New and Rebooted Books

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.

bluegreenHere’s my take on the Tillie’s Treasure pattern.

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.

Necco Wafers

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.


Filed under Books

5 responses to “New and Rebooted Books

  1. HA! My favorite books are process, not pattern. In fact these days they’re about the only books I buy for myself. Yardages?? What does that even mean? And the truth is, I don’t know how to follow patterns, and at this point, guess I don’t need to know. 😉

    • I do occasionally use patterns as general guidelines, but usually will change sizes, borders, block orientation, etc., to suit the fabric I have and the size of quilt I want to make. However, I keep reminding myself that for a quilter just starting out that loose approach can be extremely intimidating. The certainty of a pattern can be reassuring. On the other hand, I’ve seen trained artists take to quilting with absolutely no fear once they learned how to operate a sewing machine.

      • Yes, absolutely. The first book I got is still a favorite, if only for sentimentality — Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!!. Though I used it primarily for inspiration and instruction. Even then I don’t think I made anything by pattern. But of course I understand that for new quilters, and even for experienced ones who are not designers.

        I did buy “Making Quilts with Kathy Doughty of Material Obsession.” It is more of a pattern book than I usually buy. Seems to be full of ideas as much as patterns, though, with interesting interpretations of some old standards.

        When I can get my act together, there are a number of books I’d like to review.

  2. I did look at the reviews on Amazon and decided not to buy it for my guild library, because of the pale font. Otherwise it looked like a very appealing book. As to this: “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.” … well, almost every quilt I’ve made has been designed while in process. Not every one, but the vast majority. I like improv and believe that for many of us, it leads to better quilts.

    Thanks for the reviews.

    • I appreciate your reminder that making decisions while the quilt is being made applies to any style of quilt. I quoted the author because for some quilters it’s all about following directions that someone else may have done that “improv” work on. While you and I may feel that, absolutely, if it doesn’t look right, change it; others may have a different perspective. I recall a negative review I read a while ago of one of Mary Ellen Hopkins books. The reviewer was livid that there were no yardages given or lists of numbers of triangles, squares, etc., to cut. Chacun a son gout. (Please forgive the missing accent marks.)

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