Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quilts and Clay: Book Reviews

I stopped by the library the other day to pick up a couple of novels, and I was thrilled to see some unfamiliar craft books on the New Non-Fiction shelves. It turns out that neither of these books are exactly “new” (they were both published in 2008), but just new to my library, I guess.

The first one really got my heart pounding: Hand-Dyed Quilts by Marquetta Bell-Johnson. What could be better than combining two of my favorite things, quilting and hand-dyed fabrics? Plus, the author sounded familiar, and as I flipped through the book, I realized that I had seen her on an old episode of the tv show, That’s Clever! (or maybe it was Crafters Coast to Coast, the show’s earlier incarnation). In fact, I was so excited when I originally saw Marquetta’s episode that I immediately created some “hand-dyed” fabric based on her instructions. Here are the results:


Now, one reason I was excited was because, at the time, I knew nothing about dyeing fabrics, and I had no dyeing supplies. Bell-Johnson doesn’t use traditional fabric dye, however; instead, she uses airbrush paints (which I happened to have on hand), so technically her fabric is not dyed, it’s painted. However, Belle-Johnson claims in her book that airbrush paint, while an acrylic, migrates through the fabric and bonds with the fibers, which might explain why she classifies this technique as dyeing rather than painting.

At any rate, Hand-Dyed Quilts is an extension of the basic techniques the author demonstrated in that television episode. She takes us through the process of coloring the fabric, and most of her patterning is accomplished through various fabric-folding techniques, which are detailed in this book and include nice illustrations of luscious patterned fabric created through lots of color and folding variations.

Bell-Johnson’s book also includes basic quilting information, but this section of the book is disappointing, to say the least. It’s not clear who the intended audience is here. For example, hand-quilting instructions include this information:

1. Begin your stitches by backstitching and burying the thread tail between the layers of the quilt on the back side . . .

2. Sew, using the running stitch and following your chosen design . . .

Now, if I’m new to hand quilting, I’m not sure I’ll know what a backstitch is, how to bury thread tails, or how to complete a running stitch. I’m probably asking, “what is my ‘chosen design’ and how do I get it onto the fabric?” On the other hand, if I already know how to do these things, I’m probably familiar with hand quilting and so don’t need this section at all.

The last section of the book is a compilation of simple quilting projects, none of which really caught my attention or inspired me to create. However, I can imagine that new or fairly inexperienced quilters might find them useful for learning basic piecing and for completing simple projects using the fabric they’ve colored.

For me, this book was, overall, disappointing. I think the detailed information on folding and coloring fabric makes Hand-Dyed Quilts worth owning if you’re interested in that type of thing, particularly since the cost of it is fairly reasonable on Amazon (and especially if you get a used copy). On the other hand, there’s probably not much even in the fabric-folding section that can’t be found in a book on shibori.

Tomorrow’s review: Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Together at Last: Incorporating Craft Materials and Found Objects in Clay Figures, by Christi Friesen. Despite the ridiculously long title, you’ll want to stick around for this one if you’re interested in polymer clay.

1 comment:

Fannie said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book. Your review gives insight that is valuable to writers as well as readers. Thank you. Happy Holidays.