Book Review: Simply Modern Patchwork Quilts

Carina Gardner's Simply Modern Patchwork Quilts: 12 Posy Garden Quilts and Sewing Projects for the Beginning QuilterCarina Gardner’s Simply Modern Patchwork Quilts: 12 Posy Garden Quilts and Sewing Projects for the Beginning Quilter by Carina Gardner

I received this book for free as an affiliate of Creative Fabrica. It is a self-published ebook, which you can find on the Creative Fabrica site. I was able to download it as a PDF, which opened with no problems in my normal PDF viewing software.

The table of contents contains an Introduction, Guest Pattern Designers and then Patterns in Section 1 and Finishing in Section 2 (pg.4).

In the Introduction, Ms. Gardner talks about how she came to quiltmaking and relays that she designed a fabric line for Riley Blake which debuted in 2016 at Quilt Market in Salt Lake City. She names the guest designers who are all new to me. There are brief bios of these designers on page 6.

Patterns start immediately with a design called Modern Granny Pillow. This design, made with larger squares, could be a donation top design really easily. The pattern is 3-4 pages long. The page numbers disappear when the patterns start.

An eBook makes it hard for me to flip through and decide on my favorite pattern. I like the first pattern for the possibilities. The second pattern, however, a Sawtooth Star mini quilt, appeals just because I love Sawtooth Stars. Gardner calls the pattern “Clean Star”.

The patterns use a variety of different techniques. The Starburst Paper Pieced Pattern is paper pieced and the paper piecing patterns to make the project are included right with the text, not at the end of the book, as with most commercial publications. That is a nice feature. I notice that there is no ‘square’ included with the paper piecing pattern to help readers figure out the size. Of course, you can make it whichever size you want.

Some great quilting is shown in the Garden Prairie Mini Quilt by Christine Cook. This is the last pattern in the book and does not include instructions for quilting.

All of the patterns are fairly easy and very appealing, especially when using bright fabrics contrasted with bright whites or cool greys. More traditional calicos and even Civil War prints would look good, too.

Section 2 about finishing starts immediately after the patterns. The first part talks about backing. The author discusses how much is needed depending on the type of quilting. She also talks about how to finish pillows and discusses challenges with ending up with different sized projects.

The Binding subsection follows. Ms. Gardner makes clear that she cuts all bindings on the straight of the grain. She mentions bias binding and how it stretches, but does not compare the two types of bindings or enumerate the benefits of bias binding. In the book, they are considered equivalent.

Ms Gardner shows how to bind a quilt including creating a mitered corner and creating an invisible join. The Finishing section also talks about piping. I have not seen piping included in very many books I have reviewed. She uses width-of-fabric (WOF) strips whereas I might use bias strips. Clearly WOF strips have worked for the author.

There is no supply list for this section and I think that might be helpful because she springs the fact that the reader needs a zipper foot midway through the process. Still, the instructions are basic, but clear and make me want to try piping again.

There are two full quilt patterns in the book as Easter Eggs (like in video games). Both are expanded from other projects in the book.

If you need quick, satisfying and relatively easy patterns, this book will satisfy your desire. Pull some favorite fabrics out of your stash and any loss of sewing mojo will be quickly restored.

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Book Review: Quilts from the House of Tula Pink

Quilts from the House of Tula Pink: 20 Fabric Projects to Make, Use and LoveQuilts from the House of Tula Pink: 20 Fabric Projects to Make, Use and Love by Tula Pink

I had to read this in my browser to write this review as I kept falling asleep as I read it at night. I didn’t fall asleep because it was boring; I fell asleep because I was tired. I think I have to be sitting upright to write reviews. 🙂

As I have worked on La Pass, I have gotten more interested in Tula Pink. I have watched most of her Tula Talk Tuesday videos and have gained a lot of respect for her work ethic, design ideas, her ability to have fun along the way and to connect with her customers. I was somewhat disappointed in this book. I wanted to learn more about Tula Pink the person. Instead I was handed more patterns for projects. The projects were fun and whimsical and some of the projects are interesting, but I have enough projects. I want to learn about inspiration, what inspires Tula and more about where she came from. I know it is too much to ask, because everyone needs their privacy, but I still want to know. Despite this disappointment, there are some interesting things about this book.

