Best Book of 2014, Amazon.com

Another piece of very nice news arrived yesterday, when I heard that Amazon.com has named Quilting with a Modern Slant a Best Book of 2014 in two categories: ‘Crafts, Home & Garden’ and ‘Editors’ Picks: Crafty and Creative Gift Ideas.’

That made my day, and made me grateful, again, for everyone who took part in the book and contributed their wisdom. Thank you, thank you. I’ve made some really wonderful friends through this process, and am so happy and lucky to know you all.

Best Book of 2014, Library Journal

It was a thrill to hear that Library Journal named Quilting with a Modern Slant one of the Best Books of 2014.

Thank you again to everyone who was a part of making this book!

The Storey team has been wonderful — thank you, Pam Thompson, masterful and extremely patient editor, Carolyn Eckert for the beautiful design, Deborah Balmuth for working with me early on, and Alee Moncy for sending it into the world.

 

 

Highfield Hall, ICA, and one great quilt

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If you’re in the Boston area, head for the ICA for their new show on fiber sculpture. The above image is one of Sheila Hicks’ pieces, and I happened to be there on the day of her talk with the curator. That was a thrill. She spoke about her evolution as an artist, theory of color, and how she constructs and ships large-scale pieces from her tiny Paris studio.

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That blurry figure in red is Sheila Hicks.

IMG_1232 IMG_1237There was so much incredible work at the show, but these two struck me because viewers were welcomed into them — the piece on the left is Ernesto Neto‘s “SoundWay,” and includes bells and seed pods that you can rattle as you walk around and through. And the piece on the right is Faith Wilding‘s “Crocheted Environment,” installed in a small dark room into which a few people at a time can dwell. I love its combination of rough rope and fine white yarn.

In other news, Danielle Krcmar and I curated an experimental quilt show at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA:

Quilts: Pushing at the Seams
September 10 – October 31

Pushing at the Seams, exhibits both non-traditional quilters and artists who use quilting processes in their work. The diverse showcase features unexpected materials and methods such as embroidery that represents a brain scan, patch-worked Tyvek, a rubber quilt, and leaves stitched in silk. The artists question quilting’s association with domesticity through works that challenge gender roles and racial stereotypes, explore inter-generational connections, and bring closer attention to the environment or our national housing crisis.

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Exhibition artists include:

Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr
Line Bruntse
Kyoung Ae Cho
Kathryn Clark
Alexis Deise
Jan Johnson
Chawne Kimber
Andrew Mowbray
Kim Eichler-Messmer
Valerie Maser –Flanagan

It was a thrill to get to see in person some of the work that I’d only see online, in researching the book, now here in my hands and hanging on the wall; I studied each stitch. Thank you to the artists who entrusted their work to us. And if you’re in the area, please go check out the show! There’s even a making space for children to experiment with the Tyvek that Andrew Mowbray uses in his work.

On the long driveway leading up to the museum, a group of artists had yarn-bombed the trees — delight.

Finally, a few images of a quilt by Sydney Taber, whom I met this summer while up in Maine. She doesn’t have a blog or website but gave me permission to share these images of her work here. I love her sense of color and the detailed appliqued images in this story quilt.

The Earth Rejoices.. Sungod Closeup Ramses and Chariot Close-up of Pharoah

The My Writing Process Blog Tour

This post allows me to marry the two parts of my writing and creative life — quilting and creative writing. That makes me happy.

Thanks to Padma Venkatraman for inviting me to take part in the My Writing Process Blog Tour! I recently read Padma’s newest book, A Time to Dance, which tells the story — in a series of lyrical poems — of a young girl who loses her leg and must learn to dance again. In the process, she gains a deep sense of spirituality and self-acceptance, as well as a new friend who inspires her during her recovery. The book has earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, VOYA, and SLJ, and IndieNext wrote: “This beautiful book, written in verse, follows the life of a young girl who loves to dance. The struggles caused by her traditional Indian family’s disapproval of her passion are compounded when disaster strikes and she loses a leg in a car accident. For anyone looking to be uplifted and inspired, this stunningly lyrical novel comes highly recommended!”
—Danica Ram, Townie Books, Crested Butte, CO

Padma’s previous books have won the Paterson Prize, Booklist’s Editor’s Choice Award, the SANOC South Asia Book Award, and many other honors.

