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Surprise, and Suits and Ties

Dear Ann,
You: doing your bit in the trenches to help Nashville including the part of Nashville that is your very own basement. Me: knitting and quilting and generally going about my business, several stories above dry land. I wish I were there, keeping you company and following directions. But like everybody else, at least I can give. This is one of those situations where “throwing money at a problem” is not a bad thing. Ready, aim, throw.
I was starting to despair of ever getting my hands on a copy of Jane Brocket‘s latest book, The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking. Such was my despond that I dang near plunked down the shipping charges from the UK. (I know. That shocks you to the core. Me too. I scared myself.) But finally, mere weeks after its UK debut, the US edition is out and my copy is in the house.
Jane did not disappoint. What is more, she surprised.
As a longtime reader of Jane’s blogs past and present, I was willing, waiting and wanting to be beaten about the head and shoulders with colour! glorious colour! I was anticipating a trip to a heady world of floral prints of every scale, and inspiration from the garden and candy store. Those signatures are there, to be sure. What I was not ready for:
Suits and Ties. Despite my devotion to Amish quilts, which often were wool, I have never been able to “see” a wool quilt of my own making. I wanted to see one that I could get excited enough about to make. This is the one. Whether I can actually bring myself to cut up sacred suits and ties….well, I don’t have to go there. Get this: according to Jane, they sell suiting fabrics and tie silks, by the yard. No emotional investment required. (Oooh, though. Just had a thought: the linings of suits. I suppose they sell shiny lining fabric by the yard, too.)
I was also blown away by the Ball Gown quilt. (No gasp-spoiling photo here.) I just did not see this one coming, from Jane or anyone else. The top is made with silks, plain and embroidered (!), and the backing is quilting cotton so the quilt won’t slip off the bed or sofa. It’s stunning. And a bracing wake-up from ordinary quilting fabrics (lovely as they are).
Jane’s attitude toward method is one I’ve adopted myself, out of necessity–just get busy and make a quilt. If you love quilts, and you want to make them, but you wait –for the space to quilt, the time to quilt, the skills to quilt, your knitting UFOs to get finished so you can quilt– you will not produce the stacks of beautiful, useful quilts you want, quilts that have a story, even if the story is only, “And then I made this quilt.” (That is a good story.) Quilts that will hopefully be the first thing grabbed if the water starts rising.
As a how-to book, Jane’s instructions are clear and her tips go beyond the strictly technical to tell you stuff you still need to know. The best tip for apartment or ping-pong table quilters: “Lay out and pick up in one day.” So yeah–you won’t get to revisit your layout day after day, tweaking here, balancing there, as you would if you were Nancy Crow and could stick multiple quilt layouts on the walls of your 3 barn studios. Get over it! You are not Nancy Crow; learn to look faster. You’ll make another one, right? Just being told this, while looking at Jane’s beautiful quilts made in space borrowed from teenagers, is empowering. The perfect is not the enemy of the good (and the barn studio is not the enemy of the alcove studio).
Second favorite tip: “Do not walk on laid-out quilt pieces in socks.” News I can use, people. (“Do not allow terriers in vicinity”–just a suggestion, for the next edition.)
I close with a favorite picture.
Hymns on the wall, quilt on the table. Amen!

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  1. You want shiny suit linings? Say no more. On that last photo though, those big print versions of hymns are what we used to have to sing from in school assemblies. Years of sitting cross-legged on the floor, freezing cold, singing ‘All things bright and beautiful’. Ye gods, how I hated all of that. Even at 5 or 6. I shall have nightmares tonight!
    (Even worse was forever being made to sing ‘Away in a manger’ at Christmas. How I hated that carol! What was wrong with ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, I’d like to know???)
    x x x

  2. You guys ALWAYS have something good on on this blog! What would I do without you? Ann made me GIVE yesterday and it felt good…I like that bit about throwing money, a good thing. And then today you show up with this book….I ‘ew and ah’ over her photos, that color! My, my she must be related to Kaffe somewhere….so thanks for the review I am now going to Amazon to part with more money…you girls are breaking me! I won’t even mention how much yarn I have had to buy because of your books…. and speaking of books, I just love the audio…I want more, and much more blog reading too… love you guys!

  3. I bought this, knowing I would be frustrated because the local quilt shops here all seem to only stock tasteful little fussy prints. It’s like the bookshop that I went into once that only appeared to have books that had been reviewed in The New York Times. No romance, no popular mystery or science fiction. I hope books like hers crack the door open a bit wider for exuberance in American quilting.
    I loved the Ball Gown quilt as well, but confess my first thought was to see how much the ladies at the Indian bridal/custom dress shop down the hill would charge to make such a thing. Of course, the price would probably steel my nerve concerning sewing silk.

  4. I love that lady! How have I never heard of Jane Brocket before!? Boy Howdy I wish I owned her books. Thanks Kay!

  5. That bottom picture is too hard to fathom. It should be in a doll’s house!
    My mom used to belong to a sewing group that, once a year, held a sort of stash-swap event. One year someone brought a bunch of little plaid cashmere/wool samples — maybe for ultra fancy kilts or something. Anyways, you can’t put apparently useless cashmere bits in front of my mom — she snapped them up and sewed them together into a super stunning blanket. Never draped it over a Mercedes, though, to my knowledge! Gosh, must learn to sew…

  6. Years ago, I made a quilt out of stunning men’s suiting samples. I (machine) quilted it in a pattern of neckties, and showed it to the head of the menswear store which had given me the samples. Great admiration, but no takers in my own family. And a couple of years later, the dread m*ths had made a meal of it… So if you do it, don’t keep it in a dark closet. It would be doomed!

