Sew You Wanna Quilt? – Books and Inspiration

Welcome to the the fourth installment of the Sew You Wanna Quilt? series.

I am a book lover as you all know, so of course I have to include a post about quilting books! If you love books and you become a quilter, you will most likely begin collecting quilting books. I use my books to inspire me, give me basic information, and provide a guide to my design process (kind of like I use cookbooks). As you begin browsing books about quilting, think of how you will use them. I thought I would give you a glimpse into my growing collection of quilting books and tell you how I use them and why I like a particular book.

Pure Inspiration

The books listed in this section are those I use primarily for artistic inspiration.

My Kaffe Fassett Books:

  • Quilt Road (Book Number 7 – Rowan Yarns 2005)
  • Simple Shapes, Spectacular Quilts (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010)
  • Quilts en Provence (The Taunton Press, 2010)
  • Glorious Patchwork (Potter Craft, 1997)
  • Country Garden Quilts (The Taunton Press, 2008)
  • Patchwork and Quilting (Book Number 2 – Rowan Yarns, 2000)


These books are pure eye candy – wonderful inspirational use of color and pattern. I love Kaffe Fassett’s fabrics. He uses bright, bold colors and is not afraid to combine colors for amazing quilts. There are patterns for all the quilts included in the books – but I find his construction techniques a little confusing for the most part. So instead of using his patterns, I use his images to help inspire my own creative process.

Liberated Quiltmaking II by Gwen Marston

I love this book. Gwen Marston believes quilting should be like play – fun, stress-free, and full of artistic self-expression. She encourages quilters to quilt without patterns, designing as they go. Run out of fabric? No worries – simply substitute from your stash. Mistakes? Sometimes they are the best part of the quilt. I think all new quilters should have this book. When I started quilting, I got a lot of advice from seasoned quilters. There seemed to be a lot of rules. I have never liked following rules, and rules in a creative venture somehow feel counter-productive. Liberated Quiltmaking gave me a whole new way of viewing the creative process. Plus there are some amazing quilts included in this book!

Freddy Moran and Gwen Marston’s Collaborative Quilting Books:

  • Collaborative Quilting (Sterling Publishing Co., 2006)
  • Collaborate Again (Lark Books, 2009)

These are fun, very inspirational books about making quilts with other quilters – a collaborative effort. The originality of Gwen and Freddy’s quilts is wonderful. They talk about color and combining shapes. These books have inspired my sister and I to try the process – watch for more about that sometime this fall!

Organization and Reference

The books in this section are used for reference and to help with my organization.

The Singer Complete Photo Guide to Sewing (Creative Publishing International, 2009)

This book has everything in it you could ever want to know about sewing. This is not a quilting book, but a general knowledge book about sewing and includes chapters on The Sewing Machine, Patterns, Classic Fabric Textures and Designs, Seams and more. There really are no tips on quilting – but I still think this is one of those essential reference books to have in the sewing room!

The Quilters Ultimate Visual Guide: From A to Z – Hundreds of Tips and Techniques for Successful Quiltmaking (Rodale Press, Inc., 1997)

This is a really fantastic quilters reference guide – and yes, it is organized from A to Z beginning with Album Quilts and ending with ZigZag Stitch. There is a wealth of information in this book and I think it is wonderful to have on hand…especially as you get more adventuresome with your quilting.

Cut the Scraps! by Joan Ford (The Taunton Press, 2011)

I just bought this book and I am totally loving it! You may not need this one right now if you are just starting out, but eventually (if you keep quilting) you will begin to wonder what the heck to do with all those scraps you are saving. I had no idea how to organize my scraps. They’ve been piling up and making me feel guilty because I know there is enough fabric there to make a quilt, but I had no idea how to deal with it. Joan Ford has a terrific system for cutting up scraps and organizing them by value (light, medium and dark). I’ve started the process, and I can’t wait to fill up my little plastic bins with my organized cuts of scraps. One of these days they will make a terrific scrappy quilt!

5500 Qulit Block Designs by Maggie Malone (Sterling Publishing Co., 2004)

This book is amazing. Maggie Malone has compiled thousands of block designs and organized them by patch pattern. There are no instructions on how to make the designs (which is why I did not put this book under “Pattern”), but once you learn quilt construction, many can be figured out independently. Either way, there is plenty of information about how to construct a block on the Internet…so this just makes a wonderful reference book as to what you can do with a simple block.


I purchased books in this section primarily for their patterns and designs.

Building Blocks for Classic Quilts by Leisure Arts (2010)

This is a wonderful book with a focus on vintage quilts and patterns. I love the vintage blocks in some quilts and I like to use them with modern fabrics. This book is a terrific reference book to some of the traditional, basic block patterns. Most of the quilts featured are full size and larger – but it is very simple to cut down a pattern and make a smaller quilt, or to use different blocks to make a sampler.

City Quilts by Cherri House (Stash Books, 2010)

Those quilters who love to work with solids and modern designs will love Cherri House’s patterns. Inspired by city scapes, she has designed and given patterns for twelve dramatic projects. I actually bought one of the City Quilt kits that, one of these days, I will stitch. But, in this book there are several projects which drew me in. The forward of this book reads: “The quilts in this book, inspired by the patterns and textures of the city, are simple, graphic, and geometric – glorified utility quilts, if you will.”

Denyse Schmidt Quilts by Denyse Schmidt (Chronicle Books, 2005)

I adore Denyse Schmidt’s fabrics and so when I saw this book, I ordered it. Be aware, however, that despite its title, this book contains patterns for more than just quilts. In fact, the author provides some basic quilting information as well as patterns for a pillow, a bag, a muff, an apron, an oven mitt, and several more non-quilting projects…and instructions for ten quilts. All the patterns are very straight forward and simple for a novice quilter. They are also very modern. Schmidt writes in her forward: “I essentially taught myself to quilt by reading books and by making more than a few mistakes. I suppose that’s where I learned that there is beauty in imperfection.” I love that sentiment.

Scrap Quilt Sensation by Katharine Guerrier (David & Charles, 2007)

This book is chock full of scrappy quilts. Some of them look pretty involved, but most are simple construction using squares, rectangles and triangles. This is a book which I will, at some point, use for its patterns once I get enough scraps saved up. Some of the designs are just amazing. The book is set up for novice quilters at the beginning, and moves towards those with more experience as it progresses to more complex patterns.

I have a couple of other quilting books on my shelves…but these are my favorites. I encourage new quilters to browse the library, quilt stores or bookstores and look at quilt books. There is so much inspiration to be found there!

Before I close out this post, I also wanted to mention that I routinely print off patterns and tutorials I find on line and file them in clear, plastic sleeves inside a pretty loose-leaf notebook. In this way, I am making my own book of sorts. I also bought a couple of cardboard magazine holders in vibrant colors to store quilting magazines I have picked up and want to keep.

Sew You Wanna Quilt?

  • Visit a bookstore, quilt store or library and browse through the quilting books. What styles appeal to you? Do you find yourself drawn to a particular designer or author?
  • Think about picking up some plastic sleeves and a pretty loose-leaf notebook to store some of the patterns, inspirations and tutorials you may find on line or when browsing the quilting blogs.

Previous articles in this series:

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