Category Archives: Book Review

Quilts 1700 – 2010 Redux

Quilts 1700-2010 Hidden Histories, Untold Stories

Quilts 1700-2010 Hidden Histories, Untold Stories

I know I have written about this book before, but I have finally finished reading it. This book is a textile lover’s dream – the illustrations are beautiful and it is full of fascinating information. It is not the type of book to read all at once, but just dip into every now and then (even to just look at the pictures and be awed by the skill, patience and dedication of the maker).

The book consists of four chapters; Making and using quilts in eighteenth century Britain, Complexity and context:nineteenth century British quilts, Maintaining the craft:British quilt-making 1900-45 and Negotiating space:fabric and the feminine 1945-2010.

Here are some of my favourites …

Unfinished Patchwork of Silks, c1860-70

Unfinished Patchwork of Silks, c 1860-70


Pieced Wool, c 1863-77


‘Sanderson Star’ quilt in cotton sateens,            c 1910-1920


Sara Impey, ‘Punctuation’. Machine stitched Silk,     c 2009


Janey Forgan, ‘Liberty Jack’, c 2008


Coverlet, patchwork of printed cottons,                c 1803-1805

As I love liberty fabrics, Liberty Jack is probably my favourite, but Sara Impey’s Punctuation is brilliant to, and then the amount of work involved in the earlier quilts is mind-boggling.

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Women’s Work The First 20 000 Years – Elizabeth Wayland Barber

Womens Work The First 20 000 Years - Elizabeth Wayland Barber

Women’s Work The First 20 000 Years – Elizabeth Wayland Barber

I heard about this book on Ravelry and then found a copy here. It was fascinating – I am tempted to start weaving except for the space and time commitment. I watched a few you tube clips and it takes a long time to set up the warp threads (I already have too many projects on the go).

Here is the blurb …

New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women’s unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies.

Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women.

Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have omitted virtually half the picture.

Elizabeth Wayland Barber has drawn from data gathered by the most sophisticated new archaeological methods—methods she herself helped to fashion. In a “brilliantly original book” (Katha Pollitt, Washington Post Book World), she argues that women were a powerful economic force in the ancient world, with their own industry: fabric.

This book was interesting; from the invention of string (who knew string was so amazing), weaving, the economics of weaving (and more particularly who controls the produce), different types of looms (and how local conditions affected their design), and why textile production was considered ‘women’s work’ in the first place.  While being scholarly, this book was still easy to read and if you’re interested in textiles, women’s history or social history this is the book for you.

Other reviews …

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Colours of Shetland – Kate Davies

Colours of Shetland - Kate Davies

Colours of Shetland – Kate Davies

This is a beautiful book – the paper is lovely and the photography spectacular.

It is divided into five sections – with an essay and two designs per section – plus there is a technique section at the end.

I found the essays interesting – Kate’s writing is very evocative there is a strong sense of place.

These are the designs I’m coveting …

Stevenson Sweater

Stevenson Sweater

This is my absolute favourite …

Ursula Carigan

Ursula Cardigan

Kate says this is probably the most difficult design in the book, but could be attempted by a confident beginner. As much as I love it, I think it is beyond me at this stage.

and finally …

Northmavine Hoody

Northmavine Hoody

This one is all about the colours.

This is a lovely book and I think most knitters would love it – even ones like me who just admire the pictures!

There is a code so you can download the e book (when it is available).

More …

Kate’s blog

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Zen and the Art of Knitting – Bernadette Murphy

I found this book at the Borders closing down sale and was intrigued.

Here is the blurb …

Knitting has become the hip new trend among twenty- and thirty-somethings, with celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Winona Ryder, Cameron Diaz, Hilary Swank, and Julianne Moore leading the way. This book explores what virtually everyone’s grandmother always knew — that when passionate knitters become one with the craft, amazing things start to happen.In Zen and the Art of Knitting, Bernadette Murphy explores how knitting fits into the large scheme of life itself as . . .– Meditation– Creative expression– A way to cure writer’s block– A gift to express love– A way for children to develop fine motor skills– A way to connect generations, past and present. Throughout this magnificent work, readers find practical advice, including a knitted stitch per chapter and a basic pattern in the appendix. For serious knitters, casual hobbyists, creative thinkers, and those seeking to discover an unexplored spiritual channel, Zen and the Art of Knitting is a unique work that will be treasured for years to come

Each chapter consists of an essay on knitting, for example Chapter Five is the ‘Contented Soul’. The start of every chapter also has instructions for a different type of knitting stitch; garter stitch, stocking stitch, trinity stitch, etc and there are projects at the end of most chapters ranging scarfs to a jumper.

