galaxy, haven’t written sci-fi in ages.  (Magical Realism doesn’t count in my book, ha ha, and no, this doesn’t have to do with those Dorlinians.)  This will be a cross of the murder mystery/love story I had originally envisioned enhanced by topical commentary.  Those contemporary musings will override the more gory details, but I need to fill in the blanks only my imagination can solve.

Meanwhile, a completed table runner.  I machine quilted it yesterday, added the binding, then hand-sewed it last night while listening to the Warriors beat the Pelicans.

There’s a distinct pleasure in resurrecting an idea, especially when a surprise lifts the whole thing from half-baked haziness to something I can actually contemplate, sort of like the table runner that now only needs a good washing.  Placemats still linger on a quilt wall, but for whatever reason, this decorative item is finished.  Why do some projects hover on the sidelines while others burst forth as if fashioned by about eight other hands?  I was thinking about this over the last couple of days while this table runner went from a stack of scraps to rows on the quilt wall, then onto my ironing board, seams being pressed as flat as I could make them.  Will this new novel, currently entitled Haunted, come about just as easily?

Stepping out to do some pre-travel laundry, I was pleasantly met by a rush of fragrant roses and lilacs. They might not be so plentiful when I return, so I snapped this shot. If only I could capture the scents as well as the beauty….

I won’t know until at least July, no time to write, barely time to sew.  But I am clearing off my little quilt wall, those Southwestern shades dwindling in number.  As projects fall under the presser foot, fictional facts accumulate in my head, very much as how fabric adheres to batting, then gets switched around.  Post-it notes work well too, but I’m nowhere near ready to do more than mentally swap out the whys and wherefores.

The smallest amount of precipitation fell this morning, like powdered sugar dusting a delicious cookie. And the smell, oh my goodness. The memory will suffice when this rose is long gone.

Yet a necessary sense of direction now exists; I have a plan, as Little Miss likes to say.  And not only direction, but purpose, which previously this idea was lacking.  I like my melodrama with more than a touch of reality, magical or no.  Allegories are good for the soul, and when placed in outer space, any number of situations can be employed.  The less gory they are the better, in my opinion.  I wanted to write a bloodless thriller, okay.  Bring on Haunted; I’m not scared at all.

Some of Life’s Mysteries

Batik fat quarter in sage.

Batik fat quarter in sage.

Over the last few days I have begun a project, which I have been waiting to start for months.  This quilt is for a young woman dear to my heart, these fabrics collected since late spring.  Now it’s early autumn, time for this blanket to come together.

Another batik, this time in beige.

Another batik, this time in beige.

Some projects are like that, eagerly anticipated yet made to wait.  Others hit like a truck, but not always do I know why I feel flattened in the middle of the road.

And sometimes, there isn’t an answer, for as I pulled these fabrics from the closet, salivating over them, I learned some initially distressing news; the family for whom I had a pile of quilts was gone.  I don’t know to where, or how to reach them.  I spent part of a day ruminating over this information, wondering if I had sewn more quickly or not made quilts for the parents…  But at the end of the day, I accepted that perhaps this was a blessing I hadn’t considered all those days of cutting, piecing, and quilting.  Maybe all my thoughts for them were prayers of a sort, taking them to a better place of residence where a bevy of quilts wasn’t altogether necessary.

These were bought at Eddie's Quilting Bee in Sunnyvale; I think these two are some of my very favourite fabrics.

These were bought at Eddie’s Quilting Bee in Sunnyvale; I think these two are some of my very favourite fabrics.

A bevy of quilts; sounds better than a flock.  And of that bevy, all have been granted new homes, which lifts my heart.  The sister quilts were the hardest to place, but they will go to our church in December, landing under the giving tree for two girls who need a bright splash of warm colour.  No quilt goes unclaimed on my watch.

Add a splash of green from Beverly's in Campbell, and now we're cooking with gas.

Add a splash of green from Beverly’s in Campbell, and now we’re cooking with gas.