As I said, I borrowed this on Kindle. The Library’s hours are much reduced and I can’t take time from work to drive over to the library to pick up the print book. It is much easier for me to write reviews when I have the print book. I can flip back and forth and refer to page numbers for you. This will be a much more basic, not as detailed review.

One weird thing was that on the title page, Tula’s name was spelled ‘Tule’. The librarian (cataloger) in me always studies the title page. Not sure if it is just this copy or if she used to spell it that way. Strange. Also, where was the copy editor???

The first few pages after the title page and before the contents page has the beautiful photos we come to expect from Tula. I like how some of the quilting extends beyond the photo onto the page.

The first section of the book is called Techniques and Designs. It includes techniques that Tula uses in her quilts such as Easy Corner Triangles, Half Square Triangles, Tula’s Totally Tubular Tube Technique, Fussy Cutting Method, Scrappy Fusing Technique, Squaring up Strips, Nesting Seams method, and her binding method. Tula also talks about sketching out your design, selecting fabric and thinking about quilting designs.

After the Techniques section comes the projects section. The first project section is her storytelling quilt pattern section and the other one is Color Block quilts and projects. She also has Haiku quilts and projects.

If you have the Simple Folded Corners ruler I talked about you don’t need the Easy Corner Triangles method. However, it is an interesting method, especially where she talks about the measurements.

Tula’s Half Square Triangles method isn’t rocket science. I do like her attitude, however. She writes “Piecing is often discussed in terms of easy and hard. The reality is that there are only so many ways to sew a couple of pieces of fabric together, and none of it takes a college degree to accomplish.” I think this is true, straightforward and well said. She goes on to talk about thinking of piecing in terms of the time it takes.

Tula’s Totally Tubular Tube Technique is a method for creating offset strips. I might be able to use this.

I am pleased to say that Tula shows how to nest seams . Yay! I am not the only one who still does that. I wonder what would happen if other modern quiltmakers knew she nested her seams?

Tula talks about color. Her methods are no different than the methods I teach, but she has better names for them: The Starlet, The Chorus Line, and the Centerpiece Theory. She also talks about creating color stories and I like the way she illustrates this by giving examples of things to think about that represent the colors in the story. For example, for a warm color story Tula suggests you think about “sunsets, fire and gerbera daisies”. These items represent warm colors exactly. She goes through cool, monochromatic, analogous, and complementary. Thinking about items in a certain color family is a great way think about colors. It trains your eye to think about visual images in terms of where colors fall on the color wheel. The examples she uses are all from her own lines of fabric and are very interesting.

The author has a few pages on quilting and discusses home vs. professional quilting. Tula gives the pros and cons of both, disparaging neither.

There are 20 projects in the book. Each pattern has about 7 pages. Tula weaves a small story around each quilt, which I find entertaining and endearing. The quilts are mostly made from squares and rectangles, so not very difficult. I noticed that there were a few triangles in one quilt. Not all of the projects are quilts. She also shows you how to make a framed silhouette, a shower curtain, a clock, pillows, a lampshade, a sleeping mask, and a sketchbook cover. Some of these have buttons, hand embroidery and others use different interfacings.

Throughout the book are hand drawn images of project steps, finished projects (in addition to the photos) and details. The images look like they were colored in with colored pencils. The end of the book has all of the templates. Finally, there is also an index, which makes my librarian heart sing.

None of the projects are very difficult. They all have some humor associated with them. This book is worth a look if you want any of those things or you just like Tula Pink.

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Book Review: Confessions of the Quilting Circle

I read this book as part of a group in which I participate that occasionally has discussions about quilt-related books. I sincerely disliked this book and if you have any desire to read it, don’t read this review post. I ruin the ‘surprises’ completely. The good thing is that the book got my hackles up enough to make me think about some of the issues and write this review.

