Monday, February 26, 2018

How Writing a Story is Like Making a Quilt


by Erica Vetsch

Many authors have other pursuits outside of writing. Often those pursuits are also as creative, like sewing, cross-stitch, painting, and the like. For me, one of my non-writing ways of being creative is quilting. And though on the surface, writing and quilting might seem quite different, actually, there are a lot of similarities. Here are just a few of the parallels I’ve considered.

In the foreground, a 1918 Red Cross signature quilt that inspired
the book I'm giving away. In the background, the Signature Quilt
containing all the World War 1 veterans of Dodge County, MN that
I made and donated to the Dodge County Museum. 


Walking into the Quilt Shop is Like Starting a Story:

When you first walk into a quilt shop, you’re assaulted with color and images and possibilities. There are so many decisions you could make, so many patterns you could choose, so many fabrics. Miles of bolts of fabric, stacks of pattern books, and the samples! Oh, the samples! Everywhere the eye turns, there are ideas and notions and projects.

It’s much the same when you set out to write a story. Everything is available. Everything is possible. There are so many decisions to make. Genre, setting, time period, characters, theme, black moment, subplots, and so much more. It can be almost paralyzing. And yet exhilarating, too. Sometimes you wonder if your skill set is up to the task of what you’re trying to create. The project can seem too big for your abilities, and you wonder if you can do justice to it.

And yet, it’s exciting, loaded with adventure. It’s one of my favorite parts of both writing and quilting, the pre-planning stage where everything is fresh and new and explorable. Where you’re putting fabric side-by-side, testing colors and patterns. Where you’re fitting characters together, dropping them into scenes, putting them under pressure to see what is revealed.

A quilt shop I went to this month. It was
VAST! They boasted more than 1600 bolts
of fabric. The quilt in the center is my next
project, called Antelope Canyon


Expressing Your Unique Creativity:

Just like in writing fiction, quilting is an opportunity to express your creativity in a way that only you can. If you gave the same quilt pattern to a dozen quilters, they would each put their own spin on the project, choosing their own fabrics, and manipulating the pattern to make their own creation. The use of color and shape and texture, the prints or plaids or hues of the fabric, the stitching, and so much more make each quilt unique. You might not even know at first that they were all based upon the same quilt blocks because they would be so different.

Sometimes people say they don’t like romance because it’s so ‘formulaic.’ Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again…happily ever after. They’re all the same. Or cozy mystery, because the pattern of clue, clue, red herring, clue is often the same.

But that’s too simplistic. The ‘formula’ may be the pattern or template from which you start, but the expression, the creation, the use of character and so much more make each story singular. Each author brings her unique voice, viewpoint, emotions and skill to her writing. 

This is my most recent completion. It's a quilt made from baby clothes. A friend
asked if I could make a quilt from baby clothes, gave me a
photo of a quilt she liked and away we went! 


The Right Tools Make All The Difference:

One of the cool things about quilting is there are so many great tools and gadgets that make the job easier. Rotary cutters, rulers, binding tools, seam rippers, clips, thread racks, irons, bias tape, fusible interfacing, and so much more. Each tool has a specific intended use, and each tool is designed to make quilting user-friendly, easy, and fun.

Writers have tools for their toolbox, too. Point of view, metaphor, theme, pacing, plot twists, and more. There are also more quantifiable tools like Scrivner, One Note, laptops, sticky notes, and nice-writing ink pens. Having the tools you need, having mastered their use, will make writing fiction both easier, and more fun. Just like in quilting, learning to use a writer’s tools takes time and practice. My first quilts were simple, straightforward, uncomplicated. Mostly because I didn’t have or know how to use all the tools. My first stories were that way too. I wasn’t adept at subtext or visceral reactions or the selective use of power words. But as time has gone on, as I have written more, tried more things, and exercised those tool 'muscles' I've become better at creating depth to my writing.

The beautiful thing about quilting and writing is that you can always become more skilled at both!

My adorable sister-in-law helping me with the baby clothes quilt. The background
is my sewing room, which is filled with tools for the job of making quilts!


Personal Touches Breathe Life Into The Project:

When quilting, small embellishments and unique twists draw the eye and give pleasure to the viewer. Using the quilt stitches to create texture and the sense of movement, juxtaposing fabrics to make a pattern pop, considering scale to make an impact. All those things breathe life into a quilt.

