Book Review: Sew Gifts!

Sew Gifts!: 25 Handmade Gift Ideas from Top DesignersSew Gifts!: 25 Handmade Gift Ideas from Top Designers by That Patchwork Place

I wanted to read this book for a long time. I finally borrowed it from the library and found that the projects were all made from very appealing fabric combinations. Also, the photography was very appealing.

There are several interesting projects. I found that the projects are different from other books on making small gifts. Still, I enjoy seeing how other designers deal with zippers or make a pouch in a different shape.

This book has very little text beyond the patterns. It is a compilation of projects from different designers. Mary V. Green wrote the Introduction, which is very short. It doesn’t provide much information except to talk about how great sewing gifts for people is and mentions the variety of occasions appropriate to give sewn gifts. Readers do get a brief view of the patterns included in the book, because of a few of them are showcased on the page opposite the Introduction.

After the brief introduction, the patterns start. The patterns are divided into four sections. Bags, Bags, Bags includes tote bags, zipper pouches, wallets, a key holder and a few other things. The section called Gifts for Special Interests contains a scarf, a knitting needle zipper pouch, a sketchbook cover and matching pencil pouch, a backgammon game and an owl softie. Kitchen Mates shows readers how to make a Little Girl Bake Shop set, a holiday apron, a casserole carrier and mug rugs. Pillow Perfect is all about pillows.

Patterns are about 4-6 pages each and include a lot of photos, which makes making the projects easier and the patterns more understandable. Some of my favorite projects are the Zippered Dresden Pouch ( pg.10-13), Wristlet Key Holder (pg.23-25), Triangular Knitting Needle Case (pg. 43-47), Artist’s Sketchbook Cover and Pencil Case (pg.48-54), and the Hoot Pincushion (pg.63-69). I also like the felt cupcakes (pg.72,74) included in the Little Girl Bake Shop set (pg. 68-74). I am sucker for felt food, though I have no reason to make it. I just like it. The Casserole Carrier (pg.81-85) could also be used as a project carrier. The Pillow pattern designs are interesting enough to be the start of quilts. Basic sewing techniques start on page 105. The section includes brief overviews of binding, blanket stitch, sewing curves, edge and top stitching, felting wool, fusible applique’, satin stitching, seam allowances and zippers. The ‘Meet the Designers’ section starts on page 110. Each designer gets a one paragraph description with some links to blogs and websites.

The Zippered Dresden Pouch ( pg.10-13) is one of the very appealing patterns. After making the Dresden Sew Together Bag, I am enamored with using Dresden Plates for embellishments. The embellisment brought this pattern to my attention immediately. It also included good skills which were well explained for making future pouches, such as using zipper tabs and boxing corners, two skills not always included with zipper pouch patterns.

The Wallet Key Card (pg.14-17) is interesting. I don’t think I would use such a thing, but it might be a good gift. The zipper might need a zipper tab.

The Wristlet Key Holder (pg.23-25) was another interesting project. I can’t think of a time when I only go out with a key, but this might be a good project to make for a child who doesn’t need a driver’s license when s/he is outside playing.

I like the shape of the Casual Crossed Hobo Bag (pg.4-39). The pattern requires enlargement, which is possible, but may not be so easy without access to a copier. The pattern does show how to manually enlarge it.

Triangular Knitting Needle Case (pg. 43-47) uses a shape for a zipper pouch I don’t remember seeing before. I use circular needles for the most part, but I have been thinking about what I could store in this zipper pouch. Pens when I go to guild instead of having them hang in the loops I made in my last Chubby Charmer? Of course, they wouldn’t be as accessible encased in a pouch.

The Artist’s Sketchbook Cover is not that different than the journal covers I make at regular intervals. The Pencil Case (both projects: pg.48-54) is just a zipper pouch. What makes these two patterns fun is the design on the outside. It is fiddly to do so much piecing, but also fun and cheerful.

The Sewing Kit in a Jar (pg. 59-62) is kind of novel and might make an entertaining, if not very useful gift.

The Hoot Pincushion (pg.63-69) reminds me of my Henry Owl Softies. I like the idea of using buttons for eyes and also the pocket for scissors. I was also pleased to see that the designer included supplies to weigh down the pincushion.

For times where you need appealing gifts quickly, this is a book that you could use. There are patterns you could make over and over in different fabrics and with different embellishments. I would have liked to have brief descriptions of the designers’ inspiration for the project, but perhaps I am the only one as that doesn’t seem to be something publishers like to include. Also, I guess I can check their websites to see if they talk more about the projects.

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Book Review: Kitchen Stitches

Kitchen Stitches: Sewing Projects to Spice Up Your HomeKitchen Stitches: Sewing Projects to Spice Up Your Home by That Patchwork Place

I borrowed the book from the library right before shelter-in-place started. It has been in my ‘pedicure bag’ since March. I read halfway through it and then didn’t get back to it until the other day. I usually write my reviews while getting a pedicure. Since I haven’t gotten one in months (#thankspandemic) the review has languished. I decided that it was time to finish reading the book and start writing the review.

I originally borrowed the book because of the bag on the front cover. I don’t remember where I saw the cover, but I loved the shape of the bag, so I sought out the book.

The book is essentially a project book. Aside from the introduction, the book is made up of patterns, not essays. There is little discussion of inspiration for the projects. The book is organized into three sections: ‘get cooking’, ‘set the table’ and ‘add a little spice’. The projects are all easy to find using the table of contents. Each project is by a different designer. Natalie Barnes (pg.17), Kim Niedzwiecki and Amy Ellis are familiar to me.

The introduction (pg.4) starts out with a huge assumption, “if you’re like many sewists and quilters, you like to cook almost as much as you like to play with fabric.” This is not true for me and quite off putting. For me, any time cooking takes away from sewing. I like good food, but only for nutrition. I am not much of a creative cook and definitely do not like complicated recipes unless they yield 12 meals. My YM says that he would know if I won the lottery because I would hire a cook. The intro would have started off, for me, in a less confrontational manner, if the focus has been on gift giving or enriching home decor.

The first project section, ‘Get Cooking’ (pg.5-44), starts off with an image of some of the projects included. I always like it when there are photos of the projects organized somewhere. The fabrics used are very appealing. ‘Get Cooking’ probably has the most projects. The first group of patterns includes the bag that drew me to the book, called the Baguette Tote (pg.12-15), as well as two other projects. All of the patterns are 3-ish pages. There are a lot of pictures to assist in making the projects.

The projects throughout the book are presented in groups of 2-3 and, occasionally, singly. The items in each group relate together somehow. I think the projects are useful and practical. I get the sense, however, that they are more for show than use. For example, Insul-Bright is a common item in the supply lists. There is no discussion of what it is or what temperatures it can handle. I would have like to have a section discussing techniques for sewing for the kitchen, dos and don’ts and things for which to watch out.

In addition to the Baguette Tote, this section includes patterns for a variety of potholders, such as a double-handed hot pads (pg.20-22), oven mitts (pg.27-31) single handed hot pads (pg.35-37), hot pan handle holders, (pg.37-38). There are also tea towels (pg.33-34), a slow cooker cozy (pg.23-26), which is customizable, and a couple of different aprons.

Many of the projects are customizable, so you can fit them to your casserole dish or slow cooker. Also, this makes it easy to make something for a gift you purchase.

The “Set the Table” section (pg.45-76) is all about decorating the table using fabric. I have made lots of fabric napkins and we use them every day. I am glad I have them because we can wash them instead of tossing. also, I have used fun fabrics and fabrics that coordinate with US holidays, such as Mardi Gras and Labor Day, in addition to Christmas and Thanksgiving. I find making napkins, especially the ironing, tedious and am glad I don’t have to make any more for awhile. Still, if you don’t have an abundance of napkins, this book provides excellent inspiration. We also use a tablecloth instead of place mats so I would re-purpose the table mat and place mats into a table cloth or even a table runner.

