Book Review: Art Quilt Maps

Art Quilt Maps: Capture a Sense of Place with Fiber Collage-A Visual GuideArt Quilt Maps: Capture a Sense of Place with Fiber Collage-A Visual Guide by Valerie S Goodwin

This is a 2013 book. I have had it for awhile, but put it in my bag a couple of weeks ago. I have been carrying it around with the intention of reading it since then, which I finally did, then began writing the review last week. I was inspired to put this book on my list after seeing my friend, Nancy‘s map quilts.

I am often skeptical of books that purport to teach art quiltmaking and improv techniques. While there are certainly things we can learn from books, I feel that the essence of learning these techniques is very hands on.

Thus, I was pleased to see the way the techniques were presented. This is not a pattern book. There are no projects included. Each technique is presented in a way that helps the reader learn a skill that will help them make their own map. From the instructions you can make your own map quilt, but your quilt will not look like Ms. Goodwin’s project. I really like the layout of this book and applaud C&T for thinking outside their normal book template.

The book begins with an introduction (pg.6-7) talking about her grandmother, learning to sew and the spark that started Goodwin on the quilt journey. I always love it when authors tell readers where they came from and how they learned to sew.

The next section, Mapping Out Ways of Working (pg.8-18) is really an extension of the introduction. This part goes into depth about what came after the initial spark. Valerie Goodwin talks about maps, why maps and other imagery captures her attention. One of the things that inspires me is that she has chosen one type of image and is working through possibility after possibility. I think this is a great way to grow as an artist as long as the type of image, in this case the map, chosen is not too limiting in scope.

This book is lush with images. There are drawings, quilts, maps, step-outs and other types of images on every page. Not only does this give the reader an idea of the work Ms. Goodwin has done, but it also shows the variety of maps and elements that can provide scope for inspiration.

This section talks a lot about Ms. Goodwin’s process, which I love. She writes about starting with small sketches (pg.16) and how the sketches play out in the actual work (pg.15). We also get some history of maps, including a brief mention of the Nolli maps (pg.17).

I also found that this section is designed to teach how to look at things and get inspiration. I think inspiration: gathering it, putting pieces together and making something is one of the, if the, most important part of art quiltmaking, but quiltmaking in general.

Yes, there is a section on materials (pg.19-22). Fortunately, the author doesn’t go into detail about basic sewing supplies. She takes up the space with materials and supplies required for art quiltmaking, including transfer and stencil supplies, fabrics and stabilizers, painting and stamping supplies. The fabrics listed are not just the usual quilting cottons. They include crinoline, silk organza, and drapery or kimono scraps.

After the supplies, we get down to business with the background layer. In the introduction to this part, Goodwin reminds us “as you work through the exercises and examples, remember that you are building a framework to create your own unique map art ” (pg.23). Following on to this advice comes a section about different layers – opaque layer (pg.24), painted layer (pg.25) and translucent layer, etc. Each of the projects is a practice piece, which the author emphasizes. As I warned, she tells the reader generally what to do, but not exactly what to do. You will not end up an exact replica of one of the author’s quilts, but you will end up with a satisfactory layer. In each exercise, there is plenty of information to be successful. There are examples of other background layers as well.

The background chapter is followed by the lines and shapes chapter (pg.28-38) – creating elements at the heart of the map. Goodwin gives examples of different kinds of lines and shapes useful for this technique (pg.30). You will be familiar with them if you have ever looked at a paper map. This is the chapter where hand and machine stitching, stamping, applique’, stenciling and other fun techniques enter the picture. I like the gallery at the end of the chapter (pg.36-38). It is a feast for the eyes and full of inspiration.

A chapter on Map haiku/visual poetry starts on page 39. In this chapter Goodwin suggests adding haiku or poetry to the piece (pg. 39). She talks about what haiku is (pg. 40), materials required and the design process (pg. 41).

Throughout the book, Goodwin reiterates lessons and techniques. While working with poetry, she writes “After you have design sketches, it’s time to start the background. Refer back to Background Music. The first or background layer is the base layer or the Earth’s surface. The subsequent layers make up the details of the map, such as roads, paths, landscaped areas, and buildings” (pg. 42). This smart because the process is reiterated over and over in context. Repetition is an excellent strategy for teaching.

The poetry chapter had more step-by-step directions, though not the kind where she tells the maker to use a certain fabric or color. She also follows the directions she gave earlier in Background Music. It is easy to move back and forth between sections to check details. I used some post-it flags to mark pages to which Goodwin often referred.

The haiku chapter also has a gallery (pg.46-48), which is such a great addition to the chapter. The pieces in the gallery illustrate the point of the chapter and provide another feast for the eyes.

Fiber Art Travel Maps starts on page 49 and is described as a reminder of a trip or a wish to visit a certain place. In this chapter, the reader follows along with making a map quilt (pg.52-56). We see many images of steps in the process and get an idea of how the process looks in detail.

The important point of the chapter is the author’s reminder that “It is important to think about what you want to express in a travel map” (pg.50), which I think is true for all art pieces. The artist doesn’t have to send a message to the viewer and can explore, for example, the interplay of colors. Be clear on what you, as an artist, want to express. Being clear about what you want to express makes a better design.

The chapter that begins on page 57 and is about mapping personal memories. The images show Valerie Goodwin’s memories, but also how she relates them to each other. Additionally, she discusses preparing them to be part of her artwork (pg.58-59). The focus of the chapter is design (hooray!) not technique (pg.58).

Valerie starts with words she and her sisters associate with the place. I like this brainstorming technique as I always formulate images in my head as I see words on a page and as I brainstorm the images start to form a cohesive shape.

This is a very personal process and the reader must extrapolate from the author’s process to create his/her own process. The process of collecting is followed by design sketches (pg.60), prep work (pg.62) and creating the background layer (pg.63). The map piece (pg.64) is discussed as is finishing (pg.65-66), but, again, not in a step by step or dogmatic manner.

The book finishes with two extensive galleries, one by the author (pg.67-81) and another by her students (pg.82-93). Both show the extensive possibilities provided by the techniques in this book. The work is extensive, varied and gorgeous. Valerie Goodwin has a definite Autumn color palette preference. While there are many black and white pieces in the student section, the works in color are very vibrant.

Buying this book, Art Quilt Maps, would be a good way to get a start in art quiltmaking.

Book Review: Stitched Sewing Organizers

Stitched Sewing Organizers: Pretty Cases, Boxes, Pouches, Pincushions & MoreStitched Sewing Organizers: Pretty Cases, Boxes, Pouches, Pincushions & More by Aneela Hoey

Lynette has been bringing a variety of sewing organizers, pouches and organizers to Show and Tell over the past year or so. As you know, I like making bags. I admired and asked Lynette about the various projects as she brought them in. One day she asked me if I wanted to borrow this book. She had an extra copy. I jumped at the chance. It sat on my shelf for awhile, but today I finally har the opportunity to read it.

Short answer: great book, go buy it now.

One thing I really liked about this book were the thumbnail photos of all of the projects right at the front of the book (pg.4). The thumbnails have the page number of the project alongside.

In the Introduction the author, Aneela Hooey, says “I have become addicted to making sewing pouches over the last few years. I think it is the combination of being able to create something both stylish and at the same time practical…” (pg.7). I like this explanation, but for myself I like these types of useful organizer patterns for gifts. I like to give things I make as gifts, but I don’t always like to give a quilt on a deadline. These pouches , holders, trays and pouches make good options.

The first 25 pages cover Materials and Supplies (pg.10-13), Tools (pg.14-15), Basic Sewing Techniques (pg.16-23) and a section called “Making the Projects” (pg.24). The final 100ish pages are instructions for making the projects.

Hooey talks the materials and supplies section as items that are useful to have on hand (pg.10). She suggests using the best fabrics and discusses interfacings in such a way that makes the reader understand why she uses the products she is using. I also like that she tells us exactly what her favorite products are, including brand (pg.11), and why she likes them. The author’s instructions about vinyl are a little different than Vanessa of the Crafty Gemini, but probably work just as well. She does not mention special machine feet, which can be useful (pg.12).

Except for a few items, the tools mentioned are very basic. Every quiltmaker will have them already, which means a quick start to making most of the projects! The items I probably don’t have, and with which I am least familiar, are the fusible tape and a drawstring threader (pg.14-15). It is always good to learn how to use a new product or tool.

In the Basic Sewing Techniques section, Aneela talks about some standard machine settings she uses such as “slow speed setting,” “needle down,” etc (pg.17). I thought this approach was a clever way of getting around the tendency to try to teach people to sew in 10 pages or less. The author also includes a well illustrated tutorial on installing zippers (pg.18-19). This tutorial can easily be supplemented by some YouTube videos or in person learning with guild-mates. I liked that the author included some basic directions for trimming corners (pg.20), “sewing the gap closed” (pg.21) and inserting a magnetic closure/snap (pg.22). These are skills which are expected in some patterns, but which aren’t often covered in books. I thought they were pretty useful.

In the “Making the Projects” section, the first page covers what Aneela means by certain terms and how to use the project sheet at the back of the book (pg.24) . This means the reader has something to which to refer, if s/he does not understand some terminology.

The project part of the book is divided into four parts and starts with a section called “Small Things” (pg.25). This is where it would be nice to have more thumbnails of the projects in this section. Project include a needle book with a tie closure (pg.26-29), a fold-up pouch (pg.30-33), tape measure cover (pg.34-37), and a green tomato pincushion (pg.38-40).

One of my favorite projects from the book, the Fold-Up Sewing Folio (directions pg.42-49), kicks off the “Cases and Folios” section (starts on pg.41). Of course, it would be the longest pattern in the book up to this point! 🙂 In this section, Hooey shows how some of the smaller projects from the Small Things section can be used along with the cases and folios.

The Two-in-One Case (pg.50-54) looks like it would be a great gift. The author uses different closures on each project, including a button and button hole (pg.55-62). While a good learning experience, I would probably stick with sew-in magnetic closures despite my rule that says I should make the pattern as it reads the first time. I did buy about 30 magnetic closures at one point by accident, which are taking up space in my supplies box.

The Pouches section starts on page 63 with a lifestyle shot of all the project in this section. YAY! That works for giving me an idea of what is included in the section. It is interesting to see what can be considered a pouch! The first project is the “See-it-All Pouch” (pg.64-68) reminds me of the Crafty Gemini Roadtrip bag. I know there are a limited number of variations in all bag and pouch type projects. I am not suggesting fraud of any kind. I think it is interesting to see the difference between the two patterns. A maker could certainly add a lobster clip and D ring as suggested by Crafty Gemini to Aneela’s pattern and have a different look. The corners on Hooey’s pattern are very professional looking.