When writing, using detail, figurative language, unique vocabulary, creative settings, plot twists, and subtext add those touches only you can that draw readers in and gives them an emotional experience that is memorable.

Quilters use their creativity and voice to make works of art that will hopefully be cherished through generations. Writers use their creativity and voice to make works of art to bring pleasure to every reader who picks up their stories.

There’s a saying in quilting. “If you haven’t bled on it, it’s not a handmade quilt.” Pin and needle pricks are a way of life, and a small drop of blood or two on a quilt means someone has personally labored over the stitches.

Much like quilting, in writing, if you haven’t bled on it, it’s not ready to go. You need to personally labor over your work, bleed a little onto the page, shed some tears if you need to. Put yourself onto the page through your vision, skill, viewpoint, and emotion. That effort and transparency will show, and your readers will be grateful!

My friend and her children with the finished quilt. Personal embellishments abound.
We embroidered her kids' names and birthdays as well as her wedding date on the
quilt, and her and her husband's initials in the heart on the tree. Interspersed with the
leaves are buttons of different shapes and textures. We kept some features of the
baby clothes, like pockets or snaps or words intact, which was fun!


As a giveaway today, I’m digging into the vault for one of my books published a few years ago. Leave a comment and tell me about your hobbies…or a hobby you’d like to try, and you’ll be entered to win! PS, this is the book that was inspired by the Red Cross Signature quilt above!

As Harvey Girl Meghan Thorson waits on doughboys at the El Garces Hotel in Needles, California, she meets Caleb McBride, a local horse breeder whom the townsfolk have branded a coward and profiteer. Will threads of love unite this couple, or will pride keep them forever apart?








112 comments:

  1. I am in love with this analogy. It's so perfect, the hours of labor, the layering, the carefully removed stitches and then the new pieces, seamlessly applied.

    First, I love quilts. I love the look and feel of them. There's something intrinsically special about that personal touch and investment.

    Thank you for this, Erica, and for the glimpse into the creations of those beautiful tree of life quilts and the Red Cross signature quilt.

    OH MY STARS... so absolutely beautiful.

    Thank you for being you.

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    1. Good morning, Ruthy! I loe the quilting process, just like the writing process. I love the creative outlet, and when I'm frustrated or blocked with writing, heading to the sewing room and making something often unsticks my writer brain. :)

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  2. Good morning, Erica! What beautiful work you've done!

    I've only made ONE full-size quilt, but can totally relate to the quilting analogy and writing. So many similarities--and I love that when both a quilt and a book are completed they can be shared with others for their enjoyment.

    How did you get started quilting? What a great outlet when you need a break from the writing!

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    1. Glynna, it's funny. My mother is a master seamstress, and she was an avid quilter when I was growing up, but I never learned to sew until a few years ago. A fellow-homeschooler and I swapped some teaching duties...I taught her girls to write research papers, and she taught my daughter to sew/quilt. I sat in on the sewing lessons and learned a ton! Then I started sewing my own projects and it took off from there. :)

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    2. That's so neat, Erica! And love that you'd incorporated quilting into one of your books.

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  3. Erica,

    At this point in my life, I enjoy crocheting because it is something that is easily taken up or put down at a moments notice. It is also easily taken with me in the car or to a doctor's appointment.

    I would love to quilt, but I don't have the time to concentrate on it or the space to work on it....maybe after the kids are all grown. We'll see. With one grandbaby and 3 more on the way this year, I'm not sure when life will slow down. Thomas would really love it if I made a quilt for him....maybe that will be my motivation to start!

    Vera

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    1. Vera! Congrats on your many blessings. Four grandbabies? Bliss!

      I enjoy crocheting, too. I mostly make baby blankets for our local crisis pregnancy center. Someday, I'd like to learn to knit, but not right now...too much going on!

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  4. Erica, a thoughtful analogy and so true. as in writing, the pieces have to fit perfectly. And at least in my case, you really don't want to look at the back.
    Had a good weekend, spoke at a writers' workshop Saturday and was especially eloquent on What Not To Do. Which brings me back to Erica's post. If people knew what went into a novel, fewer would say "I thought I'd write a book someday." And the other ones would learn pretty fast. But it's worth it.
    Please enter me in the drawing, I love World War I and have written two books of a three-book series immediately following the war.
    Back later,
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Hi, Kathy! Congrats on speaking this weekend to writers.