The Bistro tablecloth and napkin set (pg.61-66) has a clever design. I might re-purpose the motifs into a table runner for my buffet. The applique’ seems like a lot of work for something on which people will spill red wine. Still, I like the applique’ motifs.

This section also includes patterns for a tea cozy (pg.46-49) and several types of place mats. There are also a variety of techniques. I didn’t find the fabrics in this section particularly appealing. The projects, however, were small and would be good for learning specialized techniques such as reverse applique’, embroidery, foundation piecing, all detailed in this section.

The author is big on the Quilt-as-you-Go technique. It is a quick way to get a piece quilted, so can save time with certain designs. The Shattered Strips table runner and place mats set uses this technique. It is a good reminder of the method, which is also used for the Baguette Tote (pg.12-15), and I might take it to heart to make a quick table runner for my buffet. The interesting thing about the place mats is the pocket for the silverware. It is an interesting variation on a place mat pattern.

“Add a Little Spice” (pg.77-94) includes more decorative projects such as memo holders, a coupon (recipe) bag, and coasters. My favorite project in this section is the coupon/recipe keeper. It could be made as a little girl’s purse, or a bag for small item to put inside a larger totes. This project is described as attaching “to the handle of your shopping cart for an easy, hands-free shopping experience. Extra pockets provide room for phone, pen, calculator, wallet, and more.” These features are not shown in any of the photos and the inside is just implied. I would have liked an inside photo.

The “coasters with curves” are adorable and use the fat rickrack to good advantage. The wine glass charms and fridge magnets also use rickrack, though the small kind. I like the clever way the rickrack is twisted together.

There are many other kitchen related projects in this book. If you have wedding showers coming up and more fabric than budget, this book might provide the means to give beautiful, unique gifts using the materials you have on hand. The table runner ideas are really sparking my imagination.

There is no glossary or index. The last few pages of the book have short bios of all of the artists. The bios include the artists’ website or blog.

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Book Review: At Home with Modern June

At Home with Modern June: 27 Sewing Projects for Your Handmade LifestyleAt Home with Modern June: 27 Sewing Projects for Your Handmade Lifestyle by Kelly McCants

This is an older book, but it came to my attention again when I was looking through my books for patterns for raffle prizes. I had plowed through the books I used for my gift grouping for Mary. I looked through other books for interesting patterns that would intrigue someone who makes quilts themselves. I am sort of rearranging the non-quilt books into a group. These books include patterns for pouches, pincushions, bags and other accessories.

The first thing to appeal to me was the color scheme. Red and turquoise is a favorite of mine, as you may have noticed. 🙂

Second was the organization of the book. The table of contents shows projects room by room. The main rooms in any standard house – kitchen, living room, bed, and bath – are all covered. The author also includes sections on creative space, closets and pantry, which are useful additions.

Third, a line in the Foreword appealed to me, “whether you’re moving into a new home, launching a home makeover, or just sprucing up one room at a time…” This line told me that the book could appeal to a variety of different readers and makers.

After the Foreword (pg.4), an introduction (pg.5) and a discussion of mood boards (pg.7-9), the text starts in earnest with a ‘terms and techniques glossary’ (pg.10-19). This section has basic definitions as well as longer explanations. Part of it is illustrated (pg.12, 13, etc). The section is super comprehensive, including topics you may never encounter anywhere else. One tip I thought was very useful was about modifying a sewing machine foot to work with oilcloth (pg.15). I am not sure if this tip would work with vinyl, but it is worth a try.

Ms. McCants also talks about cross-pinning (pg.14). I have done something like it, but never knew it had a name. Other things I like in this section are a bias tape finishing instructions (pg.17) and a chart that provides yardage calculations in decimals, yards and inches (pg.19). This is definitely something to copy and pin to your wall. Very useful.

After the glossary, the author dives into Kitchen and Dining Room projects (pg.20-53). This section has normal projects that fit into the theme with twists. The twists are things like different materials, techniques or tools. The first project in the Kitchen and Dining section is placemats (pg.20-25). Big deal, right? The project uses chalkboard fabric! Other projects include pot holders, a curtain, a reversible floor mat and others. The apron (pg.37-43) is pretty and would make a great gift. I like the barstool makeover (pg.44-49), mostly because I need to redo my kitchen bar stool. Kelly tells the reader how to make the pattern to fit the barstool you own (pg.46).

Living Rooms – inside and Out (pg.54-83) comes next and I thought this section was a little weird. The chapter includes the expected living room projects, such as pillow covers (pg.63-67) and basic upholstery (pg.54-59). In addition, there are a lot of outdoor projects like a picnic tablecloth (pg.69-73) and a potting shed ‘coverup’ (pg.77-83). I guess there wasn’t space for a backyard section and she decided to combine the concepts.

Bed and Bath (pg.84-121) has more expected projects for the theme. The first is a duvet cover (pg.85-89) in which I am interested, though more so if it were quilted. It is pieced, though, so that is a start. The shower curtain project (pg.90-95) is a good use of laminated fabric as well as a good way to coordinate decoration in a bathroom. The Candy Knot Guest Towels (pg.96-97) would be good handwork project. The Makeup Tray (pg.97-101) could be used for any number of items or purposes. Random cooking packets or spices could be organized in a pantry. Quilt pieces could be organized in anticipation of sewing them together using such trays. I like the button detail on the corners. The part also includes a fairly comprehensive section on binding (pg.104-106, 114-115) including directions on finishing the ends.

Closet and Pantry (pg.122-139) has some projects that would be useful, but would also make great gifts for non-quiltmaking friends or house warming or visiting gifts. I particularly like the lined basket project (pg.123-128) and the Clothespin Bag (pg.128-133). I don’t suppose people hang clothes on an outside line anymore, however I have fond memories of my grandmothers having bags like this. Hers was not nearly as cute as the sample shown in the book. The Lined Basket project is customizable for the baskets you may already have around the house. As I was just in the Container Store, I can see the possibilities. 

Throughout the book the author has included “June Suggests” tips boxes. In the Closet and Pantry section, she gives fabric options. A lot of the tips throughout the book discuss fabric usage, but some of the tips also cover bias binding, re-use of patterns and why similar directions for projects differ.

The final section has projects useful on your creative space or studio. Projects include a basic sewing machine cover (pg.152-155) and a hang-up Sewing Supply Case (pg.159-167). The sewing machine cover’s size is customizable so you can make it fit your machine. Take a look at the Undercover Maker Mat and other sewing machine covers about which I have posted so you can review and compare your options.

The Sewing Supply Case remind me of the Board Bag Amanda made for me. The main difference is that this one closes up like a notebook for easy transport. The instructions are quite detailed and the drawings enhance construction. Webbing is used for the handles. I would cover the webbing, as directions in the Running with Scissors case suggests, in order to make them more comfortable to carry. Again, I think it would make a great gift. 

Kelly McCants seems like someone who came to sewing through a different route than quiltmaking. Her patterns for home decor seem more complete and the customization options she offers make the projects less rote. The patterns also require more thinking, but it doesn’t make them less usable even for new sewists.

The author uses bright and cheerful colors in the projects. The tone of the book is positive. This is, in the end, a project book. There is very little information about what inspired her to create these specific projects beyond the house remodel she discusses in the Foreword. Still, I like this book and find the projects useful and interesting. It is a worthwhile addition to your library.

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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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Book Review: Rotary Cutting Magic

All-In-One Rotary Cutting Magic with OmnigridAll-In-One Rotary Cutting Magic with Omnigrid by Nancy Johnson-Srebro

This pamphlet could be considered an advertisement for Omnigrid. The reason I am including as a book review on my blog is that the book includes some basic quiltmaking information that is not covered in many other books. As I wrote this, it occured to me that I should cover the info in my sampler classes.

The pamphlet is 64 pages pages long with one of the last pages being an ad for other C&T pamphlets available, including the 3-in-1 Color Tool by Joen Wolfrom, which is a favorite of mine.

