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!
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!