But back to this beloved project, which will be called a Bestie Far Away.  Not my bestie, but a bestie to someone close to my heart, which means a bestie to me, in a way.  These fabrics, many batiks, were part of the birthday pressie collection, plus a few I picked up along the way.  But as soon as I received them I knew for whom they were destined.  Yet, other quilts loitered in the queue ahead of this one, a fall quilt, autumnal in nature.  And now, the first day of October, it’s time.

Thank you lord, it’s finally time!

The completed stack; some those on top will also be incorporated into another project, hehehe....

The completed stack; some those on top will also be incorporated into another project, hehehe….

There was A LOT of fabric to cut, two hundred fifty-five squares worth, plus more for good measure.  And that doesn’t include the sashes, which will make this comforter seventeen by nineteen four-inch blocks, or sixty-eight by seventy-six inches.  That’s no small quilt, let me say, especially after my foray into baby blankets.  But fifteen by seventeen fits on my quilt wall (just), and that’s what matters.

If it fits on the quilt, bring on the piecing!

And now the hard part; which square goes where...

And now the hard part; which square goes where…

Lately I’ve been doing the actual quilting on my smaller table, where my sewing machine most often resides.  I’m thinking for this baby, sashes included, it’s going to be quilted on my big table, here in the grotto.  How shall it be quilted remains to be seen.  I’d *like* to try something different; I’ve stitched in the ditch myself nearly to tears.  But that’s a few weeks away, for today is a road trip for Dad’s next step in the battle against cancer, not a fight he can win, but more of a scrap to see who outlasts the other.  Either Dad will tire of the tussle, or cancer will concede to let nature take its course, which might sound erroneous, but sometimes life surprises us.

That family of quilts wasn’t for one particular clan after all.  Who knows where Dad’s journey on this path will take him?

About halfway; I was sending these to my eldest, getting her opinion.  She was pretty pleased.

About halfway; I was sending these to my eldest, getting her opinion. She was pretty pleased.

But this I do know; once pieced, then rows sewn, then sashed, then sandwiched, then quilted, this project will land in the arms of a lady so beautiful and amazing, it gives me profound pleasure even thinking about her and this quilt.  It hearkens back to when I was finishing Dad’s blanket, my very first quilt, and how happy I was to give him something necessary in his chemo adventure, also a gift from my own hands.  That is a large part of why I love quilting, writing too.  It comes from my hands, head, and heart.  In this rather modern world, it’s a precious blessing to pass along.

The finished quilt, which will now decorate (and keep watch over) the grotto in my absence.

The finished quilt, which will now decorate (and keep watch over) the grotto in my absence.

Nothing virtual about a quilt, I’ll say.  It’s about as tactile as one’s soul gets, and even better when it rests in another’s grasp.  Another mystery, best left unsolved.

And just in case they try to escape, those tucked in the far right corner have been documented.  Sorry kids, but you're not going anywhere but under my sewing machine...

And just in case they try to escape, those tucked in the far right corner have been documented. Sorry kids, but you’re not going anywhere but under my sewing machine…

The tale of a quilt-top…

Hanging horizontally on the line; the light was just right for me to get this shot, which at the time the Giants were winning, 2-1.

Hanging horizontally on the line; the light was just right for me to get this shot, which at the time the Giants were winning, 2-1.

Tonight I finished the Brother-In-Law quilt top.  I feel like I’ve been working on this project all summer, and in a way I have; the fabric has been around for ages, and the cutting took considerable time.  Shirts aren’t anything like yards of store-bought fabric when it comes to the rotary cutter and cutting mat, but those fabrics were free, and were cottons (and poly/cottons) my BIL liked.  And it was as if I was stepping back in the past every time I transformed a shirt into a pile of squares; this was how quilts used to be made all the time.

The last squares I sewed; as if the back tells another story, or maybe it's the quilt's life in a parallel universe.

The last rows I sewed; as if the back tells another story, or maybe it’s the quilt’s life in a parallel universe.

