11 February 2013

Book Review: Quilting Modern


Quilting Modern Book Review

Today's review is of Quilting Modern: Techniques and Projects for Improvisational Quilters
by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pederson


What it is:
A review of seven techniques used by improvisational quilters, showing several quilts using each technique.


Basic breakdown of the book’s contents:

(1)
Introduction and basics
  • Introduction (1 page) (less than 1%) This page provides a brief definition of improvisation and some mottos for the improvisational quilter.
  • Tools and Materials (6 pages)(4%) This set of pages provides an extensive list of the tools for “the modern quilter.”  
  • Piecing Basics (6 pages)(4%) These pages explain ¼-inch seams, chain piecing, truing-up fabric and more.
  • Color Theory (6 pages)(4%) These pages lay out some basics of color theory and suggest three basic color schemes (monochromatic, complementary, and analogous).
  • Finishing your Quilt or pillow (12 pages)(8%) These pages explain how to back, quilt, and bind your blankets as well as how to finish quilted pillow projects.

(2)
The techniques and the quilts

Techniques and quilt patterns (126 pages)(80%)
This is the bulk of the book.  It is arranged into seven sections.  The lovely introductions to each of the techniques really stand out, “Let instinct, intuition, and possibility be your guide.  Release perfectionism and trust your ideas.”

QM2-1


Each section begins with a stylized picture of a quilt constructed using the improvisational technique.  This is followed by a two-to-five page explanation of the improvisational technique.  The techniques covered in the book are free-piecing, log cabins, inserting strips into blocks, adding corners to blocks, strip-piecing, crazy piecing, and curved piecing.  The explanations are clear and have computer-illustrated diagrams for each step.

QM2-4


However, sometimes the diagrams and the text are a bit at odds.  The photograph below, you’ll see that the text says to “Place piece B on piece A, right sides together, aligning the newly cut edges (fig 6.). ”  However, in order to save as much fabric as possible, the instructions should read to place B on A and then slide B down, such that the top edge of B crosses the top edge of A ¼-inch from the edge that will be sewn.  This is what is depicted in the diagram; its not clear to me why the writing doesn’t describe this adjustment, which saves both labor and fabric.

diagrams are good

{and yes, I write in my books!}

Overall, I think the instructions are excellent, but readers should note that there may be places where the diagrams show a better technique than what has been described in the text.

Following each explanation of an improvisational technique, the authors show three quilts that were pieced using that technique with full explanations of how that particular quilt could be recreated. These include full-on shots of each quilt an excellent tips on how to use a design wall to help visualize a design.

QM2-2


What it is not:
(1)
My single greatest disappointment with this book is that it fails to communicate anything about the long history of improvisational quilting. Even the “recommended reading” section at the back fails to point readers to books in this vein.

This is particularly disheartening when it comes to the work of Gwen Marston, whose 1996 book Liberated Quiltmaking contains all but one of the techniques covered by Gering and Pederson (and the seventh is covered in one of Marston's later books).  In the pictures below, I have placed Liberated Quiltmaking and Quilting Modern side by side to demonstrate the parallels.
Log Cabin process

exquisite process

Marston, it is worth noting, begins her book by discussing the history she is working within, discussing at length the utility quilts made by African Americans (think Gee’s Bend), and providing a list of quilt books about those quilts. It saddens me that this tradition of tipping one’s hat to their predecessors wasn't upheld.


(2)
QM2-3


Gering and Pederson's recommend a scant-1/4 inch seam when piecing.   I think this is a good starting place for quilters who are new to improvisational piecing and want a basic rule of thumb, but six of the seven techniques in the book require only a straight, strong seam, so I was surprised to see a full page dedicated to achieving and checking for a scant-1/4 inch seam.  This fussy, controlled approach seems at odds with the fun and free approach advocated in the book.

Similarly, I'm not sure that one needs to square-up fabric before rotary cutting when that fabric is just going to be cut at odd angles and pieced with bias-cut and wonky-cut scraps a few minutes later.  The space used to discuss squaring up could have benefited from a more general discussion of the importance of avoiding stretching and distortion and various ways to achieve this (starching, pinning, careful handling, gentle pressing).

