Polishing Edits

Dear Vi,

It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned the manuscript. Were you wondering what’s up with it?

Well, at the end of February I sent it out to a few friends who volunteered to be beta readers. These are people who give the novel a test run and report back with any problems they find.

While they were reading, I put the manuscript away and moved on to other things. At the time, I felt so done with it, I really didn’t care if I never looked at it again. But time passed and comments started trickling in.

Their enthusiasm was so contagious that I felt ready to pull it out again and tackle the polishing.

I printed out the novel and have just finished reading it from start to finish with the handy red pen that my writing partner Holly sent. And because I literally haven’t looked at it for about six weeks, my eyes are fresh, which allowed me to catch a few things I hadn’t been able to see when I was deep in the throes of creation.

Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve actually read it as a “real” book.  Just between me and you, Vi, it was an incredible experience. I felt…in serious awe of myself. I wrote a book! And it’s damned good!

(oh, boy, you’ve no idea how hard it was to say that, having grown up in a serious never-toot-thine-own-horn culture)

Now it’s time for me to get to work reading and analyzing what my test readers had to say.  Stay tuned because there’s sure to be a blog post or two coming out of the experience. 🙂

Posted in Blog Categories, Writing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Fire!

Dear Vi,

It’s foggy this morning. Outside my window, wisps of fog stream past like smoke from a chimney. Wait… maybe it really is smoke.  I get up to check. Nope, it’s fog. Relieved, I take another sip of coffee. And then I burst into tears.

A couple of months ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of sirens.  The urgent wail came closer, then faded as it passed.  I got out of bed and wandered through the house toward the bathroom as one does in the wee hours. But something was wrong. It took my sleep-addled brain a second to figure it out.

The kitchen wall was lit with a strange orange light. And it was flickering. I could hear a distant roaring sound. I turned around and looked out the window.  Less than 100 feet away, the big fir tree on the edge of our yard was engulfed by flame!

My heart stopped for a moment before I realized the trees were not actually on fire. They were backlit by fire. On the street behind us, my backyard-neighbour’s house was a raging inferno. Totally engulfed.

“Fire! Kelly, wake up, there’s a fire!”

I called 9-1-1. They had already received the call. The emergency crew was already on site.  More sirens came screaming in the distance.

Were we in danger? Did we need to leave? We were running on adrenaline, barely breathing. Everything was happening fast and slow at the same time.

Kelly opened the patio doors and stepped outside. I put on a jacket and followed. As soon as the door opened, we could hear the roar of the fire, so loud. It crackled and popped. We could hear the thrumming engine of the water truck, see great arcs of water shooting from the hoses.

We could also see that it wasn’t the house immediately below us. The house engulfed by fire was on the far side of it. Empty, its elderly owner had passed away less than a month previous.

We got dressed and walked down the street to join the huddle of neighbours watching the firefighters. The sky slowly lightened. Dawn came. The fire burned down, was drowned and washed away.

The next day it snowed.

It was as if Mother Nature wanted to cover all the ugly fright with a shroud. Take it away. Make it better.

Except you can’t cover up a fright like that.

Fight or flee? Huddle or bolt?  This is the kind of fear that lives in the depths of your bowel and in the stem of your brain.  It shares a very old room with fear of the dark and of falling from a great height and of unnamed monsters under the bed.

For weeks afterward, I got up two or three or four times every night…every single night to wander the house. Going from room to room, I’d look out all the windows, looking for the tell-tale flickering orange glow.

Several months have passed since that horrible awakening, and I’ve lost the worst of the urgency. I only check for fire once each night, now. I get up to use the bathroom as I have always done. But instead of going directly back to bed, I take a tour of the house, checking out the windows. And I always check before going to bed in the first place.  I can’t help myself. A whiff of smoke sends my heart racing.

A week ago I woke up at 3am with a terrible sense of urgency. I’d dreamed of fire, of course. In my dream, Kelly was shouting. “Fire! There’s Fire!” His voice ringing in my ears, I got up.  I checked all the windows. Nothing. I put my coat on, shoved my bare feet into boots and went outside. Nothing. I walked out the driveway and stood in the middle of the street. Nothing.

The hulk of my backyard-neighbour’s house is still there. Melting snow reveals charred beams, twisted metal, the blackened refrigerator.

