The Virtual Quilt, A
Newsletter for Computing Quilters

Number Fourteen * February 15, 1997

Classifieds | Table of Contents

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Stars and Kaleidoscopes

Simply Stars: Quilts That Sparkle By Alex Anderson C&T Publishing, 1996 96 Pages, $21.95

Kaleidoscopes & Quilts By Paula Nadelstern C&T Publishing, 1996 144 Pages, $24.95

Certain shapes have a perennial appeal. They have their origins in nature, but through human imaginings are transformed: simplified, embellished, regularized, concatenated, recolored, shaped and molded, until they become something nature never dreamed of, and find their way into our quilts.

These two books, Alex Anderson's Simply Stars and Paula Nadelstern's Kaleidoscopes & Quilts, both take wing from one of these families of shapes, the stars that blink at us from far galaxies. Despite their common inspirations, the approaches of these two quilters to design and technique are very different. The similarity is they both produce stunning quilts.

Simply StarsAlex Anderson's Simply Stars is probably the definitive text on making star blocks and quilts. It is organized, conveniently, according to construction method, including chapters on "Stars Made of Squares and Triangles," "Stars Made of an Isosceles Triangle in a Square," and "Stars Made of Diamonds and Y Seams." If these sound a little complicated, they become more familiar as the star blocks take on names: sawtooth, double sawtooth, Martha Washington, Le Moyne, 54-40 or Fight, and so on.

But before she gets into the nitty details, Alex gives us an introduction and some general instructions which are among the best I've seen in a quilting book. In her introduction, for example, she presents all in one place the "magic (cutting) numbers which we all hear and then promptly forget. How much do you add to the finished size when you're cutting half-square triangles? How much is it for quarter-squares? It's all right here, methodically laid out, with diagrams.

Following this, she gives the reader an excellent section on fabric and color choice. Knowing that fabric selection for a quilt is often the most difficult part for quilters, she cites a story about herself: "I once had a teacher who stopped me in my tracks when I was complaining about the use of different colors. She said, 'To say you hate a color tells me you are ignorant of its use.' Needless to say, that was a life-changing experience for me. Now I treat every bolt of fabric in every color family as a potential candidate."

Alex AndersonTo underscore this general observation, she then takes us through a series of potential star quilts in different color and fabric schemes -- holiday, focus, neutrals, theme, historical, monochromatic, solid, scrap, etc. Each of her examples, accompanied by color photographs, adds to our understanding of the infinite possibilities that color affords.

One of my favorite things about contemporary quilt books is the color gallery of quilts they contain. The quality of C&T's photography and printing is always superb, and the quilts in this gallery, made by Alex, her students, and others, are simply stunning. One of the most interesting design techniques in these star quilts is the use of different sized stars and unusual settings to break up the lockstep monotony that is the risk in traditional quilts.

The bulk of the book contains detailed instructions on making a variety of star blocks and quilts out of those blocks. Alex considerately provides instructions for quilters who like templates (template patterns are provided in the book) and for those who use quick-cutting techniques.

The book is rounded out with a "Stellar Ending," in which setting, borders, backing, quilting, and binding are all considered. Her observations and advice in these sections are as insightful and helpful as everywhere else in the book. At the end she also offers a 4-week course outline based on the Simply Stars text.

If you feel like you've lured into a world of dense design complexity among Alex's stars, Paula Nadelstern's Kaleidoscopes and Quilts will draw you even deeper into the forest with her very demanding yet explosively colorful quilts based on kaleidoscope designs.

Paula NadelsternPaula is a very engaging writer, and she draws you into her life from the start with a description of her New York City neighborhood: "I make my quilts on the same block in the Bronx where I grew up. The view from our ninth-floor window is one of the most northern exposures in New York City, showcasing acres of tree-filled park and empty sky. My daughter Ariel is the third generation of my family to live in this neighborhood that prides itself on a sense of community and cooperative spirit. She grew up with the expectation that she might bump into either set of grandparents when she walked down the street."

She makes her quilts on a small table, using some templates and a Singer Featherweight sewing machine, yet out of this very cramped urban setting emerge some of the most exotic flowers of contemporary quilting. These are generously presented in the book's gallery, which dramatically sets Paula's quilts against mostly black backgrounds.

The quilts are gorgeous -- rich, vibrantly colorful, complex, surprising. Making them, however, is not for sissies!