Continuing from back to front, the second to last page has a short bio of Nancy Johnson-Srebro with a list (possibly incomplete) of her other books. After the title page, dedication and acknowledgements (pg.4), the books starts with a detailed table of contents (pg.5-6). One thing I noticed is the clarity of the page design and font choice. These qualities make the table of contents very easy to read. Readers can get to the appropriate location quickly.

This is not a project book, though there is a link to free block designs, though the blocks designs weren’t immediately available at the main site link.. I can’t really call it a technique book either, though I suppose it is. The main point of the text is how to rotary cut. Many techniques are shown so the reader can cut almost any shape accurately. You may not have thought you could make certain blocks or quilts using just your rotary cutting kit, but this pamphlet will show you how. Non-square shapes are no problem. This pamphlet helps readers and cutters gain confidence.

The first part of the book (pg.6-8) covers rotary cutting equipment and how to cut. The bad part is that I do not use this model of rotary cutter. The good part is that the text is pretty general and, mostly, covers more than just the displayed rotary cutter model. If you do not use the model shown you will need to experiment with your own rotary cutter based on Johnson-Srebro’s suggestions.

One comment I found interesting was about accuracy. Th author writes “This piece of equipment has almost totally replaced…large dressmaking scissors in quiltmaking. The reason for this is accuracy. When you cut with scissors, the fabric is lifted slightly off the table…” (pg.6). This information makes complete sense, though I never really thought about it in these terms.

The helpful hints for successful rotary cutting “are useful for any brand or model of rotary cutter. Some of the tips are obvious, e.g “change the blade” (pg.9), but some are things about which I wouldn’t have thought such as “you are not holding the cutter at a 45 degree angle…” (pg.9).

The author prefers Omnigrid and Omnigrip rulers and explains why (pg.11). I use Creative Grids rulers because of the half inch with the 4.5 x 8.5 being my favorite. Any good quality ruler without nicks or breaks will work fine with this book. I always suggest that my students buy the highest quality tools they can afford. I still have rulers I bought when I first started quiltmaking. These are tools that last a long time, if you take care of them, and don’t need to be replaced very often. Many of the reasons Nancy likes the Omnigrid and Omnigrip rulers also applies to other brands.

The same treatment given to rulers is also given to Omnigrid mats, including how to clean them (pg.13).

After the introduction to tools, the book transitions to cutting with one of the reasons I chose to review this book: bias (pg.15-19). The author explains what bias is and the different types of bias. What other book does this? What other book even mentions bias?

One important note is included “to help keep your quilt blocks from out of square, try to cut your pieces so that the straight grain (not the bias) is on the outside of edges of the blocks or quilt” (pg.15). This is something critical to quiltmaking. It is a huge annoyance for me when patterns, especially free patterns and tutorials don’t mention bias. Modern quilt designers often do not mention (do not care??? do not know???) about the bias. This section will really improve your quiltmaking, especially your accuracy, if you think about it when you cut. The grainline diagrams (pg.16-19) could be displayed in your sewing room as a visual reminder.

Another reason I chose to review this book is the section on squaring up fabric (pg.20-23). The section covers the process in a very detailed manner, which is helpful if you have never had the whole process explained logically.

I have never heard anyone talk about the V cut. This is the result of cutting strips from fabric you haven’t squared up. Johnson-Srebro calls it “…the Dreaded V Cut” (pg.23). Keep in mind that while cutting you need to re-square the fabric periodically.

After the lesson on squaring fabric, the lessons on cutting start with a square (pg.24-25). In each of these cutting sections, right and left-handed instructions, detailed images illustrating the steps and example blocks are included.

The book includes basic cutting instructions for units as well as shapes. HSTs, QSTs and HRTs (pg.26-33) are covered. Method 1 uses a basic ruler for each of the shapes/techniques. Special rulers are used for HST method 2 (pg.31). The images accompanying the unit sections reinforce thinking about bias by showing where it is on each shape.

Cutting instructions for different shapes such as a 30 degree diamond (pg.34-35), a 45 degree diamond (pg.36-37), which is good for a LeMoyne Star or 8 Pointed Star and an equilateral triangle (pg.42-43). Unusual shapes such as trapezoids (pg.44-45) and parallelograms (pg.38-39) are also shown. For those who want to make lozenge quilts, the Double Prism shape is included(pg.48-49). There are a total of 17 units and shapes the reader learns to cut from this book. I recommend following along and cutting the shapes as an exercise so the techniques are more than theories.

Following a lesson on squaring up blocks (pg.55-56), the author includes several pages of “other Useful Omnigrid Products” (pg.57-59).

This is a good basic book that will improve your rotary cutting skills, if you take the lessons to heart.

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Book Review: 1000 Quilt Inspirations

1000 Quilt Inspirations: Colorful and Creative Designs for Traditional, Modern, and Art Quilts1000 Quilt Inspirations: Colorful and Creative Designs for Traditional, Modern, and Art Quilts by Sandra Sider

I wanted to like this book more than I did. The promise of it is high, but the actual execution didn’t live up to its promise. There is very little text in this book. It is mostly images, which do provide inspiration, but there was a vague dissatisfaction running through my experience reading this book. Part of it had to do with the selection process. Part of it had to do with whether I was looking at the full works vs. details.

The book starts with a table of contents. The table of contents shows how the book is arranged: “traditional designs”, “modern designs”, “pictorial designs”, and “abstract and conceptual art quilt designs”. The images start right away with a whole page of quilts opposite the table of contents.

The text is primarily located in the Introduction (pg.8-9), which gives an overview of quiltmaking history, groups and fads from the mid-19th century to the present. The Introduction is short. I found it to include some gross generalizations. There were also some sections that I did not understand. Either sentences were too vague or the words were put together in a way that did not make sense. For example, Sider writes “Modern quilters, such as members of the Modern Quilt Guild, design mainly with solid colors and often adapt traditional patterns in innovative ways, finding their inspiration in every aspect of today’s quilts” (pg.8). Some of that sentence is true, but it leaves me with a lot of questions. Are members of the Modern Quilt Guild the only modern quilters? I know people making quilts right now. Are all quiltmakers making quilts right modern quilters? Also, I have no idea what “…finding their inspiration in every aspect of today’s quilts” (pg.8) means. Aren’t modern quilters making today’s quilts? Do they get inspiration from themselves? Does this sentence refer to Instagram? These examples might be semantics, but demonstrates the possible lack of editing. I think this introduction, being the only significant text in the book could have been fleshed out a little more. The book would have benefited from a less generalized view of the quiltmaking to introduce the quilts.

200+ quilts in the traditional designs section follow. The format for the rest of the book varies slightly, but is mostly 4 quilts per page. In a lot of respects it is difficult to determine whether the reader is looking at a detail or a full quilt. There is very little information about the quilts next to the image beyond what is listed in the introduction. Each image lists a maker, but no quilt name, size or any other information.

The images are stellar. The quilting is clearly visible as are the fabrics and construction.

Modern Designs begin on page 69 with no additional fanfare or introduction. Most artists have more than one design included (or perhaps details of one quilt?). I recognized very few names from those listed and was surprised to see postcards (pg.73) included in the Modern Designs section. I would have classified a lot of the quilts included in the Modern Designs section as art quilts, especially given the description of what modern quilters are making.

The book ends with an image directory (pg.300-311). Names of quilts, techniques and sizes are included as well as some information on who took the photo. There is also an artist directory (pg.312-319), which provides a list of all the images attributed to an artist as well as their website, if available. The best part of this book was randomly selecting artist websites and looking at their work.

If you are looking for an overview of 100+ years of quiltmaking with inspiration and explanation, this book falls short. However, there is no doubt that the imagery in this book is beautiful. The author and publisher worked hard to make the images high quality. For the variety of images alone, this book is worth buying.

