Home » Book Reviews

Category: Book Reviews

Akemi Shibata- Quilted Bags and Gifts

We are overdue for a Japanese Quilting Study Group adventure! I recently learned of a new-to-me Japanese quilter, Akemi Shibata, and got her book, Quilted Bags and Gifts. It’s a delightful book.

I LOVE how she pairs taupe fabrics with little pops of saturated color. It’s a gorgeous combination. She uses lots of red and turquoise especially. There are 36 projects in this book, each one cuter than the last.


And she features hexagons in so many of her projects. In the very first project description of the book, she says “In fact, I love English paper piecing hexagons so much, that I often forget to stop and eat lunch while in the midst of sewing these cute little shapes together.” Woman after my own heart!


I am working on several quilts with Lecien Fabrics for Spring Market (so stay tuned, that means some super-cool FREE patterns for you!), and I wanted to do something special with the leftover scraps.

So many fun choices, but I decided to make Akemi Shibata’s Two Way Hexagon Purse.


Once I had the pattern chosen, I couldn’t wait to start prepping hexies. Look how well the hexies fit onto the triangle scraps!! She uses EPP for this project, but I’m going to hand-piece them instead.

So excited to see how this starts that I forgot to eat breakfast this morning. .. . marking hexies and sipping coffee. My happy place.

If you’d like to follow my progress, please check out my instagram feed, I’ll be posting lots more there.



Now I’m ready to start sewing hexies together.  Even though it has an inset zipper, the pattern has lots and lots of diagrams and it looks achievable. If it works, I think I’ve got the fabric to make two! Now I’m off to find coordinating fabrics for the rest of the purse, and hardware.  Do you have a go-to source for purse supplies? Please share in the comments, I’d love to know!

Happy Stitching!

2018 Patchwork Planner & Calendar Review

Happy February! Anyone else wondering how January has already passed?! Today I wanted to share with you a little about a lovely planner just for quilters! It’s called the 2018 Patchwork Planner & Calendar, created by Becky Jorgensen of Patchwork Posse.

Just in case you don’t have time to read this whole post, I’ll tell you the best thing about the 2018 Patchwork Planner & Calendar up front: it has everything you need to keep up with your projects, without being overwhelming or including lots of random pages you won’t ever use.

Every January I buy a planner with the intention of getting organized. Big ones, small ones, expensive ones, cheap ones.  They all have on thing in common: I fill out the pages for January, and the rest of the book stays blank. Why? I think I get bogged down in the idea that I have to write on every page, whether it helps me out or not. So I love the streamlined, achievable feel of this planner. February is already filled out, and I’m feeling encouraged instead of stressed.

Let me show you what I mean. First up, you get a page to check out the whole year in one glance. Between projects for Market, a yearlong swap, and my APQ Resolution goals, I already have a lot of my year planned out.  This helps me stay on track to keep up all year.


Next, check out the monthly pages. I love the project tracker.  I usually end up hand writing something like this for every project, losing it, and rewriting it several times throughout the year. Now I just have to fill it in once! I love checking off boxes as I complete each step of a project. It’s all about “degrees of doneness”, and seeing those checks reminds me that I’m accomplishing something, even when the project as a whole seems endless.

And now, perhaps my favorite page in the whole calendar. A reference page! Y’all. It’s awesome. I don’t know how many times in a year I google “standard quilt sizes”, but it’s in the triple digits. Same for precut sizes. You’d think by now, I’d have these memorized, but I’m constantly trying to remember yardage dimensions. And I’m typically pattern drafting on the go, playing with an idea while waiting to pick up my kids, and I don’t often have easy access to google.  I have a suspicion that this page of the planner will be dog-eared and ragged by the end of the year. But it looks pretty now, doesn’t it?

Finally, I wanted to show you the swaps pages. Have you ever done an Instagram swap?  They’re LOADS of fun, and you meet such delightful people.  I did two last year, and am looking forward to participating in a few again this year. But often, the swap rules and information are on a specific IG post, or a direct message. Finding the information when you need it can be tedious. Now I have a place to write it all down as I receive it, and can keep up with due dates, addresses, and hashtags all in one easy spot.