Most of the fabric was previously clothing.  I added the camo, plus two blue fat quarters and the remnant from some muslin.  I needed some solids to balance out the plethora of prints, mainly plaids.  Plus the shirts themselves were a variety of linens, some flannel of varying thicknesses, some all cotton, some a blend.  One blend didn’t like a hot iron, and after I was done, I threw the leftover squares in the bin.  But the rest were fairly well-behaved, and now they are attached as a whole.

And hopefully by the end of the week they’ll be quilted into a lovely comforter.

But I wanted to reflect a little on the process, which indeed has taken most of summer, in between road trips and sports.  Then suddenly the quilt-top is complete, that sewing endeavor finished.  Never again will I sew these squares into that pattern.

This was not my neatest sewing, but it was a challenge dealing with so many different kinds of fabrics, sort of like managing all the crazy events that make up one's daily life.

This was not my neatest sewing, but it was a challenge dealing with so many different fabrics, sort of like managing all the crazy events that make up one’s daily life.

And that’s a little daunting, when I consider it as such.  Maybe it’s this project being so tied into the last weeks of my dad’s chemo, other life changes rearing their head in the interim.  Certainly some quilts have had their share of secondary meanings; the Mijos Quilt is still the Bonhoeffer Quilt in my head, and I won’t soon forget the four-day quilt-extravaganza that was the Whale Quilt.  But this blanket, or the top of this blanket, carries a deeper sense of accomplishment, or maybe it’s just freshly swimming around in my head.

But not only my brain; my soul has been seared by this collection of fabrics, shirts and fat quarters and a half-yard of camo, plus another half-yard of a lighter coloured camo for the binding.  That fabric was also a poly/cotton blend, so this quilt contains a wide gamut of fabrics.  I made that binding a few weeks ago, before I even started sewing together the rows.  I had a day between drives north, and needed something to occupy my hands.  My mind has been a blur for the last several weeks; thank goodness for quilting!

The vertical view, by which time the Giants were losing 4-2.

The vertical view, by which time the Giants were losing 4-2.

However, a manuscript has been returned from one of the best pairs of editing eyes I know, and now that Dad’s done with chemo, literary activities are beginning to stir.  Currently it’s a gentle tap tap on my shoulder.  By this time next week, it could very well be a head-banging gong worthy of some of my most beloved rockers.  Yet, this coming week will be about quilt sandwiches, with some housecleaning on the side.  Probably little about baseball.  The last three days with the Dodgers have left the Giants scratching their heads.

Fortunately I have more fabric to cut.  The Giants can lose all they want.  I’ve got more quilts on the roster than sense, like I used to have more plots than brains.  But maybe plots are making a comeback.  Soon enough, I’ll know…

The State of My Sewing Table

WP_20140605_001

Since returning home, a new project has emerged, while others simmer on the back burners.  I came back with remnants of curtain cottons, and the desire to use them.  Fortunately, my husband was amiable, so off to the fabric store I went, bringing home a few yards of brightly coloured quilting textiles to bolster the mix.

Now, it wasn’t that I needed more to sew; the Former Roomie quilt is screaming at the top of its lungs, while the Birthday Quilt quietly hums in the closet, not to mention Scrappy’s Big Sister, loitering on the quilt wall.  Now I fully understand how established quilters end up with several projects going at once, sort of how I used to balance more than a few novels all at the same time.

Rag Quilt squares are to the left, while the Former Roomie quilt is topped by the already cut binding stripes, with the stack of backing fabrics alongside.

Rag Quilt squares are to the left, while the Former Roomie quilt is topped by the already cut binding strips, with the stack of backing fabrics alongside.

And speaking of novels, I’ve reached chapter (ahem) 72 out of 75 in The Hawk, which means that soon enough I’ll start reading it again, this time with revisions taking place.  And yes, I will definitely squeeze that noveling work into the schedule (sorry quilts!), because I don’t want that book to fall away, lost in a pile of cotton scraps.

