Berkley Prime Crime ISBN 978-0-425-26798-8
A“killer” sewing machine
lives up to its name…
Darlene Coddlefield, the winner of a national sewing competition, has come to Willow Vanderling’s embroidery shop, In Stitches, to be presented with a top-of-the-line Chandler Champion sewing and embroidery machine as her prize. But Darlene’s triumph is short-lived after she’s found dead under her sewing table, apparently crushed by the heavy machine.
It soon becomes clear that this was no freak accident. Who had it in for Darlene Coddlefield? The long string of suspects includes Darlene’s fire chief husband. So Willow and her best friend, Haylee, become volunteer firefighters to uncover the truth. But when a second sewing machine sparks trouble, the friends realize they may have jumped from the frying pan into the fire…
Nominated for the 2013 Bony Blithe Award
Berkley Prime Crime
In Threadville , Pennsylvania , known for its textile arts courses and shops, everyone’s stories are connected by a common thread—even the ones ending in murder…
Every town has a legend. For Threadville, it’s the story of Snoozy Gallagher, the hotel owner who disappeared thirty years ago with a bag full of stolen jewelry, never to be heard from again. That is, until now—when Snoozy’s loot is discovered buried behind Willow Vanderling’s embroidery shop, In Stitches.
When villagers mysteriously become ill, and a body shrouded in materials from Threadville shops appears in the exact spot in Willow’s back yard where the treasure was, Willow needs answers. And who left two kittens in her yard about the time the body was dumped there? But she gets in over her head and has to unravel the entire deadly mystery, or she might get tangled up as the killer’s next victim…
Berkley Prime Crime
IT'S A MYSTERY TO ME
Janet Bolin has taken it upon herself to write a book about me, but--get this--she knows my future and won't tell me what it is!
She can't be writing a thriller about me, or she would be writing about last year, beginning with the day my best friend, Haylee, blew the whistle on our boss, Jasper Quinlan, for channeling money from client accounts to his own. Things got pretty scary, but he's now in custody. Haylee's flying to New York from her new home in Elderberry Bay, Pennsylvania, and we'll both testify at his trial.
Against Haylee's better judgment, I still work at Quinlan Financial Management.
Hmmm. I hope that if Janet's writing about my future life, she's not writing a thriller...
What else could it be? Embroidery? Both of us love to load embroidery software onto our computers, then create designs that our embroidery machines stitch in gorgeous threads. I sell my designs on the Internet, but Janet has to give hers away. So if anyone is writing a book about embroidery, it should be me.
What else could she be writing about my future? Oh! Dare I hope… Romance? If so, I wish she'd warn me when to expect this man. I mean, if I'm going to meet the man of my dreams (I can dream, right?) wouldn't it be nice to know which day I should curl my hair, put on my prettiest outfit, and be on my best behavior? (Is he tall?)
But she won't tell me. She won't even say if it will be good or bad. It's a mystery.
Whatever, I hope that my life will be cozier than what I've been through and am about to go through here in Manhattan.
Jasper's trial starts tomorrow.
June 29, 2010
Yesterday, after nearly four days of deliberating, the jury finally filed back into the courtroom. None of the jurors angled the slightest glance toward Jasper Quinlan. Had they found him guilty?
My best friend, Haylee, sat with me near the back of the courtroom. Whatever the verdict, she would leave the minute she could book a flight out of Manhattan and back to Elderberry Bay, Pennsylvania, and her new fabric store, The Stash.
I had to admit I was a tiny bit jealous. In my spare time, I'd been creating and selling designs for use with embroidery machines. I'd sold a lot of designs, but not enough to support me, especially in Manhattan. I needed the commissions I earned at Quinlan Financial Management, where I still worked. They'd hired a new CEO.
The judge leaned forward and addressed the jury.
Suddenly, I was certain that Jasper would be acquitted, and would come looking for Haylee and me. I should have imitated her, fled Quinlan Financial, found a new life somewhere else, and returned only for the trial.
Haylee had gone out with Jasper, several times. She was the one who figured out he was diverting client funds to his own accounts, but I'd supported her, snooping with her in our office late at night, piling up evidence against him, and standing next to her when she phoned the police. The charges against Jasper grew beyond anything we imagined.
During the trial, the prosecution had been thorough and competent, if a little dry. Haylee had been confident on the witness stand, and although I'd trembled when it was my turn to testify, I thought our honesty was transparent. Jasper lied. Haylee and I and the other witnesses told the truth.
Justice would prevail.
What I hadn't expected was the defense attorney's dramatic accusations. According to him, poor Jasper was an innocent victim of a pair of harpies -- Haylee and me -- desperate for fifteen minutes of fame. Jasper's attorney had turned his oily smiles on jurors.
They'd smiled back.
I'd wanted to hide.
Now, the clerk stood and asked for the verdict...
Guilty. On all charges.
My anxiety began to peel away. Sentencing would come later, but it was clear that Jasper was going to prison for a long time. Haylee would fly to Elderberry Bay, and I would return to work and to my sewing and embroidering.
Behind us, one of Jasper's friends snarled, "He's going to appeal. He'll be out tomorrow." The man's words were like hand-sharpened darts, aimed at our backs.
Suddenly, I was more scared than I'd been on the witness stand.
Maybe I should leave New York.
What would you do?
July 29, 2010
TALL, DARK, HANDSOME, AND...ELIGIBLE?
From: Willow in NYC
To: Haylee in Elderberry Bay
Subject: Calming down
August 20, 2010 7:00 PM
How's it going in the boonies? NYC is HOT, but you knew that, and about the way the city smells, like garbage collection can never be enough.
Things have settled down at Quinlan Financial Management. Almost a month after the trial ended, no one talks about Jasper any more. It's like he's ceased to exist, which would drive him crazier. I'm soooo glad the judge didn't grant him bail. Jasper would be on some island somewhere, wherever he's stashed his cash. Of course, I'd be sure he was climbing up the stairs to my apartment at 3 AM...
