Good morning! Today, it is my great pleasure to be reviewing Sujata Shah’s new book, Cultural Fusion Quilts. I had the good fortune to meet Sujata briefly at Quilt Market, although I hadn’t been familiar with her work before this. This was my great loss, because her work is amazingly beautiful and at her blog, The Root Connection, she writes eloquently about her inspirations, including her childhood growing up in India, her love of African arts and textiles, and her experiences living in the United States.
I have always loved seeing how different art forms–such as quilting–are tweaked and translated by different cultural traditions, even though they can arrive at surprisingly similar solutions to common challenges. For this reason, I was delighted to be invited to participate in the blog tour for Cultural Fusion Quilts, as I had been curious about this book from the beginning. However, the book itself really exceeded my expectations. Not only does Sujata re-interpret traditional quilt block motifs in a way that draws upon different worldwide decorative traditions, but she also introduces readers to what she calls “free-form piecing” using a genuinely brilliant technique.
I know I’m not alone in loving the slightly wonky, imperfect look of vintage and antique quilts, but aside from the unintentional wonkiness that often ends up in my own piecing, it has always seemed difficult to me to incorporate this into quilt-making in a way that didn’t end up just looking sloppy. When I noticed this feature of Sujata’s quilts, as well as the wonderful way in which she combines a multitude of colors, prints, and textures in her work, I anticipated that this would remain a look that I could admire but never pull off myself.
I was delighted, then, to read Sujata’s clear, straightforward instructions for achieving this style in a way that seems guaranteed to give great results. From her simple tips on how to cut fabrics intuitively, to her no-fuss method of arranging those fabrics for streamlined stitching, I was incredibly impressed with the technique that Sujata has developed for creating her quilts. I also love that this technique could be applied to making all types of quilt blocks beyond the fifteen quilts that Sujata included in the book, making this much more than a collection of project patterns. And speaking of those projects, Sujata includes variations for setting the blocks for each one–many of which are illustrated with actual quilts instead of mere diagrams–effectively doubling or tripling the number of actual projects that could be made from this book.
One of the beauties of free-form blocks is that they are not intended to look perfect–in fact, their imperfections are what lend interest and charm to the quilts built from them. As someone who struggles with matching points and making evenly sized blocks, I really appreciate this aspect of Sujata’s style and the encouraging tone of her writing. One of my favorite quotes from the book is that “We all know that humans can achieve perfection maybe once, but only machines can reproduce the same thing twice.” Sujata also points out the irregularities that signify the maker’s human hand in the many beautiful photos of inspiring objects that pepper the book.
I also love that throughout this book (and in her posts during this blog tour) Sujata exhorts us to experiment and describes the experimental processes she engaged in when creating these quilts. I, too, enjoy experimenting, and many of my favorite projects have arisen from asking “What if I did this?” I love seeing other quilters embrace experimentation despite (or perhaps because of?) the creative risk it entails.
So, would you like the opportunity to learn a bit more about free-form piecing? Sujata and C&T are graciously giving away a copy of the book to a lucky commenter on this post. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment about whether you like to experiment during your quiltmaking or do things “by the book.” Or, comment about whether you tend towards achieving perfection or embracing imperfection in your quilts. (There are no wrong answers, of course! Variety is what makes the quilting world beautiful!)
I’ll randomly draw a winner in five days (so, at midnight on Dec. 11) and announce here on the 12. If you are in the US you’ll receive a hard copy of the book, and if you are international C&T will send you an electronic copy. I look forward to reading your comments!
And don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour, as well as Sujata’s blog for more information about her process and the quilts in her beautiful new book!