Funny Friendship Fiction

There are two people, and they both know one change is needed. The people are close friends and their names are Marta (her mother is from a Spanish-speaking country, so there is no h in her name) and Linnea, who hates her name, but really shouldn’t. (It’s not clear where her mother is from, but obviously she has a poetic side to name her daughter that.)

Marta and Linnea are adults and have grown up together, pretty much. They have so much in common and even try to pretend they’re sisters, because neither has any siblings. Both women have some of the same hobbies or interests, and that includes sewing. This is where the change comes in. They are both great artists with fabric and a sewing machine, or with a needle and thread. They’ve been sewing for years and that has been the cause of the problem.

You see, both Marta and Linnea have so much fabric, a goodly portion of which is in the form of small scraps. You might be thinking the two friends are hoarders, but that would be unfair. It’s important to realize that fabric is a very, very, VERY seductive thing, what with all the designs and colors. A creative person cannot resist these qualities. A frugal person knows homemade often means better made and more inexpensively. A person who is a ‘maker’ simply cannot sit without something in her hands, some manual project, often combined with music or a film or even an audiobook. The hands are never cold in the case of these people.

However, the remnants of projects multiply rapidly. Well-meaning friends donate, too. The colors dance, play, get all jumbled up, and as they do that they are busy making more of themselves. Don’t think I’m trying to say they reproduce, because that would make no sense. 

Fabric scraps just clone themselves, plus acquaintances drop donations off on the porch of a sewer, and it occasionally rains those little pieces that quilters call ‘crumbs’. Even those are useable and people in the know put out buckets or bowls to catch the beautiful colors that are the precipitation of the day. Even pink is received in a welcoming manner, although neither friend likes that color because mostly it’s too little-girlish and thus stereotypical of sweet young ladies. 

Marta and Linnea are definitely not sweet young ladies. They have an argumentative streak (especially Marta) and will stand up for what they believe. They might sew, but they also are skilled landscapers, decent carpenters, and work with animals, although the work they do is not the same. They have a lot in common.

Now for the problem, the change they both agree must be made: the fabric stash in each house has got to be brought under control. There is too much space being devoted to scraps. The material they’ve acquired won’t go bad in the refrigerator, it won’t dry up like acrylic paint, and it doesn’t get rusty, but it is greedy and devours the air. One day you have a neat plastic bin with colors nicely folded and sorted, and the next everybody is out and flopping around. Who let the dogs out? No, better, who let the orts out? Orts, by the way, are those tiny pieces, frequently from quilting projects. Orts can also be food leftovers, but we’ve already noted that the orts that are giving headaches to Marta and Linnea are not something one keeps in a refrigerator.

I learned that word from doing crossword puzzles. Three letters that mean something really big. The crossword part is probably irrelevant.

There is a solution both women can agree on. They feel exactly the same and know that urgent action is necessary. You see, even moss and lichens can spread if you let them. 

The goal is for each woman, in her own place of residence, to put such a big dent in the fabric stash that the only things remaining will be three boxes or totes. Or better yet, maybe just two. Reduce a hundred to two. A lofty, admirable goal. Doable, too. 

Marta and Linnea are committed to their plan: they agree to allow themselves one month to achieve the stated goal. They didn’t expect to choose two very different ways to make that happen. In fact, the two friends are sure they can resolve the problem, even if they do so in opposite ways. The point is to ‘make the world (of orts) go away’, kind of like Tammy Somebody-or-Other sang in that song, ‘get it off my (their) shoulders’ - also a line from the song. 

How? How can anybody ditch all that in a month? Not ditch, but repurpose, reuse, recycle (yaddah, yaddah)? Neither Marta nor Linnea is unconcerned about the environment. They are very intelligent women. For that reason, they approach their shred problem carefully.

Orts. Term is apparently derived from German and related to Dutch. That should be sufficient. Seems to be related to food bits. But leftovers from a quilt, they almost seem edible, right? They need to be scooped up and stored for later consumption.

Lots of them. That’s what happens, because it might take a couple of centuries for the little devils to deteriorate. Under the right conditions, with decent storage, they can last longer. Fabric scraps are simply not like food scraps.

Avalanche. Try storing the little imps. If you get past the four-liter container from The Dollar Store - which you always do - you will have entered the twilight zone of nebulous storage methods. You are in danger. You are also in denial, most likely. Just because they’re little, doesn’t mean they won’t grow.