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Book Review: String Frenzy

String Frenzy: 12 More Strip Quilt Projects; Strips, Strings & Scrappy Things!String Frenzy: 12 More Strip Quilt Projects; Strips, Strings & Scrappy Things! by Bonnie K. Hunter

I wasn’t really interested in another project book until I saw the Straits of Mackinac project somewhere. I love the block and the way the overall quilt looks like it has curves even when there is no curved piecing. I looked at buying the book, but decided to see if my library had it first. I have many library cards and use them to excess! The system with the second closest branch didn’t have it so I ordered it using interlibrary loan (ILL). Then it occurred to me that it might be available from another branch in the system and I could have it delivered to the closest branch to my house. I thought ILL would take forever so I requested it again. Then I promptly forgot about the whole thing until both books came in on the same day!

This is basically a project book. It is about 95 pages, most of which are filled with patterns for the 12 quilt projects. The projects start on page 16 and end on page 89.

The book starts off with a dedication and acknowledgements (pg.3). A brief table of contents follows on page 4. One of my favorite things for project books is an overview of the projects page (pg.5), which is included in this book. The layout of the page shows a detail image of each project, gives the name and the page number.  I like this because it is useful for going straight to the project in which you are interested. I, of course, went straight to the Straits of Mackinac project (pg.26)!

“…to think of stitching all of these small bits back together simply to cut a shape to sew to another shape and then another. But something happened when I did. I was no longer simply following a pattern or a design, but creating something unique that danced and dazzled before my eyes” (pg.6). This quote explains the true wonderfulness of quiltmaking. I am not completely sold on string piecing, but my strip donation quilts have brought me back to this concept. I may not want to make blocks from tiny pieces all the time, but I do see the allure of creating something unique that nobody else can create. I also see the value in using a lot of different fabrics to make a quilt shimmer.

I have found that “there is magic in the piecing. Every scrap is full of memories of the project from which it came – every color, texture, and bit of contrast. They might not look like much on their own,these humble little pieces, but together they are a symphony of beauty, each scrap a spot on the timeline of your life as a quilter” (pg.6). This sentiment is so true for me. Every morning I wake up and look at Scrapitude Carnivale and it makes me happy. I pull scraps out of my scrap drawers and think about the project in which I originally used it. That is one of the beautiful things about scrap quilts.

Of course, there are basic sewing guidelines, as every book seems to have. Bonnie has put her own stamp on it by assuming readers know what tools and supplies they need. She does mention a sewing machine in “good working order (to avoid frustration)” (pg.7), which is straightforward and useful. Since the projects use scraps, she tells readers how she calculated yardage and more about the project instructions (pg.7). You’ll have to wing it a little if you are using scraps, since they are usually not full yards or even FQs. Bonnie Hunter is famous for using scraps, so the “About Project Instructions” section briefly talks about the ins and outs of using scraps. She also mentions cutting binding strips (pg.7), which I don’t remember seeing in books like this.

Bonnie Hunter designed a specialty ruler called Fast2Cut Essential Triangle Ruler. This ruler helps make HSTs, QSTs and Flying Geese units. Hunter provides a picture and a brief description of the ruler in this section (pg.8). The ruler is a good addition to my Triangle Technique when you want to make one or two HSTs units rather than eight at a time. Not only does she show the ruler, but she shows how to use it for HSTs (pg.8), QSTs (pg.9-10) and Flying Geese (pg.10-11) units as well. Bonnie provides as chart near the Flying Geese instructions, so the reader can make different geese sizes. The ruler instructions have accompanying images, which make them easier to interpret.

‘Strings’ haven’t come up thus far in the book, but the author starts explaining what they are, how to make them and why to use them following the discussion of the Fast2Cut Essential Triangle Ruler (pg.11). The discussion includes the definition of a string and how wide strings should be (pg.12), using foundations with strings, easy paper removal and pressing (pg.13). One tip, which I didn’t know is not to use tracing paper or vellum since they will curl or shrink when touched with an iron (pg.13). Interesting!

After reading this book, I also now know the difference between a crumb and a string (pg.14). It turns out that the way I make my Improv donation quilts is crumb piecing and I use string piecing for the strip version. A project book can teach me something new, too, which is why I like to take a look at as many new books as I can. The book teaches the reader to build crumb blocks (pg.15) with briefl but mighty instructions.

Patterns start with Geese on a String (pg.16-21). No lifestyle shots in this book, just a nice flat photo of the whole quilt (pg.17), with sizes for blocks and the entire quilt given (pg.16). I like it that there are no surprises.

My favorites in the book are Serpentine Web (pg.22-25), which reminds me of my Spiderweb quilt re-imagined in a new and fun way. The yellow is a bit much, but also may make the quilt. Straits of Mackinac (pg.26-33) is my absolute favorite in this book. It has the feel of En Provence, with a new,  different twist. I wouldn’t make it with the strips in the Peaky & Spike blocks like Bonnie does (too lazy?), but I would use a variety of fabrics. I also like Indigo-a-Go-Go (pg.84-89), thought not in those colors. The chain effect is a good use of 9 patches.

The patterns have a photo of the quilt flat so you can see the whole quilt along with some text that explains Bonnie’s inspiration or the fabric, which I like. There are also extensive materials lists, which do not include notions, machines, etc. These lists are for fabric, batting, etc. Hunter references tools, such as her Fast2Cut Essential Triangle Ruler in various places. Each pattern has some tips and tricks boxes, extensive construction notes from blocks to quilt assembly. As per usual, the finishing instructions are brief. The ‘At a Glance’ section in each pattern gives visual instructions for putting the quilt together.

The book ends with some foundation piecing patterns readers will need for various patterns. I recommend this book for a few projects you can sew as leaders and enders.

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Book Review: Dessert Roll Quilts

Dessert Roll Quilts: 12 Simple Dessert Roll Quilt PatternsDessert Roll Quilts: 12 Simple Dessert Roll Quilt Patterns by Pam Lintott

I have a dessert roll of V&Co Confetti. One morning I got a bee in my bonnet wondering what to do with it. I went online looking for patterns, then had a brainwave that the library might have a relevant book. I looked at a local library catalog. I was able to check out a Kindle book early on a Sunday morning from my kitchen while wearing my bathrobe. It was awesome!

This book is basically a project book. There are 12 projects. The work, however, starts with the table of contents and a brief introduction. The introduction covers what a dessert roll is (roll of 5 inch strips). The authors explain that most of the patterns use one dessert roll and some background or border fabric. They also remind readers that the requirements of each pattern are clearly stated. The book also includes recipes for baked goods, because, apparently, working with these 5 inch strips made the Lintotts hungry. 😉

“Getting Started” follows the introduction. The authors state, again, the definition of a dessert roll and remind the reader, which I appreciate, that you can always cut ‘pre-cuts’ for yourself. Take a look in your fabric closet (or shelves) and select a group of fabric you like, then cut your own. You can do it! They also state that the patterns assume your 5 inch WIDE strips will be 42″ long. This is good to know if you are using FQs or something else.

Seeing as how The Quilt Room is in the UK, the authors address the Imperial vs. Metric dilemma. They provide some information on converting from Imperial to Metric. The Imperial vs. Metric section is followed by the 1/4 inch seam allowance discussion. The discussion is a short paragraph pointing readers to a seam allowance test at the back of the book.

Pam and Nicky use Creative Grids rulers, which they discuss in the “Tools Used” section and later in the back of the book. Any ruler will work as long as you are familiar with how to make HSTs. If you don’t know, check out my Triangle Technique tutorial. This tutorial makes 8 HSTs at a time and includes a chart (be sure to download it), so you can make a set of HSTs almost any size.

There is a CYA section, which includes quilt sizes, information about diagrams, washing and something called “Before You Start”. All of these ensure that the authors can’t be blamed for reader mistakes IMO. If you have made a few quilts, skim these, but I am convinced you already know the information.

After the basic information listed above the projects start. There are a selection of very basic patterns, including Weekender and Orange Squeeze. Other patterns look harder, but the directions seem to be clearly explained. I didn’t make any of the quilts, but I looked at the patterns pretty carefully.

