"Crazy Quilting" and "Silk Ribbon Embroidery" By Judith Baker
Length: 60 minutes
Price: $19.95 each
Anybody who has ever watched any sewing or quilting shows on public television knows, well, knows why they are on public television!
Whether it be Georgia Bonesteel, Shar Jorgenson, Nancy and her Notions, or "wild and crazy" Eleanor Burns, these shows lack much theatrical sense or even decent film editing and are, in a word, boring. It is only our interest in the subject matter, and the techniques being presented, that keep us doggedly glued to the screen. And sometimes even that isn't enough.
At the risk of being accused of having no attention span, I submit that quilting on television has no more right to bore us to death than anything else. We wouldn't accept such treatment from drama or situation comedy, or even sports (well, maybe golf), so why should we accept it from quilters?
It was with this admittedly surly attitude that I approached the two videos recently released by Judith Baker Montano through C&T Publishing, "Crazy Quilting" and "Silk Ribbon Embroidery." I was hoping that these new videos would show me something quilting TV never has -- some style and grace of presentation.
I'm afraid I was disappointed.
Ms. Montano is quite accomplished in her sewing skills, but she is as stiff as a darning needle when she stands or sits before a camera. She does a credible job of maintaining a patter and describing the details of the technique she is demonstrating, and she has a subtle sense of humor, but her flat presentation and sometimes strained enthusiasm aren't exactly riveting.
I undertand perfectly well that Judy Montano is neither a born nor a trained actor, and I'm don't fault her for not being Katherine Hepburn. Although I do think a little training (and better directing) could help.
I have less patience with the film's producers, however, in their heavy-handed approach. This kind of material, admittedly static and difficult to present, demands more sensitivity, not less, than your average film. Instead the folks who produced these videos seem to have capitulated to their material and their attempts to give the viewer variety are at best reluctant and studied. There are no interesting camera angles or special effects, and the pace is deadening. The camera people know little but zoom and pan, and most of the time the camera does nothing at all except stand there dumbly.
O.K., so we don't watch these videos to be entertained. We watch them to learn, right?
On this score I have to give them high marks. Clearly Ms. Montano knows her material, and presents it in a logical way, with the steps clearly defined and demonstrated onscreen.
In the "Crazy Quilting" video, she begins with a brief history of the origins of crazy quilting, stating it was the first commercial sewing craze to sweep the U.S., following an international exposition. She then walks us carefully through the various aspects of crazy quilting, including the basic design, piecing, and embellishment. She explains the peculiar effect of crazy quilt piecing, created by irregularly-shaped patches, and demonstrates with a small sample how to piece and trim to maintain that irregularity.
One of her most interesting digressions is a quick lesson in color, the types of colors that best go together, and the different effects you can achieve with pastels, jewel tones, and other variants of the spectrum. It is from their use of color as much as their unconventional geometry that crazy quilts get their distinctive look.
These videos are perhaps most useful in their careful teaching of specific stitching techniques. "Crazy Quilting" teaches a number of fancy large applique stitches, with good close-up work and explanations from Ms. Montano. She is obviously very experienced and a competent and caring teacher.
There is more of this kind of detailed teaching in the "Silk Ribbon Embroidery" tape, where she systematically builds a small brooch, demonstrating the construction of each flower as she goes. She also shows a variety of ways in which silk ribbon embroidery can be incorporated into other types of needlework.
The advantage of video over the printed page, of course, is that it is closer to classroom teaching, where technique can be fully demonstrated instead of just diagrammed. These tapes would both be great additions to a guild library or to your personal collection, even if they weren't produced by Steven Spielberg. They provide as much detailed information as a beginning class, and of course you can go back to them for a refresher whenever you want to fire up your VCR.
For more information and to order these videos, go to the Planet Patchwork Quilters' Video Store
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