Review: Little Bits Quilting Bee

11 Nov 2011

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Today, I'm hosting a stop of the blog tour for Little Bits Quilting Bee: 20 Quilts Using Charm Packs, Jelly Rolls, Layer Cakes, and Fat Quarters. It's the new book by Kathreen Ricketson, of Whipup fame.

In this book, Kathreen offers a group of quilt designs based on common small fabric cuts:

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I've bought a lot of fat quarters for Kanzashi making, and there's always something very attractive about those color-coordinated jelly roll and charm square bundles. As a bonus, they're usually print-coordinated as well as color-coordinated, so they're an excellent starting point for simple quilts.

I love this idea especially because to me, the color/fabric-choosing part of quilting feels very daunting. I can pull a few fabrics together for a Kanzashi, but doing this at quilt-scale, yeah, not so much.

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So, the book works its way through charm squares, jelly rolls, layer cakes, and fat quarters, with several quilt designs for each. These quilts are decidedly modern in design, with a balance between child-oriented and adult-oriented designs. (And for the record, I just realized that I photographed mostly the grown-up designs here. Sorry. You can see more on the blog tour page at Whipup.)

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I think Little Bits Quilting Bee would be a nice gift book for a new quilter, especially one who a family to quilt for. The projects walk you through a solid mix of techniques, including chain piecing, curved piecing, applique, strip piecing, foundation piecing, block assembly, and so on.

(If you're new to quilting, this may all sound intimidating, but there's an early chapter that illustrates all these techniques in detail.)

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Some of my favorite quilts in the book combine more than one technique, like this one, in which a border pieced from jelly-roll strips surrounds a bold applique center.

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I think the assembly directions for each quilt design are well-illustrated, covering block assembly where needed, and showing a full-quilt diagram. The foundational techniques that are part of any quilt project, like backing, sandwiching, quilting and binding, are covered in an earlier "Anatomy of a Quilt" chapter. Each project refers you to the pages you'll need for those steps, so the whole thing is easy and logical to follow.

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Here's another combo quilt - this time, with charm squares and fat quarters creating a beautiful circle-and-square pattern.

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I did have one tiny disappointment with the book, and that's the fact that there are a few quilts that are displayed only in this casually-draped manner. It's a beautiful photo, to be sure, but I love the giant applique here, and would love to get a closer view in a full, flat rendition.

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As with all the quilts in the book, there's a complete diagram. I guess I'm just a fan, personally, of seeing it in fabric, too. But really, that was my only issue, and it's mostly one of visual greed on my part. :-)

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Inside the front cover, you'll find a thick envelope containing the patterns for all the block and applique patterns. Some will need expanding on a copier, and others are at full size.

All in all, a complete guide to simple quilting, using a really smart fabric approach - especially for those who find it challenging to choose and coordinate colors and patterns. Like me.

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Your Turn...

Based on our marketing discussion this week, I'm starting to wonder about book reviews on this blog. What information is most useful to you in these? What makes you read a book review? We've talked about this before, but as quickly as the blogosphere moves, it might be time to revisit.

(The usual disclosures: Chronicle sent me a review copy, and the title links above are affiliate links. Happy Weekend to you!)

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Comments

I like reading your book reviews! The biggest thing I'm looking for is those little tidbits that you can't tell from looking at the cover/some pages from amazon. For example: a book skips out on explaining basic steps, or adds color modifications at the end. Really helps in making a decision whether or not to buy... because there's so many books out there!


Your comment makes me wonder, Stacey - are the projects themselves important in a craft book, or is it the technique they represent? I suppose there are two broad camps of craft-book readers, but with the prevalence of free project ideas all over the web, I have to wonder whether that's the meaningful part of craft books anymore.


Interesting... both you and Tsoniki have mentioned checking craft books out of your local libraries before buying. It's a smart idea! Maybe publishers should be sending "public review copies" to libraries in key markets instead of to individual bloggers.