From: Haylee in Elderberry Bay
To: Willow in NYC
Subject: Not so calm...
August 22, 2010 8:00 AM
The boonies? Not. Elderberry Bay is a thriving metropolis with at least two commercial streets, a lake, a beach, a river, and a beautiful park linking it all. We even have a bandstand, all Victorian curlicues, painted white, and John Phillip Sousa's music on the Fourth of July. Kids flew kites on the beach, and the fireworks at night were fantastic.
EEEEK! When I named my new fabric boutique, it never occurred to me that someone might hear of The Stash and connect it to horrid Jasper Quinlan and his hidden stash! Now I'm going to worry. Haven't seen any FBI agents around. Do you think they'd dress in suits up here? No one else does, at least not the men.
I can't stop making suits for myself, though. Last night I started one--nice, cool linen. Very tailored (I can't help that) but still sort of casual.
Believe it or not, I have a date! A handsome guy named Mike who owns a vineyard! Meeting any nice single men in Manhattan?
From: Willow in NYC
To: Haylee in Elderberry Bay
Subject: Maybe you should be calmer
August 22, 2010 6:00 PM
Where are the nice single men in Manhattan? I think they're hiding from me.
Is Mike single? Are you sure?
Don't forget Jasper Quinlan. You thought he was nice and single, too.
From: Haylee in Elderberry Bay
To: Willow in NYC
Subject: Who needs calm? It's time for some excitement!
August 25, 2010 8:15 AM
Hey yourself, Willow,
Ha, ha, very funny. Even you believed that Jasper was single. Didn't you say something like, "Tall, dark, handsome, and eligible?"
Don't worry. I can look after myself.
From: Willow in NYC
To: Haylee in Elderberry Bay
Subject: How was the wine?
August 28, 2010 3:00 PM
Okay, Haylee, spill. How did the date with the vineyard owner go?
From: Haylee in Elderberry Bay
To: Willow in NYC
Subject: I hate to say it, but..
September 6, 2010 8:03 PM
...Willow, you were right. Not about Mike being married. He's not. But he's not very nice, either.
I shouldn't have gone with him in his pickup truck, but it was a big, shiny black one (did I ever mention my burning desire to own a pickup truck?) and besides, he owned a vineyard. I pictured glasses of delicious wine on a patio overlooking acres of grapevines...
He had acres of sickly sprigs. That would have been fine--vines grow--but on the way back to Elderberry Bay, he went into a horrible rage at a poor little old lady. The speed limit was too slow for Mike. He tailgated, then zoomed past so close she had to pull off onto the shoulder. She nearly ended up in a ditch. I made him stop. I walked the rest of the way home and ruined a brand new pair of heels.
Never again. Besides, I like red pickups better than black ones.
The little old lady drove right past me, ignoring the thumb I held out. Can't blame her.
From: Willow in NYC
To: Haylee in Elderberry Bay
Subject: Do I need to come up there?
September 7, 2010 9:14 PM
I thought you'd behave in a small village near your mother and her two best friends.
I'm coming to help them supervise you.
From: Haylee in Elderberry Bay
To: Willow in NYC
Subject: The guest room is ready
September 15, 2010 8:29 PM
I have a guest room, my mother has several, and so do her friends, Naomi and Edna.
Mike had the gall to ask me out again, said I was cute when I was angry. Grrrr. (See me getting cuter...???) I refused, and now the entire village seems to know about my "vineyard" fiasco.
Believe it or not, a tour bus has started coming from Erie to Elderberry Bay! They come nearly every day, mostly the same women, and the sign on the front of the bus says THREADVILLE TOUR. Isn't that adorable?
So...when are you coming to Elderberry Bay? I mean Threadville. ;-)
From: Willow in NYC
To: Haylee in Elderberry Bay
Subject: Maybe next month?
September 28, 2010 9:46 PM
I've got two weeks off in the middle of October. See you then.
AN IRRESISTIBLE TEMPTATION
Gulp! I've taken a gigantic - and daring - step.
My best friend, Haylee, moved from New York City to Elderberry Bay, Pennsylvania, and opened a fabric store, The Stash. I've been jealous ever since. Finally, I visited her.
After Haylee opened The Stash, her mother started a yarn shop. Haylee's mother's two best friends opened a notions boutique and a quilting shop. Word got out about this village where people could buy everything they needed for their textile arts projects, and Elderberry Bay earned a nickname - Threadville.
Busloads of tourists shop and take classes in Threadville. These tourists have been pestering Haylee to find someone to teach them how to embroider with sewing machines, so Haylee introduced them to me.
Everyone calls what I do machine embroidery, but perhaps thread art would describe it better. Though I usually use embroidery software and high-tech sewing and embroidery machines to create pictures with thread, I showed an enthusiastic group of Threadville tourists some fun tricks they could do with ordinary sewing machines. They wanted more.
Across the street from Haylee's shop was a recently renovated store with a For Sale sign in front...
On the outside, the building was a charming Arts and Crafts style bungalow. Inside, it was perfect for the sort of thread art shop I've always wanted to own.
I fell in love with the apartment underneath the shop, also. Because the building was on a hill, the apartment was bright and airy. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked a private, hedged-in back yard. At the foot of the hill was a riverside cottage that I could fix up and rent to summer visitors.
When I wasn't running my store (yes, I quickly began thinking of it as mine) or playing with my software and machines, I would be able to hang out with Haylee, hike on the trail between the cottage and the Elderberry River, go boating, stroll on the village's vast sand beach, browse in those other amazing Threadville shops, or dine in restaurants overlooking the lake.
So...I put in an offer on the property. If it's accepted, I'm quitting my job in Manhattan and making this big change in my life.
I'm excited and scared. Scared that I won't get that Threadville property, and scared that I will.
A couple of weeks ago I told you about my offer to purchase a store in Threadville, Pennsylvania. I was seriously considering leaving NYC and changing careers.
I'm back already because I have exciting news. I'll be closing that deal on November 29th.
Now I can confess how badly I wanted this to happen. I love textiles. I love touching them and working with them.
