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Book Review: The Practical Guide to Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman

Reported by Susie Ziegler


I’ve been following Elizabeth Hartman’s blog for quite a while. She is a prolific quilter with a modern playful aesthetic. Her book, The Practical Guide to Patchwork from Stash Books offers 12 fresh and irresistible quilt patterns and extensive basic quilting instructions and tips.

You’ll find a long section on basics including essential supplies, organization, planning a quilt and choosing fabrics according to scale and color.


Sometimes, planning the color scheme of a quilt can be overwhelming, so Elizabeth encourages the less daring to choose the prints from a specific collection.


The quilts in this book require the contemporary technique of rotary cutting and strip and chain piecing. She recommends pressing seams open for her patterns. I am reluctant to do this as it is quicker to press to one side or the other from the front of the pieces.


Rest assured that all the steps to quilt making and finishing are explained in this book with colorful appealing photographs using delicious modern fabrics.



Beginning quilters should start in the Projects to Get You Started section.


Beginning projects include a modern version of the Rail Fence block using a larger variety of fabrics in one color family in a rectangular block instead of the traditional square.


The Snapshots pattern looks like a very large checkerboard. Alternate ideas with scrappy novelty prints or selections from a particular color palette are offered:


I love it when quilt patterns show a variety of color options, this helps those of us who get hung up on color choices.

Have a bit of quilting experience? There are Projects for the Confident Beginner:

In the quilt, Kitchen Window, each of your fabrics is showcased as though they are framed:

The pattern for Planetarium uses quarter square triangles in these hourglass blocks. Use care with triangles as they have bias edges and can stretch:


Difficulty ratings really are subjective. The most difficult quilts are intermediate level.


Here you’ll find dynamic wonky blocks in the Sunspot quilt:


and intricate Sawtooth Star blocks in this Superstar pattern:


She even offers ideas and options for interesting pieced quilt backs!

It was so hard to choose a project to make from all these beautiful options! I started my project during a busy time, so I chose Batch of Brownies from the Projects to Get You Started section. This quilt uses a “stack, cut, and shuffle” method to make the blocks, a technique I’d never tried, so I had to pay close attention to the instructions.


I wanted the modern look of her example, so I shopped online for some larger scale new prints in colors I thought would coordinate well.


Here are all my fabrics cut according to the instructions. You’ll need a rotary cutter, ruler and mat for the projects in this book.



I had a little trouble remembering which direction was vertical as I went to cut my blocks. It is hard to describe how I got confused, but I managed to stay on track. It was best that I cut and sewed most of my blocks in one long sitting to keep organized.



I tried not to press the seams open, but I quickly realized that her tip was necessary for these blocks to work out.


Over the years, I’ve learned how to keep a very accurate scant 1/4 inch seam allowance. Beginning sewers have not yet mastered this. The patterns here take that into account and blocks are sized to be trimmed up when finished so that they can be sewn together easily.

Pros:
  • Very appealing projects. I want to make every single quilt, and I rarely feel that way about quilt books or magazines.
  • Instructions are clear and simple and are presented with appealing photographs and full color diagrams.

  • Patterns are all quilts, the book doesn’t get sidetracked with totebag, placemat, or pillow instructions.
  • Alternate colorways and interesting pieced back ideas are offered for each pattern.

Cons:
  • These quilts are colorful and modern. If you like traditional piecing, and old fashioned detailed blocks with points all matched up in subtle small scale prints, you will not like this book.
  • Each quilt is offered in only one size. I would like to make bed sized versions of some of the quilts and I would like to see yardage and cutting instructions for alternate sizes.

  • I feel like I really need to modern up my fabric stash! I’m going to have to encourage my local quilt shop to stock these kinds of prints.

I’m so happy with my finished quilt top! I’m excited to try some other patterns from this terrific book. Are you inspired by the newly popular modern quilts?


Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Scandinavian Stitches by Kasja Wikman

Reported by Susie Ziegler

I’ve been following Kasja Wikman’s blog, Syko, for some time. Her sewing work is full of creative charm and whimsy. Her book, Scandinavian Stitches from Stash Books is a delight.

This book is full of charming projects inspired by the dramatic seasonal changes in her native Finland. I happen to love the dramatic seasonal changes here in my part of midwest USA, so her inspiration does really speak to me.

Spring and summer projects include Easter bird ornaments, a bird mini art quilt, a gardening angel, a silakka fish pillow, and more.


Autumn and winter projects include wallhangings, fruit coasters, an autumn leaf scarf, frosty baby quilt, tea pillow, and a quilted basket for cold weather mittens and hats.

Most of her design elements are top stitched applique cutouts. You’ll need to have a colorful selection of fabrics and some fusible webbing to make them.


She irons down cut-out fusible backed fabric pieces and then top stitches them with high contrasting dark thread. Although I have often used fusible applique, I have never tried straight stitching the edges in this way.


I could not wait to try to make the Autumn Tree Linen Scarf, even though we were already experiencing the waning days of autumn when I received this book. I ironed on the fusible web to the back of a selection of scrap fabrics

As directed in the book, I made a chalk outline of a tree and arranged my leaves on each branch

Ironing them down onto the black linen was super easy, but now I have to get my courage up and do that straight stitching with a bright green thread. I took a deep breath and just got started. I did not use the free motion foot on my sewing machine. I machine stitched with my regular foot and a regular sewing needle.

Kasja’s tree is done with one simple line, but when I stitched it, my single line was quite uneven in places. I did get more confident as I went, but I decided to add an extra line of stitches and I like the result. With projects like this, you have to embrace the wonkiness. It is part of the charm.

I finished this scarf in one evening and I totally love it!


The final section of Scandinavian Stitches is Yuletide projects. Follow Kasja’s instructions to make a tomte stuffie, a yule house ornament, or a fairy angel doll. I made this Merry Mouse Pouch with Zipper.

I got a little bit confused with the assembly instructions. This image makes sense to me now, but when I was working out the pouch, I was kind of flummoxed.

Pros:

  • Adorable projects have timeless seasonable appeal
  • All the projects are easy and use inexpensive materials any sewer will have on hand.
  • An inspiration! I think I might even be able to try her top stitched applique method with some designs of my own.

Cons:

  • Projects are not difficult, but you will want to know your way around the sewing machine. Maybe that isn’t really a “con”
  • Not every motif pictured has a pattern in the book.

I’m enjoying this little book very much. When spring comes around I bet I will have a nice pile of bird ornaments to hang here and there. In fact, I so loved that mouse pouch, I immediately made three more as gifts for my kids’ teachers.

What kind of projects do you like to sew to celebrate the seasons?

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!