Kaleidoscopes & QuiltsYou begin to get a clue when among the tools that Paula recommends is "a protractor with notations for both whole and half degrees." She also warns that pencils must be well-sharpened, with ample erasers, "because lines have not only length but also width." These are indicators of the high degree of precision and patience involved in creating this type of design. Kaleidoscope patterns are among the most intricate symmetries known to human art, and require not only tight control of point and angle, but an in-depth knowledge of fabric design types and color.

Intricacy of design requires intricacy of technique, but Paula seems fully up to the task of teaching the rest of us how to do this. And she does it with humor, too! She covers all the bases of measurement, cutting, fabric selection (with an illuminating analysis of different fabric pattern types). She even gives a tutorial in "how to piece itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny pieces."

If kaleidoscopes require more precision than other types of quilts, they also paradoxically require more spontaneity: "Designing a kaleidoscope block is basically visual invention," Paula says. "There is no 'correct' way to continue the piece in progress." In fact, working with this type of design requires us to unlearn certain basic quilting practices. Sometimes cutting off the points or flipping the piece around to make new combinations is the difference between a ho-hum and a sparkling design.

Readers will also find Paula's discussions of design sensibility (unity, focal point, balance, rhythm, line), color value and contrast, and fabric types interesting and valuable no matter what type of quilt you are making.

Because of its focus on a very particular type of quilt design and construction, Kaleidoscopes & Quilts doesn't try to be a comprehensive quilting book, or a text for beginners. Instead of a final section on bindings, there is instead a discussion of real kaleidoscopes and the current renaissance in kaleidoscope-making, including interviews with kaleidoscope makers.

Whether you decide you have the inclination, time, patience, or moxie to make one of these quilts, this book is a rich source of inspiration, and a thing of beauty.



Your internet mail order quilt store!

This month's Stash Builder's Special is in fresh, clear colors of spring: yellow, pink and blue. Fabrics are by Moda, Rose & Hubble, Jinny Beyer, and Norcott Silk. 9 FQ's for $15.75 plus shipping. Come see the fabric at my web site: or e-mail for more information.


"quilt labels designed with quilters in mind"

FREE Thangles sample with e-mail request MOUSEPAD of your choice with prepaid order of $25. or more! Visit our web site at LOOK FORWARD to new labels in March and a "Block of the Month" QUILT that will introduce you to Thangles - It will be SUPER!


UNIQUE GIFT -- FANNY PURSE, WHEELCHAIR BAG, WALKER BAG OR QUILTED TOTE! One of a kind, 100% cotton, machine- pieced, quilted, fully lined with inside pocket . . . bold, bright, vibrant, quilt designer fabric used.

TIES BY JERRY are HAND-STITCHED, 100% designer cotton, bias-cut, with satin linings. Premium tie interfacing (NOT IRON-ON) used throughout. COMPLETELY SLIPSTITCHED with matching keeper.

Does your husband admire the fabrics in your quilts? You can have a special hand-made tie from your fabric! TIES MADE WITH YOUR 1/2 YARD OF 100% COTTON FABRIC $15.00 PLUS SHIPPING.

FOR DETAILS on ties or bags, e-mail Millie Becker at ENRG18A@PRODIGY.COM.


Hickory Hill Antique Quilts offers a complete line of vintage American quilts, tops and related items at reasonable prices. Visit our main catalog of quilts, tops, blocks and fabrics at and our Update and Picture page at To order, call 518-875-6133 or E-mail to confirm availability and shipping costs. We will hold your item pending receipt of your check or you may charge your MasterCard, Visa or Discover. We also have a layaway plan. All items are 100% satisfaction guaranteed. We hope you enjoy owning your very own piece of American history!


Quilt Shop Service -- Discount Prices

Looking for discounted quilting supplies and books? Look to PineTree for discounts of 20%, accompanied by attentive customer service and prompt shipping!

