Book Review: Liberated Quiltmaking 2

Liberated Quiltmaking IILiberated Quiltmaking II by Gwen Marston

I knew I liked this book when I read “Life is short. Do your own work, have a good time, and be nice to everybody…including yourself” (pg.10). I also liked this book, because she talks about the wheres and whys of the quiltmaking process. Gwen Marston assumes that quiltmakers are intelligent. She says “We can solve our own problems” (pg.11) and “contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to suffer to make a good quilt” (pg.10). I like Gwen Marston’s writing style, the clear directions and the information she packs into this book.

This book is about design; designing your own quilts as in not using a pattern. This book is about what kind of quilts that can provide inspiration, how to use that inspiration to make your own quilts and the steps to get there. This book is about having fun, using good fabric and enjoying yourself.

This is also a technique book which straddles the line between liberated construction and good technique. She says “…that working in the Liberated style doesn’t mean you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater” (pg.12), a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. Liberated Quiltmaking is a “process rather than a pattern (pg.8)” and not an excuse for poor design or bad technique.

Most of the books talks about process and the vehicle she uses are, for the most part, traditional blocks such as log cabins, baskets and square within a square. Marston shows us some quilts, usually antiques, talks about the liberated fundamentals of that block and then give step-by-step instructions for the liberated version of the block.

Each section that shows how to make the various blocks, and block parts, are well illustrated. Both written and visual steps are shown. In working with these designs and techniques the reader gets the distinct impression that s/he should follow the directions, but adjust as needed to make the piece her/his own. In the star making section, she writes “the cuts are not made exactly from corner to corner” (pg.31). The end result is complex looking, but not difficult.

One block in the process section is from a quilt by a student (Kathy’s Block, pg.39-45) and other sections discuss borders, triangles, recut blocks and medallions. Kathy’s block is a good lesson in making lemonade out of lemons. If you are afraid of sawtooth borders or joining a border round robin, then this book will help you get more comfortable with the concepts. The topics are covered thoroughly and in a way that gives the reader confidence to do what she is teaching. The Medallion with Wild Geese and Squares on Point (pg. 102) in this section is particularly cheerful.

Keeping the above in mind, Gwen writes “As I am writing about a process rather than describing how to make a specific project, it is not my intention to give you the exact measurement to duplicate my quilt. Rather, I am showing you how to figure out how to make your own blocks any size you want (pg.81).” I hope, after reading this book, that my readers will go away with those skills firmly embedded in their head and fear left outside the workroom door.

It may as well be said right up front that a lot of the blocks and units are on the bias. They are on the bias because of the way they are cut or pieced. Sewing slowly and using Mary Ellen’s Best Press will allow you to work with the bias with no trouble.

If you can only buy one quilt book, I would buy this one. The scope for imagination, as Anne of Green Gables would say, is limitless. A quiltmaker could easily spend her life making variations of liberated quilts from this book.

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