Fun with Finite Space

April 11, 2018

I think I may have created – at least temporarily – a partial TARDIS in my sewing room, because at least one of my fabric containers must be bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. I took out my pink and brown collection to work on quilts that will probably be donated to charity through the guild’s Community Quilts program. I was looking forward to filling that space on the shelf with something else. That’s when the fun with finite space started. This is the collection I removed from a blue container on my shelf.

This stack is about a foot high

That’s a lot of fabric. You would think there would be lots of space, but no. In fact, there wasn’t any extra room. This is what was left in the container.

The fabric expanded to fill the space available

I have no idea how I managed to cram all that fabric together. While I would love to have my own personal private TARDIS in the sewing room, I’m not betting the farm on that explanation. I am a little worried now about what else I’m going to find on the shelves once I take the stuff in front down, or how long it’s going to be before something explodes and I have fabric scraps everywhere. Of course, in my sewing room, would I really even notice?

Luck and wisdom!

Confession Time

April 9, 2018

I entered college as a poetry major, switched to political science by my junior year because I thought it would be more practical, and ended up not using that degree anyway. I wrote poetry all through college, but gradually drifted into prose. Although I still compose a poem now and again, I think of myself as a novelist. Still, I was considering what I should do to celebrate April in this writing life blog, but couldn’t decide. Here’s where the confession comes in – my friend Patricia Flaherty Pagan of Spider Road Press tagged me in a Facebook post about her anthology In The Questions: Poetry by and about Strong Women. Spider Road Press is running a giveaway on Amazon for the next few days, and Patricia mentioned all of the authors included in the book in her post. Yup, I forgot that I was in the book.

I wish I could say my natural modesty got the better of me, but in truth my little gray cells just misfired. So, to celebrate Poetry Month, here is my poem.

The Matriarchal Elephant

The mirror tells me I am wise.

I have the wrinkles to fit the role,

and the silver hair.

My diaries go back to years

taught in history class.

Ask a question, I will answer,

give opinion,

advice,

admonition.

My life trajectory suited me

for counselor,

consoler,

coach and instructor.

Yet there are days

when I look for the real wise woman,

the matriarchal elephant,

for the mom to save us all.

On those days,

I cover the mirror.

 

Look for the giveaway on the Spider Road Press Facebook page, or you could buy the book immediately and enjoy the other poems now. Happy Poetry Month!

A Sci-Fi Crazy Quilt

April 4, 2018

When Ann Anastasio and I wrote our first novel, Death By Chenille, we planned to create patterns for the quilts mentioned in the book. I volunteered to make the crazy quilt we described. I thought it would be pretty, and I love to embroider. Well, our third novel, The Chenille Ultimatum, has just been published and I’m finally getting started on the blocks. I have them pieced, but not embellished.

I believe this one will have yellow chevrons

Although we have mentioned this quilt in all three books, we haven’t described it lately so I had to go back and read the description. I’m one of the authors–you would think I could remember my own words. Not so much. “Self,” I said, “this crazy quilt idea is getting crazier by the minute.”

We described one block bisected with an embroidered ribbon

The quilt plays an important role in getting the aliens to trust the humans. The embroidery stitches tell the story of the first time they visited Earth. I had worked out what each stitch meant. Unfortunately, I succumbed to the worst lie writers tell themselves: “I’ll remember this later. No need to write it down now.” Of course I don’t remember what I had in mind and now I have to come up with embroidery patterns that fit.

The cross-stitch tells the story of the first time the aliens visited Earth

Our books are cozy sci-fi, which means the science is wibbly-wobbly because humor is more important than equations (our aliens disguise themselves as bolts of beige fabric, for Pete’s sake), so I’m hoping our readers are the cozy and forgiving sort. I am counting on the kindness of quilters who will agree that a finished quilt is beautiful, even if it doesn’t entirely fit the description in the book.

Luck and wisdom!

