About the Author
Chloe Taylor learned to sew when she was a little girl. She loved watching her Grandmother Louise turn a scrap of blue fabric into a simple-but-fabulous dress, nightgown, or even a bathing suit in an instant. It was magical! Now that she’s grown up, she still loves fashion: It’s like art that you can wear. Chloe has written more than thirty books for children and lives, writes, and window shops in New York City.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Nancy Zhang is an illustrator and an art and fashion lover with a passion for all beautiful things. She has published her work in the art books L’Oiseau Rouge and Street Impressions and in various fashion magazines and on websites. Visit her at Nancy-Zhang.com. She lives in Berlin, Germany.
Stitches and Stones
- - - - CHAPTER 1 - - - -
Woo-Hoo for Spirit Week!
Spirit Week is coming up at Mapleton Prep, and I can’t wait! Every day has a different dress-up theme, so as you can imagine, it’s right up my alley. There’s Hat Day, Twin Day, Backward Day, Decades Day, and School Colors Day, so I’ve been sewing up a storm, working on outfits for the week. On Friday there’s going to be a Spirit Assembly with awards for the most creative costumes and—believe it or not—a karaoke competition. Cool, huh?
I made this tulle skirt to wear for Hat Day on Monday, but I’m still lacking the most important part of the outfit . . . the hat! Hopefully I’ll be solving the problem later today. My friends and I are heading over to Priti’s house to raid her family closets. Her parents are from England, and as her dad says, the English are “Mad Hatters.” Once, her parents were invited to Ascot, which is where the English hold famous horse races, like we have for the Kentucky Derby. People wear the most amazing hats. I can’t wait to see what surprises Priti’s mom has in her closet. She said we could borrow them if we promised to be very careful to not get them dirty. I told her not to worry; I’ll guard them with my life!
We also have to practice the song we’re singing at the big karaoke competition: “Be Yourself” by Las Chicas. I love that song; I just can’t stop playing it—which is starting to drive my dad and brother bonkers. Since I’m the only girl in the house, sometimes I feel the need to stake out some territory (even if it’s just by playing ubergirly bubblegum pop songs on repeat)! Besides, I’m just getting into the spirit for Spirit Week!
“So do you all have the spirit?” Priti Holbrooke asked her friends Zoey Webber, Kate Mackey, and Libby Flynn as she opened the front door to let them into the house. She was wearing a huge hat that bore a remarkable resemblance to one of the fancy flowerpots Zoey’s aunt Lulu bought for her decorating clients except it was upside down.
“Well . . . definitely not as much as you have,” Zoey said. “Where did you get the flowerpot?”
Priti laughed. “It’s Mom’s. She wore it to my uncle’s wedding. Believe it or not, it wasn’t even the biggest hat there.”
“They must have had to rent a bigger hall just to have enough room for the hats,” Libby said.
“Doesn’t it give you a headache?” Kate asked. “Or, like, make your neck hurt from having to hold it up?”
“No,” Priti said. “But it’s hard to see out from under it. And forget trying to kiss people. I think they made up air kisses because of hats like this.”
She pretended to kiss Zoey on either cheek with two loud “Mwahs.”
“Help me! I’m being hattacked!” Zoey cried in mock panic.
“Wow, I want to see the rest of the hats,” Libby exclaimed. “But . . . I’m hoping there are a few that are a little . . . um . . . smaller?”
“No worries,” Priti said. “There are plenty to choose from, but if you change your mind this one might still be up for grabs! Come on, let’s go hat hunting!”
The girls traipsed up to the Holbrooke’s spare room, where there was a big closet the family used for storage. The closet doors had already been flung open, revealing stacks of hatboxes, as well as hats piled one on top of the other on shelves.
“Wow, Priti, your mom must have gone to a lot of weddings!” Zoey exclaimed.
“And horse races,” Libby added. “Didn’t you say she went to Ascot with the queen or something?”
“Not exactly with the queen—the same day as the queen. On Ladies Day, when everyone wears fancy hats,” Priti explained. “It’s different in England. It’s a more . . . hatty place. That’s just how it is.”
“I wish people wore hats more here,” Zoey said with a sigh. She lifted one of the hatboxes off the pile and opened it. Inside was a white fascinator, which was constructed to look exactly like a sprig of orchids. “I mean, look at this. It’s . . . perfection!”
“Oooh!” Libby squealed. “Can I try that?”
