Patchwork Quilts Made Easy With Jean Wells
C&T Publishing, 1996
Running Time: 60 minutes
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TVQ subscribers have read my grousings previously on these pages about quilting videos. Even taking into account the fact that quilting teachers are not trained performers, videos and television shows made for quilters are often among the dullest of the dull. Production companies faced with the task of producing an instructional video seem to forget that entertainment values may be even more important than they are in presenting less detailed and specialized subject matter.
It is with some pleasure, then, that I am able to report that somebody making these videos has begun to figure this out. The new release from C&T, "Patchwork Quilts Made Easy," a video aimed at beginning quilters, has taken a fresh approach to the teaching of basic skills and has made a varied, colorful, informative and inspiring film about quilting. It can be enjoyed by beginners and veterans alike, and strikes a nice balance between the detailed and specific need for instruction and an impressionistic collage of quilt images that awaken our imaginations.
At the center of the video is Jean Wells, owner of The Stitchin' Post quilt store in Sisters, Oregon, a town famous for its annual outdoor quilt show. Jean is animated and has a relaxed manner which makes her quite at ease in front of a camera. She is preceded by some imaginative camera work and lively theme music which acts as a unifying element throughout the video, and as a consistent transition from section to section.
The producers have also avoided another deadly mistake, sitting the quilter down behind a sewing machine. When we first see Jean, she is standing up in front of colorful racks of fabric in her store, as she takes us through an excellent introduction to fabric selection. She stands up throughout, even when she is sewing, and this simple technique helps counteract the static feel that usually pervades quilting videos.
The tutorial on color starts with bolts of fabric and then moves on to look at several quilts with an analysis of how each one uses color and how the fabrics work together in the overall design. This portion of the video would be especially helpful to someone who has the technical skills necessary for quilting but lacks confidence in color and fabric selection.
The video then moves on to a section called "Tools," which runs through the basic tools for quilting, including rotary cutter, ruler, and self-healing mat.
At the heart of the video is the construction of a four-block sampler quilt which teaches many of the basic techniques of cutting and piecing. A little bit more variety is introduced in this section by bringing Laurie Thorne, Jean's store manager, onto the screen to assist in demonstrating these techniques. It's only too bad that they don't let poor Laurie say a word. We could use a break from Jean's somewhat nasal voice.
Throughout the demonstrations, the video retains a homey quality, and mistakes made by the quilters are allowed to stay in and become a part of the teaching, just as they would in a real classroom. The demonstration focuses on basic strip construction, rotary cutting technique, and chain-piecing to make simple blocks including 9-patches, log cabins, and the ultimate use of these blocks to construct a whole top with sashing and borders.
Again paying attention to production values, the video producers don't spend a lot of time on the detail of the particular blocks. Instead they provide the viewer all the particulars of how many patches of what size are needed, and how they fit together, in a quick visual overview at the end of the demonstration. The instructions are printed on the screen and the viewer is encouraged to use her pause button to stop the video and copy it all down.
After this intensive instructional section, the video returns to look at some quilts, as Jean talks about a variety of issues using samplers in a variety of styles and colors. We are then transported through the magic of television to Jean's home, where she shows us some of her personal quilt collection. These are among the most interesting quilts in the video, including a fan sampler quilt set on point, an elegant beige and white log cabin, a "sculpted" quilt, and a large velvet log cabin. Some of her family's legacy quilts are also displayed.
The video concludes by showing scenes from some of the quilting classes given at The Stitchin' Post and a final collage of colorful splashes of quilts and fabrics, along with a few plugs from Jean for the store and for her companion book, also entitled Patchwork Quilts Made Easy.
This video would make an excellent addition to any guild library or a gift for an aspiring quilter. It has the advantages of actual classroom style demonstration along with the ability to hit the rewind and go back over the parts you might not have understood.
For more information and to order other quilting videos, visit our Quilters' Video Store!
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