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Part 13. Three New Books

Part 13 - Three New Books

This issue I am looking at three newly published books that I think will interest fellow British Quilt Historians. The first is Making Connections: Around the World with Log Cabin “by Janet Rae and Dinah Travis. Here Log Cabin is used to denote “a broad family of work which relies on the use of strips” so for example string quilts and other “cousins” are included.

It aims to cover all aspects of Log Cabin patchwork, it could be subtitled “all you wanted to know about Log Cabin but didn’t like to ask “. After a brief Preface discussing the terminology, the book begins with a historical discourse on the Pattern Sources. This fourteen page chapter is subdivided into Weaving and the Egyptian Link, Geometrics and the Greco-Roman Influence, By Land and Sea: the Movement of Pattern, Similarities and Difference-Europe, The British Isles, and The Migrants. There are coloured illustrations on most pages and footnotes at the chapter end. If this historical and geographical survey is the theme, the following chapter Inspiration for Design stands for the variations. In these sixty pages there are five divisions: Australia, the British Isles (England, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales) North America (Canada and the United States) Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden) and Turkey. For each country there is a full page featuring a typical (antique) Log Cabin quilt in full colour plus text. The next four pages -charmingly illustrated –show the block and some design variations possible. We then move to a contemporary quilt with inspiration and design, based upon that block. For instance, as Scotland is titled Pineapple, a 1895 Pineapple Log Cabin quilt is shown, the basic block and various layouts are illustrated plus the design details for the quilt Sunset by Janet Rae followed by Irene MacWilliam's Not a Grandmother’s Flower Garden. Thus England is Herringbone, Norway is Steps, United States, Light and Dark and so on, featuring quilts by Dinah Travis, Keiko Torii and Pat Salt among other well known quiltmakers.

The book ends with thirteen pages on Getting Started, subdivided into Choosing Fabric, Sewing Techniques, Embellishment and Quilt Borders. This is all less basic than it may sound, a succinct overview of Log Cabin styles and methods.

Before the final Acknowledgements and an About The Authors, there are a two page Select Bibliography and a useful and well-set out Index.

Considering the attractive appearance of this book, the cover is a mistake. It features an Scottish Log Cabin quilt , interesting for its use of tartan but the title and authors names are rendered invisible ! Also, the ”new” quilts are not dated unlike the “old”ones. But this is an essential book for anyone who has even the slightest interest in the Log Cabin pattern and quilts, it will soon be quoted and referenced everywhere.

My next book The Quilters’ Guild Collection :Contempory Quilts, Heritage Inspiration, edited by Bridget Long, could appear a similar mix of new and old. It starts with an Introduction to the book and The Quilters’Guild. Then there is a twenty three page chapter on 400 Years of Quilts. This begins with our 1718 Silk Patchwork Coverlet-well illustrated- and moves on through Texture on plain cloth,Tthe Blossoming of Patchwork, The Influence of Technology, Fashion and Utility, A Distinctive Style, Decline and Revival in the 20th Century, In the Hour of Need and ending with Keeping the Flame Alive. More space is given to the beautiful illustrations-of Quilters’Guild quilts and other items than to the text. After this come the Projects. Twelve comtempory quilters have each “taken inspiration from specific styles of quilt held in the Quilters’Guild museum collection to make their own very individual quilts.” The twelve quilters explain and illustrate their design routines to encourage us all. The quilters are: Annette Morgan (Frame quilt) Jo Rednal (Red and White quilt) Dinah Travis(Log Cabin quilt) Hilary Richardson(Quilt with a message) Judy Fairless(Cord-quilted cushion) Linda Kemshall(Crazy quilt) Sheena Norquay(Wholecloth quilt) Davina Thomas(Hexagon quilt) Barbara Weeks(Mosaic quilt)Laura Kemshall (Strippy quilt) Melyn Robinson(Broderie Perse bags) and Janice Gunner(Applique quilt). Each quilter gets eight pages , her original item is shown along with the design process. Also included are some relevant bits of quilt history, illustrated by the Guild collection .A page of Endnotes ,  one for the  Bibliography and one for Suppliers are useful . Finally a two page Index with another About the Quilters’ Guild and About Bridget Long.