Each pattern has a lifestyle image of the quilt and an image where the quilt is laid flat, where readers can see the whole quilt. The patterns are several pages long (remember I was looking at this on my computer and phone and there were no page numbers, so YMMV). The pictures of the quilts are excellent and I thought various steps for making the quilts were illustrated appropriately and well. Most of the patterns show pictures of the quilt projects made up in alternate colorways. In at least one pattern there was also an alternate layout. For example, Afternoon Tea shows an X layout for the pattern, but also has a diagonal set in different colors and fabrics at the end of the section.

Pam and Nicky provide ‘Vital Statistics’ for each quilt. This provides the block size, sashing size, number of rows, etc. This is very helpful information when making a quilt.

I don’t agree with their method of putting most of the quilts together. You know, if you have been reading my blog for very long, that I like to ‘chunk’ quilts together to keep them straighter and to give myself a better chance of matching up seams along a whole row. Seventh Heaven, for example, is a quilt that could definitely be chunked together. Remember: you don’t have to follow the exact directions for a quilt from beginning to end. If you know of a way to put a quilt together that works better for you, then use that method.

There are some bold color choices as well. The alternate colorway for Orange Squeeze uses a fabulous violet for the background.

I really like the Afternoon Tea design. It is another lozenge quilt and I have a soft spot for them. I also like the Orange Squeeze alternate colorway. I might use if for a different quilt, though, such as the Pavlova pattern. Marmalade Cake is a design I would consider making. The blocks are a bit large for me, but I could downsize it and make the overall pattern repeat more. I also like Seventh Heaven, another lozenge quilt. I guess I’ll have to get back to that shape at some point.

There are a few patterns including Marmalade Cake and Paradise Quilt that show the Creative Grids non-slip Multi-size 45/90 ruler. Looking at the images, it is easy to see how to use this ruler. I have a Fons & Porter Half & Quarter ruler to make HSTs as well as the Bonnie Hunter Essential Triangle Tool, so I don’t think I can justify buying yet another ruler that does the same thing.

The patterns are followed by a ‘General Techniques’ section. Within this section is a ‘Tools’ subsection. The authors talk first about mats and rotary cutters, then tell the reader their favorite rulers are Creative Grids. They show, what they consider, their basics. The Lintotts say you need the Creative Grids non-slip Multi-size 45/90 ruler. With the Vital Statistics section and my Triangle Techniques tutorial, you will not need that ruler. Still, buy it, if you think it will help or, like me, because you love specialty rulers.

The ‘Seams’ subsection goes over the quarter inch seam allowance again and is followed by a ‘Seam allowance test’ subsection. The latter is a useful trick and will let you know where you are with your seam allowance. It also gives basic tips on how to fix any problems.

The ‘Pressing’ subsection is also useful. Pam and Nicki go into a lot of detail on pressing, especially pressing strips. I like the way they describe pressing strips. The section includes other subsections such as ‘Pinning’, ‘Chain Piecing’, ‘Removing Dog Ears’, ‘Joining Border & Binding Strips’, and ‘Adding Borders’. The Borders subsection talks about mitered and straight borders. The information is pretty good for mitered borders. It doesn’t really go into keeping your quilt square when adding borders, so look that information up somewhere else. A couple of paragraphs on quilting and a section on binding, with illustrations, are also included.

The end of the book talks a little about some common questions, backing fabric and labels.

If you need a project book, there are some interesting projects here. I liked a couple of the patterns. I also liked that the patterns included alternate colorways.

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Book Review: Handmade Getaway

Handmade GetawayHandmade Getaway by Jacqueline Sava Clarke

I pre-ordered this book at QuiltCon last year. This was a sort of self-published project. Jacqueline Sava Clarke was there doing pre-sales in an effort to get enough funding to finish the book. They also used Kickstarter with great results. A search for Getaway Press leads back to the co-authors’ website, MakeSomething with a hashtag chaser. Karyn Valino is the co-author

I read it as soon as it arrived, which was a few months after I ordered it. It has taken me awhile to get the review posted. The book was on the pricey side, because of the lack of corporate underwriting. I liked the idea and wanted to support some quilt entrepreneurs.

The book is about creating a successful retreat. I have been on many retreats. I love the long stretches of time where I get to sew without the interruption of dishes, meal prep or laundry. Most of the retreats I attend are group affairs where meals are at restaurants or provided by the facility. The Handmade Getaway difference is that the reader is led through planning a retreat at a family cabin or AirBnB-type location.

The first thing I noticed was the fabulous photos. They are not only beautiful but evocative as well. I especially like the photo of the hands basting located opposite the table of contents. The table of contents is extensive. The main sections are:

  • Authors (pg.10)
  • Preface (pg.12)
  • Anticipation (pg.16)
  • Sewing Day (pg.42)
  • The Weekend (pg.60)
  • Long Weekend (pg.96)
  • Week (pg.126)
  • Templates (pg.163)
  • Resources (pg.167)
  • Acknowledgements (pg.168)

Each section is broken down into many, many subsections. Subsections include planning and projects.

The Authors section (pg.10-11) is beautifully written. Jacqueline describes sewing outside and I get an amazing image in my mind of what she experienced.

“These are the place we go when our daily lives seem overwhelming and we need to recharge. …it is often an escape to our handstitching, our sewing machine or our fabric stash.” (pg.12) The words start off the preface. They continue the beautiful writing style we experienced in the Authors section. The Preface tells the story of how the group got started and how they began to organize their retreats (pg.14). One thing I noticed is pets are included (pg.14). The positives of having pets along are discussed, but allergies and fear of dogs is not.

Some terms are highlighted and then show up in other areas of the book as helpful hints or useful tips.

The retreats I have attended have the costs managed by the hotel or retreat center and clearly delineated. that may not be the case if you rent a house, so “it’s important to make sure you’ve got a clear understand of how you are dividing expenses and tasks before you finalize your plans” (pg.19). The page includes a list of financial costs to consider. There are digital versions of all of the charts and worksheets. The link is provided when you purchase the book.

Two charts that are really hand are shown in print form, project planning (pg.21) and food planning (pg.23). The pictures that accompany the food show grilled peaches (pg.22), which I want right now!

The first pattern is tool tags (pg.27), which would be useful at a retreat where tools get strewn everywhere. The accompanying photo (pg.26) shows how they would be used.

Washi tape is also shown (pg.28) as a marking tool for electronics.

The projects in the book are focused around organizing for the retreat or projects to work on at the retreat. To organize, projects include:

  • Tool tags (pg.27)
  • Zip pouch (pg.31-33)
  • Project bag (pg.34-37)
  • Travel ironing station (pg.38-41)
  • Hand sewing kit (pg.46-51)

The first timeframe covered is a single day, like a Craft Day (pg.45). The categories covered are Fabric, Friends and Food. A Hand Sewing Kit project (pg.46-51) is included as a useful bag to bring along. You might compare this particular design to those in Aneela Hooey’s book, Stitched Sewing Organizers: Pretty Cases, Boxes, Pouches, Pincushions & More or one of Sara Lawson’s bags, such as Windy City Bags or her Minikins collections before you decide to make it. There are a lot of good patterns out there. Sashiko (pg.52-55) and block printing (pg.56-59) are put forth as project suitable for one day retreats.

The Weekend section starts on pg. 60. The introduction encourage readers to “list twice pack once” (pg.60) and points out that “sometimes it’s the simplest tools…we forget that cause us the most grief” (pg.60). This is where I like to point out to my students that having a quiltmaking ‘Go’ bag alleviates some of the forgetting. My quiltmaking ‘Go’ bag includes a full set of tools so I can do basic quiltmaking without ever removing a tool from my workroom. Obviously fabric and notions can also be forgotten, but with a quiltmaking ‘Go’ bag you have one less worry.

Again, Fabric, Friends and Food is part of the section. A little more detail on food is included (pg.63).