Confessions from the Quilting CircleConfessions from the Quilting Circle by Maisey Yates

This book is about family secrets. I really, really dislike family secrets. The past has a way of cropping up when least expected and at the most inconvenient times. In my life I am determined not to make any more family secrets and resolve as many of them as I can without hurting anyone.

The book is also about the abuse of women. Two of the daughters are involved with an extreme form of sexual violence while the youngest was a teen mother. I didn’t like the way the author handled these situations. First, I thought there were too many of them to be handled well or with sensitivity in one book. This could have been three books with more backstory for each of the sisters to round it out. Second, the situations were not handled in a sensitive or complete way. Third, they were handled in a kind of offhand way to create added drama. I think that is irresponsible.

One sister was the victim of domestic violence. The husband’s side of the story, the details of his arrest and some of the consequences before the trial were not discussed. I think it is important to know what is going to happen in such a situation and give women information about the signs of a budding domestic abuser. This part of the story was sprung on the reader with no warning. Perhaps that was a tactic to make us feel what the character was feeling. Additionally, the author did not discuss counseling and no resources such as shelters were discussed. This lack of information added to the feeling that the author just threw it in to add drama. I didn’t expect this book to be a “what to do if you are in an abusive situation” handbook, but it didn’t come across as realistic.

The second sister was raped as a minor. She didn’t understand that this was a crime, even as an adult. As an adult she should have known. There was no talk of going to the police in order to prevent it from happening to other girls, which seemed like a strong possibility given the man’s job.

The youngest sister got pregnant and didn’t tell anyone. She was 18 and had healthcare, I assume, through college. She just dealt with it herself, according to the story, which I find impossible to believe.

I don’t think the way Mary is described as a mother explains why Hannah and Avery accepted their situations. Mary is described as not being able to show that she cared for her daughters. She is also described as choosing a good husband and providing a stable home for her daughters.

It just doesn’t make sense that Hannah would accept rape in exchange for a letter of recommendation or why Avery would accept being abused for her ‘perfect’ life based on Mary’s actions. Also, even in the 80s and 90s women were being educated about sexual violence. I can see how Avery might have fallen into an abusive relationship, but there would have been signs early on. David would not have just changed into an abuser because of stress. Mary was not a horrible mother, even if she wasn’t perfect and the storyline that these things were because of the way she acted just doesn’t follow.

I know that the author used these topics to add drama to the story. I find these to be serious issues for women today and I resent the offhand, insensitive way in which they were handled. Women have to deal with protecting themselves every day. Trivializing important women’s issues even in a ‘chicklit’ type of novel doesn’t help anyone.

I also don’t think the quilting aspect was very important. It did tie the aspects of the story together. There also wasn’t too much detail so non-quiltmaker readers wouldn’t be put off.

The journal aspect of the story was good. The entries didn’t take up pages and pages. I don’t think the identities of the women were very clear or why they were important, even at the end. I could have just missed that part.

All in all, I am happy not to read this book again. I also will probably not read any books my Maisey Yates again.

Book Review: Stitch ‘n Swap

I borrowed this book from the library in Kindle format. I kept it for a long time and then it was yanked from my digital bookshelf by the tyrant that is the app?

Stitch 'n Swap: 25 Handmade Projects to Sew, Give & ReceiveStitch ‘n Swap: 25 Handmade Projects to Sew, Give & Receive by Jake Finch

This book is described as a guide on how to organize and participate in successful community swaps. My mind immediately went to swapping with other members omy quilt guild. The authors, however, weren’t limiting their ideas to just guilds. They use the term “like minded stitchers,” which is a very nice term! They also mention bees, small groups or other regular congregations of those with whom “you have something in common.” There are 25 projects and one of the projects inspired me to borrow this book.