Does this format work as well as in Making Connections? The Quilters’ Guild gives more prominence to the design process and each quilter demonstrates a specific technique, for instance, Davina Thomas uses computer printing onto fabric, Annette Morgan , microwave dyeing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had such detailed information about how anyone in the past designed their quilts? This is going to be a fascinating resource for future quilters, something to remind ourselves when we think we would have liked even more pictures of the Guild’s collection!

My third book is the ideal book for lovers of antique quilts.It is Through the Needle’s Eye , Patchwork and Quilt Collection at York Castle Museum by Josie Sheppard theirCurator of Costume and Textiles. Though it has the same title as the recent quilt exhibition at York, it is much more than its catalogue. This square paperback has photographs and details of all the patchwork and quilts in their collection. Each item has a two-page spread, details facing a colour photograph. The photography could have been better but there are close-ups in the text, which gives -where known – the maker, and the fabrics used.  Josie includes the pattern of quilting, details of backing fabric and wadding, evidence of machine stitching each time. The last tells the size of each bedcover or quilt, (metric and imperial ) with the accession number plus donor’s name.

The book begins with a very brief Foreward, an Introduction which explains which items have beenommitted. Then come theforty-nine Bedcovers beginning with a flat quilted one of 1700-1750 ending with a patchwork of  1955-71. In between are such delights as broderie perse 1790-1810, appliqué 1816, 1819 and more, lots of hexagons, log cabin, Victorian silk and humble cotton patchwork plus a few wholecloth quilts. Next is a further sixty page chapter of Miscellaneous Covers and Fragments, including a cord quilted cover,1690-1720, quilted cradle hangings 1740-70, chintz centrepieces of 1815, table covers, dolls quilts, cushion covers, silk patchwork fragments, crazy patchwork finishing with a pair of rayon hexagon cushion covers,1950-1960. The book ends with the charming A Patchwork Story:Mrs Watkins’s Tin Box ,five pages about Sophy Watkins, a York draper’s daughter ,and  her  tin hat box containing cotton patchwork scraps and templates of 1860-1900.There are then  both a brief Glossary and list for Further Reading.

In under two hundred pages Josie Sheppard has catalogued a simply stunning array of English patchwork and quilting spanning the last three hundred years: this book is a must have for everyone with a interest in our British heritage. It is nicely produced and at £20 should be snapped up, if you are not coming up to York for the annual BQSG seminar, ask a friend who is. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every Museum with unseen collections of patchwork could produce such splendid and comprehensive catalogues.


For once, all three books are in print so with ISBN numbers you should be able to order them from your local bookshop.

Making Connections, Around the World with Log Cabin  by Janet Rae and Dinah Travis is published by RT Publishing, Chartham, England, 2004. ISBN 0 9547459 0 6  and costs £18.95 (paperback)

The Quilters’Guild Collection, Contemporary Quilts, Heritage Inspiration is edited by Bridget Long for The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles, published by David and Charles, Devon, England in 2005 at £17.99. This hardback’s  ISBN is 0 7153 1816 0.  In America the publisher of the paperback is  KP  Books, Iola, WI., ISBN 0 89689 185 2.

Through the Needle’s Eye, The Patchwork and Quilt Collection at York Castle Museum by Josie Sheppard is published in 2005 by York Museums Trust, York England. The ISBN is 0 905807 19 7 and it costs £20.00. You should to be able to buy by post from the Castle Museum, ring their number -01904 687687 and ask for the shop.

© Brigid J.Ockelton. 2005

PLEASE NOTE - An indication is given of the availability and market price of the book at the time of writing and may not reflect today's availability and price.