Weekend Getaway contains a sewing machine maintenance group activity (pg.64-67). This is one of the last things I would do on retreat, but to each her own. Like a lot of things, however, it might be more fun in a group. The issue I see is people having different machines. This activity has basic cleaning tasks such as removing lint and changing the needle (pg.66) which are pretty universal. If have a Bernina, the photos are fantastic. One photo is a reminder to bring your manual. I always ALWAYS do this.

All of the projects relate to getting away from home and the pillowcase is no different. This pattern uses (pg.68-71) French seams, but is not the burrito method I normally use.

Other projects include designing a notebook cover (pg.72-75), a moving blanket with foundation pieced letters (pg.76-85), using foil transfers to make your fabric different (pg.86-89), and big square tote bag (pg.90-95).

The Long Weekend section follows the Weekend chapter. The blurb on the first page of Long Weekends seems a little like a sales pitch. Who really needs to be sold on more sewing or on a book you already bought?

One of the good tips in this section is about acknowledging whether you are a night or morning person. The paragraph ends with “Relax with some hand sewing, a cocktail or chill beside a puppy. Otherwise you be redoing you work in the morning” (pg.98). Truer works were never uttered with regard to morning people. The section also includes some thoughts on being considerate, ‘Cocktail of the Day’ (pg.99), and sharing fabric.

The projects in this section are less about the trip than house stuff in general. Among the projects are placemats (pg.101-107), a quilt using vintage pillowcases (pg.108-114) and directions and tips on creating a group or community quilt (pg.114-119).

A week long retreat can’t be left out of a book like this. “Four to six days allows for long stretches of sewing…” (pg.127). A lot of the tips from the other sections apply here as well, just in greater quantities. There are only two pages of text before the projects start: a picnic blanket (pg.130-135) and cynotype printing plus a napkin project (pg.136-145). There is also a medallion quilt project that includes pieces from those who can’t join the retreat (pg.146-162). the pattern shows how to make all the pieces rather than telling the reader how to incorporate pieces from afar. This isn’t about composition. It is about following a pattern despite what the introduction says. The medallion quilt also provides the authors a clever way to introduce those who regularly participate in their retreats.

The book ends with a list of resources and thanks yous.

All in all this is a beautifully designed book. The paper and photographs are high quality. I love the self published aspect. The projects are a little different, though presented in a relatively standard way. I would have talked more about working on your own projects and how that works away from your workroom. I think the information about organizing a retreat could be very helpful.

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Book Review: Quilt Improv

Quilt Improv: Incredible Quilts from Everyday InspirationsQuilt Improv: Incredible Quilts from Everyday Inspirations by Lucie Summers

I am not enamoured of improv. I feel like the design potential of improv is overshadowed by sloppy choices and bad workmanship. I think improv is a valid way of expressing creativity. You have seen me make quilts in the improv style. It is not a way to avoid knowing how to make a technically sound quilt. Of course, I can’t say this very often because people take it the wrong way.

Lucie Summers agrees with me. She says in her introduction to this book “One of the my biggest bugbears about improv is when others assume ‘just because it’s improv’ workmanship doesn’t matter. Of course, it matters! Badly made quilts, whether traditional or not, are just badly made quilts. By badly made, I’m not talking about whether your seams or patchwork points match, I’m talking about fabrics sloppily stitched together so there are holes” (pg.4). I was really pleased to read this, because I think, and have always thought, workmanship matters. You will often see in my posts about project some lines about identifying a mistake and deciding whether I could live with it. Workmanship matters. I like Lucie Summers.

I am just as surprised as you that I picked up this book. I am wary of books on improv, because it is improv. Why do you need a book? You certainly don’t need patterns. Cheryl had it at Sew Day and something about it drew me in. I leafed through the images and was interested in the colors and shapes. I checked it out of the library so I could peruse it a little more.

I like the way Lucie has written the prose. The style is friendly and approachable and, even for me, she has a reasonable way of explaining improv in a true fashion. Also, she isn’t condescending.

The book starts out with an introduction. In this introduction is my favorite quote (above) and a little bit about how she works, what working with scissors means, piles of scraps and the use of measuring in improv (pg.4). The introduction is followed by a section called “How I Work” (pg.6) which details piecing maps, inspiration and another fabulous quote “…as you embark on making a quilt from the gallery to make it yours. Give it your personality. Don’t search high and low for the exact blue dotty fabric I’ve used in the top right-hand corner of quilt number 6 – use a grey floral, or an orange solid, whatever… Make it yours, relax and have a huge amount of fun. At the end of the day we’re not saving lives here, we’re cutting into fabric and stitching it back together” (pg.6). This is so critical to me. I have made a few exact replicas of quilts in magazines and books. There are definitely benefits. I get to sew. I feel the meditative qualities of putting fabric through the machine, but these quilts do not have souls. They don’t come from my heart. Branch out when you work from this book. Use the fabrics you have with confidence. There is always more fabric!

The next few sections have to do with fabrics (pg.6), thread (pg.8) and equipment (pg.9). Lucie brings her calm style to these sections. They don’t feel rote or the same as other books I have reviewed.

“How to Use this Book” (pg.10-11) is really important. It is a guide to how this book is written, how she uses measurements in more detail than in the introduction. A great idea is the section on “Building Blocks” (pg.12-39). It starts with a visual list of the block designs Ms. Summers considers basics. This is your basic guide and it is followed by instructions on how to make each block. The section includes 13 different blocks. The reader could spend years making quilts from these blocks alone. The possibilities are endless.

Because publishers seem to require patterns these days, the blocks section is followed by “The Quilts” (pg.40-113). Lucie’s quilts are really stunning, vibrant and have a lot of movement. They are designed and do not look messy. You can see this on the double page spread introducing the section (pg.40-41).

One of the things I like about this book is that Lucie Summers discusses her inspiration for each quilt. I can always use more of that. She doesn’t take pages to do it, but it is important to the process and valuable to the book. Each quilt ‘pattern’ in this section includes a brief rundown of the inspiration, a summary of techniques, design idea, design plan, “Make Me Key”, finished plan, and the piecing map. The design idea breaks down the design while the design plan is more involved. Lucie uses this section to dig into the design, talk about resting spots for your eyes, how she balances different areas and the differences in her design and the finished piece. The ‘Make Me Key’ is a sidebar that combines some text with visual cues to the elements of the quilt. The piecing map shows how the various sections are put together generally. YMMV. The sections for each quilt are robust.

It’s hard for me to decide which quilts I like best. I definitely like the the Shoe Boxes Quilt (pg.42-47). There is a section of the Seed Tray Quilt (pg.54-59) that is very appealing. The fabric cohesiveness and simple design of the Feathers Quilt (pg.60-65) is exciting, too. Many of the quilts have circles and I like those, such as the Bricks and Fences Quilt (pg.66-71), too. I think the Plates Quilt (pg.90-95) is appealing because it reminds me of the Eye of God quilt I made some years ago, has dots and a fabulous inspiration photo. There are no bad quilts in this book, but my favorite might be the Building Blocks Quilt (pg.108-113). Many of her quilts remind me of views of cities with domes and this one is no exception. I also like the quilting. With the large variety of quilts, readers will find something that appeals.

These quilts are designed not thrown together. The fabrics are chosen carefully and quilts are designed to make the overall piece look cohesive.

The last section is called General Techniques (pg. 115-124). The first subsection is called ‘Piecing’ (pg.115) and has a good discussion of why use a quarter inch seam in improv piecing as well as how chain piecing works. She discusses pressing (pg.116) including which way to press and why to press to the dark. Lucie also has a little bit of ergonomics thrown in. ‘Assembling Quilts’ (pg.116) includes what to do to get your quilt to hang straight. The section on Finishing Off Quilts includes the envelope method or ‘bagging out’ (pg.119) as Lucie calls it. There is a short section on quilting (pg.120) with some interesting quilt designs and a bit about marking quilt designs. The Binding section (pg.122-123) includes both facing* (called invisible binding here) and a mitered binding. The book wraps up with how to make a hanging sleeve and labeling your quilts (pg.124).

