Thursday, June 30, 2016

Modern Roots:Today's Quilts from Yesterday's Inspiration by Bill Volckening

Note the vintage quilt on the wall and the
modern interpretation on the chair
In the introduction to Modern Roots, Bill Volckening quotes Jonathan Holstein's 1973 book The Pieced Quilt: An American Design Tradition noting that antique and vintage quilts sometimes appear to be uncannily modern in design. Bill expanded on this concept in his 2014 lecture Masterpiece Quilts: Modernism in American Patchwork--or, "There's Something Modern About that Quilt."

When Jacqueline Sava reproduced a 1870s Crossroads quilt it confirmed Bill's thinking that "Old quilts were rich with information and inspiration for today's quilters."

Drawing from his extensive private collection of American quilts he selected twelve, dating from 1840 to 1970, to explore the characteristics of modernism including minimalism,importance of negative space, use of solid colors and limited palette, and geometric design.

The quilts are varied: scrappy or showing controlled color use; flamboyant or with large areas of negative space; familiar patterns with a twist and the rare and unusual.

 A simple 1840 medallion quilt has multiple borders of alternating red and white with a circular central block of appliquéd "Sprigs of Photinia." There are three Log Cabin variations. A Lone Star quilt has broken stars in the corners. Pieced blocks include Indiana Puzzle, Shadow Box, and an unusual New York Beauty variation. Radiating Fans create a secondary pattern. Airplane blocks with sashing is representational. Stacked Bars is scrappy and primitive.

There is a full page color photograph of each quilt with its source, date, and materials and an article addressing the quilt's design and background.

The detailed instructions include a material list, cutting and construction directions, and color illustrations showing the steps of construction. Smaller versions of the full size quilts are offered as are photographs of newly made quilts based on the instructions.

Volckening has replicated the original construction methods for the quilts. Several patterns are good for those with some piecing experience, but some are better for those with advanced skills.

Volkening is an award-winning photographer, quiltmaker, and blogger. The Volckening Collection of quilts include impressive examples from all time periods and styles.

Learn more about Crossroads to Bachelor Hall by reading Volckening's article to learn more about this quilt at
and on his blog at

I received a free book from C&T Publications in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Shakespeare Retold: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

The Hogarth Press, founded by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1917, launched the Hogarth Shakespeare project last year. Acclaimed and best selling contemporary novelists are retelling the Bard's stories for modern audiences.

Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl is based on The Taming of the Shrew. The play has been adapted into movies and the Broadway musical Kiss Me, Kate and is the inspiration behind 10 Things I Hate About You.

Vinegar Girl introduces us to the quirky Battista family. Kate is a college drop out working as a teacher's assistant and running the house for her eccentric scientist father and younger vacuous sister Bunny.

Kate's father has a problem. His valued assistant Pyotr Shcherbakov's O-1 visa is ending. Kate's dad has hatched a plan to match Kate and Pyotr, if not for love at least for a marriage of convenience. After all, at twenty-nine Kate has no other suitors. Kate is beautiful, but as her employer puts it, she is lacking tact, restraint, and diplomacy. Her directness delights her preschool charges, but gets her in trouble with their parents.

Pyotr is no charmer himself. He is attractive, but for all his research ability he is unwittingly disorganized and is oblivious about appearances. Pyotr seems cheerful, but he is lonely and homesick and his life is 'meager.'

Tyler's story is funny and her characters interesting. It is a wild ride to the altar, with stolen lab mice and fist fights. The book is light and fluffy, a nice beach read. The misogyny of the original story is gone. Tyler has given us a happy ending where two misfits allow each other space to be themselves.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Vinegar Girl
by Anne Tyler
Hogarth/Crown Publishing
publication date June 21, 2016
$25 hard cover
ISBN: 9780804141260

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Quilts Inspired by the National Parks

I was so excited about the concept of Inspired by the National Parks. The quilt on the cover was a big selling point for someone who loves landscape quilts.

To celebrate the anniversary of our 59 National Parks, Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto brought together quilters to create 177 original art quilts depicting the landscape, flora, and fauna of each park. Accompanying articles by park rangers and park personnel brings to life the people who preserve and protect our cherished shared lands.

Table of Contents Inspired by the National Parks

Throughout the book the author quotes John Muir, the "Father of the National Parks." Known as the founder of the Sierra Club, Muir was a true devotee of nature as a source of spiritual revitalization. Through his writings he educated America about our natural wonders and called for their preservation.

DeSoto gave the quilt artists a choice of park and category and size restrictions of 20 x 44 or 44 x 20 for landscape quilts and 20 x 20 for the flora and fauna quilts. The artists could not use commercial patterns, so each quilt is an original design by that artist. An artist statement accompanies each photographed quilt.

The quilts are wonderfully varied. With amazing use of fabric and construction there are realistic quilts, interpretive visions, humorous depictions, flowers and animals in natural settings or portrayed apart.

The parks are identified by location, date of establishment, a brief description of high points, and a link to the National Park Service website for the park.

Including statements from park rangers was brilliant. We learn first hand about the park, what the people who work there love most about the park, and the park's attractions for tourists. The joy and love of work shines through the statements.

This is a beautiful book whose appeal reaches beyond quilters, a celebration of our precious natural heritage. 

Resources are offered at the end of the book, including links to the Junior Ranger Program, volunteer programs, Artist-in-Residence Program and donating to the NPS.

DeSoto's previous book was Inspired by the Beatles: An Art Quilt Challenge published by Schiffer Publications.

All illustrating photographs are from Schiffer Publication.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Inspired by the National Parks: Their Landscapes and Wildlife in Fabric Perspectives

by Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto

Schiffer Publications

$34.99 hard cover

ISBN: 9780764351198