It’s like Becky’s a quilting mind-reader. Or perhaps after managing a 700 member quilting group for years, she’s just really in-tune with quilters.


And she’s currently offering  a special pdf download bonus to go along with her 2018 Patchwork Planner & Calendar. I would encourage you to pick one up, it’s not to late to plan for a great year of quilting!!


Happy Stitching!







PS- And yes, I should add a disclaimer that Becky sent me a copy of the planner so I could review it for you. Would I buy one on my own? In a heartbeat. It’s a terrific resource, and significantly more affordable than other planners on the market. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I don’t do paid advertisements, affiliate links, or anything else to undermine the content here.  If I share a product, it’s because I think it’s terrific, and I would recommend it to my friends and family face-to-face.




Book Review: Hexagonal Tilings and Patterns + GIVEAWAY!

Well, January seems to be the month for good books and hot coffee. And watching old movies with sick kidlets, but we won’t go there. . . .

Today I want to share with you a fun book that you probably won’t find in quilt stores. Several months ago, Richard Hollos contacted me after he saw my book, Adventures in Hexagons, at his local library. He asked if I’d be interested in reviewing his book, Hexagonal Tilings and Patterns. Intrigued, I said I’d be delighted to, and I’m glad I did.











This book shows lots of tessellating hexagon patterns.  Each of the 132 pages has a unique tiling design on it. Some of them would make great quilts!










Others are very complex,  or have open-ended shapes that wouldn’t work so well for quilts. But they’re inspiring, nonetheless.










And a feature of the book that I thought was pretty clever is the creative license agreement in the front of the book.The authors give you permission to use the tilings in any way you want to (including quilt designs!) so long as you reference them as the tiling source. I may take them up on this, several of their designs look like fabulous quilts.

They also gave me a second copy of the book to share with one of you! If you’re interested, leave a comment below. (I apologize for the weirdness of my wordpress theme.  If you can’t see the comment box, scroll back to the top of the page, click on the title of this post, and then scroll back down, where the comment box has magically appeared.) For an extra chance to win, head over to Instagram and follow me there. . .Then come back and leave another comment telling me you’re following on IG. I’ll select a winner randomly next Thursday, January 26, and post the winner’s name on my next blog post.

Happy Stitching!

Millefiori Quilts 3 Book Review

Have you been eagerly anticipating the release of Millefiori Quilts 3?  I have been stalking my mailbox since I received the e-mail that my copy shipped, and this week, it finally arrived!  And boy, was it worth the wait.

Basic information about the book

This is not a method-based book, and if you’re new to hand-piecing complex shapes, or English paper piecing, you’ll probably want to get a basic book on those methods to go along with Millefiori Quilts 3. However, the book is absolutely chock-full of lavish, inspiring quilt photographs, easy-to-follow full color diagrams, and thorough block explanations.  If you’re making your own templates, you’ll appreciate that each quilt’s template set fits on a single page. Just remember to add your preferred seam allowance around each template!

Regardless of your favorite shape, you’re bound to find a quilt that suits your preferences.  All the basic blocks in the patterns are radial. Four quilts are based off of pentagons and five-pointed stars, nine of the designs feature hexagons, four of the patterns are similar to the traditional Jack’s Chain combination of squares and hexagons, and one uses 8-pointed stars and octagons. This adds up to a total of 18 spectacular designs to fussy-cut and piece, a true hand-sewist’s dream book.


Differences from Millefiori Quilts 1 and 2

Three main differences immediately set Millefiori Quilts 3 apart from its predecessors, Millefiori Quilts 1 and 2. First, Millefiori Quilts 3 is written entirely in English, while the two previous books have French and English instructions side-by-side. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the mix in the first two books, but the third is undeniably easier to read and follow the diagrams.

Second, Millefiori Quilts 3 comprises quilts that have fewer block variations.  For example, in the first book, the famous La Passacaglia has eleven different rosettes, each repeated in varying quantities throughout the quilt.  In the similar quilt, The Can-Can, in book 3,  there are two rosettes, and a handful of color variations to make from each.

