Book Review – City Quilts

We have a wonderful quilting/fabric shop here in Madison, which I visit so often the owner and some of the ladies know me. It’s so nice to go into a shop and be greeted by name!

I was thrilled to find this book, City Quilts by Cherri House, on a recently shopping adventure.

I think the projects in this book are the perfect examples of modern quilts! I adore the inspiration of city life to make quilts representing “urban architecture and landscapes.”

Categories in this book include:

Urban Inspirations, offering insight into why Cherri picked these varied city scenes as the backdrop for her designs, the way the light hits the buildings at different times of day, the way the structures create different patterns, the way the cities are laid out in grids. She discusses building your design skills to create your own possibilities. She illustrates how to make a traditional pattern contemporary, how to throw in something unexpected, how to make statements based on your color choices.

Fabric: The Joy of Solids is a wonderful chapter talking about the palette of solids, using different color schemes to create the right effect or mood you are aiming for.

The Design Play: Endless Possibilities chapter gives us concrete ways to develop our own design skills, using simple graph paper or modern technology. This chapter also goes through the process of selecting borders (or not), quilting designs, and more inspirational guidance.

The Quilts chapter includes 12 quilt projects made from simple squares and rectangles to make interesting geometric designs that are inspired by city life. (see below for a couple examples)

The chapter on Quiltmaking Essentials includes useful techniques and finishing basics.

I have taken a couple graphic design classes, so I appreciate how far the simple geometric shapes will push an art project, especially when sewing with solid fabrics. I love the point Cherri makes in this book that the simplicity in these designs makes these projects beginner-friendly, while still offering the challenge for more experienced quilters of designing your own fresh, modern layouts.

Many of the projects in this book use black or charcoal gray for sashing, borders and binding, which makes translates well to the hard edges of buildings and the shadows created at corners and crevices. But you could even go the unexpected route by reversing the contrasts. That’s the beauty of this book, it gives you thought-provoking inspiration and guidance to develop your own modern design skills.

We can all relate to the scene that inspired this next quilt – flocks of geese! I love the fresh feel of this one, that it doesn’t have the expected sky blue fabric for the backgrounds.

For those of you with kids who frequent city playgrounds, you may never look at that weathered equipment the same again after seeing this next project. If you don’t have kids, all of these projects still help us notice our surroundings in new ways. I would not have seen this quilt in my mind when looking at playground equipment. But now I see where that scene can lead me in coming up with my own design ideas.

The following project is my absolute favorite in this book. Take a closer look at all those trees and parks in your own community. Wait a minute, this gives me the idea to use my backyard as inspiration for a quilt. It also reminds me of a tile mosaic, which is a beautiful architectural inspiration used by another quilt designer.

Cherri talks about her transformation from being bored with solid fabrics to her joy in working with them now. Subtle changes or gradations in color create a more dramatic effect that print fabrics can. I am slowly building my stash of solid fabrics, and I don’t think I own one piece of black or charcoal gray cotton quilting fabric.

I would love to stretch myself by making something from this book. It has been said quite often that inspiration surrounds you… only if you know how to look for it, not where to look for it. Cherri writes, “be inspired by what is around you.” This book definitely teaches that lesson.

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Previous book reviews:

Small Stash Sewing

Sewing Bits and Pieces

Best Practice – Resources

Ready for another installment of my Best Practices series? I can’t believe I have stuck with this series for six weeks  now!

I have worked as a paralegal for so many years (17!), and I’ve always found it important to have the right resources at hand. This carries over to my creative world too. There are lots of resources available, from books to magazines to the Internet.

(my new favorite resource – the Fat Quarterly e-zine!)

I especially love using the Internet and fellow bloggers for resources and inspiration. But I also like to have the actual books and magazines when learning the terminology, materials, tools, new techniques, and just looking for inspiration.

Finding what works for your needs can be fun. A couple things I like to look for in my resources: high quality pictures and illustrations (eye candy!), useful tips, intermediate to advanced techniques, and a variety of fresh, modern projects.

Sewing / Quilting References

When I first learned how to quilt in 1999, I took formal classes at the local quilt shop. I guess I was lucky to have access to such a fabulous shop because so many people nowadays seem to be either self-taught or are learning from free sites on the Internet. I’m a visual learner, so I like to hear and see the steps done and then try them myself.

Anyway, after those classes, I bought this quilting encyclopedia to have by my side as I made quilts on my own.

It’s an older book, but still great reference, from tools to techniques to piecing to quilting.

I progressed to using baby quilt books, since they provided easy to follow instructions for great projects.

These days, my sewing interested have expanded from sewing quilts to patchwork goods for our house and bags and clothes. Who doesn’t love Anna Maria Horner’s Seams To Me sewing book?! Every girl has to have this on her shelf!

I love the basic sewing techniques in this book to guide you through the charming projects that will stretch your sewing skills beyond of quilting. I adore Anna Maria’s voice and perspective – fun and free. There are no rules here; just guidelines to help steer you in the direction of success with your modern projects. I also especially like that this book is spiral bound so I can lay it flat.