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So, as part of the blog tour, I’m going to answer these four questions, and then pass it on to three FABULOUS writers whom I’m so honored to know.

1) What are you working on now?

After writing Quilting with a Modern Slant, and spending months interviewing other quilters and writing about their work and processes (which was inspiring, and a lot of fun), I finally turned back to the novel that I’ve been working on for….awhile now. I began the novel, written in shorts, while in grad school in Montana. Then, I came back east and had access again to the places where the novel is set — in Massachusetts, in an orchard town. The novel tells the story of three sisters who come back to this small town after an accident, and how their friends and families are affected by the accident and its aftermath.

I just finished a story collection and a collection of short short stories with sewn images, which make a sort of interwoven legend. I’m now also researching this amazing historic quilt that’s in the textile collection at URI, where I’m getting my PhD. That project requires a lot of research and delving into the archives of the local historical societies; hopefully, it will take me to Charleston, SC, this year, to keep researching the family who made the quilt. I never felt connected to historic events before this research. Now, with access to family letters, pictures, and stories of events in the family across two hundred years, I can see World War II, the Civil War, and the history of slavery and emancipation, in really different ways.

 

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I’ve always been intrigued by work that crosses genres, especially those that combine pictures and words. I’ve found ways to marry my sewing and my writing, and those projects fuel me in different ways than my novel, which is a nonlinear but more “traditional” narrative, the story of a family across several years, layered with the past — their childhoods, the last few years — and with an arc that runs through the present. I’m also always writing and thinking about quilts in terms of material culture and media studies.

 

3) Why do you write what you do?

I love research. Of the historic quilts. Of life on an orchard. Of other peoples’ lives — interviewing them, hearing their stories. I can escape into stories when I need to — a habit from childhood. I can write it all out of me when I need to. Writing is survival and learning and living. Isn’t that why we all write and create, to stay alive (with props to Joan Didion, of course…)?

 

4) How does your writing process work?

I usually hop from project to project, with several going at once, so that I’m never “stuck.” One thing isn’t working today? Hop to the other. I’m also always working on scholarly essays and conference presentations, trying to balance that part of life with the creative writing and sewing parts. But, now that I’m in the final stages of novel revision, it’s all I think about. The whole story, all their lives across all their years, is in my mind. I’m in the orchard town. I’m with all those characters. I’m thinking about where each piece of the story goes and how it’s built. What do I need to trim, where do I need to fill in a gap? I’m immersed, and don’t want to work on anything else until it’s all done. I take notes on it during the day, I write when I get up, or at night. I’m teaching an online class right now, so I respond to my students, and then head for the novel again. I go to yoga, eat some kefir (new favorite food — kind of gross but amazingly beneficial!), and go back to writing.

 

Okay, now onto the fun part: Three writers whose work I love!

 

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First up, Nicole Walker, who blogs here: http://nikwalk.blogspot.com/

Her most recent book, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, won Zone 3′s creative nonfiction prize (June 2013). It’s a book that I read in a weekend, and adore, for its play with ways of telling of a story, masterful interweaving of different narrative threads, and discussion of climate change and the environment, as well as family and life in Utah. Walker is also the author of a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg (Barrow Street Books 2010), and co-editor of Bending Genre: Essays on Nonfiction (Bloomsbury 2013), which everyone who writes cnf should run out and read right. now.

A graduate of the University of Utah’s doctoral program, she is currently Assistant Professor of Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at Northern Arizona University, nonfiction editor of Diagram and editor of the artist/writer collaborative project “7 Rings” on the Huffington Post.

She taught a fabulous course in creative nonfiction at the Ocean State Summer Writing Conference this summer, so I had the chance to study with one of my writing heroes.

 

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Kelly Sundberg blogs here: Apology Not Accepted (the image, above, is hers).