The Drawstring Pouch (pg.74) would make a great gift bag. The other projects in this section include the Triple Pouch (pg.74-82), the Boxy Pocket Pouch (pg.83-90) and the Big Zip Pouch (pg.91-94). I really like all of these projects and would consider sewing all of them. I finally noticed while reviewing this section that the project name is printed at the bottom of the pages, throughout the book, covering that project. Very useful feature!

The final project section is called Boxes and Totes. On the section’s title page, Aneela Hooey included another lifestyle photo of all the projects. Hooray! Again, I like it because it gives me a frame of reference. From this section, I especially want to try the Fabric Boxes (pg.96-100). They are great for organizing the little things that clutter up my sewing and cutting tables.

This is a great book. I can imagine making most, if not all, of the projects included. For me, this means good value for dollars spent on the book (even though it is a loan!). Because the topic is bags/pouches, I don’t mind it being a project book. I still do need the directions for making 3D items.

I would highly recommend this book if you want patterns for gift items or if you want to organized your own sewing supplies for on the go sewing. Go buy a copy now!

View all my reviews, including the non-quilt books I read

Book Review: The Fussy Cut Sampler

The Fussy Cut Sampler: 48 Quilt Blocks from Your Favorite FabricsThe Fussy Cut Sampler: 48 Quilt Blocks from Your Favorite Fabrics by Nichole Ramirez

On first glance, this is a block dictionary. In leafing through the book, I see some classic blocks and others that appear to be modern adaptations of classics. The difference is the fussy cutting and the modern fabrics.

The book has twelve chapters, and starts with acknowledgements (pg.3) and a table of contents (pg.4) and an introduction (pg.5) . The introduction (pg.5) is not included in the table of contents. The introduction starts with an explanation of fussy cutting, “fussy cutting takes that one step further, adding interesting novelty prints, stripes, text, and other designs to your selection process, then determining the right way to cut them to showcase that portion of the fabric” (pg.5). The definition isn’t as clear as it could be, but it is useful and with the illustrations later in the book, even a novice can get the idea.

The following section (pg.5-6) is all about the authors and their approaches. The sidebars at the end are a bit of a non-sequitur but useful “Focal point: determining which portion of the block will be the main attraction, where you want to draw the most attention to ” (pg.6). Dangling participles are scattered throughout the text and are not part of my writing or review. 😉

The Anatomy of a Block is short section (pg.7) showing where background fabrics and fussy cut fabrics are placed. The section doesn’t demand the maker place fabrics in the locations they indicate, but that is the implication and the authors don’t mention moving patches around to get a different look. One thing I have noticed in the modern quiltmaking movement is the way shifting the foreground and the background can make classic blocks look fresh and new. Experiment!

The introduction to using fabrics makes assumptions about all quiltmakers (pg.7), which gets on my nerves, because we are all different, have different tastes and use fabrics in our own ways. It is followed with a useful couple of pages that includes descriptions of framing, directionality, using a design wall (pg.8), seam allowance and fabric repeats (pg.9). There is also a handy illustration defining types of motifs, such as one-way, tossed and geometrics (pg.9), which are standard terms used in fabric design.

Block basics talks about making blocks one at a time (single cut basics). The authors rightly state “since the focus of this book is to isolate motifs, some of the speed cutting and piecing you may be familiar with may not be appropriate” (pg.10). This is key. Sometimes speed cutting is not appropriate to achieve a certain effect.

There is half a page on finishing your quilt, which starts out with a note that Lucky Spool has a free downloadable PDF of quiltmaking basics. Hallelujah! Half a page does not even begin to deal with the intricacies of backing or quilting much less bindings. There is an entire book called Happy Endings, after all!

Most of the tools displayed in the Favorite Tools section (pg.12-13) are regular quiltmaking tools that most of us use. There are a few interesting additions that one doesn’t see in every book such as Flatter and freezer paper.

Chapter 1 is called Background Basics. The introduction to this chapter talks about using light colored or low volume fabrics in backgrounds. Keep in mind that you can successfully use a variety of different colors such as black or bright colors as background as well. I often use colors as backgrounds, as I did in my Punk Rock Quilt and the Wonky Nine Patch quilt. Funnily enough the first block (pg.16) in the book uses a dark background. Branch out and use your color wheel to help boost your confidence.

I find it important to use tools and supplies that I know and trust. “Elisabeth often draws the required 1/4″ seam allowance onto her fabric using an erasable pen” (pg.16). Be well informed before using this type of pen. Reports of the markings coming back as well as damaging the fabric years later where the pen was used are prevalent. I don’t use anything chemical to mark my quilts. My preferences are chalk pencils, such as Sewline pencils, because the marks can be brushed or easily washed away.

There are several different versions of the example block, which I always like to see (pg.16-17) because it shows the reader the possibilities. You do not have have use the same fabric or colors that the authors used! Make blocks and quilts your own! The subsequent blocks cover half square triangles (pg.18-19) in various configurations. There is a sidebar about directionality (pg.19) that I think is very helpful.

Chapter 2 is all about stripes (pg.25-33). The big tip for this chapter: pay attention to directionality of the stripe. This is important as I found in my quilt, Ta Dots & Stripes! The authors suggest directions for the strips, but make sure you like the direction in which the stripes are oriented. Examples of different uses of stripes are included (pg.28-29) as well as creating secondary patterns with stripes (pg.32-33).

This book contains a section on color (pg.35-43). Other books such as Joen Wolfrom’s ColorPlay go into much more detail, however this Ramierez and Woo book discusses color in the context of fussy cutting. The book also includes a section on achieving transparency. This is a good exercise to try before buying the Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr book on transparency, Transparency Quilt and committing to a full quilt.

I find scale to be just as important as color. The authors discuss it enough to give you an idea of the principles (pg.42-43). You can find more information on Sandy’s podccast on the subject, which is linked from my post.

Chapter 4 recommends Anita Grossman Soloman‘s method of marking your rulers to achieve precision fussy cuts (pg.46-47). I haven’t tried this or heard of this technique before. This section also discusses quarter square triangles and Flying Geese, which are more complicated so the marking directions might prove invaluable. There are fussy cutting rulers out in the market, but the books provides directions for marking your own ruler so you can cut QSTs, HSTs and Flying Geese (pg.46-47). I have a couple of fussy cutting rulers I would probably use over the marking method, mostly because I am lazy and don’t want to mark up my rulers. I also find I can center a fabric I want to cut into a square pretty well without marking. These tips allow you to use the rulers you have with the techniques shown in the book.Still, the section is interesting and it did open my mind to another technique. Each subsequent block is used to teach how to use different fussy cutting techniques to make blocks look different. Featuring motifs in HSTs (pg.50-51), mirroring motifs (pg.52-53), border motifs (pg.54-55) and many others are included.

Chapter 5 discusses working with “complementary fabric prints” (pg.57). I don’t see a glossary where complementary fabric prints are defined for this book, so the reader just has to assume. The reader can infer what the authors mean by reading the descriptions of the exercises in chapter five. Reading through chapter 5 is amazing. The authors have found a number of ways to expand the well known ideas of fussy cutting. Complementary cutting (pg.60-61) is one technique I have never considered.

The authors also talk about restraint such as “building a space in your block construction for your eyes to rest” (pg.67). I think this is very insightful. Makers can use riotous colors and fabrics to good effect, but adding in places for the eyes to rest, however small, can make a better overall design.

I’d like to see the size of the exercise blocks printed on the page with the directions, e.g. Block size: 9″ finished, 9.5″ unfinished. The book does say the blocks finish at 9.5″ each (pg.8). I had to go hunting for the information as I worked through the book. It is easy to forget (as I did) when just reading the book. Perhaps one would not forget as s/he worked through actually making each block? Nonetheless, putting the size in a more prominent location wouldn’t take up much space.

Most of the blocks seem to be based on a 3×3 grid (9 patch – See Jinny Beyer’s The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns for more information on the grids and structure of blocks), but I don’t think they all are. In glancing through the directions I don’t see any unusual measurements to cut.

This work also gives a lot of incidental information about fabric design, which I alluded to above. Chapter 7’s description (pg.77) talks about tossed prints, for example. This chapter includes a small, yet helpful, diagram on grain (pg.83). This is something I would consider copying to a notebook or my ‘tips’ bulletin board.

Each of the blocks, through two chapters, includes two versions of the same block. Each author uses the same techniques to make her own version. I always appreciate this effort in books and magazines as it immediately shows there are more than one way to color a block (or quilt).

There is a lot you can do with this book. There are so many techniquesthat I had a hard time absorbing them all. Obviously, this book will teach you almost everything you needed or wanted to know about fussy cutting. If you want practice making blocks, there are 48 on which to practice, so a double bonus: fussy cutting and block making. This is a great book suggesting new ways to use your novelty fabrics.

If you want to improve your skills, this would be a great book to buy.

View all my reviews, including non-quiltmaking reviews.

Book Review: Material Obsessions

Material Obsession: Modern Quilts with Traditional RootsMaterial Obsession: Modern Quilts with Traditional Roots by Kathy Doughty
Material Obsession is one of the first books written by Kathy Doughty. This one is co-authored by Sarah Fielke and has a foreword by Kaffe Fassett. Great credentials!

The cover quilt is a good start as the quilt depicted is inspirational and VERY appealing. It is hard not to like the dotted background and Dresden blocks.

Kaffe Fassett’s foreword is very complimentary, as expected. It acknowledges the “much less-than-inspiring work that take up wall space in shops and exhibitions” (pg.6). I find it refreshing that he acknowledges that not all quilts are stellar (though, FYI, I do believe all quilts are worth making). He compares the high quality of the work shown at the shop to other work he sees in work of “teaching, lecturing and judging” (pg.6). Whether true or not, I tend to believe Kaffe Fassett’s assessment of the shop and work displayed there.

Essentially, this is a project book. Twenty-three projects are on offer (pg.14-168) followed by Quilting Basics (pg.174-196), a glossary (pg.200) – Yay!, an index (pg.202) – Yay!, sources for supplies (pg.203), about the authors (pg.204) and acknowledgements (pg.206). From the amount of pages, you can see that this is a substantial work.

Another premise of my quiltmaking is written in the Introduction (pg.10-12). “Material Obsession came to be as a reflection of our times. Our quilts reflect a lifestyle that is moving quickly and changing every day. Quilts were once a part of a slower-moving era, one of frugal use of leftovers and recycled fabrics”… “Quilters today are free to indulge in a huge range of color, shape, and texture”… “And they quilt for love, for enjoyment, and creativity rather than for necessity” (pg.10). this information reflects the changes in quiltmaking. Most of us do not quilt because we need to keep our families and friends warm. I appreciate the acknowledgement of that fact.

The Introduction segues smoothly from the changes in quiltmaking to the Material Obsession way of making a quilt. In this part of the Introduction the authors suggest choosing an inspiration fabric (pg.11), a fabric that sings to you. I have always heard of this fabric called a feature fabric or focus fabric and Christopher Tomlinson referred to this as a hero fabric in the lecture I attended at QuiltCon. The authors use ‘inspiration fabric’ as their term and do not use the other terms mentioned in their text.

