A Halloween Prompt

There are days that need to be turned into something else, like the day I was feeling a little trapped so I went outside to breathe and relax. As I looked up at the clouds, I thought, “You do know that the air ends, right?” I started feeling claustrophobic under an open sky, fearing the place miles above me where the atmosphere thins to the vacuum of space. This moment has stayed with me because I have yet to figure out how to turn it into a story or a quilt or (better still) a decorated cookie. It seems to me that Halloween is as good a time as any to pull out those pesky panicky moments and do something else with them. I’m throwing my experience out as a prompt – any takers?

Happy Halloween!

Postcards To The Rescue

Jami Perkins, one of my quilting buddies, got us making fabric postcards when the shelter-in-place order first began. Two seasons later, we’re still restricting our activities, and the holidays are coming. Jami sent out Halloween cards to cheer us up. It sure worked for me. Since trick-or-treating was (rightly) discouraged, I got myself some candy corn and put the postcard in a prominent place. Thanks, Jami!

Luck and wisdom!

Challenge Accepted

The Challenge project for October is to do something that scares you. Appropriate for the season, yes? I decided I would make myself a Halloween quilt. I’ve been collecting fabric for the perfect Halloween quilt for so long I’d forgotten what I have. I expected to find random pieces that maybe go together, maybe don’t. I had convinced myself the reason I’d never used the fabrics was because I was afraid the quilt would never be as perfect as I dreamed.

Silly me.

When I uncrated the collection shown above, I discovered I had three (3) Halloween UFOs. “Self,” I said, “get off your fraidy-cat hinder and finish these projects.” My reward will be two-fold: first, to have the collection used; second, to fill the empty bin with something else which, once I can see it, will be made into a beautiful and useful project. Let’s hope that’s enough to keep me sewing.

Luck and wisdom!

Trick or Treat at My House

Waiting to put out the Halloween candy

Halloween is my second favorite holiday (the first being Ground Hog Day). I love the costumes, the candy, the idea that you can roam the neighborhood well into the night and people will smile at you. I don’t care how old my visitors are – if you come in costume to my house on Halloween, you will get candy and a compliment on your creativity.

Luck and wisdom – and Happy Halloween!

Eve’s Requiem and Me

 

A few years ago, Spider Road Press published one of my short stories in Eve’s Requiem: Tales of Women, Mystery, and Horror. I made an art quilt to commemorate the event (my story is called “The Family Tree”). The anthology must still be doing well, because on October 10 Spider Road Press offered an Instagram giveaway for those submitting their favorite quote or image from the book. Given that it is Halloween month, if you want to indulge in some spooky stories check out Eve’s Requiem (now with a new cover).

Luck and wisdom!

Halloween Projects I Have Not Done

I collect Halloween fabric, and dream of the darling things those fabrics could become. Here are my latest purchases.

Alas, the dreams remain just that. Although I consolidated all of my Halloween cottons (don’t ask about the Halloween satin), I didn’t actually look at the collection before I bought the new stuff.

Yes, that is the same crow fabric, bought one year apart. The background colors are a little different, but only a bit.

I’m hoping that those of you who have mountains of Christmas fabric ready and waiting to be made into tree skirts, gift bags, and stockings will take comfort in my not-even-started projects. You at least have two months to get your projects completed, while once again I will bring out the decorations that are finished (or were bought already finished) and dream of the perfect projects I will complete for next year (oh, stop laughing).

Luck and wisdom!

Samhain, Start of the Holiday Season

The scary and the sweet

You probably know that Halloween is my second favorite holiday, because I’m always rambling on about the candy and the costumes.

My no-mess Halloween pumpkin

I also like Halloween because its roots are from an ancient Celtic harvest festival, Samhain. It is a festival of thanksgiving, and those are useful celebrations. I think of Halloween as the beginning of the holiday season, a time of joy and giving that leads into November’s Thanksgiving. Since I’m a vegetarian, the turkey-ness of Thanksgiving recedes, leaving room for the family-and-friend-ness of Thanksgiving. That leads into December, and all the holidays of joy and gratitude. Then there’s New Year, a celebration of hope and change.

Hidden within all this gratitude and hope is a little fear. Perhaps the new year won’t be as wonderful as we would like, perhaps this is the last time we’ll feel joy, perhaps we aren’t grateful enough. That’s another reason I like to think of Halloween as the start of the holidays, because its roots include a time of fear and wonder. At Samhain, the veil between our world and the spirit world was pulled away, allowing space for the unknown to invade. Halloween reminds me that a little fear can be useful, as long as you don’t let it prevent you from stepping forward in hope.

Thanks, Maya, for the painted fabric!

Luck and wisdom!

Halloween – My Second Favorite Holiday

This is the start of my holiday season.

It’s week 2 of recovery for my ankle, and I still haven’t been able to do anything in the sewing room. Luckily, it is also October and time for Halloween. I love Halloween for the kitsch, the candy, and the costumes. I also like Halloween accessories, like this keychain.

