14 December 2012

Book Review: Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe

Review of Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe


What it is: 
A collection of 19 quilts made by bloggers with piecing instructions for each quilt and a “bio” of each designer, written by the designer.

Basic breakdown of the book's contents:
(1)
Introduction (1 page) 1% of the book
In this section, a brief explanation of the book is provided.

(2)
The Quilt Patterns (77 pages) 88% of the book
Each pattern begins with a big, beautiful photograph of the quilt.  Each pattern is approximately four pages long. The instructions seem clear and easy to follow; they include step-by-step computer illustrations. If the quilt back is pieced a picture and explanation is included.  The difficulty of the pattern or the skills it requires used isn’t indicated; only one version of each quilt is shown.
Review of Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe



(3)
Biographies for each designer (10 pages) 11% of the book
These were written by each of the designers and are included at the close of his/her pattern.

Review of Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe


**There is no space given over to on basic quiltmaking techniques (1/4-inch seams, binding, etc.) Should you need it, this information can be found on the publishers website! I think this is awesome, it keeps the price of the book lower and most quilters don't need that information.

What it is not: 
This book is not everything it claims to be in its introduction and on its cover.

(1)
In the introduction, the editor--actually, it is unclear who wrote the introduction, I’m assuming it was the editor--states that the book, “focuses on a specific aesthetic.” To my eye, there is quite a wide range of aesthetics being presented.



While the variety could be a strength of the book, the quilts aren’t organized thematically and so the book ends up feeling a bit aesthetically jumbled. A little bit more connecting material from the editor could have turned this book from a series of disconnected patterns into a well-curated set of patterns that are not only useful, but could increase understanding of quilt styles. I know a lot of traditional quilters and would-be modern quilters are confused about what makes a modern quilt look “modern,” I don’t think this book will clarify that point, which is unfortunate because the title begins with the words “modern quilts.”

(2)
I feel that the editors needed to insert a bit more of a narrative if they are going to claim to capture an important part of “quiltmaking history.” For example, I found the blogger biographies really interesting. Many of the bloggers push on the idea of modern quilting, claiming that they have “never agreed with the idea” (Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew) or have a style which is, “neither modern nor traditional but a little bit of both” (Katy Jones of I’m a Ginger Monkey) or are, “always surprise[d] when someone thinks I am a ‘modern quilter.” (Jessica Kovach of Twin Fibers). I really wish the editor(s) had picked up on these ideas that run through the bios and found something to say about them. A set of disconnected discussions about the (false?) modern/traditional binary is pretty much par for the course in the blogosphere, a book provides the opportunity to do more, but that opportunity is not capitalized upon. Perhaps I hold books in too high of esteem and thereby expect too much, but I can’t help but want books to be MORE than a bunch of separate patterns and ideas bound only by proximity in a physical object; I want some story or argument about how they fit together and what they represent.

(3)
The book claims that all of the quiltmakers are “innovative” and each of the 19 quilts is “unique.” Not all of these quilts are going to live up to those claims, especially for folks who regularly read quilt blogs or look at the quilt groups on Flickr.  Some of these quilts will look very typical.
Review of Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe


I don’t see any problem with providing patterns for what are arguably “modern standards” like a half-square triangle medallion quilt or a zig-zag quilt, but its weird to call them innovative and inaccurate to call them unique.

Thankfully, between the front and back covers of this book and the “look inside” feature on Amazon.com, you can see the vast majority of the quilts from the book and decide for yourself if you’re interested in these patterns.


Who is it for?
Quilters who collect books showcasing bloggers and their contributions.
Quilters looking for a set of patterns (there are 19!) for quilts with a wide-range of aesthetics, most especially those who like block-based quilts like the following, as that type of quilt is most heavily represented.
Review of Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe


Recommended for quilters who like pretty quilts and following patterns.

Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe
is full color throughout, printed on high-quality paper, and 95 pages long.

Publication date: December 3, 2012
Rossie Crafts review date: December 14, 2012
The list price is $26.99, it’s selling for $23.99 on Amazon.com today.

Review copy was supplied by the publisher; I am not paid to review books; if you click through to Amazon and then make a purchase, I will recieve a small kickback from Amazon.

37 comments:

  1. Finally! Honest reviews.... Keep them coming, please.

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  2. Thanks for the thoughtful review. The book contains several very attractive contemporary quilts. I agree that the editors set the bar a bit high, and relied more on jargon than thoughtful discussion.

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    1. Yes, I suspect this is going to increasingly become a problem--jargon and catchphrases without substance. It's part of my motivation in writing these reviews...to push back and ask for more.