Doughty and Fielke write words that are critical to me when I am teaching “If the fabrics look good to you, if you like them, then you have the beginnings of success” (pg.11). It is important to follow your heart and use fabrics that sing to you. If you are using fabrics you think you should use because they are traditional or part of a line or ‘modern’, but you don’t like them, you have made the first step towards an uninspiring project. Use fabrics you love!

The rest of the intro talks about using fabric and color, what makes a pattern, contrast (pg.11), how to vet a pile of fabrics, using digital images (pg.12) and inspiration. One thing that stands out in this commentary is the time taken to select the fabrics. I am guilty of grabbing fabrics just so I can get to the piecing. The time taken to carefully select fabrics is described by the authors as valuable because it makes a better quilt. The Introduction is helpful, inspirational and upbeat.

After the brief Introduction, the projects start. The first several quilts are not difficult at all – basically squares and triangles (Avalon-pg.16, Gypsy Squares-pg.20, Candy Store-pg.24, Corner Store-pg.30, Cowboy Baby-pg.38, Goodnight Sweet prints-pg.44).

Each pattern has a designation from easy to advanced. These designations make it easy for a beginner to work through the projects in order and improve skills. Complexity in the easy patterns comes from the careful use of fabric. This is a great technique for making simple quilts look complicated.

Patterns repeatedly suggest using 100% cotton (example pg.53) and testing for colors that might run (example pg.44). these are both good practices, though using non-cotton fabric is not a deal killer. I have seen gorgeous quilts using velvet and silk. I wouldn’t recommend starting your quilting life with these, but use the fabric that makes your heart sing!

The first intermediate pattern is called Snuggling Letters (pg.56-61). It includes a Peaky and Spike unit. The pattern includes templates for that unit, but also recommends purchasing a special ruler. The units seem to be 3.5″, which means you also might be able to use the Accuquilt die for easier cutting, though that is not mentioned. Sizzix has similar die. Check unit sizes in the patterns before purchasing dies or rulers.

The first picture in each pattern, in all of the patterns is a lifestyle shot, which doesn’t show much of the quilt. Each quilt is also shown in a straight on format photo towards the end of each pattern.

The advanced quilts are truly advanced as opposed to fake advanced. Girlfriends Galore (pg.104-111) includes a Lone Star with multiple on point borders. The bias aspect is enough for me to toss it into the advanced pile.

Probably my favorite quilt project of the whole book is the cover quilt, Dotty for Dresden (pg.120-128). The dots that stand out in this quilt are immediately appealing. I also like the larger than normal center circles. The selection of fabrics does not scream an era – the fabrics are clearly contemporary, but also timeless, in a way. I like quilts that won’t look dated in 10 years.

The patterns do fall into the trap of giving cutting directions based on the fabric (example pg.122) rather than using the location (e.g. background) of the pieces. This can be confusing for makers who aren’t using the same fabric.

I also like the uniqueness of the Three-Ring Circus hexagon quilt (pg.128-133). The colors of the The Big Pineapple (pg.134-139) are appealing , but I also like that the quilt is actually the classic Pineapple pattern.

Each pattern has a short essay on the inspiration behind each quilt (example, pg.140). These sections are too short to be very satisfying to me. I love hearing about people’s inspiration.

The patterns are not boring and I was pleased to see a Nosegay pattern included (pg.162-167). The use of fabrics in the various quilts is quite varied and also not boring. Excellent use of stripes, and dots and large prints can be found throughout the book.

I wish they had more examples of pattern quilts in different fabrics, different examples of quilts in different colorways. I’d like to see which of these designs work with a two color quilt color selection.

As is usual with many quilt books, this one has a section on quilting basics. This section is a little more robust than others I have seen. Parts of a quilt (pg.176) are described as are different types of batting (pg.176). Points are illustrated by referring back to quilt patterns.

I don’t remember seeing fabric grain discussed in other books, but Doughty and Fielke write about it in some detail on page 177. Preparing fabric such as the benefits of pre-washing and running colors merit a sidebar (pg.177). A section on choosing thread, equipment and rotary cutter safety (pg.178-179) are well written. After a part on accessories, which includes template plastic, pins and scissors (pg.180), the authors write about cutting fabric and measuring (pg.182-183). Rotary cutting shapes is also covered (pg. 183-187). Because of all of the applique, cutting shapes by hand and fussy cutting are thoroughly discussed as well (pg.188). Various applique methods are explained alongside piecing (pg.189-190). Laying out a quilt in a straight set and on point precede adding borders (pg.191). The book does not include the technique of measuring the quilt three times and averaging to get the size of the borders. Look that up elsewhere. Layering and basting are covered and illustrated with quilts using bright colors (pg.192-193). Quilting is covered in two pages (pg.194-195), which I always find amazing, and binding is covered in one. The binding information comes with useful illustrations (pg.196-197).

My librarian heart is warmed when looking at the glossary (pg.200-201). It is excellent! Terms such as ‘ease’, ‘chain piecing’ and ‘weft’ are included. The authors get additional bonus points for including an index (pg.202-203). The source of supplies (pg.203) is a good place to start, though the list may become dated and won’t include newer, more up to date tools and supplies.

I love the bios (pg.204-205). They give me insight into the authors.

Abrams books are fabulous. They are large, lush and gorgeous. This book is no exception. I love the colors, the many photos and all of the different fabrics shown. The drawings give the overall book a friendly feel. The combination of hand and machine techniques offer options for all different types and skill levels of makers.

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Book Review: Threads of Resistance

Threads of Resistance: a juried exhibition of fiber art created to protest the {45}* administration's actions and policiesThreads of Resistance: a juried exhibition of fiber art created to protest the {45}* administration’s actions and policies by The Artist Circle Alliance

This is a catalog of works created for the Threads of Resistance exhibit that opened at the NEQM earlier this year. I was first made aware of the show when I saw Sarah Ann Smith’s piece. As you know, Sarah’s piece sent me on a continuation of the resistance/politcal art quilt journey which had laid dormant since 2001. That journey included the purchase of this catalog.

This catalog is filled with recognizable names such as Mel Beach, Judy Coates Perez, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Lyric Montgomery Kinard, Melanie Testa, Kathy York and, of course Sarah Ann Smith. There are many names I don’t recognize and was glad to see their work. The book includes an index (Hooray for indices!) of the names of all of the artists along with their websites at the end (pg.130-131).

The cover acts as the title page as well, at least the librarian in me presumes that is the case. There is a title page verso, but no identifiable title page. This affects you, perhaps because there is nowhere to sign the book if you meet one of the artists.

The introduction (pg.3) starts out discussing the goal of addressing current issues with the words “The Artist Circle presents ‘Threads of Resistance,’ a juried exhibition of fiber art created to protest the {45}* administration’s action and policies” (pg.3). It continues by briefly discussing quilts used in historical protests. The introduction sums up by offering an invitation to share readers’ viewpoint in an effort to “gain a better understanding of one another’s perspectives….(pg.3).

After the, relatively brief, introduction, the images and descriptions of the quilts start. As with a lot of art, not all of these pieces are easy to look at. The full frontal nudity and f**k off gesture of Neroli Henderson’s Dear Mr. T***p (pg.50-51) is hard for me to look at. Why, after millennia, should a woman’s body still have the power to shock me/our society? For me, it is clearly a learned reaction, especially since I have one of those bodies with similar features and functionality.

As 45 has made sex and womens’ bodies a major part of the presidency, a lot of seemingly sex-related symbols fill this catalog. I mentioned Henderson’s piece, which is probably the most graphic. The assault on a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own body is represented by “My Body My Rules” (pg.14-15) by Sue Bleiweiss. “Not So Safe” by Amy Dame (pg.38-39) evokes coat hangers, an innocent, useful household item, like the safety pin, which holds much meaning that has nothing to do with clothing. “Political Power Grab” by Sara Mika (pg.70-71) displays a uterus and many vaginas, symbols/images that invite comment when (if?) shown in the popular media. “Hands Off” (pg.74-75) is a graphic image representing how many women go about their daily lives in protection mode. The statement that goes with this quilt,”The message I received growing up was that I was less because I was female and that misogynist acts against me were my fault” (pg.75),  is true for many of us even if it was never said explicitly.

The imagery in “Work in Progress” (pg.76-77) is also disturbing to me. The style of the images is hard for me to look at. This is another quilt explicitly showing genitalia. Though it is a difficult piece for me, I celebrate this quilt’s inclusion in the catalog. It forces me to look at things that I wouldn’t normally look at and, thus, explore my discomfort.

Finally, “Roe v. Wade Must Stand” (pg.106-107) makes me equal parts sad and angry. Why are we still discussing this issue? Aren’t there more important issues to discuss? Fundamentally, it has very little to do with politics and should not be decided in the halls of Congress. Women’s issues should be decided by women.

I know my politics are coming out in this review. It is not my intention to alienate anyone, but this catalog offers up a good summary and review of the assault on women’s rights. Whether your politics veer right or left we should all be able to agree that women need to be able to and have the right to decide issues that have to do with her own body without the interference of politicians. I don’t want to live a country where The Handmaid’s Tale is true.

Unlike women’s bodies, which are still, seemingly, taboo, phrases from the past year such as “Nevertheless, She Persisted” (pg.4-5) have made it into our culture and are part of this catalog. This catalog not only documents a phase (I hope it is just a phase) in US history, but evokes past history through the imagery of some of the quilts, such as Dawn Patrol (pg.6-7). Julia M. Arden’s pieces makes me think of a disturbing visit to Dachau, the shadow of which is burned into my memory.

Jessica Levitt’s piece, Equal Means Equal (pg.66-67) reminds me of the constant struggles in which women engage to gain some semblance of equality in pay, gender roles and so many other things.

A lot of issues, education, violence, choice, the right to protest, are represented by quilts in this book. Protest is represented by all of the quilts, but well represented by a couple of individual quilts including “Speak Up, Speak Out” (pg.110-111), Women’s Rally (pg.116-117) and “A Day to Remember (pg.104-105) all show imagery of women peacefully protesting. Most of the images show many, many participants. “Capitol Guns” (pg.80-81) reminds me of the struggle to find the balance between the right to keep and bear arms and the mass shootings such as the most recent terror in Las Vegas not to mention the various president who have been shot.

If you have not seen this show, try to go somewhere and see it. The imagery is hard to look at, but very powerful. The quilt format evokes the softness often attributed to women while the imagery denotes strength, fierceness and hardness. If you can’t make it to an exhibit, buy the catalog. Not only with you be supporting the artists, but you will add something to your library that will inspire you.

Art is meant to challenge the viewer. This art definitely challenges me.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Regardless of your politics or opinions, contract your federal, state and local representatives and make your voice heard.
















