Thursday, November 08, 2012

Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking


I've been perusing Jane Brocket's quilt-making book this week. It's a great companion for someone who's been intimidated by quilts but wants to jump in. The how-to is there, and the way to think about color and pattern. For that, I heartily recommend it.

And yet. I just want her to loosen up! Every single quilt is made with nothing but name designer fabrics. The problem is, that starts to look old. Studied. Even if--especially if--you try to give your arrangements as unstudied an air as possible. To me they cry out "Storebought!" 

Jane is careful and thoughtful with color, but her quilts would be more fun if she would use them as an opportunity to use up a little of the ugly fabric in her scrapbox*. That's where the real magic happens.

*If there is any. If there's not, she needs to go to the thrift store, close her eyes and spin around three times, and buy whatever shirt her hand lands on. And use it in a quilt. Seriously.

20 comments:

Lilian said...

Thank you Anna. I must admit that when I first started out there was terrible fear about not 'matching colours' or 'if the squares don't sit right'. It was through your encouragement that I finally delved in and cast away those fears and just did it - definitely more fun that way!

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

YES, I love charm quilts. They have to have a little tacky in them! I don't care for the storebought look at all!

Matushka Anna said...

YES, exactly. I love making quilts and have never used any designer fabric. My greatest triumphs are using fabric scraps that are not very nice looking but really work well in the overall pattern. To me it's no fun to piece a quilt unless you're using scraps!

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, do I agree with that! I have not read this book, which I am sure is lovely in many ways, but I love quilts made with true scraps! Scraps are the way that quilts were made in the olden days! It seems so silly to me to buy expensive fancy fabric, cut it into a million pieces, and sew it all back up. The cost of them is unbelievable. Yet that method is so popular. Like you, I am a lover of scraps and thrift store finds! Shauna

val said...

Yes. love, Val

KathleenS said...

"As unstudied an air as possible" :-)

I don't know about quilts though. I'm thinking of trying it but I'd probably need a lot of hand-holding, *especially* with the fabric and colour choices, so maybe that's more who the book is aimed at.

Kathleen

olgawathne said...

I appreciate your insights into quilting - I think you have a lovely balance between new and old! And I admire the way your quilts turn out - beautiful!!

I am a quilter too, and have walked the line between the designer look and the home crafted. I think you're right that designer can look much too cookie-cutter-ish, but I do like the tidiness of something that is new. I am also a sentimental fool over all things old and so what you say about repurposing in a quilt resonates with me.

My question for you then is, when making a quilt by commission, how do you account for 'quality control?' My customers (often parents of toddlers) are looking for an heirloom. When I use repurposed fabrics I can't say when one of them will fray or thin before the others. Now, I personally enjoy looking at an old quilt (like my greatgrandmother's) and dreaming up where the fabrics came from and how old they all are - and I fall in love.

Knowing that you often sell and gift your quilts, I am interested in your thoughts and experiences on that. I have thought about this and heard what others have said - so I know the debates(!) but seeing as I like your style - and you brought it up - I thought I'd ask! :)

Enjoying your blog as always!

From Tanzania, Laura

Shelley said...

I'm left cold by all the books and shops dedicated to purchasing yardage of coordinated fabric, cutting it all up and sewing it back together. After growing up seeing REAL patchwork creations, these seem horribly artificial. Some are beautiful, but they simply don't have the same artistry as one made from actual scraps. That said, I've yet to attempt one of these, so perhaps my opinion has limited value. Inspired by your website I have started pulling together anything cotton and making patchwork tote bags (but out of much larger, more irregular sized rectangles). I line them with plain fabric and put pockets in or outside. They are enormously useful and satisfying to make!

Margo said...

I could not agree more with your condemnation of matchy-matchy, careful quilts!! I like to take "ugly" fabric on as a challenge and see what I can put it with to make it pretty. I also say that I work with found fabric too (remember found poems from middle school? I used to be an English teacher). I use whatever fabric people give me or I find secondhand, which makes for some very unusual combinations and creates magic, in my mind.

Thanks for this post. And I do so enjoy looking at your quilts and hearing their names.

Rain said...

Great book review, thanks! I've had this on my wishlist.

Lisa said...

I am reminded of the story about St. Francis and one of his friars walking along. They came to a fork in the road, and Francis ordered his brother to spin around until he was dizzy, at which time he fell down. They took the road he was "pointing" toward!

I own this book and love looking at it - I especially like her simpler designs, like the ones which are just long strips sewn together; but I know that when I get around to copying one of them, I am going to use what I have. She very carefully chooses perfectly coordinating fabrics - too much agonizing for my taste. But a very inspirational book.

Lisateresa

Anonymous said...

I actually love this book -- especially the cover quilt. I would love to make quilts like yours as well but I think you are short changing yourself -- I think its harder to take scraps and make the beauties that you do. I've tried to put different scraps and patterns together from my stash and it never comes out as well. I marvel at your quilts and think you have an eye for putting colors together that I don't... or maybe just a better stash and thrift store. -Wendy

IzzyR said...

OH Anna, Ive seen your quilts through the yrs and they are lovely, you need not worry about it you are a fine seamstress and your quilts have always impressed me as simply elegant. I will leave you this link if you are intrested they are really easy and good videos from Missouri Star quilt Co. Ive learned so much from Jenny and I have been quilting since 1984. https://www.youtube.com/user/MissouriQuiltCo/videos?view=0

Fiona said...

Perhaps the book is sponsored quietly in the background by a big name fabric company so she has to use all their fabrics? Just a thought.

Lisa Beth W. said...

I just can't muster much appreciation for the quilts that are made from all new fabrics that are perfectly matched. To me, quilts mean home-made coziness with a history, and also thriftiness in making a utilitarian object that yet exhibits the artistry and eye for beauty which the seamstress is able to display.

Kate said...

I must say that I also prefer quilts made from actual scraps. Quilts made from all new fabrics may be pretty, but they are "soulless".

~Kate

Anna said...

Fiona, I'm sure she's chosen the fabrics only because she likes them.

Olgawathne--when you're working with fabrics of unknown origin or age, you just have to use common sense and judge how strong it appears. I won't use anything too fragile or worn unless it's specifically in a piece that's not meant for hard use.

Welcome Home Katya said...

You definitely made me laugh with those last lines! As a fellow thrift store shopper, I understand tour sentiments. Actually, I some times buy big grab bags of fabrics at ours. We have found some great vintage pieces of fabrics mixed in with stuff that makes us say, "Huh?!" it's always an adventure!

olgawathne said...

Thanks for your insight Anna - this discussion has definitely left a mark. Having thought about it, I do believe that my customers might like knowing that the fabrics are aged, because a lot of them are sentimental like me! I will take your advice with me next time I am shopping for fabrics and designing a quilt.

I like the comment about new fabric quilts feeling souless and I agree, having made them myself. There is a coldness about a new fabric - it has no previous, ordinary human connection.

I do believe though that once any quilt (or item for that matter) becomes a part of your life, it does develop a value regardless of where it has come from. Redemption can come in many forms.

I also agree with an anonymous who said that color and pattern choosing can be daunting, and you do it with seeming effortless elegance. I am an artist in other ways (not only fiber) and I have to say that color, pattern and texture are often the joy for me in creating. I think that can be lost in choosing a pattern line designed up for you from the designers. It does make it easy though, and many of them have great lines. It depends what you're looking for, I suppose.

Laura

Kerri said...

I heartily agree and that's why I love your quilts. They have a very beautiful authentic vintage look. And your thrift store advice was funny and inspired!

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