Book Review + Interview: The Practical Guide to Patchwork

Workshop Yarncraft

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I had the chance to ask Oh, Fransson!‘s Elizabeth Hartman a few questions about her wonderful new book, The Practical Guide to Patchwork, and got some very handy advice and recommendations from her on quilt-making. She also shared a few favorite finds spotted at last week’s Quilt Market!
Your quilt designs are so graphic and appealing. I’d love to hear more about what inspired a couple of them.
I’m so glad that you like them! Kitchen Window is my favorite quilt in the book, so I’ll start with that one. In the movie West Side Story, Maria’s bedroom has these crazy-looking doors made out of different bright-colored translucent panels. I first sketched the block for the Kitchen Window quilt based on my recollection of what those doors looked like. When I went back to re-watch the movie, I realized that the panels on the doors are much more straightforward than they were in my memory, but I liked my drawing!
practical guide to patchwork kitchen windows.jpg

The final configuration of the Batch of Brownies quilt really grew out of my desire to come up with a clever name for the original design. My original sketch was a more conventional gridded arrangement of square blocks pieced in four, nine, and 16-patch arrangements. I decided to call it Batch of Brownies, because each block had been divided into squares like a pan of brownies. Then it occurred to me that it could be more interesting to make the actual block construction about the process of dividing rectangles into smaller pieces with perpendicular cuts, more literally as one might cut up a pan of brownies.
practical guide to patchwork brownies.jpg
Do you keep a paper sketchbook, work on the computer, or use another method for the early stages of designing? Any favorite ways to start creating a new quilt’s piecing arrangements?
I almost always start by sketching on paper. I go to my computer when I want to mess around with scale, but pretty much all of my preliminary drawings are done on paper.
My absolute favorite of your 12 quilts in the book is Little Leaves – the machine-appliqued leaf pattern is so charming! Do you have any preferred brands of fusible web/applique to recommend? Any other quick tips on using this material in a quilt?
Thanks! I usually use Heat’n’Bond Lite, but I think any lightweight fusible web should work. The real key is buying the lightweight product and not the heavier (often called “no-sew”) stuff, which is usually too gummy for use with a machine. If your machine is still fighting with the lighter web, putting a couple of drops of Sewers Aid on the needle can work wonders!

When you’re shopping for fabric and see a print you like, what quantity do you usually buy for your stash?
A half-yard is my go-to cut, but I like to buy 1-2 yards of anything I really love and know that I’ll use in lots of projects. For crafters looking to build up a quilting stash, I don’t think the size of the cuts is as important as establishing some harmony among them. Those giant, mod prints are eye-catching, but it can be difficult to make an entire quilt project with them. Be sure that you’re also stocking up on coordinating solids and more subtle prints. They’re the ones that will really make those focus prints shine!
You use sashing so nicely in many of your quilts. Any thoughts on what color(s) or widths generally work well for modern quilting designs?
Thank you! I like to think of sashing the same way I would think about painting a room, with the sashing being the painted walls of the room and the blocks being furnishings or artwork. Stark white sashing, like stark white walls, can look graphic and modern with just about anything. An au courant color like light gray can create a sleek and stylish composition, whereas a more dated color like dusty rose may run the risk of looking stuffy. And, just like with painting walls, a bold color like deep scarlet or violet can create visual interest and drama, but you may need to compensate by using more subdued fabrics in your blocks. The one color that I actively discourage people from using for sashing is flat black. I tend to think that a dark gray or brown will almost always give a more sophisticated look.
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I don’t really have a go-to sashing size. I just try to create a nice visual balance between the size of the blocks and the amount of negative space created by the sashing. I guess that if we continue the interior decorating analogy, it’s the equivalent of placing furniture in a room or artwork on a wall that can accommodate them without looking crowded.

What did you see that you especially loved at Quilt Market this year? Fabrics, tools, patterns, books… I’d love to hear about a few new favorites.
I have to admit that I was mostly drawn to new fabric! It was great to see Etsuko Furuya’s new Echino prints and Denyse Schmidt’s new Greenfield Hill prints in person. I had been excited about both and they were just as lovely in person as I had hoped. However, my biggest new fabric crush has to be Melody Miller’s Ruby Star Rising for Kokka. I just cannot wait to fussy-cut into those wonderful, retro-inspired prints!

Anything else you’d like to add?
Just that quilting is fun and achievable! I encourage any crafters who have never attempted quilting to give it a try.
Thank you so much, Elizabeth! And if you’re in Portland, don’t miss the lovely book event she has planned at Modern Domestic, November 13th from 4-6 pm (right before a Portland Modern Quilt Guild open sewing night).

4 thoughts on “Book Review + Interview: The Practical Guide to Patchwork

  1. Lisa says:

    Great interview – I’m totally inspired now…love the painted walls analogy for sashing.

  2. Seanna Lea says:

    I love the clean lines of the quilt and how they still give a nod to traditional quilts. Is quilting easy enough for a sewing novice to pick up?

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Susan Beal is a West Coast freelance writer and lover of all things crafty who lives in Portland, Oregon. She writes for Stitch, CRAFT, ReadyMade, BUST, Venus, BurdaStyle, and CraftStylish. She's the author of Bead Simple, Button It Up, Modern Log Cabin Quilting, and World of Geekcraft.

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