How The Other Half Lives: Episode 3

Patience has served tea and cakes to the friends gathered in her parlor, and now is ready to get down to business.

Patience: All right, I think it's time to call to order this meeting of the Ladies' Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society. I believe we can dispense with the first order of business promptly: Martha, just what did you put in these cakes? They're delicious.

Martha: I used a different oil. It's called something unpronounceable, from Nivet. It has kind of a nutty flavor, that I thought would go well in this recipe.

Martha preens a little; she's not used to getting compliments on her baking. Casseroles are her forte.

Patience: Well, when you get a chance, I'd love to get the name, so I can order some.

Martha: I'll jot it down for you. Hajene Bibi recommended it.

Patience: In the mean time -- we've got to have a plan for a quilt today, or it'll never be done in time for the auction. I was thinking that our next quilt should be a pattern that reflects the cause for which we're making it. We could do a nice "Century of Progress" block, with something suggestive of tentacles on the border...

Martha: I've brought swatches of all the fabrics I have on hand at the moment, and a list of the quantities. There are several good flesh tones in the lot. For the tentacles.

Patience: Flesh tones. Rippet, didn't you have a nice mauve that would go with flesh tones?

Rippet: Well, it depends on what color flesh, doesn't it?

Martha reaches into her bag and pulls out the swatches.

Rippet brings out some rather mottled mauve fabric that she dyed herself.

Rippet: You know how some people are sort of yellowish? That doesn't go well with mauve. If they're really dark brown or sort of pink, it works better.

Martha searches for something diplomatic to say.

Martha: That's an... interesting pattern. How did you get that lovely mottled effect?

Rippet: I stuff it in a net bag and then pour the boiling dye bath over it.

Martha: It's quite the effect.

Rippet: Some I do twice -- take it out, shake it out and stuff it back in.

Rippet runs her hand over the fabric.

Rippet: It's so hard to get a perfectly even shade, I figure I should just go ahead and aim for the opposite. Looks more interesting in a quilt, anyway.

Martha: It'll make a good background.

Martha fingers through her bundle of swatches, and pulls out half a dozen.

Rippet: Well, it depends on what color tentacles you want. Does anybody know whether the tentacles are the same color as the rest of the skin on all the Simes?

Martha: Hmmm... well, the handling tentacles are. Maybe a fraction of a shade lighter. I've never really looked closely at the laterals.

Patience: They're pinker.

Rippet: We could just go ahead and be artistic and make the tentacles any old color -- red, blue, green, sort of just the impression.

Patience: Now, that's a thought.

Rippet: It's the shape not the color, really.

Patience: A pattern with S-curves... Hmmm. What about a modified Double Wedding Ring?

Martha: Might work, at that. Strong colors or pastels, then?

Rippet: Now Patience you know that will take forever! And the less skillful contributors will botch it, if they finish their blocks at all.

Patience: It is a more difficult pattern... Martha, do you think people will be willing to tackle it?

Martha: I would. Letitia would, I'm sure. I don't know about the others.

Rippet: Well, we should have some plain Nine-Patch and maybe some string-pieced blocks for the beginners.

Patience: Well, if we're going for the impression of about Snail's Trail? That's straight edges, not curves, and only fifteen pieces in the block. Two colors.

Rippet: That could work.

Patience: We can have people do their block with one dark and one light fabric. Solids or mottles, not defined prints.

Martha riffles through her swatches again, pushing the prints aside.

Rippet silently grits her teeth. It's at this point that she ends up on the losing side of arguments. Letting everybody decide for themselves what color to use results in the most painfully eye-jarring...

Rippet: Maybe we could pick some theme colors, so the result is more unified.

Patience: Well -- it is rather a simple pattern. I don't want it to be boring, or people won't bid on it.

Rippet: For example we could go with browns and reds and oranges and yellow, or else blues and greens and purples...

Martha: Some of these fabrics, I've got quite a bit of. We could pick one or two of those, distribute them around, then let people find ones that go with them.

Patience: That might work, although we have to retain enough for a border, and a binding, once it's done.

Rippet: Let's see what we've got here. Let's put it all out on the table.

Rippet braces herself for a fight about which colors look good together.

Patience obligingly clears the tea and cakes off the table, and brushes a few crumbs.

Rippet: I've got several browns here.

Martha: Are we still going for the tentacle border?

Patience: A tentacle border, but, hmm, maybe we should do the tentacles as quilting, rather than applique? On a solid border?

Martha: Too subtle.

Rippet: That's an idea. Perhaps in a sheeko style -- long white stitches on a dark brown background. Much faster and easier than real embroidery, and easier than applique, too.

Patience: If the thread contrasts, it should be quite visible. Hmm, didn't they just get in some sparkly threads at the dry goods store?

Martha: They did. And it's true that we're short on time.

Patience: Those would catch the light nicely, particularly if it's a good contrast.

Rippet: Men like sparkly things, and it's mostly men who will be bidding.

Rippet figures any decent woman will make her own quilts for her household. It's bachelors who will bid.

Patience: We'll have to have a good pattern. Martha, do you think your eldest would be willing to design a tentacle-like pattern for us?

Martha: Becka loves designing, you know that. I'll ask her this evening.

Patience: It ought be a little subtle, I think. An intertwining curve. That'll be much easier to quilt than a more clinically accurate picture.

Martha nods, then begins spreading out her swatches.

Patience: Oh, what a pretty purple!

Martha: These are the ones I've got more than four yards of, these are fat quarters to four yards, and these ones I've just got scraps. There's lots of the purple.

