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New Pathways into Quilt History written by Kimberly Wulfert, www.antiquequiltdating.com

Book Review by Kimberly Wulfert, PhD

Encyclopedia of Designs for Quilting
by Phyllis D. Miller
Published in 1996 by AQS

Encyclopedia of Designs for Quilting
By Phyllis D. Miller

I like this book and wish I had discovered it earlier. Nearly 200 pages, it is clear, concise, and easy to navigate through the text and black, white and pink illustrations. There are a few color plates of close-ups on quilts. These show off quilting patterns well, and remind you the book was published in the 1990s. The quilts were made in the 1980s and early '90s. There is a vintage quilt or two. Written to instruct and define, the illustrations do this well.

The most common or frequently given name is cited for a pattern. There are no sources given for a pattern like in B. Brackman's "Encyclopedia of Pieced Patterns." She researched patterns and names through books to compile the traditional ones into the encyclopedia. She chose patterns that were "referred to more than once in books about quilting." Her bibliography contains many contemporary quilt history book and some of the documentation books available at that time. A name index to 375 designs resulted from this research. Each design is placed is placed in a box about 2.5" X 2.5" unless it is a garland, cable or rope pattern. These are easy to trace and enlarge. They are drawn to look stitched. 

Along with the name and picture, there are recommendations for marking techniques and where/how to place the design on the quilt, tools needed, sizing and use of templates. They are not configured for machine quilting. Phyllis gives the reader some historical background information, which varies. Some patterns have the region of origin, some the date first seen on a quilt, others tell what style of quilt usually had this pattern on it.

Although bits of historical information are given throughout the book, this is not comprehensive and does not appear to be the aim of the book. Recording traditional patterns is one of the purposes Phyllis states in the introduction. She was Chairman of the Kentucky Quilt Registry and wrote this book after doing documentation days. She realized there was no source available for documenters to turn to, or to facilitate consistency in communication. This book can strengthen the documentation of quilt patterns for future quilt history enthusiasts.

The how-to part of the book is thorough and plentiful. Keep in mind that it was published in 1996, so the tools and methods used are traditional, similar to those used by our ancestors in quilting.

New quilters to seasoned hand quilters will benefit from this book. It is the only encyclopedia of quilting designs I know of and it completes what B. Brackman started with her encyclopedias on pieced and appliqué patterns. I will bring this book to future documentation activities. It is likely to increase my appreciation of quilting on an old quilt, when the print on the fabric is what lures me to them in most cases. This book will help train my eye to see the various patterns on a quilt and identify them in my memory so that I will see the variety of patterns on a future quilt. A more in-depth look will be the result. Finally, several tops I have made come out of storage from time to time, and I contemplation what to quilt on them, then put them away, still undecided. This won't be the case much longer.

The how-to part of the book is thorough and plentiful. Keep in mind that it was published in 1996, so the tools and methods used are traditional, similar to those used by our ancestors in quilting.

Book publishers and authors: if you would like your book reviewed on this Website, and it falls within the scope of topics, please contact me.


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© 2004 - 2016 Kimberly Wulfert, PhD. Absolutely no copies, reprints, use of photos or text are permitted for commercial or online use. One personal copy for study purposes is permitted.

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