But in the meantime, there are quilts, and the latest to muscle its way onto the scene is what I’m calling the Pre-Washed comforter.  This is the first time I’ve used pre-washed fabrics in a quilt, and the only difference I’ve noticed, since starting to piece rows, is that the fabrics aren’t as slick as unwashed cottons.  They feel thicker, but not as when starch is used.  In fact, while a can of starch sits on my table, I didn’t employ it in this venture.  I’m not sure if I like starch, I mean, it makes thin fabrics not so malleable, but it also makes fabric feel…  Weird.  Or maybe it’s me.  Anyway, for now the starch is just taking up space on the table, which currently is at a premium.

Pre-Washed squares, binding strips, and four pieced rows; this quilt came outta left field, apropos for all the baseball we've been watching.

Pre-Washed squares, binding strips, and four pieced rows; this quilt came outta left field, apropos for all the baseball we’ve been watching.

I’ve got the Former Roomie quilt battling with another stack of similarly bright floral patterns, both locked in a fight for supremacy, while the Rag Quilt stack is waiting for me to cut to size the remnants of the Pre-Washed leftovers.  I was going to cut them the same 6″ squares as the Rag Quilt, but uh, I sorta forgot, and cut them 6.5″.  Where my mind is, I’m not exactly sure.  Probably in the state of my sewing table, which is right here in this room, but sometimes it feels miles away.

This stack is from leftovers of the Roomie quilt and the Pre-Washed squares; not sure how they'll come together, but in another fifty or so squares accumulated, I'll find out!

This stack is from leftovers of the Roomie quilt and the Pre-Washed squares (with a few stragglers from the Summer Duvet); not sure how they’ll come together, but in another fifty or so squares accumulated, I’ll find out!

When I’m piecing quilts, I’m in another place, much like when I write novels.  The only difference?  Well so far, there seems to be no starch in my books anywhere.

Although, maybe there won’t be all that much starch in my quilting efforts either…

Some personal quilting essentials…

As with writing, every quilter has their own methods.  Now, I’ve been writing for over seven years, so I know how I prefer to go about it; early morning for the actual writing, revising anytime but late at night, for by then I don’t have any useful brain cells remaining.  But quilting, or piecing then quilting, well, that’s a work in progress, in the figuring out what makes me happiest.  I do know that I like a clean sewing machine, which means under the needle plate.  I mucked that out this morning, for yesterday I put the finishing touches on the Fat Quarters Quilt.  Next time I complete a quilt, I’ll snap a picture of the Magnolia’s easily accessible innards, for it was a fuzz-fest.  Now it’s tidy, ready for the next quilt in the queue.

Washed, puckered, and waiting to be used

But that’s the nuts and bolts of equipment.  What I mean are the quirky touches that only I can bring to the sewing table.  Music is a mainstay, mostly on the stereo when I’m piecing in the living room, then on my PC when quilting in the sewing grotto at my big table, as I did with the FQ Quilt.  Which is due for another name change, for I’m not keeping it, bequeathing it to my eldest and her hubby (and Buttercup the basset, of course).  It will be the Mijos Quilt, abbreviated Spanish for my children, but it has a personal significance for me, which if you’re interested you can read about here.

But still, I’m digressing, something I’m good at in real life.  In quilt life, well, I’m still so wet behind the ears that other than copious tunes, and a clean machine, I don’t yet have a rhythm, although I also prefer a new needle for machine quilting.  Fortunately needles aren’t too expensive, and perhaps as I go along, I’ll not be so fussy.  (My sister doesn’t replace her needles until they break, which when our mom learned about that, Sis was immediately chastised to change that needle more frequently!)  I do like a less-quilted quilt, which is going to be important for the next project, a big summer quilt for our bed.  I’ll tie that baby, as it’s going to be queen-king bed appropriate, and I’m still sorting just exactly how and where I’ll do that tying.

Flannel backing in blue and coral...

