Book Review: The Quilter’s Catalog

This review is LONG overdue! I have to apologize to Meg Cox for  how long it took me to post it. She kindly sent me the book and I couldn’t let it go. I read and took notes and read again and enjoyed. Well, the time has come. Read through the review for something special! 😉

The Quilter's Catalog: A Comprehensive Resource GuideThe Quilter’s Catalog: A Comprehensive Resource Guide by Meg Cox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meg Cox was kind enough to send me a free copy of this book to review and giveaway. She did this shortly after I received the books from Lark Books and I had mixed feelings about that experience: happiness that my work on the blog was recognized and stung that they never responded to any of my emails for more information.

As an indirect result of that experience, it took me awhile to get to starting this book. Once I did get to it, I had a hard time putting it down. This is a dense, packed-full-of-information book. It a book to which you can refer over and over, and a book you want to read with pencil and notepad in hand.

The two things I really like about this book are the layout and Cox’s writing style. The book is divided into sensible sections including “my quilt history,” which tells us her personal quiltmaking story and sets up her credentials, “who quilts today and why,” “sewing now..,” “more revolutionary tools,” etc. There are also sidebars which have mini-articles and additional information.

She was on staff at various newspapers for over 20 years including 17 at the Wall Street Journal. I found her writing style to be witty, intelligent, and businesslike in an accessible way.

Ms. Cox talks about the quilt world as I see it, and not the fantasy quilt world of sharing and love that is associated with the world of quilts in many quilt books. (Not that there isn’t sharing and love in the quilt world, but it is a business world also and there isn’t enough acknowledgment of that, IMO). She starts the books with her own brief quilt history. I like knowing where an author is coming from. I like to have some context about why the author is writing the book. Often, introductions don’t satisfy my curiosity, but this one does. That leads into a section of who quilts and why. She talks about figuring this section out by doing her own survey to gather information.

One of my favorite parts is called ‘6 Quilt Myths Debunked’. The myths include quiltmaking as an American invention, cutting up clothes to make quilts, quilting by hand, old quilts value, etc. I am really glad that she tackled these issues head on, because I have a problem with “information sources” that perpetuate myths without performing any research or providing back up sources or citations. This part of the book is not a historical tome meant for academicians. Cox writes about the issues using a style that makes sense, has been researched and is an easy read for the general public.

Throughout the book are lots and lots of pictures. Pictures of quilts, pictures of department store fabric sections, pictures of rock star quiltmakers, pictures of software, sewing machines, antique textiles, books and more quilts. Most of the photos are black and white, but there is a middle section of color photos, which is also filled with the obligatory projects.

Because this is a book, it is now getting to be a bit out of date. 98% of the information is NOT out of date and the book is still very much worth the money. New products have come on to the market that are not reviewed, some webTV shows have developed further and there are new tools. This is not a criticism, but it made me think a lot about how this book could be kept up to date. Companion website? Make it a loose-leaf like legal materials and send updates out? New editions each year? I couldn’t really think of a satisfactory answer, but perhaps an iPad app with new information followed by new editions when enough changes had taken place is a possibility?

One of the good things about this book having older info in some sections is that I can see the development of certain things in the quilt world. For example, in a section called “Seeing Quilts Online” Meg talks about how museums do not always show their vast collections of quilts, but they are making inroads on scanning them. She goes on to talk about the different large collections of quilts including IQSC, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Alliance for American Quilts, among others. This section, I think, shows a clear path to the Year of the Quilt in NYC! Someone at museums must have read this book or heard about it and thought up the concept of the Year of the Quilt in NYC. Okay, perhaps I am fantasizing, but a connection between the popularity of quilts, how many are  in museums, the recognition of the artistry of quilts must have led to the Year of the Quilt in NYC. I hope to see more of those types of exhibits.

I think there is something in this book for all types of quiltmakers. I don’t think every quiltmaker will be interested in every section, but I think there is enough to entertain beginning, intermediate and advanced quiltmakers. Meg Cox has included some projects for those who cannot find enough of them in projects books and on the web, she has included history, biographies, lots of information about teachers, a section for beginners on basic how-tos, etc. Some of the how-to section would be interesting for more experienced quiltmakers who didn’t have experience with said techniques. I have to admit that I like the fruit tart pincushion.

There is also a practical side to this book. Meg talks about quilt shows and gives practical advice on how to attend including what to wear, how to shop (yes, more than just bring a credit card!), what not to miss, pros and cons of lectures and demonstrations, booking rooms, etc.

I was pleased to see some of the history of the longarm section of the quilt world. I was also interested in the section on computers and quiltmaking. It included quilt software (EQ and PCQuilt, listserves (QuiltArt etc) and what the Internet offers. I grew in my quiltmaking career seeing some of these resources develop and was pleased to see mention of a now (mostly) defunct listserve on which I used to be very active.

Throughout this book, Cox subtly points out what a vital, fluid and continuously changing art form quiltmaking is. You really should go out and buy this book. I think it is one that every quiltmaker should read, if not have on their shelf. Nice work, Meg!

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Meg does not, yet, have a blog, but she does have a website and free monthly e-newsletter, Quilt Journalist Tells All. To see a copy of the newsletter and subscribe, click here. You can also connect with Meg by reading her two columns: Megabites gossip and news column in Quilter’s Home, and Look Who’s Quilting Now in the Ricky and Alex publication, The Quilt Life.

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