Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Gift for Me

With the final push to Christmas now underway, this is probably my last post before the holiday. This week I bought myself this book, 500 Traditional Quilts, and I had to share it. Need a little reward after all the cooking is done? Get yourself this book!

The title says it all. 500 full colour photos of the best traditional quilts of today, chosen by Karey Patterson Bresenhan, Founder of the International Quilt Festival at Houston, from photos submitted by the quilters themselves.

I only photographed a few pages to give you the idea. In truth, the book is overwhelming and I needed a couple of sittings to look at it all. There are 432 pages, and it weighs over 2.5 lbs (1 kg)!

But what a wonderful resource! The ones on the right above, and left below, are two of my favourites.

While most of the quilts are American, and made in the past 7 or so years, there are also quilts from all over the world and as far back as the 1980s. I recognized many of them as Best of Show winners from recent shows at Houston and Paducah, as well as other national and international shows.

There are a handful of whole cloth quilts, but most of them are appliqued, pieced, or a combination of the two. There are several Baltimore-style quilts and a couple of miniatures as well. Most of the photos are full page, but a few are not:

My only complaint is that I wish there was some way to "zoom in" on some of the details! The star quilt on the right is 100" square, and made entirely from half square triangles (HSTs).

Best of all, the book was less than $20 on Amazon Canada. Unfortunately, it looks like it is now on backorder. But, it might be in stock elsewhere.

On a much smaller scale, I've been making HSTs this month as well:

I was inspired by Bonnie Hunter's new mystery quilt, in a general way, and more specifically by some of Audrey's recent work. But, there is nothing to show yet. I have 40 of these sets of 12 HSTs to make before I can start to put them together. In the new year, probably!

I'll be back after Christmas, but until then, I wish everyone a great holiday -- whatever, wherever and however you are celebrating!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Two From Trish Burr

Some of you may recall the butterfly embroidery in long and short stitch that I started last summer. The more I looked at it here on my blog, the less happy I became, so I figured it was time to call in the expert! I bought these two books from Trish Burr:

The first one is Needle Painting Embroidery, Fresh Ideas for Beginners (Sally Milner Publishing, 2011). The second is Long and Short Stitch Embroidery, A Collection of Flowers (Sally Milner Publishing, 2006). Although they were not published in this order, this is the order I recommend you buy and read them in.

Once I started to read, I immediately saw where I had been going wrong on the butterfly. Although it is called "long and short stitch," there are in fact no short stitches in the technique. My mistake! In her books Burr does something that is really genius, and which for me was totally the missing link. All her photos and patterns are the same size that they will be in real life:

So you can see exactly how long your stitches should be, how close they should be, and how they will blend together. The 2011 book has several little practice petals and leaves that you can do to perfect your technique. It also has a number of projects, organized in three levels of difficulty. The Little Bee Eater, which Burr recently taught in an online class, is one of the projects in this book.

The 2006 book is more advanced, and goes into more detail on shading and choosing colours.

This book also has scale photos of the projects to go with the patterns. Surprisingly, there is not that much overlap between the two books. All the projects are different, and the 2006 book focuses more on colour, while the 2011 book looks more at technique. Although obviously, those things cannot be entirely separated! I think you would do fine with either one, but personally, I am glad I bought them both. My long and short stitch has already improved!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

One Year Blogoversary

Technically, it was one year yesterday, but close enough! The photo here is from our Christmas tree. I just managed this one shot today before the clouds rolled in.

My wrist situation is somewhat better, but not 100%. I've been doing some re-evaluating of my stitching activities as a result! With the blogoversary, the end of the calendar year, and the injury, it seems an appropriate time to consider what's been working and what hasn't.

