"weekend reads"

Quilting With a Modern Slant (Weekend Reads)

When you say the words Modern Quilting I find there are three basic responses:


Hard to put an exact definition on it and full of its own contradictions, not to mention definitions applied and reapplied and adapted. It can be difficult for the curious (quilter or not) to really figure out what modern quilting is to the community.

Quilting With a Modern Slant doesn't necessarily define it either. But what it does is share a group of quilters who lead and inspire quilters. It profiles 70 quilters and their patterns/techniques that inspire modern quilters. Some may be modern quilters themselves, some may identify differently. It frankly doesn't matter really. The book is chock full of inspiration for nearly any quilter. Interspersed within the profiles are a handful of patterns as well as some basic quilting info.

If you are the Yay! kind of quilter then this book will be an excellent introduction to quilters you may not know, not to mention the eye candy.

If you asked Huh? when modern quilting is mentioned this book will serve as a great peek into the community. Of course there are a million more quilters doing a lot more things, but you can't get them all in a book. And while it won't define modern quilting for you, it will help with the 'knowing it when you see it' response.

For the non quilters who come across this book I think it serves an excellent introduction to the craft and the community. In fact, if this had been offered as more of a coffee table book and the profiles expanded a little bit more then the audience would have been wider. But with the emphasis on the profiles and quilts, and quilting info running like a television ticker on the bottom of the page, it would have been great as a solid resource as opposed to a soft cover.

If you answered Ugh. when asked about modern quilting then I wouldn't dismiss this book either. It would do well as way in to the community or at least trying to understand the aesthetic. I have books on Baltimore Album quilts and art quilting because I believe in learning about the tradition and craft, regardless of my personal tastes in making. If you feel this way too, or are open to exploration, then this book would be a good start.

Rachel May is based in Boston and is one of the founders of the Modern Quilt Guild there. She clearly knows a lot of people in the community and worked to follow and discover more. She's compiled a pretty extensive list of artists. Most were familiar to me, but there were certainly some new artists that got me pretty excited.

My one complaint about the book is that the profiles are pretty lean in most cases. Now I can appreciate that the choice was likely made to have more quilters over more detailed profiles, but I would have liked to learn a bit more about people. If you follow some via their blogs then this book doesn't really provide anything you don't already know. Then again, not everyone reads blogs.

I do have one mention in the book (I am not profiled). Rossie Hutchinson included a pattern for her Fraction Quilt, which was, in turn, inspired by a quilt I made called Your Parents Are Cool. Her profile in fact focuses on the importance of identifying and sharing your inspiration. With so much eye candy in the book, there may be people sourcing the book a lot in the future.

Full Disclosure: Storey Publishing provided a copy of the book for review. And Rossie was kind enough to share a copy as well. And I, in turn, shared one with a friend.

The Baker Street Translation (Weekend Reads)

There are a lot of people with stipulations about beach reads. While I'm not generally looking for something heady or overly challenging, I'm not about to pick up a romance novel. it just isn't me. My last beach read was perfect. Same bookstore, different aisle. Very different results.

The Baker Street Translation is the third in a series of modern-day Sherlock mysteries. The books revolve around the mysteries that seem to appear in front of the characters working at 221B Baker Street. Lawyers, of course, with a penchant for getting involved. Seeing as I am a big fan of the original Sherlock Holmes mysteries and the BBC series I had high hopes for some fun reading. And the book was just, okay.

The pace was a little too fast for me. It felt like it was racing to get to the point as opposed to letting the story unfold a little. I'm sure I would have appreciated the characters more had I read the previous two novels in the series as well. There were appropriate twists and turns and a couple of creepy characters to keep it engaging.

Was it fun? Yes. Was it entertaining? Sort of. Did it suit the beach read genre? Of course, it was a no brainer. I'm not a huge mystery reader so I can't say where it compares with others. And I didn't like it enough to want to read the other two in the series. But since I was reading it while I was sunning my toes on a Caribbean beach I really can't complain.

