Scraps Be Gone

June 20, 2018

My plan to use scraps for my tea towel quilt is working. I pulled out all the odd blue remnants, cut them into 1 1/2” or 2 1/2” strips, and started sewing.

The great thing about a scrap quilt is the more fabric you use, the less you notice the disparities. Country calicoes and ethnic prints? Cool. Formal versus funky stripes? No problem. Blues that don’t always play nice together? The flow keeps them from fighting.

I decided I would try the same technique with the backing. My flannel collection is getting thin, but I bet I can piece together something interesting from this stack.

This will be a couch quilt, something to huddle under on a cold winter day (yes, we get one or two of them in California). It might also be a conversation starter, although I’m well aware that when someone asks, “How did you come up with the idea?” they’re really asking, “Mercy, what were you thinking!” Doesn’t matter – my scrap pile is smaller, and I’m getting my projects finished.

Luck and wisdom!

My Life As A Sawhorse

June 18, 2018

I’ve always said if I ever get around to writing my memoirs the first volume will be called My Life As A Sawhorse, and the second will be Getting Lost With Lani. Rachael Herron spoke at Tri-Valley Writers the other day and gave me the title for a possible third installment in my life story: Packing Up.

Herron said that good memoir doesn’t have to cover one’s entire life. One could relate a series of stories that are thematically linked, or focus on the events of a few years. Getting Lost With Lani is an example of a theme memoir. Sadly, it will be a rather long book.

My Life As A Sawhorse would cover our first years as homeowners. My husband is a talented woodworker, and he decided to make a lot of our furniture. That’s all well and good, except we had moved from a 1-bedroom apartment to a 4-bedroom house, which meant three-quarters of the space was empty. We were also extremely house-poor. We had the money for the supplies for the furniture, but not for workstations or sawhorses. Thus it came to pass that when my husband was cutting large sections, I was on the output side of the saw holding the pieces steady.

The title for a third installment of my life story, Packing Up, comes from one of Herron’s writing exercises. She told us to write down six pivotal moments in our lives, then choose one event and write a couple of sentences about that. I realized the most life-changing moments for me center around the many times I’ve moved. It isn’t just the pulling up stakes that changes a person, it’s the putting those stakes in a box with all the other bits of one’s existence. Packing is an art form as well as a skill. It is fair to say that one of the reasons I am married is because the man who became my husband made an off-hand comment about my packing. He was part of a group of friends helping me get the last load out of one apartment and over to my new one. The last load is always a bit sloppy, and I wasn’t going to let his comment slide. I went on a campaign to make him think better of me. Five months later, he proposed.

So there you have it, notes for a 3-volume story of me which I will write in my copious spare time. What are the titles of your life story?

The Creative Power of Packaging

June 13, 2018

I bought a kit at a white elephant sale simply because of the way it was packaged. The kit contained all the makings for felt ornaments. They’re cute, but I didn’t buy the kit for the ornaments. This is the item that drew me in:

I can’t resist bright shiny things that are also tiny and cute

As I disassembled the kit to retrieve my shiny, glittery rick rack (which I have no idea what to do with but I really, really wanted), my inner voice spoke. “Self, use this same technique on your next Unfinished Quilt Project.”

My challenge is to create a quilt out of these tea towels. I like them too much to wipe dishes with them. They don’t go together thematically, but they have a similar color scheme. And I have a drawer full of blue and green scraps.

I realized that successful packaging has a point of interest and good flow. Since the concept worked to sell me a kit of felt ornaments (which I will make at some point), it will work to create a quilt.

Luck and wisdom!

Gambling With Beauty

June 11, 2018

My husband and I are not gamblers, except with plants. Going to the nursery is our version of hitting the casinos. We never spend more than we can afford to lose, because although we are gambling with beauty it’s still even money whether those plants will live or not.

Most of the time we’re willing to let the plants accept their fate, but this little orange critter was an exception. We both loved the leaves, and the way the orange petals glow. It wasn’t doing well where we first planted it, so my husband dug it up and put it in a pot. It did okay, but wasn’t thriving. My husband moved it next to the front door, gave it a new pot, and hoped for the best. The gamble paid off.

I realized that I can use this example for both my writing and my quilting. Sometimes I write a scene or a character that doesn’t fit the story, just as I sometimes make a block that doesn’t fit with the other units of the quilt. Instead of trying to force the odd one to conform, I’m going to save it. I can cut a scene or even an entire chapter and paste it to a file. I can put the orphan block in a bag or bin. Someday, I’ll find the right place for those bits, and watch them bloom.

Discipline and Diligence

June 6, 2018

I wrote a blog for the Tri-Valley Writers website about discipline, diligence and productivity. Even as I was writing it, the snarky angel on my shoulder snorted. “Honey,” it said, “if you could actually be disciplined and diligent, you wouldn’t still have a messy sewing room.” So I decided to break down some of my tasks to help achieve my goals.

Four projects on the list, ready to be basted and quilted

I have finished the tops for several quilts on my Unfinished Quilt Challenge list. The number for the next project we need to complete will be drawn this week. I had a little extra time and decided to make backs for those quilts. I won’t layer them until their number is drawn, but when it comes up I can do that immediately.

I’m also working on one of the projects, a baby quilt. It’s small, but it’s also a traditional quilt, and I lose focus making the same block over and over. I’ve been sewing a few blocks here and there, and will be able to put the center together soon. The final border and back will be the same fabric.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day (6-6-44), and I’m taking that as a good omen. Diligence and discipline may not be my forte, but I can learn.

Luck and wisdom!

