Two books I’ve been perusing recently have made me feel like Janus – looking forward and backward. The look ahead was Lucie Summers’ Quilt Improv: Incredible Quilts from Everyday Inspirations. The look back was a reissue of two books by Pat Speth and Charlotte Thode, called The Big Book of Nickel Quilts – 40 Projects for 5-Inch Scraps.
I’ll start with the look back. Speth and Thode’s book is a combination of Nickel Quilts and More Nickel Quilts. There’s no new material or quilt patterns. All the quilts are based on 5 inch fabric squares that are cut up in various ways to make blocks. The different block variations are described at the beginning. The projects lend themselves to scraps, charm packs, and layer cakes, though I don’t think layer cakes were around when these books were first published.
I made a few quilts from these books in the mid 2000’s, and found the instructions gave me some nice tricks for maximizing my fabric.
I wish some of the quilts had been remade in more contemporary fabrics to appeal to newer quilters. Those calicos can look really dated. The revised and reissued Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! remade many of the original designs in today’s fabrics, and the results are very appealing.
Lucie Summers’ Quilt Improv: Incredible Quilts from Everyday Inspirations also starts with a handful of techniques (she calls them building blocks) that are used to make the book’s projects. Many will be old news to experienced quilters, though it’s always fun to see the old made new through fabric and little twists. These techniques are combined in twelve projects.
Here’s Lucie’s take on improvisational quilting: “Probably the biggest difference in making an improv quilt compared to a traditionally made quilt is that the decision making largely takes place during the making process rather than before.”
The punch of this book comes from Lucie’s descriptions of her creative process, from inspiration (seed trays, lattice work, manhole covers, and other quirky sources) to design, color choice, and piecing map. There’s a short section on general techniques – pressing, quilting, binding, etc. – but I think you can just go with whatever works for you. Lucie uses a lot of closely spaced straight line quilting that’s easily doable with a walking foot.
As I looked at the building blocks section I realized I have never made a chevron quilt, so I started one as the latest Project Quilting challenge. I turned it into a pillow.
One caveat about Lucie’s book is the print; it’s very light, and many reviewers on Amazon have commented that it’s difficult to read. Actually, I think the problem is with the font. I don’t know if the e-book format suffers from the same drawback.