Friday, August 22, 2008
Book Review: Foolproof Machine Quilting
Free motion quilting is one of those things that quilters seem to either love or avoid. I know a number of quilters who've been pretty intimidated about free motion quilting, and I know scads of them who simply aren't interested in learning it. They'll hand quilt and send a quilt out for professional long-arm quilting before they'll drop their feed dogs and hook up the free motion foot.
But one of the best things about quilting is that there is room for every taste and technique here. Those people who don't want to quilt using free-motion quilting -- or those who do but want a different alternative from time to time, will want to check out "Foolproof Machine Quilting" by Mary Mashuta (C&T Publishing, 2008).
Mary Mashuta is an internationally known quilt maker and teacher, and pretty much a legend here in Northern California. She excels at using contemporary and unusual fabric choices with traditional quilt patterns to create innovative and striking quilts. And if you've ever examined them or had a class with Mary, then you know that Mary just doesn't do free motion quilting. Instead, she's developed a way of designing elegant and relatively simple shapes to complement the blocks she quilts, all sewn with a walking foot and a straight stitch.
This book lays out Mary's thoughts, processes, and tips about walking-foot quilting. She tells you how to use thick threads (even #8 perle cotton), and how to select the right needles and batting for your project. Most importantly, she shows how she creates her own quilting templates, using freezer paper or contac paper, to make repositionable quilting guides in any shape you choose. There are lots of illustrations in this book showing variations of quilting shapes and even creative uses for decorative stitches in the quilting process.
My one disappointment about this book? Far too many of the quilts shown in this new book are ones already shown in other books by Mary and C&T. In fact, the cover of this book is a detail shot from a quilt featured in Cotton Candy Quilts (C&T Publishing, 2001), where you can find almost the same picture. You all know how much I love quilt books, and you won't be surprised that I really do look at them over and over for inspiration. Sometimes I'm studying color, sometimes quilting designs, sometimes just general ideas. So as I looked through this brand new book, I was dismayed to find that many of the quilts weren't new to me. To be honest, it felt too much like I was looking at the Mashuta books I already have. Maybe if the book were subtitled or marketed as "an up-close look at Mary Mashuta's quilting using her body of work" -- with some clue that you're going to see a lot of older quilts here, not new ones-- I wouldn't have been so disappointed. I couldn't help feeling a bit cheated as I turned page after page to see quilts I've seen in her other books.
Still, the information here is clear and very useful, and the images do provide good illustration of attractive quilting designs. The images are all about the quilting designs, so I recognize that the use of those same quilts is for a different purposes than in the previous books (where they were generally shown for the pieced block designs).
All in all, I guess I'd grade this book a "B" (can you tell we're in back-to-school mode?). The content is good and the instruction is very clear, even if you may have seen a lot of the quilts before. This book, and the walking-foot quilting ideas taught here, are good ones to have in your quilting bag of tricks.