Finally, Millefiori Quilts 3 gives an overall simpler impression than the first two books.  There is minimal instruction on piecing and cutting techniques, placing all the emphasis on the book on the patterns themselves.  It’s like a graduate level course in complex piecing.  The instructor knows the students understand the basics, and provides minimal guidance so the students can have time to explore and create.


Starting a project from the book

While you can make your own templates from the pages in the book, all of these quilts have more patches than I can even comprehend cutting individually. Paper Pieces to the rescue! They have already created paper packs and acrylic templates for each quilt in the book. I especially love that they make their acrylics in two sizes, one with a 3/8 inch seam allowance (ideal for English paper piecing) and one with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, perfect for hand-piecers like me!  I think I’m going to make Ietsie Pietsie Pizzicato. Anyone know what that name means?  I stumped google translate trying to figure it out! But I dearly love this amazing combination of 10-pointed stars and Jack’s Chain blocks.

So for me, the only choices left are what fabrics to use? Do I pull from my stash and play with fussy-cuts? Or do I really try to let the shapes shine, and make this all out of, say, ombre fabrics? Which would you use?  Stay tuned for progress pictures!!


Happy Stitching!


Book Review: Sew in Style- Make Your Own Doll Clothes

This Christmas, we got 18” dolls for our three daughters. As much as they love playing with them, they love dressing them even more. We bought a copy of Sew in Style-Make Your Own Doll Clothes for the girls, and it is a FANTASTIC book.

Sew in Style

My 11 year old daughter uses the book independently. She knew how to use her sewing machine before, but this book has been an excellent guide for teaching her finer skills. So far, my girls have made dresses, skirts and purses from the book, and they are having a ball doing it!

One of the things we have learned about 18” dolls is that not all brands of dolls are exactly the same size.  Our girls have Our Generation Dolls from Target, which tend to be a little smaller than their Wal-Mart counterparts. So purchased doll clothes and shoes may not always fit other brands.  However, Erin Hentzel solves this problem rather elegantly in the book by encouraging you to try the doll’s outfit on before sewing in the velcro, which allows you to easily make adjustments for a good fit, regardless of brand.

18'' doll clothes

Here’s a group picture of all the party dresses the girls have made. I’m thrilled with this book, and have bought two additional copies for friends as well.  Even though my daughter prefers to sew by machine, I like that the book included instructions for hand sewing as well. Once my world slows down a little this summer, I’m looking forward to trying out the hand-sewing techniques.


How about you?  Do you sew doll clothes?

Happy Stitching!



JQSG-Reflections on Japanese Contemporary Quilts and Quilters

Welcome to the Japanese Quilting Study group, a monthly blog series dedicated to learning more about the wonderful world of Japanese quilting.  You can see all previous posts in this series by clicking on the link in the header, or here.

book cover

Teresa Duryea Wong’s book finally arrived on my doorstep just after I wrapped up several huge deadlines.  So I was able to spend a long morning with a good cup of coffee, perusing the book slowly and taking it all in.  The photographs are gorgeous, and the information presented is fascinating. The differences between Japanese and American quilting classes are incredible. For example, Teresa talks about one teacher (in the traditional teaching curriculum), where the students in the basic class make 48 hand-pieced quilts in 2-4 years.  I would love to learn how to hand piece that efficiently. Making ONE small hand-pieced quilt took me the better part of six months!

My favorite section of the book is the artist profiles.  Here, we get a very up-close and personal glimpse into the lives of famous Japanese quilters, including images and descriptions of their studios. I find it very encouraging that some of them do not have immaculately organized work spaces, and store things in plastic tubs just like I do!

The diversity of quilting styles presented in this book is inspiring, and makes it a story not only relevant to American quilters who love all things Japanese (like me), but also to American quilters who think outside the box, and push the limits of what defines a quilt. So many American quilt books focus on “the basics”, and simplifying the quiltmaking process to something you can complete in a weekend.  The quilts shown in this book highlight the other end of the quilting spectrum- the magic that happens when you meticulously, painstakingly pour your heart and soul into creating a work of art in fabric.

Happy Stitching!



Yoko Saito Sightings

Welcome to my Japanese Quilting Study Group!  If you’re new here, click on the group tab above to see all posts in the study.  (And if you have a blog, feel free to grab a button and help me get the word out.  Thank you!)

