Friday, July 23, 2010

A New Generation of Sampler Quilts is Upon Us

Consider the sampler quilt. That venerable staple that so many quilters learn on has a long but boring history: make six (or 12 or some other even number) blocks, each different but all the same size. Sash them, make cornerstones, add a simple border and voila - your first quilt. Teachers and students love samplers for combining all the basic techniques in one neat package, but they can be so blah.

Well, it's a new day in the quilt world, given Marianne Hatton's approach in Simply Dynamic Sampler Quilts. Gone is the concept that all blocks must be the same size. Her GridMap (copyright) technique shows and encourages the accurate use and placement of blocks of diverse sizes.

Gone are boring, matchy-matchy color schemes. Now samplers can be thematic, evocative, and artful.

This experienced teacher pulls all of this off while giving excellent basic how-to-quilt instructions, so shops will still love giving sampler classes to beginners. In fact, this book is a gentle exercise in design, which frightens so many new (and some not-so-new) quilters and so many people find difficult to teach.

If you're looking for a fresh approach to teaching, have a sampler idea of your own you wish were snappier, or like designing traditional-but-contemporary-too quilts, the next generation sampler quilts in this book are for you. AQS #8237 (800-626-5420)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Considering Quilting Trends

I'm occasionally asked to write something for a special project at AQS and this is always a delightful task. I did, after all, begin my career as a writer before becoming an editor.

The 2011 Kentucky Visitor's Guide will have a very short piece by me in it about Kentucky's quilt heritage. This topic has been admirably covered by others, including Jonathan Holstein and Shelly Zegart, and I make no claim to improving ground they have so capably made flourish; I'm just reporting.

What I do want to say, though, is that researching that super short article has reminded me once again of how accomplished 19th and 20th century quilters were. With very few tools, bad lighting, not a lot of time and questionable fabric and thread, they created quilts that would stun us today, even if made with the very latest in everything quilting.

Take a look at Kentucky Quilts 1800-1900  (Pantheon Books, 1982) to see what I mean. Whether your taste is what you see or not, you must be impressed with the creativity, artistry and workmanship in those quilts. In the 21st century, we have embarked on a campaign to make quilting as quick, easy, fun and painless as possible. I can't say if this is good or bad, and I don't mean to. I just think it's astonishing, when we take the time to look back, at what our foremothers made happen with needle and thread, unsupported by an almost 4 billion dollar industry.

We should give thanks every day that we have so much creative and artistic support, from fabric manufacturers to thread makers to tool creators to teachers and, yes, publishers like AQS. The list is becoming endless, and that, in itself, is cause for celebration. Quilters have never had it so good.

Take some time to really examine the much older quilts we are lucky to have available to us, whether in books, in exhibits or in person. My hope is that you will have an epiphany similar to mine.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spice Up Your Quilts

It's so much fun to find (and buy) gadgets and gizmos that bring out your creativity, we sometimes overlook the tried-and-true we already have.

Consider the sewing machine. Whether sort of old (like some of us) or loaded with bells and whistles (also like some of us), not many people take full advantage of the machine's properties when making quilts.

Enter 9 very talented Janome educators. Led by editor Nancy Fiedler, they have compiled a nifty book that explains 11 different techniques (plus 4 variations) and designed 13 really creative projects to teach how to take make the best use of what you probably already own. Make an oval table runner, a bed scarf, even a fringed journal for sketching or noting your best ideas. Wallhangings, quilts and pillows are in this book, from traditional to contemporary in style.

In addition, the book has "Bright Idea" boxes with suggestions of taking each technique further or in a different direction.

The contributors are (in order of appearance in the book): Kim Schultz, Valora Hammond, Carol McKinney, Nancy Fiedler, Mary Carollo, Marilyn Gatz, Nancy Burg, Louis Carney and Patsy Shields. Their names may be familiar if you've taken classes at AQS shows where Janome machines are used, or if you've been to other sewing events where class instructors are assisted by these oh-so-knowledgeable sewing machine experts.

Once you've read Creative Sewing Techniques by Machine, you'll never make ho-hum projects again, and your machine will truly be your creativity ally. (AQS # 8235; 1-800-626-5429)