  1. Blogging in general. I enjoy writing about my creative process, and crafting a post about a project is almost as much fun as the project itself.
  2. Blogging community. I've loved making all my new blogging friends, and I love how we all inspire each other. And, I really love all the encouraging comments!
  3. Blogging as a design tool. This has been an unexpected benefit of my blog. Like a quilter's reducing glass, the blog lets me step back from a project and evaluate it more impartially. I think several improvements have been implemented as a result!
Not Working
  1. Book Reviews. The book reviews are a lot of work, and while they do seem to bring in traffic, I'm not sure it is the right traffic. Going forward, I'm only going to review books that have made a difference to my work. Plus, the affiliate program with The Book Depository has not been successful, so I'll be removing those links soon too.
  2. BOMs and Quilt Alongs. I started this blog to follow my progress on the 2012 TQS BOM Sedona Star. I love the design, and I'm still going to finish it, but I've learned that I need to get my head around the whole project first, before I can really get started. All those waffling posts at the beginning of the year would have been avoided if I could just have read all the instructions at once. I think BOMs are a great way to produce a really spectacular quilt, but from now on I'll be waiting until the whole thing is available before I decide whether to make it.
  3. Motivation. I have to say that I did think that blogging would shame me into finishing more projects, but apparently I am shameless! From now on I will be giving priority to inspiration, rather than motivation.
Unfortunately, CQJP 2013 is going to be a casualty of my dodgy wrist. It will be too much extra hand sewing, so I'll be bowing out before it begins. Maybe next year! In any case, spending more time on the sewing machine instead will be beneficial to many other projects.

To wrap it up, I want to send out hugs and a big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported my blog this year. So many people have been so open, helpful and supportive, and I really appreciate it. I can't wait to see what the next year will bring!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Inspirations 75

I have a serious backlog of reviews that I'd like to do for Friday Book Review Days. My review of Inspirations 73 has proven to be one of my most popular posts, so here is the latest - Inspirations 75. Trust me, the photos alone will be worth it!

Inspirations magazine is published quarterly by Country Bumpkin in Australia.  The production values are consistently high.  I have to admit that I have not made many of the projects - Cottage Garden will be the first one (although I do have more kits in my stash).  But there is so much to learn in these magazines, from the history of embroidery, to various unusual embroidery stitches, through colour and design, that it is always worth the long wait between issues!

I particularly love the photo styling that Stylist Fiona Fagan has done for this issue. Since I started this blog I have become much more attuned to how photos are styled! Nikki Delport-Wepener's stumpwork cover project Bauhinia was beautiful to start with, and the mix of real flowers, beads and skeins of silk threads that Fiona has added to the photo raise it to a whole new level.  Don't the skeins of thread in the artist's palette look great?

And what more can you say about this one?:

The actual project in this photo is the cauliflower pincushion in the upper left hand corner.  I love the small scale corn cobs and tomatoes that Fiona has found to go with it.

As for the actual content of the magazine, there is a really excellent article by Anna Maria Salehar about her approach to thread painting portraits.  It is great to get a glimpse into her creative process.  I was struck by how much the work feels like an intricate and compelling puzzle that Anna Maria slowly pieces together. I think the hallmark of a good artist is the way they are able to transcend their chosen medium. Anna Maria certainly shows us the way!

I don't usually like to choose a favourite, but this time I do have to say that I am quite enamoured of Jenny McWhinney's "Early Bird" redwork peg bag:

I always love the combination of red and white, or red and natural.  These birds are so cute, and I like Jenny's new approach to redwork.  Instead of a solid line, she uses a sketchy, broken line that makes the work feel more like an etching. My only quarrel with the design is that she uses three shades of red, which I think is unnecessary and distracting, given all the careful line shading in the design. But that is easily corrected. Washing lines are against the by-laws in my neighbourhood (I know, it's not green), but this would also make a great framed piece for the laundry room.

Right inside the front cover is an ad for an upcoming Country Bumpkin book of embroidered blankets and quilts.  The large embroidered heart immediately caught my eye, so I was pleased to see several more in the "Hearts and Roses" drawstring bag by Lesley McConnell.