  7. i am not a quilter but i once took a quilt workshop from kaffe fassett because who wouldn’t? anyway, he introduced me to the portable piecing wall and i thought it was a normal thing. isn’t it? a 6′ or so length of neutral colored flannel that you tack up on a wall anywhere (even over stuff–he’s got lotsa stuff, too) and just slap up the pieces, which stick to the nap. you put the whole thing up there and move it all around like colorforms til it gets the way it should be. the other ladies painstakingly unpieced theirs at the end of each day (these were the same ladies who were reluctant to really use THAT color…) but i figured why? and just rolled it up from the bottom like a beachtowel with all the pieces in place so i wouldn’t hafta lay it out again when i got back to it. which is a good thing because it still is, since: i am not a quilter…

  8. I made a series of quilts for my step-siblings, niece and nephews out of my step-dad’s old suit shirts and Hawaiian print shirts. Not sure I could have brought myself to cut into his good suits, though I’m sure there are a few that could be found at Goodwill for a reasonable price.
    My apartment quilting tip is to use your digital camera at every stage. I have to do the lay down and pick up in one day thing because the only spaces I have large enough to use are my bed or the passage between my kitchen and living room. By trying several lay outs and photographing each one, I can still come back and see where I want to make changes. With basic photo editing, you can turn your pictures to black and white to see if there are any color value issues, which is useful both in picking fabrics and settling on a layout.

  9. OK. I know I’m going to have to buy this, so: UK edition or US?

  10. Kay, kay, kay,
    you *always* inspire me, in all things.
    What a gift you are.

  11. I am fortunate to have a ball gown quilt made by my grandmother. It’s well over 100 years old. I used to be allowed to lay under it when I was sick as a kid. I still have it although it is worn in places. It’s a crazy quilt with an embroidered top and one of my treasured possessions.

  12. Wow! Silk tie fabric by the yard!
    Sure wish my fiber arts group knew of that when we were ripping seams, pulling out linings, etc. of donated silk ties to make our “silk tie log cabin quilt”. (When finished, it will be raffled off this fall to benefit a local historical society).
    Modern technology never ceases to amaze….

  13. My great-grandmother made a quilt of suits. It is all herringbones and tweeds and just gorgeous! My brother has it now. How did that happen?

  14. Kay Kay Kay. If you had pre-ordered on Amazon you would have had it weeks ago. That said, the drooling here over those quilts is bordering on unseemly. Especially the ball gown quilt. I look at those photos and I can hear it rustle. So where in New York would you go to buy those silks?

  15. jane brocket has a goody blog
    you do not have to quilt to enjoy
    books about quilting nor do you have to
    paint to enjoy all manner of the arts
    glourious colors sells keffe by the yard
    can not wait for the next quilt by kay

  16. you should see her blog – its vvv inspiring

  17. I have a quilt made of mens’ shirt material from the 1940s – there was a shirt company near my grandmother’s home. It’s soft blues and whites and greys, and very well-loved. Thanks for sharing this book – I hope it’s in Canada now!

  18. I have a quilt made of mens’ shirt material from the 1940s – there was a shirt company near my grandmother’s home. It’s soft blues and whites and greys, and very well-loved. Thanks for sharing this book – I hope it’s in Canada now!

  19. HI–had to check out Jane’s blog–something else to fuel the quilting fire. I love it. i too will be ordering that book. thanks for the influx of color on a really gray day.

  20. I fell hard for the Suits & Ties quilt, too… just as I did for the stripey shirting fabric quilt in one of Kaffe’s books. Apparently I have a thing for deconstructed menswear. I got Jane’s book to give to my mother-in-law for her birthday this weekend, but I have to confess it’s been well pawed before wrapping!

  21. Do you think Ms. Brocket was trying to imply that quilt making is synonymous with hymn singing? Or Christianity? Or is it an any dogma fits all craft?

  22. Thanks for posting this. I think I’m going to have to check out this book. Ball gown quilts sound amazing.

  23. After my father passed away, my sister made a bowtie quilt for my mother using my father’s old ties. She loved it and treasured it. It made so much more sense than having all those snappy looking ties just hanging in a clump in a dark closet getting shop worn.

  24. I wash and stash my husband’s boxers when he wears them out (there’s a hilarious quilt there, eventually), but I hadn’t thought about suits and ties…

  25. I love Jane! I wasn’t going to buy this book, because I don’t really quilt. However – you changed my mind! I do love quilts, and maybe Jane can inspire me — or maybe I’ll just like looking at the pictures!

  26. You make me want to quilt – bad.
    Or take up photography!
    So many possible hobbies, so little time!

  27. My uncle sold ties in the 1950s – my grandmother got all the samples and quilted a beautiful pillow top…worn out now, it is still so precious to me. I am not a quilter – wish I could repair it — anyway, this idea is classic frugal farm wife, Grandmother Hardison all over again.

  28. Kay, do you know about the Book Depository?
    They’re in the UK, and post shipping free all over the world – ask me how I know…..


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