Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Cathy Elliott | 5 Ways Writing a Book is Like Making a Quilt

February 3, 2015

Cathy ElliottA STITCH IN CRIMEI have been a quilter for many years and enjoyed making an intricate, scrappy beauty more than any other hobby. Until I began to write. Now here was a craft I dearly loved. But wait, I loved quilting, too. In fact, I couldn’t decide which I liked better.

Writing or quilting? Quilting or writing? Both of them held me captive. I simply had to quilt. And write.
Combining the two crafts in my new book, A Stitch in Crime, I wrote a whodunit set around a quilt show with a no-show judge and a stolen, legacy quilt. And I thought of five ways the two pursuits are very much alike.

1. They have a similar starting point.

Writing: I wanted to write a mystery, but what kind? A police procedural? Locked room/puzzle mystery? Hard-boiled detective? I decided on a cozy – which has been defined as “cats & quilts and not a lot of blood.” Now I had the direction I needed to move forward.

Quilting: I wanted to make a quilt, but what kind? A bed cover? A wall hanging? A miniature? A table runner or Christmas tree skirt? I decided on a blanket-type, something the family could use on picnic outings or grab at home when the weather turned cold. Then I had the direction I needed to move forward.

2. Both inspire vision.

Writing: I needed a setting. Where would the story unfold? I thought about it a lot. Maybe a small town? I put together memories of many historic California towns: Weaverville, Ferndale, Jacksonville, Cottonwood, and added Sisters, Oregon to the mix, creating my own surviving Gold Rush town I called Larkindale.

Quilting: I needed a pattern. What would it look like? I thought about it a lot. It could be something with flowers or a sampler or a picture…like a landscape. But I love recycling leftover fabrics. I decided on a scrappy Log Cabin pattern.

3. They each tell a story.

Writing: Figuring out the plot was key. It mattered which incident went where. A restful scene next to another restful scene wouldn’t move the story. But conflict next to a restful scene would offer contrast and make the book more interesting.
Quilting: Laying out the design was key. It mattered which fabric went where. A pale color next to a pale color could bore. But a dark color next to a pale color would offer contrast and make the quilt more interesting.

4. They are both a lot of work.

Writing: As I pieced the scenes together, the book began to take shape. I made changes where needed and kept writing. I wrote until Thea had solved the mystery. At the end, I had a completed first draft.

Quilting: As I pieced the blocks together, the quilt began to take shape. I made changes where needed and kept quilting. I sewed and stitched my way to a finished quilt top.

5. Editing must be a part of the process.

Writing: Time for the most important work. I cut all the extra words, cut the unneeded scenes, until it read smoothly. Now the manuscript was ready to send to the editor for publication.

Quilting: Still important work to do. I cut all the threads away, cut the extra fabric so the seams were straight, ironing them until they were smooth. Now the quilt top was ready to send to the quilter for completion.

In the end, what did I accomplish?

Writing: I created an art piece that was also utilitarian. It might be read and, I hope, enjoyed by one of you. Or maybe read by someone in the hospital, undergoing chemotherapy. Someone who needs to escape into the winsome world of Larkindale and meet all its quirky characters for a day or two.

Quilting: I created an art piece that was also utilitarian. It found a home with my sister-in-law and resides on the back of her sofa, waiting to cover a chilled child or an adult who wants to wrap up in a cozy quilt.

A visiting quilter to our local guild meeting said it well, “Quilts are important. They fill lives with comfort and hands with purpose.”

I’d say the same about a book, wouldn’t you?


Thea James has accepted an assignment as co-chairperson for Larkindale’s first quilt show extravaganza. Juggling the new assignment with running her antique business, she’s already feeling frayed when things start to unravel.

Mary-Alice Wentworth, a much-loved town matriarch, respected quilt judge, and Thea’s dear friend, is covertly conked on the head during the kick-off Quilt Show Soiree, throwing suspicion on her guests. It also appears that a valuable diamond brooch has been stolen during the attack. The family is furious. But is it because of their mugged mother or the missing diamonds?

When a renowned textile expert goes MIA and the famous Wentworth heritage quilt disappears, Larkindale’s reputation as a tourist haven is at risk. Thea attempts to piece the mystery together and save the town’s investment in the quilt show before Mary-Alice is attacked again . . .with far worse results.

Fresh Fiction Reviewer Viki Ferrell writes, “This inspirational mystery will keep you turning pages…” Read our full review here.

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