In one sentence, this pattern book is a reproduction fabric-lover’s dream.The quilts made by the authors make it clear they are bonafide scrap loving quilt makers who put as many different reproduction prints into one quilt as humanly possible.
Mary and Biz define small blocks as under 5” square and stopping short of being miniatures. Any collector knows their raison d’être for the choices they make in purchasing an antique quilt. For Mary and Biz it’s the quilts made exclusively with small blocks that knocks the wind out of their chest in a gasp of glee when seen from across a room or vendor booth. their enthusiasm is palatable through the book and you can’t help but appreciate them for this. The book came from this passion and their hands.
In the first section are pages of 19th century quilts made with small blocks of rosettes, stars, flying geese, half square medallion quilts and others, which the authors studied for inspiration. There are scrumptious pictures of fussy cut hexagons in repro fabrics that match any antique ones I’ve seen. They make me want to get out my hand sewing and try a few. They use clear template plastic and a sandpaper board to mark then cut these little pieces just so.
One of the antique quilts pictured in this section is an outstanding chintz medallion coverlet made c. 1841 in Australia, the “Rajah Quilt.” Female British prisoners on board the convict ship by the same name as this quilt made it. It is a beautiful medallion quilt with 12 borders of various widths with myriad blocks or appliqués. they counted 2,815 pieces of fabric. Biz and Mary are fabri-holics to their core.
With fabric and color leading their every choice in making small block quilt, less attention was paid to the era of the reproduction fabrics they chose. The book is does not mention fabric dating or reproduction quilt making. It doesn't tell the reader how to make their quilt look like a certain era, but their quilts have a traditional and older feel.
Mary and Biz like to machine sew, they find the repetition calming and meditative, so making little blocks with simple shapes gives them lots of quiet time!
They work in an organized manner of chain piecing mixed with liberated techniques of taking the next fabric in a stack without deliberation. The color decision and fabric choices are made at the start then the project proceeds from there without too much attention to what color ends up where. They dedicated the book to their mentor and friend Gwen Marston who inspired them to get out of the rut of worrying about each piece in a quilt. Yet, they remind us that measuring and precision in the sewn seam allowance, is extra important when making small blocks, and they prefer to slow down the sewing and enjoy the process and feel of the fabric. I like this too.
I wonder if there is a Universal move toward smaller going on as our world economy shifts... as I was typing this from my longhand, a Burger King ad for their new smaller tiny burgers came on TV. All the girls gathered around them cooing. Do we coo over small block quilts...really, do we?
***Not to be missed! Do we coo over wonderful old dresses too? Yes!! Check out this just published online article that features a pre-Civil War dress in Nancy Kirk's collection, The Story in a Dress written by Suzanne Arney. It is also published in the March/April issue of PieceWorks magazine. Click on the link for a full color article PDF.***