Works In Progress: June 2022

Almost finished! Another patch of snowy white under the blue door to complete, a little more detailing and a few missed cross-stitches to fill in, and I’ll be done. I could return to the fractal I started earlier this year, but that frustrating project may be forever relegated to the “unfinished” stack. The older I get, the less interest I have in unsatisfying projects.

Next up, then, this lovely bit of idealized Americana, a painting by Charles Wysocki. There’s lots of interesting chart work here–and I have a new tool to play with: Pattern Keeper, an app that not only displays the chart at a readable scale but keeps track of where you are. Should be fun to learn and enormously useful on this large (22″x 20″) project. It will occupy my evenings for quite a while.

For me, the needlework has always been a form of meditation, very like a mantra. It keeps my mind and hands busy when my soul is troubled by matters I can’t do anything about it. Like most of you, I am deeply troubled by SCOTUS’s two recent rulings–on the Second Amendment and women’s reproductive rights–and by our country’s dark slide back into its ugly history. This weekend, I reread John Riddle’s book, Eve’s Herbs, a reminder of something that Justice Samuel Alito apparently never bothered to learn: that women have always exerted their right to control their reproductive cycles by whatever means they could find or invent. Abortion and contraception have been a part of our “history and tradition,” and Alito’s assertion that they’re not only reveals his ignorance. Of course the right to abortion isn’t in the constitution, any more than the right to get a vasectomy or drive a car or fly in an airplane is in the constitution. To argue that it must be is not only transparently lame but intentionally fallacious.

I’m glad to hear from so many of you that you are actively protesting these godawful rulings. I can’t protest, but I can help support Planned Parenthood and the ACLU and candidates for office who promise to do everything they can to counter this. (Not that we can have a lot of faith in promises. Look what those justices promised, under oath, during their confirmation hearings.) Thank you for doing what you can, too. It will take everything we’ve got to return our country to its precarious center.

On another subject. I just heard from the publisher of the China Bayles audiobooks that A Plain Vanilla Murder is on sale between now and 7/22. Check it out here. A good time to get it at a very good price.

Reading note: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

UPDATE 07/03/22: You may remember that Bill and I have a home in New Mexico. We can’t use it as often as we once could, so we’re listing it. You can see the lovely photos here.

A reminder. I read and enjoy your comments. Uncivil responses will be deleted. There’s enough of that on Twitter.




43 comments on “Works In Progress: June 2022

  1. Susan,
    I’m with you – I only do and complete needlework projects I enjoy and don’t give me too much frustration cause I use it as a meditation as you do. And the supreme court justices are NOT into just justice, AT ALL. And of course women have always figured out ways to control their own bodies. It’s this extreme conservativism which wants the ‘man’ at the head of everything and control over everything. They are afraid.

    I just finished The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker. What a way to get back at the extremes, using Huey Long as a substitute for Tr**p. I can’t even write his name. What a narcissist and complete self servicing. But many of his ‘followers’ don’t seem to see that.

    Thanks for all your books.
    Annie Odette
    Germantown Maryland

  2. Though a longtime follower, reader and admirer of your books, you, and these newsletters, I must tell you that this one truly resonated with me, and therefore, I had to write this response (my first).
    After, as always, admiring your needlework, and being enticed to pick up my own projects again, I read the comments on the SCOTUS decisions. You wrote so well of your reaction to these horrendous opinions and their dire consequences. They match my own exactly but much more coherently. Thank so much plainly speaking the truth to your followers.

  3. Like some others who have commented, “Queen Anne’s Lace” changed my perspective on abortion, when I learned it has been part of life long before modern medicine and clinics. I personally think abortion is wrong, but if a woman needs to have one,she should be able to have it done safely. I’ve always thought the solution is not to ban the supply, but to find ways to reduce the demand.

  4. The company of like-minded women is a balm to my weary soul. Blessings to you and yours!

  5. I love how you think, and how you write! The tapestries are so beautiful, when do you find the time to do all that you do!

  6. You are rightly cautious generally about tackling political issues, Susan, but here you have spoken up with clarity and force—I appreciate it. Could’t agree more about SCOTUS and am donating all I can to places that can make a difference, including Planned Parenthood and ACLU. Also the National Network of Abortion Funds ( And I love the new Wysocki pattern. I hope it’s a real pleasure to complete with the new Pattern Keeper app.

  7. This past week I was reminded of your 26th China Bayle’s mystery, “Queen Anne’s Lace” in which you ‘braided’ a second story from the late 1800’s that included the use of herbs as abortifacients. I do hope young women will not be forced to choose between various dangerous methods of birth control as a last resort. I grow rue in my herb garden as a marker of solidarity with those who have lost their right to choose. Also, I do admire your needle works so much!

  8. Thank you so much. You are truly one of my favorite people that I’ve never met. You let us in to your personal space. One other commenter said it and I wholly agree “I hold you close in my heart.”