Now ort accounting does not include yardage that you bought or fat quarters. (Basically, a cut of cloth measuring eighteen by twenty-one inches, always sold in fabric sections or quilt shops.) We will overlook the zippers, ric-rac, bias tape, and other items that might be accruing as we merrily go along sewing. There is no way to count them because they wrinkle up, fold over on themselves, or do other sorts of contortions that make you lose count. One ort jar? Once you get to the third, you know they need to be kept in bins. Counting bins is much easier, unfortunately.

We have considered the reasons why scraps increase. They might lay eggs. They might call their friends to come over. There was some children’s story about the toys that came to life on Christmas Eve, maybe? The old ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play’ story. However, enough joking around. Marta and Linnea are determined to fix the problem. Since they are intelligent, the next step is obvious.

Study options:

Scrap projects. There are hundreds on Pinterest, some good, some not. If the projects were that great, people would be making lots of ort-objects. Problem is, some things are ugly and others are useless. You need to sort your ort ideas out carefully or using them up will be a waste of time.

Donate. Oh yes, we love donating. Easy enough to throw everything into a big plastic bag (or ten, or twenty, or fifty) and hurry off to Salvation Army, Goodwill, Kiwanis, etc. etc. Lots of places take them and the items that have been donated find new homes. The only thing is that feels like the poor orts are being abandoned. They deserve better, one would think. Marta and Linnea thought the same.

Make rag paper. Oh, that is really cool and there’s a guy on youtube who has a video about making paper from denim, i.e., old jeans. There is one small detail. A batch of paper might turn out a beautiful blue because the jeans are blue. A mishmash of fabric might end up muddy-colored. Gray, dingy paper might be all right, but... the real issue is that you can’t use a lot of fabric in a blender used for food or you’ll kill the motor. Not a very efficient way of using up orts unless a crew of about a hundred people, each with a blender and working about twenty hours a day for six months.

The two friends discard the previous idea as irrational. Marta remarks that it is too expensive, but couldn’t a Hollander beater be used? Somebody might be willing to loan her one. All the paper could be given to schools, prisons, or anybody who needed it. Even artists could use it for collage or any mixed media pieces. The hitch is that the beater is, after all, too expensive. Great idea, but without a go-fund-me effort, not going to happen.

Keep it simple. Put the little remnants in recycling or garbage, using public bins if necessary. Sneak into other people’s containers, if necessary, if you run out of space in your own. Don’t get caught. Yes, it’s wrong, but it’s an option nevertheless.

Burn them. The two women aren’t certain if there are any issues with burning tons of fabric in the fireplace. Maybe there would be toxic fumes? Outdoors might work better? An iffy solution. Neither of them feels comfortable consigning the pretty little scraps to cremation if not absolutely necessary, anyway. Cruel.

Quilts. Make them, lots of them. It’s not like Marta and Linnea don’t know how to do that. They’ve both made crumb quilts, scrappy quilts, table runners, mug rugs, lots of things. It would probably be possible to make three king-size quilts, using teeny pieces for both back and front. Total inches per quilt would be around 120” x 100” (keeping in mind that California king-size is slightly different). That’s 12,000 square inches for front and the same for the backing, for a total of 24,000 square inches. Linnea thinks *maybe* three that size, totaling 72,000 square inches, plus what is needed for the binding around the outer edges, could help. 

The problem is, how many hours will it take to assemble the little devils? One month, working eight hours a day, would mean about 8 x 30 = 240 hours, counting weekends. Not likely to be enough. Marta agrees, because she herself knows how many hours go into making a quilt. 

Donate to a museum. A completed quilt could be donated to a museum if the right one could be found. However, modern pieces aren’t valued much, unless they’re considered to be contemporary art. And to be art, they need to be unique - maybe monstrously huge, or sewn in a strange manner. This option doesn’t seem encouraging.

Marta and Linnea realize that the first thing they have to do is give themselves a reasonable amount of completion time. Extend the one month they’d initially indicated to two months, and instead of three or two totes, they’d need to allow the leftovers to occupy up to five totes, although four would be better.

The friends look at each other.

“We can’t do it. So (sew) much fabric, so little time.”

Linnea is trying to be funny, but she fails. Fabric scraps are like cockroaches. Once you get one in your house, more will follow. The same goes for ants. Spiders, not so much.

“How about if we try to resolve a different problem?”

Marta was willing to accept defeat at the hands of the horde of orts. There was no way in the world either of them was going to win that battle.