Along with hundreds of others, I was deeply struck by her essay in Guernica this spring, “It Will Look Like a Sunset,” in which she writes about leaving an abusive husband. It’s a rare piece of writing that both inspires and empowers. The essay has solicited hundreds of comments and responses online (including high praise from Cheryl Strayed), and Sundberg did a follow-up interview with Guernica after the essay’s publication.

Her work has also been published or is forthcoming in PANK, Quarterly West, The Los Angeles Review, Mid-American Review, and others. She holds an MFA from West Virginia University and is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing: Nonfiction at Ohio University. I’m so happy to know her writing, and to get to link to her work here.

 

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And last but not least, the great Susana Gardner, who blogs here: Micawberesque

She’s the author of three books of poetry, Caddish (Black Radish Books 2013), HERSO (Black Radish Books 2011), and [lapsed insel weary] (The Tangent Press 2008) and runs Dusie Press. She’s recently repatriated from Switzerland, and has rejoined her Rhode Island family in South County.

She’s published several chapbooks, including Hyper-Phantasie Constructs (Dusie Kollektiv, 2010) and Herso (University of Theory and Memorabilia Press, 2009). Her poetry has appeared in many online and print publications including Jacket,How2, Puerto Del Sol, and Cambridge Literary Review among others. Her work has also been featured in several anthologies, including 131.839 slög með bilum (131,839 keystrokes with spaces) (Ntamo, Finland, 2007) and NOT FOR MOTHERS ONLY: CONTEMPORARY POEMS ON CHILD-GETTING AND CHILD-REARING (Fence Books, United States, 2007).

 

You’ll get to read about these three next week on their blogs! Enjoy!

 

 

Beautiful Audrey’s Beautiful Beach Bag

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Now a wise thirteen year old, Audrey Greer was just ten years old when she designed this beach bag. The pattern was meant to be part of the book, but with the process of editing, there wasn’t space for it in the end. Thus, the blog! To print this greatness! I figured this is the perfect time of year to make a beach bag and head for your favorite spot. Mine’s Crane Beach in Massachusetts.

Audrey wrote these instructions herself, and made these bags for her teachers. That’s her, above with the bag at age ten, and more recently with us, to the right, at an event in Maine (at a Gathering of Stitches). She’s one talented kid. You’ll find her occasionally visiting her mom’s blog, Alidiza. (Alice just finished Elizabeth Hartman’s Preppy the Whale pattern, which is the perfect companion quilt to this bag, coincidentally!)

We don’t have images to go with these instructions, but they should be easy enough to follow without:

Drum roll — take it away, Audrey!

Beautiful Beach Bags

By: Audrey Greer

Age 10

 

I’ve made so many of these for my teachers gifts in fifth grade. There really fun and they come out so nicely.

Notes: Works best with Home Décor Fabrics.

½ inch seam unless otherwise noted.

Materials:

  1. 1 ¼ Yards of outside fabric or 2/3 of a yard 54” wide
  2. 1 ¼ Yards of inside fabric or 2/3 of a yard 54” wide
  3. 4 Extra-Large (7/16”) Eyelets
  4. 1 Yard of ½” cotton cord
  5. 2/3 Yard of Décor Bond (Pellon 809) or other firm fusible interfacing.

 

Cut The Following

 

  1. 1 Pocket 6” wide x 12” long
  2. 2 Outside pieces 24” wide 16” high
  3. 2 Inside pieces24” wide x 20” high
  4. 2 Décor Bond 24”x 20”

 

Sewing the Pocket

  1. Fold pocket in half lengthwise, right sides together (RST)
  2. Start at the fold and sew around the 3 open sides leaving a hole for turning
  3. Clip the corners of the pocket and turn it right side out. Poke out the corners with a chopstick.
  4. Topstitch along the folded edge

 

 

Piecing the Lining

  1. Fuse interfacing to wrong side of the lining piece according to manufacturer’s directions
  2. Center the pocket on right side of one lining piece 6” below top edge
  3. Topstitch around the pocket but not on the top side
  4. Sew the lining pieces (RST) along the bottom edge. Press the seam open
  5. Sew through both vertical sides (RST) starting at the top
  6. Box the corners by pulling the corners of the bag open with the seams together
  7. Using a fabric pen draw a line 2 ½ inches from the point on both sides
  8. Sew along the line ( Make sure to backstitch on both sides)
  9. Trim corners half an inch from the sewn line

