Gathering Threads

Book Review: Primarily Quilts by Di Ford

Posted by on Nov 16 2013, in Book Review, Quilting

Since my sewing time’s been pretty much eliminated by school work, I thought I’d share my thoughts on a book I recently purchased. ¬†Those who can’t, in other words, read about it instead ūüôā

Primarily Quilts is by Di Ford, an Australian quilter who specializes in vintage and reproduction quilts.

Her work is exquisite.  Master level applique that simply boggles the mind and makes you wonder when she has time to sleep.  Click here to flip through a flash version of the book to see the many beautiful designs the book includes.

Published by a French company, Quiltmania, who also publish a quilting magazine by the same name, Primarily Quilts is¬†published in multiple languages. ¬†It’s only available through their company and through some quilting stores. ¬†You can’t order it through Amazon, for instance. ¬†The cost is 34 Euros plus shipping (that’s around $48CDN or $46USD plus shipping at current exchange rates)

Primarily Quilts is bilingual, with directions and text in both French and English.  The downside to this is that while it is a substantial book (almost 300 pages), the directions are sparing because the space allotted for text is shared by the two languages.

This is not a book about ‘how-to’ and I would rate its skill level as expert. ¬†While the text opens with a half dozen pages of direction about fussy-cutting of hexagons, working broderie perse and creative fabric layouts for the applique figures, there are limited directions for fabric choices, how to prepare or stitch applique shapes or how to finish the quilts. ¬†You get the patterns and templates and very minimal instructions on piecing and that’s it. ¬† The directions are clear and logical, but they assume a great deal of pre-existing skill and access to additional resources for the mechanics of making a quilt like this.

The applique and patchwork templates (some of the smaller designs are printed in the book, the rest are on three oversized pullouts) are very clear, and Ford includes alternate ¬†templates for those designs where she has used broderie perse, in case the quilter doesn’t want to use that technique. ¬†That’s a nice touch. ¬†I actually found it easier to visual the quilts’ elements from the black and white line drawings. ¬†Ford’s use of colour is very Victorian (read *busy*) and sometimes, it can be difficult to pick out the individual motifs through the cacophony of fabrics and prints.

The book’s design is very eyecatching and the paper feels smooth and rich. ¬† The photographs look rich and sumptuous and I’ve spent more than one evening when I should have been reading theory leafing through it, and I always see something new. ¬†All of the quilts are displayed with a very European flair, there are lots and lots of close-ups peppered throughout the books as well as a photo of each of the quilts laid flat, so you can study the overall layout.

There are illustrations showing the steps of assembly (the majority of the quilts are done in the English frame style), and measurements are offered in both imperial and metric. ¬†One surprising element is the scale of many of the quilts. ¬†Some of the individual pieces are very small and require a great degree of precision in their piecing (anyone feel like cutting several hundred multi-coloured 13/16″ triangles?)

Ford doesn’t really do shortcuts (and that’s fair, since the audience for this book probably isn’t looking for Quick Quilts in a Weekend kind of thing). ¬†Only two of the quilts offer any machine piecing shortcuts; the rest assume that the quilter will be tracing and cutting and assembling the pieces with handwork. ¬†It’s a very labour intensive process and I for one found that a very intimidating aspect of this book.

I’ll be frank. ¬†I don’t think I’ve got the skills or the patience to sew the quilts in this book. ¬†The hundreds of hours of work and the large scale stash needed to recreate them make it unlikely. ¬†That said, the book is still worthwhile in my view, even just as inspiration, especially since it shows historic quilts from periods other than just the American Civil war and from different nationalities, like Holland and England. ¬†And even if I’m not planning on sewing a 5000 piece quilt, I can see myself using the individual templates on smaller projects, because Ford’s sense of design is top notch.

So I’ll give this book a buy. ¬†Because just like fabric in your stash, you can never have too many books about fabric on your bookshelf, either!