This book was an easy read and I particularly enjoyed the chapter on knitting and education (Chapter 4 – Ripening the Intellect). My girls are keen on knitting and they have each attempted a garter stitch scarf for their teddies, but neither has shown the patience to finish it. The first grade students at the Waldorf School she visits are making lions or lambs, which must involve a bit of complexity and makes me think I should have persevered more with my girls. Apparently knitting is good for fine motor skills (which is obvious), but it also helps with speech development and when knitting you use both hemispheres of the brain.

I am quite interested in using knitting for therapy (or as therapy), but I didn’t find the book as strong on this aspect. There was quite a bit on knitting as mediation (although no one was prepared to truly commit one way or the other – is it? Isn’t it?). I think I would have preferred more personal stories and less generalities – having said that, however, Ms Murphy’s own story (Chapter One Knitting Myself Back Together) was the type of thing I wanted to read.

It is also a little bit dated, but that’s my fault for reading it 11 years after it was first published. If you like knitting and reading about knitting, then this book is definitely worth reading.

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Quilts 1700 – 2010 Book Review

I knew I would never make it to this exhibition so I bought the book from here – I’ve had it for a while and I’ve looked at the pictures, but I’ve only just started reading it properly.

The first chapter is on Making and Using Quilts in 18th Century Britain. I found it quite interesting that often the bed coverings were worth more than the bed – there was a lot of coverings – quilts, under quilts, bed curtains etc. Bed coverings were so valuable they were listed in inventories.

Not many quilts survive from this period. We know of their existence from the previous mentioned inventories and from quilts that have been adapted to another use – quilted suit anyone? Also, the terminology is tricky – how do we distinguish between eiderdowns and quilts? We can look to contemporary texts for information on terminology. Swift mentions patchwork in Gulliver’s Travels.

 Two hundred sempstresses were employed to make me shirts, and linen for my bed and table, all of the strongest and coarsest kind they could get; which, however, they were forced to quilt together in several folds, for the thickest was some degrees finer than lawn. Their linen is usually three inches wide, and three feet make a piece. The sempstresses took my measure as I lay on the ground, one standing at my neck, and another at my mid-leg, with a strong cord extended, that each held by the end, while a third measured the length of the cord with a rule of an inch long. Then they measured my right thumb, and desired no more; for by a mathematical computation, that twice round the thumb is once round the wrist, and so on to the neck and the waist, and by the help of my old shirt, which I displayed on the ground before them for a pattern, they fitted me exactly. Three hundred tailors were employed in the same manner to make me clothes; but they had another contrivance for taking my measure. I kneeled down, and they raised a ladder from the ground to my neck; upon this ladder one of them mounted, and let fall a plumb-line from my collar to the floor, which just answered the length of my coat: but my waist and arms I measured myself. When my clothes were finished, which was done in my house (for the largest of theirs would not have been able to hold them), they looked like the patch-work made by the ladies in England, only that mine were all of a colour.

The early part of the century quilts seemed to be made from silk fabrics whereas the latter half of the century the quilts were made from cotton fabrics (and these fabrics seemed to be datable to a shorter time span). Was this shift from silk to cotton because the ban on printing cotton fabrics for domestic use was lifted in 1774? Also in the early part of the century there were professional quilt makers (you could order quilting by the yard), however, it seemed to be a domestic industry by the end of century.

Another question was the purpose of quilting – to reuse valuable textiles or to celebrate a specific fabric?

There is also beautiful images …

Bed Curtain 1730 -1750 (Mostly made of printed cottons)

Look at all of those semi-circular shapes.


Cot Cover Quilted Linen (Early 18th Century)

The thing that amazes me about this piece – is that it must have been done by hand!


Bed Cover (Linen embroidered in coloured silks and metal thread)

You probably can’t tell from this image, but this is embroidered!