  9. I have so enjoyed reading all the comments on this erosion of of our reproductive rights, knowing that I am in such great company of like minded women. I have done cross-stitch for years, to me it’s like painting on canvas. Many covered walls with my and my mothers cross -stitch as well, plus pillows here and there. To hopefully change the direction SCOTUS has taken, we must VOTE, support Planned Parenthood and support more women candidates who support our freedoms.
    It was a pleasure to meet you twice in Houston at Murder By The Book, bookstore years ago while being a patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center, the absolute best place ever.
    I , along with many other of your admirers have all your books and they will never be donated to the library as others that I have read.
    Thanks for enriching my life🌷🦋

  10. Love your amost-finished piece! Needlework IS like a meditation isn’t it? Much needed now . . . thank you for this blog <3

  11. Oh Susan, you and your fans are so good for me! I want to embroider so many of the thoughts I see here today. Or better yet, paint them on the garage door! We women just need to get ahead of this pack of bad actors and lead the way out of this mess. Many thanks for all you do to help me find balance.
    Must add that I have really been enjoying both the Chrystal Cave and Darling Dahlia series. Love the audio book narrators!

  12. Dear Susan, I too cross stitch, but prefer needlepoint, easier on the eyes. Your current stitch project is beautiful, as well as your next.
    I have always believed, that those that will, will, and those that won’t, won’t. To me this holds true for many things. We are in a sad moment in time.

  13. You are a wise woman. I love your books & your columns. I hold you close to my heart. I wonder if things would be different if more could remember history. At 74 years of age I am saddened by the changes I have seen in the last few years.

  14. Thanks. Now that I know it’s a Texas organization, I understand why I hadn’t heard of it before. I’m in California.

  15. I love all your books and take special joy in the nonfiction ones. Its so cool to see how your life’s story inspires China Bayles’. Thank you for this thoughtful and civil forum.

    I currently live in Mexico, and the Vote From Abroad volunteers are registering a record number of U.S. voters, hopefully a good sign and reflective of the U.S. proper.

    Saw this on Facebook and wanted to share with you, and especially Barbara Nolan, who mentioned Colin Kaepernick:

    “Next time the national anthem is played, every woman and girl should take a knee.”

  16. Thank you for clarifying that, Susan. I’ve never heard of “Reproductive Freedom Congregations” Sounds really wonderful. If I were a church goer, I would definitely want my church to be part of that, oh and if I lived in Texas. Reminds me of the cities that declared themselves “immigrant sanctuaries”.

  17. I belong to a Methodist Church; however, there are Baptist and Presbyterian churches here in Austin that are already Reproductive Freedom Congregations.

  18. Nice to hear from you, Barbara. Thank you for reminding us of the fuss over taking a knee. I want to know what’s to keep that football coach from moving his prayer to the schoolroom? The football field is part of the school’s educational program (paid for by taxpayers), so I’m concerned that the gym, the locker room, and the classroom are all next. Our founding fathers were pretty explicit about separating church and state. They understood the dangers. That concern has been forgotten. Or ignored. I don’t know which is worse.

  19. Greetings from Danville, Illinois! I agree with your views on SCOTUS, including about prayer on the football field, but the first thing I thought about was that the next time Colin Kaepernick and others want to kneel during the national anthem, they can just claim they were praying for their country… Those advocating for prayer in the schools may find themselves in a “be careful what you wish for” situation.

  20. Dear Susan. I have no longer have any respect for SCOTUS. The country has lost its moral compass on so many fronts. The future is so uncertain . I fear for the generations to come. I am glad I am old and won’t have to live to see the repercussions

  21. Mamamiau, I was delighted to discover that the Wysocki chart worked on Pattern Keeper, even though the seller wasn’t listed on their website. I haven’t started stitching that pattern yet, but I used the floss list to be sure I had all the floss for the first page. So I’m already a big fan and haven’t even used the keep-track function.

  22. Susan, I completely agree with you on SCOTUS. I also am physically unable to participate in demonstrations but have been sending donations to various PACs and committees (some even outside our shared home state) and to the ACLU and SPLC. I’ve also been openly posting links on FB that I would have worried about sharing in earlier times. We do what we can.

    I started using Pattern Keeper a few weeks ago, too! It’s such a game changed that I wish all chart publishers would offer the compatible pdf version. I might even purchase a paper and a digital copy if they did!

  23. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful response to the most recent travesty from SCOTUS, I am in total agreement. I also have done counted cross stitch for many years. In more recent times I have gone through my large backlog of un-started and partially finished projects and found new homes for them with younger family members and friends. Your books have been a joy for me since the beginning. You have my thanks for that as well.

  24. Uh-oh. Been there done that with puppies. We very much appreciate the sedate ways of our elderly heeler. Molly loves her quiet routines and respects ours. Hope you’re able to enjoy your puppy’s rompiness–she’ll settle down soon enough.