I enjoyed this review because it was informative and the images you chose to share with us were colorful and exciting - also it was great to see the list of the four types of precut fabrics that are used, I appreciate that you included that ... as far as making a sample, maybe that would be a fun project for readers to contribute? ... of course it would be after the fact, but it would be fun to see pictures of what they come up with that is related to a project in your blog - I'm a little bit new here, and haven't discovered every nook and cranny, so maybe some of that is going on here already, I'll keep exploring!
It's important to me that a book is well written (clear instructions, etc.) and I appreciate reading a review done by another author in the field, since that feels like a bit of a "stamp of approval" that the book is presented in a way that is easy to use....
...and piggy-backing on another comment - while there are lots of free patterns on the web, I am always happy to discover something that has a new twist or something a little different in color or design ... I don't think there can EVER be too many quilt patterns! ;-)


I like to hear (read) what you didn't like about a book. It would also be nice for you to actually try a project and comment on how easy it was to follow the instructions, how long it took, etc. Thanks for this review--it sounds like a book I may want to add to my collection.


Thank you, Margaret! It does seem like more people are interested in reviews where the reviewer does a project from the book. I think this is a really interesting point, because if I'm being honest, I rarely look at a craft book with intent to make the projects. Usually, I'm more interested in the book's educational qualities. Time is also a big factor in this question - I can barely get my own crafting done, let alone take on book projects. I wanted, for example to make a dress from I Am Cute Dresses (http://www.craftypod.com/2011/10/24/review-i-am-cute-dresses/) as part of that review, but I just kept having to move the review back and back until I finally had to accept the fact that I didn't have time to take on a sewing project.

It's possible that the solution is to drastically reduce the number of reviews I do so that I can do them in a more participatory manner. But that option makes me sad that I wouldn't be in support of as many authors. I'm not sure what the solution is yet, but I greatly appreciate your input.


I like your book reviews. In particular, I think the shots you include from inside the book as well as what you write gives a good overview of what's in the book. I have little kids, so I don't have time to go discover books myself - when I see a book review here, I almost always click over to my library's website and put it on hold. (Done!) I almost always check books out before I buy them, but if the library doesn't have it, I think the reviews have lots of good info to help me decide if it's something I want to buy.


Thanks for the honest review. I like that you included dislikes too.


Such lovely quilts! I love the raindrop one. Sounds like a good book for moi.

As to reviews, yours are the only ones I read. (Well, and Amy's at Angry Chicken.) One, because you actually review the book in a way that provides me good info on who the book is written for and if that would apply to me. Two, because as a published & indie author you bring a lot more insight to the table than most. And because you're my friend, so I value your opinion.

I like that most of your reviews are just reviews and not part of blog tours. I'm pretty suspicious of those, to be honest, and am not a fan of how ubiquitous & drawn out they've gotten.

I wouldn't expect you to make a craft to review the book if you continue doing them-that seems excessive to me. It's what the stars & reviews on Amazon are for.

If you like doing them, go for it, I say. If you're tired of them, stop for a bit. Like everything else in blogging, enthusiasm shows. But who am I to give you blogging advice?! ;) xo


Heh! It's really good advice! :-)

Maybe the thing to do is back off from participating in blog tours. That seems to be a strong theme in these responses. To be honest, when I'm in a blog tour, I often find myself holding back from making any less-than-positive comments, and that really negates the purpose of the review. And (also honestly), blog tours seem to be evolving more and more rules, designed by publishers in hope of getting maximum marketing "bang" on each blog. (Like, for example, assuming each participating blog will do a giveaway, or requiring each blog to post a full blog-tour schedule.)

It's kind of sad to see blog tours evolving into market distrust so quickly, but the beauty of the blogosphere is, it's filled with possibility. I'm sure something interesting will evolve in its place.


Looks like a great book!


I really like your reviews the way they are. I want to know level and what the projects and instructions are like. My library doesn't have a lot of craft options so if I really like something I'll need to order it so it's especially important to be sure that it'll be something I like and will use. Although like everyone else I find that I don't get to projects when I'd like to. Sometimes I do buy a book mostly to support an author so I like knowing if they're a blogger or past author or how they are active in the craft community.


I like knowing what's good and bad about the book, but also, why a book is worth buying instead of using Google to find information (yup, crafter on a budget). It's also really helpful to know what level a book is for. For example, I would like to start quilting but know nothing about it, so it's good to know that this book is good for beginners.


I love book reviews, since I have to buy all my English books online I rely heavily on reviews, ones with an honest approach work best for me, if something ain't good in the book then I want to know about it. I always enjoy reading yours.


Your reviews are always very well done--thorough, honest, thoughtful. You do a great job with them and I enjoy reading your reviews (even though lately I've been getting tired of the never ending parade of book tours on quilt/sewing blogs.)