The hearts in the drawstring bag are quite small, but the patterns could easily be enlarged.  I would like to use them on quilt squares, maybe nine all together.   The combination of polychrome embroidery and patchwork is something I see in the Australian quilting magazines a lot, and I'd like to make one myself.  After my redwork quilt!

So once again, there was plenty of inspiration here.  Highly recommended!

Related Post:

Inspirations 73

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday Morning Quilts

I know, I couldn't resist, I had to post this review on Sunday morning!  I've been sitting on this book, Sunday Morning Quilts, by Amanda Jean Nyberg and Cheryl Arkison (C&T Publishing, 2012), for a couple of months now, because I couldn't think of the right thing to say about it.

One of the subheadings on the cover is "16 Modern Scrap Projects," and I've been really hung up on the word "modern."  Or is that "Modern," with a capital "M"?  But you know, a) that stuff doesn't really matter, and b) that's not really what this book is about.  Well, ok, there are 10 pages about what defines a modern quilt, but let's just ignore those for now and go straight to the quilts themselves.

There are a lot of fun, bright quilts in this book, but the word I like best to describe many of them is innovative.

There isn't a half square triangle anywhere in the book.  There IS a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, like the Gumdrops quilt above with it's simple raw-edged applique and strip assembly.  Or the Ticker Tape quilt below, where the applique and quilting are done in the same step.

For me, that is the paradox with this whole "modern quilt" issue.  On the one hand, there are a lot of interesting quilts with new ideas - out of the box - and on the other hand there's 10 pages of definitions, which are just creating a new box.  Personally, I hate boxes, and I certainly don't see any reason for them in quiltmaking.

To duplicate the look of these quilts you do need to have a fairly large stash of modern (there's that word again) fabrics, by which I mean solids or simple, graphic prints in clear colours.  But there is no reason that you couldn't use the techniques with any fabrics you have at hand.  I think the results could be quite interesting!

There's a good section about storing fabrics, especially scraps, with ideas about how to categorize and organize them.  And the machine quilting ideas are very accessible.

These are not heirloom quilts, they are quilts that are meant to be used.  I think that is the idea behind the title, although they never specifically say.  If you leave aside the angst about what's modern and what's not, and skip straight to the quilts, there's lots to see and lots to try in this book.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Free-Form Quilts

For Book Review Day I've just been reviewing my order history at to remind myself what books I've bought recently.  Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts, by Rayna Gillman (C&T Publishing, 2011), has been on the shelf, not because I don't like it, but because I don't have time for it now.  But that doesn't mean it isn't a fun book!

I am feeling these days like I still have a lot to explore with traditional quilting.  However, when I am ready to branch out, this is one technique that I will definitely try.  Gillman's technique basically involves sewing together lots of strips into blocks, cross cutting the blocks and inserting more strips, and arranging the lot on your design wall until it looks good.  I think it would be tons of fun!  It actually reminds me of string quilts.

To me, the best thing about Gillman's presentation is that she is very encouraging, and breaks the process down into easy steps.  I think this would be a great book for people who want to do art quilts but who don't think they are artistic.  It is hard to go wrong with this technique.

A large part of the book is about exploration, and trying different things to see what you like.  There are no patterns, and the goal is not to duplicate Gillman's quilts.  Gillman gives you so many variations on the basic approach that even just looking at the pictures gives you a chance to consider what you like, and the colour combinations that look good to you.  My belief is that once you start talking about art instead of strictly design, our own personal reactions become the most important thing, rather than any "rules" about colour or design.

Of course, it is also more likely that not everyone will agree with your preferences!  ;)

Gillman started her quilting life as a traditional quilter, and the book has an idea-filled chapter about what to do with your old UFOs:

You can probably already see where she is going with that.  One good idea is to just cut out the seams of your UFOs, and reclaim the smaller bits of fabric, without having to unpick anything.

So, while for me this book is on the shelf for now, if you are feeling stale or artistically blocked at all, this is a great book to break you out of it.  Or, if you tend to be results-oriented, this book will definitely put more fun into your process.  For me, having fun is the most important part!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ribbon Embroidery by Di van Niekerk

Ribbon Embroidery and Stumpwork by Di van Niekerk (Search Press, 2005) is the latest book I've purchased.  I've had it a few weeks now, and the more I look at it, the more I like it!