(3)
Given that the book is titled "Quilting Modern," I think it is also worth mentioning that the authors do not discuss what imbues their quilts with a modern aesthetic or provide any general rules about how that look might be gernerated.  They do define improvisation and explain how to follow that path, so perhaps they equate improvisation with modern quilting (though somehow I doubt that).

I love the look of so many of these quilts and wish they had provided more insight into their decision-making with specific quilts.
Quilting Modern quilt



Who is it for?

This book is an excellent resource for quilters who have been following patterns and are interested in branching out into improvisational piecing.  The tone is very encouraging and the instructions are clear. 

Gering and Pederson have well-developed voices, so simply looking at the images of the 21 quilts may be worth the price of the book for quilting enthusiasts.

The quilts are lovely and have a more modern aesthetic that Marston's, and so any quilter who can't see the modern possibilities in Marston's processes, might benefit from the addition of  Quilting Modern to their library.

Quilting Modern: Techniques and Projects for Improvisational Quilters
by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pederson
is full color throughout, printed on high-quality paper, and 175 pages long.

Publication date: April 2012
Rossie Crafts review date: February 11, 2013
The list price is $26.95, it’s selling for $17.79  today.


I purchased this book with my own money; I am not paid to review books; if you click through to Amazon and then make a purchase, I will receive a small kickback from Amazon.

32 comments:

  1. since improvisation encompasses only one aspect of modern quilting, perhaps a better title would have been "Modern Improv". Nevertheless I like that the book shows TECHNIQUES for making quilts your own and alternate layouts vs patterns/directions for making a replica of a quilt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree! I love it that same thing about this book (and others like it.)

      Delete
  2. I like your critical book reviews; thank you for doing these. As a person who has been buying quilting/crafting books for longer than I'd like to admit, experience tells me that more often than not the content of a book is one author's twist on information offered in previous books/publications. In other words, there's not much new under the sun. It's always good when author(s) give credit to predecessors in similar technique but it doesn't necessarily give all credit where due. It's good to know if a quilting book is very similar to another, however.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree that usually craft books are slight variations and recombinations of information that has been published before--it's similar to cook books, with each telling you their preferred way to make chili. However, when the quiltmaking techniques (or cuisines) are more specialized and not going over the "standards" but clearly walking in someone's footsteps or along a path few have tread, there's usually a nod to others who are publishing in the same small area, an acknowledgement of their influence, or at least a reference to their work as something that would be of interest to folks who like the style of the quilts in the book (or food in the cook book). So many new people are coming to quilting that I think it is especially important that authors and publishers do their part in providing some context and historical grounding.

      Delete
  3. Another great review. I have not seen this book, but have been a big fan of Gwen Marston's for years. I was just looking at her 'Liberated Quiltmaking" book and was taken by how similar her work is to the modern movement. I think it would be nice to include a section on an author's inspiration in a book, but know that might not appeal to today's reader (or editor, for that matter). I agree with Suzanne's comment, there's much overlap between the quilters that have gone before and 'modern' quilts. That being said, I am in awe of Jacque Gering's work, it is truly inspirational!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Liberated Quiltmaking is a book that is really standing the test of time! I think Jacquie, Katie, and Gwen all make beautiful quilts and Jacquie in particular has the power to knock my socks off!

      Delete
  4. Thank you for this thorough review. I bought the book several months ago because of the variety of projects. One thing that I'm not crazy about in quilts book today is the amount of space spent on the "basics" such as 1/4" seams, finishing, binding, etc. The quilting tips are ok, but I don't feel it's necessary to include other basics in every single quilting book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. I think, increasingly, we'll see these sections be published online only (Patchwork Place has done this) or moved to the back of the books as appendixes.