Last year I promised we’d explore the works of other Japanese quilters this year.  But for January, I’m sticking with Yoko Saito.  Her name just seems to be in the air lately.  Before we get to all that, however, here’s a quick progress picture of my Hexagon and Fence post quilt.  The rosettes outgrew their initial box.  Here’s 68 of the little hexagon flowers (I’ll be making 186 total; I still have a long way to go!) and some of the tiny rail fence blocks.

January 2015 progress






For Christmas, I received two Yoko Saito books.  Happy day!  Today I’ll share my impressions of Strolling Along Paths of Green.  If you have not yet splurged on a Yoko Saito book, I HIGHLY recommend this one as a starter.  Unlike Taupe Color Theory, this book includes tons of photographs of the project steps.  The book has a multitude of lovely plant-inspired applique motifs, 18 bag designs and two quilt projects. I’m looking forward to making a couple of these to expand my bag-making skills.  I’ve never been a huge fan of applique, but this book may just convince me otherwise.

productimage-picture-yoko-saitos-strolling-along-paths-green-34_jpg_980x700_q85 (1)








Speaking of lovely floral appliques, have you seen Quiltmaker’s 100 blocks volume 10?  It has a block from Yoko Saito!!!!  How cool is that?!?  You can see it in the top right corner of the cover:









Quiltmaker did an awesome job of explaining the block and including a special tip for making such tiny bias stems.  I’m going to try this one soon, and probably just frame the block by itself for a lovely mini-quilt.

Lately I have spent far too much time on the internet, pouring over some of my favorite bloggers’ impressions from the 2015 Great Tokyo Quilt Festival.  I’m linking to specific posts below, but be sure to scroll around on their blogs, several of them have multiple posts pertaining to the festival.  Someday, I hope to see this show in person, but until then, these blogs are the next best thing! I especially love the exhibit about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie.

Sashiko and other stitching

Queenie’s Needlework

My Quilt Diary

Happy Stitching!


Mom’s Pencil Box Quilt

Last weekend we finally got to celebrate Christmas with my family, so now I can show you one of my January finishes!!








Last summer, when Sweet and Simple Sewing came out, I knew I had to make the cover quilt for my mom.  She’s a graphic designer, and taught high school art for years.  So I told her to pick out a jelly roll she liked, and I’d make the quilt for her (and review the book for you– double score!)

Here’s my version of the Pencil Box quilt.

Pencil box quilt







Although I’m not terribly confident at applique, I was happy with the way these bright pencils turned out.







I modified the original pattern a bit by leaving out the wide center applique band.  I did that for a couple of reasons.  One, I was worried about a ten-inch wide band of interfacing making the quilt hard to snuggle with, and two, I ran out of time.  But it’s a testament to the book that I managed to finish this project in less than a week.

The backing fabric literally jumped off the shelf and into my cart at JoAnn’s.  Doesn’t it just look like the bottoms of colored pencils?!








And a label shot of the quilt.  I love this method of sewing labels into the binding.  If I don’t do it this way, they usually don’t get done.







In case you’re wondering, yes, my mom loved the quilt.  And mostly, I loved making it.  The instructions were clear and easy to follow.  I remembered from previous sewing mishaps that when sewing long strips like this, it pays to alternate your sewing direction after each long seam.  So happily, I had straight pencils at the end.

The book has other fun projects as well.  I like the originality of the designs.  The hand-bound journal especially appeals to me.  Instead of simply covering a store-bought book, the instructions actually tell you how to MAKE a book.  I may have to try that one of these days.  (The picture below and picture of the book cover are both from the Martingale website.)

4ths B1232.indd









Happy Stitching!


Two Gift Ideas for the Quilters on Your List

How are we approaching the holiday season already?  Seems like just yesterday was the first day of fall. . . Anyway, if your Black Friday plans include shopping, I wanted to share with you two fun new titles from That Patchwork Place that might be perfect for quilty friends.  (Disclaimer:  Martingale provided me with digital review copies of these books.  All opinions expressed below are my own.  All images in this post are courtesy of Martingale.)