 

Piecing the Outside

  1. Repeat steps 4-9 for Piecing the Lining using the outside fabric.

 

Assembling the Bag

  1. Put the outside cover inside of the lining (RST)
  2. Match up the side seams
  3. Sew around the top edge, Make sure to leave a hole for turning!
  4. After you’ve sewn around turn your bag outside in Carefully
  5. Push the inside lining into the bottom of the outside fabric, take the excess lining and fold it over the top making it even
  6. Pin closed the open space that you used to turn your bag and sew as close to the outside edge as possible making sure to close the hole

 

Adding the Grommets

  1. Mark placements of the grommets in the center the folded over lining 8” from each side.
  2. Insert Grommets according to the directions
  3. Cut the cord in half and insert through the grommets
  4. Make a knot on each outside to hold and…

 

You Have Your Bag!!!!!!!!!

things that have happened

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The other day, I got this image, of the cover that I illustrated for two novellas, Women Born with Fur, by Beth Couture, and Out from the Pleiades, by Leslie McGrath. These are beautifully told, strange and wonderful stories about powerful women. I hope you’ll take a read when they come out this fall, from Jaded Ibis Press. I’ve had the great honor of illustrating them, and the publisher designed this cover with my images. This tops the list of things I never imagined might happen — the delightful, wonderful, amazing things I never imagined might happen — in a year of over-the-top goodness.

I’ve traveled far and wide, as the old cliché goes, from Seattle and Denver, to Kansas City, to glorious Pittsburgh, to big NYC, to Portland, ME, and all over Massachusetts. More trips to come next year, but for now, I’m home for a spell. A new friend told me along the way that traveling so much makes being home all the sweeter — and it does. I’m soaking up the beach, loving my woods walks, going to brunch with friends, playing in the sand with friends and their kids, watching turkeys wander through the yard.

This weekend, I took a nonfiction workshop with Nicole Walker, one of my writing heroes — read her book Quench Your Thirst with Salt, if you haven’t yet; it’s a beautiful story of water, family, and Salt Lake City. We had an intense and productive writing conference weekend at URI, and then I took a trip up to Portland, Maine, for one last event.

I plan to be back on here more regularly now that my life is more regular. I’m going to add to the stories that need filling in, and tell the stories of some new folks I’ve met along the way.

So — Hello, again! Are you enjoying summertime and unwinding, too? Are you sewing like crazy? Working too hard? If so, I hope your break is on its way.

Here’s some of what happened in Portland, at Samantha Lindgren’s huge space — stocked with every machine you might need — A Gathering of Stitches, with Alice Webb Greer, Danielle Krcmar, and Jan Johnson. If you’re anywhere near Portland, and have a project that needs making, head on over to her shop. Or think about bringing your sewing crew for a retreat. It’s a great space with good making-energy and occupied studios where quilters, sewers, and weavers work away.

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Isn’t it a nice space?

Those are the quilts by the presenters, above left, and Samantha and her team, and their quilts, and then us, with Audrey Greer, Alice’s awesome daughter who has a bag pattern that I’ll post here next week. It’s the perfect summer beach bag.

Below, is a flashback to a trip I took to East Bridgewater, MA, to speak at the public library. I love the sweet sign they put out front! And this great group of quilters greeted me there, and let me take their picture in front of a quilt the library has hanging; it’s a story quilt about the town’s glories and history.

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I wish I could post pictures from Kansas City and MARKET in Pittsburgh, but my cell phone was stolen, and those pictures were lost (gah!!). I do have this one gem from Market, when Katy Jones, John Q. Adams, Angela Walters, Victoria Findlay-Wolfe, Sarah Fielke, and Thomas Knauer crowded together to sign books with me. I have to say, this was one of my favorite moments of the year — it was so much fun to have together some of the amazing contributors in the book. And they were such good sports about the tight seating and race-pace signing.

10300896_10152395687076740_6858535938114072828_n   Hooray! Look at them! Thank you again, you six!