*I refuse to include the name of the current President on my blog or in any location associated with me, so I have substituted 45 for the name.

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Book Review: Creative Quilt Challenges

Creative Quilt Challenges
Creative Quilt Challenges

Creative Quilt Challenges: Take the Challenge to Discover Your Style & Improve Your Design Skills by Pat Pease

I like quilt challenges, but almost never take the time to participate anymore. I am almost always in the middle of an important piece of my own and don’t want to disrupt my flow. I also have a long list of dream projects.

However, occasionally, I will take part in a challenge. I did the A-B-C quilt as part of a challenge and the Whole Cloth Quilt as well. I am very pleased with both of them.

I saw the challenge exhibit at PIQF last year and that exhibit made me buy this book. I thought the outcomes were really interesting and beautiful.

This is a dense book. There is a lot more to it than a few ideas and a bunch of pretty quilts. The book has seven different challenge ideas (pg.3). The challenge ideas are supported by a long list of special techniques (pg.86-103). Each challenge section includes the following sub-sections:
-About this challenge
-Make it your own
-Description of quilts made
-Description of techniques used
-Color and design decisions
-Under construction
-Why it works

Tips are sprinkled throughout.

Many of the sub-sections are repeated for each quilt. The challenges are varied as well. The way this book is written makes me want to do them all:
-Reimagine an old block with a new twist (pg.6-7)
-The Value of Value (pg.18-27)
-Unlikely Materials (pg.28-39)
-Pass it Back and Forth & Do Not Speak (pg.40-49)
-The Collection (pg.50-59)
-Invent Your Own Challenge (pg.60-71)
-Mix It Up (pg.72-85)

The Table of Contents is full of detail information on the quilts made and the tips and techniques demonstrated (pg.3). The introduction includes a line that I use often to explain my fabric purchases. “When we look through our fabrics at home or go fabric shopping, we don’t see yards of whole cloth. Instead, we imagine finished quilts (pg.4). This is absolutely true for me and when I read that I decided I like these authors. They followed it up with “when we go about our day, we don’t only see the world around us – we see potential pattern, colors and ideas for future quilts (pg.4). If you follow my Instagram feed you will see what I post and will know that I am always looking at the world around me in hopes of being inspired for my next quilt idea. The first paragraph of the Introduction (pg.4) could have been written by me.

The rest of the Introduction explains how the book came about, how the authors differ in their work style. They characterize this book as an invitation to “enter the ‘Land of Color, Design and Imagination’ ” (pg.4). They make it clear they want you to explore, but aren’t giving the reader a map. They are also clear that they want you to use their challenge themes. Why buy the book, otherwise? LOL!

The authors acknowledge that there are many ideas for quilt challenges on the Internet. They “selected the ones you see in this book because we found them appealing, inspiring and focused enough to have cohesion but open-ended enough to allow us to run with the idea” (pg.5). They also sketch out basically how a challenge works (pg.5). Then they dive right into the challenges and the quilts.

Each section talks about the parameters of the challenge or includes a brief description or inspiration. Next they talk about making the challenge personal (pg.6). I think the latter is a very important aspect to this book. This is what will help readers grow. Books that tell the maker what to do step by step with no space for improvisation add to the store of quilts, but not to growth as a quiltmaker.

In the first challenge they answer the question “what did we learn” with “Exploring the anatomy of a familiar block allows you to go in new direction while being grounded in a foundation that you already understand. Starting with something you understand frees you up to try new things without getting overwhelmed” (pg.6).

I liked the skillbuilding included in each challenge. As I have made clear, learning new skills contributes to growth as a quiltmaker. The first challenge includes a visual tutorial on partial seams (pg.9). Partial seams* aren’t often taught, even in sampler classes, but they are very useful skill for modern design as they facilitate the ability to sew asymmetrical designs together.

While this book is published by C&T and it makes financial sense for them to promote some of their other products, their inclusion of the Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool by Joen Wolfrom is not gratuitous. This tool, along with the Studio Color Wheel and the Design Ratio Tool are three of the best color and design tools I own. As the authors say the 3-in-1 Color Tool helps to “visualize color progression, such as chartreuse going to yellow-green, then to spring green” (pg.11). I find both color tools help me find what color is missing in a quilt and give me ideas for color combinations.

The second challenge (pg.18-27) is about value. I know value is an important aspect of color work, but I don’t like the idea that it is more important than any other aspect of color work. This book has the right attitude for me. The authors express this sentiment well when they write “color is a visual language that goes hand in hand with value, the relative lightness or darkness of a color” (pg.18).

The authors include technique demonstrations or lessons in each section. These demonstrations show how to make units or parts that make up their quilts. The technique in Wendy’s quilt is the Reversible Double French Fold Binding (pg.24). I am always interested in learning new ways of binding, especially when one works on reversible quilts.

The other challenges are interesting and useful as well. Unlikely Materials (pg.28-39) gives permission to move beyond ‘regular’ quilt fabric. A maker could use decorator fabrics to introduce texture into their work. FabMo fabrics would work very well.

Pass It Back and Forth and Do Not Speak (pg.40-49) is a pretty common challenge concept. It is difficult, however, because there is a level of trust involved. Your partner can add to your piece in a shocking way. S/he could cut the whole piece up or cover it with fabric stitching in an unexpected manner. This challenge requires that you play and limit your expectations

“The Collection’s” (pg.50-59) intent is to provide an opportunity to use a favorite group of fabric. While useful in general, the challenge is especially fun if you and a friend collect the same type of materials (fabric, embellishments, etc).

There are a number of things to like about the challenges. The authors provide many step by step photographs to illustrate and help explain the various techniques. There is scope for change and evolution in all of the challenges. Also, these are all techniques and ideas rather than step-by-step projects. Your pieces will come out much differently than those the authors created from the same directions.

Towards the back is a section called Special Techniques (pg.86-104). this section helps make the quilts successfully. There are two machine binding techniques (pg. 86-87) as well as a Facing Finish (pg.88-89), if you don’t like my facing tutorial. 😉 The authors show how to make inset squares (pg.92-93), which I want to try. I liked that they talked about pressing in a sensible non-dogmatic way (pg.94), though they don’t discuss the benefits of matching seams when seams are pressed to the side. The various pages on stitching techniques will help the art quilt makers among you (pg.99-104).

The book includes a gallery at the back with more colorful and interesting pieces.

There is no index, which is a shame because it would be really useful with all of the techniques the book includes.

Making art quilts is not in fashion right now. Many of the art quilts being made are being lumped into the modern category, especially the political quilts. This book is the closest I have seen to an art quilt book recently. I like for that and also for the skill-building aspect.

*Check out the tutorial on sewing partial seams.

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Book Review: NY Beauties and Flying Geese

New York Beauties & Flying Geese: 10 Dramatic Quilts, 27 Pillows, 31 Block PatternsNew York Beauties & Flying Geese: 10 Dramatic Quilts, 27 Pillows, 31 Block Patterns by Carl Hentsch

I am a fan of both Flying Geese and New York Beauties. The recent combinations of the two that have been cropping up on Instagram are very appealing. While I have about a thousand projects on my want-to-do list, a block or two inspired by these patterns moved up higher when I saw the pillows on the front cover. I am reluctant as I can see myself trying one block and then getting into the “what if” cycle of creation, like I did on the Carpenter’s Wheel.

Yes, I bought the book on impulse after seeing a review and some sample blocks on the Sew Sweetness blog. Once I had the book in my hands I found it to primarily be a project book. The book has a one page, illustrated table of contents that focuses on the projects, but also includes brief sections called “A Note from Tula,” “Introduction” and “The Basics.” At the end there are sections called “Block Index and Foundation-Pieced Arc Patterns.”

“A Note from Tula” (pg.4) is a homage to Carl and his process, which differs from hers. The gem on this page is “Carl has created quilts here that are aspirational. At a time when beginning quilters are becoming more confident and longtime quilters are indulging the desire to make quilts that take full advantage of their skills, here is a book that asks the maker to see more than boundaries and categories, to think beyond the visual choices, and to make something exceptional.” (pg.4)

Carl writes the introduction (pg.6) and admits to being relatively new at quiltmaking. He also tells us that he loves paper piecing. I really like his idea of a book that allows quiltmakers “to create quilts that had standard building blocks – pieced arc, plain arcs, and fans – that could be mixed and matched in a variety of ways.” (pg.6) In my opinion, this is the way all quilt books should strive to written. This method helps the quiltmaker develop skills while creating something beautiful. Projects are great, but techniques give people skills to move beyond the projects and soar into their own designs. It is interesting to read Tula’s note and Carl’s introduction and note the different perspectives on the same process.

The first section in “The Basics” (pg.7-8) is all about choosing fabrics and thread. Carl gives credit to Tula Pink for influencing his color sense and choices (pg.6). This is a short primer on choosing fabrics for your quilt. I didn’t find this section be anything revolutionary. Mr. Hentsch freely admits to being a novice. He sticks to fabric lines or one designer – moving across fabric lines of that designer to add interest. If this section doesn’t satisfy you or give you what you need, I would encourage you to look at the C& T Studio Color Wheel, the Ultimate 3-in1 Color Tool and Joen Wolfrom’s ColorPlay for more direction and ideas in the area of color. Of course, there are other books in this area that you might find helpful as well.

Hentsch says, about thread, to “stick with a single brand on any one quilt” (pg.9), but he doesn’t say why. I usually stick with one brand, but don’t find this to be necessary in foundation piecing. Quilting, perhaps, but as long as the threads stand up to the removal of papers, I don’t see why it matters. When pronouncements like this one are made, I like to know the thinking behind it.

“Making the Blocks”(pg.10-17) is a primer on, well, as you probably guessed, making the blocks. Carl tells us the structure of the blocks (pg.10), how to cut shapes with templates (pg.11), as well as how to foundation piece (pg.13-16). He also goes into curved piecing (pg.16-17) and how to applique’ the center circles (pg.17). I always like to have a variety of choices when I am learning a new technique, so these are welcome.

If you just want to make a few blocks, the section on “Finishing the Pillows” (pg.18) will be of use. These directions are for making pillows. Hentsch focuses on filling the pillow with fiberfill rather than using a pillow form. You could certainly modify the back to overlap and use a pillow form.

The projects start on page 19. The image on that beginning project page highlights a quilt using Philip Jacobs fabrics so I can’t but like the image. Other projects follow. Each quilt project covers about four pages and includes the finished size for a quilt as well as a finished quarter block size. I find measurements to be useful and the more the better.

Each quilt project is followed by a pillow project which coordinates with the quilt before it.

I find reading about materials required in a quilt are always a challenge. I know the author wants to be clear about the materials s/he used for the quilt in the book. I also know that some quiltmakers want to take the materials list to the quilt store and use it as a shopping list. I find it difficult to think about my own fabric choices when an item on the list is listed as ‘large scale black print’ instead of ‘background.’ Still, Hentsch has done a relatively good job by listing colors and styles rather than specific fabrics in a certain line.

