Fabric & Fiction

pg 1 & 28 & 30

I’m excited to announce that my book of short fiction & sewn images, The Experiments: A Legend in Pictures & Wordsis out now from Dusie Press! The book is made of fabulist fiction and a series of images that work in conjunction with, and as a counter-narrative to, the writing.


IMG_5974 copy

I hope that all of you, my sewing & quilting friends, will take a look! The book was my chance to combine my two loves, sewing and writing, and to tell a story that feels strange — and sometimes outlandish — but true to me.

pg 10

I was inspired to write many of the pieces in the book during my stay at The Vermont Studio Center, a beautiful writing & artists residency in Johnson, Vermont.

vermont [image vermontstudiocenter.org]

It was summertime, and I’d always dreamed about writing in Vermont. We worked in a building set by the river, and could hear water rushing all day long; I took walks in the mornings and afternoons, and snack breaks with my neighboring writers. I went to artists’ talks in the evenings, and the painters, sculptors, and performance artists’ work changed my writing. Then, back home, I started the sewn images that became intertwined with the stories I couldn’t stop writing. This gave me a new way of making — tactile, full of color, and with a rhythm that skips between image and text.


pg 13

Sections from the book were published in the journals Michigan Quarterly ReviewNew Delta ReviewWord for/Word, and others. You can read excerpts at the links above.

Two writers I respect so very much said some very nice things about the book:

“Rachel May’s series of evocative, ragged­edged, cotton­print, appliqué collages and short vignette­fables in language experiments with tales of experiments: on people (electroshock or something like it), on cloth (“distressing” it by subjecting it to various roughing processes like burial, submersion in a range of elements, and so forth); on climate and self and so forth. The simplicity of her language belies the complexity of the social eco­scapes she describes, just as the surface crudeness of her whimsical fabric patches belies the story­telling power of their equilibrium and dynamism. She “wrap[s]” her subjects “in stories” because things and words, metaphor and material, are mysteriously bound together in a continuum that is also a contestation. And somehow it all works, with beauty to spare.” – M​aria Damon

“Rachel May blends the sensuous and the violent into forceful narratives that refuse to settle neatly down. Instead, they stick out, don’t quite match up, and shuffle restlessly around in the most exciting and satisfying ways—just as her sewn collages do, in clashing prints and riotous colors—and all in quest of identity, in trying to put a name to it all, a name that goes beyond language, that demands the vividly visual, that demands the tangible. This book puts it in our hands.” – C​ole Swensen

I’ve been waiting, waiting for this moment! And hope that you’ll take a look at Dusie Press or Amazon. Thank you, and hope this finds you making…. xo


back again, high time…


It’s springtime! The snow is gone, the grass is green, and it seems like it’s high time to come back to this blog.

So, hello again. How have you been?

I’ve been traveling a bit, researching a historic quilt whose story has occupied a lot of my time for the last year. I wish I could post images here, but I can’t quite yet…soon, I hope (the images are owned by a university). The scene above is Sullivan’s Island in Charleston, SC, where I spent a week reading in the archives of different historical societies and exploring the area and its history. I was surprised at how beautiful this beach is. It was January when I was there, in the 60s (temperature, not era!), a nice respite from the Rhode Island storms. But I came expecting a quiet, secluded beach. I knew of the island from my reading on the slave trade; “tens of thousands of slaves” (as the site’s marker notes) traveled through the island on their way into the city for sale. Like everywhere else, I guess, this history sits where tourists play and tremendous fancy houses (with their accompanying tiny cabins in the yard) sit well-manicured with palmettos, gardens, and green lawns. I’m trying to reconcile my place in this story.

The King Day parade in the city center was a highlight:


An important moment in the midst of the problems we’re finally facing as a country right now.

….In related news, there’s an interesting exhibit up at the New England Quilt Museum that I have to see before it’s down May 3:


“The New England Quilt Museum is honored to host this joint exhibition from The Advocacy Project and Quilt for Change, two organizations that use the art of quilting to empower women and provide marginalized communities around the world with a means of expression.”