The books starts off with an Introduction, which clearly and succinctly explains swaps. It explains what they are, different types and how they work. Fun is clearly at the forefront according to the author. The authors mention having a theme and offers up a few as examples. My guild does this every year. One year we had a kitchen themed swap and I received a gorgeous casserole carrier. Other theme ideas are a single fabric, a type of project, like pincushions or something like storage containers. The author has compiled projects from a variety of designers. One of the designers is Victoria Findlay Wolfe.

Next comes the guidelines for organizing a swap in a chapter called ‘Organizing a Swap’. The author believes that any kind of swap should stretch your creative muscles. As you know I am a pretty confident bag maker, but in the last guild swap, I learned some new skills when I made the Oslo bag for Cyndi. In this chapter, Finch provides a list of guidelines for leading a swap, including written guidelines and list of participants as well as a backup plan. There are also optional guidelines, what to do when you are using a commercial pattern and a little on working with kids.

One of the suggestions is to keep the swap to about 20 people. Having some kind of ice breaker event so people can get to know each other could make the swap more successful. These optional guidelines are followed, in the book, with theme suggestions, style and advice for a successful swap.

Of course there are always dropouts. Life happens. I have often acted as a swap ‘angel’ where I make something that will be given to the dropout. One good reminder is to just be philosophical and accept the dropout gracefully. It does not good badmouthing the person to other swappers.

After these two chapters, the projects start. There are pincushions, a sewing kit, a variety of bags, a scissor case, baby organizing supplies, such as a diaper changing mat, a few small quilts, cushions and many more.

Most of the projects are not exciting and I have other versions of these patterns already in my workroom. I was excited about the fabrics used and some of the interesting piecing. In Anne Deister’s couch scarf, she sewed rainbow strips unevenly so there is a lot of movement along the width of the couch scarf (which is described as “a long, pretty quilt”).

My favorite project is the Interchangeable Monster*. This is a one eyed stuffie, nominally like a dragon, but with wings and legs that can be moved around and changed -like Barbie clothes, maybe? Most of the other projects are cute, but not that interesting.

There is no index, and no gallery of projects at the beginning. I am glad I borrowed this book so I could take a look at iti. If you are new to organizing swaps, you need this book. If you want a lot of small projects for swaps or gifts, this is a good book for you.

*Since this is a Kindle book there were no page numbers, which is why I have not given you any references.









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Book Review: Sew & Stow

Sew Stow: 31 Fun Sewing Projects to Carry, Hold, and Organize Your Stuff, Your Home, and Yourself!Sew Stow: 31 Fun Sewing Projects to Carry, Hold, and Organize Your Stuff, Your Home, and Yourself! by Betty Oppenheimer

I borrowed this book from SFPL and it sat around a long time before I read it thoroughly. It is geared towards people who sew and are looking to organize rather than quiltmakers and bagmakers. There is something about the tone that gives me this impression. I also think it might be geared towards beginners, but the sections at the beginning didn’t insult my intelligence. I found the definitions and terms useful. It starts off with ‘the projects in this book are designed to be used.’ (pg.3). That explains my impression.

The projects are arranged in order of complexity (pg.3). The author, Betty Oppenheimer also says that as readers make these projects, we will gain the experience needed to design our own practical projects. Hhmm. I wonder about that, but appreciate her faith. To help, the book concludes with a chapter to get readers thinking about the design process in a practical way.

One of the fabulous things about this book is the beginning (starting on pg.4). Projects are shown, one to a page, in full color with a reference to where readers can find the directions in the book. I love that there is a visual index to all of the projects.

