Posts Tagged ‘Death by Chenille’

Countdown to Something

December 5, 2012

My kids may be grown, but I still buy them Advent calendars every year (chocolate-filled, of course). There’s something about opening little boxes and getting a surprise that everyone loves – or at least everyone I know. The promise of a reward is a great motivator, in work and in art.

Since it is the season of giving, I’ve incorporated the promise of reward and delight in boxes with my need to make presents. Here is the first of what I hope will be a series of treasure boxes:

chenille treasure box

I’m experimenting with chenille because the sequel to Death By Chenille should be available in April 2013. That book will be called When Chenille Is Not Enough.

The promise of reward in art is to find something delightful from every angle. The Challenge projects I showed earlier needed to reward the viewer for a close examination, so I added some embellishments. This is one of the pieces as viewed on a wall:

Alaska quilt

This is the reward for taking a second look:

Alaska quilt detail

Here are a few of the others I made:

This is how I secured the peacock feather

This is how I secured the peacock feather

Fish, moose and puffin - what more could you want

Fish, moose and puffin – what more could you want

My idea of reindeer games

My idea of reindeer games

Getting these small pieces embellished for the meeting was the first of my countdowns. There are still a few other projects with their own countdowns on my to-do list. Here’s hoping all our year-end countdowns go smoothly!

Detour To The Next Big Thing

November 8, 2012

Between hiding from the political telemarketers, getting back to the tyranny of the daily routine after my mom’s visit, and gearing up for my pre-holiday fretting, the sewing room went into free-fall:

The view from the hall


The view from the sewing machine

There was a little time for creativity – the pumpkin carving, for instance. My kids both found images to copy and transfer to their pumpkins. Not trace, copy; like art students have done from the beginning of art instruction. Meredith carved a witch on a broom in front of a full moon, and Alexander carved the Sith lord who killed Qui Gon. And my pumpkin, the one from the fiber artist who loves Halloween? I carved a candle.

Can you see the face?

Maybe next year I’ll be more adventurous.

In the meantime, a writing friend of mine, Marlene Dotterer, tagged me for a blog chain. Marlene writes science fiction and fantasy, at one time had her own business as a free-lance personal chef, and is a birth coach. Marlene and I are in a science fiction writing critique group – the wordsmith equivalent of a friendship group. You can read her blog about her next big thing here.

This blog chain is about the latest writing project of the taggee. I get to tag other people, and the people I picked are:

V.Z. Byram, who writes poetry, historical fiction, and spy thrillers. She isn’t a quilter, but she sews with her grandkids. She was born in post-WWII Europe to refugee parents, whose stories formed the basis of some of her work.

Violet Carr Moore, who is one part of Carr Twins, a former foster mom, and a writer of devotional material as well as mysteries. She also is not a quilter, but used to sew period costumes for Civil War re-enactors.

J.K. Royce, a retired attorney whose “simple” snack buffet will make you weep for joy, and who writes hard-boiled crime thrillers. She has made one quilt, which proudly hangs on her wall, and (I believe) might be persuaded to make more someday.

Elaine Schmitz, a quilter, quilt judge, quilt lecturer, and writer. I had the privilege of helping her edit her cookbook, Recipes & Recollections of My Greek-American Family. She also writes fiction in a variety of genres.

So, here is my Next Big Thing Q&A, ten questions you may or may not want to ask about other things I do:

What is your working title of your book?

When Chenille Is Not Enough

Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is the sequel to Death By Chenille, the quilting science fiction book I wrote with Ann Anastasio.

We had a few loose threads, so we thought we ought to weave them into something fun.

What genre does your book fall under?

Quilting Science Fiction, which is a new genre that Ann and I created. We also created the musical comedy genre of Quilting Vaudeville.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I would love to see Sigourney Weaver play the main character of Susan.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Quilters save the world, again, then set off for outer space.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

We’ll be self-publishing. That’s what happens when you create new genres – people get a giggle out of what you’re doing, but the marketing department doesn’t have a clue how to sell it! Ah, well.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

We’ve been working on this book a little over a year, which is a huge improvement over our last book, which took fifteen years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I hope you could find some similarity with Douglas Adams, because he was absolutely hilarious, and that’s what we were going for in the Chenille series – a good laugh.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Ann and I wrote a quilt design book. An editor found our project interesting, but since we didn’t have a name outside of Northern California, we didn’t get a contract. We thought if we wrote a novel and made our reputation we could get someone to publish our design book. You know, when you don’t know something is hard, you jump in with both feet. Fifteen years later we published Death By Chenille as an ebook, started a sequel, and think about that design book now and again.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Ice cream figures prominently, as does a crazy quilt.