Something for later, surely.  Today I know music matters, and when in the living room, it’s the albums that rest against the cabinet upon which our turntable, amp, etc, sit.  The Mijos Quilt was pieced to Ryan Adams, Endless Boogie, Linda Ronstadt, Miles Davis, and Cat Power.  The quilting however was dependent upon R.E.M., Patsy Cline, Cracker, Josh Rouse, the Oscar Peterson Trio, The Cramps, and Josephine.  What was nice about quilting near my computer was I didn’t have to get up to flip the record, just sew endlessly (and mostly) straight lines while songs filled the grotto.

Another presence hovered as I sewed that quilt, but that had little to do with music, more about what I’ve been reading during lunchtime.  And as I consider that influence, I wonder how future quilts will be affected by outside matters.  Especially quilts that I won’t keep, which will be most of them.  I only need so many quilts.

Perhaps that seems like blasphemy, but our house is small, and we don’t live in the frozen tundra.  However, last night was chilly, and the Mijos Quilt was getting a trial run.  I thought it was fantastic, but will give it to those children in a few days.  Until then, I’ll give it another go tonight, making 100% certain that it’s acceptable.

My husband snapped this during a commercial while we suffered another baseball loss...  Thank goodness for a comforting quilt!

My husband snapped this during a commercial while we suffered another baseball loss… Thank goodness for a comforting quilt!

And maybe tonight, the SF Giants will win, making the evening not quite so dismal.  I’d give my kingdom for an offensive onslaught….

I’m not left-handed but…

For the time being, my mouse has moved to the other side of the keyboard.  The bottom of my right palm is irritated, and while it might not be carpal tunnel, I’m wearing a splint, navigating with my left hand.  It’s slow going, and I’m really glad I don’t have any more to write than a blog entry.

And it’s not even from writing!  I’ve been crocheting more lately, I think that’s the cause.  I’m just hoping it’s better by November.

If nothing else, life has slowed; harder to surf and edit with my left hand.  I really don’t want to see the doctor about this, I don’t like doctors.  They just tell me my blood pressure is high, which it always is when I go into their offices.  At home, it’s just fine.

So not much writing today.  49ers won on Sunday, Giants beat the Rockies last night.  I have a manuscript to read over, the Fall of Saigon to research, The Concert in Central Park to absorb.  Thirty years ago that album was one of my faves, on cassette.  I listened to it again recently, came up with a new story line.  Instead of faffing about with my right hand in charge, I’ll pull some left-brain activities, or just left-handed actions.  Two of my siblings are left-handed, now I’m joining the club!

Unexpected companions

Spoilers in the internet age are hard to keep under wraps, but those involved with Doctor Who must have been thrilled that no one let the companion cat out of the bag before Saturday’s telecast of “Asylum of the Daleks”.  Of course, no one is saying if Jenna-Louise Coleman will be playing Oswin Oswald once she becomes the Doctor’s full-time companion in December.  I hope so, because I fell for the chirpy, fast-talking genius.  And of course, what a perfect way to introduce her, when she’s following some of the best companions the Doctor has ever had.

Rose was amazing, as well as Jackie and Mickey. Donna was great, along with her family. (I love how the companions’ relatives are included.)  Martha followed too closely to Rose’s affections for that Timelord, although she is wonderful in “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”.  The Ponds, both of them, have been exceptional, but their tenure is ending.  It’s supposed to be heartbreaking, and with that known, I was sort of dreading the episodes leading to their exit.  But now, well, whether Coleman is Oswin or anyone else, she’s got me hooked.  And that’s all that matters.

As a writer, I find this so clever, as Oswin kept noting about the Doctor.  As a viewer, I’m in hook line and sinker.  Moffat and team knew they were facing a huge task, as Amy and Rory are so compelling.  Coleman’s secret participation should be noted as one of the biggest coups pulled off in modern TV; the episode had been screened, it could have leaked.  But it didn’t.  And with that victory, I won’t be crying too many tears when the Ponds sail off into the sunset, or however they make their exit.

If you’re looking for more Doctor Who analysis, check out this link.  (My eldest sent it to me.)  And I do recommend viewing Pond Life, if you haven’t seen it.  Nothing more inspirational for the writing than other great writing.  And no milk went off in the making of the episode…