….In March, I got to reunite with quilting friends at our annual retreat in Maine:



I wasn’t able to sew because I hurt my hand in a year of over-hand-sewing and then a fall. Friendly tip: Take breaks when you sew by hand! Do not embroider or hand quilt for hours at a time! 🙂 Painful.


…And last but not least, I traveled to this place:

vfiles5728 (http://www.city-data.com/picfilesv/picv5728.php)

That’s Marquette, MI, and I’m going there this fall for a job as Assistant Professor of CW/Nonfiction. I couldn’t be any happier about this news! I get to join an amazing group of writers and scholars at Northern Michigan University. I’m looking forward to acquiring the title “Yooper.”


More soon —

Illustrated Novellas, in thread

5 copy

[Please do not use without permission.]


I’ve been waiting for this day, and here it is! Two novellas by brilliant writers Leslie McGrath and Beth Couture are included in this volume from Jaded Ibis Press, a press of beautiful image and text projects. I was asked to illustrate these two novellas and was thrilled to engage with the writers’ work this way. The stories are gorgeous and strange, written in lyric shorts and poetry, about a woman born with fur, and a woman whose pleiades-like-aunts raise her but can’t change her heart. I loved getting to be part of these stories by making pictures for them. Debra DiBlasi designed the book to look like it’s written on fabric pages, which is just the way I’ve always wanted to publish. I love how she used the images throughout.

I hope that you’ll take a look…


Women Born with Fur and Out from the Pleiades
List Price: $48.00

About the author:
Beth Couture (Women Born with Fur) received her Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Center Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, MFA from University of Notre Dame, MA from SUNY-Binghamton, and Bachelor’s from Hollins University. Her fiction has appeared inGargoyle, The Southeast Review, The Georgetown Review, Drunken Boat, The Yalobusha Review, Ragazine, and in the anthology, Thirty Under Thirty. She currently lives in Philadelphia and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work at Bryn Mawr College.Leslie McGrath (Out from the Pleiades) won the 2004 Pablo Neruda Prize for poetry. Her books include the poetry collection,Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage (2009) and two chapbooks: Toward Anguish (2007) andBy the Windpipe (2014.) Her interviews with poets appear regularly in The Writer’s Chronicle. She teaches creative writing and literature at Central Connecticut State University, and is series editor of The Tenth Gate, a new poetry imprint of The Word Works Press.

Women Born with Fur and Out from the Pleiades

Two Novellas

Authored by Beth Couture, Leslie McGrath
Designed by Debra Di Blasi
Illustrated by Rachel May
Edition: 1

Two novellas, each by a different authorPublished in one full-color book beautifully illustrated by fiber artist Rachel May.

A wondrous biography about excessively hairy women.
“An intoxicating book and brew.”—Frederick Barthelme, author of Waveland and There Must Be Some Mistake
“A memorable and singular debut.”–Peter Markus, author of The Fish and the Not Fish
“Utterly heartbreaking.”–Courtney Eldridge, author of Unkempt and The Generosity of Women

A picaresque novella in verse about how a bully may come into being.
“A rollicking, raucous, new myth.”–Susanne Antonetta, author of Make Me a Mother and Body Toxic
“A rich romp.”–Amy King, poet, I Want to Make You Safe and I’m the Man Who Loves You
“Marked by McGrath’s signature wit, compassion and insight.”–Bruce Snider, poet, Paradise, Indiana and The Year We Studied Women

Best Book of 2014, Amazon.com

Another piece of very nice news arrived yesterday, when I heard that Amazon.com has named Quilting with a Modern Slant a Best Book of 2014 in two categories: ‘Crafts, Home & Garden’ and ‘Editors’ Picks: Crafty and Creative Gift Ideas.’

That made my day, and made me grateful, again, for everyone who took part in the book and contributed their wisdom. Thank you, thank you. I’ve made some really wonderful friends through this process, and am so happy and lucky to know you all.

Best Book of 2014, Library Journal

It was a thrill to hear that Library Journal named Quilting with a Modern Slant one of the Best Books of 2014.

Thank you again to everyone who was a part of making this book!

