Book Review: Prize Country Quilts

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Prize Country Quilts

Author: Mary Elizabeth Johnson (Huff)

Date: 1977

Publisher: Oxmoor House

ISBN: 0-8487-0444-4

Length: 230 pages including index

Illustrations: many full-color photos

Quote: “The people who entered Progressive Farmer magazine’s ‘Joys of Country Living’ Heritage Quilt Block Contest provided…this book of brand-new quilt designs.”

That’s what makes this quilting book special. Some designs are traditional, symmetrical, geometric arrangements, like “Stars and Stirrups” (eight-pointed stars interspersed with half-rings” or “Proud Pine” (yet another stylized tree shape for your collection). Some, like “East Tennessee Farm” and “Our Heritage the Church,” portray landscapes. Then there are a few new, ambitious flower designs; “Jack in the Pulpit” mimics the plant’s asymmetrically curved shapes, and “Summer Leaves” seem traced from real oak leaves.

Some of the designs call for specific colors that would have been hard to find in 1877. “Abundance” relies for its effect on fabrics dyed in the colors of real, fresh vegetables, which are not achievable with vegetable dyes and were neither cheap nor abundant in the nineteenth century. Other designs, like “Lindbergh’s Night Flight” and “Bicentennial,” obviously refer to events of the twentieth century.

Other designs, like “Starflower,” “Wildflower,” and “Sunshine and Stained Glass,” are such natural variations on the (approximately 500) canonical Traditional Quilt Patterns that only people who are familiar with the traditional patterns would notice that these are new variations.

Templates allow every reader to reproduce each pattern, and each pattern is introduced with a few remarks by its designer.

Prize Country Quilts is a pattern book with minimal narrative. If you just want to read about other people’s quilts, this is not the book for you. If you’d rather spend your time planning, cutting, and stitching than reading, you will love Prize Country Quilts.

Mary Elizabeth Johnson, later Mary Elizabeth Johnson Huff, does not seem to be active in cyberspace; Google found two online articles by her, the latest one from 2003. However, in the absence of conflicting evidence, we’ll assume that she’s retired. If you buy this book from this site, by sending $5 per book + $5 per package to either address at the lower left side of the screen, we’ll send $1 per book to Mary Elizabeth Johnson Huff or a charity of her choice.

Just for a change from the cat image, here’s a Morguefile quilt image…


Book Review: New Discoveries in American Quilts

Title: New Discoveries in American Quilts

Author: Robert Bishop

Date: 1975

Publisher: E.P. Dutton & Company

ISBN: 0-525-16552-5

Length: 127 pages

Illustrations: most pages contain color photos

Quote: “The reason for this…book…is simply to document as many as possible of the beautiful quilts that have been brought to my attention since 1972.”

Bloggers who enjoy “Wordless Wednesday” posts should enjoy New Discoveries in American Quilts. Most of the words in this book are captions, credits, and historical information about the textiles photographed.

Not all of them are traditional pieced quilts; there are also quilted “bed rugs,” single pieces of fabric joined with stuffing and quilt-stitching, and there are some modern pieces quilt-stitched around printed designs. Most are shown in full color, and the colors aren’t as faded as you might expect, given the age of some of the pieces. These quilts were not worn out in everyday use. They were designed and preserved as works of art. They were selected, photographed, and published by an art historian because they’re beautiful enough to compare with works of “fine art.”

As a book of “glorious inspirations” for textile crafters and collectors of all sorts, this book is recommended. Raw beginners may want to invest in a quilt book with detailed instructions and templates. Experienced quilters (and other crafters) can use this book for inspiration.

Several writers were known as Robert Bishop; apparently the art historian who wrote this book died in 1991, so New Discoveries in American Quilts is not a Fair Trade Book. The minimum price to buy it online here is $5 per book + $5 per package, payable to either address at the lower left-hand corner of the screen. Two copies of this book would fit into one package for a total of $15. Alternatively, you could fit in one or two Fair Trade Books, and I’d send $1 per book to an author who is currently alive.

Here is a quilt image from Jjulian812 at Morguefile, :