Carl does not tell the reader how to foundation piece in each pattern, but refers back to the “Block Index” (example pg. 22). Each quilt project includes a colored drawing of the project (example pg.29), which can be helpful if the maker wants less interference in the selection of fabrics. Specific prints are not in evidence.

My favorite blocks are included in the Twin Dragons quilt (pg.32-35). The colors aren’t for me, but the way the Flying Geese are in different places in each block quarter are very appealing. I like the slight feeling of chaos and the movement in this layout.

Each project also has a couple of paragraphs about the design or the fabric, which I enjoy (example pg.44). There usually isn’t nearly enough process in books for me, so I was pleased to see even these few paragraphs.

If I had seen the “Seeing Spots” (pg.50-53) project before cutting up my Ta Dots fat quarter pack, I would have used those fabrics for one of these quilts. Seeing Spots, with its Philip Jacobs background is cheerful and exuberant.

“Sorbet” (pg.60-63) has the blocks I like along with the cheerful exuberancy of the “Seeing Spots” quilt. I like the gradation/ color progression of “Papyrus” (pg.66-69). This quilt has the added bonus of including a variety of different blocks.

The “Block Index” follows the projects and includes seven pages (pg.76-83) of different quarter blocks the maker can combine into full blocks. I don’t believe they are full sized, but the section makes no comment.

The section “Foundation-Pieced Arc Patterns”(pg.84-92) appear to be full sized. Again the author does not comment.

The final section “Circle, Background and Plain Arc Patterns” (pg.93-95) is much the same as the previous section.

My one wish is that this book would include an EQ7 CD or downloadable file. That was actually one of the first thoughts I had when I leafed through this book. While not everyone has EQ7 and it is possible to draw these blocks in EQ7, it would be a lot easier if they were already included.

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Book Review: Quilt As You Go Made Modern

Quilt As-You-Go Made Modern: Fresh Techniques for Busy QuiltersQuilt As-You-Go Made Modern: Fresh Techniques for Busy Quilters by Jera Brandvig

I bought this book at Back Porch Fabrics in Pacific Grove, California back in November when Friend Julie, Mom and I did our mini-shop hop. The publisher should pay Gail at Back Porch Quilts to sell this book, because I would never have bought it without her enthusiastic sales pitch. After watching her do a brief demo, I was convinced that this book would solve all of my quilting problems. I think I probably need to take a class from Gail with regard to this book, because my efforts did not go as well or as easily as advertised.

The book starts out with a Table of Contents that tells the reader the book has 30+ pages of instructions and 13 projects. The cover advertises an additional 25 bonus ideas.

Jera Brandvig uses the Introduction to give the advantages of QAYG (pg.7), but also to bash “traditional quilting.”(pg.6). She talks about what a hassle it is cut precision pieces. It gives some idea on why the author started using this technique. She calls Quilt-As-You-Go (QAYG) a “…fresh, fun and simpler-than-it sounds technique.” (pg.5). There is nothing about where she heard about it. There is a perfect place between the first and second paragraphs where she could tell us, but that information is obviously missing. Even though I know better, I was left with the impression that Brandvig herself thought up the technique.

The book has a list of supplies, (pg.9-11) which includes some tips such as ‘If you do have to stash your mat when it’s not in use, be sure to keep it flat against the wall – or under your bed – so it doesn’t develop wobbles.” (pg.9). Aside from the word ‘wobbles’, this statement is one that makes this a beginner friendly book. It goes a step further by including such useful charts as “Planning Your Quilt Size” (pg.14) and “Not Sure How Much Batting Yardage to Buy”(pg.15).

The chapter called “Quilt As You Go Technique” (pg.17) starts the how-to section. The first block exercise has the reader making a log cabin style block and quilting each fabric after it is added (pg.18-19). There is no mention of backing and it becomes clear later (pg.20) that backing isn’t used at this stage. The author also give guidelines that include a very obvious ‘don’t’ (pg.21).

Jera Brandvig gives some alternatives for quilting the blocks (pg.24-25) if the reader did not quilt each patch as described in the log cabin example (pg.18-21).

We finally get to the assembly of the blocks, which is the part that gave me fits (pg.28-) when I was doing this technique on my own. Brandvig details the two ways in which the blocks can be assembled (pg.28-31). The first method, sewing the blocks together directly, is the one I thought would be easiest. I don’t like the method using joining strips (pg.29), though it does have it uses.

Ms. Brandvig expands the options by including a section on mixing in “traditional” block patterns with QAYG methods (pg.32-35). She explains an additional four different methods. This is one of the expansions that make this an interesting book. She doesn’t just stick to a couple of methods. She thinks beyond the basics.

I wondered, after reading the how-to section, whether it was really possible to provide a quilt pattern. The author says at the beginning of the project sections that it is difficult to have precise patterns, a statement which I applaud. She tries to alleviate any perceived problems this might cause by giving the finished quilt size, the finished block size and the trimmed block size (example pg.38). The author refers frequently to the how-to section in each of the project directions rather than repeating information. She includes page numbers, which makes it easier to flip back and forth. The patterns are on the long side compared with other books with the same sort of designs. They include a lot of photos and some variations! Yay!

Most of the patterns use variations on strip quiltmaking. I like the colors and style of Rainy Days (pg.44-47). Emerald City makes stars (pg.85) and has lozenge variation (pg.84). Some of the layouts such as Cascade Range (pg.91), are clever and relieve the monotony of the strips. Portage Bay (pg.92-95) is built on one huge piece of batting, which could turn into a quick baby quilt. Once you are done piecing, there are no blocks to put together. With some more quilting, you have a quilt top.

Techniques for finishing the quilts come at the end of the book (pg.102-109). This is where I had the most trouble with my project and felt the most resentful about the technique. Regardless of any advertisement, the quilt still needs a backing and the backing needs to be held on with quilting. Jera says “You work with small and manageable pieces, which means you can quilt more intricately without the physical strain and frustration of feeding a large quilt sandwich through a sewing machine”(pg.7). While most of the projects are on the baby-kid quilt size, the author does provide information about making larger quilts (pg.14). There seems to be a disconnect between the beginning and the end of the book.

In the section on finishing (pg.102-109) it is confirmed that we still have to baste the backing to the top (pg.103). The advantage presented is that the reader will need far fewer pins (pg.103). Brandvig writes that the quilt will only need minimal quilting since the blocks are already quilted. My experience, however, was that I had to add more quilting than I expected because of sagging/bagging fabric. The book shows a picture of the minimal quilting suggested (pg.103) and I don’t think it is enough. YMMV.

The book also includes comprehensive instructions on binding (pg.106-109), which can be used for other projects.

Back Porch Fabrics felt the need to add a sheet of notes to the books they sold. The notes seem to reorganize information already in the book into an easier to access manner. For the method where the blocks are sewn together directly, they also suggest sewing the blocks together with a 1/2″ seam allowance. I did this and found it to be a hassle because I couldn’t use my quarter inch foot.

I was kind of annoyed at the book before I wrote this review because of my experience. I felt that it did not live up to the its promise. I also get annoyed when no mention of the historical / previous efforts in the technique are mentioned. After writing the review, I want to try QAYG again, especially for charity quilts. The Charity Girls have a hard time getting quilts quilted and I really don’t want to add to their burden. This is also a good technique for using scraps. I’ll think about using this technique with the Solstice Parade pattern (pg.38-43) as it uses strips and I have a lot of strips in my scrap drawers. I think this technique has promise and I’d really like to make it work.

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Book Review: Double Vision Quilts

Double Vision Quilts: Simply Layer Shapes & Color for Richly Complex Curved DesignsDouble Vision Quilts: Simply Layer Shapes & Color for Richly Complex Curved Designs by Louisa L. Smith

This is not the first book by Louisa Smith that has intrigued me. She has an interesting style. This one wasn’t on my list, but it intrigued me and I bought it on impulse at Stitch in Ferndale. The first thing that attracted me were the bright colors on the cover. In looking at the cover again, I can imagine using Dale Fleming’s circle technique to make it.

This is a ‘normal sized’ C&T book which includes 94 pages, 11 projects, a gallery and lots of technique information so readers can make the projects their own. After the detailed table of contents (pg.3) and a short introduction (pg.4), the book begins with a section called “how it started” (pg.5-6). Smith discusses her idea, her inspiration, all the while implying the importance of doodling. She goes on to discuss how changes in her design led to other versions and the second section, “Working in a Series” (pg.6).

Working in a Series is all about the ‘what if’ of the creative process – those spin off ideas that pop into your mind as you work on one piece. As you know, I often work in a series because of this reason. See more about my series quilts.

The colors throughout the book continue to be a huge draw for me. As I page through the book, I am kept interested.

In “The Layered Approach” (pg.8-10) she talks about how layers improve/make these quilts. Layering fabric is something I have played with on and off, so I can appreciate the value of such an approach.

This book has basic construction techniques. I don’t mind it because the instructions are related to this specific technique, for the mist part. There is a very brief section on quilting (pg.85) – just commentary. It is not a how-to. She also talks about her method of piecing a back (pg.35). The instructions are brief, but useful. She covers blocking (pg.36), binding and facing (pg.36-38), displaying using stretcher frames and making a sleeve (pg.39).

If you are a beginner expecting full instructions for every step, you will be disappointed and will need another book with basic instructions or check out my quilt class tutorials. The security tips given are specifically dedicated to help you make these quilts.

The 3 methods of construction described are “Using a Grid of Blocks with 1/4 KISSes and No Fusing” (pg.11-12), “Using a Grid and Fusing” (pg.13), “Using an Invisible Grid with Multiple Layers of HUGs and KISSes” (pg.16). Method 2 is split into two parts, thus you see four methods listed.

“Color” (pg.17-25) is a long and valuable section. The author discusses value (pg.17-18), finding a color scheme (pg.19-24) as well as balancing color (pg.24-25) and using a proportional color wheel (pg.25). The section on choosing a color scheme is well developed and includes examples. The examples really help to improve the reader’s color knowledge.

The section on “Machine Applique’ ” (pg.26-29) includes examples of stitches (pg.27), basic applique’ techniques (pg.26) and has a lot of pictures. She suggests experimenting with your machine before starting on your Double Vision quilt. I agree I always do a test of the satin stitch (or whatever applique’ stitch I am using) to figure out the density, whether I like the thread and sheen, etc.

Smith defines Embellishing, another section (pg.30-32), as “…adding something to the quilt top to make it better” (pg.30). I think of embroidering or beading as embellishment.  While she talks a bit about machine embroidery (pg.32), most of the section refers to layering on shapes.

“The Gallery” (pg.40-46) is fantastic. The section shows a lot of quilts, tells what method was used to make than as well as the artist. It is a feast for the eyes!