First up, A Flair for Fabric, compiled by Linda Lum DeBono (one of my all-time favorite designers).  This book incorporates projects from fifteen Henry Glass fabric designers, with a huge assortment of styles and techniques.  You’ll find applique, piecing, quilts, a sewing caddy, a pillow and an aromatherapy bag.  Some of the projects have a modern feel, others are very traditional.  What sets this book apart, however, is the page that comes after most of the project instructions.  The designers explain ways to use the leftover fabrics (from a coordinated line), with other fabrics in your stash to create a new look.  The tips are so insightful, I found myself skipping to each of these pages to try and absorb all the information at once.  They even covered topics like blending traditional small prints (think Civil War reproduction fabrics) with batiks!  It looks gorgeous in the book, I’m going to have to try out their tips on my own stash before I’ll completely believe that possibility. All of the designers featured in this book donated their work so that the book’s royalties could go straight to the Red Cross and victims of Hurricane Sandy.

3rds B1255_Flair_for_Fabric_CC.indd








I think the tips alone make this book a good addition to a quilting reference library, but I’m also planning to make the cute quilting caddy!










Secondly, I’d like to share Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners by Molly Hanson with you.  If you’ve been around my blog for awhile, you know I’ve reviewed a LOT of beginning quilting books.  No matter how many of them I read, I always learn something new.  This one is no exception.  If this is your first free-motion book, you’ll find all the traditional basics, like tension, supplies, correct posture, and basic designs.  However, quilters of all skill levels will find something new in the project section.  Instead of saying “practice this technique on a scrap quilt sandwich”, she turns each practice piece into something functional- a make-up bag, a small tote, a zipper pouch.  So even if your first ventures into free-motion quilting aren’t perfect, you can still practice on pretty fabric and create something useful. I typically keep several practice pieces by my machine to “warm-up” on before I start an actual quilt.  Being able to turn those pieces into something I can use around the house is like a two-for-one deal!

Final B1278 Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners.indd






I hope your Thanksgiving is full of blessings and some good time to sew.  I’m looking forward to visiting with family and stitching a whole box full of hexies!


Book Review: Free-Motion Machine Quilting by Don Linn


Mr. Quilt book








C&T Publishing kindly provided me with a copy of this book for the review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Lately, I’ve been doing some research on mid-arm quilting machines.  Internet searches led to a review on Mr. Quilt’s website, and I was immediately impressed with his knowledge and practical reasoning in a well-articulated explanation of why quilters should consider mid-arm quilting machines over long-arm machines.  After poking around his website a bit more, I found out he’s written several machine quilting books, and I obtained a copy of Free-Motion Machine Quilting.

I’ve read (and reviewed) several books on free-motion quilting.  They each have incredible insights to share, and I’ve learned so much from them.  But “Mr. Quilt” presents an explanation of machine quilting unlike any other book on the market.  The book is a bit gritty, very humorous at times, and truly makes you feel as if you’re sitting in a class with an excellent teacher. The information presented is down-to-earth and practical.

Some of the best features of the books are his photographs of quilting problems.  Using his years of teaching as a reference, he illustrates just about every issue a person could encounter while free-motion quilting (except running over your finger with the needle.  He does reference it, but left out the picture for that one, thankfully!) He also has good explanations of WHY problems- like bad tension only on curves- occur. And each problem has a well-articulated explanation of how to correct it.

Another feature of this book that I appreciated was his attention to detail.  I’ve read so many books that explain starting and stopping a line of stitching.  They all say that professional quilters don’t backstitch, or stitch in place to secure their seams. But this book is the first one I’ve encountered that actually illustrates HOW to start and stop without backstitching or stitching in one place. Other well-explained details include a section on how to make sure your chair is adjusted to the right height for stitching, and a brilliant tip for maximizing your sewing time before stopping to reposition your hands.

I learned so much from this book. Mr. Quilt’s personable writing style makes even the driest topics interesting, and his sense of humor provides a good balance to the information. Regardless of whether you’re new to machine quilting, or have been working at it for years, this book is full of excellent information.

I’ve already started applying some of the tips I’ve learned from Mr. Quilt, and will have more to show you on that next week!

Happy Stitching!