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BACCA Writers

Putting the pieces together

Putting together the pieces of a story has many of the same elements as putting together the pieces of a quilt. 

My sister is an excellent quilter.  She knows everything about quilting, from presser foots* to Prairie points**. In her sewing room are drawers of needles and sewing machine equipment, organizers full of measuring rulers of every shape and size (straight, triangle, curved), and bookcases of quilting books and magazines.

And fabric. 

Lots and lots of fabric. She has fabric with tight patterns of flora and fauna. She has fabric with large panels of complete images. Majestic mountains, smiling sunrises, slumbering moonbeams. She has fabric in every imaginable color and hue.  Go to her “green” drawer and she can find anything she might need to add a touch of nature to a quilt.  Shamrocks, leaves, frogs.  The same with her yellow, red, and blue drawers.  She and I often visit fabric stores to add to her collection. Cottonwood in Charlottesville is my favorite fabric store. She’s partial to Patchwork Plus in Dayton.

My sister’s first quilt. She has a tremendous eye for color, theme, and pattern. Photo by Carolyn O’Neal

Recently, she’s begun teaching me how to quilt. 

She began by giving me a task that made me comfortable with the tools of quilting.  The sewing machine, the iron, and the rotary cutter (a sharp, round blade attached to a handle, looks like a pizza cutter).  

My first attempt at cutting and sewing. Nothing quite lines up, does it? Much room for improvement but I had a good time making it! Photo by Carolyn O’Neal

Putting together the pieces of a story isn’t very different from putting together the pieces of a quilt.  The best way to start is with a strong and thoughtful mentor.  I began my work as a serious writer by taking a Creative Writing Class at Writer House in Charlottesville. My teacher was David Ronka. Like my sister, he was both patient and instructive.

After you find your mentor, gather your tools and build up a supply of the bits and pieces to create your story. Characters, setting, plot. Beginning, middle, and end. The basic framework and the personal touches. You’re not going to use all the bits and pieces. Some will be thrown out. Some bits will be tucked away for a later project. Patience, creativity, and love. 

Especially love.

Just like with quilting, if you don’t love the project you are working on, if it doesn’t give you both satisfaction and challenge, you’ll give up before it’s finished. Find the love.

During the Covid19 lockdown, my sister sewed every day. She designed and sewed this quilt she entitled “Out of the Darkness”. The quilt represents America’s struggle after the January 6th insurrection. She is on the right. I’m on the left. I’m very proud of her. Photo by Carolyn O’Neal.

Definitions:

* presser foots: The removable sewing machine accessory that holds fabric in place against the machine bed and accommodates the needle. A variety of presser feet styles are available for most machines.

** Prairie points: Folded fabric triangles used as a quilt border or embellishment.

By Carolyn O'Neal

Researching history of earthquake fault under the North Anna Nuclear Power Station in Louisa County and the people most affected by it, including Professor John W. Funkhouser, H. Spurgeon Moss, and June Allen. Please leave message on https://baccaliterary.com/carolyn-oneal/ if you have any information on this topic or these people. Thank you very much.

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