Finally, comes the “Projects” section (pg.47-88). Each pattern has a picture of the quilt on the section’s main page as well as a larger picture on the main project page. As you would expect, the pattern shows fabric requirements. These are a little different because the fabric requirements are divided up into layers. Fabric is followed by cutting and assembling directions. Applique’ and embellishing are included, if applicable to the pattern. The colors throughout the project section are phenomenal. Finally, the book has full sized templates coded to the relevant pattern (pg.89-94).

This book is interesting. It is definitely not the same-old, same-old. It will really stretch the reader, both in skills and in fabrics. This book is  definitely worth a look.

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Book Review: Brilliant Little Patchwork

Kaffe Fassett's Brilliant Little Patchworks: 20 Stitched and Patched Projects Using Kafe Fassett FabricsKaffe Fassett’s Brilliant Little Patchworks: 20 Stitched and Patched Projects Using Kaffe Fassett Fabrics by Kaffe Fassett

I received this as an unexpected gift and my first impression was “UGH! Twenty MORE projects I’ll never have time to make.” It wasn’t on my list, but neither did I have it. Immediately thereafter, I was distracted and enchanted by the color and patterns of the fabric. The writing was also engrossing.

My despair quickly disappeared. While I am not much for project books, the difference in this book being primarily useful household items – aprons, showls, stool covers, placemats, cushions, a kimono and other items. There was one miniquilt.

The best part of this book is the visuals. There is some kind of image on each page. Some are step outs, others show sewing and lots of inspiration photos. All are well photographed and interesting in color, composition and design.

All of the projects use Kaffe’s fabrics. The benefit of this book is how to use his fabrics successfully. The large flower prints are the showpieces. The pebbles, lattices, dots, stripes and zigzags point the viewer through the tone-on-tones to the showpieces. This book shows that there is method to the seeming madness of Kaffe’s groups/lines of fabrics. This book also shows that throwing a bunch of large flower prints together doesn’t necessarily work.

My favorite project is the tea cozy. I seem to be fascinated with tea cozies and will have to make one to get it out of my system. I have had an idea to make tea cozies for the whole family in the colors of their kitchens, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Looking at the projects made me interested in the shawls. However, I think that I would only make one if Kaffe made organza.

I think the main value of this book is how the fabrics are combined as well as the simple designs that show off the motifs.

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Book Review: Hack That Tote

Hack That Tote!: Mix & Match Elements to Create Your Perfect BagHack That Tote!: Mix & Match Elements to Create Your Perfect Bag by Mary Abreu

I received Hack That Tote for Christmas. I can always count on the YM to get me something towards the top of my wishlist. I hack bags, because I actually use the bags that I make. I wanted this book to help me be a better bag hacker. You have seen my attempts at hacking the Petrillo Bag pattern. I am happy with the results, but I thought a little additional understanding of the structure of totes and their patterns would assist me in my efforts.
This book starts with a basic pattern and gives a visual representation of the various hacking options (pg.6-7).

The first chapter is called “Anatomy of a Tote Bag” (pg.8). It only mentions the elements of a bag, but explains them thoroughly. For example, I never knew that “the square notches cut from the bottom corners dictate the shape of the finished project” (pg.8). I probably knew it somewhere deep down, but this book writes it clearly and puts it out there for my brain to chew on.

There is also a discussion of ‘drop,’ how pockets work best and how the “width and length of the bag work with the bottom corner notches in determining the finished bag size” (pg.9). All of the these structural tips in the information sections help with hacking a tote. Understanding the underlying structure of anything helps the maker to disassemble and reassemble their project, including bags.

The images are also helpful. Pages 6 and 9 have images that help understand the underlying structure – or how bags change as they are hacked. This structural information is brief but well written and useful.

The third chapter is called “Overview of Hacking the Pattern” (pg.10). The section starts with changing the size of a bag and gives the formula for scaling up or down. Changing fabric is really an easy ‘hack’. It is actually barely a hack and probably should not have been mentioned in the same context as changing the size of a bag. As a very basic hack, Abreu briefly discusses ways of using fabrics to change the look of one’s project (pg.12-13). This section makes me think of my mosaic pieced journal covers and how making such a large piece of fabric would use up a lot of scraps as well as be interesting if one could deal with all of the seam allowances.

Fabrics are discussed in an entire chapter of their own entitled, shockingly, ‘Fabrics’ (pg.14-). This section is different than the above in that it discusses particular types of fabrics and their qualities in relation to making bags. The chapter includes my favorite fabric tip. “I nearly always select light colored fabrics for bag linings” (pg.14). The author also discussed aligning fabric motifs (pg.14) and different fibers (pg.16-19) extensively. She provides for use of different fabrics and her opinion on their suitability for bags.

“Interfacings and Stabilizers” information is given space as well. The topic is illustrated with a page spread (pg.21). The chapter gives extensive help on why to use stabilizers and the author’s preferences such as “… to interface both the exterior and the lining, which allows the bag to maintain its shape over time” (pg.20).

Again, Ms. Abreu gives an illustration of various interfacing and talks about their uses (pg.22-24). I was pleased to read about buckram, which I have never used (pg.22). I was also pleased to get a short lesson on craft stabilizers, which Abreu describes as “beyond the heartiest of interfacings lies a category of products called craft stabilizers” (pg.24). I have never heard this term so I was pleased that she named some brands with which I was familiar so I could get context. The author also gave useful tips on sewing through them.

One thing I like about this section the “Considerations of Interfacings/Stabilizers” (pg.25). This part gives advice on when to use what type of interfacing. She uses projects in the book as examples. While this could be seen as self-serving, I think it is a great idea because there are a wide variety of projects which provide a variety of examples for almost any available pattern.

Handles can be hacked as well. Ms. Abreu talks about different types of handles (pg.26) with examples (pg.27). Pockets, decorative elements, bottoms, hardware as well as handles are all included in the Elements section (pg.26-35).

After a lot of great information, the patterns start with a basic tote. The patterns each run about 4 pages, depending on the complexity. I have seen some full sized quilt patterns in books on a shorter number of pages. The basic tote is the pattern on which most of the other patterns are based.

I originally saw this book at a store and one reason I put it on my list, besides the basic hacking information, was the Tubular Frame Purse (pg.60-67) pattern. I like the idea that I might be able to carry one bag for work rather than a purse and a tote or briefcase. I like the shape and the fact that it stands up by itself. The pattern calls for foam interfacing such as Soft and Stable.

Like many of the patterns, there is a sidebar called “Inside the Hack” (pg.60), which discusses how to accommodate different sizes of parts. There is a lot of cutting for this pattern and the design uses several different types of interfacing. Though I haven’t made the bag, the steps seem to be well written and clear. This pattern has a bag bottom, so the maker could use press-on vinyl to protect the fabric from wet floors. Keep the negative sides of press-on vinyl in mind when you use consider using it.

This pattern uses a tubular frame. It is definitely on my list to try out. I just have to find some proper fabric, assemble the interfacing and supplies.

The Boat/Pool tote (pg.68-73) would be a great project in which to use a large print fabric for the outside. alternatively, I might use a laminated fabric for the outside, especially if I planned to use the bag around water. This pattern doesn’t have a separate bottom piece so press-on vinyl isn’t an option.

The Laundry Duffle Bag (pg.94-98) could be a great option if you want to include a storage bag for a gift quilt. One option (hack?) given for this project is using French Seams and a heavier fabric. This interests me and I want to think about how to parlay this into use for different patterns.

Hack That Tote doesn’t have an index, but it does have an illustrated Glossary (pg.99-102) and a Resources page. I find the Glossary helpful for techniques with which I am unfamiliar. I would have liked it better if projects that used the listed techniques were include with the entry.

A ton of photos were included, which makes navigating the instructions easier. I recommend this book.

There are a wide variety of patterns in this book of different shapes and sizes, including a messenger bag and a crossbody bag. Some look like patterns I have seen from other designers. There are a limited number of shapes for bags so, perhaps, it can’t be helped.

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Book Review : The New Hexagon

The New Hexagon: 52 Blocks to English Paper PieceThe New Hexagon: 52 Blocks to English Paper Piece by Katja Marek

I bought this book because it was a block dictionary and the cover was very appealing. I think I also liked the cover’s color and was in a weak mood. Still, I do love block dictionaries and this is a great one for new a way of looking at hexagon blocks. I have never seen a grouping of hexagon ‘blocks’ before and these are really unique. I am really excited about English Paper Piecing right now and can see myself starting several projects using that technique. I am trying to restrain myself, especially since I plan on making the La Passacaglia quilt.

This book was paired with the Marti Michell Perfect Patchwork Templates set G. I thought they would be great for cutting the fabric. The sizes of the rotary templates don’t match the sizes in the book so that is a problem. However, as creative people I know that most of us can adjust the blocks to the size of the templates since they make cutting fabric much easier.

Predictably, the book starts out with a table of contents. After the table of contents, the author presents us with her view of paper piecing. The method I use (thread basting) is considered “truly laborious” (pg.4), though in fairness to the author, I do buy paper templates rather than cutting them out myself. Marek advocates glue basting fabric to cardboard over thread basting.

The author discusses the advantages of EPP, including its portability. I do agree that English Paper Piecing is portable, as you have seen with my half hexie project.

The Tools and Equipment section (pg.6-7) is compact but information filled. I was thrilled to see that Ms. Marek goes to the level of telling her readers what weight of paper (pg.6) she uses to print her EPP papers. This is very useful information if I decide to print templates rather than buying my papers. In addition to the tools, Marek also describes her “on-the-go box” and what it contains. I am a huge fan of Go Bags as having a bag ready to take on trip means I don’t have to rummage for supplies and possibly forget something. It also means I might actually get something done on a travel weekend where I might otherwise get no time with a needle.

The fabric in this book looks like Kate Spain’s Terrain, another appealing aspect to the color scheme of this book. It is well suited to the examples as there is opportunity for fussy cutting from some of the motifs.

English Paper Piecing Techniques (pg.8-11) follows the chapter on tools. This section has everything you need to know about paper piecing. Keep in mind that this is the author’s method and variations you use are not wrong. While I haven’t tried the glue basting method, the complete directions given do encourage me to give it a try. I normally only wash my quilts as needed so I worry about the lasting effects of the glue on the fabric. She talks about removing the papers but not about reusing them or washing the glue out of the fabric.

There is the ubiquitous section on “Quiltmaking Basics” (pg.12-15), over a page of which is concerned with binding the quilt. There is no talk of quilting the quilt beyond following the manufacturer’s instructions. Of course whole books have been written on the subject so I am not surprised.