And I’m here in my own house, like the rhinoceros racing by instinct to stomp out flames. Even when there aren’t any.

Posted in Blog Categories, Just Write, life, Memories, Philosophy, Writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Slow Sunday Stitching (Vogue 9057 and small handwork)

Dear Vi,

Today it’s snowing again, one of those dreary low-light days where you just want to hibernate and read a good book. You know the kind.

I don’t have anything new or earth-shattering to share, so I’ll just catch you up on what’s going on in the sewing room, okay?

I’ve been feeling the urge to sew a piece of clothing. This piece of clothing in particular:I just can’t decide if I want the two sleeves to match or if I want one sleeve to be different, like in the picture (view D). What do you think? Does one contrasting sleeve scream middle-aged woman trying too hard to be funky?”

But then, I kind of like being a little bit different…

Anyway, stay tuned…in a day or two I just might have something to show you!

I’ve also got a new quilt on the go…a Very Secret Project. But I’ll give you a hint:Isn’t this bowl of roses sweet? It’s a technique called broderie perse, or chintz applique. I wanted to learn something new, so I gave it a try. I found a piece of fabric with a dense rose print, cut out the individual flowers, then used fusible web to rearrange all the flowers and buds into a new design.  I sewed them down with my machine.Very fiddly. But effective, don’t you think?

Another thing I’ve been working on during TV time in the evenings are these little hexi-flowers. English Paper Piecing with 3/4 inch papers.I’m using my smallest Kaffe Fassett scraps. Happy, happy fabric!

Some are being made into bookmarks for eventual gift-giving. That’s about it for me. Today I’m linking up with Slow Sunday Stitching over at Kathy’s house. Pop on over and say hi!

What are you working on these days? Write back and tell me all about it.

Love,

N.

Posted in applique, Crafts, Embroidery, fabric, sewing | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Up at Dawn

Dear Vi,

I woke up early this morning. I tried to go back to sleep, I really did. I arranged my pillow, rearranged my pillow, stuck my foot out, turned over, turned back. You know the routine. Finally, I got up.

It wasn’t really early anymore…not quite six. I turned on the bedside lamp and opened the blind in the bedroom. It was just starting to get light outside: that pearly dawn light. The big fir trees were in silhouette, a bit of a moon peeking out between them.

When I let Sam out, I stood for a moment on the porch and smelled the air, listened to the drip drip drip of melting snow, the train thrumming on its track across the lake. I could see my bedroom window from where I was standing. The light shining through, my bed on the other side of the glass, rumpled sheets and blankets.

I fed Sam, who was dancing around ecstatic at the thought of eating two hours early. Well, why not?

So while the kettle was boiling for tea, I rummaged around in the pantry and pulled out a jar of applesauce that my friends Norrie and Barry made last fall. From apples they picked at Hanna Orchards on Apple Fall day. That’s the day the orchard opens to the public and lets you harvest the windfalls for some ridiculously small amount of money.

When I opened the jar, it made that wonderful seal-breaking thwack sound, and then this aroma of apples rose up like an old memory, except it was real. Oh, my God, wonderful. Delicious.

6:52 am. A new day begun.

Posted in Just Write | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pinwheels for a Baby

Dear Vi,

We’ve all been very excited over the news that Mr. C’s cousin Frank is going to be a grandpa! Well, the baby was due on Valentine’s Day, but she decided to put in her appearance a few days early.

I haven’t gone anywhere near mama or baby yet because I’m still fighting off the after shocks of the flu (sinus infection followed by bronchitis). Some things you just don’t want to share, am I right?

…but I’ve been quietly stitching away in the background in anticipation of the special delivery.

I had so much fun shopping for the fabric. I decided not to use my stash…I wanted something brand new. Don’t you just love these sweet vintage-inspired prints? They go so nicely with the pinwheels, which are themselves a vintage quilt block. In fact, according to one quilt historian, the pieced pinwheel block pattern hails back to 1795, following the invention of the cotton gin!

I put prairie points between the inside & outside borders because babies just love little tags of cloth to explore and fiddle with..

At 35 x 42 inches, it’s perfect for tummy time.

Hand quilted with love for our wee Logan ♥

 

 

Posted in Blog Categories, child, fabric, Gifts, Hand Quilting, Quilting, Quilts | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Two Ingredient Pancakes?