The Storey team has been wonderful — thank you, Pam Thompson, masterful and extremely patient editor, Carolyn Eckert for the beautiful design, Deborah Balmuth for working with me early on, and Alee Moncy for sending it into the world.



Highfield Hall, ICA, and one great quilt


If you’re in the Boston area, head for the ICA for their new show on fiber sculpture. The above image is one of Sheila Hicks’ pieces, and I happened to be there on the day of her talk with the curator. That was a thrill. She spoke about her evolution as an artist, theory of color, and how she constructs and ships large-scale pieces from her tiny Paris studio.


That blurry figure in red is Sheila Hicks.

IMG_1232 IMG_1237There was so much incredible work at the show, but these two struck me because viewers were welcomed into them — the piece on the left is Ernesto Neto‘s “SoundWay,” and includes bells and seed pods that you can rattle as you walk around and through. And the piece on the right is Faith Wilding‘s “Crocheted Environment,” installed in a small dark room into which a few people at a time can dwell. I love its combination of rough rope and fine white yarn.

In other news, Danielle Krcmar and I curated an experimental quilt show at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA:

Quilts: Pushing at the Seams
September 10 – October 31

Pushing at the Seams, exhibits both non-traditional quilters and artists who use quilting processes in their work. The diverse showcase features unexpected materials and methods such as embroidery that represents a brain scan, patch-worked Tyvek, a rubber quilt, and leaves stitched in silk. The artists question quilting’s association with domesticity through works that challenge gender roles and racial stereotypes, explore inter-generational connections, and bring closer attention to the environment or our national housing crisis.

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Exhibition artists include:

Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr
Line Bruntse
Kyoung Ae Cho
Kathryn Clark
Alexis Deise
Jan Johnson
Chawne Kimber
Andrew Mowbray
Kim Eichler-Messmer
Valerie Maser –Flanagan

It was a thrill to get to see in person some of the work that I’d only see online, in researching the book, now here in my hands and hanging on the wall; I studied each stitch. Thank you to the artists who entrusted their work to us. And if you’re in the area, please go check out the show! There’s even a making space for children to experiment with the Tyvek that Andrew Mowbray uses in his work.

On the long driveway leading up to the museum, a group of artists had yarn-bombed the trees — delight.

Finally, a few images of a quilt by Sydney Taber, whom I met this summer while up in Maine. She doesn’t have a blog or website but gave me permission to share these images of her work here. I love her sense of color and the detailed appliqued images in this story quilt.

The Earth Rejoices.. Sungod Closeup Ramses and Chariot Close-up of Pharoah

The My Writing Process Blog Tour

This post allows me to marry the two parts of my writing and creative life — quilting and creative writing. That makes me happy.

Thanks to Padma Venkatraman for inviting me to take part in the My Writing Process Blog Tour! I recently read Padma’s newest book, A Time to Dance, which tells the story — in a series of lyrical poems — of a young girl who loses her leg and must learn to dance again. In the process, she gains a deep sense of spirituality and self-acceptance, as well as a new friend who inspires her during her recovery. The book has earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, VOYA, and SLJ, and IndieNext wrote: “This beautiful book, written in verse, follows the life of a young girl who loves to dance. The struggles caused by her traditional Indian family’s disapproval of her passion are compounded when disaster strikes and she loses a leg in a car accident. For anyone looking to be uplifted and inspired, this stunningly lyrical novel comes highly recommended!”
—Danica Ram, Townie Books, Crested Butte, CO

Padma’s previous books have won the Paterson Prize, Booklist’s Editor’s Choice Award, the SANOC South Asia Book Award, and many other honors.


So, as part of the blog tour, I’m going to answer these four questions, and then pass it on to three FABULOUS writers whom I’m so honored to know.

1) What are you working on now?

After writing Quilting with a Modern Slant, and spending months interviewing other quilters and writing about their work and processes (which was inspiring, and a lot of fun), I finally turned back to the novel that I’ve been working on for….awhile now. I began the novel, written in shorts, while in grad school in Montana. Then, I came back east and had access again to the places where the novel is set — in Massachusetts, in an orchard town. The novel tells the story of three sisters who come back to this small town after an accident, and how their friends and families are affected by the accident and its aftermath.

