Literary Sewing Circle: Summer Edition Finale & Project Roundup

8:00 AM



Today is already our final day of the Summer Literary Sewing Circle focusing on The New Moon's Arms! I hope you've had the chance to read the book, and the inspiration posts, and are already getting lots of ideas for a project of your own. Remember you can add your thoughts to any of these discussion posts at any time, whenever you've read the book and have something to say :)

The project linkup will be added to the bottom of this post: as soon as you are done your project, just pop a link to your post into the linkup and we will all be able to visit your blog/instagram etc. and explore your creation -- remember, it can be sewn, or knitted, crocheted, embroidered... any textile art that you practice.



Today's post also gives us the chance to talk about our reading experience a little more. If you haven't yet had a chance, check out our first discussion post for some specific questions and feedback from readers -- also take a look at the interview with Nalo Hopkinson and see if it raises any questions for you.
Did you enjoy this novel? Did you have a favourite character? Was there a theme which particularly resonated? What part of it stood out for you as your inspiration for your project? Was there anything you didn't like about this novel? Had you heard of it prior to this readalong? Did you recognize any of the character quirks in the story? What did you think of the mix of realism & fabulism?


Here are some of my musings on this novel. I enjoyed it more on the second read - I first read it quite a few years ago. I liked it then but found Calamity even more interesting this time around, as I age myself and get a lot closer to her stage of life. The setting and the interplay of the characters was what I really liked about this novel - not everyone is perfect, in fact, pretty much nobody is. Each of them have their flaws, but you end up liking them anyway. Or at least understanding them.

And I enjoyed the mythological aspects -- the sea people, the slave narrative, the folktales. Some readers don't resonate with that as much, but I liked the way it's all woven in together. I also found the mix of characters fascinating. Often in novels you get a circumscribed circle of people, in the same social and economic circles. Others may appear but only as foils for the main characters. In this novel I felt like people from all levels of society were true characters in the book, from Calamity to Evelyn, and even from Mrs. Soledad to Caroline Sookdeo-Grant. It was a wide variety of people, of all socio-economic classes, of differing racial or sexual identities. It felt completely natural and realistic, and made me a little sad once I realized how infrequently this happens in a novel.

What really caught my imagination was Calamity's "finding" ability returning at menopause. I loved this idea, and Nalo Hopkinson's explanation of it in her interview. It is one of these finding incidents that has caught my fancy for my project inspiration. When Calamity returns home with Evelyn & Samuel, to the reappearance of her father's cashew grove, her shock is complete. She says:

"The cashew trees shushed the night. Mumma used to tell me that the sound they made was their way of reminding bad little girls to go to sleep when night come. So many nights of falling to sleep with the crash of the sea coming in one window and the whispering of the cashew grove from the other."

 And I can't get that image out of my head - it feels real to me, as if I can hear it and smell it as it stands there. So I'm planning on a summer dress from a green/yellow leafy print cotton voile; it resembles the colour of a cashew apple, in a way, and makes me think of those rustling leaves. I'm not 100% sure which pattern I'll be using yet; I'll have to decide this weekend and then get to work! Possibilities include Vogue 8728 or maybe Simplicity 8384 or Butterick 5209 Have you decided yet?




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16 comments

  1. I would choose the Simplicity or the Butterick :) Happy sewing!

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    1. Thank you!! Maybe I'll make some pillow covers next..... ;)

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  2. I like the lines of the Simplicity pattern, it seems like a leafy fabric would suit it. The image of the cashew grove was wonderful.

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    1. Isn't it compelling? I had to use it :)

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  3. My book has arrived!!! And not too late. I read the first two pages and couldn't stop laughing to myself. I love the introduction. It was funny, colourful and so many comments on clothing!
    It is great to have a book which is not a challenge to get through the beginning and work out what is going on. (Although I did have to think a few times to get the family tree in my head worked out).

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    1. Hurrah!! It is so much fun -- enjoy!