      I'm not sure why, but when people see a finished quilt or a knitted sweater or a painting, they are more cognizant of the work and time that went into creating it, but when they look at a novel, they don't seem to make that connection.

      Perhaps it's because most people can read, and therefore they feel as if they must be able to write a novel. Or maybe it's the power of story. People are drawn to story, and they want to create their own.

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  5. I'm with you, Vera, crocheting is my go-to. I've always admired quilters, but know that I don't have the patience. My 92-year-old grandmother still hand stitches quilt tops for people. She doesn't like to piece them together, but the attention that she gives to the stitching is unbelievable. It's a great analogy to building a story. Great post, Erica.

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    1. Hi, Glynis! Go your grandma! I love that she hand-stitches quilt tops. I hope you have some of her work to treasure. She must have amazing stories to tell.

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    2. One of my most prized possessions is a quilt that my mom's mom embroidered the blocks for and my dad's mom hand-quilted. It is beautiful and so precious to me.

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  6. Oh, I love this post! My mom used to quilt and I got to help her on a few. I love the creativity involved, as well as the commaraderie of quilting together. The same is true in writing. We need others for encouragement and to help us grow.

    Your work is beautiful! And your book looks fabulous!

    Sherrinda

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    1. Hey, Sherrinda! You're so right. Quilting was a great way to build community among women, and it still is! Writing is the same. I can't believe the blessing that the writing community has been to me, helping me, encouraging me, and teaching me. :)

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  7. First of all I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question that I'd like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your
    thoughts before writing. I've had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there.
    I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the
    first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how
    to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Many thanks!

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  8. Beautiful quilts. I like to read and bake. Carol

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi, Carol, thank you! Reading and baking are sublime! I wish I was a better cook...but not enough to practice like I should... :) Though I do love to watch cooking shows.

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  9. Erica, I LOVE your quilts!!!

    It's been years since I've made a quilt. I'm kind of impatient which doesn't bode well to finishing one. I've learned I have a better success rate w/wall-size quilts.

    Love the analogy!

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    1. Connie, I always me to do a wall quilt or lap quilt, and the project just...grows! LOL

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  10. Why did I have to give away my kid's baby clothes? The family quilt tells such a cool story!

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    1. It was super-fun to work on. My friend found a picture of a quilt she liked, and I thought it was kinda brilliant, the family tree notion. We made several adaptations, but I think it turned out pretty okay!

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  11. This is such a great analogy! I have made several t-shirt quilts but they are not as pretty as yours. What a talent you have! Or should I say talents? I also love your books. Thank you for a great post, Erica

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    1. Hi, Cindy! I am looking forward to making a t-shirt quilt for my dad. He loves to get t-shirts when he's on vacation, to remember all the places he's been. Some are getting worn out, so I want to preserve them for him in a quilt. I need to conspire with my mom to get the shirts to me though! :)

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  12. ERICA! Oh, my goodness. You are one talented lady. I love quilts and have a great appreciation for what it takes to make them. That said, I doubt I will ever try to make one myself. But gracious, you do some beautiful work.

    That said, your analogy between writing and quilting is spot on. I loved what you said, "Much like quilting, in writing, if you haven’t bled on it, it’s not ready to go. You need to personally labor over your work, bleed a little onto the page, shed some tears if you need to. Put yourself onto the page through your vision, skill, viewpoint, and emotion. That effort and transparency will show, and your readers will be grateful!"

    If we don't bleed or feel our characters' pain, our readers won't either. And isn't that the goal? To have the reader feel whatever it is our character is going through?

    Excellent post, my friend. Love it.

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    1. Thanks so much, Mindy! :) And yep, getting the reader to feel what the character feels is the goal! :)

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  13. Your quilts, just like your writing, are unique and beautiful. ❤️ There are so many parallels we can make with writing and life. I enjoyed seeing this parallel today. It made me think about the story I’m working on and how I can make it one-of-a-kind by adding a few personal touches.

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    1. :) I can't wait to see what happens with your latest project!

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  14. One of my hobbies is painting ceramic pieces. Only quilts I made were girls special shirts throughout school turned into quilts. Jane jrs0350@yahoo.com

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    1. Hi, Jane, My grandmother was a ceramics/pottery painter at a kiln in East Liverpool, OH for years, and her grandson, my cousin is a painter there now. I so admire that ability. I cannot paint/draw at all!