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  3. Thanks for the review, Rossie. This is one I had my eye on and it's good to hear your thoughts on it. I've been curious for awhile about your take on what defines modern quilting. You seem to have a very distinct idea about what it is and especially what it isn't (at least that's what I gather from your writing), and I'd love to hear more about that if you're inclined to share.

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    1. There are some old posts where I go into it a bit http://r0ssie.blogspot.com/2010/05/mutant-quilting.html
      and
      http://vimeo.com/14680699

      I probably should revist this topic, though, as I do get asked on a regular basis.

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    2. I'd never seen that video... I've tagged it to watch later! :)

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  4. Thank you for the review Rossie-- I know everyone always appreciates your honesty!

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  5. I really appreciate the way you delve into these books and give an example-based opinion. I am fascinated with the ways in which people perceive reading and the emotional response that so often comes with it. I look forward to many more unbiased reviews!

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  6. Very well written, girl! You don't beat around the bush! I'm always interested in a quilters view of "modern quilting" as it really is so hard to pin-point... I've always looked at it as a spectrum instead of a hard and fast definition. Thanks for your well written and HONEST review :-)

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    1. Thanks Cristin. I also the modern look in quilting is just part of spectrum, and sort of a weird constellation of factors, and mostly a matter of opinion; that's why I try to describe the look of these quilts as objectively as possible and not get into whether they match my definition of modern!

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  7. i'm so pleased you are doing honest reviews of some of the new and popular books out there. i honestly can't remember the last time i read a critical review of a quilting book. yay! and thank you! i think many of the quilts in here look gorgeous, but it's nice to know what you're getting and what the strengths/drawbacks of the book are.

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    1. Thanks Arajane! Its a lot of work, but comments like your encourage me to keep at it!

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  8. Great review....I also appreciate your honesty.

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  9. I wonder if there will ever be quilting books that have the kind of discussions you suggest about what modern quilting might be. Thank you for the review, I am going to take a closer look at this one in my local quilt shop, lots of bloggers I read are featured in it.

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    1. I hope so!
      I totally recommend giving the book a look, it's really interesting.

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  10. Thanks for an honest review! I would love a 'chat' about what this modern quilting movement is all about and what we, as quilters of today, owe to it. This is a topic that came up in our guild meeting this week. an interesting conversation ensued and I hope to have more of that come up in the future. I look forward to reading more of your reviews and your blog posts.

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    1. Thanks, Cinzia! I'm curious about this chat you had! Can you summarize some of the main ideas floating around?

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  11. I think you will find differences in publishing houses and the way they put their books together as we go on this review journey with you. Some curate more than others.
    After this discussion in the review, I'll be looking forward to your review of Denyse Schmidt's latest. I've got my thoughts on that one...

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    1. Yes, I wonder if I should be noting which publishers are putting these books out! I know people that love the new Denyse and people that don't, it'll be interesting to try to describe that book!

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  12. Great review! Love your honesty and well written critique!

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  13. Well stated. I felt this book could be better summed up as a collection of patterns from bloggers. But then I wonderes why? A good number of them put up patterns for free already, many of the patterns appear to be easy enough to figure out without a pattern. & At least one of them looked a lot like this quilt:
    http://www.filminthefridge.com/2012/05/03/trailmarker-quilt/
    by a different quilter.
    Not sure if that is a big deal or not, but...

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    1. There's definitely a resemblance between the two quilts. It's not always easy to know which came first or if the "copying" quilter saw the first quilters work. It's a whole big ball of trouble, in my opinion, that people don't have their work credited as inspiration.

      It's also tough to know if a quilt "needs a pattern" or "is bookworthy." Some people can't look at a quilt and figure it out. Some people just want the fabric counts!

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    2. I know I should remain silent... but I can't help myself... First of all, I completely agree with your review Rossie.

      In defence of all the quilters in this book, we do well to remember that it is quite a long time from when the designers submit their ideas, till the book is available to buy. A long time as in almost a year and half in this case. Blogging and Flickr has made the speed of new quilt trends and ideas very fast! That means that when I first submitted the idea for my quilt, and actually made the quilt, I had seen very few quilts with triangular shapes.

      Thanks Rossie, for giving the benefit of the doubt in this case! Both of us had no way of seeing the other's quilt, so they were independant ideas.

