Edith here, staggering a bit from all the delicious rich foods of Thanksgiving, and still aglow from a lovely long visit with both of my sons.
Today, continuing our Wicked Month of Thankfulness, I’m giving away a promise to send the winner an ARC of one of my three 2017 mysteries as soon as I get them. It’ll be your choice of When the Grits Hit the Fan (written as Maddie Day), Called to Justice, or Mulch Ado About Murder. So make sure you leave a comment at the end of the post before midnight EST tonight, and don’t forget to check the blog Sunday when we post the week’s winners.
Right now I’m trying to polish my fourth Country Store Mystery, Biscuits and Slashed Browns. I’m also about to move into writing a new book in a new series, the first in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. And, of course, the Christmas season is creeping up on me way too fast, so there will be decorating and baking in my life pretty shortly, not to mention coming up with ideas for gifts and then implementing them (which might or might not involve shopping). Life is very busy.
That said, the lovely quilt my late mother made me about twenty-five years ago is in tatters on our bed. Mommy was a master quilter, creating probably a hundred quilts in her retirement years. A few years before she died in 2012 she asked me what colors I’d like in a new quilt. She never finished it, though, and I’ve had a bag of the fabric for it in my closet for almost five years now. So I resolved to bring it out and finish it.
I thought I had the pattern stuffed into the bag. I didn’t. To my delight I counted 46 four-fifths completed blocks, and 46 strips. I didn’t realize how much of the work my mother had already completed on the project. It was much like if someone I loved died with only part of a novel completed, but enough of the writing in place for me to see the way forward to finishing it.
I figured out where to add the strips, so I commissioned a son to haul my sewing machine down to the dining table and went to work.
After I added all the strips, I pressed the blocks and trimmed off the uneven edges while listening to my Saturday radio shows. Working with cloth, thread, and iron brought me so close to memories of my mom and older sisters. Sewing was part of our lives from a very young age – Mommy made our clothes, ballet costumes, Halloween costumes, nightgowns, even hand puppets, and we graduated into sewing our own dresses in high school.
The following picture is NOT of us in our high school dresses, obviously, but was taken a few months before our mom passed away, with one of her quilts on the wall and one her own mother made on the bed. (Now you could call us the Silver-Haired Spectacled Scarf Sisters, I guess.)
Once the blocks were ready I was presented with the problem of how to lay them out. I thought maybe some of my far-flung quilter friends on Facebook might recognize the potential pattern, and many suggested some permutation of Irish Chain, but the examples Ms. Google showed me didn’t look like my blocks. It was a mystery! Again it was kind of like a book, where I set up the suspects and the crime, but often I’m not sure who the actual villain is until I write well into the story.
I did a little math before getting to the layout. Seven down and six across would use 42 of the 46 blocks. I could figure out later what to do with the spare four blocks. I smoothed out a plain-colored blanket on top of the worn-out quilt on our bed and began to lay out squares. After a few false starts I figured out a pattern that worked, didn’t bring any color except the dark in contact with itself, and used all the blocks without any odd corners sticking out.
I posted the layout picture on Facebook and a quilter pal suggested it should be more of a crossover line, but I’m happy with the look of those rings. It’s a little small for a double bed, so I’ll add several narrow borders and a wide one in between. Yet another quilter pal, author Betsy Bitner, suggested fitting the four extra squares into the corners of the border to extend the pattern. Brilliant!
Once again it’s like the stage of authorship I’m in right now with my Country Store mystery – the book is too short, but I always get up to the word count my editor expects by enriching the language, adding the five senses, including things like my protag’s reactions which I knew but forgot to actually write down. Sometimes I even discover a new subplot that betters the story.
The basic top is assembled, so after I add the borders it will need quilting.
One thing I really don’t have time for is hand quilting my mother’s project, so I’ll either hire someone to machine quilt it or I’ll see if I can hire a group to hand quilt it – just like I use an independent editor to help me improve my books. I’m not in for a major hobby of quilting, so I don’t plan to join a quilting group (my mom’s group was called “Stitch and Bitch,” which I always loved). Here’s a shot of the now-tattered quilt when it was new, with my mom (second from right) with some of her quilter friends, all of whom helped hand quilt this lovely piece.
I’m sure I’ll find a good solution for the quilting stage. And then we’ll have a beautiful new bedcover that will always connect me to my mom.
Readers: Do you quilt? What handcraft, recipe, or custom connects you with departed family? Remember, a special ARC giveaway to one commenter!