Quilt samplers have been at the forefront of modern quilting trends in 2014, and with the emphasis this year on modern traditionalism, it’s no wonder! As we all know, samplers are a traditional practice dating back hundreds of years into American quilt history. They were a particularly popular practice in the 18th and 19th century; Jane Blakely Stickle (of the Dear Jane quilt) constructed her masterpiece in 1863. Sampler quilts were a teaching/bragging tool, where teh ladiez of times gone by could practice and/or show off their skills.
Modern sampler quilts today fill a similar purpose, plus they’re just so pretty to look at. The graphic nature of block patterns is a perfect excuse to play up modern fabrics and bold colors. A lot of modern sampler-quilt designs have taken traditional quilt blocks and simply changed their scale or gridwork (how they’re arranged on the quilt) to update them a bit. But Elizabeth Hartman‘s Patchwork City (from Stash Books/C&T Publishing)? NOT SO.
Patchwork City updates every aspect of the sampler quilt, starting with the blocks themselves. Do not look for Ohio stars here, people! No bear claws or Dutchman’s puzzle or granny squares or nine-patch or Aunt Liza’s flask of moonshine or what-have-you (bonus points if you can guess which one I just made up!). The blocks themselves are modern, graphic, and inspired by the geometry of city life. Just look at the names: “Karaoke,” “Onramp,” “Planter Box,” “Coffeeshop,” and the list goes on. I took one look and started cursing my suburban existence. (If only Hartman had included some blocks with more gritty depictions of the urban landscape, like “Creepy Subway Guy” or “Gridlock at Rush Hour.” I kid, I kid. FYI, I had to make these up as a free-thinking exercise to remind myself why I’m not still gallivanting down the streets of Chicago like I did after college.)
I also really liked how Hartman offers many different options for quilt sizes and layouts. Like modern city living, her quilts are modular. Want to make a baby-sized quilt? Use only 25 blocks of this shape. Want to make a queen-size? Use all 75 blocks and arrange them just so. It’s perfect, and it allows quilters to take on a sampler quilt without feeling overwhelmed.
The book is arranged differently from other quilting pattern books I’ve read, which is both a positive (for me and other experienced quilters) and a potential drawback (for newbies). Rather than the first hundred pages being dedicated to technique and supplies, Hartman jumps right in with block patterns and templates. Then, after all 75 blocks, she includes a “How-To” section that briefly outlines using freezer-paper templates and fussy cutting. All of which is to say: this book is awesome and fun and completely doable for the average home quilter, but it’s not for beginners. It also requires a bit of reading backward unless you’re just going to jump in and make every block. You’ll probably want to look at the quilt layouts in the back of the book first, and then work from there–at least that’s my plan.
It’s been a while since I planned a quilt from scratch, but this pattern is getting me excited about getting back on my horse. The templates for Patchwork City look really challenging and fun to do. I haven’t tried freezer-paper templates before outside of foundation piecing, so I’m excited to give it a go. After all, isn’t a sampler supposed to be about building skills? I could use some practice with cutting and perfecting my points, so this is a good one to choose. Overall, I really recommend this book, and I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone does with it!
Have you started your Patchwork City quilt yet?