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  14. I could not find a direct email to you...so here is my suggestion-you are going to review We Love Color...a book when it first came out I passed on buying. Recently I changed my mind and bought it-I hope in your review you include a comment noting there are 10 page number reference errors...I look forward to reading more of your reviews and delighted you have decided to do this project! cher0427'at' yahoo.com if you want to reply to me directly

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    1. I don't have that book, but I'll see about getting a copy to review. Thanks for the suggestion and the note about the page number errors!

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  15. Thanks for the really comprehensive, honest review, Rossie. I'm always a little leery of these compilation books. I prefer something that has a strong viewpoint and themes and often find these blogger comp books just don't. I have the feeling a lot of people are going to be a little shocked by the new Angela Walters book because it's not really a how to quilt book, but I love it because it's a look into her creative process.

    Anyway... I wanted to ask, what's the teal x print on your ironing board? I love it!

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    1. Thanks! I haven't seen a copy of "In the Studio" yet!

      The teal x print is something I stashed years ago and have been using ever since (it was also in red and black) there were X prints and ) prints and I believe the line was called XOXOXO!

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  16. This is the most concise review of a quilting book I've ever read. I would love to hear more reviews like this. Somehow you managed to put into words just what I like and dislike about this sort of book! Thanks for reviewing it!

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  17. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a latte and read this book from cover to cover. I was impressed by the photography (full frontal quilt shots, not folded, drapey pieces of quilt in artful poses in a studio "living room")as well as the concise instructions, both for cutting and piecing. Even the few quilts that involved random or wonky piecing (like Jolene's) had great instructions that would really remove the intimidation factor for someone wanting to try this type of piecing for the first time. Plus the production and paper quality of this book exceed many at this price point. I also appreciate that there aren't 10 or more pages devoted to the basics & a discussion of the colour-wheel!

    When I buy a book like this, which I consider a crafter-level publication, I'm not really looking for insightful editorial content, nor am I expecting it. For $30 or less, a book containing 19 well-written patterns seems like a killer deal when you consider most individuals market patterns for $8 - $10. However, when I spend $75 on a hard-cover coffee table book about the Quilter's of Gee's Bend I expect some substance.

    While I appreciate the critical thought you put into your review (pie charts!), I'm not convinced this level of publication warrants such analysis. For myself, this and other collective crafting/quilting books function as eye candy and occasionally offer inspiration for new construction methods or interesting fabric combinations.

    Perhaps there is a discussion brewing here: with new crafting books coming out almost weekly, what is their purpose? How are they being used? What are we learning from them? Should we be demanding more for our 25 bucks?Personally, I think I've got more than 40 such quilting books on my shelf and I can count the number of specific projects I've made from all of them combined on one hand. Good use of my crafting budget? Probably not, but I enjoy looking at them from time to time.

    Thanks for being open to discussion Rossie!

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    1. I think it is definitely an open question as to whether a book like this warrants a deep analysis.

      Here’s what I think:
      *Many quilters work on a limited budget. They want to buy the best “match” for their needs. However, given how small the quilt book sections are in most shops, they do not have access to books before buying them (they can’t just flip through the pages and see for themselves). I think quilters want to know what a book is and isn’t and that information isn’t being provided elsewhere on the Internet or even in the quilting magazines. My focus is to provide useful information.
      *Book publishing is a for-profit enterprise. I am not subjecting freely-provided blog tutorials to my criticism, just books.
      *Book publishers are making a move to define and co-opt the idea of modern quilting; they may be applying this term inappropriately and I feel that it is worth monitoring the situation.
      *I make an effort to compare books against their publicity, which I think is fair. This particular book makes some pretty grand claims that just don’t stand up under scrutiny. If they had called the book “Pretty Quilts from the Blogging Universe” and hadn’t claimed to capture an important part of “quiltmaking history,” I would have had far less criticism for the book. Someone has to keep the publisher’s honest.

      You make a lot of good points about the quality and value of this book, if you read back over my review, you’ll see that I said many of the same things.
      I expect that if people aren’t interested in the critical parts of my book reviews they can skip the “what it’s not” section. Or, of course, not bother to read the book reviews at all and focus on the happy blog hops and the basic information available from Internet retailers.

      As for what quilting books are “for,” I really think that varies from book to book. I can tell you want I love: when books are either really clear about their purpose and stick to it: Like with The Practical Guide to Patchwork: New Basics for the Modern Quiltmaker by Elizabeth Hartman

      which just is what it says. Basics and skillbuilders. Fantastico. Or, I also like it when a quilter has a well-developed voice and that is captured in the book [and again, when that is communicated by the materials surrounding he book (cover art, title, blurbs, etc.)]

      What do you think?

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