Another sewing book I love is Amy Karol‘s Bend-the-Rules-Sewing book. It’s full of clever, modern projects with a fresh twist, from bags to aprons to table linens to aprons. I love her illustrations, and the multiple pictures or ideas she presents for each project.

Knitting and Crochet References

I learned how to knit and crochet when I was about 10 years old, but I ended up setting crafts aside while I was in college.

I relearned both knitting and crochet over 10 years ago, so I bought a couple reference books to have on hand. My absolute favorite resource book is the Knitters Companion because it serves like a mini encyclopedia (or a paperbook version of Google) when I get stuck and need to look up something quickly. I also really like that it’s spiral-bound so I can lay it flat if I need to follow along.

I always need help figuring out how to interchange yarns, since I often don’t have access to the yarn used in a pattern. So I especially love those particular pages!

Embroidery References

I used to do more embroidery and needlepoint in years past. At one point, I had to narrow down my hobbies, which is mainly sewing these days.

(Doodle Stitching by Aimie RayKids Embroidery by Kristin Nicholas, and Colorful Stitchery by Kristin Nicholas)

But I was so happy I had these reference books on my shelves when I made my mini friendship quilt for my recent blog giveaway. I needed a refresher on how to stitch words and flowers.

Color References

I think we would all agree how much fun it is to learn about the color wheel, how to use it, and how to make projects with the color wheel in mind.

I love the color exploration sections in Joelle Hoverson’s books. She provides a simple yet artsy narrative on combining various colors to achieve a different feeling.

I found this cool book at the local yarn store. I haven’t had much time to spend studying it, but it has amazing examples of different color combinations based on how you turn your color wheel.

Drawing Resources

I also have a pile of drawing and design resources, but I haven’t had much time to spend on those art techniques since the design and drawing classes I took last year.


I know, there are zillions of great craft reference books and pattern books on the market. I could write a separate post reviewing each one of these wonderful creative books. (I do have a couple new sewing books I plan to review soon, so stay tuned for more on that.) Having these particular resources on my shelves has given me access to techniques and inspiration right at my fingertips! Feel free to share your favorite resources in the comments or link to your blog.


Previous posts about my Best Practices:



Bobbins, Pins and Folding

Business Cards

Carry Your Product

Have you read Bronte?

After discovering two of my blogging friends are participating in Melissa’s Bronte-Along, I stood up straight and paid closer attention. I was an English major in college, and I have wondered ever since then why we never read any Bronte or Austen books!

bronte-along! by yummygoods.

I have a couple Bronte books on my bookshelves, so what better time to dive in with the first read-along – Jane Eyre!

The members of the Bronte-along are going to read more after this one, including Wuthering Heights and The Tenent of Wildfell Hall.

We’re supposed to blog about how we’re going to participate in this read-along. For now, I’m going to read this book, and probably try to watch the movie. Some people are doing things like paintings, crocheting a shawl, and embroidering a line from the book. I would to make something crafty, but I don’t know enough about the book, the characters, or the author to figure out a creative project to contribute. I’m off to read and look for some inspiration in my dreams.

Books I Read in 2009

I am always inspired by Anina’s list of books she read over the year. Every year, I wish I made more time to read, but I’m happy with my list. I read four of those books twice; does that mean I can count them twice? I also like keeping track of the books I read from year to year.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (almost done)
Thirst by Christopher Pike
Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr (I can’t wait for the fourth book to come out this April!)
Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (a fantastic suspenseful, horrific, historical love story!)
Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer (I read this one twice!)
Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer (I read this one twice!)
New Moon Stephanie Meyer (I read this one twice!)
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (I read this one twice!)
Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks (very good non-fiction memoir about the author’s life)
Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler (interesting non-fiction book about China)
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (very interesting story)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

I do have to confess (publicly) that the Twilight books were my favorites, but I also loved the Wicked Lovely series, and The Gargoyle!

I received a few books for Christmas (among other things), but I’m always on the hunt for more tips to good reads, so I would be interested in hearing any recommendations you have.

Book Lists

What a great idea I found over at twiddletails, to list the books I read in 2008.  My list is not as big as Anina’s list, but I’m happy with what I accomplished:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – charming and fun.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky – quite interesting.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson – an amazing story that everyone should know about.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White –  I can’t believe I never read this children’s book.  I really loved it and didn’t want the story to end.

Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larsen – I finished reading this right before the Hurricanes hit the gulf coast in September. Chilling that anyone survived.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy – creepy, chilling, thought-provoking… It was so good that I read it in four days.

The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers – I never would have picked this if it weren’t for my book club, so I’m glad I read it because it was good.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philipa Gregory – F A B U L O U S! I loved this one so much.  Even my husband liked the movie, which he thought might be a chick-flick.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See – a must-read.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – very good.

Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer – eh, this one was okay but a little bizarre for my taste.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – eh, sort of interesting.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan – provoking and good.

09 Books to read

Here’s my pile to read in 2009 (so far):

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

The Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks

Does anyone have any recommendations for a book you couldn’t put down? I would love to hear more.