Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review - The Civil War Sewing Circle

Hi everyone:

I'm sitting here "enjoying" the spring weather in Calgary, which is snow, snow, snow and just below freezing. While it's too slushy and cold to do much outside (do we really need to shovel the driveway again?!), it's a perfect opportunity to review a quilting book.

Today, I'm looking at The Civil War Sewing Circle: Quilts and Sewing Accessories Inspired by the Era by Kathleen Tracy. This is Kathleen's fourth book published by That Patchwork Place and, as in her previous books, she combines historical content with projects reminiscent of that time period. Kathleen's inclusion of historical information, such as diaries and letters from the civil war helps to evoke the emotions and feeling of that turbulent time. The 16 projects in the book include doll quilts, wall hangings and throws as well as small sewing accessories and are, with a few exceptions, pieced projects.

We sometimes forget that quilting wasn't always a hobby, as it if for most of us, but a way to provide warmth and comfort in difficult times. During the civil war, it was the women volunteers of the U.S. Sanitary Commission who provided quilts for bedding for the wounded soldiers. The Soldier's Cot Quilt was based on one of the few remaining examples of the quilts made for this purpose during the civil war. Its simplicity would be effective in solid colours and reminds me of the quilts that are currently being made by modern quilt guilds.
Since I've recently begun making hexagons, The Hexagon Flowers Doll Quilt appealed to me. A simple design with hexagons in the centre and borders with cornerstones, it would stitch up quickly. I could see this pattern in both traditional and contemporary fabrics. 

Another quilt that I liked in the book was the Union Stars Quilt. It's a throw size project with half square triangles (I love half square triangles). I think it would be equally effective in scraps or in a more controlled colour scheme as in the book. 

There are also patterns in the book for a sewing box, needle case and pincushion, again reminiscent of items from the time period, but which would also be practical items in our quilt or sewing studios today. 

The size of several of the projects lend themselves to handwork if you wish to have a portable project. Certainly any of the doll quilts could be hand pieced and quilted quickly. Although I don't usually do handwork, the projects in this book have my fingers itching to do some hand stitching!

I liked that most of the projects in the book were small enough to try a new technique. You could make one of the doll quilts or pincushion easily in a day and then spend a little more time hand quilting them. If you didn't enjoy the technique, then you haven't wasted a lot of time and energy on it. I also enjoyed the combination of information about the civil war and projects from that time period. A little bit of quilting, a little bit of reading, a perfect way to spend a snowy day!

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