Unearthing Experiments

I wanted green beads for a project, and remembered that I had started some other projects with green beads so I looked in a plastic box that I had wedged in a pile before Christmas. I found beads for the current project, but I also found an experiment that might become something else. I think when I started this, I planned for the wide part to be on the bottom, like a tear drop. I sort of like it as an ice cream cone.

I also like it on its side, like a forest. Perhaps I’ll make an underquilt out of some bright, warm fabric to balance the cool greens. Or perhaps I’ll stuff it back in the box for another time. Who knows what I’ll want to do with this experiment tomorrow, or next week, or next month?

Luck and wisdom!

Season Change and Character Development

Season changes are a big deal for me. The beginning of summer, for instance, used to be a joyous and barefoot time. Now that I have heel issues, I need to wear shoes everywhere (cue the tiny violins for my pity party). This oh-so-small conflict between what I want and what I can get gave me an idea for character development. I don’t write deeply flawed characters, so their opportunities to change, learn, and grow are going to be subtle. As I stuffed my pudgy toes into my shoes, lamenting the carefree days of youth when I had extra padding on my heels instead of my hips, it occurred to me that coping with little problems could be useful. I could have one of my characters get the blues in the summer instead of the winter – as I did when I returned to California after many years on the East coast (summer out here is monochromatic golden brown, while winter has green hills and some late-blossoming plants). I could have another character despise fall because of a strong allergy to pumpkin and cinnamon. Yet another character could dread the spring because it means finding out how many of the tulip bulbs were eaten by squirrels. These little issues could be backstory, red herrings, or plot points depending on how the story evolves. The important thing is I have another tool for character development.

Luck and wisdom!

Thread Neutrals

Once again I am reminded that color, like real estate, is all about location. These three threads – two greens and a yellow-orange – are all acting as neutral quilting threads. The lightest green is an obvious neutral. Make anything pale enough and it blends right in. The darker green is olive when it stands alone. In this line-up, it looks gray. That’s the key – gray a color down enough and it will blend. Trust me, I’ve used a grayed purple as a neutral in a cityscape and it practically disappears.

The yellow-orange was a surprise to me. I thought it would be far too zingy, but the person who recommended I try it was absolutely correct. There is a subtle gold glint that highlights the quilting just enough to make it worth the time to do something interesting but not enough to distract from the piecing. Moral of the story – buy that luscious thread when you see it. You can make it work.

Luck and wisdom!

Stop And Admire The Grevillea

We don’t have roses in our garden, so I can’t stop and smell them. We do have a wonderful grevillea, and my husband cut some twigs so we could admire the blooms indoors. I tried to take a picture that would capture how fragile and glorious the leaves and flowers are. Instead, I got this photo that reminded me of a semi-abandoned novel I have stored in my work files. I still like my characters, I’m still doing research for backstory, and I may be getting close to a reasonable theme for it. At the moment, however, a workable plot eludes me, so it remains an unholy mess. Perhaps the grevillea will lead me a little further along the path.

Luck and wisdom!

Goals For The Year – Update

I am adding an item to my project list for this year. My goal is to be able to vacuum my entire sewing room floor by Christmas. I’ve been unable to get to most of the room for . . . well, for a lo-o-ong time. I thought that by turning some of my fabric collections into donation quilts I would get more stuff off the floor. It hasn’t happened yet, and I’m just a teensy bit vexed. To be honest, I’m not sure how I will achieve this goal, but just saying it out loud makes me think I have a chance.

Luck and wisdom!

Following All The Steps

There are times when I skip steps because I tell myself I know what I’m doing. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t work as well as I would like but I live with it. This week, I made a pecan pie and followed all the steps, including making foil strips to cover the crimped crust edge. As you’ve probably guessed, the pie turned out better for following all the steps.