  25. Your needlework projects are beautiful. I love to do cross stitch and crewel, but need to use a pre-stamped pattern. I just cannot do the counting. I also have one project still waiting and haven’t had the get up and go to begin. Many finished and framed needlework on my walls. Just wondering what my kids will do with it all!! In the meanwhile….I am seething about the court ruling!

  26. In betwqeen the rulings on guns and abortions, the Court slipped in a ruling on Miranda rights. The ruling shields police from suit for failing to provide suspects with their rights. Miranda rights still in effect for courts. Source: LA Times, 5/24/22

  27. What is a Reproductive Freedom Congregation? What church body.
    The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) put out a well worded pastoral letter on abortion last week (probably based on the leaked version), referring members to a social statement many years ago.

  28. Hi Susan: Now I don’t feel so bad about not finishing things I lose interest in – sound like I’m in good company. Did a small cross stitch “golden letter H for daughter Heather” last winter and, like you, I find it soothing. Then went on to finish up a rose pillow, also from a kit, that had been hanging around half finished forever. BTW – one of my late husband’s favorite sayings was “don’t let the bastards grind you under” – long before Margaret Atwood came along. Love your Dahlia series.

  29. I have been thinking a lot about the means destroying the ends. I am firmly pro-choice, but I have friends who are pro-life. They are, however, of the loving persuasion who would offer medical care, free contraception, child care, and support for women to reduce the number of abortions, not eliminate them – and who never protest at clinics. I think that in the past 20 years, people who started like that joined forces with those who truly hate and wish to subjugate women and other classes of people. The hatred is palpable. The intent to suppress in other ways is already openly stated. The contagion of the means has surely destroyed the end that those who thought they were acting out of love for children wanted. I don’t usually think in terms of people selling their souls to the devil, but it is the phrase that comes to me as I listen to the news.

  30. I thought when I read Queen Anne’s Lace that you could have set it in the future as well as in the past. I have spent the weekend raging.
    And my own sanity-saver, knitting, is temporarily in abeyance because I have a new puppy. She requires my full attention when she’s awake–picking up a dropped stitch would doubtless result in a puddle. And playing chase with a ball of yarn, or impaling herself on a 2mm sock needle…
    It’s hard to get even necessary housework done.

  31. Thank you for expressing your views on the latest, unfortunate Supreme Court decisions. We can only hope that the voters express their outrage next fall. I don’t do needlework but I find the same type of meditation from drawing and painting. It slows my brain and lets me relax and focus at the same time.

  32. I was glad to see your FB post on Eve’s Herbs…and was reminded of your own brilliant book along similar lines, Queen Anne’s Lace. Women know so much more (about everything) than men, all this would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. Thank you for your perspective on all this mess….and your courage to state it. Your needlework is so lovely, and I hope you do continue to work on the Fractal…bit by bit, stitch by stitch, you will finish it.

  33. Thank you for pointing out that the prospective Justices LIED at their confirmation hearings. What message is that sending? Love this Wysocki needlepoint.

  34. Envy your patience with the needlework! Recently read A Complicated Choice by Katey Zeh (who happens to be a Baptist minister) and it should be required reading for all politicians! Abortion is a decision that should be made by the pregnant woman and no one else! My church is going through a discernment period to become a Reproductive Freedom Congregation. Like you I can’t join the protests, but I am contributing to Planned Parenthood and supporting candidates that hopefully can start to bring about change.

  35. Sorry, but I’m disappointed in your reaction to the SCOTUS rulings! I am however, grateful that you used a lower case g in the word godawful! Love every single book that you write! Brava

  36. I wondered about that fractal. I still have a pile of unfinished pieces too. I started Cucumber Tree last night. You mentioned growing up in the 40s. I didn’t think you were that old, you photograph so well . At the beginning of the story my parents had 2 boys, a toddler and a newborn. I was almost 5 years away. It will be interesting to compare my earliest memories and the difference between Alabama and California in that time.
    I appreciate your stance on current issues. I saw someone suggesting that the timing was intended to divert attention from the January 6 hearings. It seems to be working.

  37. I totally agree with your take on unsatisfying projects. I feel the same way about the books I read. If I’m not hooked by page 35, I give it up! But I just finished The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker. It is terrific! In fact, every book in this series gets better and better.

  38. Thank you for your candor. I share your frustration with SCOTUS. I enjoy seeing your needlepoint. I am a photographer and it is a kind of meditation for me in much the same way as needlepoint is for you. I enjoyed meeting you some time ago in Iola, KS and I was thrilled when you attended my presentation on Doing Oral History. Have a good day, despite all the negativity.

  39. Your cross stitch project is awesome! I’m also a counted cross stitch person. I love how you start with a blank “canvas”, 1st stitch sets it, then you watch it develop. Your next project will be quite an undertaking. Good luck! And, I love your books!! I also live in the Hill Country.

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