Characters and Where to Find Them

April 2, 2018

Friends and family do the most interesting things. You want to include their exploits in your novel, but you know they won’t be flattered. I’ve heard a family story of a man who kidnapped his own son and took him to a foreign country, where he abandoned him. There’s another story of a boy who ran away from home after a war and reinvented his entire life. Both of them would make great characters, but how many generations of relatives have to be safely dead before I can write about them?

My grandfather and his sisters, who had wonderful lives and deserve their own books

The standard advice to novelists is to combine the traits and experiences of several real people to make your characters, but I found a new source. I collect obituaries.

Here are real people, described by those who loved them best, or knew them best, or were paid to research them. I can blend their odd facts and thrilling exploits with my characters. I’m not basing my character on any one person, and I’m adding enough from those outside my social network that they really won’t recognize themselves in my heroine, my sidekick, or my villain. Now I can allow my characters to do what the plot demands without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Except for the kidnapping story – that one may need a bit more time before it is ready.

Progress and the Pixies Against Pride

March 28, 2018

At the risk of angering the Pixies Against Pride, I am celebrating progress again by almost completing something from my list of unfinished projects for the guild challenge.

It looks slaunchygoggle here, but it is straight and flat

Yes, this quilt looks horribly off-kilter. Trust me, the blocks are straight, but my camera angle wasn’t, and I suspected the pixies were trying to knock me down a peg so I let it go. I quilted most of the piece on my home machine, then decided to add a few beads with hand quilting.

White beads on white fabric = texture

My art quilt group is exploring texture, and I briefly thought about using this quilt because of the beads. It doesn’t really fit the parameters of the assignment, however, so I took another look at my list of unfinished projects and pulled out a collection of embroidered and appliqued blocks.

I’m not sure these blocks fit the assignment either, but I’ll try to get double-duty from the project. Just don’t tell the pixies.

Luck and wisdom!

Longshore Drift

March 26, 2018

One of the advantages of having an unusual name is that you pay attention when you hear it. Or read it, as happened when I ran across the term longshore drift.

Photo by my father, George Longshore

The phrase has something to do with the accumulation of sand along a beach, but I enjoy the juxtaposition of words. Like pebbles in the surf, a thousand uses for the term rolled across my brain. It could be a command – “Longshore, drift!” I could pretend that I had been forced – forced, mind you – to spend the afternoon in idle amusement. Or it could be a suggestion for free-writing – drift along on a wave of sentences, tossing them on paper like leaves along a country stream.

Which brings to mind what I miss most about the demise of card catalogs – the lack of serendipity. Searching for books became so much easier, but the minutes I gain can’t outweigh the hours of pleasure I would get from a random discovery. It’s why I love my hardbound set of Encyclopaedia Britannica, where looking up the great photographer Yousuf Karsh led me to Tamara Platonova Karsavina, who danced with Nijinksy; which is next to Kars, a much fought-over region in Turkey known for its cheese; which is next to Paul Karrer, who won a Noble Prize for investigating carotenoids, which turn me orange when I eat too many carrots.

Oh, look, longshore drift.

Small Quilts, Large Stacks

March 21, 2018

My quilt guild’s year-long challenge to get things done is working. I finished the project due next month. It’s a small quilt, but it was on a large stack of projects so making any kind of a dent in that pile is a victory.

Trees in my neighborhood – palm, pine, deciduous

In the interest of full disclosure, I will probably add more beads to the quilt at a later date, but for now I’m satisfied with this one embellishment.

While I was inspired, I made a few more small quilts. This one is called Equilibrium, in honor of spring, which is today.

Not pastels, but still a spring quilt

I also finished one of the blocks from the Peggy Martin workshop for the Display Block Committee of Amador Valley Quilters. The guild has a collection of 16-inch blocks that we can show at schools, libraries, or other events.

Seeing all the progress in my sewing room made me take another look at the stacks by my computer. I have almost as many writing projects as I do quilting projects. As with my quilting, I envisioned creating a body of work that I could submit for contests. That didn’t happen. As with quilting, when those Call For Entry emails arrive they are usually accompanied by guidelines. I’ve tried writing artist statements that would convince a panel the quilt I had really does fit the contest, but those statements rarely made sense even to me so I knew a judge wouldn’t buy it. There’s even less wiggle room with writing contests. That’s why I’m going to start posting twice a week now–once for quilting, once for writing. Wednesdays will still be quilting day. I’m not sure which day will be writing day, but I’m leaning toward Monday. Now that I’ve put my intentions out to the universe, I have to be accountable. I’m putting myself on the journey to finishing what I start in all aspects of my life.