I just finished a story collection and a collection of short short stories with sewn images, which make a sort of interwoven legend. I’m now also researching this amazing historic quilt that’s in the textile collection at URI, where I’m getting my PhD. That project requires a lot of research and delving into the archives of the local historical societies; hopefully, it will take me to Charleston, SC, this year, to keep researching the family who made the quilt. I never felt connected to historic events before this research. Now, with access to family letters, pictures, and stories of events in the family across two hundred years, I can see World War II, the Civil War, and the history of slavery and emancipation, in really different ways.


2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I’ve always been intrigued by work that crosses genres, especially those that combine pictures and words. I’ve found ways to marry my sewing and my writing, and those projects fuel me in different ways than my novel, which is a nonlinear but more “traditional” narrative, the story of a family across several years, layered with the past — their childhoods, the last few years — and with an arc that runs through the present. I’m also always writing and thinking about quilts in terms of material culture and media studies.


3) Why do you write what you do?

I love research. Of the historic quilts. Of life on an orchard. Of other peoples’ lives — interviewing them, hearing their stories. I can escape into stories when I need to — a habit from childhood. I can write it all out of me when I need to. Writing is survival and learning and living. Isn’t that why we all write and create, to stay alive (with props to Joan Didion, of course…)?


4) How does your writing process work?

I usually hop from project to project, with several going at once, so that I’m never “stuck.” One thing isn’t working today? Hop to the other. I’m also always working on scholarly essays and conference presentations, trying to balance that part of life with the creative writing and sewing parts. But, now that I’m in the final stages of novel revision, it’s all I think about. The whole story, all their lives across all their years, is in my mind. I’m in the orchard town. I’m with all those characters. I’m thinking about where each piece of the story goes and how it’s built. What do I need to trim, where do I need to fill in a gap? I’m immersed, and don’t want to work on anything else until it’s all done. I take notes on it during the day, I write when I get up, or at night. I’m teaching an online class right now, so I respond to my students, and then head for the novel again. I go to yoga, eat some kefir (new favorite food — kind of gross but amazingly beneficial!), and go back to writing.


Okay, now onto the fun part: Three writers whose work I love!



First up, Nicole Walker, who blogs here: http://nikwalk.blogspot.com/

Her most recent book, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, won Zone 3′s creative nonfiction prize (June 2013). It’s a book that I read in a weekend, and adore, for its play with ways of telling of a story, masterful interweaving of different narrative threads, and discussion of climate change and the environment, as well as family and life in Utah. Walker is also the author of a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg (Barrow Street Books 2010), and co-editor of Bending Genre: Essays on Nonfiction (Bloomsbury 2013), which everyone who writes cnf should run out and read right. now.

A graduate of the University of Utah’s doctoral program, she is currently Assistant Professor of Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at Northern Arizona University, nonfiction editor of Diagram and editor of the artist/writer collaborative project “7 Rings” on the Huffington Post.

She taught a fabulous course in creative nonfiction at the Ocean State Summer Writing Conference this summer, so I had the chance to study with one of my writing heroes.



Kelly Sundberg blogs here: Apology Not Accepted (the image, above, is hers).

Along with hundreds of others, I was deeply struck by her essay in Guernica this spring, “It Will Look Like a Sunset,” in which she writes about leaving an abusive husband. It’s a rare piece of writing that both inspires and empowers. The essay has solicited hundreds of comments and responses online (including high praise from Cheryl Strayed), and Sundberg did a follow-up interview with Guernica after the essay’s publication.

Her work has also been published or is forthcoming in PANK, Quarterly West, The Los Angeles Review, Mid-American Review, and others. She holds an MFA from West Virginia University and is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing: Nonfiction at Ohio University. I’m so happy to know her writing, and to get to link to her work here.


lilezra copy

And last but not least, the great Susana Gardner, who blogs here: Micawberesque

She’s the author of three books of poetry, Caddish (Black Radish Books 2013), HERSO (Black Radish Books 2011), and [lapsed insel weary] (The Tangent Press 2008) and runs Dusie Press. She’s recently repatriated from Switzerland, and has rejoined her Rhode Island family in South County.

