Simply Modern Christmas
by Cindy Lammon
Review by Lindsay Fullington, assistant multimedia editor
If you’re like me and author Cindy, you love Christmas traditions, but don’t necessarily think of yourself as a traditional quilter. Simply Modern Christmas combines traditional quilt blocks and holiday motifs, but with a modern and fun spin! No matter what your skills level is, this book has a project that will help you add a handmade touch to your home in the busy holiday season. From stockings and table toppers to bright wall quilts and cozy throws, these 14 quilted projects will have you in a holly jolly mood while quilting.
While some quilts use the common green and red color scheme, the use of graphic prints, florals, and stripes puts a modern twist on tradition. The table toppers would look stunning on a Christmas table, but could easily transition to everyday decor by swapping out a centerpiece. And the argyle quilt would make a perfect throw for then men in your life or just something to curl up in in the winter months.
Many quilts add teal and pink to elevate the traditional colors to bright and cheerful creations. The tree skirt (one that is definitely on my to-do list) showcases trendy diamonds in reds, greens, pinks, and teals for a pop of color under your tree. An applique wall hanging uses these colors as a backdrop for a whimsical tree that will give joy to both children and adults.
And best of all? Most of these quilts are made using fat quarters and simple shapes, so you can whip one or two (or more … ) up before the holiday season gets too busy! Cindy’s color diagrams, easy-to-read instructions, and beautiful photography will not only inspire, but also walk you through each quilt with ease.
Girls Get Stitching!
$21.95; C&T Publishing
Review by Elizabeth Stumbo, assistant art director
Plain white T-shirts and boring tote bags will be a thing of the past after reading Girls Get Stitching! by Shirley Mclauchlan. This book is perfect for the young stitcher in your life. The easy-to-follow instructions and inspiring projects will soon have her embellishing items found in her closet and room.
Inspired by her own teenage years and love of creating gifts with her hands, Shirley encourages readers to simply “have a go.” Don’t worry about perfection and straight stitch lines, but instead focus on learning, exploring and creating something unique for yourself or someone special. With 10 basic stitches and 20 adorable project to choose from, the possibilities are endless to personalize clothing, housewares, cards and more! Shirley’s designs are sweet, on-trend and perfect for new or beginning stitchers. Cupcakes on aprons and foxes on pillows are just the beginning of the fun!
Everything needed to get started can be found in the front of the book. Included are a list of basic tools needed with helpful explanations, tips for fabric and thread selection and step-by-step instructions for easy template transfers. Tips on where to find more unusual materials and items are also scattered throughout the project pages. Pretty photography with helpful details of each project make it easy to see Shirley’s stitches and color selections. A special section on creating mood boards helps teach readers how to make strong color, fabric and stitch choices that will help to personalize their projects and instill confidence. Many of the projects also feature additional ideas to encourage readers to mix-and-match patterns.
This book teaches readers to see the potential for creativity everywhere. Take something ordinary and create something truly one-of-a-kind through basic stitches and techniques. What will you embellish today?
The Master Quilter: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel
$16.00; Simon and Schuster
Review by Linda Augsburg, executive editor
Whether you’re a long-time fan of Jennifer Chiaverini’s Elm Creek Quilt novel series (as I am) or unaware of the series, The Master Quilter is sure to delight and captivate its readers, quilters or not. While the series is set around a (sadly) fictional quilting retreat center, the stories of the eight characters — women with varied lives and backgrounds — will have you identifying with their joys and struggles as the story unfolds and you will certainly connect with one or all of these quilters.
In The Master Quilter, recently released in paperback to honor its 10-year anniversary, Chiaverini employs an interesting storytelling angle — how does one person’s circumstance and secret affect a tight-knit circle of friends. In this book, each chapter captures the story of the same few pivotal months for the Elm Creek Quilters. The twist is that the stories are told from each character’s perspective. The shift in perspective speaks to understanding someone only by walking a mile in that person’s shoes, as each character is working through their own challenges while also interacting as part of a group of friends and coworkers. The struggles and changes that face each woman are illustrated in ways that’s relatable and familiar — from 26-year-old Summer’s journey to independent adulthood and Gwen and Judy’s shifting professional paths to matriarch Sylvia’s late-in-life second marriage and the challenges Bonnie faces with both her quilt shop and her shaky marriage. While the original plan of creating a surprise bridal quilt for Sylvia provides a touchstone for many characters through the book, the secret that each quilter is keeping weaves through the story’s plot to add depth.