At heart, I'm a frustrated artist, but I draw pictures with thread, not paint. Maybe I'm a frustrated teacher, too, because I enjoy showing others how to use sewing machines, embroidery machines, and embroidery software to create new designs.
In my new shop, I'll sell sewing and embroidery machines and all the supplies anyone could want for painting their own designs with thread. Best of all, if I need anything that I don't stock, I can cross the street to one of the other Threadville shops.
My best friend, Haylee, owns a huge fabric shop, The Stash, where she teaches classes in sewing and tailoring.
Next to The Stash, Opal, runs Tell A Yarn, which is full of beautiful yarns. From what I've seen, Opal, knits or crochets all of her clothes. People come to her shop to learn new techniques, to sit around the table working together (and gossiping), and for Storytelling Night each Friday.
Edna has a notions shop, Buttons and Bows. She decorates her clothing with ribbons, rhinestones, buttons, sequins, crystals, and beads until she glitters, and she shows Threadville tourists how to do it, too.
Naomi's shop is Batty About Quilts. She sells everything needed for quilting, and is also a walking advertisement for her talent. When I met her, she was wearing a patchwork jacket in jewel tones. She offers workshops in quilting.
It's no wonder that textile arts tourists flock to Threadville. If my customers and students don't keep me sufficiently busy, I'll wander across the street and learn whatever I can from the other Threadville proprietors. They are supportive and excited about my new shop.
I’m going to call it In Stitches. I can't wait to move to Threadville!
November 15, 2010
NEW YEAR, NEW CAREER
I turned out my shop lights and went outside. Across the street, the Threadville shops had closed for the night, and the last customers were boarding a bus. The sign above the windshield said THREADVILLE TOUR.
In a few weeks, I would open my embroidery boutique, In Stitches. I hoped the Threadville tourists would like my shop and would buy sewing and embroidery machines from me. The manufacturers had treated me to fascinating seminars and training sessions where creating and stitching machine embroidery designs was more like play than work. Best of all, as new models came out, I’d be among the first to try them.
The bus rumbled away. Drawn to the beach at the foot of Lake Street, I started walking.
“Willow!” Buttoning her coat, Haylee dashed from her fabric store, The Stash, and joined me. We passed the other Threadville shops. Opal was tidying Tell A Yarn. Lights were bright inside Buttons and Bows, but I didn’t see Edna. Naomi was sitting at a sewing machine in Batty About Quilts.
Threadville had only a smattering of snow compared to the city I’d recently left. “I got out of New York just in time,” I said.
“We made the right choice. When are you coming over to The Stash to meet the Threadville tourists? They’re eager to learn about machine embroidery.”
“I’ve been stocking shelves all day every day.” I didn’t want to admit that I feared the Threadville tourists might not like In Stitches. I pointed at the coat Haylee had tailored for herself. “Besides, I haven’t yet embroidered enough outfits to be a walking advertisement for my shop like the rest of you Threadville proprietors.”
“You don’t have to go overboard like The Three Weird Mothers!”
Haylee’s real mother was Opal. She, Naomi, and Edna had raised Haylee together. The three women called themselves The Three Weird Sisters, and they liked Haylee’s nickname for them, but I still had to say, “Haylee, your mothers are a little quirky and adventurous”—especially in the clothing they created for themselves—“but not weird.”
“Those three! I have to pay attention, or they’ll goad each other into so much mischief I’ll have to rescue them.”
I teased, “So now you’re their mother?” Haylee was my best friend and I’d grown fond of her mothers.
They couldn’t possibly get me into too much mischief, could they?
December 29, 2010
I was excited. My new embroidery boutique, In Stitches, was almost ready for its grand opening.
Gleaming new sewing and embroidery machines were rowed up, ready for customers to discover. Every day, more spools of thread, made especially for embroidery machines, arrived. I had embroidery hoops, stabilizers, specialty scissors, and bolts of fabulous linens and cottons. For a fabriholic, this was all a dream come true.
Not only that, I could cross the street and browse in the other Threadville shops—The Stash, Tell a Yarn, Buttons and Bows, and Batty about Quilts. There was no end to the beautiful textiles and crafty possibilities in Threadville.
Like my (slightly quirky) colleagues, I was going to teach classes and workshops. I hoped my original thread art would inspire my students to buy machines and supplies from me.
With all that I could have been doing, all the fun I could have been having in Threadville, I daydreamed out my back window. My yard was covered in snow, surrounded by hedges, and went all the way down the hill to the hiking trail beside the river.
I focused on Blueberry Cottage. I planned to renovate it and rent it to tourists. Who wouldn’t love staying in a cute little cottage, only a short walk or canoe ride to a sandy beach?
The most exciting thing of all was that I could finally have something else, besides my own embroidery boutique, that I’d wanted for a long time.
Thousands of dogs were waiting to be rescued and taken to their forever homes.
All I had to do was choose one . . .
January 21, 2010
NOT QUITE WHAT I EXPECTED
I’m kind of stunned.
My new embroidery boutique, In Stitches, opened on Tuesday. I could hardly wait to welcome the tourists who flock to Threadville to learn all the latest needlework techniques.
However, the first person to enter my shop on opening day was Mike Krawbach, Threadville’s zoning commissioner. He seemed very happy to inform me he was turning down my application for a building permit. I’d wanted to renovate the sweet little cottage in my back yard so I could rent it to tourists who would love its proximity to a good canoeing river and a sandy Lake Erie beach.
Mike planned to expropriate the land my cottage stood on, bulldoze the cottage, and build public outhouses!
I’m afraid I made some dire threats, in public. I didn’t really mean them, but when Mike ended up dead in my back yard early Wednesday morning, villagers remembered what I’d said.
Mike’s death was shocking and horrifying. To make matters worse, Threadville’s police chief seems to think I murdered Mike. I don’t even know how Mike got into my locked back yard.
Yes, I keep it locked now. Remember, last month, I said I was going to get a dog, and wanted suggestions?
