Adventures in Design

I won a book on the C&T Publishing blog and it arrived Friday. I only enter drawings for things that I really want to win, so I was thrilled when I got the email. The book is Adventures in Design by Joen Wolfrom, and although I’ve only read (and I do mean read – I have five pages of notes) the first 55 pages so far, I can tell you without hesitation that it’s the best book related to quilting that I own.

There are books about the practical aspects of quilting – how to sew a quarter inch seam, how to make a log cabin block, how to put on a binding – that are useful and necessary. Then there are the books about taking your quilting to the next level. These books are about techniques, color, design and quilting, and they help you elevate a pretty quilt into a work of art. Adventures in Design is in the latter group.

I haven’t taken an art class that taught any aspect of design in… well, since I was in 8th grade. I remember learning about tints and shades. Everything I know (and, despite my obvious eagerness to share everything I know, it’s quite limited) is based on information I’ve picked up in books and magazines. My instincts are good, but my knowledge of the elements and principles of design is vague. This book…

You know how when something clicks for you, it’s like a light bulb going on in your head? Reading this book has been like Christmas. Blink! Blink! Blink! Oh, wow, I get it! That’s why this works/appeals to me/makes me cringe!

The book focuses on elements and principles of design, and not only explains them in terms that are easy to digest, but shows multiple quilt examples. By the cover you’d think that it focuses primarily on art quilts, but geometric pieced quilts are strongly represented as well.

The majority of the the book (about 2/3) focuses on the elements of design – line, direction, shape, color, value, texture, proportion and scale. About a quarter of the book explains the principles of design – unity, repetition, rhythm, harmony, variation, contrast, bridging, proximity, movement, dominance, balance and focus. The last small bit is specifically about designing pieced block type quilts.

After explaining and demonstrating each element, then again after the principles, the book provides a list of activities. They are ways for you to apply what you’ve learned and, most importantly, understand what appeals to you. I especially like that there is an emphasis on personal interest. This books gives you the tools to create, but encourages you use the tools in a way that makes you feel good.

I believe this book applies to any type of quilting. It is accessible to anyone who is interested in creating their own original designs, as well as those who wish to interpret traditional pieced block designs. I also think it can be useful for quilters of various skill levels. You don’t have to become an artist overnight to understand how the elements and principles can elevate your quilts.

By the way – I noticed that this book is also available in electronic form, so if you have a color eBook reader or tablet you might want to check that out. I do NOT recommend purchasing the electronic format if you have a grayscale reader. The color illustrations are critical.

Now, just to clarify – if I didn’t like the book, I wouldn’t be writing a post about it. I would have mentioned the win and moved on. This review was not solicited.



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