Back home, I had this wonderful sewing night at Candice Smith-Corby‘s, and she showed off one of the quilts she just whipped up, you know, with no quilting experience, on a whim?!

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For now, I’m headed for the beach, writing and revising, and working on some Alabama Chanin dresses. Happy summer to you, and hope you’re finding relaxing times ahead! More soon…

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If I Can (bomp bomp) Make it There…

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This weekend was jam-packed in NYC. On Saturday morning, I got to speak at the Metro Mod Quilt Guild, New York’s modern guild. They’re doing such amazing things there! Piles of baby quilts to donate, a massive paper-pieced hexie project, and the show and tell — WOW! I have to get permission to post some of those photos. They are so talented down in NYC! It was an honor to get to speak a bit about the book there. Thank you for having me, Metro Mod-ers! There they are, below, looking on during show and tell, and to the right is a project by Jessica Alexandrakis, whose book on paper piecing I got to read and delight in when I got home from New York. If you’re into paper piecing, check this one out! She signed each of the pieces as she quilted it, to remember where she made it. I like that take on signature quilts.

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On Sunday, we were at City Quilter‘s gallery, the Art Quilt Gallery NYC, surrounded by a beautiful show by Karen Rips. Lisa Mason, Caroline Mason, Victoria Findlay-Wolfe, Rayna Gillman, and Jan Johnson were the panel and spoke about their aesthetic and process and showed some of their work. I loooooved seeing their quilts in person. Some of them I got to see during the book photo shoot, but others, like Victoria’s peacock (below) were new to me. They’re each so talented. You should go and check out their blogs, linked above, as they’re each chronicling their work and others’ in interesting ways. This week, they each wrote incredible posts about the event…and the book! Victoria even had us make a video at the end of the event (posted on her blog). That was my first experience with movie-making. :) You can find Victoria’s and Rayna’s books here: Fifteen Minutes of Play, by Victoria Findlay Wolfe  and Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts, by Rayna Gillman. They’re both teaching around the clock, too, so check out their traveling schedules on their blogs — you may find them near you this spring and summer!

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In the middle, above, is Caroline’s amazingly huge quilt, which she made for her and her boyfriend’s bed. And to the right, that’s Rayna, Victoria, Lisa, and Caroline, chatting beforehand.

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That’s all of us, above, and Chris above right, the City Quilters who hosted us. That is one beautiful space, full of fabric and classes and great ideas.

Jan and I made it to the Whitney Biennial, where we saw Sheila Hicks’ work, that image at the very top in the middle, of hanging threads. Wow, wow to see her work in person! I was introduced to her art by poet Mary Pinard, and have been growing more and more enthusiastic about it in the years since. The colors in person were just amazing, and the texture and the knots!

We also got to spend time with my very favorite friends Matthew and Stan, who took us to an amazing Italian restaurant for dinner one night. The rest of the time, we went to Friedman’s Lunch. If you’re gluten free — or like whole farm-to-table-food — and like the Seattle-hip vibe, this place is for you. I LOVE it here. I could eat nearly everything, even the fried stuff! Heaven.

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The picture of the Empire State Building, very top right, was taken from my hotel room. What a view. It was a luxury, for sure. Thanks, Alee!

See you soon…

What Happens at the New England Quilt Museum stays at the… & a Winner

IMG_0607   Last weekend, Danielle Krcmar, Rebecca Loren, Stacey Shrontz, Jan Johnson, Jen Sorenson and her gorgeous aunt Karen, and I spent some time sewing and, at least in theory, signing books at the New England Quilt Museum. Sophia joined us, too; she’s the best-dressed ten year old I know and is big on the quilt-book circuit. :)

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The thing is…there was this exhibit of beautifully crafted dresses behind us as we sewed, and we couldn’t help playing a little. Danielle and Rebecca “tried on” the dresses — can’t you tell, in that top image, that they’re wearing them? Rebecca did a brilliant rendition of how a woman must’ve had to walk in a corset, narrow skirt, and bustle, but it won’t upload here (sorry, Rebecca, I know you wanted that to live forever on the internet)!

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Look! She’s wearing the dress! She stepped out of 1810!