I didn’t get one dog—I got two.
They’re adorable, an energetic brother and sister pair I’ve named Tally-Ho and Sally-Forth. They were rescued from the streets of Akron when they were about four months old, and then spent the next eight months together in a very nice rescue facility, waiting for someone who would adopt them both so they could always be with each other. I embroidered beds for each of them, but they curl up like puppies and sleep cuddled together.
After only a couple of weeks, I can’t imagine how I coped without them. They comfort me and distract me from the realities of life—and death.
And now, to make certain Sally-Forth and Tally-Ho don’t lose me to a prison cell, I’m going to have to find out who really killed Mike Krawbach. My best friend, Haylee, who owns Threadville’s fabric store, The Stash, has already begun helping me investigate Mike’s death. Haylee’s three (yes, three) mothers, who own the yarn shop, notions boutique, and quilting shop, are going to want to poke their noses into it all, too.
Keeping Haylee’s mothers out of mischief may be more difficult than corralling Sally-Forth and Tally-Ho. Uh-oh.
February 18, 2010
Hi, I’m Opal Scott, and I have the most marvelous friends. Two of them, Naomi and Edna, have been my best friends since kindergarten, and when I say “best”, I really mean it. When I was seventeen and about to head off for college, I discovered I was pregnant. This was just over thirty years ago, and my parents were not what you’d call understanding. I had no one to turn to. No grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings. No one but my two best friends. To them, it was perfectly natural that we’d all go to college together as planned, and look after my baby between us. And that’s what we did. Haylee, my daughter, has three mothers.
We obtained our degrees, enjoyed great careers, and raised the most wonderful daughter anyone could ever want. We also had hobbies that we loved, all of them involving making things with fabric, thread, yarn . . .
Haylee turned out to be the best seamstress of us all, and always dreamed of opening her own fabric shop. When she saw a block of four shops for sale in a village in northwestern Pennsylvania, she told us about it, and before we even turned fifty, we quit our jobs and opened stores. I own Tell a Yarn. Edna has a notions shop she calls Buttons and Bows (and no, Edna didn’t climb this tree to hang crystal spangles from it, though I can imagine her doing it—that’s ice), and Naomi has a quilting shop.
Before long, our village had a nickname—Threadville, and tourists were flocking to it.
Recently, Haylee’s best friend, Willow, opened a shop selling everything everyone would want for doing their own machine embroidery. Willow, like our Haylee, is spunky, but all of us could see vulnerability behind her eyes. Personally, I think her parents were distracted when she was growing up and she had to raise herself. She did a good job of it, but Naomi, Edna, and I can’t help wanting to give her some of the attention and support she lacked.
And then that nasty Mike Krawbach went and got himself murdered in Willow’s back yard, and that old fool of a policeman wanted to pin the blame on Willow, and the river threatened to wipe out the cottage she hoped to renovate and rent out, and what could we do? Haylee, of course stuck by her best friend, and Edna and Naomi and I rallied around her, too. As far as we’re concerned, we have a second daughter. Life is good.
March 29, 2011
Hi, I’m Edna, owner of the notions boutique Buttons and Bows in Threadville, Pennsylvania. Okay, the village’s real name is Elderberry Bay, but since several of us opened textile arts shops in the village, everyone has started calling it Threadville.
And today is one big day in Threadville! Usually on Fridays, those of us who own the shops teach courses, but today, we’re all getting up early and watching TV together in the biggest fabric store for miles around, The Stash. The Threadville Tour bus, which usually arrives around nine, is scheduled to arrive at four a.m. so that our customers and students can watch with us! Everyone is dressing in their very best handcrafted finery, including gorgeous hats.
And we will be paying close attention, mostly to Kate Middleton and her bridal gown. Whatever she wears may influence fashion for the next few years and we always want to be among the first to know about new trends.
I’m very fond of decorating everything with beads, sequins, ribbons, lace, fringe, crystals, and whatever other wonderful notions and trims I can order. Not all of them on any one garment once, of course. So I would like to see Kate walk down that aisle in a gown trimmed in lace and tiny, glimmering crystal beads.
My best friends, Opal, who owns Tell a Yarn, and Naomi, whose shop is Batty about Quilts, may be out of luck. Kate probably won’t wear a hand-crocheted (sorry, Opal) or quilted (sorry, Naomi) wedding gown.
Our daughter, Haylee, can sew anything, and she loves to tailor jackets, but I don’t think she’s wishing anything tailored on Kate. She expects to see gorgeous, flowing silk in a simple but elegant design.
Haylee’s best friend, Willow, the newest addition to Threadville, is a pro at using computers and software to create embroidery designs that the fantastic sewing machines in her shop can stitch (with the help of embroidery attachments). Willow hopes that Kate will set the fashion for intricate, all-over embroidery designs.
After all that Willow has been through lately, fighting to keep herself out of jail after that horrible man died in her back yard, I can only hope for the best for her and her shop.
Maybe Kate will opt for embroidery and beads, sequins, and crystals?
I can’t wait to find out!
On Friday evenings, we bring handwork to Tell a Yarn, and Opal has a storyteller spin tales for us. Tonight, the storyteller will have to compete with our rehashes of the royal wedding and what everyone wore.
April 29, 2011 (Royal Wedding Day!)
Tomorrow will be my first Memorial Day in Elderberry Bay, also known as Threadville.
When I was growing up in South Carolina, I spent Memorial Day weekends with my Gramma. She lived in a small village known for its Memorial Day celebrations. In the morning, she took me to the parade. I always dressed in red, white, and blue. We both brought flags and nabbed a spot right on the curb.
People marched past, and Gramma stood there, waving her flag and crying. I could not understand why she always wanted to go to parades if they made her cry.
She squeezed my shoulder, wiped her tears, and explained, “It’s so beautiful.”
Beautiful? Cub scouts scuffed past in their uniforms, and Jeffie, the kid who lived across the street from her, caught me smiling and stuck his tongue out at me. What did he think, that I liked him? Gramma sobbed.