One of the most interesting chapters is called “Working with Patterns” (pg. 16-18). One thing this section shows is why the reader should prepare the templates in the way the author recommends. “The following is the so-called ‘fine print’ — the little details that are often glossed over. You may never choose to changed the size of the blocks in this book, and you may never need to calculate the height of a hexagon. But when you become inspired to start designing your own quilts using the blocks I have provided, these little tidbits are here to help you. The size of the blocks in this book is determined by measuring the length of one side (in this case 3 inches) (pg.16). Even I, who glosses over directions with wild abandon and to my shame, can see the wisdom in Marek’s words. This section also gives tips on fussy cutting and provides ideas on layouts. Study these pages carefully and you will benefit greatly. I did and found a variation of Jack’s Chain which has my head spinning with thoughts on that layout.

Over 71 pages 52 hexagon blocks are presented (pg.19-52). The author has named all of them with women’s names. Carol is the most basic divided hexagon, being made up of 6 triangles. Most of the other blocks have smaller hexagons and diamonds, some half hexies (Lorraine is similar to my EPP project), triangles, parallelograms, and kite shapes all rearranged into hexagon shapes in very clever ways.

Finally, the book has a few projects. Because of the nature of EPP, I think this is a book that will inspire quiltmakers to design their own quilts. All of the projects, especially those made in Terrain are very appealing. My favorite might be the Rain Chain Nursery Quilt. It reminds me of the modern donation quilt our color group made a few years ago. There is a lot of background, but the layout is very appealing. Sadly, the Jack’s Chain variation is made from unappealing beiges.

There is also a list of resources and a gallery. This book has a lot of scope for inspiration

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Book Review: Syllabus

It isn’t my intention to have very frequent book reviews in this Friday space. I think, however, that this book review feeds directly into my search for continuing creative inspiration. There are a lot of words in this review, but you will get more out of the book review, if you go buy the book (or find it at your local library). Definitely read and comment on my review, but go and get more out of it by looking at the illustrations and other materials in the book, too.

Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental ProfessorSyllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I heard about this book when I listened to the Creative Mom podcast. This is not normally my kind of book, but I really enjoyed it. I was also very taken with the profound insights into the creative process and the thoughtfulness in nurturing creativity. The book is the product of a curriculum from one of Lynda Barry‘s classes and the content still has those qualities. I liked Barry’s idea of a curriculum: clear standards for the class that had more to do with production than perfect drawing. My favorite thing about this book is that it conveys the message that I was trying to convey with the Creative Prompt Project:

Just draw (or paint or sculpt or dance) and don’t worry if it looks imperfect or childish. Experience the act of making something with your hands/body.

The book looks like a composition notebook, one of those black and white marbled notebooks seen in massive stacks at stores during the back-to-school season. Barry uses very humble materials. They are not low quality, but humble — crayons (pg.87), Flair felt pen, etc. The title page and verso are not very obvious at all, which caught me, as a librarian, off guard. There is no table of contents and no index. The text just starts with the question “Is Creative Concentration Contagious?” There is a method to the seeming madness, however, and the book includes the story about the class Lynda Barry taught.

As I wrote the review, I wanted to go back and read all the pages over again. There is so much to see on the pages, I think it is possible to get something new no matter how many times you look at the pages. One part I cannot get out of my head is something I knew, but could never put into words. I was very glad when Lynda Barry wrote it down for me. “We know that athletes, musicians, and actors all have to practice, rehearse, repeat things until it gets into the body, the ‘muscle memory’, but for some reason, writers and visual artists think they have to be inspired before they make something not suspecting the PHYSICAL ACT of writing or drawing is what brings that inspiration about. Worrying about its worth and value before it exists can keep us immobilized forever. Any story we write or picture we made cannot demonstrate its worth until we write it or draw it. The answer can’t come to us any other way” (pg.163). I love the quote and think I will write it down and put it up where I can see it. It is so important to remember that inspiration is a must, but it is not everything. Practice. Practice. Practice.

There are a lot of slightly scary (I am not a horror person) and disturbing images in this book. A lot of the images are dark. This book is probably not appropriate for 5 year olds, but is perfectly fine for the tween to adult set. Also, it is a good reminder that not all drawings (or quilts or other artworks) are pretty in a conventional sense. This does not diminish other aspects of the piece (pg.29). The encouragement to just be creative regularly is the point.

The book discusses drawing a lot – not theoretical aspects, but the sheer magnitude of work the students are expected to create. Yes, you get better the more you practice, but you also have to have an “experience by hand” (pg.31), which has value. Barry writes “…what if the way kids draw — that kind of line that we call ‘childish’ — what if that is what a lines looks like when someone is having an experience by hand?” (pg.31). When I work, there is definitely something I gain by having fabric in my hands. It may be because my paid work is just stuff appearing on a screen while my quiltmaking is more of a whole body experience.

There is so much that translates directly to quiltmaking. I almost couldn’t take it all in. “I told them to color had in order to do it right. And go straight to use force — thinking I was showing them a short-cut — this took away the way of coloring they would have found on their own. By telling them just how to do it, I took the playing-around away, the gradual figuring out that bring something alive to the activity, makes it worthwhile, and is transferrable [sic] to other activities.” (pg.89) I love this passage. It makes me wonder if there is joy in using quilt patterns? Sure you have a quilt when you finish, but did the making of a design that someone else has already made bring joy to the quiltmaker? Perhaps this is the product vs. process question.

There are random and very interesting facts scattered throughout the book. “Every baby old enough to hold a crayon can already use and understand these 3 languages. Sometimes all at once.” (pg.14). She is talking about the relationship between pictures, music and dancing. This struck me as really amazing. She also talks about the relationship between hands, images and insights referring to using what is at hand to make art. One example is a child in bed interacting with his/her blanket as if it were alive. Another example is a of a homeless man acting out Romeo and Juliet with a cigarette butt and bottle cap as the main characters. (pg.15). This section is too insightful to include quotes. I would have had to type the entire section, which is why you should read this book. 😉

One good reminder (pg.19) is that even though we don’t like a piece of our artwork, it survives. This reminds me of finishing a quilt and being very glad to be done with it. Still, six months later, the quilt is one of my best. It is a good thing to remember that our work survives even if we don’t like it. Barry also states “Liking and not liking can make us blind to what’s there.” (pg.23). I make no secret of not liking brown and having a hard time appreciating Civil War reproduction fabrics. Some years ago, I forced myself to look more carefully at some of these types of quilts in order to appreciate something else about the quilt, such as the piecing and the design. While I have a hard time imagining such quilts in brights and dots, I can appreciate intricate and exact piecing.

The book is filled with tips, many of which dovetail with what I am trying to do with my blog. One states “I know if I can just keep them drawing without thinking about it too much, something quite original will appear…” (pg.21). I think it is very important to keep working, even if you make a lot of terrible work, because at some point, something great will happen that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t done so much mediocre or okay work. One tip is to use smaller spaces. Lynda has her students fold 8.5″x11″ sheets of paper into 16 squares and use those for their drawings. Friend Julie is making small square quilts as a weekly exercise. Is this something that would jolt my creativity? Your creativity?

Words in the book described as tips become profound when I think about them. One such group of words is something that I tried to espouse in the Creative Prompt Project. “Daily practice with images both written and drawn is rare once we have lost our baby teeth and begin to think of ourselves as good at some things and bad at other things. It’s not that this isn’t TRUE but the side effects are profound once we abandon a certain activity like drawing because we are bad at it. A certain state of mind (what McGilchrist might call ‘attention’) is also lost. A certain capacity of the mind is shuttered and for most people, it stays that way for life” (pg.115). This quote, idea hits close to home. I know I do it. It is easier to do things I am good at and avoid things I think I am bad at. I don’t do needle-turn applique’ because it is hard and I have to work at it. I want the time I spend to mean something more than ravelly edges on a piece of applique’. Still, what am I losing with this attitude?

One aspect of the ideas in the text that really struck me was about images. Lynda Barry writes “I was trying to understand how images travel between people, how they move through time, and if there was a way to use writing and picture making to figure out more about how images work. (pg.49) This idea has been rumbling around in my head, including the relationship to quiltmaking. We know that newspapers used to print patterns. We know that ladies would trade patterns. Now we have digital cameras and record quilt images that way. Still, we see images and they rumble around in our heads, morph and change before they become a quilt. Even when they become a quilt, changes are still possible.

The other thing about this book is the author encourages us to notice things. The composition book acts as a life note book. She encourages a small box to record things students did, saw, heard and then there is a space for a daily drawing. “what goes into your diary are things that you noticed when you became present — that is to say when the hamster wheel of thoughts and plans and worries stopped long enough for you to notice where you were and what was going on around you — little things…” (pg.61). This happens to me when I walk and am not listening to a book. This book makes me think I should just allow my mind to wander more often. What am I losing by not giving my mind that space?

Partway through the text, Barry writes “sometimes right before class I’ll see students rushing to finish the homework I gave them and I always feel sad. They’ll get nothing from the work without the state of mind that comes with it. It’s a thing Dan Chaon calls ‘Dreaming Awake’ – we can use writing and drawing to get to that state, but not by rushing” (pg.128). I think I get to this state when I am piecing a lot of the same types of pieces. It allows me to accomplish something in the quiltmaking world while my mind wanders off to other places to solve other problems. I don’t think we have enough of this type of time. While I like to have a basic plan in place when I start a quilt, often I just want to try something and that ends up as a quilt, like the Swoon did. I think there was an element of this type of working in the IRR as well. Lynda talks about this when she says “It’s a kind of picturing that is formed by our own activity, one line suggesting the next. We have a general direction but can’t see where we are until we let ourselves take a step, and then another, and then we move on to the third”(pg.136). There is an element of uncertainty when working this way, but also an element of excitement, because the maker does not know exactly where s/he is going.

Fixed places are a concept I cannot completely wrap my head around, but if what I think the author is talking about is true. I can identify at least one group of fixed places relevant to my life. Lynda B writes “Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years” (pg.181). I wonder how fixed places affect our lives. The point about failure and success is well taken. You can’t go back and we do look back on the past with rose colored glasses and forget the difficult parts.

Finally, Ms. Barry talks about journals. Journals, as you know, are near and dear to my heart. I have kept one for years and she gives voice to my thoughts on journals and writing in a journal when she says ‘the nature of notetaking by hand. Thinking of one’s compbook as a place. The practice of developing a place not a thing” (pg.194). For me, a journal is a place to think. It can be a mess. If I force yourself to make it beautiful I know it is less useful. I need a place to dump and my daily journal is that place.

Towards the end of this 200 page book, Barry tells a story “He said that during those years, as a child, he used to imagine that he was the son of the emperor of China, and the old, wise advisors of his father set a spell on him: he would have to experience all these terrible events so when he grew up and became the emperor himself, he would not make war. Since, I stopped thinking that art is decoration in life; for me, it is proof that art is essential to our surviving.” (pg.173). Using creativity to survive a terrible situation is so clever that I cannot think how this author thought of it except that he practiced and it was second nature.