Martha checks her list.

Martha: Five yards of that... I was originally figuring it for a dress.

Rippet can't restrain herself.

Rippet: That purple won't go with these walnut browns. It's too dark. The quilt will give a gloomy impression.

Patience: We don't want gloomy.

Martha: Let's pick one or the other, then, as our base color, and go on from there.

Patience: The walnut brown, I think, although the purple is lovely.

Martha shrugs.

Martha: I may yet do a dress with it, then.

Rippet: The brown would work with unbleached muslin, and yellows and oranges and reds. Possibly some greens.

Patience: We want a color that's easy to duplicate, because it would add a nice touch to dye the backing a matching color.

Martha: Not any of these, then.

Martha clears several of her swatches from the table.

Martha: But those or those.

Rippet: Oh, well, just dye the backing walnut brown too. Nothing more plentiful for a dye vat than walnut hulls this time of year!

Patience looks at the new possibilities.

Patience: We ought to have a dark and a light. No, a dark and several contrasting lights.

Martha: I have several good oranges.

Patience: Orange will do nicely. Do you have something with an intense, jewel-like color, that's not too dark?

Martha: Hmmm... this one... no, doesn't go with the walnut. How about this?

Rippet moves the swatches around to see how the colors will look together.

Rippet: This sort of ochre would work, as long as it's not next to the really bright oranges. They would make it look muddy.

Patience: We'll do only two or three squares with it, then. That way we can distance them from, say, this light rust.

Martha: This yellowish beige might go well, as a highlight. Not near the ochre, though. Put it with the rust.

Rippet: Yes, that would work.

Patience: So, three squares of each -- we can give each volunteer a swath of the walnut and a swath of one of the contrasting colors.

Martha is content to be using up some of these colors from her fabric stash. She prefers the cool colors for her own projects.

Martha: Sounds good to me.

Patience: That should give us enough for a good-sized quilt. Now, I can draft the basic pattern, and my boy can cut out copies for stencils.

Rippet: Yes, and if you want to get Toshrun's kids to collect a few bushels of walnut hulls for me, I'll dye the backing.

Patience: That would be very helpful.

Martha gathers up the unwanted colors, and bundles them together again.

Patience: I have an old sheet that would be perfect -- nice and soft, but no holes.

Martha: Good.

Rippet doesn't like to use old fabric in a quilt, because it wears out so much faster, but she's lost that argument too many times. She sighs.

Martha makes a smaller bundle of the swatches chosen, and jots a few notes in her binder.

Patience: If we get the fabric and patterns to our volunteers promptly, we ought to be able to get the blocks made by, what, two weeks from now?

Rippet: One would hope so.

Martha: Tell them ten days.

Rippet is glad nobody tries to get her to coordinate these things any more.

Patience: Give it an extra week, because people never turn them in on time, and I can get the top stitched together by...

Patience considers.

Patience: We should plan on holding the quilting bee about four weeks from now, I think.

Martha: Can't leave it much longer than that.

Patience: True. Not if we want to hang the quilt for a suitable length of time where people can see it.

Martha has a daring idea.

Martha: If it's a tentacle design, how about if, for a change, we get permission to hang it at the Sime Center?

Patience: In the reception area? We can hang it there for the work week, and in the church on Sunday.

Martha: It would be perfect. Has anyone seen this replacement channel yet? Hajene Sutter?

Patience: No, I'm not due to donate for another week, and I've been so busy coordinating the volunteers for the quilt that I haven't just dropped by to be social. But I hear he's nice enough.

Martha: I donate in two days; I guess I can talk to him then. See if he's okay with the idea.

Patience: That would be perfect. Thank you, Martha.

Rippet packs up her fabrics, relieved that it wasn't a battle like it sometimes is.

Martha: I'd heard a rumor that Hajene Bibi and Hajene Seruffin were running off to get married. Think there's any truth to it?

Patience: Oh, I do hope so. He's such a distinguished gentleman, I've heard, and Bibi's been lonely here, I think.

Martha: If they marry, though, wouldn't we end up losing her?

Patience: I hope not. Surely he'd be willing to settle down here, where she's made a home?

Rippet: He's some kind of big wheel in their government -- he's not going to be staying here in Hannard's Ford. Better hope they don't marry.

Martha: That's selfish of us, though. If she's happy, then we should want that for her. I just hope she comes back long enough that we can throw a big party for her, then. If it's true, I mean.

Patience: Well, we can ask Gitl when they return.

Martha: And have everything ready. Kind of a combination shower, wedding reception, and going-away party.

Rippet shakes her head. Martha gets so overenthusiastic at times.

Rippet: I think we better make sure what's going on before we embarrass Bibi and make fools of ourselves, don't you think?

Patience: Well, yes, but we ought to find out in time to plan something nice, if it's true.

Martha: Who'd be able to tell us?

Patience: Gitl might know. Or that nice Mr. Nattin, perhaps.

Martha: My Becka is in the same class at school with Estragen.

Patience: Well, then, perhaps she could get Estragen to ask her mother?

Martha: That would probably be the most discreet way to do it. And if anyone would know for certain, it would be Gitl.

Patience: Yes. Once we know, we can make any further arrangements that are appropriate.

Rippet rolls her eyes and makes no comment.

Martha is already planning the buffet.

Patience: If there's no further business, then?

Martha nods.

Martha: I move we adjourn.

Rippet: Seconded.

Patience: Then, this meeting of the Ladies' Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society is officially adjourned. More tea, anyone?

Return to Table of Contents