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  15. What a fun post, Erica! Why am I NOT surprised that you quilt? You are truly amazing.

    I thought about taking up quilting after hubs and I married, but I never did it. I did learn how to make wreaths, swags, and loopy bows though. :) Then I took up stamping and scrapbooking. When I have time (which isn't often) I still love to scrapbook and make cards.

    What you said about bleeding on quilts and in our stories reminded me of the saying about cutting yourself open and bleeding onto the page. We leave glimpses of ourselves in our stories (and quilts), yes?

    Your quilts are beautiful. :)

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    1. Hey, Jeanne! It's not too late to take up quilting! ;)

      I scrapbook, but only to record my writing journey. Each new book gets a page. :)

      We DO leave glimpses of ourselves in our stories (and our quilts and scrapbook pages and other creative pursuits) and that's what makes our work unique from all others.

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  16. Great comparison, Erica! I'm not experienced on the writing end but I have dabbled in a bit of quilting!

    Silly me, I started a tradition of making a small quilt for each of my nieces and nephews and now I'm a little burned out (my sister and BIL give me a new one every year and a half) before I ever got around to making quilts for my own children!

    I'm mostly a self-taught novice... the only hand stitching I do is one side of the binding and a friend takes care of the quilting portion with her big long arm quilter thing but I am pretty proud of the quilted stockings I made all by myself 😊

    Maybe I should dust off my Singer for those days when I can't swoof!

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    1. P.S. I also saved a tote of baby clothes for a quilt! I originally planned on making one for each kid but now I think I'll make one for myself!

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    2. Beth, I envy you having a friend who does long-arm quilting!

      Dust off that Singer! Make that baby clothes quilt for yourself. I will tell you, I used a lot of fusible interfacing for the tree quilt...double-sided for the leaves and tree and single-sided for the border. With so many fabrics of so many different weights and stretch, I went with an interfacing to even things up.

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  17. ERICA, I love this post! You do such beautiful work!

    Blessings!

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  18. Erica-
    This is such a helpful metaphor in so many ways! Especially when it comes to edits. I'm in the middle of writing my 4th book for Love Inspired Suspense and boy is there still a lot to learn AFTER you finally get published :) If I didn't have a way to visualize the different elements of my story, edits would be much more difficult. So yeah, seeing it all like a quilt is very helpful.

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    1. Jenna, congrats on book FOUR! You're rocking it!

      I remember the first time someone equated writing a novel with building a jigsaw puzzle. The Genre and publisher's guidelines were the border pieces, and the rest was up to me!

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  19. Hi Erica!

    I've been looking forward to reading this post since I saw the title in the Weekend Edition on Saturday!

    Quilting used to be my go-to craft. Back - - way back - - in the '70's, I was a quilter. I'd invite my high school friends over for quilting bees on Saturday afternoons, and we made some great memories. :-)

    But then other things crowded into my life (marriage, children, moving, homeschooling), my fabric stash dwindled and (worst of all!) my quilting frame didn't make it through one of the moves.

    I always thought I'd get back to quilting once I graduated from being a homeschool mom, but then this writing thing took over...

    And then last year SOMEONE!!! (Erica!) introduced me to the uber-cross stitching at Heaven and Earth Designs! (At least, that's what I call it!) Throw in a couple new in-laws who needed Christmas stockings, and the hours I allot to crafting are filled up!

    Someday, though... Someday I'll get back to quilting!

    And your analogy is perfect. I'm in the "walking into the quilt shop" stage of a new writing project. Sometimes I think it's too big for me to do it justice, but other times I can see it laid out so clearly! I'll keep the quilt analogy in mind whenever I feel overwhelmed with it. :-)

    Looking forward to reading your book! I love the word play in the title.

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    1. Jan! Isn't Heaven and Earth Designs the ultimate black hole of project surfing and dreaming? I need to get back to my own uber-project! It's getting so big though, I can hardly stitch in hand anymore, and I've never been a fan of working on a frame. Might have to try a hoop. :(

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  20. Hello Erica,

    What a delightful post! And your quilts are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your beautiful work. I love your books too!