When I bought it I didn't realize that it is basically a project book.  It has all the instructions for the sampler that is shown on the cover.  The project is beautiful, but I really have no intention of making it.

But even if I don't want to make the project, I've been thinking of lots of ways to use the individual components in other projects.  Right now I am mainly interested in the ribbon techniques, although some of the stumpwork ideas are appealing as well.  Look at these cute hydrangeas:

As I said in my review of Inspirations 73 last month, I have been seeing more and more of this kind of turned edge stumpwork, which I really like.

For the ribbon embroidery, van Niekerk provides excellent diagrams of all the stitches used in the book and advice on what needles to use, as well as all the information needed to transfer the design and prepare your fabric.  To my mind, what distinguishes van Niekirk's work, in this book and others, from other ribbon embroidery books is the naturalistic effect she achieves with the ribbons.  There is nothing stiff or formal about her flowers!  I am used to always thinking about keeping stitches even, with a consistent length and tension.  This style of embroidery requires you to break out of the box somewhat, which is a good exercise for me!

You can see how every stitch on these blue delphiniums is different:

The deep rose coloured hollyhocks are done in a combination of cast-on stitch and bullion knots in a gorgeous hand dyed raw silk thread.  I love the extra dimension that the variety of materials and stitches gives in the project.  I am sure I would learn a lot if I did the whole sampler!

You can buy all the materials for this project and others, including complete kits, at van Niekerk's website -  I admit that I used to be afraid of what the postage cost from South Africa would be!  But I recently bought some of her ribbons from the site, and the postage was quite reasonable.  I think the key is to keep the weight down, and fortunately, the ribbons are very light!

(Update May 2012:  Unfortunately it looks like my order got lost somewhere along the way.  After six weeks I received a full refund, but it was still disappointing.  If I try again I will look into using EMS rather than regular mail.)

Van Niekerk's new book, Roses, will be available soon.  It is definitely on my wish list!  I am even contemplating buying the whole kit, I think it is really something special.

So, although I was a little slow to warm to this book, it is now another one I definitely recommend.  If you have never bought a book on ribbon embroidery, this may not be for you, although it certainly has all the information you need to complete the project.  If you are looking to expand your ribbon embroidery horizons, however, this is a great way to go!

Related Posts:

Inspirations 73

Allie Aller's Crazy Quilting

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sashiko Style

This book has been on my list to review since I started doing book reviews.  The Quilt Show is about to do a show that features sashiko, so now seems like the perfect time!

Sashiko Style (Japan Publications Trading Co. & Joie, Inc., 2007) was originally published in Japanese, and this edition was translated into English by Yoko Ishiguro.  As you can see on the cover, it has instructions for 18 traditional and elegant projects.  By far its main strength, though, are the detailed and thorough instructions for how to actually do sashiko.  I bought Paradise Stitched by Sylvia Pippen at the same time as this one, and while she has some really beautiful designs, the instructions are very thin.  So I would recommend this book no matter whose designs you end up trying.

I was very interested to learn that sashiko originated as a counted thread technique, that was done to give additional strength to loosely woven cloth. Now it is more of a decorative technique, and you do not have to count, although this book does give instructions for counting if you want to.

If you have read any of the Japanese quilting magazines, you know how thorough they are with diagrams and photos of the instructions.  This book has the added bonus of being translated into English!   

All the basics are covered - starting and stopping the stitching, what do to do if you run out of thread in the middle, preparing the fabric, drafting and marking the designs, all the project instructions, everything!  It also includes several pages that catalog many of the traditional stitching patterns for you to use in your own designs:

Even with all this, it is not a huge book.  There is no fluff.  It has everything you need, and nothing you don't.  It also includes a pull-out pattern at the back for all the projects in the book.