Zoey had been hoping she could wear it, because it would look amazing with the tulle skirt she’d made, but she said “Sure” and handed it to Libby, who slid the combs carefully into her hair.
“What do you think?” Libby asked.
“You look amazing!” Kate exclaimed. “It really works on you.”
Zoey had to agree. And there were still plenty of unopened hatboxes to choose from.
Priti opened another hatbox and pulled out a pink, woven straw cloche with a white silk ribbon held in place by a cluster of mother-of-pearl stars. “Kate, this is so you.”
Kate didn’t look quite so sure it was her, but then again she wasn’t nearly as fond of clothing as she was of sports. Her favorite outfit was a team sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. Zoey, Libby, and Priti had to constantly work on her to spread her fashion wings.
“It’s really pretty, but . . .”
“Go on, try it on!” Libby urged her, the orchid on the fascinator bobbing with enthusiasm.
Kate reached for the hat and plopped it unceremoniously onto her head.
“Fashion heathen.” Priti sighed, arranging the hat to proper effect, and pushing Kate’s hair back from her face.
She leaned back to examine her handiwork. “Much better.”
“What do you think, Zo?” Kate asked.
“Priti’s right, Kate. It looks gorgeous on you.”
“Definitely,” Libby agreed. “I love the shape. It makes you like an international woman of mystery.”
“Okay, okay, I’m sold,” Kate said. “But it’s going to look kind of weird with jeans.”
“You cannot wear jeans with that!” Zoey said. “No way, no how! I’ll lend you my pink tiered skirt. It’ll be kind of a miniskirt on you, but you can wear white leggings underneath. Libby, you have white leggings you can lend her, right?”
“Yes,” Libby said. “And I have a perfect white shirt to go with them.”
“And Sashi’s got a pink belt that will tie the whole outfit together!” Priti exclaimed.
“She won’t mind me borrowing it?” Kate asked.
“What is the point of having older sisters if you can’t borrow their clothes?” Priti said.
Sometimes Zoey wondered what it would be like to have an older sister, but having her best friends to borrow clothes from was just as good. And being able to design and make clothes for herself and her friends was even better.
“What about you and Zoey?” Libby wondered. “We need to get you two hatted up.”
“Fear not! The Holbrooke Hattery is not exhausted yet,” Priti said, reaching to the top of a pile of hatboxes. She brought down a length of sparkly material.
“Wow! That material is sparkletastic!” Zoey exclaimed.
“I know, right? I forgot all about it,” Priti said. “My mom got it a few years ago at a tag sale, because she knows I like sparkly things. I think she was planning to use it to make me a Halloween costume, but that never happened.”
“We have to do something with it,” Zoey said, letting the shimmering sequined fabric trail through her fingers. “It’s too wonderful to sit in a closet.”
“Okay, but right now you have to find hats!” Libby reminded them, reaching for the nearest hatbox.
She took off the lid and pulled out a retro-looking pillbox hat made of embroidered satin and topped with a veil.
“I think I like this one almost as much as the fascinator,” she said, taking off the fascinator and trying on the pillbox hat.
Seeing that Libby had taken it off, Zoey picked up the fascinator and tried it on.
“What do you think?” she asked her friends.
“It suits you, too!” Kate exclaimed. “And it would look really cute with the tulle skirt you posted on your blog.”
Even though she loved the pillbox hat, too, Libby looked a little disappointed.
“How about we wear each hat for half the day, then switch at lunch?” Zoey suggested to Libby. “The pillbox hat will go well with my skirt too. I can start with that one!”
“That would be awesome! Thanks, Zo! I like them both so much, it’s impossible to choose,” Libby admitted.
“What do you think of this for me?” Priti asked. She was sporting a navy-blue hat with a wide, angled brim, decorated with huge cream-colored flowers.
“I definitely vote for that over the flowerpot hat,” Zoey said. “We can actually see some of your face, not just your mouth.”
“And you can kiss us—or anyone else who might be kissable,” Libby said, blushing.
“As if!” Priti said. She still hadn’t forgiven Felix Egerton for asking Kate to the Vice Versa dance after he’d already said yes to her. It all worked out fine in the end, because the girls went as a group—without dates—and had a great time.
“And the color suits you,” Kate said.
“Okay, well, now that our hat choices are settled, we need to practice our karaoke song,” Priti said.