    Once, a LONG time ago, I tried quilting. Mostly pillows. But then my sister-in-law and I decided to give my parents a quilt for their 40th anniversary. We sent muslin squares to their friends invited to the celebration and ask them to create a memory and send it back. We finally received all the pieces just in time to sew them together with borders, but we had no time to get a backing or have it quilted...LOL We presented it as a symbol of life..." a journey of ongoing love." Everyone enjoyed it so much and my mother still has it on her bed!

    I quit quilting shortly after that! Haha...but oh, the fabric! I'm still tempted just to buy the material! It can become an addiction!

    Thanks again for sharing your two loves!

    Have a joyful Monday!

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    1. LOL, I posted something on my FB page recently, Kathryn, that said "I have come to the conclusion that buying craft supplies and actually using those craft supplies are two separate addictions." LOL Isn't it true? I LOVE fabric. And stickers, and paper, and yarn, and stamps, and fleece, and and and! :)

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  21. Erica, what a great post! You said: "There’s a saying in quilting. “If you haven’t bled on it, it’s not a handmade quilt.” Pin and needle pricks are a way of life, and a small drop of blood or two on a quilt means someone has personally labored over the stitches." I absolutely loved this because writing is soooo much like that! The excruciating waiting, the writing, re-writing, editing, etc.

    I crochet, scrapbook and make cards but not nearly as much as I'd like to. Quilting is an amazing skill! I wish I could do it.

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    1. That is amazing how similar that quote is to what we say about writing: "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." Or something like that. Excruciating is a good word for writing a novel. LOL! :-)

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    2. Sharee and Melanie, excruciating just about describes it. Like any passion, if we could stop doing it and still have joy, we would! :)

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  22. Can I just say, I am so impressed that you make quilts, Erica!!! I can't imagine how much time that takes. Actually, I can imagine. As a little girl, I started a quilt, but I soon gave it up. Too time consuming, and I'd rather be out climbing trees and building forts with my brother, and playing with my dogs and cats! Also, I'm just not good at sewing. It makes me nervous and frustrated. LOL! But I love quilts. They're so beautiful and comforting and homey.
    Thanks for this fun and creative look at writing, Erica.

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    1. Melanie, I think the reason I didn't start sewing for such a long time was that I was both afraid of my machine, and afraid I would do something wrong.

      My sewing mantra is a riff off a Bible verse: That which you sew, you shall also rip.

      Kinda like That which you write, you shall also delete/edit.

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    2. That's hilarious, Erica! And I love that: That which you write, you shall also delete/edit.
      So, so true! I need to add that to my writerly quotes list I started years ago!

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  23. I have a few hobbies. Photography is one. Then last year I decided to learn to watercolor. I really didn't think I could do it,b but was amazed. I find it relaxing. Of course reading is also a hobby.

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    1. Wilani, I envy you! Watercolors are so challenging! I tried it in high school, and all my 'washes' turned out to be mocha puddles in the middle of my paper. Way too much water in my water colors! :)

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  24. I have always wanted to learn how to quilt!! Knitting and sewing didn't turn out so well though, so maybe I should stay away from needlecrafts (except for cross stitch. I can handle that much)

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    1. Carrie, I think we need to plan for you to visit me and we'll have some quilting lessons, and Jan and I can get you addicted to Heaven and Earth Designs cross-stitch. :) And we can talk books, books, books!!!

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  25. Your quilts are beautiful, Erica. I am really in awe of that kind of talent because I do not have it. I never learned to crochet or knit or anything. I did sew in the past, but I gave it up a long time ago. I don't really have any other creative hobbies. I'm trying to do more with household organization. Maybe that is as close to a hobby as I will have!

    Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. Sandy, can you come and organize my house? I'd be a willing victim! :)

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  26. Erica, you're so talented. Your quilts are beautiful. I've quilted, but only small projects. I used to crochet and knit. Not sure I have a hobby now. :) There never seems to be enough time in the day.

    I have a number of old quilts I treasure from family members. Also, the ladies in my husband's unit in Germany made a farewell quilt for me when we transferred back to the US. Each square features a trip we took in Europe or a special event that occurred there. It's a treasure, for sure!

    As for writing, I try to build a framework, a rough draft, upon which I can hang the story. The blood sometimes comes when I'm working on that frame, but once it's completed, the story progresses quickly.

