Writing a novel is the same as any other creative endeavor, whether it’s making a quilt, painting a picture or knitting a sweater. It starts with something that shimmers in your imagination and stays there, refusing to go away. Maybe it’s an image or a song or the snippet of a conversation or a swatch of fabric, but suddenly that thing becomes alive. It begins to generate heat, and to draw other things toward it – other images, colors, people and ideas.
The Threadbare Heart began with the image of a wildfire charging down the tinder dry hills of my hometown of Santa Barbara, California. I kept imagining a woman, a house, and a long list of things she could not save. The more I opened my mind up toward these ideas, the more I pictured this woman having a collection of some kind – something that took up a lot of space, that represented many phases of her life, something that would be impossible to save and crushing to lose.
About this time I read a short article in The Los Angeles Times by NPR reporter Kitty Felde. Cut From the Same Cloth was the story of friendship and fabric, and how the two were intertwined. It was also the story of loss. Kitty’s friend died, and the way Kitty honored her life was to sew a jacket using a beautiful piece of fabric from her friend’s stash, and to finish the seams the proper way rather than the slapdash way that was her inclination. I was mesmerized by this article. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The odd thing about my obsession was that I am not a seamstress, nor am I a fabric collector. But when I couldn’t get these two women out of my head, I knew that my next novel would be about a fabric collector.
I interviewed fabric collectors, studied textile programs at universities, visited a master weaver in the mountains of Colorado, made a pilgrimage to some of Los Angeles’ finest fabric stores – and because my college roommate happens to live nearby, trekked to Keepsake Quilts in Center Harbor, New Hampshire, and walked among the rows and rows of vibrant fabrics. I immersed myself in what it means to love fabric – and what it would mean to lose the fabric you’d spent a lifetime collecting.
The Threadbare Heart is now on its way to bookshelves in bookstores all across the country. It will arrive in May. And as it wings its way there, I will be spending time here talking a little bit about my story – and a lot about yours. Each week on Friday, I will post a different question about fabric and story and the emotion that underlies both. My tenure here will culminate in a Keepsake Quilting Challenge Contest that I’m absolutely thrilled about, because it brings my novel to life in a way that words on a page simply never could: the challenge is to make a summer beach quilt my character could never make, and to use some fabric from your stash that says something important about you. I will post contest details next week, but in the meantime, I’d like to invite you to send in a few words and photos in response to this week's question:
“How does a new quilt first shimmer in your imagination? What’s the first sign that you are about to embark on a new project?”
CLICK ON "COMMENTS" AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE TO ENTER YOUR ANSWERS.
If you have a photo that illustrates your answer, post it at The Story of My Stash flickr site and let us know it's there.
If you'd like a sneak peek of the first chapter of The Threadbare Heart, you can read it at my website, which is www.jennienash.com
If you'd like to purchase a copy of The Threadbare Heart, you can do so by clicking here.