I’m mentioning this because my current novel-in-progress – The Captain and Chenille – will get a major rewrite when I’ve finished the first draft. I’ve done revisions of all my books (I’m not so arrogant as to believe anything I write is perfect from the get-go), but this is the first time I have vowed to follow all the steps. I know I will need to change some things to make the sequel that is already planned work better. Rather than change it now, head off in a new direction, and realize to my chagrin what I should have done when I’m actually working on the sequel, I’m going to to do what all the writing courses I’ve ever taken tell me to do. After four books, I’m beginning to realize I’ve been skipping steps. At least I’m finally learning from past mistakes.

Luck and wisdom!

Blessed Are The Flexible, For They Shall Not Be Bent Out Of Shape

I can’t remember which quilt teacher told us that, but the saying has become my mantra. This week I needed to be very flexible, because I managed to jam my sewing machine. After breaking several needles and an attachment, I finally accepted that something was wrong and brought it in to be fixed. On the way home I was fuming and fussing and muttering to myself something awful. If my smart car was listening, I’m certain it was deploring my language.

By the time I arrived home, however, I had realized I could turn this bug into a feature. Although I have a couple of projects already basted for quilting, the projects after that were merely collections of fabric, like the one pictured above. “Self,” I said, “use this time to cut some of the collections that you know will become donation quilts.” I have three go-to patterns, so I grabbed one collection and started to cut.

And here is where I need to be flexible again. I discovered the collection was both bigger and smaller than I remembered. There was more fabric, but not all of it could go in the same quilt. However, I had three other plastic bags with similar fabrics, so I combined the three. I cut one project (including backing and binding), and will have another project cut by the time my machine comes back. I also have more room on the shelf, so I can see the remaining collections.

The other bit of good news is I was able to accept that some of the “ideas” I had for the remaining fabrics in the collections I used will never come to fruition. After giving myself a stern warning about leaving those fabrics in the plastic bags on the shelf for another five (or ten or fifteen) years, I put everything that didn’t fit in the current projects back in my general stash. Maybe when I see them more frequently I will figure out where they do belong.

Luck and wisdom!

Gifts From The Past

My husband’s father was brought up in Scranton, PA. He owned a book published in 1895 about the history of the area as lived by one of the early doctors. It’s a beautiful book – just look at the cover – which is one of the reasons I treasure it. The care taken to create something wonderful to behold in this gift from the past is inspiring.

The language the author used is also a gift. While some of the sentiments expressed have proven to be unsustainable (the notion of unlimited industrial growth, for example), the love for the region and its people is evident. In this time when love and kindness seem to be devalued more every day it is important to remember that most of us are doing the best we can with what we’ve got, and who we were trained to be. Few of us can look beyond the standards and assumptions of our own time to see what could be if we would evolve to a higher plane of existence. The people who can are also gifts – gifts from and for the future – and we should treasure them. Just because who we are today is flawed doesn’t mean who we will be tomorrow will carry those same flaws forward. We can change, learn, and grow to become our best possible self.

Luck and wisdom!

Do I Understand Orange?

When I was in elementary school, my favorite color was orange. That changed, especially during the harvest gold-avocado green-pumpkin orange color scheme years. However – at least with quilting fabrics – orange is creeping back into my life. I’m not sure I understand orange, because I am still using it with caution. I doubt that I will ever be so exuberant with orange as to carry an orange plastic purse (as I did when I was ten), but just this week I found myself working on two predominantly orange quilts. Who knows, I may even revisit the gold-green-orange scheme.

Luck and wisdom!

Volunteers and the Novelist

I’m not much of a gardener. Okay, I’m not a gardener at all. My husband can persuade the plants to grow, so he got the job. One thing I do know, however, is that even the tidiest of gardens gets the odd volunteer now and again. Most of the time the people in charge of plant maintenance call them weeds and remove them. As a novelist, I think we need to reconsider that strategy. Just as we decided to plant a few California poppies after a couple of volunteers appeared in the backyard, I think I’m going to let some of my volunteer characters and plot twists stick around for a bit. More than once I’ve discovered a character I intended to be expendable turned out to be essential. A couple of times a red herring (aka loose thread) turned out to be a detour to a much better story. Your patience might not be rewarded every time – sometimes a throw-away character deserves to be tossed out at the first opportunity – but isn’t it better to wait and see if something wonderful will happen?

Luck and wisdom!