Thanks for your review. When I read a review I want to know what the projects are and skill level. I like seeing pictures in the book as well. Are the directions easy to understand? Are there illistrations when needed? I don't want half the book to be "how to quilt". That's a different book if I need it. When doing a book tour I like if there are a variety of pictures shown. Not every review is the same, shows same pictures. I also like when you tell me if there is something you didn't like. Probably I'm going to feel the same and at least you told me. I appreciate how busy you are and want to say Thanks for the review. Looks like a great book!


Oooh this book looks like it would be a great pick for me. One of my 29 before 30 goals is to make myself a quilt!

As for reviews - I think that you review books better than any other blogger. I am a very visual shopper, so I like that you post many pictures of the finished products from the book. This gives me a broad spectrum of what the book is all about. I also appreciate that you take the time to mention which educational techniques are covered, and which level of crafter the book might be best suited for.


I love the review of what is included -are there clear instructions. Is there a pattern pack or do you need to enlarge. I like the facts - how many projects and if they are geared more advantanced or easy or a mix. thanks for the review!


I read reviews so I won't (hopefully) waste money buying a book that is perhaps not the best match for me. I appreciate honest reviews, as so much seems to be spin and popularity contest in the world of craft books. I like looking at pretty pictures of what I will find in the book, but I also want to know if the reviewer finds the book worth buying and why. I find it helpful if a reviewer has had the time to actually craft a project or else the time/expertise to read through the steps to make sure that the instructions are actually sound - I've been frustrated before by books that have huge mistakes that have resulted in wasted time and money for me.


I like your reviews too. I often send on the book information to our Fine Arts Librarian so that she can consider buying the book. We live in a relatively poor community so it's always nice to have the option to check a book out.

If they stress you out or you don't feel entirely authentic, you should consider being pickier. There are caveats to that, income is also a very valid consideration.


This book sounds and looks like one that I would be interested in adding to my library. Thanks for the open and honest review,
Betsy Pratt


I love the reviews. Something you mention in one of your replies here gets to the point of reviews - I'm not sure that the projects themselves as so important any more in craft books, as the techniques they illustrate. Your detailing of the techniques and your opinion on whether they are easy to follow or not really influence my decision to buy a book. I live in Brussels so don't have the luxury of an English language library and my French isn't good enough yet to buy instructional books in French. So I can't review before buying, and blogs like yours help me decide.
Incidentally, I just bought the book this minute! :-)
a


Heh! Isn't that always the issue? :-)


I really like your book reviews. You seem to cover whether the book is suitable for a beginner, you include examples of the project instructions and lots of yummy photos.
With no decent bookshop near me, no money to waste, and limited "look inside" options, this is exactly what I need to know.
In fact, I'm now very tempted by this book! But when would I have time to make anything? ;-)


I like the format that you use - sharing your thoughts on what the books has to offer with a lot of pictures of the inside of a book.

I use the library A LOT and I am always checking out craft/sewing/quilting/crocheting/etc. books. If I LOVE the book, I'll buy it. Or if I want to make half or more of the projects. That being said, you do a great job at showcasing many projects in books and I really like this one, just based on the pictures. I know how to quilt so I don't need lessons on that, it's the patterns and color combinations I am looking for.


I am a review-aholic--- look for online reviews before all major, and many minor, purchases! Your reviews are SO insightful-- giving the reader a real honest look into what is in the book-- including pictures! Love and appreciate your reviews!! Thanks for taking the time to do them! :-)


On the subject of book reviews, keep-keep-keep 'em coming! As a fellow crafter I love to see what's out there and get a perspective from a personality I'm at least familiar with, not just random strangers on Amazon. As an employee in Acquisitions at a public library, craft blogs like yours are often the only place to get reviews of books like this our patrons would also love to see at their local branch. Traditional review media doesn't do so great a job of featuring craft books, so you and others like you are sometimes the last bastion for institutions that buy in bulk. It's a win for the authors, publishers, readers, bloggers and crafters.


Wow, this is a layer I never realized was happening! Thanks for sharing this, Vanessa - and also Linda. It's really cool to know that you're both using reviews to help choose books for your libraries. I tend to agree about mass-media reviews, and especially the short blurb-style ones found in many magazines - they truly don't say enough to help me know whether to buy a book or not.

Publishers, I hope you are listening!


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