Dear Vi,

Have you seen that recipe making its way around the web…2 Ingredient Egg & Banana “Pancakes”?

Yeah? Well, I decided to give it a try. I like eggs, I like bananas, why not?

All you do is mash up one banana, then add 2 eggs and whisk well. Cook like pancakes.

They look like pancakes…

…but they taste like eggs that you accidentally dumped a cup of icing sugar into. Not so much like banana.

Sugared eggs. That’s the best way I can describe them.

I guess whether or not you’ll like them depends on how sweet your tooth is. Me? not so much.

What do you think?

Bon Appétit!

Posted in Cooking, recipe | Tagged , | 4 Comments

On the couch with tea and hankies

Dear Vi,

I congratulated myself too soon for managing to avoid the miserable colds and flu going around this winter.

 Sigh.

Sadly,I’ve been relegated to the couch to drink gallons of milky black tea and feel sorry for myself.

At least I have furry couch company:  On a happier topic, I was featured on the Curvy Sewing Collective!!! Well, actually it’s my sewing room that’s featured. Check it out here!

On the quilting front, I’ve been thinking that I’d really like to make a quilt to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday this year.

Katherine at Next Steps Quilt Designs is hosting a quilt-along called 150 Canadian Women…150 6″ blocks to accompany the stories of 150 inspiring Canadian women throughout history.

I really, really want to make this quilt. Except I’m also making the 100-block Splendid Sampler. And how many sampler quilts do I really need? And honestly, I’m ready for the Splendid Sampler to be over. Do I really want to start over and make 150 more?

And then I had a brilliant idea. Brilliant!

I will turn my splendid sampler quilt into a quincentennial quilt! All I have to do is make 50 more blocks. I will end up with a totally unique quilt that doesn’t look like any one else’s. 😀

Fabulous, right?

Here are 4 more blocks since I last wrote. I think I’m up to 93. I need to get some more Kaffe Fasset and Rowan fabrics as I’m running out and I want to keep the quilt in that line as much as possible. I did hear about a quilt shop that stocks some about an hour away. A field trip is in my future as soon as I’m feeling better.

Meanwhile, this cold has that “I’m settling in to stay awhile” feeling.

A very boring letter today, I’m afraid … I’m off to make another pot of tea. (cough cough sneeze sniff)

‘Scuse me.

N.

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A Splendid Sampler Update

Dear Vi,

I can’t believe how many letters I’ve written to you in my head. Just about every morning I wake up with an idea for a letter, and then poof! it’s gone. So today I thought I’d just stop trying so hard to remember what it was I wanted to say and show you what I’ve been up to.

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I’ve been talking about writing and knitting so much lately, you probably forgot that I’ve also been working on these crazy little six-inch quilt blocks.

009No kidding, Eh?

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I’ve made 90 so far. Yup. I’m ahead of the game, since only 88 have been published. How is that possible?

008Well, you know how I am, Vi. I like to do things my own way.

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If you’re also doing the Splendid Sampler, you’ll notice that there are blocks in here that aren’t “official,” along with some that I’ve personalized. Maybe they’re not officially splendid sampler, but they’re officially Splendid Nita, lol! 010

And in case you ever wondered just how small my kitchen is, this picture should give you a pretty good indication. I’m standing on the dining room chair to take the picture:003Yesterday I made two more:011That’s it for today. What have you been working on?

Write back soon!
All my love,
N.

Posted in Blog Categories, letters, Quilting, Quilts, sewing, Stitches | Tagged | 6 Comments

Blog Posts: Letters to Vi

Dear Vi,

Blogging has always felt a little bit awkward to me. From the beginning, I’ve wanted to address each post as though it were a letter. But it always felt awkward. A letter to whom? And yet it feels just as strange to open a new page and simply start talking. I’m old-school that way. Letters always begin with a salutation, and in my mind, my blog posts have always been letters.

And then I checked a book out of the library called Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Have you read it? (I’ve read it twice, actually. I’ll probably read it again before too long. I should probably just go buy it.)

In the book, references are made to letters written by one of the characters, addressed simply to ‘V’. We don’t know who the mysterious V is, and it doesn’t really matter. These letters give backstory and insight into the life of Arthur Leander, one of the main characters.