Linnea looked thoughtful as she pondered alternatives to the ever-present stash population, and after about five minutes, she smiled.

“What if we get rid of the brown tail moth caterpillars? We’re both so allergic to them.”

“That’s for sure. Plus, the only thing you can put on your skin after contact with their bristles is a concoction from a pharmacy that makes out like a bandit every year.”

“Yes! We can burn the nests out of the trees!”

Each woman had oak trees in her back yard that were much beloved of the brown tail moths for their offspring. Marta and Linnea were neighbors, which meant a successful solution could help them both.

“No. We should cut down the trees.” Marta thought that made a lot of sense.

“No! Why should trees be sacrificed?” Linnea was appalled and getting extremely agitated at the thought of chopping down her lovely oaks. 

“Maybe somebody can inject the trees with something?” Suggested Linnea, not happy with the idea of poisonous substances in her back yard.

“Why not just have them sprayed?” Marta thought that might be less expensive. This was not a good suggestion, considering how this would send poisonous vapors out into the air even more quickly.

By now the two friends had run out of ideas for eliminating the brown tails and their noxious body hairs, short of sending the nasty critters back to Somerville, Massachusetts, whence they had come. They resigned themselves to one last problem they both needed to resolve.

“We need to write an award-winning story!” Linnea chirped. “You know we both are rather struggling financially, not because we’re to blame. A lot of people are. I read about a contest where the winning entry is awarded $20,000, second place gets $10,000, and third place gets $5,000. It’s supported by an anonymous philanthropist who wants to promote great fiction writing.”

Marta agreed. This money thing she was experiencing wasn’t a matter of life or death, but it was uncomfortable. She needed cash. Maybe she should rethink the making paper idea? Instead of donating it, she could sell it, earn a bit of extra income, just until she could go back to work full time. 

Linnea nods her head, relieved that they had found a problem they both needed to resolve. Each woman is aware of the deadline, which was a month away. Just like they had first planned - eliminate the problem in four weeks. Not too long and not too short. A story in a month was entirely doable. How to do it is where Marta’s method diverges completely from Linnea’s.

Marta has decided she’s going to take the proverbial bull by the horns and write/shoot from the hip. Do it quickly, get the words out there, let stream of consciousness be her guide. Up to thirty pages. A piece of cake, but she knows she also has to leave time for revision. Maybe two pages a day. She rushes home, pulls out her laptop, a pile of blank paper and a pen (just in case), and starts. She is on a mission.

Linnea is sorting her many ideas like she tries to do with her orts. She knows she has to try some on for size, do some background reading, plan and plot. She may consult a few good sources on ‘how to write a fantastic short story’ or ‘how to make money publishing fiction’. She runs home, pulls out her computer and paper, along with a pen, and starts making lists. She may or may not have time to do all she feels compelled to do in preparation for writing. Still, she is determined to make the deadline. Her bank account has dwindled these past few months.


So there you have it. Two friends and three problems. So much in common, yet occasionally at odds in the solutions they select. You’re the reader. Which one do you think will make the deadline for submitting the story? Please feel free to comment below. Just keep in mind that we have to wrap this up in a month.

January 09, 2021 01:08

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Zoe Knight
22:29 Jan 13, 2021

I appreciate the less-popular writing style in which you address the reader directly. :) They were quite a few witty sentences. I especially liked : "I learned that word from doing crossword puzzles. Three letters that mean something really big. The crossword part is probably irrelevant." Kinda reminds me of how a really good narrator in a movie would talk.


Kathleen March
04:32 Jan 16, 2021

I really appreciate your comments, You picked out one of my silly moments, and I’ve never figured out where this humor came from. Maybe my father! As for the narrator reference, I think that may come from my listening to a lot of audiobooks. Those bring out narrative voice for me and maybe I absorbed something.


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Jay Stormer
01:40 Jan 09, 2021

An interesting story about a problem most of us have, pieces of something too small to be really useful, but too good to throw away. An unexpected. resolution.


Kathleen March
21:45 Jan 09, 2021

Thank you. Little things are deceptive. Small can become immense if the smallness adds up. Then we have a big problem.


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Kathleen March
21:45 Jan 09, 2021

Thank you. Little things are deceptive. Small can become immense if the smallness adds up. Then we have a big problem.


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Kathleen March
21:45 Jan 09, 2021

Thank you. Little things are deceptive. Small can become immense if the smallness adds up. Then we have a big problem.


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