For me though, the biggest payoff was an unexpected one.  I have long wondered how exactly the Japanese do their hand piecing for patchwork.  Have you ever seen it?  It seems so fast and easy.  Here is a video from Yoko Saito's Quilt Party channel:

How exactly is she holding the needle?  The same way you do sashiko!  It is thoroughly explained in this book.  Although I haven't tried it yet, I will soon.  I already know the project I want to do.

So once again, this is another book I highly recommend!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Connecting Threads

All right, maybe this is a stretch, but for Book Review Day I am going to talk about the March 2012 Connecting Threads catalogue, which just came in the mail yesterday.

Already well used!
I have become totally addicted to Connecting Threads.  I first bought some fabric from them a couple of years ago - the Wrap It Up collection - and I was not impressed.  The colours seemed grey, and there was a strong chemical smell.  But I kept getting the catalogues, and they have so many great easy patterns, and for Canadians especially the prices are awesome, so I tried them again last fall.  Big improvement!  Saturated colours, and no unusual smell beyond the normal new fabric smell.  Some of them shrink quite a bit in the wash, but then again, so do many "premium" fabrics.  I don't know if I would make a complex heirloom project with these fabrics, but for fun, practical throws and bed quilts they are excellent.

The new fabric collection for this catalogue is Sweetgrass Prairie, which has a lot of small calico prints, including a lot of good light prints.  I find it challenging to find a good selection of light prints these days, so I am very tempted by this collection.  I particularly love this quilt, designed by Mari Martin for the collection:

Sorry about the glare!
It's not a great photo, but you can see it online here.  I love the way this quilt is scrappy yet unified, and I like the fresh colours. This would be a great pattern for a lot of my really old stash calicos as well.  I'd be able to mix old and new.  Argh, I'm so tempted!

If that wasn't enough, I also really like the Pearadise collection by Jenni Calo:

I could use the two dark prints for my Collector quilt, which still needs more darks. I love the scattered apples and pears in the middle, and the dots and cross hatched blenders would be useful too.

Sigh.  I have a huge backlog of quilts that I already have fabric for, and there is no way that I need more.

I do want to reiterate what a great deal Connecting Threads is for Canadians, though.  Americans can find reasonably priced quilt fabric all over, but in Canada it is very dear, and the shipping and duty charges can be painful for imported fabric.  Connecting Threads has a flat rate $7 shipping charge to Canada, and they pre-calculate the duty, so it is extremely reasonable to buy from them.  They also have many great deals on notions and supplies.  Other international readers are out of luck, though, because I think they still only ship to North American addresses.

Me?  I guess I'll keep thinking about it for now...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Allie Aller's Crazy Quilting

It's Book Review Day once again!  Today I am sharing Allie Aller's Crazy Quilting (C&T Publishing, 2011).

I love this book!  Before I read it, I was always on the fence about crazy quilting.  My impression was that it was too dark, and too random for my taste.  But the work in this book changed my mind.  Aller (I gather that her friends call her Allison rather than Allie) is largely inspired by gardens and flowers, which is something that really resonates with me too.  The colours are vibrant and beautiful throughout the book, and there are many gorgeous photos:

Crazy quilting is definitely one of those "more is more" techniques.  This book gives you everything you need to finish a project.  Aller provides four different methods for constructing a block, dozens of ideas for embellishing it, and complete instructions for finishing the quilt.  I am about to embark on a Top Secret crazy quilt project, and I feel very comfortable with the instructions for getting started.

But even if you don't have a crazy quilt project in mind (yet), this book is great eye candy, and provides lots of good ideas for embellishment and silk ribbon embroidery that you could use on other projects:

She does amazing things with Angelina as well!  So, another book that I highly recommend.  It is certainly a nice book to have on the shelf, when you are missing your garden in the middle of winter!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Inspirations 73

Today I have a magazine for Book Review Day - the latest issue of Inspirations, number 73.  I keep all my Inspirations magazines on my book shelves, though, so maybe it is partly a book!