And after that, I stumbled upon a fabulous knitting blog, called Mason Dixon. The authors of this blog write knitterly letters back and forth to each other: Dear Ann, Dear Kay.

There are probably more out there, but you get the idea. It certainly gave me an idea.

I’m going to try an experiment. I’m going to let my heart lead my hands and address these blog posts to a person.

Of course, that begs the question of to whom shall I address? If I pick one family member or friend, will another feel slighted? Or, God forbid, dread that they’ll be targeted next?

So I’ve chosen a person who doesn’t exist. I will name this person Vi.

As in rhymes with pie.

And you can silently substitute your own name, because you’re the one I’m really writing to.

There, doesn’t that feel better?

Until next time – All my love, N.

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Posted in Just Write, letters, Writing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

How many socks could a sock knitter knit?

If you’re a knitter or a crocheter, you’ll be interested in this: Yarn Canada is having a contest. You could win enough sock yarn to knit socks for the rest of your life!

How many socks could a sock knitter knit if a sock knitter could knit socks? Enter and find out! The contest is open in Canada and the United States. The last day to enter is Wednesday, December 8th.

That’s tomorrow!

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Good luck!

Posted in yarn | Tagged | 1 Comment

Knitting a Novel: on and off the needles

Did I tell you that I finished my novel again? This isn’t the first time I’ve finished it, of course. The first finished draft was the equivalent of a scarf knitted up in open lace-work. Silky threads to hold everything together, but full of holes.

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A lace infinity scarf: cast on, enjoyed and cast off to be gifted to someone whose name I can’t say here, lol. I bought this beautiful silky wool at the Itsy Bitsy Yarn Store in Whitehorse.

When it was as ready as I could get it, I sent it out to my two critique groups and examined their comments and reactions for places where the tension was uneven, the weave too loose. Places where I’d dropped stitches, or gotten them twisted.

Then I took the framework and did it up again, weaving in the loose ends, picking up the dropped stitches. In that way, the novel went from lace to garter stitch. Sort of. These are very loose metaphors, you understand.

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Another gift for someone whose name I cannot mention here. 🙂 The pattern is Wheat by Tin Can Knits, knitted in Berroco Vintage Chunky wool that I bought at Knit2Yarns in Kamloops, BC.  It’s actually a lovely heathery dark forest green, though it looks pewter in the photo.

Garter stitch is nice because it has texture. It’s elastic enough so you can push it around a bit and yet firm enough to handle it. Easy to rip out and easy to knit back up again.

Then I sent it back for more critique.

Critique comments can be very interesting. Often times uplifting and exhilarating when the reader gets it and is obviously excited about what they’re reading.

Also interesting is when the reader giving the critique is annoyed because the character is not behaving the way they would behave if they found themselves in a similar situation. I love these types of comments because it means they’ve got the socks on their feet, are trying them out. They’re engaged in the story, and that means I’m doing it right.

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Socks, knit with Fabel superwash from my stash. Another Christmas gift to add to the pile. 🙂

Although there’s always the occasional reader who will try to push this work of speculative women’s fiction into the action-adventure genre, thus frustrating both of us, lol. I try to see these comments as a reflection of reading preference rather than a criticism on writing style, but it does sometimes make it a bit difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, if you don’t mind a cliché.037

So anyway, what I’m doing with the novel right now is like blocking the finished scarf or sweater. Soaking it and laying it out to dry, pinning the edges straight, smoothing out any bumps or wobbles. I’m happy with it. I’m really happy with the ending, even if though I’m still fussing a bit with the final fit. Like putting the sweater on and shrugging my shoulders, seeing how it feels.

And now, are you wondering what’s on my needles at this very moment? Just what is keeping me company every evening as Mr. C and I binge-watch old episodes of 24?

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The Noël shawl. A name appropriate to the season, don’t you think? Also another project whose recipient shall go unnamed.

Lovely lovely lovely. My favourite so far, and my very first shawl. The wool is Hawthorne Fingering, from Knit Picks.

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What’s on your needles?

Posted in Blog Categories, Knitting, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

A Hallowe’en Knitting Nightmare 

…is spending the evening trying to get a hank of wool out of its crazy 8 formation and into a ball I can actually knit with. 

Help!

Posted in Knitting | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments