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January 2003

Planet Patchwork Bookbriefs are published in newsletter form and distributed by e-mail to subscribers to the Planet Patchwork Update List, as well as being published here on the web. If you'd like to join our Update List, you can subscribe here.

BookBriefs provides subscribers thumbnail descriptions and reviews of new (and sometimes not-so-new) quilting books on the market, along with links to where the books can be purchased through The Planet Patchwork Quilters' Bookstore. (Just click on the title or the link provided.) All prices listed are retail. We offer discounts on most books.

Reviews by Rob and Lynn Holland

Treasures Underfoot: Quilting with Manhole Covers, Round 2
By Shirley MacGregor
The Carriage Trade Press, 2001
Paperbound, 144 pages
Suggested retail: $29.95

Several years ago we reviewed the first book of manhole cover quilts, finding it the most unique collection of quilt designs we'd seen in a long time. The premise of that book, and its successor collection, Treasures Underfoot, is the translation of the many municipal manhole covers of Japan into fiber art. The Japanese make something of a fine art of designing coverings for the holes in their streets and sidewalks, and each community takes great pride in its contribution to the genre. MacGregor's extension of the idea was to get these designs off the street and into quilts, and she enlisted the talents of quilters world-wide to assist her. In this beautifully-produced and self-published volume, MacGregor features dozens of new manhole cover designs, along with thumbnails of the communities that created them. Each one is then enriched by interpretation by a quilter and a rendering in fabric. Some of the interpretations try to be true to the original design, while others use elements of the design as inspiration for something new. Either way, the result is beautiful and fascinating. The book does not include projects with detailed instructions, but there is enough information and illustration to make it possible for any quilter who chooses to try her hand at one of these round treasures. And this is one of the best introductions to Japanese culture that I know! Kudos to Shirley MacGregor for making this volume even richer than the last.

The Best of Black Mountain Quilts
By Teri Christopherson
Martingale & Co., 2002
Paperbound, 144 pages
Suggested retail: $28.95

Teri Christopherson owns up to very eclectic tastes that “change with my mood,” and this book reflects that variety. What unifies it is a very definite bent toward traditional quilt designs and a love of rich, warm color combinations. The thirty patterns presented in this book are selected from the designs of the Black Mountain Quilts pattern company, and range from the whimsical to the very elegant and subtle. Although traditional, these quilts display lots of new twists, such as the “Watermelon Picnic” quilt, which uses log cabin blocks to depict watermelon slices. The photography is superb, the instructions meticulous, and patterns include table runners, pillows, and tree decorations as well as quilts. Both appliqué and pieced techniques are featured.

Four Seasons in Flannel
By Jean Wells and Lawry Thorn
C&T Publishing, 2002
Paperbound, 128 pages
Suggested retail: $27.95

Flannel is a fabric that makes me think of the woods: the cabin, the fireplace, the pine trees and the bears. The authors of this collection of 23 patterns to be made out of flannel go with that woodsiness in their designs, featuring a rustic look embellished with buttonhole stitching, appliquéd animals, and simple embroidered details. There are lots of pillows, table-toppers, and “mug rugs” (coasters) as well quilts in varying sizes, made mostly out of simple blocks or appliquéd patterns. True to its title, the book is organized by season, and would be a great place to find a pattern for that flannel quilt you’ve thought you might make. The authors include many tips on how flannel fabric behaves, with suggestions on how to use it to best advantage.

Add-a-Line: Continuous Quilting Patterns
By Janie Donaldson
American Quilters’ Society, 2002
Paperbound, 128 pages
Suggested Retail: $24.95

This is a long-arm quilter’s picture book, a collection of one- to four-line continuous quilting patterns designed for pantographs that can add great beauty to a quilt. There isn’t much narrative here – it’s assumed you know what these patterns are and how they’re to be used. There are copyable segments of each pattern, and a diagram for each showing proper placement. What makes the book interesting is the concept of adding lines. The designs progress in complexity as the book proceeds by adding a line at a time to the design. Many of these are border designs, and many are good all-over patterns. Some are clearly centerpieces. At the end of the book is a small gallery showing other techniques of cutaway reverse appliqué and other techniques to add excitement to your quilts using these patterns.