I turned around and told her, “It’s okay, Gramma. Jeffie was sticking my tongue out at me, not at you, and anyway, he’s yucky. Don’t let him hurt your feelings. You’re a wonderful Gramma.”
She squatted down and hugged me, and now she was both laughing and crying, and she said something even stranger. “They look like little soldiers in those uniforms.”
The music from the brass band vibrated through my whole body, and I wanted a uniform, too. But not like Jeffie’s. I wanted a shiny red and white one with gold braid and buttons.
Then we’d go back to Gramma’s and she cooked hot dogs and let me pour on as much mustard as I wanted. I got to drink root beer right out of the can. She always said I could decorate my bike and be in the parade if I wanted to, but if she was going to cry, I needed to be with her and comfort her.
At night, we went to the village square and listened to a concert in the bandstand, and when I stayed awake long enough, we watched the fireworks. Each time one unfurled above us, Gramma called out “OOOOH!” Tucking me in later, Gramma told me about her father, who had gone off to war. If we remembered him and others like him, she said, maybe kids like Jeffie wouldn’t have to wear uniforms.
Wouldn’t have to? Eventually, I took up the trumpet, but I lasted all of about five lessons, and I never got the shiny uniform. I could make one, I suppose. Threadville is all about creativity.
In Elderberry Bay tomorrow, there will be a parade down Lake Street to the park where the Elderberry River meets the beach on Lake Erie. We’ll all follow the tail end of the parade so we can greet the Great Canoe and Kayak Race competitors, winners and losers, as they come in after their hours of paddling.
There will be hot dogs. I will coat mine with mustard. I will drink too much root beer.
In the evening, the Fraser Construction Brass Band will give a concert in the bandstand. I hear that their uniforms are red and white, trimmed with gold braid and buttons. I can’t wait to see and hear Clay Fraser playing the trumpet.
At the fireworks, I won’t be able to prevent myself from calling out “OOOOH!”
I know, it won’t be like Memorial Day with Gramma, but her memory will be with me. I may even shed a tear when the Cub Scouts and Brownies march past.
May 29, 2010
CAN YOU CANOE? (I'M NOT SURE I CAN)
In Stitches, the embroidery boutique I bought in Elderberry Bay, also known as Threadville, came with a canoe and two paddles.
Due to peculiar circumstances that you may have read about in DIRE THREADS, I no longer owned one of those canoe paddles.
But I still had the other one. I put on a life jacket and hauled the canoe out through my gate, across the hiking trail, and down the bank of the Elderberry River to a small sandy beach. My previous experience with a canoe had been quite a few years ago, in summer camp. I managed to board the thing without overturning it. I tried to paddle upriver, but the current was too strong
The canoe sped downriver. Backward.
I steered, if I could call it that, with my paddle held to the side as a sort of rudder, and managed to turn the canoe, but not enough. Wallowing sideways down river, the canoe came close to tipping and dumping me into the water. I held on and forced the canoe to go down the river the way it was supposed to, prow first.
The canoe and I zoomed past the park and the white gazebo. If all else failed, I told myself, I would leap out and bob to shore in my life jacket.
However, at the rate the canoe was taking on water, no leaping would be necessary. The life jacket might simply float me out. The canoe’s semi-ancient fiberglass body must have weakened and cracked.
By the time we reached the mouth of the river, only the gunwales were above water. I aimed my unwieldy craft toward shore. The current drove the prow into sand on the riverside beach. I clambered, water streaming from my clothes, onto hot sand.
Filled with water, the canoe weighed a ton. The current would eventually tug the canoe off its sandbar and carry it downstream, where it would sink, but at the moment, it was marooned.
I squelched up Lake Street past my car to my apartment. I changed into dry clothes, collected ropes from the shed, and drove to the beach.
The canoe was gone.
It hadn’t sunk. Wide tire tracks led to and from the section of the beach where it had been. Judging by the footprints, two men had “rescued” my sorry excuse for a canoe. Grooves showed where they had, perhaps with the help of a pick-up truck, dragged it across the sand. They had tipped the water out, leaving a wet sheen like a stain on the beach.
June 29, 2010
SUMMERTIME, AND THE EATING IS EASY . . .
As soon as my last customer left for the evening, I closed my embroidery boutique, In Stitches, and ran across the street to Haylee’s fabric shop. For once, I didn’t linger among the gorgeous fabrics. We went out through the back to Haylee’s bright red pick-up truck and took off.
She drove south, away from Lake Erie, out of Elderberry Bay (fondly known as Threadville) and into farm country. The sun was still high, and the evening was hot. We opened the windows. Breezes tugged at my pony tail. Insects buzzed in fields.
We’d created a game for our shopping trips. We began our explorations on a different rural road each time, stopped at every farm stand, and bought at least one thing until we’d bought enough goodies for the next few days.
I bounced on my seat and pointed ahead. “Flowers and potatoes!”
Haylee pulled off onto the shoulder. We bought sassy yellow daylilies and two small bags of new red potatoes.
The next farm stand sold raspberries. We each bought a quart.
We found tomatoes and peppers at a stand a few miles down the road.
And at the next farm stand, a nice surprise—home-baked goods and preserves. We bought hamburger buns (perfect shape and size for tomato sandwiches), sweet rolls, and strawberry preserves.
Haylee turned north, and we each bought a dozen eggs. Free-range hens pecked, flapped, and turned their bold, bright eyes on us.
After a turn down a dirt road, I saw a sign: Goat’s milk cheese. We each bought goat’s milk cream cheese and bars made of dark chocolate, melted and poured over lavender flowers, then cooled. The fragrance was amazing, but we resisted eating them.
On the next country road, we found sweet corn. “It was picked only ten minutes ago,” the woman said. “For the best flavor, cook it and eat it right away.”
We promised we would do our best, but we clambered into the truck, looked at each other, and exclaimed together, “Blueberries!” We’d been willing to leave other treats to chance, but blueberry season had just begun. We had to have blueberries.