    I just finished the proposal for a new Amish suspense and emailed it to my editor before reading your blog post. You beautiful quilts dovetailed with the quilts in my story...perhaps segued would be a better term to use. I'll search for needle and thread and a few quilt pieces. It might be time to start quilting again. :)

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    1. Debby, what a lovely gift from your time in Germany! I love heirloom and memory quilts! I have one from my husband's family that I treasure, made from their clothing scraps from the 1930s.

      And yes, get out your needle and thread! Quilting is good for the writer's soul!

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  27. I loved your post AND the photos of your amazing quilts, Erica. WOW!! Such talent! :) Just curious...do your lovely long fingernails get in the way when you're quilting? (*wink* You remember how I admired your nails, LOL)

    I've never attempted quilting but would love to give it a try someday. I do enjoy my needlepoint and playing my piano (although one of my cats isn't real fond of my playing!). ;)
    This isn't really a hobby, but I also enjoy making large paper banners for family members whenever there's a birthday, graduation, etc. - - as I trace and cut out letters, designs, etc. my mind can be working on the next scene in my WIP.

    Thanks for sharing, and happy quilting! :)
    Hugs, Patti Jo

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    1. :) I manage the nails and the quilting...though I don't have long red nails all the time. :D

      Making paper banners is a lovely hobby and gift for your family!

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  28. Love this, Erica! Beautiful quilts, and beautiful words - so much talent. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hi, Laura! Thank you! I love talking books and quilting!

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  29. Erica, I love your quilt made from baby clothes! That is such a beautiful treasure! I'd love to learn to quilt but my current hobbies are gardening and photography.

    Thank you for your great post and drawing! Please do enter me in your drawing.

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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    1. Hi, Phyllis, you share hobbies with my husband. He enjoys his garden and his photography, too! I get lots of pictures of flowers. :)

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  30. As someone who can barely sew a button, I'm so impressed, Erica. Your quilts are so beautiful! When I was younger, my grandmother tried to teach me how to crochet...I just never had the patience.
    Great post today! I love the analogy.

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    1. Hi, Jill,

      I didn't like to sew until I was grown up. I, too, didn't have the patience for handwork for a long time.

      I don't like sewing on buttons too much, though. Unless it's for a quilt. :)

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    1. Hi, Kim,

      Those are so neat. I remember doing them when I was younger, and I loved them!

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  32. I think I was a quilter in a different life... on the prairie... and I think I dreamed of writing books but there were no computers.

    We are such a mix of old and new and past and present moving toward the future... I love planning out a new book/series, but I don't sit and plan... I begin and move forward, then go back and delete and change. So I can't do that with a quilt, that wouldn't make sense, but I love the plan of quilting... the few quilts I made long ago (before extra jobs and books) I planned and plotted on paper so that every cut was perfect.

    But it's not easy to erase quilt errors, so I felt like I had to do it that way. With the stories, I know I can go back and revise/edit/change. So maybe I feel more free with this expression...

    Well that, and they pay me.

    ;)

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    1. I use the pencil and paper plotting method with quilts, too. Otherwise, I can't remember the decisions I've made, or what I meant when I chose one fabric over another...I call it my Teflon-colander syndrome...what doesn't slide off slips through the holes... :D

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  33. I've always had a very antagonistic relationship with sewing. All that 'straight seam' madness. I just never quite was up to that. You are my hero, Erica!!!

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    1. LOL, I was afraid to sew for a long time. I was afraid of my machine, afraid of messing up, afraid of not doing it well enough.

      Now I don't care. I realized there was no "Sewing Police" who would come confiscate my machine.

      I sew the way I want.

      Such a rebel...

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    2. If there WERE sewing police, I would turn myself in!

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  34. My Grandmother Quilted, Sewed, Tatted & did embroidery. I'm the youngest in the family & the only one that followed in her footsteps. She helped me make my first quilt for my baby doll on a toy sewing machine when I was 5. I also use to take my brothers tube socks & cut the tops off to make my Barbie some new dresses (until I got in trouble for that). The only thing that I never completely learned from Grandma, was tatting. Her hands would go so fast & when she tried to slow down so I could learn, she'd get knots in her thread. Sadly she died of ovarian cancer 2 months before my wedding in 1979. I inherited all of her fabric & her prized tatting shuttle. I love the "family quilt" made out of baby clothes - what a great idea - my to do pile just grew again!