I guess the thing about this book that I liked best was that it made me think in a different way. Barry’s book gives me a lot to think about. It made me wonder if I can to do more to develop my creativity? Practice more? Draw more? Dance more? More walking without headphones and an audiobook? Allow my mind to wander? There is a lot in what I have written in this review, but there is so much more. Go buy this book (shameless plug!!) and read it. Then read it again and again.

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Book Review: Fearless Design for Every Quilter

Fearless Design for Every Quilter: Traditional & Contemporary 10 Lessons Creativity & CritiqueFearless Design for Every Quilter: Traditional & Contemporary 10 Lessons Creativity & Critique by Lorraine Torrence

This is the year of cleaning up little details. This book has been on my list for a long time as I worked through the Design Series with Sandy. We haven’t finished the podcasting portion, but I want this book off my list. This book did not take me 4 years to read! I refused to take it off my list until, first, I finished the design series with Sandy and, second, I wrote this review.

I have taken at least one class with Lorraine Torrence. She is an excellent teacher who teaches concepts and techniques more than projects. In the classes I have taken with her, and articles & books by her I have read, the principles and elements of design infuse her work. Thus I was excited about this book when it came out. As I started my own studies into the principles and elements of design, I found this book to be a good resource and starting place. It is, however, not comprehensive.

The book comprises the creative process as well as five of the principles and elements of design. It starts with a comprehensive table of contents (pg.4) and continues with an introduction that includes a brief history of the contemporary quiltmaking movement. The introduction continues with a section from each of the two authors. Lorraine’s section talks about her long term Design Essentials class, including sketching out the content of the class allowing any shop to offer such a class. I am not sure that was the intent. Jean was a student in the class and talks about her experiences while Lorraine talks about the evolution and teaching of the class.

The introduction is followed by a short section on the goals of the books and some introduction on how to use the book. Critique and inspiration are part of using the book and are described in this part as well.

The overall message in this section is figuring out the exercises and that people learn more when the instructions are vague or do not give all the information. This is not meant to deprive the reader, but to encourage experimentation.

The above sections are followed by “Commit to Create: The Creative Process” There is an interesting discussion about how “being creative is not a mysterious process.” (pg.8), telling the reader that creativity is a process in which anyone can engage. There are comments in this section that I have said to others. This section is not all about telling the reader s/he is creative, there is also a process outlined and how to engage in each step. The process includes: Prepare, Incubate, Create, Evaluate.

I like this process because it is simple yet effective. The authors provide a lot of information, but it is concise, to the point and easily digestible.
The Creative Process is covered in the Critique Process (pg.11). The word critique is scary but this section starts by talking about vocabulary and phrasing, which helps to take some of the sting out of the process.

Throughout the book are references to other books and articles that add to or expand on the content.

Students participated in this book and they are introduced starting on pg.13. “Their work and thoughts appear as examples of design and critique.” (pg.13) “The first part of the design course focuses on the principles and elements, exploring the relationship of these components to the overall success of a quilt design” (pg.11). The principles and elements covered are Balance, Asymmetrical Composition and Value, Scale, Value and Balance, Identifying Value in Color, and Color. As I said these are a good place to start, though not comprehensive. Each of these chapters gives an exercise then goes through a critique section, using the student work as examples. There is also a section within each chapter called ‘the continuing education process’, which suggests different approaches and tools.

These chapters are all full color with many images throughout. The words making up the chapter are filled with helpful information, definitions and examples. One quote, which is a great reminder is “Doing the exercises in this chapter is simply a way to try out color ideas visually to find new combinations….” (pg.50). Replace ‘color ideas’ with other concepts and the line becomes a universal excuse for going to your studio and working.

The next major section is called “Design Sources and Inspiration” (pg.52) and focuses, not surprisingly, “on sources and inspiration” (pg.52). Some of the inspirations are Words (pg.53), Using Images from your Surroundings (pg.58), and Maintaining Unity Using Panels (pg.64). These chapters also show student work in the critique section, include a creativity exercise and suggested reading.

The section called Designing Borders and Quilting (pg.69) is put together like the others, but seems to be a section that the publisher said the authors had to include. It isn’t a comprehensive how-to quilt section; it is more about fitting the quilting to the overall design of the piece. The quilting doesn’t show up very well on some of the pieces in the critique session (pg.70-72).

There is a section on borders, which is interesting. It starts with “A good way to audition borders for a quilt is to photograph the quilt and make several paper picture frames for the photo” (pg.74). Of course, you could copy the fabric you were planning on using or you could take the idea and reproduce it in EQ or another quilt software.

Throughout the book you are encouraged to produce a ‘library’ of designs. In this section, the idea is to add to this concept with a quilting design library. This reminds me of Inspiration Odyssey by Diana Swim Wessel. You could just use her materials instead of creating your own, but creating your own makes your project personal and provides a starting place. Christa Watson has a new machine quilting book that has fill designs, etc, that would be useful. This idea isn’t bad if you have ideas of your own that differ from those published. As the authors say, it “will be a good resource for ideas.” (pg.74)

There is a tidbit in the Creativity Exercise in this section that I really like. The authors say “…do a mental check to see if you have built ‘fences’ around your ability to be creative. Sometimes we can get stuck in what we know have always done, rather than focusing on what we creatively dream” (pg.74). I really love this thought. It isn’t easy, especially when we are in ‘get ‘er done’ mode, but its important to try to remember and practice.

The chapter in this section is called “Designing and Working with Pattern,” which is all about understanding the fabric design process and using those fabrics you create (pg.75). The exercise is to design fabric and the assignment gives you ideas on how to do it such as printing on fabric and others. I immediately thought of Tsukineko inks. This creation process is followed up by using the fabrics.

The next major section is called “Working in a Series” and covers topics such as What is Series Work, Where to Start, and How Long to Work on a Series. This section ends with the reminder that quantity equals quality and is followed by student work.

The book sums up with a Section called “Summing Up” (pg.90) that tells readers where to go from this point. The suggestion is to start your own critique group and the book gives a list of things to consider when doing so (pg.91). In the “Some Final words” section there are thoughts on your inner critic, on inspiration and other things.

I am disappointed that this book does not have an index.

Goodreads is showing the ebook for this review, but I have the print version, which has a nice selection of art quilt books on the last page by such quilt luminaries as Jane Davila, Katie Pasquini-Masopust and Ruth McDowell.

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Book Review: Scraps, Inc.

Scraps, Inc.: 15 Modern Quilts Made to KeepScraps, Inc.: 15 Modern Quilts Made to Keep by Editors at Lucky Spool

The best thing about this book is the photos. The colors are great; the photography is great. Other than that this is a project book with projects you have seen before done by ‘names’ in updated colors and fabrics.

First, I am going to talk about the projects and then will talk about the introductory pages at the end of the review.

The book has 15 projects by some of the most well known modern designers, including Camille Roskelley, April Rosenthal and Amy Smart. The artists begin each of the projects with a description. I liked it that some of them suggested alternate color options, though I didn’t see alternate color options shown in the book. There might be some examples on the individual quiltmakers’ websites. Each of the designers has a “Scrap Stash Tip” at the end of their chapter/project.

I thought the font was really good. Bold headlines are bold. The illustrations in the directions are also excellent. I haven’t made any of the projects, so I cannot comment on the technical quality of the project directions.

Many of the projects are based on traditional patterns: Bangles, Courthouse Steps, Favorite Things and Richmond, even if the names are different. I realize that everyone has different scraps, but a lot of these projects would not work for my scrap bins, because of the sizes required. Some of the projects require 4.5″ squares and I have very few scraps that size, so I would have to cut from yardage.

Amy Ellis’ My Favorite Things quilt project (pg. 24-35) is made up of all classic blocks. Her fabric usage would be considered modern, appearing to use a variety of background fabrics rather than just one. The setting is a rectangular medallion style, which is a little different than other classic settings. The complexity of this project is really nice.

Allison Harris’ Bangles quilt (pg.19-23) is made differently, but is the same pattern as the Jewel Box quilt pattern that was so popular several years ago. I guess everything old is new again? This quilt has a more stereotypical modern feel with its bright white background and no border.

The usage of many traditional block patterns and settings is a good way to draw in quiltmakers who don’t think the modern movement is for them.

My favorite quilt in this book, hands down, is Overcast by April Rosenthal (pg.5-58). I love this quilt and want to make it. I think it is reasonable use of scraps. In the introduction to the project, Ms. Rosenthal has some good advice. “Be sure to choose a grounding ‘background’ for your quilt. A strong solid here will help the rest your piecing stand out, and provide much-needed contrast to the fabrics with a white background and to the scrappy colored strips.” This pattern requires that colors don’t bleed into one another and the fact that the whites stand out give it a bright appearance that is also complex and interesting. I would have liked a couple of line drawn blocks with the lettered designations she uses for the piecing. The designer uses a glue basting method for piecing the curves, which she describes as being helpful for beginners, but may not be necessary as the maker progresses through the quilt. I thought this was a helpful tip and also acknowledges that sewists get better at skills as they progress through a project. I also like the way she assembles the curved units. She has the maker add on a strip made up of three squares rather than piecing a tighter curve. This allows for greater use of scraps and more success at small curves.

Unraveled (pg. 77-81) is an interesting pattern and it has that lozenge shape I have not yet explored. The blocks are rather big and I think I would like it better in a smaller size. It uses the flippy corners method to make the lozenges, thus I think could be resized relatively easily.

Kati Spencer’s quilt, Woven, (pg.89-83) intrigues me. It reminds me of a Jelly Roll Race quilt, but more planned. I like the different arrangement of strips and the coordinating of colors.

Most of the designers’ Scrap Stash Tips revolve around getting scraps organized immediately after finishing a project. Some cut into certain sizes a la Bonnie Hunter and others.

Templates at the back must be photocopied. I do not see a link to a downloadable version in the book.

Finally, we are back to the beginning where there are three pages of text, a welcome and some basic instructions on making HSTs and strip sets. There are templates at the end of the book. I was put off this book immediately in the first paragraph of the introduction, because the language used is deprecating to makers. “…with a love for every inch of the leftover fabrics…” implies a problem with obsessiveness. Later, the author writes “This has likely turned you into a scrap junkie.” While I understand that this was probably used in a tongue in cheek manner and that my own may have affected my understanding of the implications, ‘junkie’ is someone who has a drug problem. I really don’t think that loving fabric and making quilts should be equated with substance abuse. I also think we, as quiltmakers, should be supportive rather than judgmental about fabric purchasing or amounts of fabric each of us own.

Also in the welcome the author says “….colors we are loving right now, combined with innovative, on-trend designs…”. This begs the question of whether the project designs will be out of style when these on-trend scraps are out of fashion? What if you have scraps from 20 years ago? Are the designs not suitable for someone with a broadly reaching scrap bin?

I would, as usual, have liked to see more about the inspiration for each quilt. I think it gives readers ideas about where to get inspired on their own. As I have said, I think some of the projects are interesting. This book is definitely worth a look.

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