Gifts to Self

June 20, 2012

Happy Solstice! My summer gift to myself was letting the vacuuming go while I embellished a couple of quilts. I unearthed a bag of treasures intended for the Fish ‘N Cat quilt. First was a sprig of seaweed:

Next was a pair of fish earrings Alison Anastasio gave me:

Alison is the daughter of Ann Anastasio, who worked on this quilt (and is co-author with me of Death By Chenille). These were one of her favorite pairs of earrings when she was younger. She found them recently and didn’t want to toss them but knew she would never wear them again. I promised her I would find a good home for them on this quilt.

I continued working on the quilt from last week, including adding another braid for the top binding:

Then I scattered buttons on the surface to see what it would look like:

In case you were wondering, yes, those are my toes on the bottom braid/binding.

Here’s a close-up of my space ship buttons:

I also auditioned embellishments for the area intended to be a legend. The quilt is an invasion map, so naturally there would be a section explaining the symbols. I haven’t quite figured out how the dragon will explain any symbols – I just like the looks of it.

I spend a lot of time on the floor when I’m embellishing quilts as the buttons and beads tend to fall between the sofa cushions, so tomorrow my gift to myself may very well be doing the vacuuming.

My Personal March Madness

March 14, 2012

March is a holiday-heavy month for me. Today is Pi Day, tomorrow is the Ides of March, Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day and next week is the vernal equinox. My synapses are tap-dancing with odd connections, ideas for special food, ideas for decorations and possible quilt titles (Leprechauns with Logarithms comes to mind).

While all this is going on, I’m still attempting to finish old projects that have languished in corners. I ran across a tote bag of cross stitch kits that I finished – which is good – but discovered that there are leftovers – which is not good. I also discovered that I still can’t count so the designs on my Aida cloth don’t look exactly like the designs on the kit’s cover, but that’s a story for another time.

In this story, the offending bits are the extra strands of floss the manufacturers include in case of stitcher error. While I made plenty of errors, I didn’t discover all of them until the very end, when I was in no mood to pick out the mistakes. So, I have a little purple, a little blue, some red, some orange – not enough to do anything big but enough to make me feel guilty for throwing it away.

Then I remembered the cross-stitch trim. For some unknown reason, I bought a yard each of gold- and silver-bound, 1″-wide trim suitable for cross-stitch. I decided to use up the extra floss with the silver-bound version. Here is the first experiment:

Next I tried a version of Greek Keys:

Once again, the simple act of getting from four spaces to five spaces eluded me, and the pattern went awry. More than once. After the third attempt, when I could see there was yet another mistake, I decided to turn a bug into a feature. I’m working on When Chenille is Not Enough, the sequel to Death By Chenille, with my friend Ann Anastasio (of Art Quilt Santa Fe fame). We decided we’re going to use the fragment of crazy quilt from the first book as a plot point in the second book, which means we have to come up with a real design for the quilt. The secret behind the quilt is that the woman who made it used designs from the writings of space aliens, so my wonky miscounted cross-stitch would fit right in. With that in mind, I made this:

and this:

I have a little more space on the silver trim, and the entire gold piece. If you have any wonderful, narrow cross-stitch patterns that I could easily mess up, please share or at least point me to a resource. The crazy quilt from space needs you!

By the way, Death By Chenille is available now as an e-book on, and When Chenille is Not Enough will be available soon (okay, soon-ish).

Series of challenges

October 5, 2011

I started this week with energy and a long to-do list. Mom went back to Maryland on Friday, I had Saturday to miss her, and Sunday to get started on my deadlines. Sunday went well enough, but Monday . . . didn’t. Somehow the cough that I thought was on its way out turned itself around. By Tuesday night it was back in full swing – along with a scratchy throat and strained vocal chords, to the extent that this morning when Mom called she thought my husband had answered the phone. So I said a prayer of thanks that Sunday was productive, because I did manage to get finished with my absolutely-must-accomplish-now list.

This first project, however, is not from that list. This is one of the boxes Mom and I made for the crocheted angels. Mom glanced at the soda carton and thought it might be the right size if we cut it down a bit. I pulled out the scissors, hot glue gun and some Christmas fabric.

We made the lid from poster board. Mom was delighted to find a way to recycle the soda carton. I was thrilled to have another use for the stack of Christmas fabric that never seems to get smaller no matter how many projects I make.

Another item on the list was the Challenge Group project. Our assignment was to take a garment-related phrase and turn it into something else. My phrase was “she pursed her lips.” As it happens, my friend Ann Anastasio and I are working on a series of patterns (loosely) based on our novel, Death by Chenille, and its sequel-in-progress, When Chenille Is Not Enough. I decided to use the Challenge project to play around with purse designs.

This inside pocket is made from chenille (like I said, loosely based on the book).

