The longer I write and knit and sew, the more convinced I am that these different art forms aren’t so different at all. Stories don’t have to live only in our heads or on the page. They can be as real and touchable as your favorite bolt of fabric or skein of yarn.
After all, stories are called yarns for a reason, aren’t they? More than that, they’re whole worlds of yarns. If you have a story to tell, and you pretty much have a giant basket of alpaca so tangled up, you’ve got to unravel every tangle and wind the results into separate balls before you can even think about knitting.
So why not bring these disparate worlds I love together in one place? What if we needed these very tangible materials to help tell a story, as much as we need paper and pen?
These are questions I’ve been asking myself lately. At first I just let them tickle in the back of my mind. But since coming to understand my creative process even better, I’ve decided to fast-forward them from my someday list to very soon.
This fall, I’ll be launching a brand-new serial steampunk novel. Similar to Alethia Grey, it will release weekly or biweekly (haven’t decided yet) and feature not just text but picture-book style illustrations.
But that alone isn’t enough. The story wants to include knitting and sewing and quilting into how its told. And who am I to refuse such a delightful request?
Which is why, this past weekend, I broke out my bengala dyes and got busy creating the materials I’ll need.
Doing The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey opened my eyes to the joy of incorporating a tangible handicraft (in this case, drawing) into the writing process. It feels natural for me. Like that’s always how it should have been, and I just couldn’t see it until now.
My new project (well, new to you but long known to me!) also takes place in a lightly-steampunk world. Only, this one will be quite a bit more whimsical, and quite a bit less recognizable, than Alethia’s Wisconsin of the 1890s. There’s a lot more setting of place to be done, establishing of the world’s rules (are you ready to get wild?), and exploring the concept enough so that everyone feels like they’ve ventured far and wide within it through the eyes of the cast.
The title won’t be revealed just yet. But rest assured, it’s coming shortly! (I have to keep you in suspense somehow, right?)
Which is why this past weekend, I set about dyeing scraps of old fabric and my latest batch of wool and alpaca yarn. These will quite literally be the first materials I need to bring the world of the story together. I’ll be stitching this world into existence, piece by piece.
For past stories, I would have spent hours drawing maps, creating world information and posting it similar to how we did for the show Aurelia: Edge of Darkness, which still has a pretty expensive fan-compiled wiki over at Wikia.
This time, you’ll be meeting the world through fabric, yarn and buttons. As I sew, I’ll write. As I write, I’ll sew. I’ll also be creating other art pieces from found objects, upcycled materials and natural items to help tell the story.
And I’ll be capturing it all here so you can enjoy every bit of the experience, too.
So why undertake a project like this? One that requires me to roll up my sleeves and get dirty with Bengala dyes and resins and hand-quilting and other labor-intensive techniques?
Because this time around, I want “world creation” to be so much more than putting ideas into worlds. I want to be make the world with my own two hands and wrap it around myself and share it with you through crafts that match the story.
Every part of it will be as tangible as the chapter-by-chapter adventure I’ll be sharing with you right here, alongside Alethia Grey.
And that’s where you come in.
You see, to me stories are never a solo endeavor. If I learned anything from running a two-season collaborative web show, it’s that group contribution and improvisation can make stories so much richer and deeper than they would have ever been on their own.
For a story that requires a rich tapestry of tangibles like this, I can’t do this all alone. Sure, I have a brain stuffed full of ideas, a novel that’s ready to be chapter-divided, a big knitting box and and even bigger box of fabric. But I’d love to open up this project to you, my wonderful readers.
Will you build this world with me?
Do you have a bit of fabric or a weird bead or some ribbon lying around the house that you don’t know what to do with? Would you like to contribute a piece of yourself to this new world? To be in the story in this way? If you’re willing to share your odd bits of fabric and notions, I’d love to incorporate a piece of your world into mine. You’ll get to enjoy watching the project unfold. Oh—and you’ll have a credit in the final piece, as well.
I’ll be collecting bits of fabric, beads, buttons and ribbon for the next couple of weeks. If you’ve got something you’d like to share, reach out to me here and let me know! I’ll work with you to collect your unneeded odds ‘n ends in the easiest, fastest way possible.
What about colors? The illustrations for this story will be sepia-toned, in keeping with the steampunk genre. So browns, rusts, creams, taupes, golds, bronzes: basically anything that resembles old photograph-style colors will work.
I believe that no truly great story is ever told alone. This one won’t be either. My words and pictures can only carry the story so far. But swatch by swatch, stitch by stitch, we can make something beautiful and new.
Together, we can make the end product so much more beautiful than one person ever could alone.
Will you put this tale together with me?
Please give me a holler if you or someone you know has
beads, buttons, fabric or ribbon (or something
else I haven’t even thought of!) to help bring
this new storyworld to life.
With much love and gratitude,