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Monday, November 17, 2008


November Book Briefs

Rectangle Pizzazz: Fast, Fun & Finished in a Day
By Judy Sisneros
C&T Publishing, 2008
Paperbound, 48 pages
Retail price: $16.95

This slim little volume is fat with good ideas. We all suspect rectangles are boring, but you'd never know it from Judy Sisneros's designs, which truly do generate pizzazz by the way she uses fabric and juxtaposes shape and color. Many of her designs use a panel or fussy cut motif as the centerpiece, bordered by an amazing variety of block arrangements made from the basic rectangle. While these medallion style designs are impressive, the most interesting ones to me are the straight rows and columns of rectangles that make dazzling patterns through the juxtaposition of colors. “Garden Party” and “More than Lavender” in the book's gallery section are examples of these. Best of all, because of their simple construction, most of these quilts can be completed quickly – in a day or less.

Quilter's Happy Hour: 11 Quilts with Cocktail Recipes
By Lori Buhler
Martingale Press, 2008
Paperbound, 80 pages
Retail Price: $24.95

I've seen quilts married with wine, ice cream, chocolate and a variety of other foodstuffs, so it's not surprising someone would eventually use colorful cocktails as inspiration. Lori Buhler does it quite cleverly, and beautifully, in this collection of 11 designs loosely based on exotic mixologies. The drinks are familiar, and mostly what some might call “lady” cocktails (except for the Stinger, which looks like it might pack a wallop), but the quilts look intimidating. They're full of applique motifs and precisely positioned points that look like they might cause a quilter to pull her hair out. Lori is ready for our objections, however, as she introduces a technique for dealing with these quilter headaches that takes all the pain out of them. She calls it simply “The Interfacing Technique,” and it involves the use of lightweight non-fusible interfacing for tracing the applique patterns. She then joins this up to paper piecing techniques to drive away the boogeymen of curved piecing. Of the drinks, I like the Tequila Sunrise; of the quilts, the Raspberry Kiss. It's not as hard as it looks . . . really!

Snuggle-and-Learn Quilts for Kids
By Chris Lynn Kirsch
Martingale Press, 2008
Paperbound, 80 pages
Retail price: $21.95

Those familiar with Chris Kirsch's work will remember her 2001 book from Martingale called Replique Quilts: Applique Designs from Favorite Photos. Chris reprises her method in this book and, inspired by the birth of her granddaughter Hanna, employs it in a series of colorful kids' quilts that double as learning templates. For example, a placemat pattern shows us where the basic eating utensils go at a civilized table, and a lap quilt helps associate the right word with the right color. This is a very clever idea, and the designs are big and blocky to accommodate both easier sewing and toddler perception. My favorite is one called “Touch Me, Feel Me, Read Me,” which adds a tactile dimension to the lesson with such words as “soft,” “bumpy,” and “fluffy” done in different fabric textures. Also very clever is a portable roll-up chalkboard which uses a special fabric available at quilt stores for the chalkboard portion of the design. You can actually write on it. This is a great, fun book for grandmas to create something unique for the little ones that keep appearing in their lives.

Holiday Wrappings: Quilts to Welcome the Season
By Loraine Manwaring and Susan Nelson
Martingale Press, 2008
Paperbound, 32 pages
Retail prices: $16.95

Holiday quilts are a great addition to the seasonal decorating we all do, hung on a wall or draped over the back of a chair, the center of attention or as an accent. And each year quilters come up with great new variations on the familiar themes. Loraine Manwaring and Susan Nelson give us a half dozen original designs that pick up on some of the lesser-known themes and images of the season. For example, opening the book is a delightful quilt called “Merry Mail,” which uses a Christmas card and envelope theme. Christmas candy is another theme, with quilts called “Peppermint Dish” and “Candy Sticks” to tempt our tastebuds and feast our eyes. There is also a more traditional table-topper pattern with a Christmas tree skirt variation provided as well. The most different design, complete with button embellishiments, is “Hand Warmers,” which juxtaposes snowflakes with brightly colored children's mittens. All quilts are accompanied by complete instructions and good diagrams.

Warm and Cozy/Merry and Bright: Christmas Quilts from Hopscotch
By Heather Willms and Elissa Willms
Martingale Press, 2008
Paperbound, 72 pages
Retail price: $24.95

This holiday pattern book is really two books in one. When I picked it up, I looked at the Warm and Cozy cover and prepared for the primitive country style of Christmas, with earth-tones and gingerbread men. Then I noticed instructions to flip the book over, and on the back was the cover for “Merry and Bright,” featuring bright, appealing colors. Both halves of the book are primitive country, but the difference in color schemes makes for a dramatic contrast in the overall feel of the designs. There are seven designs in each style, for a total of 14 in all, which include tree skirts, wall-hangings, advent calendars, and charming country cloth balls, among other designs. A variety of techniques are employed, including applique and paper-piecing.

Rolling Along: Easy Quiilts from 2 ½ – Inch Strips (Jelly Roll Friendly)
By Nancy J. Martin
Martingale Press, 2008
Paperbound, 80 pages
Retail price: $24.95

Like all producers of goods, fabric makers are driven by an eternal quest for the new. New lines of fabric are introduced twice a year, to great fanfare, and the companies compete for the shelf space of quilt stores around the world. New fabric designs are not the only way to crack the market, however. Increasingly, clever packaging and marketing have put fabric in new containers or new forms – e.g. the “jelly roll” introduced by Moda last year. These packages, which contain 40 2 ½-inch strips, are popular both because they look cool and because they give you a good variety of coordinated fabric in a convenient form. Nancy Martin, ever the one to take advantage of a quilting fad, has now come out with a baker's dozen of “jelly roll friendly” quick strip quilts that express her elegant and charming design sense. Nancy has always been the queen of the quick quilt, and the coordinated colors of the jelly rolls add another speed dimension to these quilts by eliminating the need to agonize over fabric selection. Add the speed of strip piecing, and you might just be finished before you even begin. Some of these designs add applique grace notes and other embellishments, but my favorites remain the traditional pieced designs, especially “Boxing Day” and “Strip Pinwheel.” For reproduction fabrics freaks, “Forties Four-Patch” is a stunner.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Report from Quilt Market

Given the economy and the recent hurricane in Houston, expectations were somewhat lowered for Quilt Market this year. We went anyway, as did thousands of others, and it looks like quilting may help us get through hard times. See our review of the quilts and new products on display at the 2008 market.

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