She’s published several chapbooks, including Hyper-Phantasie Constructs (Dusie Kollektiv, 2010) and Herso (University of Theory and Memorabilia Press, 2009). Her poetry has appeared in many online and print publications including Jacket,How2, Puerto Del Sol, and Cambridge Literary Review among others. Her work has also been featured in several anthologies, including 131.839 slög með bilum (131,839 keystrokes with spaces) (Ntamo, Finland, 2007) and NOT FOR MOTHERS ONLY: CONTEMPORARY POEMS ON CHILD-GETTING AND CHILD-REARING (Fence Books, United States, 2007).


You’ll get to read about these three next week on their blogs! Enjoy!



Beautiful Audrey’s Beautiful Beach Bag

Audrey Bag Tutorial Audrey Greer tutorial  IMG_0158


Now a wise thirteen year old, Audrey Greer was just ten years old when she designed this beach bag. The pattern was meant to be part of the book, but with the process of editing, there wasn’t space for it in the end. Thus, the blog! To print this greatness! I figured this is the perfect time of year to make a beach bag and head for your favorite spot. Mine’s Crane Beach in Massachusetts.

Audrey wrote these instructions herself, and made these bags for her teachers. That’s her, above with the bag at age ten, and more recently with us, to the right, at an event in Maine (at a Gathering of Stitches). She’s one talented kid. You’ll find her occasionally visiting her mom’s blog, Alidiza. (Alice just finished Elizabeth Hartman’s Preppy the Whale pattern, which is the perfect companion quilt to this bag, coincidentally!)

We don’t have images to go with these instructions, but they should be easy enough to follow without:

Drum roll — take it away, Audrey!

Beautiful Beach Bags

By: Audrey Greer

Age 10


I’ve made so many of these for my teachers gifts in fifth grade. There really fun and they come out so nicely.

Notes: Works best with Home Décor Fabrics.

½ inch seam unless otherwise noted.


  1. 1 ¼ Yards of outside fabric or 2/3 of a yard 54” wide
  2. 1 ¼ Yards of inside fabric or 2/3 of a yard 54” wide
  3. 4 Extra-Large (7/16”) Eyelets
  4. 1 Yard of ½” cotton cord
  5. 2/3 Yard of Décor Bond (Pellon 809) or other firm fusible interfacing.


Cut The Following


  1. 1 Pocket 6” wide x 12” long
  2. 2 Outside pieces 24” wide 16” high
  3. 2 Inside pieces24” wide x 20” high
  4. 2 Décor Bond 24”x 20”


Sewing the Pocket

  1. Fold pocket in half lengthwise, right sides together (RST)
  2. Start at the fold and sew around the 3 open sides leaving a hole for turning
  3. Clip the corners of the pocket and turn it right side out. Poke out the corners with a chopstick.
  4. Topstitch along the folded edge



Piecing the Lining

  1. Fuse interfacing to wrong side of the lining piece according to manufacturer’s directions
  2. Center the pocket on right side of one lining piece 6” below top edge
  3. Topstitch around the pocket but not on the top side
  4. Sew the lining pieces (RST) along the bottom edge. Press the seam open
  5. Sew through both vertical sides (RST) starting at the top
  6. Box the corners by pulling the corners of the bag open with the seams together
  7. Using a fabric pen draw a line 2 ½ inches from the point on both sides
  8. Sew along the line ( Make sure to backstitch on both sides)
  9. Trim corners half an inch from the sewn line


Piecing the Outside

  1. Repeat steps 4-9 for Piecing the Lining using the outside fabric.


Assembling the Bag

  1. Put the outside cover inside of the lining (RST)
  2. Match up the side seams
  3. Sew around the top edge, Make sure to leave a hole for turning!
  4. After you’ve sewn around turn your bag outside in Carefully
  5. Push the inside lining into the bottom of the outside fabric, take the excess lining and fold it over the top making it even
  6. Pin closed the open space that you used to turn your bag and sew as close to the outside edge as possible making sure to close the hole


