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Color and Shape: Two Book Reviews

By Addy Harkavy

Mary Mashuta’s Confetti Quilts:  A no-fuss approach to color, fabric & design
By Mary Mashuta
C&T Publishing, 2003
Paperbound,  112 pages
Suggested Retail: $26.95

This is one book you can judge by its cover.   Exciting, thrilling, and inspiring, it’s the kind of book that makes you want run to your fabric stash and dig right in.  I am going to do exactly that. 

If you love color and want to design your own quilts, then you probably need this book.   It could change your relationship with your stash.

Mary Mashuta explores the magic of color in magical ways.  She uses architectural photographs to illustrate basic color schemes (monochromatic, analogous, complementary, split complementary, and polychromatic) to show us that color and color schemes are everywhere we look.  Though she doesn’t come right out and say it, what Mashuta has given us is a way to analyze what we do that makes real-world color schemes work, the better to incorporate our observations into our quilts. 

All of a sudden it makes sense why, for example, a semi-wild garden patch of daylilies with other plants’ blossoms and foliage looks great.  You see the yellow hyperion daylilies first, and then you notice the soft apricots, the pinks-on-lavender, and the yellow-tinged almost-white ones.  As your eye takes in the background and relaxes, you become aware that the green daylily foliage is enhanced by the yellow-green of Lady’s Mantle flowers, the dusty, soft green of lychnis and the yellower green of a dwarf Spiraea.  Color, texture, and value cooperate to create a visual tapestry.

This observation leads us to Mashuta’s next point, which cautions against overmatching.  A woman after my own heart. 

After exploring a variety of color schemes, including pushed naturals, Mashuta forges on to fabric to focus on ways in which dots, stripes, plaids, batiks, and prints contribute to overall quilt design.      She also shows us how to construct a set of “rules” or guidelines that can help keep us honest as we go about making a cohesively designed quilt along with tricks to keep any block’s negative space (background) fresh and interesting.

Confetti Quilts demystifies the making of quilts in which blocks flow into one another.  The principle is really very simple.  Cut the patches for blocks and assemble them on a design wall before sewing the actual blocks.  The illustrative quilts, all of which are made from simple blocks, show just how important a design wall can be.   Mashuta doesn’t let us down here; she gives easy-to-implement instructions for siting and making a design wall.   As an aside, my own design wall is inadequate at best, and I am considering building one that resembles a shoji that can be pushed back and forth along a ceiling-mounted track. 

Mashuta provides firm foundations for making six projects, each of which is based on a simple, traditional-style block.   For each project (or block) she provides a variety of “right answers” to show quilters how color and design choices can change the outcome. 

This is a book to read and reread, to keep on your reference shelf, and to enjoy again and again, and again. 



Triangle Tricks:  One easy unit, dozens of gorgeous quilts
By Sally Schneider
Martingale Press, 2003
Paperbound, 80 pages 
Suggested Retail: $22.95

Do you hate to make blocks comprised of triangles but aspire to make quilts with triangles as block units?  If so, then this book is for you.    

Sally Schneider has teamed up with Martingale Press to produce a book based on Schneider’s “Mary’s Triangles” block, named for her friend Mary, a nonquilter who inspired the concept. 

Though the Mary’s Triangles block looks familiar, its assembly is something new.  You assemble and join squares and rectangles to complete dozens of accurately pieced blocks in just a few hours.  Now you can easily make the pieced fish block, stars, pinwheel stars, sister’s choice (a version of grandmother’s choice), and many other triangle blocks that can be placed in a variety of ways or combined to make loads and loads of original quilts. 

Unlike many quick and easy techniques that produce quilts that look quick and easy, this technique gives you what you need to complete complex – even intricate – designs based on these blocks.  Your level of intricacy will depend upon your choice of block size, layout, color, value, and [color] placement.

The book includes tips for playing with color, settings, and rotations and offers directions for ten triangle-intensive quilts.  In addition, it includes cutting charts for making blocks that range from 2” to 12” square, and an inspiring quilt gallery. 

I tried the two blocks (blocks A and B) and found that the directions were fool proof and easy to follow.

Beginners will find that this book opens new doors, and experienced quilters will delight in having two blocks that provide ample room for creative design.

Addy Harkavy is a regular contributor of product and book reviews to Planet Patchwork. She lives in Maine with her husband and dogs.

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