As the sixth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series, The Master Quilter mentions characters from previous stories but Chiaverini provides enough background information to allow a series newcomer to enjoy the book as their first. If you’re a stickler to knowing the order of books, Chiaverini has an FAQ section on her site, elmcreek.net, which provides the order of the stories, since they weren’t originally written as a series. In addition, quilters will appreciate that Chiaverini is a quilter, so references to projects, supplies, and tools are accurate.
Treat yourself to a little quilt-focused fiction and make some new fictional friends at Elm Creek Manor. Whether you start with The Master Quilter, or read this one in its proper place in the series, you’ll enjoy the quilt-focused conversation peppered into each chapter and you’ll feel like you’ve gained some new fabric-loving friends along the way.
On my “to-make” list: While this book doesn’t have instructions or projects, Jennifer Chiaverini and C&T Publishing released Sylvia’s Bridal Sampler from Elm Creek Quilts that contains images, instructions and diagrams for all 140 blocks in the previously fictional quilt along with images of quilts made by other quilters inspired to make a version of Sylvia’s quilt for themselves.
by Mary Knapp
$14.99; C&T Publishing
Review by Jill Abeloe Mead, editor
If you’re smitten with star blocks, you’ll want to add this hidden gem of a book to your quilting library. Now out of print, but available an e-Book from the publisher, this 112 page volume by Mary Knapp guides you through drawing (yes, you can!) and constructing 35 amazing star blocks, in 8”, 12”, 15”, and 18” square sizes.
At first I was skeptical. The cover claims a “no-math drafting technique”. Rest assured, it’s an accurate statement. Although this book clearly is directed toward the intermediate to advanced quilter, there’s no math involved. (You do have to decide which of the four sizes of blocks you want to draw and sew.)
Mary guides you through creating each of her spectacular star block patterns by using one of four included grids (one for each size block). The grids aren’t the graph paper-variety. They are carefully crafted guides that Mary has developed to maintain the proportions in each design, regardless of the finished block size. As per instructions for each of the 35 blocks, you “connect the dots” to draw the desired block, in selected size. Of course, your drawing accuracy is important to the success of the block.
She includes a section on cutting and piecing with tips and techniques for making each block. The book includes templates for common shapes, construction tips, piecing and pressing techniques, and a paper-guided piecing tutorial. Assembly instructions are included for each of the 35 blocks.
The final section features a collection of five compelling projects: throws, a wall hanging, table topper, and table runner. Any of the projects would make a showcase suitable for your finished star blocks.
Knot Thread Stitch
by Lisa Solomon
$22.99; Quarry Books
Review by Jill Abeloe Mead, editor
Warning: I am an inveterate maker-of-stuff and this book is dangerous. I want to make every single one of the 17 projects included in this little book (except I will substitute my wanna-have Golden Retriever for the shown Chihuahua and Corgi-esque pooches in project: Pet Portraits).
This book is inspiring. It’s charming. Author Lisa Solomon, a fearless mixed-media artist, presents all the usual (but informative and stunningly photographed) getting started information…fabric, thread, tools, transferring designs, etc., in the opening pages. Then, she jumps straight into the really good stuff…the inspiring projects… but not before she gives you permission to use her ideas as a jumping-off point to do your own thing. Wait, wait there’s more. She shows her project and then hands each concept over to an artist or crafting friend to create their own take on her idea. And, she shows both projects and gives ideas, inspiration, and instruction for achieving great results with each.
With a tiny investment in needle and thread and something to stitch on, you can follow along and make what Lisa and other designers, bloggers, artists, and crafters have made. Or, you can create own take on each concept. You’ll learn not only 19 basic embroidery stitches, but also how to embellish stitches with mixed media. See-and-make a hand-carved stamp design (a delightful steam iron on a purchased apron), stitches on Shrinky-Dink zipper pulls and key chains, painted-and-stitched T-shirt (an irresistible, yellow Mini Cooper), robot finger puppets, cloud- embroidered pillowcases (for a heavenly night’s sleep), and more.
Rather than being a stitch-by-the-numbers book, this 144-page paperback is an idea book. Though instructions and patterns are presented for making each of the projects as shown, you are encouraged and invited to take your own creative wanderings from the path given to make small, fun, quirky and clever things. Take the challenge.