“Fabricadabra” Book Review

Paula Nadelstern’s work has weathered the ebb and flow of fashions in original quilts to be featured in art museum solo shows. That’s where I had the joy of a personal tour of her work as part of a workshop I took. What did I make in the workshop? Not much. But I did cobble together a pillow using her template and fabric matching techniques that my son now has.

paula-workshop-giftThis pillow is a sterling example of how critical good fabric selection is to succeed with Paula’s techniques. I chose the wrong fabric – a pseudo symmetrical one that didn’t join up right.

But, C + T has just published a book that gives you a chance to have a go at Paula’s methods in a simpler fashion than her previous kaleidoscope books show. “Fabricadabra: Simple Quilts, Complex Fabric” has many quilts made with her disappearing edge techniques by many people.

fabricadabra-1I thought this was a slick way to make a quilt that looks complex. It works because it uses Paula’s kaleidoscope fabric as cheater cloth.

fabricadabra-2The secret to this quilt is a carefully marked layout of equilateral triangles.

After you gawp at the quilt gallery (some lovely ones were made by Vicki Welsh) Paula gets down to fabrics and methods. I assure you if you read the methods first you might not get to those pretty pictures.

There’s nothing wrong with the explanations, but painstaking care is needed to have fabric motifs match. As Paula says at the beginning, a simple method isn’t the same as an easy one. This is a woman who figured out how much the width of permanent marker lines drawn around shapes add up to over the top of a quilt.

Some of the easier looking tips involve sashings and cornerstones. The pages below show the source fabrics and the resulting sashing. No, these techniques are not for those who dislike fussy cutting or mind a lot of fabric waste.


In fact, Paula’s techniques are ideal for the detail fixated person who fusses over every step. I know just the person, but she doesn’t read this blog. While I may use some of Paula’s ideas, I know I won’t stick with the level of painstaking detail needed to match fabric patterns seamlessly. The pillow shown above is the picture that will save me a thousand words on the subject. That said, this book offers an excellent explanation of Paula’s techniques and wonderful pictures of quilts made using them. It’s neither a pattern nor a theory book, but gives detailed steps to draft your own quilts.


Filed under Books

16 responses to ““Fabricadabra” Book Review

  1. I admire the results Paula gets but it’s not for me. Now I remember why I do free style designs! Your pillow, IMO, has much more movement because the prints don’t exactly mirror each other – The center looks more like a pinwheel rather than just a star, I like that!

  2. This is very cool, and while I see what you mean about your pillow fabric not being exactly symmetrical, the effect is still good. I’m not precise enough to do this kind of work, but it’s good some people are. 🙂

    • I think I finally threw out the templates and drafted pattern for that pillow as I realized I was only fooling myself that I would ever attempt such accuracy again. My son likes the pillow because green is his favorite color.

  3. sandy

    Wow!! It’s always neat to find someone whose mind works like mine does. I’ve always worked with fabric in that way. It was something I discovered years ago. Back forty years ago, I discovered what “repeat” meant when it came to fabric and whenever I look at fabric, I try to isolate the original design and to learn what the repeat for the fabric is. You’re right, it does waste fabric, but the results are always stunning. I use it most often in garment construction. Anyone who has matched plaids or stripes when working with fabric has done something similar.

    • Then you’ll just love this book. I remember being taught how to match plaids way back when. What Nadelstern does involves matching curved lines and color. Since she uses her intricately patterned fabrics it gets tricky.

      • sandy

        I had to laugh when you mentioned the width of the magic marker lines. That is something that often occurs with me when I’m cutting fabric. I try to pay attention to where I put the ruler, being aware of the width of the line on the ruler, and the width of the rotary cutter, then the width of the thread in the seam in the seam allowance. It always fascinates me to see how those “widths of a thread” add up to inaccuracies when piecing numerous pieces together.

      • For me that’s another reason to print/paint fabric and use large pieces – fewer cuts and seams to cause sizing inaccuracies.

  4. This looks amazing…and totally not something I could ever do! Too bad because the effects are stunning!

  5. The quilts in the book look spectacular, the picked fabrics and precise cutting make them so special. This could be a project for me – when I find the right fabrics. Thanks for sharing.

    • I hope you get a chance to use some of Paula’s techniques. They don’t require much equipment – mostly template plastic and fine line permanent markers, but they do require attention to detail.

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