Haylee didn’t speed, but she lost no time driving to a blueberry farm we’d visited only days before. In the interests of time (and our hunger for that super-tasty corn), we headed straight for the baskets of already-picked beautiful blue spheres. I bought several quarts. I would pour them over my cereal at breakfast (followed by one of those sweet rolls, no doubt.) I would dump them onto scoops of ice cream each evening. I would add them to muffins and cookies for customers at In Stitches. I would also eat them by the handful. I always planned to freeze some for winter, but my blueberries always disappeared before I got around to it.
No matter. In a couple of days, Haylee and I would make another foray, meandering down different roads, buying whatever looked good, and detouring to the blueberry farm on our way home.
July 29, 2010
PASS IT ON
Halloween Costume-Making TipsFall! It’s here, and I love it. I’m Haylee Scott. I own a fabric store called The Stash in the village of Threadville, Pennsylvania, and I sew all year round. But when nights are crisp and days are sunny, I love sitting beside a window and make things from fabric.
October 29, 2011
Being invited to a holiday party isn’t bad, of course, especially when I know that the hostess, Mona, is once again on the lookout for a husband. She’ll invite every eligible man she can scrape up, and when it comes to eligible men, that woman can really scrape.
And the type of party could be great, too, if Mona hadn’t written on the bottom of my invitation, “Opal, you should be great at making your sweater—you won’t have to haunt used clothing shops!” I’m too lazy to copy all the exclamation points she added. You get the drift.
You probably also got the drift of the party’s theme. If you didn’t, here’s a hint: I own the Tell a Yarn shop and I knit or crochet most of my own clothing.
You guessed right. Mona’s throwing an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.
I will not be insulted. I will look on the bright side. Crafting something hideous for Mona’s Ugly Sweater Christmas Party should be fun. I’ve got this shaggy craft yarn in both vivid red and blinding white. How about candy cane stripes, to start? And then a green Christmas tree on the front, and I’ll add sequins, spangles,and beads as ornaments. Edna carries quite a selection in Buttons and Bows. Oversized metallic fuchsia and royal blue spangles, perhaps, with some opalescent white ones also. Garlands. A tinsel star as a tree topper. Tiny Christmas lights and a battery pack tucked into a pocket I’ll add to the back of the sweater . . .
If there’s a prize for ugly, I expect to win it. However, I will have plenty of competition. My best friends, Edna and Naomi, will want to play along and reach new heights in tackiness, and so will our daughter Haylee and her friend Willow, who is now like a daughter to the other three of us. In Threadville, we can’t help enjoying the challenge of designing and creating.
What will Mona wear, I wonder? It won’t be ugly. It will be skin tight and low-necked.
And there the rest of us will be, among all those eligible men, in grotesque sweaters we obediently created for ourselves.
Hmmm. Candy cane stripes, a decorated and lit-up Christmas tree, and revealing? Now there’s a challenge . . .
November 29, 2011
Sometimes, especially in a dreary monochromatic winter like this one has been, I absolutely need to see and touch fabrics.
Yesterday, after I closed my own shop, In Stitches, I just had to run across the street and tour Batty About Quilts. Naomi arranges her bolts of fabrics in rainbow order, and the trend this year is toward colors that appear to be drenched in sunlight. I walked up and down every aisle, touching the bright reds, yellows, blue, and purples. And the greens. For some reason, I was drawn to the grassiest and leafiest greens.
I had no plans to make a quilt, but I couldn’t help buying yards and yards of cotton fabrics in all the shades of April’s baby leaves.
To make matters worse, after I finished at Batty About Quilts, I went next door to Edna’s notions shop, Buttons and Bows. I bought yards of satin ribbons the colors of daffodils, crocuses, tulips, forsythia, and lilacs.
And now I’m designing a quilt. I’ll use the embroidery software and machines in my machine embroidery boutique to create embroidered blossoms. And the ribbons? Maybe I’ll fasten bows in the corners between the squares…
It will be a simple quilt, a small quilt, and it really shouldn’t take very long.
Right. That’s what I always say.
February 29, 2012
Worry, Worry, Worry
Remember that hot spell we had about a week ago? Everyone was thrilled. They went outside. They gardened. They barbecued. Well, I did all of those things, too, but instead of being completely thrilled, I worried.
I worried about fruit coming out too early and being destroyed by below-freezing weather. I worried about leaves sprouting on trees, and then a thick, wet, heavy snow coming along and breaking limbs and power lines. I worried that my favorite flowers, daffodils, would be smashed by snow or burned by heat. Or both.
I worried that the good insects, the pollinators, would not survive into the summer. I worried that we wouldn’t see butterflies. I worried that mosquitoes would thrive (I know, it makes no sense, right? If mosquitoes can survive hatching early and subsequent freezing temperatures, other insects, should be able to, also.)
I continue to worry that this summer will be unbearably hot, and that we’ll have tornadoes and thunderstorms. Or drought and wildfires. I worry that crops will fail, farmers will suffer, and food prices will rise. Or we won’t be able to buy local produce. Did you ever notice how much better fruits and vegetables taste when they haven’t been picked unripe and transported great distances?
I worry about my friends Opal, and Edna and about Haylee and her best friend Willow, especially when they try to solve a murder. They say that’s all over, and there won’t be any more murders to investigate, but I worry. What if they get themselves into danger again?
Okay, you’re right. I worry too much. From my baby photos, it’s clear that I was born with worry wrinkles. And worrying does no good. Worrying hasn’t prevented devastating things from happening to people I love. Worrying also hasn’t caused the beautiful weather that I truly do enjoy, even though I may sound like I don’t.
I find I can put all my worries on hold when I work with fabrics and teach quilting. Or at least I’m focusing my worries on something useful—designing, cutting, piecing and top-stitching.
March 29, 2012
The girl opened the door of my notions shop, Buttons and Bows, and slipped in sideways. She couldn’t have been more than ten years old. She reminded me of myself at that age, short, with plenty of brown curls and big, dark eyes.
