Book Review: Quilts in the Cotswolds

Kaffe Fassett's Quilts in the Cotswolds: Medallion Quilt Designs with Kaffe Fassett FabricsKaffe Fassett’s Quilts in the Cotswolds: Medallion Quilt Designs with Kaffe Fassett Fabrics* by Kaffe Fassett

This is the latest from Fassett‘s book list. He was in the Bay Area recently and, as I mentioned, Friend Julie and I attended his lecture at the McAfee Center in Saratoga. At the time of signups for the classes, I didn’t feel like I had the spare cash to participate in a class. My compromise was this book.

His books are very similar to each other. The designs are simple and I don’t need a book to make them. I buy his books because of the color, fabrics and photography. The projects in this book are even simpler than some of his previous books. They are all medallion style patterns, as the subtitle on the title page, “Medallion quilt designs with Kaffe Collective fabrics” describes.

The lushness of the fabrics and photos starts immediately on the title page (pg.1) with a photo of the “My Folded Ribbons” pattern (pattern on pg.28, 106). The two page table of contents / Title page verso spread shows Glamping Medallion (pattern on pg. 32, 64). It is named after the fabric by Brandon Mably I think looks more like circus tents and wonder if they changed the name when ‘glamping’ became popular.

The table of contents (pg.3) shows an intro, entries for 19 patterns plus sections for templates, basic quiltmaking, a glossary and other information. The introduction starts on pg.4. In it Kaffe writes “Many of the layouts were originally inspired by old recipes found in vintage quilt books… My favourite (sic) design in this book is, however, a completely new one: the Folded Ribbons quilt on page 28” (pg.4). I am intrigued by those vintage quilt books though he doesn’t say anymore about them. I first read ‘village’ instead of vintage. Images of Womens’ Institute ladies carefully drafting patterns for their village quilt pamphlet flooded my mind.

In the introduction Kaffe also talks about his choice of Hidcote, the location for the photos. He discusses his admiration for “the insight to create something so deliciously structured, coupled with the amazing patience to sit by year after year until it matures into being” (pg.4). I don’t see this as very different than quiltmaking. Beginners can make a quick project (like buying a pot plant) and feel successful. To have gratifying success in quiltmaking takes the patience to learn new and varied techniques. It also takes practice.

In the introduction, I saw a quilt I want to make. It is Pink Squares and the pattern appears on pg.54. There is a photo of it on page 5 and it caught my attention because of the center. I bought a Fruit Basket medallion piece of fabric I have never known how to showcase. This pattern would allow me to showcase it. As a bonus, I could also show various flowers from various prints. The pink doesn’t go with anything in my house, but I still love this quilt. It would be great Mind Sorbet as well.

The introduction gives a bit of history of Hidcote house and gardens (pg.6). The photos are lovely, both of the quilts in the Hidcote setting and various surprises from the location itself (pg.6-7). The are several pages of photos of the quilts on location (pg.7-45) before the patterns start on pg.46. This group of pages gives the reader a chance to see the quilts in a beautiful setting, see details of the designs and examine the fabric/color combinations.

This visual extravaganza includes references to the quilt pattern shown. some color combinations are not my favorites, e.g. Autumn Colors. In this book, I find admiration for all of the colors and fabrics used. Golden Medallion is one that falls into this category (pg.16-17, pattern on pg.118-122). I don’t know if I am more enamoured with orange at the moment or if this quilt is just very appealing. Regardless, it glows. There is enough purple, blue and green to make the warm tones special. Also, they limit the red so the quilt looks predominantly yellow or amber.

I wish the photograph labels had included the page for the pattern. Still they are not difficult to find. Kaffe freely admits to reusing the Berry Ice Cream design for the 4th time (pg.18-19)! This tells me that the fabrics are the ingredient that make the designs unique. He says “It’s always very exciting each year to use our new prints in various color combinations, but I particularly love reworking a previous layout in a fresh color scheme…” (pg.6).

Pink Squares, my favorite, is featured again on pages 30-31 with another two page spread showing the quilt (pg.30) and the flowers that inspired the color scheme (pg.31).

Some of the piecing weirdnesses in the book show up in Glamping Medallion (pg.33). The detail shows a cut fig (?) fabric border. The corners come together strangely. Most people probably don’t care, but I would miter the corners or try to match the prints better or add a cornerstone to make those corners less jarring.

I really like the yellow and pink combinations of Sunny Zig Zag (pg.34-35).

