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Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Book Review: Sweet Treats

Sweet Treats: 12 Delectable Quilts from 2 Easy Blocks
By Sandy Bonsib
C&T Publishing, 2007
Paperbound, 88 pages
Retail: $27.95

We all know quilters love food, though they may not always like to cook. It takes too much time away from the sewing machine! Sandy Bonsib’s newest book is a clever combination of sweet treats – 10 delicious dessert recipes and 12 quilts with scrumptious names and designs, such as Mud Pie, Apple Crisp, Blueberry Cobbler, and Caramel Sundae. The designs are elaborate repeats of mostly squares and triangles, strip-pieced and stunning when they all come together. Color selection is particularly good in this collection, with everything from light lemon chiffons to deep browns and oranges. The dessert recipes are great, too. This is indeed a double treat!

Friday, November 23, 2007


Innovative Fabric Imagery for Quilts

Book Review: Innovative Fabric Imagery for Quilts
By Cyndy Lyle Rymer with Lynn Koolish
C&T Publishing, 2007
Paperbound, 96 pages
Retail: $27.95

Technology has radically changed quilting, and no technology more than digital photography has the potential for revolutionizing both technique and content in the textile arts. Quilters started out modestly, printing family snaps on fabric and incorporating them into their work, but Cyndy Rymer in this book shows the way to far more ambitious undertakings.

Although photo editing software is always listed as an "optional" tool in the quilter's tote in this book, learning how to manipulate, combine, overlay, and distort digital images greatly widens her artistic options. Free copies of such simple programs as Photoshop Elements or Picasa (free from Google) are readily available and easy to learn. To get the full value out of this book, you need to venture into photo editing.

With or without the software, this book has plenty of ideas and techniques to try. It discusses the ins and outs of inkjet printers, printable fabrics, scanning, and putting together final designs made from many elements. Thirteen projects are included, with color photos and complete instructions, as well as an inspirational gallery of designs that will feed your imagination for original work. Time to go up to the next level with photo quilts.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Two Books by Kumiko Sudo

Book Review: Kake-Jiku: Images of Japan in Applique, Fabric Origami and Sashiko and

Wagashi: Handcrafted Fashion Art from Japan

By Kumiko Sudo
Breckling Press: 2006-2007
Paperbound: 140-150 pages
Retail $27.95 – 29.95

Kumiko Sudo has been one of the most prolific quilt artists and authors of recent years, producing book after book of exquisite Japanese designs and patterns for other quilters to savor and adapt to their own artistic purposes. Recently Sudo has been publishing with Breckling Press, which continues to publish some of the finest new quilting titles. Her latest two books, Kake-Jiku and Wagashi, translate traditional Japanese art into the realm of quilting and fabric arts. Kake-Jiku refers to traditional Japanese scroll work made of paper and silk, with calligraphy or images on it. These typically 24 X 60-inch artworks are often changed with the seasons in Japanese homes. The similarity to wall quilts springs to mind, and this is what Sudo gives us in this book – designs for 15 wall quilts based on Kake-Jiku scroll motifs. She blends in the personal through the thematic treatment of her own memories of her life in Japan (she now lives in the U.S.), including such images as spinning tops, bamboo blinds, and packets of incense. As always, she provides plenty of instruction on techniques – in this case a combination of appliqué, fabric origami, and sashiko. The designs are completely captivating and the renderings in the book are superb.

In Wagashi, Sudo turns her attention to Japanese fashion. Wagashi are highly wrought fancy candies made for Japanese tea parties and ceremonies, and represent “art in miniature” for Sudo. The twenty-two projects presented in this book are inspired by this idea, using a variety of techniques to demonstrate the making of fabric jewelry, small handbags, pin cushions, and other charming items.

These two books, in a smallish square format, are also pieces of art in themselves. They make great coffee table books for browsing by visitors (that is, if you haven’t dog-eared them too badly in doing the projects!)

Sunday, November 11, 2007


The Uncommon Quilter by Jeanne Williamson

The Uncommon Quilter: Small Art Quilts Created with Paper, Plastic, Fiber, and Surface Design

By Jeanne Williamson

New York, Potter Craft, 2007

Paperbound, 160 pages

Suggested retail: $25.00

Seed pods; dryer lint; plastic net bag; colored glass; coins; corrugated cardboard; ticket stubs; bar codes; -- about the only thing that Jeanne Williamson didn’t use in making these provocative small art quilts is barbed wire, and if she had thought of it I’m sure she would have used that, too. The premise of this book is uncommon, as its title implies. It doesn’t look to teach you perfect technique or how to construct the quilt sandwich. What it really wants you to do is forget about all of that stuff and just let yourself go creatively. The intimidating thing about making a large quilt is that it is an extended project to which you will devote a great amount of time and significant money. Because of the investment, you tend to become conservative in your design and color choices. Williamson’s solution is to make small – really small – quilts, about 8” X 10” and make them quickly (and somewhat carelessly). Starting in 1999, she made a quilt a day – ambitious and requiring a good deal of letting go. Later, this idea was picked up by Karey Bresenhan of the International Quilting Association, and became the basis for the Journal Quilt Project. Karey has written the Foreword to The Uncommon Quilter.

This book is the bible of the small, intuitive, super-personal quilt, the quilt that speaks to your mood on a particular day, at a particular moment, and with the use of unusual materials. All of the quilts used as examples are whole cloth quilts, so you’ll learn a huge amount about appliqué techniques, fabric painting, drawing with thread, and specialized surface design. Try it, you just might like it.

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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