You'll find a huge selection of batting, from Quilter's Cotton fine cotton batts to the full lines of Hobbs' and Fairfield's cottons, blends, and polys. Look for tools to make applique easier and more fun; fabric and hand care products; pencils and markers; templates and template plastic; needlecraft gloves; rotary cutters and related supplies; rippers, clippers, snippers, and scissors; machine sewing needles; seven (!) brands of hand sewing needles -- including Jeana Kimball's renowned Foxglove Cottage needles; basting systems; thread, including Mettler and Gutermann cotton sewing and quilting, Tire silk sewing, and Sulky rayon, metallic, and sliver, and *new* Roxy 100% cotton thread on economical 1200-yard spools ... and more. Though not listed in the catalog or on the web pages, PineTree sells books at 20% off retail; e-mail title and author for price quote.

PineTree carries *New, New, New* for machine quilters, the Quilt Sew Easy -- the tool that holds your workpiece taut while helping to eliminate fatigue. It's not in the catalog (but you'll find it on the web page!).

Look for patterns by applique patterns by Jeana Kimball, template-free patterns by Gretchen McKenzie-Clarke, paper-pieced Mariner's Compasses by Lori Nixon, and paper piecing patterns by Jan Engan on the home page:, where you can also check out the rest of the catalog. PineTree will send you a hard copy of the catalog if you e-mail your name/address/city/state/zip to! If you are on AOL and prefer to contact someone on AOL, Donna, whose e-mail address is QuiltQtrs, has joined the PineTree team!

Visa, MasterCard, and Discover are all welcome. PineTree is online to answer questions about quilting products at


Have you had your "goose" today? If not, you should e-mail Schoolhouse Enterprises ( with your "snail mail" address for your FREE CATALOG and Sample of Gridded Geese(c)! Gridded Geese(c) is a unique paper foundation method for mass-producing Flying Geese units up to 24 at once (similar to the half-square triangle papers, which, BTW, are included in their catalog).

The Schoolhouse Enterprises catalog offers lots of Other Fun Stuff, too, like mini Kaleidoscope Pendants, Hearts-a-Ticking Pin Kits, adorable Post-It(r) Note Cubes, hand painted "Button-Buttons," "No Whining" pins, plus Feed Sack Gift Bags to "wrap" them in!

Now, as for our February Monthly $pecial. . . .

Once upon a time, we said we'd put our "Button Buttons" on sale when pigs fly....but when COWS fly, that's another matter entirely! Check out THIS story.... February 18 marks the anniversary (from 1930) when Elm Farm Ollie became the first cow to fly in an airplane. Not only that, but during the flight, which was attended by reporters, she was milked and the milk was sealed in paper containers and parachuted over St. Louis, Missouri. So, in honor of Elm Farm Ollie Day in Wisconsin, our February $pecial is that our "Button Buttons" are on sale..... Regular price is $4.95 per set. For orders phoned, faxed and/or postmarked during the month of February, we'll offer you the incredible price of only $7.95 for any two sets of "Button Buttons!" This offer is only good on orders received or postmarked during the month of February, so don't delay! After all, cows don't fly every day!

No time for "snail mail" catalogs? Then visit the Schoolhouse Enterprises web site (!

Perfect Square

Perfect Square is a reusable iron on grid transfer used to make half square triangles quickly, easily and accurately. Each sheet can be used at least 10 times, usually more. For more information, e-mail or check out my web site. At the moment, it is under construction and will improve over the next week or so. The address is Let me know what you think.


ARTFABR!K now carries a Color Card for their extraordinary hand-dyed perle cotton threads available in sizes 3, 5, 8 and the finest, size 12. Please send $7 plus $1 for shipping to ARTFABR!K, Laura Wasilowski, 324 Vincent Place, Elgin, IL 60123. E-mail

JAYDEE DESIGNS Beautiful hand Dyed Fabric perfect for piecing, applique and pictorial quilts. Colors range from a sunrise spectrum of mauves, pinks, and golds to deep purples, blues and teals. Available in the following convenient packages:

8 step color progression- fat eighth cuts- 1 yard $25.00
12 step color wheel- 6"x22"cuts 1 yard $25.00
24 step color wheel- 6"x22" cuts 2 yards $45.00
  10" squares 1.5 yards $35.00

Send a self addressed, stamped envelope for free samples and full price list or to order send check or money order to:

Jay Dee Designs 18640 South Lowrie Loop Eagle River, Alaska 99577



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In This Issue:

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Editor and Publisher: Robert Holland, Decatur, GA

1997 by Robert Holland. All rights reserved. This file may not be reproduced in any form except to be printed out for the personal use of its owner without the expressed, written consent of the copyright holder.


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