Julie and I looked at the various photos of Lavender Ice Cream quite a bit (pg.40-41). We were trying to decide if there were one or two quilts using those fabrics. We finally decided on one quilt photographed in different lighting. There is a wisteria draped over the quilt (pg.41) and it is hard to tell where the plant ends and the quilt begins.

The design for Autumn Checkerboard has two versions in this compilation, Autumn Checkerboard (pg.44-45) and Graphite Medallion (pg.27). I like the colors in the former a lot better. This quilt also uses cornerstones so it doesn’t suffer from the same corner problem I described about Glamping Medallion (pg.33) above.

Malachite Jupiter (pattern pg.50-53) has a striking emerald color scheme. this quilt uses cornerstones to great effect. The directional fabric is carefully placed so as not to be jarring. There is enough red and blue to keep the quilt from being too green.

Each pattern includes printed “swatches” of the fabrics used. Each of the swatches has the name, color, and possibly the line. Each of the fabrics is numbered as well. This is helpful if you want to make an exact copy or select fabrics similar in color to retain the overall look of the quilts in the book.

To use these patterns, you need to designate your fabrics for certain locations. The patterns say something like “from fabric 2 cut 2 squares 7 5/8″ (19.4 cm)” (pg.51), so you need to know which of your fabrics is fabric 2, etc, which will , further, tell you where to place it. The layout and sewing diagrams are very clear and in color. Assuming you are organized, these short patterns give the maker all the information s/he needs to make the quilts.

On the first page of each pattern is a full color photo of the quilt shown flat. In the photo of Pink Squares (pg.54), I notice that there isn’t much quilting, especially in the borders. While the borders aren’t large, the pulling is noticeable. Most of the quilts have simple quilting, so as not to interfere with the fabrics. I agree with this choice as too much enthusiastic quilting can ruin the look of a quilt. In general, the author(s) found a good compromise. The reader can find close-up shots of the quilting in some of the detail shots such as page 56, page 88 and some of full shots, if you look carefully. There is a fine line between too much and too little quilting.

Russian Knot Garden (pg.59-63) is an example of a quilt that could easily look over-the-top. The darks, however, are well placed to keep the look from being too much.

The quilt patterns, with their full photos, have been arranged so different quilts whose color schemes are different are next to each other. This arrangement makes me feel like I am receiving an unexpected surprised every time I turn the page.

Stone Flower, a fabric with distinct urns / vases of flowers is used quite a bit in this book to good effect (pg.72,73,82).

The alternate blocks in Autumn Chintz (pattern pg.77-81) uses the fabric Spot in Royal. Again the piecing makes this a jarring choice (pg.77), but I understand why the technique was chosen. The fabric is a good alternate to all of the Chrysanthemums, however cutting it up and putting it back together is jarring. Still, I wonder if, with a few Y seams and careful piecing, if squares couldn’t be used. This would make the piecing more challenging and not as quick. I think a square would create a better effect. I am done with large hexagons (famous last words, right?), but I would try my changes if I were to make this quilt.

The corner matching is much better in Sunny Beyond the Border (pattern pg.82-85). The maker did a better job of matching the corners (pg.82).

The quilts seem to get slightly more difficult as the book progresses. Flowery Jar (pattern pg.86-90) has some applique’ and skinny triangles. Templates and clear directions are given for both. Jewel Hexagons (pattern pg.100-101) has some hexagon blossoms, such as one would see in a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. These require paper piecing and applique’. Again, templates and clear instructions are given with visual examples. Folded Ribbons (pattern pg.106-110) might be better in fabrics that create a more emphatic 3D effect. Cool Imari Plate (pattern pg.111-117) includes a Dresden Plate and Eight Pointed Stars.

Templates, reduced in size for publication are included after the patterns, starting on pg.137. The templates are followed by the “Patchwork Know-How” section. In addition to basic quiltmaking directions, the authors include some information about the fabrics, which I didn’t notice until I read about them in this section.

The techniques used, mostly, do not include machine applique’ and quick piecing techniques. There are interesting bits of information that are normally not included in these standard ‘basic patchwork’ sections. I was interested to see some instructions on finger pressing (pg.147), making quilting designs and motifs (pg.148), joining batting (pg.148) and tied quilting (pg.148). The glossary of terms (pg.150), except for one last photo and some into about Taunton Press and Free Spirit Fabrics, is the last bit of helpful information in this book.

I found this book to be very inspiring. As I read it, the overall effect of the book stayed in my mind. I could leafed through the images in my mind as I fell asleep at night.

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