I might buy Quilt Improv. I like the fact that the author isn’t lazy and discusses the attributes of design within the improv context. The photographs are wonderful. The fabric choices are VERY appealing. Well worth taking a look at.





*Remember my tutorial on facings.

Book Review: Contemporary Curved Quilts

Contemporary Curved Quilts book cover
Contemporary Curved Quilts book cover

Contemporary Curved Quilts: Curved Piecing Using the Quick Curve Ruler by Jenny Pedigo and Helen Robinson for Sew Kind of Wonderful

Here are a few basics about this book:

  • it is a project book
  • you need the Quick Curve Ruler to make the included projects
  • this book does NOT include the ruler

This is a short Landauer Publishing book. The text is 47 pages long and the projects start on page 10.

The Introduction (pg.5) gives some minimal information about the inspiration for the book. It mostly discusses the projects with “marketing speak” such as “this book is filled with eight fun quilt projects with a curvy flair…” (pg.5). It isn’t bad; the words just aren’t informational.
The interesting part of this section is the brief paragraph about the authors. It gives some background about them. I didn’t know they were sisters.

I am pretty enamored with the Quick Curve Ruler right at the moment after my success with MetroScape. I discovered that not all the quilts using the ruler look the same. I found this out by looking online and at patterns. Until I received this book, I had never seen a group of the authors’ works all in one place.

The Techniques section (pg.6-9) shows how to make blocks using the ruler. This enables the maker to learn the basics and make his/her own designs. Once the technique is mastered s/he wouldn’t necessarily need a pattern. It gives plenty of information for the maker to make a group of blocks and then set them together in an original layout.

The patterns start right after the Techniques section. No messing around. I really like the first three patterns, Crazy Eights Pillow (pg.10-13), Midnight Mosaic Runner (pg.14-17), and Fresh and Trendy Quilt (pg.18-23). Part of what makes these quilts attractive is the quilting. While stitching tops and backs together is not the focus of this book, the quilting patterns selected and skills used enhance the appeal of these projects. Chic & Checkered (pg.44-47) is another project I would consider making.

The Sassy Stars Quilt (pg.35-37) and Argyle Abby Wallhanging (pg.38-43) are also interesting. There is something slightly off, however, for me about these two projects. It could just be the fabrics or colors or some combination. They both have appealing aspects. I’d love to see them in other colors. A medium-extensive online search brought up no additional colorways.

This is a short book. It doesn’t purport to be anything other than what it is: a project book and it excels at this goal. The projects are interesting and different looking even though they use the same specialty ruler. The authors have really used their creativity in pushing the uses for the ruler far.

Buy this book and the Quick Curve Ruler now and get making some curved blocks!

Book Review: All Points Patchwork

All Points Patchwork: A Complete Guide to English Paper Piecing Quilting Techniques for Making Perfect Hexagons, Diamonds, Octagons, and Other ShapesAll Points Patchwork: A Complete Guide to English Paper Piecing Quilting Techniques for Making Perfect Hexagons, Diamonds, Octagons, and Other Shapes by Diane Gilleland

Buy this book if you have any interest in English Paper Piecing (EPP). It is a very comprehensive work. From drafting blocks to sewing, everything is included. You will go from zero to expert after reading this book and testing out the techniques. The projects are doable as tests or giant projects depending on how you feel. The images are gorgeous from from to back covers. If you want to know all aspects of how English Paper Piecing works, then this is your book.

This is more of a resource book than a project book, though, as mentioned, there are some projects. The book starts out with an introduction called Hello EPP! (pg.9). Isn’t that cheerful sounding? She explains the concept of this as an idea book vs. a project book. I love this type of format, because they encourage my imagination. “Sometimes I find that being presented with specific project instructions can be somewhat limiting” (pg.10). Also, if I never buy another book, I won’t have enough time to make all of the quilts I want to make from the books I have. This type of inspiration book will give me enough information to incorporate EPP into projects from other books. The author covers pillows, tote bags and how to incorporate EPP into other types of projects -not just quilts. The reader will get plenty of inspiration for projects of his/her own from this book just not the step-by-step instructions. Ms. Gilleland reminds us that we probably have plenty of books with patterns that would “welcome some EPP touches” (pg.10) and, of course, there is the Internet. You need this book if you have any interest in EPP.

There is a short section the history of EPP (pg.11-13) with few dates. It is a very surface overview. The overview does mention Godey’s Lady’s Book, which makes me want to go and look that magazine. I have wanted to find a copy for awhile, but have never gotten around to it. This section also discusses the benefit of the EPP technique (pg. 13) and includes a comparison of EPP vs. foundation piecing (pg. 12). The bottomline is that makers can create more complex and impressive looking designs that would be extremely difficult by normal/regular machine piecing. This a great technique to know because you can use it to create your vision when no other technique works.

Chapter 1 (pg.15-27) covers tools and materials. Diane discusses different types of templates, choosing fabric and tools (pg. 15). In this section she covers “EPP in a Nutshell,” (pg.16), which is a great because it tells the reader where the author is going. It satisfies a bit of curiosity and makes the reader settle down to read and wait. At least, this is what happened to me.

Templates are important and the author goes into the various types in great detail (pg.17-20). She talks about the pros and cons of different types, how to make them and whether they can be reused. This section’s tone reminded me of a friend introducing to me to a new technique. I learned EPP on my own and have been doing it for awhile, but I learned a lot in this section.

When talking about fabric, Ms. Gilleland makes a lot of good points about aspects I never thought about: weave of the fabric, how the fabric creases and pre-washing (pg.20). Pattern and scale also make an important appearance with very illustrative and helpful examples (pg. 21-22).

“Your EPP Toolkit” (pg.21-22) is a section that talks about all the tools you’ll need to be successful. She goes into thread in great detail and has a paragraph on each item. You’ll have most of the tools suggested in your workroom already. Unusual items were a standard hole punch (you may have to go hunting in your disused office supplies drawer), a crochet hook (pg.26), binder clips (pg. 27) in addition to WonderClips (pg.27). I don’t use removal ink fabric pens for any purpose in my quiltmaking. Other writing implements and chalk will work for the same purpose. I like Sewline pencils and Sewline Chalk pencils.

Chapter 2 covers basic techniques, walking the reader through the entire EPP process (pg.29). Diane talks about the fabric grain (pg. 30) in a straightforward way that can also help in regular quiltmaking. Orienting fabric prints (pg.32), cutting fabric (pg.33-36) is covered comprehensively. The section includes tracing (pg.35), fussy cutting (pg.36) and using acrylic templates (pg.35), which is my preferred method.

Throughout the book the author anticipates the excitement of a new technique and refer the reader to other pages in the book. The basting section includes threading a needle and basic basting stitches (pg.38), how to make a wrapped knot (pg.39), how to make a quilter’s knot (pg.40) and how to make a tack stitch (pg.41). The author also includes a page on basting vs. tacking (pg.43). Reading this section will familiarize the reader  with all kinds of basting so s/he will feel confident moving forward with any shape. Diane also shows a variety of methods for performing each step.

Joining is also covered very thoroughly, including how to end a seam securely. She prefers the whipstitch while I prefer the ladder stitch. All methods are explained, have illustrative images and pros and cons.

Keeping the project organized is a challenge as the project gets larger. Making a star or basting a few hexies is one thing, but once you start putting your shapes together that soon-to-be bed sized top can become unwieldy. Ms. Gilleland has the reader covered (pg.54-55) by talking about strategies for managing the top as it grows and parsing your work. She also discusses finishing EPP, which is different than in regular quilts (pg. 57-58).

Using EPP in a project is covered thoroughly and includes appliqueing EPP shapes to another piece for added interest and using an EPP panel as fabric.