I was introduced to this excellent magazine at one of the bookseller stalls at a stitching and needlecraft show at the San Mateo Fairgrounds, back when I lived in California.  There was a whole rack of back issues on display, and I was standing there mesmerized by all the beautiful covers, along with another rather quiet woman and her pushy friend.  The pushy friend was not a stitcher, but she was strongly encouraging the quiet woman to put a deep dent in her credit card by buying several of the magazines.  I was internally debating the same thing, because I knew it had to be all or nothing.  Buying just one would make me want the others even more.  The dynamic between the two friends was a little tense, though, so I moved away.  Eventually they did too.

I went back, of course, and agonized a little more before I caved and bought about 15 of them.  Many of those are now sold out issues, so I am still glad I did it!  The quiet woman also ended up buying at least 10, shortly after me.

Inspirations bills itself as "the world's most beautiful embroidery magazine," and I have never had reason to doubt it.  It features beautiful, classic designs from top embroidery designers around the world, using the best materials and combining modern and traditional techniques.  Several different types of embroidery projects are included in each issue, from surface embroidery with cotton, wool or silk threads, to stumpwork, goldwork, silk ribbon embroidery, various whitework and pulled thread techniques, blackwork, cutwork, and on and on.  Beyond the designs themselves though, what really drew me in was that each project has detailed, thorough instructions with colour pictures on how to do the various stitches and techniques.  Anyone with a little basic embroidery knowledge and a willingness to learn can tackle most of the projects in each issue.  I have learned so much since I started reading it!

Ok, let's talk about the current issue.  There are nine projects, all from Australian designers.  (Inspirations is an Australian publication.)  Australia is a hotbed of embroidery talent, which I think has been nourished and supported by this magazine over the years.  So there are a number of excellent projects this time!

The cover piece by Jane Nicholas is one of the ones I quite like.  Usually stumpwork (raised embroidery) is not my most favourite technique, mainly because I hate the raw edges that you often get with the detached leaves and petals.  But in this piece the edges are all turned under, which I like much, much better.  The pomegranates are juicy, the padded snail shell is particularly nice, and I love the goldwork beetle.  Nicholas also has a whole book of beetles in various techniques, which is great fun.

Carolyn Pearce has been a steady contributor to Inspirations since the earliest issues.  I aspire to make bullion roses as nice as hers some day!  Somehow she manages to taper the ends of her bullion knots, which makes all the difference.  I would love to know her secret!  In this issue she manages the same look with silk ribbon:

This is something I'll be trying soon.  I think I have some of those Czech glass flower beads in my stash somewhere too.  While I won't be making this exact project, I'll definitely be using some of these ideas.

I'll also be borrowing Jan Kerton's needlewoven daisies from this project:

These daisies are the answer to two outstanding dilemmas I've had.  One is a UFO wall hanging that combines cross stitch and quilting.  I wanted to incorporate daisies in it somehow, but the right idea didn't come along until now.  These will be just the thing!  Maybe the lady bugs too. 

The second thing I've wanted for a while is to make a brooch of my online identity photo with the Black Eyed Susans.  I've grown quite attached to that photo, and I think it is very recognizable, so I'd like to have something to wear in the real world that ties it in.  I debated thread painting it, but this technique will be better.

The magazine publisher, Country Bumpkin, also sells kits for all the projects.  These are usually a good value, because they save you chasing down specialty supplies from several different stores.  The Australian dollar is a lot higher these days, and shipping can be costly, but the convenience may still be a benefit to overseas shoppers. 

Two other projects that I really like in this issue are the Hardanger box from Janie Hubble and the delightful Yvette Stanton, and Margaret Light's pretty pouch made from blue and white ticking and embroidered with beautiful red pelargonium in Gumnut's juicy perle silk.  The kits for them both are tempting me now!

Well, this was probably my longest post yet, but I cannot say enough about this excellent magazine.  It is the only subscription I have left.  Highly recommended!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Schnibbles Times Two

I have been thinking that I may make Fridays "Book Review Day."  I can think of quite a few books I'd like to review, so we'll see how it goes.