I think this one might breathe fire with the “Boo!”

The keychain will go nicely with my Halloween handbag. I made it from one of my many collections of Halloween fabric.

I still spend a good part of my day with my foot elevated, but at least now I have monster movies to enjoy.

Luck and wisdom!

My Scary Halloween Story

I usually write funny stories, so Marlene Dotterer’s challenge to write a scary story really made me work. Since the whole shebang started with critters in the sewing room, I decided to go there for inspiration. This is what I came up with:

Yes, anything can inspire a story – or a quilt

The jeweled spider is an important character, as suggested by Julaina Kleist-Corwin, so it has a prominent position on the tray. I made the ceramic crow and the purple snowflake ornament, but the other pieces are things I found in odd drawers and corners.

This isn’t the first time a sewing room find inspired a story. Another horror story I wrote, “The Family Tree” (published in Eve’s Requiem by Spider Road Press) was inspired by my tree fabric collection. This story is called:

All Over But The Screaming

My sister cornered me in the sewing room, demanding a quilt for her fifth grandchild. She grabbed the amethyst batik I had just made and said, “This will be perfect for little Angelica. Her aura is such a vibrant purple, it’s as if she told you this was what she wants.”

“Angelica hasn’t told me a thing. That batik is going into an art piece I’ve been planning for six months.”

My sister tossed her perfect auburn curls. “But you will be making art. It will cover Angelica instead of hanging on a wall, but it will still be art. I’ll make sure Angelica knows how lucky she is to be related to a famous fiber artist.” She flashed the million-dollar smile I paid for after the car accident, with me at the wheel and her side smashed into a tree.

Every cut I made into that batik felt as if I were slicing into my own heart. Never say no to family, that’s the motto pounded into our heads. I made the quilt with care, but not with love.

I finished the center and realized there was still enough of the batik left for my project if I used something else for the borders of the baby quilt. I searched through my stash for a suitable substitute. A golden leaf print blended well with the other fabrics, as did an aquamarine solid, but both seemed more like afterthoughts than integral parts of the design. While I never apologize for my decisions, I knew my sister would nag me about those fabrics so put them back in the drawer.

I considered a black polished cotton with gray circles, even sent a picture to my sister. She was horrified. “The specter of death is hovering over this quilt,” her text read. “Didn’t you see the ghost in the corner? It’s on the right, near the edge of the screen.”

I stifled the impulse to throw my phone across the room. The talismans my sister had given me at the summer solstice – a ceramic crow, a jeweled spider and other bric-a-brac on a tray – caught my eye. She said it was an altar of protection, and that I desperately needed it. I snatched the jeweled spider and broke one of its legs.

The wire pierced my skin. A drop of blood welled on my finger. As I watched it grow, the blood turned from dull red to a glowing red-orange, like lava. Sparks of light rose along the edges, as if they were bubbles in water about to boil. The sparks flashed diamond-white.

The spider wriggled from my grasp and crawled up my arm. My skin opened everywhere the raw wire touched, bringing pain and heat.

I heard a crackling sound, and the spark bubbles exploded from the blood drop. They scattered about the room. Smoke puffed from each spark. I smelled burning cotton and silk, and the toxic odor of melting plastic.

The spider waved its wire stump at me. “Apologize.” It spoke with a crystalline voice – sharp, high, unyielding.

I tried to sweep the spider from my arm, but the beveled edges of the jewels sliced my hand as if it were so much sandwich meat. My knees buckled. Stacks of fabric tumbled to the floor with me. The air swirled with each avalanche, fanning the tiny sparks into flames.

“Apologize, and I will bite you,” the spider said. “You will die tonight, one way or another. My poison will make your death easier.”

I watched the flames jump from fabric to bookshelf to curtains. The smoke smelled angry. It smelled of my own hate. Now I must choose how I will end, in bitterness or rage.

The Scary Month

I love Halloween. I love the scary movies, candy corn, costumes and bat jewelry. This year, however, the month is starting out more scary than I’d like. It seems a little sacrilegious to indulge in horror movies when the whole world is living in one.

That’s the origin of Halloween, the acknowledgement that life is pretty darn scary. People have always created rituals to help with fear, ease grief, share joy. How those rituals change over the generations is a testament to humanity’s willingness to adapt, and to its stubborn optimism that the future is worth the effort.

That’s where artists (including writers) help the most. We’re blindingly optimistic, even when our inner critic is screaming at how unworthy we are. We still create. We adapt to all sorts of things – new technology, art trends, the rising cost of our favorite media. We find a way to create.

Healing a wounded world won’t be easy, or cheap, and we may never know if our approach is the best. Do what you can. Do it with love. Take the scary month, the scary year, the scary life, and make your own rituals to cope, to thrive. Be artist strong.

Looking for beauty in the dark

Luck and wisdom!