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    1. Awe, I love the image of your Grandmother teaching you to sew on a little machine...and the image of you cutting up socks for your Barbies!

      I am fascinated watching tatting, and I'd love to give it a go, but I don't know anyone who does it anymore to teach me!

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  35. I've never quilted before though I do cross stitch off and on. I've never gotten very far, still on the first project, but every couple of years I'll pick it up and add a whole row of stitches. My true passion (besides reading, writing, and chocolate) is coloring. I love to color. I wish I could draw but I. Just. Can't. Trust me, I've tried. But those quilts look fantastic! Please enter my name into the drawing.

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    1. Nicki, isn't the rise of adult coloring books fun? I love them!

      I need to get back to my cross-stitch...maybe after March Madness! :)

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    2. It's the best, because I like my coloring pages to be more difficult. It's kind of a stress reliever to focus solely on the shading and the filling in on the details- it doesn't give my mind the opportunity to think of anything else :)

      I haven't cross-stitched in over a year I need to get back at it. One day I will finally be able to show my grandmother that I finished the pattern she gave me... someday.

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    3. Every stitch helps. It's all progress. Just like writing a book, you can't write the whole thing in a day or even a week, but every word, sentence, paragraph, scene, or chapter is progress! :)

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  36. Oh, Erica, this is beautiful! It all makes so much sense, and the baby quilt!

    LOVE!!

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    1. Pam the quilt turned out even better than I thought...which sometimes happens with my writing, too! :)

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  37. This is a beautiful analogy. I love to quilt, too, and am pretty sure all my quilts are bled on. I also crochet, sew, paint, and dabble in several other hobbies, which means I am never bored ... or rich! Ha!

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    1. LOL, never bored, or rich? LOLOL That's great! My husband would agree, Amy!

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  38. Erica, I've been out all day. Just now got a chance to read your wonderful post! I agree about how similar writing and quilting are! (although I've never done much quilting).

    You said: "It’s one of my favorite parts of both writing and quilting, the pre-planning stage where everything is fresh and new and explorable."

    And I say YES! I love that about storytelling. :)

    I just LOVE that wonderful baby clothes quilt! What a special keepsake!

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    1. Hey, Missy! I love the early stages of a story idea or quilt idea, where it's all so pristine in my mind...before I start poking and prodding it too much. :)

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    2. Erica, I thought "explorable" was a great choice of words. I love all that possibility! Of course, it can be crippling when I can't seem to make any decisions. LOL

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  39. I was especially interested in seeing your quilt as I'm currently making one myself. It features the some of the favourite clothes our boys wore when they were young. I used to do cross-stitch and crewel embroidery but haven't done that for a long time. I'd like to get back to it someday. I also enjoy photography. If reading counted as a hobby that would be my number one choice! Thank you for all you do. Blessings.

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    1. Kathy, reading totally counts as a hobby! :) I love that a skill acquired is never lost. I hope you get a chance to get back to your cross-stitch and embroidery sometime, and in the meantime, enjoy the quilting!

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  40. Erica, I certainly never thought of writing...or in my case anything else in life....like a quilt! But I can see how it can be pertinent to other things too. What a wonderful way to think :-)

    Hobbies...other than reading, I can't really name much of a hobby for me. I used to take pictures, but now that my kids and even my grand-girl is getting older, I don't snap up pictures as often as I used to. And when I do, it's mostly of scenery...lol! Oftentimes, when I come back from a vacation I scroll through my camera to see hundreds (ok I'm exaggerating just a bit) of scenery pictures and not enough of my husband & I. Every time I resolve to take more people ones, and usually end up not...lol!

    I would love to win your book A Bride Sews with Love, thanks for tossing my name in the hat. By the way, I love seeing te quilt projects you sometimes post on Facebook :-)

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    1. Trixi! I have the same problem with vacation photos! I tend to take pictures of interesting museum/history things, along with the signage, and when I get home, I realize there are no pics of any of the people I was with...history geek faux pas! :)

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  41. I have never tried quilting. I would love to be more proficient at crochet.

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    1. Mary, there are some excellent videos on youtube to teach crochet and quilting techniques. Youtube has become my go-to when I get stumped on a project! :)

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  42. Hi writing in France and enjoying your post... Thanks for sharing ! Cross-stiching would be my own treat out of the writing process. Have a nice day.