Everyone loves shopping in Threadville, where you can buy every supply a needlecrafter could want, but this child was too young to be alone. I opened my mouth.
With one quiet gesture, hand in the air, she silenced me. “Don’t worry.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. “My mom knows where I am.” She tilted her head toward Batty About Quilts. “She’s next door, planning a quilt, and it’s taking ages. So I asked her if I could come over here, and she said yes. I want to buy diamonds for her for Mother’s Day.”
I opened my mouth again. I stocked all sorts of sparkly things, but not diamonds.
Again, she stopped me from speaking. “I know they’re not real, but I want something like diamonds for her. She’s the best mommy in the world.” She patted her little shoulder bag. “And I have money from my allowance.”
Together, the girl and I chose sparkly crystals and beads. I wanted to give them to her outright, but I could tell she wouldn’t accept. I charged her less than the marked prices. She questioned my math, and I told her it was a volume discount.
Standing as tall as she could with her back straight and her little chin as determined as mine could ever be, she tucked her treasures into her shoulder bag. “Some day—” Her eyes and mouth were fierce. “—I’m going to give her real diamonds. And when I’m grown up and have kids, I’m going to try to be as good a mother to her as she is to me and my baby brother.”
She slipped out sideways and turned toward Batty About Quilts, and my shop was silent except for the echo of my door chimes.
I thought, if any ten-year-old is going to grow up and give her mother diamonds, it will be this girl.
April 29, 2012
“Emma loved this color,” he said. After a long pause during which I barely breathed, he explained, “My wife. She was like this flower. Vibrant, cheerful.” He stared down into the purple tufted center of the flower. “And just unfolding.” He looked up at me, and his pale eyes were teary. “And fragile and short-lived. I would have loved to see her grow as wrinkly as this flower, and as wrinkly as I’ve become, but she was only twenty-three when I lost her. You remind me of her, Willow, in a way. Strong, good, and a wee bit impulsive.” He smiled to show he wasn’t criticizing me.
I thanked him.
“Now you go back to your dogs,” he ordered. “Wouldn’t want them staying alone too long.”
I left Sam contemplating the depths of his vibrant red poppy. Sam the Ironmonger. Born to hardware. Good, tough, and made of steel.
May 29, 2012
|Photo © Imagaman|
The woman’s laugh was dryer than her fields. “Daylilies. Wild. They just grow here, year after year, along the side of the road in the dust, come rain and come shine. Who’d have ever thought they could be our main crop?”
I bought two bunches of daylilies, too. Hoping the woman was exaggerating, we climbed back into the car.
Driving off slowly so I wouldn't spray dust, I asked Haylee, “Is that why we’ve hardly seen any mosquitoes this June?”
“I think so.” She laughed. “Is that the silver lining to this dry, dry cloud?”
I moaned, “Now I wish it would rain.” But those white puffy clouds in that pure blue sky could have been put there by an artist. It wasn’t going to rain any time soon.
June 29, 2012
A Common Thread
Shortly before I moved to Elderberry Bay, the village on Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie Shore earned a new nickname—Threadville. That was because my best friend, Haylee, and her three mothers (Haylee was raised by her mother and her mother’s best friends) had each opened a textile arts store on Lake Street—a fabric shop, a yarn shop, a notions shop, and a quilting shop.Then I left my uncomfortable job in Manhattan, moved to Threadville, and opened my dream shop. I sell sewing and embroidery machines and everything needed to make fabulous machine embroidery designs. I have never been happier. (Well, most of the time. There have been a few horrible incidents, and I do wish I hadn’t embarrassed myself in front of that yummy Clay Fraser…) Since I moved here, a home décor shop opened, and a father and son team are now talking about starting a costume shop where the general store used to be. We all offer courses and workshops, so as you can imagine, Threadville has become very popular. Tour buses arrive most days, and everyone has fun. Except for murder. But that’s all over, right?
There is also a Threadville in Mississippi, and that’s its real nameAnd Willimantic, Connecticut, is known as Thread City because of its history of cotton mills that produced thread. I wish I could go back in time and see those mills in action. Today, Willimantic has a wonderful bridge decorated with huge sculptures representing spools of thread. I love it! But it gets even better--four of the spools are topped by whimsical statues of green frogs. And no, they have nothing to do with thread-making, but a lot to do with another, and rather peculiar, facet of the city’s history. For pictures and details, click here.
|Photo © Imagaman|
Sally-Forth and Tally-Ho
September 29, 2012
Sally-Forth and Tally-Ho
October 29, 2012
November 29, 2012
The Last Remnant
It’s a funny time of the year. We rush to get ready for the holidays, and then we have sales and more customers. My embroidery boutique, In Stitches, has been packed with customers. I’m not complaining…
Bright Spots Among the Clouds
January 29, 2013
Sally-Forth and Tally-Ho
February 26, 2013
At this time of year, everything seems new again.The Elderberry Bay Lodge is new again, also.
The glamorous old Victorian inn was abandoned thirty years ago when its owner at the time, Snoozy Gallagher, disappeared with the contents of the hotel safe.
Running a hotel in a gorgeous spot had always been my wife’s and my dream, but we kept putting it off. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we realized it was time to make the most of the rest of our lives. We expected to have years left...
Deidre read that Snoozy Gallagher’s Elderberry Bay Lodge, complete with its own beach on the shores of Lake Erie, was finally coming onto the market.
And to make things even better, the nearby village of Elderberry Bay was now known as Threadville, with fabric, yarn, and sewing stores lining the main street. Deirdre became excited when she read that the shops sold all the supplies she could ever want for her hobbies, and that the warm and welcoming store owners taught wonderfully creative workshops.
The lodge wasn’t as rundown as we’d feared, and the local builder, Clay, inspected it thoroughly. Clay, Deirdre, and I agreed right away about how to restore and renovate the lodge. Deirdre and I bought the lodge, held each other tightly, and dreamed.