Today I am featuring Carrie Nelson's Schnibbles Times Two, quilts from 5" or 10" squares (Martingale & Company, 2010). 

This is the first Schnibbles book, and I gather it has been so popular that she has done another.  The premise is that the quilts can be made entirely from 5" and 10" precut squares, such as the Moda layer cakes.  Sometimes yardage of the background fabric is also needed, as well as binding and backing.

Each of the twelve designs is done twice, in two sizes, one for 5" squares and one for 10" squares.  This also gives you two colourways of each quilt for inspiration.  The small quilts are about 30" square, and the large ones are over 60" square.  I am just realizing that almost all the quilts ARE square.  I tend to prefer square quilts, so that may be part of the appeal for me.

But there are many things I like about this book.  The designs are simple and graphic, for the most part, and easy enough for a confident beginner.  The rotary cutting and quick-piecing instructions are excellent, and the quilts will go together quickly.  Special care is taken with ironing the seam allowances so that everything fits together perfectly.

The quilt I am making for Edward (I just have the last border left now) is based on the McGuffey pattern from this book:

I did not use precut squares for Edward's quilt, and the great thing about this book is that you don't have to.  You can certainly use yardage or fabric from your stash instead.  They are great patterns for scraps.

I am giving serious thought to making this quilt as well:

These are like half snowball blocks.  The quick piecing instructions for this quilt are very clever, so I am keen to try it.  I can see kind of a leaf pattern in there, and I think if I play it up with green fabrics and leafy quilting, it would make a great summer quilt for our living room.

So, I highly recommend this book!  5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quiltmania No. 85

Although it is published in France, Quiltmania has been written in English for several years now, and the instructions are in both metric and imperial.  It is reliably one of my favourite magazines.  Quiltmania publishes two separate series - the numbered series is in English and comes out six times a year.  This series has articles as well as some projects.  They also produce a quarterly series, the "Special Editions," which are just projects and written in French, with metric measurements.

The one I bought this weekend was No. 85, September/October 2011.  Because they are imported the news stands in Canada are generally behind with this magazine.  You can also buy back issues (and many tempting but expensive books) at the Quiltmania website

Quiltmania goes to all the international quilt shows and prints good photos of the highlights.  This issue has quilts from Europe, Australia and Japan.  The focus is mainly on traditional quilts this time, with some really stunning efforts in both Australia and Europe.  Here are some more ideas for your half square triangles!

While it is not the most impressive quilt in the magazine, I was also struck by this one:

I thought this was a great way to set a sampler quilt.  The blocks are well unified, and it has good graphic punch.  I rarely like sampler quilts, most of them look too random and unbalanced to me, even with a limited palette.  So this is a great setting to keep in mind!  I noticed one of the shop ads in the back of the magazine has already used this idea for one of their kits.

There are a few photos from an exhibit of Reiko Kato and her students' latest quilts.  I just love the Japanese taupe quilts, and all the little accessories they make.  The fabrics are completely different than North American fabrics though, so for now I am just buying books rather than fabric.  I am SO tempted by Kato's latest - Garden Party.  If only I didn't have to import it from France!

Quiltmania is another great magazine for fairly simple quilt patterns with good design value.  Even though there are a number of American designers featured, the designs are a little different than those you find in American magazines.  There is a really gorgeous design, Eldon, from Edyta Sitar, with log cabin stars that you must see if you like her work.  I'm not sure if it was previously published, sometimes Quiltmania projects have been.  This one is not for beginners, though, the piecing has to be very accurate.

The cover project is called Ryokan, after the Japanese guest houses, although the designer Joe Wood is also American.  I think it is another great way to incorporate sampler blocks in an overall design!  The instructions for this project will be continued in the next magazine, No. 86.  It makes me think of all the barns in Pennsylvania with quilts painted on the sides - I'm sure there is a good quilt idea in there somewhere too!