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  4. Thanks for hosting another fun literary sewing circle, Melanie! I thought the book was a good summer read. I'd like to believe that mermaids are real, so that made me happy. And as always, it's been a great opportunity for sewing inspiration. I've just linked up my pencil skirt, inspired by Calamity's trouble remembering where hers ended up after her drunken night on the beach. lol

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    1. Love the skirt! And yes, your fabric is very beachy indeed :) Thanks for sharing your project - I'm hoping mine will be done this week so I can share my cashew grove inspiration as well. I'm glad you enjoyed the read and found it so summery.

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  5. Wow! I have finished the story. And loved it.
    On a general note, I have never read a book set in a Caribbean background, and I loved that the manner of speaking was real. Nalo had skill to create the atmosphere, physically and verbally. I could picture the characters talking so clearly. Despite there almost being two story lines happening at once, the folk tales and the actual story, it was an easy, delightful read. There was nothing not to like. I will definitely seek out more of Nalo's books. (Not easy to find, though). The cashew thread throughout the story was fascinating – I have never even wondered what a cashew tree looked like!!! And now, the book really spiked my interest, and I have a new appreciation of cashews.

    I saw several interesting 'threads' throughout the book. -
    1. Obviously Calamity's homophobia was real and embarrassing. I couldn't help thinking, 'is Calamity for real??', and then wondering at her easy ability to actually voice how she felt. Was she so naive that she couldn't see potential hurt before she opened her mouth? Repeatedly.
    2. My second thread was the death of her mother which was never resolved. And yet it impacted on so much in the book (and her life). It affected her emotionally during her teen years, her home life, her relationship with her father, her relationship with friends and even her relationship with Gene as he quietly worked to try and make sense of it probably 40 years later. I found that fascinating that there was no conclusion although it had a major role in the story line.
    3. Teenagers can be cruel for whatever reason. The way she was treated by Evelyn, 'queen of the schoolyard' as she described it, as a teenager was never forgotten by her. Or Evelyn as she knew how she had behaved.
    4. The older woman – now that is another whole thought for another post.

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    1. Yes! All those things! I'm so glad you loved this book. It really was all about the relationships. Calamity was so hard to take at times, as you say, she had no problem saying what she was thinking even if it might be hurtful. But I thought that Nalo was able to create a sense that she might be rethinking her strategy by the end. And I also found the loose threads around what happened to her mother fascinating -- are we to think she was one of the sea people? That she just left them? That something terrible happened? It would be interesting to hear what everyone's favourite theory was after finishing the book.

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    2. That was one of the threads I kept going back over too. Was she one of the sea people? Did she find her mother's skin in the grove? But if it was her mother's skin, then she couldn't have gone back to them, so what happened to her? I found I didn't have enough to put together a theory, but it was better that way--one of those unresolved stories we all have to find a way to live around in our own lives.

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  6. I found the concepts of menopause and Calamity's 'finding' very interesting. I am sure we reach a point in our lives, and maybe menopause is the lucky moment in a woman's time line, when we 'find' another dimension in our life. We seem to have time to be more reflective, more relaxed and not in such a rush with life. I compare Calamity's finding with just remembering moments we have experienced and having the time to think about it. And not only that, by this time in our life we have physically stored so many things from our past, that we do literally find them as we become grandmothers and seek out toys that have been 'put away', boxes not opened for years, books and photos we have not turned the pages of for such a long time.
    Whilst Nalo may not have considered any of this in her story line, this is what came to me as I was reading The New Moon's Arms.

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    1. I like this expansion on the idea of Calamity's 'finding', how it relates to our own lives in menopause and as we age. It's true, we do go back to things we may have forgotten or put aside. What an intriguing comment you've made!

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  7. I finished my project--2 days late--but I finished. The post about it is at https://urbanquilternh.blogspot.com/2018/08/summer-literary-sewing-circle.html

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  8. I thought the deadline was end of August? If no, I'm so sorry this is late! But it was fun to put the project together and I'm glad I participated. Mine is at http://blog1.andreamcdowell.com/2018/08/28/gloriously-disgraceful/

    Calamity was so fascinating. Not always likable, but always compelling, and I really enjoyed her story.

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    1. The linkup cutoff was the 24th but I will add your link manually -- can't miss those spectacularly, gloriously disgraceful Calamity Jeans!

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Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!

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