Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Something to read when you're not quilting

I have this thing about quilt books: It's hard for me not to buy them.

When I walk into a quilt shop, I can have a grand time looking at fabric. But it's the book shelf (or rack, or wall) that draws me like a magnet. I can stand and look at quilt books for a long time.

It's not that I'm looking for anything in particular. There are occasions where I want to see something specific or find information about a technique, but those are rare. Usually, it's just that a new quilt book promises beauty and color and inspiration. And who wouldn't want more of that?

I have a healthy number of books in my collection. And, for the most part, they're all books that I am happy to return to over and over again. In a certain mood, I'll pull 5 or 6 of them and sit on the chair in the corner of the bedroom to just look through them, remembering what I liked about them and finding new discoveries (recently I discovered a Mrs. Mel quilt in a book I'd owned for some years...but now that she's a friend it jumped off the page right at me). I love how what I'm drawn to in a book changes over time, as my interests and abilities have changed. It's like sitting down for a talk with an old friend and learning something new. There's the familiar, but the surprise, too.

Some people understand and share this book addiction. My friend Janet Shore has the best library of quilt books of anyone I know, only rivalled by my quilt guild's massive collection. Janet has been collecting books since the 1970's, I think. She has two big walls of shelves in her living room just full of art and quilt books, and every time I'm there I find time to pull a book or two from a shelf and look a bit. Some of her books from the late 70's and early 80's flash me back to when I worked at The Quilting Bee (when it was tiny, in Los Altos, owned by Diana Leone) and I either owned them or pored over them on the shop's shelves when the store wasn't busy. Janet has books she bought on quilt trips in Japan some years back -- amazing books with gorgeous and innovative quilts. (That's how I learned about Ayako Miyawaki...from some books on Janet's shelves.) I always ask Janet if I can come and spend a weekend at her house, just soaking up the peace and no-kids-in-the-house neatness and lovely colors and beautiful quilts and endless books. She thinks I'm joking. I'm not.

My acquisition of books used to puzzle my husband. "You'll never make all these quilts," he'd say, "Doesn't it stress you out to just add to the things you want to make?" I shouldn't have been surprised...Roger gets worried when we've taped a few TV shows and haven't watched them yet. "They're piling up! We're falling behind!" (I remind him that the VCR is for OUR convenience and we can watch them -- or not -- was we damn well please.) But I've told him over and over that I don't buy books because I want to make something in them. In fact, owning a book with a picture of a beautiful quilt takes the pressure off of me: I can enjoy looking at the quilt as often as I like without ever having to make it! Best of both worlds! I buy the books because I just like to look the quilts in them.

I have a Japanese friend, Noriko, who is greatly amused that I have subscriptions to two Japanese quilt magazines, Patchwork Quilt Tsushin and Quilts Japan. (You can subscribe through Born to Quilt, here.) A non-quilter, she thinks it's very funny that I get magazines I can't read. I've shown her how I can read the numeric measurements, if I wanted to know that exact information, and I've reminded her that I can have her translate for me if I'm desperate to know what the text says. But I love these magazines because the quilts are so different from American quilts, and in part because I can't read them. I pore over the pictures because I can't read them. I look closely at the women's faces, to see if I recognize anyone. (There are Japanese quilters whose faces I recognize now, even though I don't know their names.)

I'm not indiscriminate. But I love books of quilt exhibits (and am eager to see the I Remember Mama book and the book of the most recent Viking exhibit from Houston), and books that focus on art and creativity. I don't buy "how to make THIS quilt" type books, unless the quilts are gorgeous and the pictures are great. Most recently, Katie Pasquini Masopust's new book "Color and Composition for the Creative Quilter" landed on my shelf...it's a great addition to the collection. I can look at Sandi Cummings' book "Thinking Outside the Block" and Dianne Hire's "Quilter's Playtime" over and over, too.

And there'll be another great book just around the corner, I know.


  1. I had a couple of 'me too!' moments reading this! I, too, make a beeline for books (though not just quilt books - dyeing, painting, melting, journalling, making books books...), and I too recently saw one of Mrs Mel's books in a book I own (I think it was Erin Noble's book on dyeing).

  2. Patchwork Tsushin gave me my first cover way back in 1987. Who knew?

    Also I just discovered the book in your all consuming column, the Art Quilts a Celebration, has three or four pages of my work. I ordered it, even tho I have the original books. It's nice to pull one off the shelf that is new and massive.