I spent the last few miles of my journey checking the rearview mirror, amazed at the rooster tail of red dust that was kicked up in the wake of my rental car. When not looking back at where I’d been, I focused my attention on where I was going and keeping the small economy car from rattling itself off the washboard road.
I checked my watch, I was still a few minutes early for my appointment. I’d fought my new boss for this assignment, a much sought after interview with the semi-reclusive quilter, Savannah Threadwell – such an article would be considered a coup in the world of quilt journalism.
A new, leather bound notebook lay open on the seat next to me, a present from my parents after I landed this job, my first real job after college. I stole a quick glance at the the scribbled driving instructions, nearly missing the last turn in the process. Gripping the wheel, I made a wide, sliding curve onto the gravel driveway of a rambling red brick house, braking hard to avoid the farm equipment parked there. The trailing dust cloud caught and enveloped the car – a small blessing, I thought, that I wouldn’t have to see the business end of a bale mover connect with the front end of my car. It really was a shame that I had declined the extra rental insurance.
In the next moment I realized that the car had not only stopped but stalled, the only sound I heard was the ticking of the engine as it cooled. When the dust settled, I could see that I had avoided both financial disaster and a K.O. to my budding career. In my notebook was a photograph that had been procured by our research department and I’d studied it well in preparation for today. The snapshot had been taken quite a few years before, but there was no doubt in my mind that the woman standing beside the bale mover was Ms. Threadwell herself.
A tall woman. Her once dark brown hair was worn shorter now, and more than lightly touched with silver. She was flanked protectively by two yellow-orange dogs. If they had been cats, the color of their fur would be described as marmalade, but I knew by looking at their hard and alert eyes that no one could ever mistake them for jam sweet doggies.
As I took in the tableau, I noticed that Ms. Threadwell had accessorized carefully for today’s meeting, a shotgun hung easily across her left arm. With justifiable caution, I climbed out of the rental car and introduced myself, adding, “I’d be wary of casual strangers,too, if I lived as far out in the country as you.”
Savannah Threadwell’s reply didn’t warm me. She said it quietly, and the words hung heavily in the air before she turned to lead me into her home to begin the interview. “Strangers don’t scare me. Zombies do.”
James: Ms. Threadwell… may I call you Savannah? I’ve read a lot of stories about the project that you, and many other quilters around the world are working on, a quilt designed by Bonnie Hunter called Celtic Solstice. I’d like to question you more closely on that subject, but before we begin, could you shed some light on one thing for me? Did you really say zombies?
Savannah: Would you like some coffee, Jimmie? I…
James: Uh, the name is James. But maybe you’d be more comfortable calling me Jim. And thanks, I could use a cup. Black, please.
Savannah: Oh, right. As I started to explain, I don’t worry about strangers so much as I do zombies, Jimmie. As a point of reference for your readers, I read, and books always make a strong appearance as Christmas gifts. While what interests me is such a mixed bag – everything from hardboiled detective novels to hard-core science fiction – my one constant is to have a good horror story in the pile. It really starts the new year off with a bang. You may not know this, Jimmie, but in the horror market, vampires are un-dead meat, so to speak – zombies are the monsters of choice right now. So to answer your question, Jimmie, when one has a lively imagination, one must be aware of strangers wandering onto one’s property. Have one of those peanut butter cookies, Jimmie.
James: I thought we’d settled on Jim? Are you trying to say that these books frighten you into paranoid, er, delusions?
Savannah: Oh no, not paranoid. Let’s just call it a heightened state of awareness. Banana bread, Jimmie?
James: [blink] Okay. So, regarding your quilting: I’ve heard that Bonnie Hunter hosts a mystery quilt-along every year, beginning on the day after Thanksgiving and finishing with the reveal on New Years’ Day with a link-up party after each weekly clue. This seems very intense. As a rule, do you always work at such a pace?
Savannah: Not at all, Jimmie. I think that I could best be described as a lazy quilter. I cut a little fabric, I do a little piecing, and I stare at the progress a lot. If I worked on every quilt as intensely as I do during Bonnie’s mysteries, nothing would ever get done. You’ll notice, if you haven’t already, that the Christmas tree and holiday decorations still haven’t been taken down. Then there’s everything that goes along with the general neglect that you see; a lot of meals out of cans, and the drawers are nearly empty of clean laundry. Well Jimmie, all of that is just an unfortunate by-product of this once a year quilt bash. Try some of that canned Spam, Jimmie, it’s a treat.
James: When making a quilt from a designer’s pattern, do you follow the instructions down to the last detail?
Savannah: Well Jimmie, it’s all about tweaking the pattern to make the quilt your own. Sometimes it’s something as simple as adding a border of your own design. At other times, it’s changing up the block pattern just a bit – a variation, a deviation, or perhaps the process could be best described as a mutation. Mutants! First there was Godzilla, then Rodan, and now me. Fudge?
James: Yes, please. Have you ever considered an alternative pastime? What if you could no longer quilt?
Savannah: Do I have a Plan B? That’s a very interesting question, Jimmie. As a matter of fact, I do. In the past I flirted with several musical instruments; the harmonica, the dulcimer, but it’s the accordion that has always held a special place in my heart. I’ve often thought that if all else failed, I could rely on my accordion to sustain me. Have you noticed how much airtime the song Shipping Up To Boston by Dropkick Murphy’s has been getting lately? It was used to great effect in Scorsese’s film, The Departed, but now the song has been featured in a mainstream beer commercial – that’s the accordion for you. Some Vienna sausages, Jimmie?
James: And your husband, your family, and your friends – are they as supportive as you hoped they would be? What do they think of your passion for quilting after all these years?
James: Thanks, but that fudge really filled me up.
Savannah: No Jimmie, that was in answer to your question. Nuts… as in nutty. Everyone I know thinks I’m barmy. Fruitcake, Jimmie?
[Edit.: I have one more border to add yet, a scrappy green border that didn’t get done in time for the last link-up party – close, but no cigar. My version of Celtic Solstice with an extra border will finish at 83″, or 210.82 cm. square.]