Deirdre was involved in every step of the restoration, even after her treatments began failing. Clay’s a genius at everything—planning, building, painstakingly refinishing intricately carved woodwork. He has a crew cleaning up the grounds. They’re going to build a gazebo.
Deirdre didn’t live to see the weeds cleared or the lodge completed. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I miss her.
Yes, there have been times when I’ve thought of giving up, selling, and going back to work for someone else. But I can’t. Now that the lodge is almost ready to open, I see Deidre’s touches everywhere, and I can almost believe she’s only in the next room. She would have loved living here, greeting guests, planning meals, and shopping and taking courses in Threadville.
I’m hosting an opening gala shortly after the summer solstice. Clay says he hopes to bring two guests. I’m guessing that one of them will be this Willow he keeps mentioning. She owns a store that specializes in machine embroidery. He claims that Willow’s not his girlfriend. I don’t know who his other guest might be, but I hope he’s not trying any matchmaking for me. I’m not ready, and I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone.
This year, the summer solstice falls on Friday, June 21, and in Threadville, we’re making plans. First of all, we’re going to have a sidewalk sale. Though the word “magic” is more often associated with Midsummer, we decided to call our sidewalk sale the Midsummer Madness Sidewalk Sale.
It will be a chance for shoppers to find great bargains from all of the Threadville shops. My shop is In Stitches. I sell high-end sewing machines, the kind that can embellish our sewing projects with machine embroidery. I also teach how to use the machines and the software required to create beautiful and original embroidery designs.
Across the street from me, my best friend, Haylee, runs a huge fabric store called The Stash. Seamstresses love her shop. Some say they could live there... Haylee is an accomplished tailor, and her sewing classes are in high demand. If I had time, I’d take them myself, but I’m nearly always in my own store giving embroidery workshops.
Haylee’s three mothers own the other three Threadville shops on that side of the street. Opal, Haylee’s birth mother, owns Tell a Yarn. In addition to selling everything needed for creating with yarn, Opal teaches knitting and crocheting and holds Friday night storytelling events.
Opal’s best friends, Edna and Naomi, helped Opal raise Haylee. Edna loves everything sparkly, which you’ll find out for yourself the minute you step into Buttons and Bows. But she sells other notions and trims, too. They don’t all have to glitter.
Naomi is Threadville’s quilting expert. In Batty About Quilts, she sells quilting fabrics and supplies, uses a long-arm quilting machine (sort of like an embroidery machine on steroids, and I want one...) to quilt the tops to the bottoms of quilts—with batting in the middle, and teaches quilting.
On my side of the street, in addition to In Stitches, we have a costume shop, a home decorating shop, and a hardware store. Everyone will have tables out front during the sale on the midsummer’s night.
Consider coming for the entire weekend. We also have a community picnic on Saturday night with all sorts of things for kids to do, and yummy food. And the newly restored Elderberry Bay Lodge, a fine old Victorian inn, is almost ready for guests after being boarded up for thirty years.
The moon will be full on Sunday night that weekend, great for romantic strolls on our Lake Erie beach.
It should be a fabulous weekend. What could possibly go wrong?Willow Vanderling
July 17, 2013
November 17, 2013
I was six years old, and staying with my grandparents for Christmas vacation. My mother was a physician. She and my father planned to come for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and would take me home in time for school.
I don’t want you to think I felt abandoned. Not at all. I’d spent my vacations with my grandparents all of my life, and was as comfy in my little room up under the eaves as I was twenty miles away in my pink room with the white frilly canopy bed that had been my heart’s desire two Christmases ago. With that bed, I felt like the luckiest girl ever.
I leaned against my grandmother’s knees. She held an embroidery hoop on her lap and was embroidering linen guest towels for my mother.
“Why don’t you use pretty colors?” I asked her. “Did you run out of pink thread?”
“This thick and shiny type of thread is called ‘floss.’ I thought about what your mother would like best. She uses white towels in her guest bathroom, doesn’t she?”
“Yes, but wouldn’t she like pink if she had it?”
Granny smiled over the tops of her glasses. “I don’t think so. Not for her guest bathroom.”
“She lets me have pink in my bedroom.”
“That’s because she knows you like pink. You like the warm colors. She prefers the cold ones.” She concentrated a French knot.
“I wish I could do that,” I said.
“What you’re doing with that floss.”
“You will, some day.”
I thought about what she’d said about my mother’s color preference. Slowly, I concluded that Granny was right. All the rooms in my parents’ house were white or pale tints of gray, green, or blue. Only my room was bright, beautiful pink, and it wasn’t because they hadn’t gotten around to painting the other rooms pink. That was the way they liked it. Maybe I could change their minds, but I’d already learned they were resistant to changing their minds.
On Christmas Eve, I got Poppy to take me shopping. I knew just what Granny would like. I stood before the display of embroidery floss for a long time, choosing the right colors, then changing my mind, putting them back, and choosing them all over again. I ended up with shell pink, baby pink, hot pink, and fuschia.
Up in my room that afternoon, I wrapped the tins of cookies I’d made (with Granny’s help) for my parents and for Poppy. I was almost more excited about the pink embroidery floss for Granny than I was about whatever might be under the tree for me the next day.
My parents arrived. We had a Christmas Eve feast, and I was hustled off to bed.
In the morning, I made Granny wait until last to open my present, and she gave me one from her to unwrap at the same time.
I gazed in wonder at the things nestled in that tissue paper. An embroidery hoop. Pieces of white fabric. Pieces of pink fabric. Embroidery needles. Small scissors with real blades. And embroidery floss in shell pink, baby pink, hot pink, and fuschia. I looked up into my grandmother’s eyes. “I love it!” I cried.
“This is my favorite present!”
“And this is mine,” she said. “You knew what I would like.”
Suspicious, I looked at Poppy. “Did you tell her what I got her?”
He shook his head. “No. She’d already put your little kit together. You both chose the same colors of that embroidery thread for each other.”
“Floss,” I corrected him. I threw myself into Granny’s arms, and we all laughed. Granny laughed so hard she cried.
December 17, 2013
January 17, 2014