After we sewed and got in some goofing around, we also explored the exhibit, which included this stunning hand-appliqued quilt, and a story quilt by Yvonne Wells.

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I came home and kept working on the quilt I made of big, simple squares, which I’ve been hand-quilting for a few months now (gratuitous shot of my dog):

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If you’re in New York this weekend, come to the Art Quilt Gallery NYC for a panel with Victoria Findlay-Wolfe, Lisa Mason, Caroline Mason, Jan Johnson, and Rayna Gillman! Sunday, 1pm.

Finally: Congrats, Mindy Tillett! You have been selected via the random and retro paper-names-in-a-hat method (keeping it real here) to win a copy of Thomas Knauer’s book! An email is on its way to you.

 

Modern Quilt Perspectives, by Thomas Knauer: A review & giveaway

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I’m so happy to be part of Thomas Knauer’s blog tour, to celebrate the release of Modern Quilt Perspectives: 12 Patterns for Meaningful Quilts. Hoorah hoorah, and congratulations, Thomas! It’s no small feat to write a book like this, and I’m happy to see the work evolving and emerging in this new genre — the well-written and developed blog being the first, of course.

I “met” Thomas a few years ago, when a friend pointed me to his blog and said I needed to talk to him for my book (he’s a contributor). I’m glad I did, because Thomas offers a different take on what we all do here in the quilting world (I say this as someone who’s a decidedly amateur quilter but an avid observer, writer, and converser within and about the community). When I talked to Thomas, our conversation swirled around what makes a quilt modern, art history’s influence on modern quilters, and how we talk about our own quilts. I saw right away that Thomas has a vision, and that he wants his work to contribute to what’s happening in the community today. And so it has –

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What I like so much about this book is the way that he’s interwoven (I’ll never pass up the chance for a fiber pun) explanations of his own aesthetic and creative process — how each quilt was conceived, how he executed the design — with stories about the online modern quilt community, and anecdotes about his personal connections with quilts. For example, he describes how he and his daughter Bee use the Ampersand quilt (above) to tell stories together. They’ll point to a block, each of which has a character or image, and tell a story starting with that block. When they get stuck, they say “and…” and point to another and keep going. I’d love to make a quilt like this and use it in a children’s creative writing class; it’s such a great way of not just snuggling up under a quilt but of interacting together and using the quilt for what it’s always been used for — to tell our stories.

Similarly, “Sum of Interrelations” exemplifies the way the online community works together, as Thomas put out a call for help making blocks for this quilt and had, “within twenty-four hours,” “a full slate of volunteers.” Cleverly, each block is an “i,” which plays on that idea of the collective and the individual.

You’ll use a lot of different techniques in making the quilts in this book — reverse applique in one, matching seams and points in another, applique in another — and think more about the concepts that birth each of your quilts. How will you marry concept and object and process? It brings some of the ideas and conversations from contemporary art into quilting — even thinking about how patterns can be freeing. And, I should add, the instructions are easy to follow!

One of the quilts in this book is exhibited online by the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, that’s THE BIG MUSEUM!, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Go learn how to make it! Go buy the book! I’ve been snuggling under a quilt with a cup of tea, rereading it again today. The pictures are beautiful, the paper feels good in my hands, and the ideas and quilts are fabulous.

Please post a comment below to win a copy of Thomas’ book! What’s one piece of inspiration that helped you make a recent quilt, whether you followed someone else’s pattern or made your own?

UPDATE 4/4: Congratulations, Mindy Tillet! You won the book! Thanks to everyone who entered and talked about your inspiration — I loved hearing about your work!!

You can read more about the book in the ongoing blog tour, here.

April 1: http://www.maryfons.com/blog/
April 2: http://www.diaryofaquilter.com/
April 3: http://quiltersconnection.ca/blog
April 4: http://www.crinkledreams.com/
April 5: http://generationqmagazine.com/
April 6: http://www.clothpaperscissors.com/blogs/barb/default.aspx
April 7: http://www.sewsweetness.com/
April 8: http://gogokim.blogspot.com
April 9: http://www.iheartlinen.typepad.com/