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    1. Hey, greetings to you! I love to cross-stitch. Have you perused Heaven and Earth Designs? I've gotten fellow Seeker Jan Drexler hooked on them, and I'm working on one of their designs right now!

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  43. Hello! I have tried quilting, cross-stitch and crochet, and while I love seeing the completed work, I'm afraid I don't have the patience to stay with it long. I did make my first son a baby quilt while on bedrest--because I couldn't do anything else. :)
    I guess my hobby of choice is cooking--trying new recipes! I love mixing different flavors and making it look pretty on the plate.
    Thank you for the book giveaway opportunity--would love to win!

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    1. Holly, I will quilt, cross-stitch, and crochet for you if you will cook for me! I am a woeful cook!

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  44. Erica, your quilts are spectacular! I made a couple of quilts several years ago, but mine were meager attempts compared to your masterpieces!I've explored many creative avenues from photography (developing my own film/pics in a darkroom), scrapbooking, sewing, crochet, etc. I'd really like to take a drawing or painting class. Thanks for sharing today!

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  45. My main hobby is reading. I do love to cross stitch though. I am also in the process of learning how to crochet. I would love to attempt to sew a quilt. Perhaps one day I will!.

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    1. Joy, give quilting a try! I just love it!

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  46. Reading and reviewing, of course! Though I have been researching Faith Ringgold for a presentation at one of my children’s schools and learned quite a bit about quilting and using quilting as an art form. Would love to try it one day :)

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    1. MJSH, thank you for reading and reviewing books! Authors LOVE reviewers! :)

      Quilts are a lovely art form, aren't they? Folk art, fabric art, modern art...like time capsules!

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  47. Erica that is a wonderful story about the quilt you made for your friend! Talk about a treasure and an heirloom-to-be. A close friend of mine sews wonderful quilts -- I am in awe of everything from her color eye to her ability to mix patterns. She recently finished a quilt using 1860's reproduction fabrics that will be raffled to raise money for restoration of a nearby fort. I wish my stories came together as beautifully as her quilts! :-)

    Thanks so much for sharing the photos -- they're smile-worthy.

    Nancy C (Chill N)

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    1. Ah, I love Civil War Repro fabrics! They're my favorite! I'm curious as to which fort is getting restored! :)

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  48. Beautiful quilt, Erica. Now I wish my daughter had saved some of her baby clothes. We could've made a similar quilt! I like to sew quilt tops now. I used to make clothes. I used to do a ton of cross stitching too but have kind of slacked off on that these last few years. I dabble in knitting, simple projects altho I have made a few sweaters over the years and would love to tackle socks. Thanks for sharing about writing and quilting.

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    1. Anne, you do so many crafts! Good for you! I'm currently wearing a pair of socks that my mom made on a sock-knitting machine! She knits socks on four needles most of the time, but this time she tried a knitting machine. They're comfy and warm!

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  49. Well, I HAD commented yesterday and today I cannot find it anywhere. This silly (bad) computer has done that a few times recently. I'm highly suspicious of it now. UGH. Anyways, I had said I don't have a creative side! I wish I did. LOL. After homeschooling and reading I don't really have time to do anything anyways, so it all works out. ;)

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    1. Susan, as a retired homeschool mom, I can vouch for your creativity. It's a challenging role!

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  50. Hey, Erica, I LOVE how you tied this blog in with your new book -- VERY clever and VERY interesting!

    I especially like the statement, "Personal Touches Breathe Life Into The Project."

    As an author, I couldn't agree more, not only because I reallllly love doing this, but because I think it really brings an authenticity to the book through real emotions the readers can feel just like the author did. :)

    Great post as always!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Hey, lady! :) Sometimes it's the personal touches that help keep me going in the hard slog! Looking forward to being able to embellish and bedazzle in the final edit. :)

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  51. Thanks for this great analogy. I admire your writing and I admire that you are a quilter. Making at least one quilt is one of my goals. I loved seeing the Red Cross Signature Quilt and learning that it inspired A Bride Sews with Love.
    Blessings!

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    1. Thank you, Connie! That Red Cross Quilt was a project of a lifetime. Knowing that it lives now at the Dodge County museum for people to visit gives me much joy!

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  52. Erica, thank you for the beautiful post!!! And beautiful quilts - they are amazing!
    Blessings!

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