The instructions for those techniques cover machine applique’ (pg.60-61) as well as fusible applique’ (pg.62) and hand applique’ (pg.63-64). I found the directions to be complete as well as practical.

I plan to put a plain fabric border on to my half hexie star piece. I paid careful attention to the “Establishing a Straight Edge” section (pg.66-67). Since my edge is already pretty straight, I am not sure these directions will help me completely. Still, something is better than nothing. Obviously preparing the edge (pg.66 n.1) will help as will straightening up the edge (pg.66 n.3). I’ll have to try it out. I’m a little nervous about ruining the edge.

EPP can also be used as fabric. Makers can sew a small piece of EPP and then cut shapes using templates out of it (pg.67) just as with fabric.

One gem of this book is chapter 3, “Building Your Own EPP Patterns” (pg.73- ). I like this type of section because it gives the readers skills rather than just patterns. If I can incorporate a technique into my repertoire, I can use if for more than just one pattern or when I run into a tricky idea.

Chapter 3 is arranged sensibly. It starts with inspiration (pg.74), moves on to one patch EPP designs (shapes) and playing with graph paper to create designs (pg.75). The power is combining shapes to make more interesting and unique designs (pg.76). There is a section on using computer tools, including fee tools and functions included on your computer.  Pay-per-view software (pg.78-80) is also discussed. This section will go out of date quickly, but readers will be able to extrapolate out.

Hand drawing EPP patterns also covers an entire section. The chapter starts out explaining tools (pg.81-82) and moves on to drafting (pg.83). Many readers who are not confident mathematicians maybe tempted to skip over this section. Don’t! The author is gentle and explains the steps clearly so the exercises come across as play.

I never thought of using EPP as a background, but Diane covers that (pg.86-87) topic as well.

Hand drafting comes up, too (pg.88). Again, don’t run away screaming. “Knowing how shapes are constructed gives you a deeper understanding of the many possibilities for fitting them together into patterns” (pg.88). Just like making templates for patchwork, makers get depper insight into the process.

Ms. Gilleland provides a list, with explanation of things to watch out for as well as tips and tricks to make the piecing go faster (pg.89).

Subsequent chapters (4-8) discuss all relevant things about working with one shape. The first is hexagons and all of the ‘shape’ chapters follow the same basic structure:

  • how to draft the shape
  • how to baste the shape
  • how templates are sized for the shape
  • projects using the shape

There are also a variety of shapes covered:

  • hexagons
  • hexagon variations such as the half hexie
  • diamonds and jewels
  • triangles and tumblers
  • octagons and pentagons
  • curved shapes (pg.6-7)

Hexies are probably the most basic EPP shape. I think it is one that most people start with in some way or another. I include a tutorial on machine sewing hexagons in my basic quilting class.

The drafting chapters for the various shapes are right up my alley. I don’t memorize the steps for each shape, but I do note where to find the instructions for when I need them. Many quiltmakers today only use patterns and don’t even think of putting blocks together in their own way. Drafting gives me options in creating designs. I like options.

The page (pg.92) on drafting hexagons has good images that show the steps and the tools required. The tools required for drafting are not included in the tools and materials chapter, which starts on page 15. Take a look at the section on Hand Drawing EPP Patterns (pg.81), which shows drafting tools. Subsequent pages (pg.82-89) show how to use the tools.

As mentioned, this is not a project book, though there are some small projects in the book, which don’t have the huge time commitment my half hexie project requires. I like the layout of the hexie journal cover (pg.95).

The chapter includes a couple of pages 9pg.96-97) on laying out hexagons. We all know the Grandmother’s Flower Garden, but playing around will net you many others and the layouts shown will help to inspire you.

Hexagons can be cut in half to make a completely new shape. The new shape gets the same, if slightly abbreviated, treatment as the hexagons. I really like the idea of surrounding a hexagon with half hexies as a border (pg.102).

The hexagon chapter also includes ‘stretched hexies,’ which end up as lozenges and coffin shapes (pg.104-105). These shapes have great designs. I used one layout in my BAM pillow swap without knowing it was included in this book. Of course, I machine pieced rather than using EPP. You have to decide the best technique within your skills and time constraints.

I have made a number of 8-pointed stars and LeMoyne Star blocks. My
In many cases, both sides of the patch are shown after basting (example pg.121). It gives the maker a good idea of what the goal is.

Many of the inspirational layouts included multiple shapes (pg.123). combining different shapes expands what designs are possible and provides additional inspiration. Sassafraslane has a great example of one way of putting triangles and hexagons together.

By the time the reader tries drafting all of the different shapes s/he will feel like a math genius. I am not a math genius and I feel powerful with this knowledge.

There are 3 different types of triangles discussed in the triangle and tumbler chapter (pg.132). The triangle pincushion project is awesome (pg.140). I like the look. This project could be made using a Split Rects ruler and partial piecing, but if you are on bedrest or ill, then having an EPP option is wonderful.

It didn’t occur to me until I read this book that tumblers are just triangles with the top cut off. Big DUH moment for me, but also a reminder of why I like to read. This makes drafting easy. If you have mastered drafting the isosceles triangle (pg.147), you are most of the way towards drafting a tumbler.

I am not much of a fan of the resulting flower shapes that pentagons and octagons turn into if the maker is including than in applique’. The author thinks “of pentagons and octagons as good mixers, eager to join forces with triangles, squares and diamonds” (pg.155). They do make great floor tile patterns mixed with other shapes. Octagons and pentagons are also good for fussy cutting (pg.158).

This section also includes methods of transforming octagons and pentagons (pg.166). I am a huge fan of using these shapes to make balls (pg.167, 169). These might make great officer gifts. The author suggests small ones could be used as pattern weights (pg.167). I’d like to make some for my niece who is learning to juggle.

I never thought about using EPP for curves, but chapter 8 (pg.171-203) goes into amazing detail about the subject. The chapter covers five ‘common’ curved shapes: apple core, Dresden petals, clamshell, clamshell point and clamshell petal. The clamshell point is similar to the center of the block in my MetroScape quilt. EPP was not used in the MetroScape blocks, but thinking about the two designs and their techniques provides some crossover inspiration.

The curved section starts with some special tips including “stick with premade templates” and covers the bias inherent in curves. Curves require special techniques and this chapter does not skimp or disappoint. This is a long and detailed chapter. Tips for achieving smooth outward (convex) facing curves (pg.176-177), basting an inward facing (concave) curve (pg.179), basting Dresden petals (pg.180-181), basting apple cores (pg.182-183), basting clamshells (pg.185-188) as well as clamshell points (pg.189-190) and petals (pg.191-192) are all covered. I really like the motif included in the Circle Blanket Border project (pg.178). It is made up of a clamshell point and four petals. I can see using this on the EPP Sewing Kit instead of a hexie flower. The circle motif would make a nice change.

Throughout the chapter are tips and tricks specific to each shape. One thing I didn’t realize was that some shapes, such as convex curves, require gathering (pg.182). Good to know if I made the circle motif.

As with the other chapters, the chapter on curves has a few pages entitled “Making Patterns with Curved Shapes” (pg.194-195). It is fun to see and be inspired by the possibilities.

I use a ladder stitch to sew my half hexie stars together. This book calls a similar stitch (or technique??) a skimming whipstitch (pg.200), which is part of the section on joining curved shapes (pg.196-203). The last instruction is about drawing center lines on patches (pg.203), which I was wondering about as I read through, and though about the section on joining curved patches.

There is a lot to like about this book. One of the qualities is that the author anticipates what the reader will want to know and answers the question rather than leaving the technique to chance and the reader unsatisfied.

You might think this is an expensive book. I found it to be cheap when the amount of information included is considered. Even if you have only a slight interest in EPP, I recommend buying this book. No matter what EPP project you attempt, the support this book provides will make your project a success.

Go buy All Points Patchwork: A Complete Guide to English Paper Piecing Quilting Techniques for Making Perfect Hexagons, Diamonds, Octagons, and Other Shapes right now.

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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!

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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.

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