Bear’s Paw Plus
By Pat A. Syta
Martingale & Company, 2002
Paperbound, 48 pages
Suggested Retail: $16.95

This book is narrowly focused on a technique for quilt-making based on variations of the popular bear’s paw block. The idea grew out of teaching experiences at a quilt camp, and involves replacing the traditional center or “paw pad” of this block with a simple sampler block, like the nine-patch or the shoofly. The effect can be quite dramatic and beautiful, as well as being a lot of fun. The book contains instructions for making the sampler blocks as well as general information on rotary cutting, borders, and binding. Full color with lots of example quilts.

Paper Piecing with Alex Anderson
By Alex Anderson
C&T Publishing, 2002
Paperbound, 48 pages
Suggested retail: $14.95

The popular host of HGTV’s “Simply Quilts” has published another in her long series of booklets on quilting basics with this volume on foundation paper piecing. As with all of Alex’s books, it is a concise and well-organized introduction to this special technique, with six illustrative projects. Because paper piecing involves working with sometimes small pieces, and removal of paper foundations after block construction, Alex’s list of recommended supplies includes surgical tweezers and the Clover mini-iron. Other similarly useful tips are included throughout, and Alex’s clear prose is accompanied by lots of color photos and diagrams. This reasonably priced volume provides beginners not only practical instruction but also the inspiration of dazzling projects.

Paper Piecing Picnic: Fun-filled Projects for Every Quilter
From Quilter’s Newsletter and Quiltmaker Magazines
C&T Publishing, 2001
Paperbound, 96 pages
Suggested retail: $23.95

If you can’t get enough of paper piecing, an alternative (or additional) set of instructions and attractive projects (16 in all) is offered in this collection from Quilter’s Newsletter. It begins with “Paper Piecing 101” and then offers detailed instructions for projects taken from their magazine, arranged in order of difficulty. There are some really interesting quilts in this group, including charming children’s dinosaur and kite quilts, and a “Garden Patch” quilt including paper pieced blocks for a half-dozen vegetables. For the more advanced, there are a number of opportunities to test your skills, including a breathtaking “Indian Wedding Ring” (or pickledish) quilt from Cynthia Caroff.

Artful Album Quilts: Appliqué Inspirations from Traditional Blocks
By Jane Townswick
Martingale & Company, 2001
Paperbound, 128 pages
Suggested retail: $28.95

The Baltimore album appliqué style is among the most rigidly traditional of all. What makes a Baltimore album – the elaborate fruit and flower appliqué patterns – doesn’t allow for much creativity of design for the quilter. Or does it? Jane Townswick undertakes in her new book to show how quilters can put new wine in old bottles by ringing changes on traditional album blocks. Starting with a significant example of the style, an 1857 quilt from New York state, belonging to the State Historical Association, Townswick shows the reader how to update and vary the traditional blocks in the quilt for a fresh and contemporary look that still is clearly in the Baltimore tradition. Townswick also uses fabric selection to update her look, and the effects of including Skydyes and other contemporary fabrics are refreshing and new. The book is full of tricks and techniques for easier appliqué. If you think Baltimore albums tend to be a bit stuffy, this book is a good antidote!

In the Studio with Judy Murrah
By Judy Murrah
Martingale & Company, 2001
Paperbound, 96 pages
Suggested retail: $24.95

Just about every quilter has started out quilting in a space designed for something else - the dining room table, a corner of the bedroom, a closet or basement. And most of them suffer from a particular kind of malady known as "studio envy." If these quilters eventually become affluent or lucky enough to acquire a real studio, they then display the equally unpleasant symptoms of "studio flaunting." Studio flaunting is what Judy Murrah does in the first chapter of her new book, and all of you out there still sewing in a catbox should be prepared for a flare-up of your studio envy. Murrah's flaunting does have a purpose beyond self-congratulation, though, as her first chapter contains a great many good ideas for organizing your sewing, whether it be in a large room or a small one. After that, she moves on to a dozen colorful, creative, and fun projects that have a great deal of appeal. My favorite of these is "Crazy Logs," a crazy-patch variation of the log cabin pattern, which is used in both a small quilt and in a jacket. She also presents a charming 10 by 14-inch "love note" quilt that can be adapted for a number of occasions. Embellishments and special fabric techniques add grace notes to these appealing projects.

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