Nonfiction November Week 3: The Quilt Expert

November feels like it’s getting away from me, but that’s okay because it just means we’re ready for week three of Nonfiction November. Here’s the prompt we’re working with this week brought to us by Veronica at The Thousand Book Project:

Week 3 (November 15-19) Be The Expert/ Ask the Expert/ Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

When I started thinking about this week, my mind kept going back to this previous year. Like so many other people during the pandemic, I found myself branching out and trying new things—anything to shake up the monotony of staying home week after week. While I never went as far as making my own bread, there was a point where it felt like I had a new hobby every week. Cross stitching. Bird watching. Painting. Playing with clay.

By the time I began researching making stained glass, I realized I probably needed to slow down and really consider what I wanted before shelling out a bunch of money on equipment.

But for now, there’s one more I want to attempt for the end of the year: quilting. Though I only have limited sewing knowledge thanks to my mother and grandmother, I’ve always loved quilts. They’re works of art, yet they’re practical and, as a craft, have a rich history that marries these two ideas, particularly here in the United States.

However, before I set out to piece a carpenter star or log cabin, I’ve been doing what I usually do: turning to books. With so much lore, technique, and analysis available, I want to take my time to know what I’m doing and why before I jump in.

So while I wouldn’t say I’m a quilting expert by any stretch, here’s a collection of books that have definitely deepened my appreciation for the art—and which have the potential to aid in making me an expert … just as soon as I get my needles moving.


The American Quilt: A History of Cloth and Comfort 1750-1950 by Roderick Kiracofe and Mary Elizabeth Johnson

Kiracofe and Johnson provide a fascinating look at the history of the American quilt, showcasing not only its evolution but also its impact and the lives of the individuals who developed it. They also provide an in-depth view of how quilts become products of the eras they’re constructed.


Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon by Janneken Smucker

Amish quilts have become some of the most sought after in the industry, purchased by tourists and even those who will never set foot in these communities. However, that hasn’t always been the case. Here, Smucker explores this complicated consumer history and attempts to uncover just what makes a quilt Amish.


How to Stitch an American Dream: A Story of Family, Faith and the Power of Giving by Jenny Doan

Talking to quilters, there are few companies that get as much of a reaction as Missouri Star Quilt Company. Starting as a small shop and gradually expanding, it’s now the world’s largest supplier of pre-cut quilting fabrics. The reason for its success? Well, most quilters would say it’s owner Jenny Doan herself. In this memoir, she gives a good look at the work that goes into all those stitches.


Stitching Stolen Lives: Amplifying Voices, Empowering Youth & Building Empathy Through Quilts by Sara Trail and Teresa Duryea Wong

The Social Justice Sewing Academy Remembrance Project was designed as a way to remember those who’ve died because of social injustice. Here, their quilt blocks—crafted by young adult students balancing expression and protest—are showcased along with contextual information. It’s a reminder of how powerful quilting and art can be.


Once Upon a Quilt: A Scrapbook of Quilting Past and Present edited by Margret Aldrich

One of the best ways to learn about a hobby is to hear from those who have been immersed in it for a while. In this anthology, Aldrich has collected a series of stories, anecdotes, and other short nonfiction pieces from quilters who share their love for this artform.


Quilts in the Attic: Uncovering the Hidden Stories of the Quilts We Love by Karen Musgrave

Many quilters quilt with the intention of their work being passed down generationally or otherwise gifted. However, things don’t always work out that way. Here, Musgrave looks at the social history of thirty quilts—some found in attics, others purchased at flea markets, others almost lost—all of them beautiful pieces that just needed unearthing and rediscovering.


The Quilt’s of Gee’s Bend by William Arnett, Jane Livingston, Alvia Wardlaw, and John Beardsley

There are few quilts spoken about in the United States with as much awe as those from the people of Gee’s Bend. Each of them breathtaking, these quilts are an artform that’s so deeply ingrained in the community that it’s practically synonymous with it. For the images alone, this book is worth reading, but the stories it showcases provide a fascinating overview of these stunning creations.


Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle by Clare Hunter

While this book is not entirely focused on quilting, Hunter does mention quilts in her exploration of sewing. From the Bayeux Tapestry to the AIDS Memorial Quilt, Hunter looks at sewing as a way of impacting history and responding to it. At the same time, she expertly blends in her own experiences to create a wonderfully unique book about crafting.


Why We Quilt: Contemporary Makers Speak Out about the Power of Art, Activism, Community, and Creativity by Thomas Knauer

While the history of quilting is important, it’s impossible to become an expert without understanding what’s going on with quilting today. Here, Knauer shines light on contemporary quilters, focusing not just on their projects by what draws them to the craft and how they’ve influenced it through their work.


The month might be over half finished, but there’s still time to participate in Nonfiction November. If you’re interested, head over to The Thousand Book Project and link your post—and check out all the other amazing posts for this week!

You can also participate on Instagram with events being hosted by Jaymi @theocbookgirl. Just use #nonfictionbookparty

37 Comments

  1. That’s a cool hobby!

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    1. It’s so much fun! I love looking at quilts and, really, the entire process. Now to actually make one…

      Like

  2. Carla says:

    Quilting is such and art and there is so much history. No wonder it has attracted you, Christopher.

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    1. Yes, exactly! It’s those two things combined that really make me admire it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lory says:

    I like to think about the way that human stories can be woven together with these humble objects and how they also can be things of beauty. Nice topic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the way you phrased this. Quilts, like so many handcrafts, are really practical—but there’s a human connection to them. All those hours of piecing and quilting and there’s bound to be a story sewn into the fabric.

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  4. My grandma taught me how to quilt way back when I was first in college. Now my granddaughter has asked to make a quilt with me.

    So life continues on…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I love that so much! I wish I had a more familial connection to it, but I’ll settle for tutorials and books.

