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.
Bargello Quilts In Motion: A New Look for Strip-Pieced Quilts
by Ruth Ann Berry
$19.95; C&T Publishing
Review by Linda Augsburg, executive editor
The bargello pattern, also referred to as flame stitch, emerged in needlepoint in the 17th century. It emerged on the quilting scene in the ’90s, yet another technique made easier by the innovative rotary cutting and strip-piecing quilting methods. Those early bargello quilts mirrored their needlework counterparts with their zigzagging or swag-like designs. Today, the look of bargello quilts has changed dramatically, thanks to books like Bargello Quilts in Motion and the techniques explained by author Ruth Ann Berry.
You don’t need to be an artist or a technical genius to make a stunning bargello quilts like the ones in Bargello Quilts in Motion. In fact, the instructions and color information provided in this book makes it easy for you to make one of the quilt projects similar in colors to the ones shown, plus the helpful tips about fabric selection give you the confidence to choose your personal favorite color scheme. Projects mix unlikely prints (from florals and batiks to novelties) with tonal prints, hand-dyeds and solids for visual impact. But it’s the twisting and turning of what Berry calls the scribbles that has me wanting to put rotary cutter to fabric. Her design skills make the ribbons of gradations seem to entwine as they move across the quilt, and that’s what’s most intriguing about Bargello Quilts in Motion. Thankfully, as a finale to the clearly explained and illustrated projects, Berry shares details on how to design a bargello quilt with turns and twists with specifics on how to determine the width of the strip sets to achieve the look you desire. Her helpful hints will empower you to design your own motion-filled bargello quilt.
In all, the eight project quilts included in this 64-page book are accompanied by information on selecting fabric, basic bargello construction, borders, layering and binding, and an inspirational design gallery. The final chapter that covers designing your own has very clear illustrations and information about how to make the strip sets twist and turn as shown in the projects. So let yourself go and try something new — pick up Bargello Quilts in Motion.
On my “to-make” list: It wasn’t easy to choose just one, but I’m choosing Moody Blues (page 20). For the background fabrics, Berry used eight floral prints with a black foundation — you’d expect that to be pretty low-contrast, but you’d be wrong. In her words “The floral prints in this quilt all have a black background, but it seems like the value changes depending on the number of colored motifs on each background. The ‘lightest’ black floral is packed with bright flowers, while the ‘darkest’ black floral has only a few scattered flowers.” And then, after the cover quilt, Batikiello (page 12) and Asleep at the Beach (page 40) to give me a better understanding of the colorplay, I might try my hand at designing one of my own!
Accentuate the Negative: Making the Most of Negative Space in Modern Quilts
by Trisch Price
$22.95; Kansas City Star Quilts
Review by Linda Augsburg, executive editor
An inspiration for both traditional and modern quilters, Accentuate the Negative: Making the Most of Negative Space in Modern Quilts covers different approaches to the backgrounds or negative space in quilt projects. Trisch Price starts with an overall lesson on negative space, but dives deeper into the topic in each chapter. I was inspired as I read along, with Price sharing her hard-learned knowledge with me and coaching me through the color selection and placement process rather than just telling me which fabrics to put where. After all, once you understand the reasons behind the choices, you’re better able to apply the learnings. Each chapter covers one method of working successfully with negative space and each is accompanied by three projects to illustrate the concepts.
She shares how to select fabrics for Gradations without having to dye your own. She even includes fabric brands and color names so you’d be able to recreate the quilt as shown or compare the colors used to recreate the project in a different colorway. The Reversal chapter focused on how the perceived positive space was where the patterns and colors played, while the negative space was reserved for a soothing solid that ended up packing the punch. Interruption — carrying the negative space forward into the design — added an unexpected secondary design on some already striking quilts. Modern design aesthetics abound in the Negative Form chapter with bold shapes driving the quilt designs. The Ghosting technique intrigued me — high contrast and low contrast blocks let you shift the viewer’s attention. In the Piecing chapter, subtle piecing in the negative space forms a secondary image, grounds a design, and adds subtleties to the quilt. Throughout the book, images of the quilting designs are crisp and clear, so you can see how negative space can also be transformed by the quilting you add — that’s a huge help for me and I bet it is for many of you as well. Moreover, as I read each chapter, ideas for incorporating the concepts into my own quilt designs, both traditional and modern, started to take form. I could see how the tips and lessons provided in Accentuate the Negative: Making the Most of Negative Space in Modern Quilts could help me make all types of quilts much more interesting.
On my “to-make” list (which feels more like a “to experiment with” list): Confetti Drop (page 28), String of Pearls (page 50), Phantom Square Dance (page 80), and Mod Roses (page 108).