Last on the list is “do something with the rest of the apples.”

I’ve made enough apple crisps for the season, there is no more room in the freezer for applesauce, and I’ve filled three containers with dried apples. Recipes are welcome, but I should tell you I’m a vegetarian so your German grandmother’s pork and apple bake won’t work for me. Here’s one for you, however:

Potato-apple tart

1 large potato, sliced paper-thin

1 large Granny Smith apple, sliced thin

3 oz Gruyeres, sliced thin

2 onions, sliced thin

1 tsp butter

1 tsp olive oil

tsp flour

1/2 cup milk

1 sheet puff pastry

Slice the potato, apple and cheese and set aside. Melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, and cook until caramelized or until you run out of patience stirring the rascals. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add milk. Stir until milk stops bubbling, then return to very low heat and cook until thickened.

Spread puff pastry on a buttered baking dish. Layer potato, apple and cheese slices in center, leaving an inch of pastry all around to turn up. Pour onion mixture over top (you may want to spread it gently if it is very thick). Turn up edges of pastry. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Fragile Immortality

August 3, 2011

My sewing room is overflowing today, and will be for some little while. Ann Anastasio – co-author with me of Death by Chenille, co-producer of Art Quilt Santa Fe – gave me half of her stash for my prison class.

I’m thrilled to get it, of course; not so keen on storing it. Right now it’s in bags in the sewing room, my daughter’s room, the garage, under the piano. My husband is even less keen on storing it, but he can see me moving it about, so there it is.

I intend to put it in bins, eventually. Ann has promised me some of hers, and I might even be able to get some from my husband. He is buying plastic bins for reorganizing his tools, drill bits, nails, fasteners and the like. He found some small purple bins on one of his trips to the hardware store and got some for me.

He bought me the little cute ones for my buttons and embellishments. I’ll need bigger ones for the fabric, but I’m not certain which size yet. Certainly larger than a shoebox, which is another thing Ann gave me, the shoebox containing the time capsule for the Challenge Group.

This is our second time capsule. We made the first one when the group started and opened it a few years ago.

This is also the second time capsule that I’m in now. The other one is for the California Writers Club. I’m in it because I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Jack London service award from my local branch, and a list of all the award winners is part of the collection. The capsule was presented and sealed at the awards ceremony. It will be opened in 2035.

It’s an odd feeling, being in the California Writers Club time capsule. There is a fragile immortality to having your name on a list preserved for the future. Which brings me back to Ann.

Like all of us, Ann has stacks of tops and completed quilts. She is also an art quilter, so many of her pieces have no obvious home. As she was cleaning out her sewing room, she started wondering what would happen to all of her quilts. She made these pieces to express her artistic vision, and preserve part of herself for the future.

But how to do it? How to make sure your work doesn’t get turned into dog bed covers after you’re gone? What should be done, for instance, with Rocket Chicken?

I’m thinking of turning it into a table cloth. How are you planning to secure your place in history?

Who else is watching but us chickens?

My Reward

April 27, 2011

I’m posting a few hours early this week because tomorrow I am off to New Mexico for Art Quilt Santa Fe. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my friend Ann Anastasio is co-producing it, and we will be entertaining on Tuesday night as Broken Dishes Repertory Theatre. The rest of the week I will be a classroom assistant.

Just in case the teacher doesn’t need me to do a lot of running around, I’m also bringing supplies to do the project. Today I went through my sewing room pulling things together. Although the room has cycled back to a scary phase, I was able to find all the things that I knew I already had! My hard work really has paid off (sort of – there’s still a lot to clean up).

Another reward for hard work will be unveiled at Art Quilt Santa Fe. Ann and I have been working on a sci fi novel about quilters saving the world from an alien invasion (the aliens disguise themselves as bolts of beige fabric). We’ve called the novel Death by Chenille.

We are publishing it on as an e-book.

Art Quilt Santa Fe runs from May 1 – May 6. When I return, I will have a new project – a quilt for my daughter’s dog. Abby is a lab/Australian shepherd mix. I don’t have a picture of the dog, but I can show you the top and backing for her quilt.

A soon-to-be completed UFO

The dog hair shouldn't show too much on this

Meredith read the blog about my 90+ unfinished tops, and asked if there was one I wouldn’t mind finishing up for Abby. As it happens, I do, and I’m happy enough to give it to her. First, my kid is reading my blog! Woo-hoo! Second, when I finish this quilt I send it away. Third, I can show my husband that something is coming out of the sewing room to balance out all the stuff that is continually going in to the sewing room. This is a win on many, many levels.

I may not be posting next week since I’m not sure I’ll have access to a computer. When I do get back, I hope to have lots of pictures from the retreat to show you. Until then, may you also enjoy the rewards of quilting.