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  5. Care says:

    I’m going to show this post to my mother-in-law; she is fascinated by quilts and their history. I think (maybe?) I have seen the Gee’s Bend exhibit that has toured museums. I know I have some postcards, anyway. Great post! thank you

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    1. Oh, I hope she enjoys it then—and maybe even finds a new favorite from here! And I can’t imagine seeing all of those wonderful quilts in one space.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. volatilemuse says:

    That’s such a coincidence because I posted about embroidery for my Week 3 . I used to do quite a lot of it years back including quilting. It seems to me that quilting has made it into the 21st century in a way that other embroidery related crafts haven’t but I may be wrong about that. Many thanks for your post and for hosting week 4. I also feel November is escaping.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I love that you explored embroidery for this week! That’s something else I’ve wanted to try. Over the past few months, it came down to trying either cross stitch or general embroidery, and cross stitch won out … for now.

      And I think that’s an interesting point, which I also think is right. The embroidery umbrella definitely has its audience today, but quilting … it feels like a much more respected craft.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. volatilemuse says:

        Absolutely and quilting is a very wintry and Christmas-sy thing to do.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. MaryR says:

    This is a wonderful list of books about quilting! I have been a quilter for many years (30ish?) and when you are ready to make a quilt I highly recommend Fons & Porter’s Quilters Complete Guide as a source of practical how-to info. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3224910-quilter-s-complete-guide

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    1. Thank you so, so much for recommending this! I’ve read so much about quilting to get myself psyched up, and I’m definitely snagging a copy.

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  8. I’m so impressed by those who can quilt! I have a few friends who do it, and their creations are amazing. Please keep it up. I don’t want quilting to be a lost art. 🙂

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    1. Funny you say that, but that’s kind of how I fell into wanting to start quilting in the first place. I see so many amazing creations out there and always think how great it is that people quilt. It finally hit me: what’s stopping me from being one of them?

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  9. What a great post! A few of those are going on my TBR…and I’ve been a quilter since college!

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    1. Oh, perfect! When I started looking through quilting books, I was amazed by the breadth and scope of them. So many great ones out there.

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  10. lghiggins says:

    Beautiful post celebrating an important part of our history. I love fiber arts and am blessed to have received quilts made by both my mother and mother-in-law. (Your lockdown forays into hobbies makes me smile at all your varied interests. And of course you have to start by reading and researching! The lockdown affected all of us in so many ways–and still does.)

    Like

    1. Oh, I love hearing that. It’s part of why I love quilting so much: I mean, what a great gift. An item with that much love, attention, and care put into it? What could be better?

      Lockdown has been, no doubt, awful. But I also have to admit that it gave me the kick I needed to get up and try all of these things I’ve always wanted to do … after reading up on them, of course!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. masterspj says:

    This is an excellent list of books about quilting. While not non-fiction, the Elm Creek Quilts series by Jennifer Chiaverini is a great look at how quilts can change lives and possibly even history.

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    1. I’ve read the first two books in that series and really enjoyed them. They’re such great comfort reads—and I’m looking forward to cozying up with a few more of them over this winter.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. BookerTalk says:

    I had to smile at your comment that you seemed to be flitting from one craft to another – I’ve been doing that for years, and have the boxes of half finished projects to prove it.
    But just like you, I do fancy having a go at quilt making. I’ve been going through every book available in the library and none of them are as fascinating as the books you have here.

    Like

    1. Oh, I know all about the boxes of half-finished projects. I just moved recently and sorting through the closet of yarn and fabric and who-knows-what was an experience. Glad to hear there’s another craft jumper out there!

      Hopefully you can snag a copy of a great quilting book—and we can both try our hands at making our own soon enough, too!

      Like

      1. BookerTalk says:

        I had to restrain myself so much in the craft shop yesterday because they had so many wonderful looking quarters for quilting.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Liz Dexter says:

    What an excellent idea for a theme and some lovely books there. I echo the commenter above, the Chiaverini books would be a great companion to these.

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    1. Those are such lovely books. I’ve only read the first two in the series, but they’re such wonderful comfort reads.

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  14. I left a comment earlier. I wonder if it went to your spam. Looks like it’s happening more and more, for no real reason

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Strangely, it’s not in either my spam or pending folders. I’ve definitely noticed more and more issues like that lately. Here’s hoping it gets sorted, because I know I’m missing out on some interesting comments!

      Like

  15. I do admire the art of quilting but it’s not something I have the skill or patience for. Good luck with your goal

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    1. Patience is definitely the prime skill needed it seems! I’m in awe of some of the more intricate patterns.

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  16. Marianne Maurer says:

    Oh, some lovely books there, Christopher. I can recommend some nice books about quilts and quiltmakers:
    The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail de Marcken
    Quilts From The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Joanne Larsen Line and Nancy Loving Tubesing
    And a novel:
    How to Make an American Quilt by Whitney Otto

    Like

    1. These look wonderful. I’m adding all of them to my TBR pile. As much as I have enjoyed quilting nonfiction, I think quilting related fiction has deepened my appreciation for the craft even more.

      Like

      1. Marianne Maurer says:

        Ooooh, lovely. They are all nice but I just loved to see the quilts in the first one.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh I LOVE this topic! A friend in NYC got into quilting in the last few years and hers are just gorgeous. She’s found such unique fabric prints too, and put together color and pattern combinations that I would never in a million years have thought of and yet they look amazing. The storytelling element of it takes it to another level as a pastime. Good luck with beginning on this journey! I’ve seen how fulfilling it can be 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that. It’s one of the other things I enjoy about quilting: you rarely see an ugly one! All of those fabrics sewn together and then intricate quilt stitches? That can make even the oddest fabrics look good.

      Liked by 1 person

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