That being said, most of the projects are not items I would make, though if my child were setting up house, I might change my mind. I’d love a hammock (pg.4, 82), but probably wouldn’t use it. Our showers have doors, so the shower curtain (pg.5,86), as cute as it is, is of no use to me. I can see some use for the Pocket Packet Holder (pg.10, 102), but I would make it out of vinyl and, maybe, resize the pockets a little. I can imagine putting this near the front door for masks, keys and other things that need to go with a person who leaves the house. I really want the knitting Needle Tote (pg. 11, 105) to work for me, but I don’t have many straight needles and my circular needles mostly won’t fit in this kind of holder. I do like the Nifty Visor Organizer (pg.13, 112) and think that might make a good gifts for guys. I really like the Over-the-Shoulder Bottle Sling (pg.19, 135). It would be very useful for me. I have a buckle and may make one to use on my walks. It would be nice not to have to hold the bottle all the time and let my arms swing free. Another great gift idea, especially if it isn’t too difficult. I think my favorite project is the Customized Hobby Tote (pg.30, 182). It looks like a wonderful size to keep around the house for hand sewing. The tote also comes with a strap, presumably for carrying.

The pictures of all the items tempt the reader. The table of contents doesn’t show up until after the all the projects on page 33. By this point, readers are well and truly hooked. The table of contents gives you more than the projects. It starts with ‘Selecting the Right Equipment and Fabric’ (pg.37-54) and Techniques & Tools for Cutting, Sewing, and Finishing (pg.55-80). The projects start after the second chapter and are organized into groups such as ‘Sew Simple’ (pg.81-100),’ Bag-a-Thon’ (pg.121-144) and ‘Stow it Your Way’ (pg.179-187). The book also includes an Introduction (pg.34-36), a Resources List (pg.189) and an Index (pg.190-191) YAY!

A couple of lines written in the Introduction (pg.34-36) touched me. The author writes “Sewing is an art and science that can contribute to our material and our spiritual growth. It speaks to the idea of basic human survival on the practical side, and of community and personal growth on the philosophical side.” (pg.35).

The reader is promised “in the ‘Selecting the Right Equipment and Fabric” (pg.37-54) chapter, “you’ll learn everything you need to know to acquire the right materials and get set up” (pg.37), which I think is a tall order. Oppenheimer starts out by talking about what a maker needs in a sewing machine, followed quickly by what you need to know about your machine. There are sections about tuning up your machine, cleaning, and tension. Other tools such as needles and pins, thread (pg.40), Scissors and other Cutting Tools (pg.41) as well as measuring and marking tools (pg.4-42) and irons (pg.42) are all discussed.

The rest of the chapter is all about fabrics (pg.42-54). Selection, fiber content, weight, weave, attributes, absorbency and breathability, thickness, hand, yarn size and thread count are all discussed. I haven’t seen such a comprehensive guide in many, if any other books.

The ‘Techniques & Tools for Cutting, Sewing and Finishing’ (pg.55-80) is advertised as “helpful for you to know how the patterns are designed and best to use them. (pg.55). This section basically covers general sewing techniques and finishing touches. There are tips for laying out pattern pieces (pg.56), transferring the pattern layout (pg.57), marking rounded corners (pg.59), more on tension (pg.60), hand stitching (pg.61), forming a felled seam (pg.63), types of pleats (pg.66) and much, much more. This might be a very good reason to buy this book**. There is so much here that is useful, including basic, but not used very often terminology.

After the basic chapters (and 80+ pages!), the patterns start. All the tips and tricks, math as well as details about supplies are included. Each pattern is 3-5 pages in 3 or so colors, but not including photos. The step-outs are all drawings. The reader gets different views of the projects by looking at each pattern. In some cases, variations are included. For example, the Knitting Needle Tote pattern (pg.105-107), with a few changes, can be used for a cosmetic case.

The last chapter, ‘Stow It Your Way’ (pg. 179-188) has patterns, but they are all used as tools to teach the reader how to customize projects to suit his/her individual needs. The author talks about questions to ask yourself when designing or modifying a pattern (pg.179). She goes through the steps required to create your own pattern, such as adding seam allowances and the order the project should be sewn (pg.181).

The Index (pg.190-191) is pretty comprehensive. It includes techniques as well as projects. Bags are listed by their name as well as under the ‘bag’ heading.

All in all, I think, looking at this book in much more detail has made me more excited and interested in it than I was during my first cursory glance. I think you would like it and find it useful.

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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 Hoey’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.