Luck and wisdom!

Experiments for Pi Day

March 14, 2018

My husband asked for pecan pie to celebrate 3/14, Pi Day. I have a great recipe, because it’s easy – when you have all the ingredients. When you don’t, well, how else should one celebrate a made-up math holiday than by experimenting?

The pie for Pi Day

First, I had some Trefoil Girl Scout cookies that needed eating and not entirely by me, which is a problem because I’m the only one who really likes those cookies. I decided to make the crust from them, which worked fine except I ended up with more cookie crumbs than required. My experiment was to add a little more butter and use them all. It worked. Then I discovered I didn’t have corn syrup for the filling, so I used molasses. That made the filling a little bitter, so I added chocolate chips – and more butter. Heaven only knows what the calorie count is, but the pie tastes good. That’s all that matters with cooking experiments.

The same is true of quilting experiments. I took Peggy Martin‘s Jelly-roll Jive workshop on Sunday, only instead of a jelly-roll I brought some 2 1/2″ strips from my stash. I chose from the not-quite-scraps drawer, those pieces too large to go in the scrap bag but too small to make an entire quilt. I figured if I got a decent block out of it, great; if not, I hadn’t lost much.

Perhaps I’ll call this Blueberry and Pecan

Turns out I got a great five blocks. I made four blocks from blue and beige fabric. My first thought was to make a traditional 4-block medallion wall-hanging, but turning it on point is more interesting. I’m not sure how I’ll fill it out, but that’s an experiment for another day.

A second experiment for another day is this last block that I made from fat quarters I bought in New Mexico. I have enough fabric of a similar nature to make a small wall-hanging, and a boatload of beads that might find a home on the piece.

I hope all your experiments go well today and every day.

Luck and wisdom!

Leftovers

March 7, 2018

I had some green felt left over from the project with ribbon roses, and some hand-dyed purple cotton thread, so I decided to resurrect my purplework project. Purplework is like redwork, just in purple. I thought I had sketched some patterns a long time ago, but I couldn’t find them. “Self,” I said, “wing it.”

Target or alien spaceship?

To be honest, I did use Helen Stubbings’ Simply Redwork for inspiration. The motif in the picture above is the whole reason I bought the book.

These flowers are from her book too. Once I finished them, I took out some other embroidery books and played.

Sea creature or alien spaceship?

I’m not sure what I was thinking with this one. I might add beads, or I might turn the pointy motif into a tiny sea creature by adding legs and antennae.

This last piece definitely needs more beads. I started with a paisley motif, but stopped partway through because I liked the idea of hanging flowers. Now I’m not so sure. The great thing about this project is everything was left over, so even if I’m not entirely pleased with the result I’ve learned something for the next time.

Luck and wisdom!

Cityscape in Felt

February 28, 2018

The last Challenge Group project was to take a piece of art and mess with it. I pulled out my art books, looking for inspiration, and found it in a Howard Behrens cityscape of San Francisco. I messed with the concept by putting it on felt. This is what started my journey.

From a book of Behrens’ work – a street in San Francisco

This is what I got after stripping together some scraps that didn’t always match Behrens’ colors but suggested buildings to me.

A street, an ocean, a sky

I put the pieced work on felt because the felt was there and I thought I could see if I liked the idea of matting the pieced section. Then I thought, “Self, leave it on the felt and do some embroidery. Pretend it’s a crazy quilt and see where it leads you.” This is what I’ve done so far.

This may turn out to be one of those never-ending story quilts. I’ve added a few lines of embroidery, let it rest a day or two, added a few more. As I dig through my floss and specialty thread collection, I have been inspired to push the design in a different direction. Who knows what it will look like when it is closer to done?

Luck and wisdom!