In Praise of Talking to Yourself

June 4, 2018

Have I mentioned that talking to yourself is really useful? The other day my husband was trying to remember to plug in his electric car. In the morning, he asked me not to let him forget to do that later in the day. In the afternoon, he told me he had written himself a note about charging the car. With each iteration, I smiled, nodded, and refrained from observing that he was really talking to himself, not to me. Speaking aloud is a fabulous memory aid.

Just pretend you’re talking to the plant

I often talk to myself when I’m trying to remember something. If it happens when I’m home, no problem. I just pretend I’m talking to the plants. Grocery shopping brings out the worst in my memory lapses. I cringe to think of what I must look like wandering down the aisle, squinting at my shopping list, and berating myself for not being more specific in my descriptions (what exactly does “salad stuff” mean today, for example).

I’m starting to think that I should be a little less harsh when I’m trying to remember ideas for my writing. I’m tired of having a great idea that disappears like a leaf in a strong wind when I finally get to a notebook or scrap of paper. From now on, I’m going to jabber loud and proud whenever an idea I want to remember strikes. If anyone gives me a funny look, I’ll smile and say, “Sorry, but I’m writing my novel just now.”

Graffiti Quilt – An Omen, Or Just Crankiness?

May 30, 2018

The latest Challenge Group project is to do something with graphics, graffiti, or lettering. At first I thought of doing an illuminated letter, but then I discovered fabric that looked like a concrete brick wall. “Self,” I said, “make something bright and cheerful on that.” It didn’t quite work out.

Not exactly cheerful

No matter how hard I tried, I could not come up with anything bright and cheerful. Even my message is a downer.

What if this is exactly the world you asked for?

The back is no better. It is a remnant of a piece I bought to make a series of World War I quilts. I’ve also used it for some fire quilts.

Good for explosions or fire

I suppose I’m in a dark mood because there’s an election coming up and my phone is ringing off the hook with campaign calls. We’ll see if my cheeriness returns after the results are announced.

Luck and wisdom!

At the Beginning

May 28, 2018

Whether I am writing or quilting, the first hurdle is always the same – the beginning. No matter how wonderful my idea is, until I get the first line of a story or the first fabric in the quilt established I flutter around like the butterflies in my backyard.

Ready for the first line to reveal itself

When the first line flows easily, I can convince myself that the rest of the story will spill out as if by magic. It rarely happens, but the joy of a good beginning can carry me through the hard work of creating a decent middle and respectable conclusion.

Even if the first line comes easily, it might not be what the story requires when I finally reach the end. The hardest thing about rewriting for me is reworking the beginning. I can gleefully slash whole pages in the middle, but cutting my first line is painful. That’s when I pull out the advice Mary Ellen Hopkins gave to quilters: “If your quilt isn’t working, take out the fabric you love the most.” When I find myself protecting that first line as if it were a cherished heirloom, then I know it is probably time to let it go.

Years In The Making

May 23, 2018

 

I found two quilts in that stack in the back of the closet (and I should really be singing that line to “There’s A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea”) that were finished except for binding. I know they were there for ten years, maybe fifteen. Possibly twenty. Waiting for binding.

I have no memory of making this. It is heavily quilted, and even has back art.

The batting is 100% polyester, which I haven’t used in ages. I bound it in a solid black. I have no idea why I couldn’t make that decision twenty years ago.

I vaguely remember making this quilt. I have no idea why I left it to languish when all I had to do was bind it.

The good news is they are bound now. What happens to them next? Who knows. I will leave you with a song (yes, to the tune of “There’s A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea”), and I hope with the sense that your own stack of UFOs isn’t really that disgraceful.

There’s a stack in the back of the closet

There’s a stack in the back of the closet

There’s a stack, there’s a stack

There’s a stack in the back of the closet

There’s a quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a quilt, there’s a quilt

There’s a quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a patch, there’s a patch

There’s a patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a bead on the patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a bead on the patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

There’s a bead, there’s a bead

There’s a bead on the patch on the quilt in the stack in the back of the closet

Luck and wisdom!

Becoming an Author

May 21, 2018

My writing club offers a scholarship at the local community college. The president of the club and I went to the awards ceremony and met this year’s recipient. She is planning a career in teaching, and hopes to encourage her future students to write well. She said she had no plans to be a writer, but she asked about the process. When we described all the ways one could bring one’s work to readers, she changed her mind. Here are some resources for you to become an author.

Smashwords.com

This is for ebooks only, but it is free for authors and offers a boatload of tutorials and help. I convinced my co-author to publish Death By Chenille on Smashwords. We were so energized by having a book on-line that we wrote a second book, then a third, and now we’re working on a fourth.

Small Publishing Houses

Just because you don’t have an agent to shop your manuscript to the big publishing houses doesn’t mean you’re done. A small publishing house might be interested. We published our third book (shameless self-promotion, that book is now available here) through Russian Hill Press.

My books, on my bookshelf – woo hoo!

Createspace/Amazon

Createspace is the go-to place for many independent authors. My uncle, Philip Gordon McGirr, just published a book of short pieces. He is another who never thought about being an author until a friend of his started writing and inspired him.

Booktrack.com

Booktrack lets you score your work. Yup, you can put music, ambient sounds, or special effects sounds together with your written word.

Local anthologies

Not sure your work is ready for a large audience? Check around and see if there are any groups in your area that publish an anthology. Our community college publishes annually, and you don’t have to be a student to submit. Julaina Kleist-Corwin, a local writing teacher, published a book of her students’ work.

All authors struggle to find readers, so don’t be discouraged that your book might sell only enough to buy you a really good lunch. This has been my experience, but I’m okay with that. Becoming an author, even at my level, has been worth it.