Both this magazine and the one I reviewed yesterday, Sew Scrappy, had quilts featuring churn dash blocks, which was kind of interesting.  I guess it is a nice, simple block.

Finally, there is a very impressive design, Fontainebleau Forest, for an English paper pieced quilt that combines diamonds and hexagons in a pinwheel motif.  I already have an English paper pieced project in the wings, but I will keep this one in the back of my mind.  It is all fall-coloured batiks in greens, oranges and browns, and just gorgeous!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sew Scrappy

I bought a couple of quilt magazines this weekend, and I thought I would add magazine and book reviews to my offerings here.  I used to buy a LOT of books and magazines, but this past year I've been trying to cut back, because I already have plenty of project ideas and the last thing I really need is more!  But there is something very pleasant about sitting back and looking at a lot of nice colour pictures, so I still cave once in a while.

You will find that most of my reviews are positive, because I try not to buy anything unless I'm pretty sure I'll like it.  But if I do buy a dog I will tell you!

First up is Sew Scrappy, volume two, from Better Homes and Gardens:

As a rule I usually like magazines from Better Homes and Gardens - I think it is because all their products lean towards a warmer palette, which is my strong preference as well.  This magazine is $16 here in Canada, but for me it was well worth it.  It is 128 pages and there are no ads and no articles, it is almost all quilts.  There are not even any totes or bags, just quilts ranging from simple minis to table toppers to throws and bed quilts.  And one small fused greeting card project.  As the title suggests, they all assume you have a pretty big stash! 

Even better, they are all easy projects suitable for confident beginners, but with enough design value to be appealing to more advanced quilters.  The rotary cutting and quick-piecing instructions are good.  They are almost all pieced quilts, with very little applique. 

The only slight quibble I would have is that there is not a lot of advice on choosing fabrics.  The advice is usually confined to "sort scraps into lights, mediums and darks."  I know that many quilters lack confidence in choosing fabric, so this could be an area for improvement.  The up side is that with a scrap quilt a little bit of imperfection adds to the charm.

There were three projects that gave me ideas for the future.  The hourglass quilt on the cover is quite striking, and I probably have enough scraps to do it right now.  It uses a more "country" palette with brown undertones, and I have a lot of older fabrics in these colours.  I find myself preferring clearer colours in the new fabrics I buy, so this could be a good way to use up that older fabric.  The fun thing about this quilt is that there are a couple of surprises in it - can you see the nine patch block in the cover photo?

I also like the quilt in the bottom right hand corner of the cover.  It is made of nine patch blocks with white centres and sashing.  White makes a quilt look very modern and fresh to me.  It is not just white in the borders, there is also a lot of white in the fabric prints that tie it all together.  It was fun to see some of the same fabrics in this quilt that I used in my yoyos!

There is also a low-contrast snowball block quilt in the magazine that got me thinking about a project that's been in the back of my mind for a while now.  I've seen snowball blocks all over lately and liked them, but never seriously thought about making any.  But this time it clicked.

My mother collects chicken-themed things, so I've been collecting chicken-themed fabrics for a couple of years now with the intention of making a throw quilt.  You need a block with a simple design to show off all those fabrics, and a snowball block would be ideal!  I can make the corners in solid black and white to unify the quilt and give it some graphic punch.  Perfect!

The chicken fabrics are in the unwashed part of my stash, and it was all I could do to not immediately throw them all in the washing machine.  But I was observing my first day of rest, and laundry didn't seem to fit with that, so I am still waiting.  Anyway, you already know that I have plenty on the go!

Finally, another quilt I really liked in the magazine but am unlikely to make, now anyway, was a design by Valori Wells, whose designs are always very fresh.  It is all machine-appliqued concentric circles, done in bright, solid colours.  I think this is the big new trend in quilting, solid fabrics, and we will start seeing more of them.

Gosh, I have gone on at length here!  I will review the second magazine, Quiltmania #85, tomorrow.
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