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Review: Vintage Quilt Revival

Posted: 13 Feb 2014 07:56 AM PST


I seem to be constitutionally incapable of following. (That's a weird way to start a craft book review, but bear with me.) I've never quite been able to get wholeheartedly interested in any large-scale craft movement. I prefer to skim the edges of movements, picking up little bits and hybridizing them.

…Which is why the title, Vintage Quilt Revival: 22 Modern Designs from Classic Blocks initially had me thinking, "Hmmmm… probably not my cuppa." I love quilt-making, but just haven't been able to dive deeply into either traditional quilting or the Modern Quilt Movement. I mean, I'm glad both exist, and I enjoy elements of both, but I don't identify with either camp.

But then I read the book, and I'm so glad I did! This is a book that can take you much deeper into the ins and outs of quilt design, and give you fresh appreciation for two distinct kinds of quilt-making.


Vintage Quilt Revival takes 20 historical quilt block designs, and gives each one a modern interpretation. But to my mind, that's not the chief beauty of this book. The chief beauty is the instructional presentation. Here's an example:


Let's take this design, Lee Heinrich's Dancing Squares Quilt. (It's based on a traditional block called Rolling Squares.) First, you get an in situ shot of the quilt…


…Then you get detailed, illustrated instructions on how to cut and assemble the basic block.

vintage-quilt-revival07 vintage-quilt-revival06

And then, alongside very clean and spaciously-formatted text instructions, You also get quilt construction diagrams and a full, straight-on shot of the finished quilt.

Every quilt in the book gets this treatment! I'd love to see this kind of documentation for all quilt books – yes, including the one I co-authored! Page space is always a precious resource in craft books, and publishers and authors always have to make hard decisions on what to include and not include. I really applaud how much detail manages to fit in this layout without it seeming at all crowded.


The book's other chief beauty is that the authors didn't just plop these historical blocks into quilt form. In each case, they came up with a way to transform the way the block is used, giving it a truly modern look. These Design Notes exist for every quilt, and they're invaluable nuggets of design thought. I learned a ton just from reading these bits.


Another fun element: little quilty history lessons, sprinkled throughout.



The sample quilts all have that bold, slightly minimalist style of the Modern Quilt movement. I liked many of them, and thanks to the wonderful presentation of each design, my mind is also full of variations I could create with my own movement-skimming mindset.



These quilts are a little on the diminutive side to my eyes, but I don't think this sizing is uncommon for modern quilts. The samples are largely in a range of 60 x 60" to about 60" x 75". Not that you couldn't add more blocks and make them larger.



There are a few smal projects tucked in among the quilts, and these I really loved. That tote is a gorgeous way to use quilt blocks.

vintage-quilt-revival15 vintage-quilt-revival16 vintage-quilt-revival17

I love the final three projects, which take all 20 blocks and interpret them as sampler quilts. One's made using fabrics from a single designer's line, one's made in all solids, and one's made with all the blocks oriented on point. What a great idea!

…So in short, I really loved how this book made me see fresh creative possibilities in quilt blocks I'd previously dismissed as "stodgy," and I loved how it helped me better understand the design underpinnings of modern quilting. Between the Design Notes and the way the projects are assembled, I feel like I took away a sketchbook full of interesting ideas I can apply to my own patchwork. I know this is a book that will stay on my shelf and get repeat browsing.

(Disclose, Baby: Interweave sent me a review copy. The title links above are affiliate links.)

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