      Delete
  5. THANK YOU for your thoughtful book reviews, this one included! What a gift to us, your readers!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love the way you think and the points you bring up--I'm going to hunt you down at Quilt Con and thank you in person!! Keep these book reviews coming!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Hunt away! I look forward to meeting you.

      Delete
  7. I love your reviews. I love this book too- but mostly for eye candy purposes. Jacquie is in my guild (she recently moved here), and gave a lecture and trunk show at one of our meetings. It was really great to hear her story and see all those quilts up close and personal. She's really such a passionate person that it must have been hard to get everything into a book. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I've had the pleasure of meeting Jacquie a few times and she's just wonderful, as are her quilts. I'm sure that writing a book is very hard work and I do try to remember that and be respectful as I review them.

      Delete
  8. Your review is excellent, and I love this book but have the same regrets about its lack of reference to the work of Gwen Marston and others. It is an excellent resource and the quilts in it are truly inspiring, it is just that the older books are too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, exactly. It's funny because in the introduction there is a paragraph with the heading "Honor the Past" and I totally thought they'd recommend some reading there, but instead they said to learn the value of a 1/4-inch seam. Ah, missed opportunities.... Anyway, I agree that the book is great, one of my recent favorites, maybe that's why I feel the flaws more deeply.

      Delete
    2. Thank you - this is an excellent and thought provoking review. I have found similar things in another bestselling "modern" quilting book - it presents as new techniques, approaches, and designs that have been and still are available elsewhere for years. On the plus side, "modern" quilting is bringing in so many young quilters. And young people always want to think that they "invented" everything! It's the way of the world. Along with Gwen Marston, it would be nice if these books acknowledged the impact of the Gees Bend quilters.

      Delete
    3. Hi Cathy, Yes, it really wouldn't take much space to mention the previous works. And I'm laughing at the idea of young people inventing everything. I work with college-aged youngsters and they recently invented this thing where you drink a lot of alcohol and feel loose and out of control... :)

      Delete
  9. I think you were very respectful but thorough in your review. I appreciate the honesty when so many of the blog hop style book promotions are all cheering and not a real review. Books are costly and I only want to purchase ones that fit my needs. Hard to make those decisions without a good review. You covered all the bases.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! It takes me a lot of time to read carefully and write precisely and then edit and reread; encouragement like your convinces me that it is worth the work!

      Delete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ok...A little off topic but i've been looking for that green grid fabric your using as your background for months. Any chance you (or anyone) knows the name of it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's from Cosmo Cricket, I know that much!

      Delete
    2. p.s. I was going to email this information to you as well as post it here, but you're a "no reply blogger" so all I get is noreply-comment@blogger.com as your address. I hope you see this!

      Delete
    3. Thanks..google"ing" it as we speak...I appreciate your help...have a great time at QuiltCon

      Delete
  12. Your book reviews are excellent. I like that you let us know what type of info we will find (and not find) in the book. Also pointing out any miss-match between text and diagram/photo is helpful... so if we do have the book we can make a note of the corrections. When reading your reviews I can tell you put a lot of work into it. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  13. fabulous book review. Love your tip of the hat to Gwen Marston.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Excellent book review. I have to say I've been very puzzled by the lack of a mention of Gwen or the Gee's Bend quilters, or even the anonymous quilters of the past (who, by the way, Gwen always mentions) who worked in this sort of improv/liberated style since way back when. I understand the modern aesthetic of the quilts in this book, but the lack of recognition of the past really bothers me. It is possible that the editors encouraged the authors to leave that out, but I listened to Gering's lecture at Quilt Con and she didn't mention it there either. The whole improv/liberated/intuitive nomenclature is something that I've been struggling with lately and hope to address in my own blog at some point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Please do let me know when you blog on this topic, I'd be happy to link back!

      I work in a world where discovering your roots and talking about that is absolutely essential to any project, I'd like to see more of this in quilt books all around.

      Delete
    2. p.s. the way you posted doesn't link back to a blog, so I don't know how where to find your blog! Also, your email address doesn't appear, so I can't email to ask!

      Delete

Chime in! (I like chimes!)