“Um . . . I’ve been thinking. How about I cheer you on from the sidelines?” Kate suggested. “Singing is not really my thing.”
“But it’s the grande finale,” Zoey protested.
“Yeah, Kate. Have you heard me sing?” Libby asked. “It’s not pretty. But karaoke is just about having fun.”
“I know but—it’s a competition.”
Maybe it was from years of playing sports, but Kate usually played to win.
“No buts!” Priti said. “Everyone has to be a part of it. We’re not just friends—we’re a team. Besides, I’m working on the most amazing dance routine.”
“Wait, we have to dance, too?” Kate asked.
“You like dancing,” Priti argued. “You had as much fun as any of us at the Vice Versa dance.”
It was hard for Kate to argue with that. They all had a great time dancing together.
“Okay, I give in!” Kate said, holding up her hands in surrender.
“Don’t feel bad. No one can ever hold up to Priti pressure for long,” Zoey said, grinning.
The girls took the hats they’d selected into Priti’s room.
“So, are we still okay with singing ‘Be Yourself’ by Las Chicas?” Priti asked.
“Yeah! I love that song!” Libby exclaimed, and started to sing the chorus.
“I like it too,” Kate said.
“What’s not to like?” Priti said, laughing. “So, I’ve been listening to it and have an idea for a routine. Here we go. . . .” Priti put her MP3 player into a speaker dock and pushed play.
As soon as the first notes came through the speaker, she said, “Come on, stand up, watch, and then do what I do!” She started to show them dance moves.
Zoey watched her friend’s feet carefully and tried to imitate her. But she found herself distracted by the noise that suddenly came from downstairs. The sound of loud voices. Angry voices. The voices of Priti’s parents, who seemed to be having an argument. A very loud, angry argument.
Zoey glanced at her friends to see if they’d noticed. Kate’s brow was furrowed, but that could be because she was concentrating so hard on trying to imitate Priti. But Libby caught Zoey’s eye and gave her a What is going on down there? look.
Priti obviously heard it because she danced over to the sound dock and turned up the volume—loud. The kind of volume that would have Zoey’s dad shouting at her to turn it down before she made him and Marcus deaf. But the weird thing was, Priti just went on with the routine, as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening. Zoey wondered why Priti wasn’t saying anything and what was going on with her friend’s parents. She’d never heard them shout at each other like that before.
But no one would guess from Priti’s smile that anything was wrong.
“Come on, you guys! Let’s do it again,” she said, as bubbly and energetic as ever.
They practiced the routine until Mrs. Mackey came to pick up Kate, Zoey, and Libby, and Zoey thought if she heard that song one more time, she might wake up in the middle of the night sleepdancing. Zoey noticed that on the way out of the Holbrooke house, Priti’s parents were nowhere in sight.
“See you tomorrow,” Priti called from the doorstep. She waved to them until they were out of view.
“I wonder what all that shouting was about,” Libby said. “I felt really awkward.”
“I know,” Kate said. “And Priti was acting weird.”
“What happened?” Mrs. Mackey asked.
Kate paused. “Well, Priti’s parents were arguing about something. It was pretty loud, but Priti acted like nothing was wrong, so I didn’t want to ask.”
“Me neither,” added Zoey. “I didn’t know what to say.”
“Maybe she was embarrassed or felt like it was private family business,” Mrs. Mackey said.
Zoey could understand that. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that despite Priti’s upbeat attitude, she had been acting differently recently.
“Have you noticed that when we make plans, Priti’s been trying to go to our houses instead of hers?” she asked Libby and Kate. “I mean, today we went to her house because of her mom’s hat collection, but . . .”
“Now that I think about it, you’re right,” Libby agreed. “Remember a few weeks ago? We were supposed to go to her house, because her mom was making new recipes for her Indian food blog and we were asked to be taste testers, and then all of a sudden she wanted to go to your house instead?”
“Oh yeah. . . .” Kate nodded. “And we were going to sleep over last weekend, and then for some reason Priti wanted to do it at my house.”
“I wonder if it has anything to do with the big fight we heard today,” Zoey mused.
“The best way to support Priti is by not letting your imaginations run wild with things that might be happening and be there for her when she’s ready to talk about whatever is going on,” Mrs. Mackey advised, glancing at the girls in the rearview mirror.
Zoey was determined to be there with a listening ear whenever Priti decided she wanted to talk. But in the meantime she had an outfit to finalize for the first day of Spirit Week!
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