Adding the Grommets

  1. Mark placements of the grommets in the center the folded over lining 8” from each side.
  2. Insert Grommets according to the directions
  3. Cut the cord in half and insert through the grommets
  4. Make a knot on each outside to hold and…


You Have Your Bag!!!!!!!!!

things that have happened


The other day, I got this image, of the cover that I illustrated for two novellas, Women Born with Fur, by Beth Couture, and Out from the Pleiades, by Leslie McGrath. These are beautifully told, strange and wonderful stories about powerful women. I hope you’ll take a read when they come out this fall, from Jaded Ibis Press. I’ve had the great honor of illustrating them, and the publisher designed this cover with my images. This tops the list of things I never imagined might happen — the delightful, wonderful, amazing things I never imagined might happen — in a year of over-the-top goodness.

I’ve traveled far and wide, as the old cliché goes, from Seattle and Denver, to Kansas City, to glorious Pittsburgh, to big NYC, to Portland, ME, and all over Massachusetts. More trips to come next year, but for now, I’m home for a spell. A new friend told me along the way that traveling so much makes being home all the sweeter — and it does. I’m soaking up the beach, loving my woods walks, going to brunch with friends, playing in the sand with friends and their kids, watching turkeys wander through the yard.

This weekend, I took a nonfiction workshop with Nicole Walker, one of my writing heroes — read her book Quench Your Thirst with Salt, if you haven’t yet; it’s a beautiful story of water, family, and Salt Lake City. We had an intense and productive writing conference weekend at URI, and then I took a trip up to Portland, Maine, for one last event.

I plan to be back on here more regularly now that my life is more regular. I’m going to add to the stories that need filling in, and tell the stories of some new folks I’ve met along the way.

So — Hello, again! Are you enjoying summertime and unwinding, too? Are you sewing like crazy? Working too hard? If so, I hope your break is on its way.

Here’s some of what happened in Portland, at Samantha Lindgren’s huge space — stocked with every machine you might need — A Gathering of Stitches, with Alice Webb Greer, Danielle Krcmar, and Jan Johnson. If you’re anywhere near Portland, and have a project that needs making, head on over to her shop. Or think about bringing your sewing crew for a retreat. It’s a great space with good making-energy and occupied studios where quilters, sewers, and weavers work away.

IMG_0144   IMG_0143 IMG_0132 IMG_0136 IMG_0139 10342899_783534565011154_3707346772351210819_n

Isn’t it a nice space?

Those are the quilts by the presenters, above left, and Samantha and her team, and their quilts, and then us, with Audrey Greer, Alice’s awesome daughter who has a bag pattern that I’ll post here next week. It’s the perfect summer beach bag.

Below, is a flashback to a trip I took to East Bridgewater, MA, to speak at the public library. I love the sweet sign they put out front! And this great group of quilters greeted me there, and let me take their picture in front of a quilt the library has hanging; it’s a story quilt about the town’s glories and history.

IMG_0016       IMG_0017

I wish I could post pictures from Kansas City and MARKET in Pittsburgh, but my cell phone was stolen, and those pictures were lost (gah!!). I do have this one gem from Market, when Katy Jones, John Q. Adams, Angela Walters, Victoria Findlay-Wolfe, Sarah Fielke, and Thomas Knauer crowded together to sign books with me. I have to say, this was one of my favorite moments of the year — it was so much fun to have together some of the amazing contributors in the book. And they were such good sports about the tight seating and race-pace signing.

10300896_10152395687076740_6858535938114072828_n   Hooray! Look at them! Thank you again, you six!

Back home, I had this wonderful sewing night at Candice Smith-Corby‘s, and she showed off one of the quilts she just whipped up, you know, with no quilting experience, on a whim?!



For now, I’m headed for the beach, writing and revising, and working on some Alabama Chanin dresses. Happy summer to you, and hope you’re finding relaxing times ahead! More soon…