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A Knitter’s Home Companion – Michelle Edwards

I read about this book here – it sounded lovely, so I ordered a copy from the book depository.

Here is the blurb …

 A Knitter’s Home Companion is an illustrated collection of stories, patterns, and recipes from beloved knitter and essayist Michelle Edwards. This heartwarming title will appeal to knitters interested in not only stitches, yarn, and patterns, but also in the lives of other knitters, the lessons that can be learned from their craft, the ways knitting helps knitters cope during difficult times, and the role of knitting in family life. “Let [this book] keep you company when you need another knitter’s voice beside you,” Edwards writes in her introduction.

Like a good friend, A Knitter’s Home Companion will inspire readers to laugh, cry, remember, be thoughtful, cook, and, of course, pick up their needles—sometimes to soothe, sometimes to celebrate, and sometimes to just pass the time. Divided into four chapters—Motherhood, Home, Community, and Legacy—stories range from “But She Doesn’t Have Any Underpants,” about the challenges of knitting for family to “Home Ec Workshop and the Mystery of the Indian Slipper,” about finding community at a local yarn shop. Projects range from mittens and socks to a baby blanket and afghan.

It is a very quick and easy read full of positive stories. Interspersed amongst the stories are recipes and knitting patterns. I’m not much of a cook, so I will probably never use the recipes, but some of the knitting patterns are quite appealing. For example, the zig zag baby blanket…

or the Updated Ripple Afghan (

This book would make a lovely gift for any knitter, but also for people interested in community and a gentler pace of life.

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Gentle Art of Knitting – Jane Brocket

My copy of The Gentle Art of Knitting arrived. I also have The Gentle Art of Domesticity and The Gentle Art of Quilting.

I know there was a bit of controversy about the cost of some of the projects (£55 tea cosy), but I’ve turned my thinking around and now view my knitting as entertainment and the yarn as a valid entertainment expense. So, for example, today I bought more sock yarn at a cost of $21.50, but it will take me at least 10 hours to knit the socks. So that is about $2.20 per hour for my entertainment (seems reasonable to me).

Having said (or written) the above, I do understand the other point of view …

Anyway here are some of the projects that caught my eye.

Socks! – I do like Socks!

Chunky Cushion – should be a quick knit

and I thought this idea of using tapestry wool for the edges was great.

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Knitting Workshop – Elizabeth Zimmerman

There are heaps of post-it notes stuck in my copy of this book and I’m only up to Lesson Two – Yoke Patterns Weaving and Finishing! I wish I had this book when I first started knitting.

Things like this …

It’s a good idea to form the habit of slipping the first stitch of every row in back-and-forth knitting as this makes any selvedge firm without tightness.

And I had no idea that knit and purl were the two sides of the same stitch!

Also, when joining the round you should use both strands for three stitches.

There is even diagrams about the way a stitch should look on the needle (for a knit stitch the right half of the loop should be in front of the needle.

There is information on decreases that lean to the right (k2tog) and the left (ssk).

This book is fabulous and I think knitters of all abilities would find something to interest them and possibly learn something new.

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The Gentle Art of Quilt Making – Jane Brocket

I’ve been very unproductive the last week or so and as it school holidays for the next two weeks I don’t think that is going to change. However, I have bought The Gentle Art of Quilt Makingby Jane Brocket.

I have her Gentle Art of Domesticity which I loved (I’m sure she is living the life I should have had!) So I had to have this one.

Once again it is beautifully presented. It contains 15 quilts and a description of in the inspiration behind each quilt. What Ms Brocket does really well is to take away the paralysing effect of perfection – it’s all about having a go and making something usable (and beautiful).  Most of the pieces are squares or strips (much easier to cut and sew) and the wow factor is produced by the fabric selections. Who would have thought squares on point could be so spectacular (see the cover image above).

Here are three of my favourites …

Beach Hut (Ice Cream)


Purple Rain

Don’t let my dodgy photography put you off. I think this book is designed for quilters of all levels.

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The Girl on The Wall – Jean Baggott


I thought my book review if The Girl on the Wallby Jean Baggott belonged to both of my blogs. This is a really lovely book and I think most crafty people would enjoy it.  (Read my review – here for more information).

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