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Sunday, November 04, 2007


Book Review: The 1776 Quilt

The 1776 Quilt, Heartache, Heritage, and Happiness
By Pam Holland
Breckling Press, 2007
Paperbound, 164 pages
Retail: $29.95

The formula for quilting books is well-established. There is discussion of the designs and the inspiration for them, there are lots of pretty photos, and there are instructions for replicating the work presented in the book. Quilting is one of the only art forms I know that insists upon this practical element – the how-to part, the templates and diagrams. Yet it is amazing how much perennial variety there is within this formula, and how much originality is inspired by what sometimes looks like slavish copying.

Australian author Pam Holland (no relation), caught in the throes of grief at the loss of a daughter, fell in love with a quilt she encountered in a book while traveling in England. It was an antique quilt made by European soldiers in 1776, the original of which was in a small museum in a small town in East Germany. Slowly, and despite the fact that she had had no previous interest in or experience with quilting, Pam became obsessed with the quilt, and eventually decided to replicate it. The rest of the book is the story of that journey – of the trials and joys of the actual work, the pain of criticism and the pleasure of acceptance as her quilt made its way into the world. It is a heartwarming story.

For the more practical-minded among us, the book is rich in how-to advice, technique, and has a whole section devoted to ideas that spun off from work on the primary quilt. It is in many ways a study of the creative process, and of how influences and sometimes even outright copying can produce great art. At the back you will also find templates for the many appliqué figures that make up this complex and beautiful quilt.

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