The Orenda (Weekend Reads)

As a reader, one of my biggest pet peeves is when a novel peters out at the end. The story is trucking along and then what should be a climax is really just a pfft of storyline. And in two pages is wraps up and you are left wondering what the heck happened. Following quite closely is an ending that is a little too perfect, especially after the imperfections of a life in fiction.

The Orenda has neither. A brilliant story builds to a violent and fascinating climax, with little surprises that make you gasp. At the same time expectations are met and the story continues as it should. The ending fits, it just makes sense. And it made me not want to stop reading yet hug the book with the satisfaction of a well written novel read.

At first I struggled with the novel. It is told from the point of view of three different characters and it jumps between them every chapter. It's actually quite frustrating at the beginning. But once the story builds it ends up being the perfect structure for telling the story. The three main characters are Bird, a Huron warrior, a Jesuit priest named Christophe trying to convert souls, and Snow Falls, an Iroquois girl taken in by Bird after he kills her family. Being able to see events from all three perspectives ends up being exactly the way the story needs to be told. The parallels in the characters are both obvious and subtle and only truly reveal themselves in the latter half of the novel.

The story, beyond the one about survival, battle, and clanship, is rooted in the history of the Jesuits in Quebec and their ultimate role in the demise of the Huron nation. It is a story I know well, one I remember writing about in my youth, and the reason I have an anthropology undergraduate degree. It parallels the story told in the novel and movie, Black Robe, but it frankly does it so much better. Less about the history (albeit accurate from my memory), however, The Orenda is a masterpiece of storytelling.

Joseph Boyden is a Canadian author that captures so much of the spirit and struggle of our First Nations. Three Day Road is one of my top ten novels. He is clearly meticulous in his research and epic in his writing. He can capture the details of an event in a way that leads you into the space of the story and writes of the events in a way that make you breathless. Now, with The Orenda, he delivers a  tome destined to define a moment in time.

Currently up for Canada Reads, our national contest for the best book - this year focused on books that all Canadians should read. My vote definitely goes for The Orenda because even if you put aside the storytelling brilliance, it is a story that we all need to read. A moment in our past that is ugly, brutal, and defining of relationships in Canada (and in many other places of the world) between First Nations and the rest of us. And a reminder of the mistakes made, the hopes misguided, and the spirit of all.

Quilting Happiness (Weekend Reads)

Isn't this the best title for a quilting book? I know it goes without saying for most of us that quilting makes us happy. But it can also frustrate, intimidate, and suffocate. Even I know that. So I'm pleased today to be sharing this book,  Quilting Happiness, written to bring even more joy to your quilting.

Christina Lane and Diane Gilleland have done a wonderful job capturing the happiness quilting brings - from the creation to the giving, from sewing something you love to sewing for others. And there are patterns.

Two things make this book stand out - Creative Exercises and Happiness Practices. These one pagers are littered throughout the book, leading the reader through some personal reflection. Asking the reader to examine their own inspiration, habits, and joy is a wonderful way to get us to stop and reflect on quilting. Sure, we all want to barrel through to the next project, the next stack of fabric, but taking a moment to pause and examine the practice of quilting for us as individuals is worth more than cutting up fabric.

Seriously, I mean that. 

I, myself, have stopped to examine my practice as instructed in the book. For instance, they describe a Morning Seeing exercise. In this you write down what the first five things are that you see every morning for a month. In doing so you can pick out the patterns, pay attention to the routines you have, and train yourself to be an observer. Me, I'm a bit of a pessimist so I always see the mess first! That means I've been tidying more before bed and it makes my morning more positive. Which makes that creative time for me more productive and peaceful.

And there are patterns in the book - large quilts, mini quilts, and small projects. The instructions are detailed and leave nothing to question as far as I can tell. Christina is a stickler for details so this is not surprising. I've made one project inspired by a quilt in the book. And that chevron pattern pictured above is next on my list.

I will say that I wish a quilt book could be written without patterns though, because I think the strength of this one in particular lies in all the non-pattern stuff included. A book focused solely on creative exercises and personal exploration for the quilter could be quite intriguing. There is a lot of that in this book and for that reason I would recommend this one, even if you never made a pattern from it.