Sunday, 3 December 2017

Constellations: Book Review

From time to time, I review books from Search Press.  With limited storage space in my little house, I only request quilting books that stand out as different from the usual blocks and quilts and Constellations by Amber and Jaime from Fancy Tiger USA craft emporium in Denver, Colorado definitely ticked that box. 

It's a beautifully produced book with photography by Holly DeGroot and published by Lucky Spool.  It is a slim volume at 80 pages but it covers exactly what you need with detailed patterns for twelve astrological blocks, 20" square as well as suggested projects for them. The imagery is restrained and consistent throughout, lots of grey and blues and the projects show a range of substrates- rayon, linen, lightweight denim, canvas for example.  The fabric choices for the tiny squares that form the stars in each constellation are interesting, especially when they feature a fussy cut star or cross fabric as in the Orion block below. I'm imagining something like an Alison Glass modern batik would work well, especially if the background fabric was a good colour match.  The finishing details include adding tassels, 'star' (cross) stitch quilt tying, and very basic embroidery (running and back stitch) which are all easily accomplished by a beginner sewer.

For me, the best part of the book is being able to make a minimalist style, personalised quilt or cushion for a recipient- baby, relation, friend- and there are detailed instructions on how to make a mix-and-match Astrological Quilt in five sizes, complete with diagrams for the panels and additional fabric strips.  The other projects do tend to focus on simple flat makes- tea towel, divination cloth, pillow/cushion. The tote is appealing with a waxed canvas base, hard plastic internal base insert, external pockets on the back and leather handles. The Hoshi Jacket looks interesting but I think it's something I'd rather make without the stars.  Full-size traceable pattern pieces are included on a folded sheet at the back of the book.

I choose to make a block for a cushion. I used some lightweight Robert Kaufman dark indigo denim (similar to this) left over from this dress and a mix of Kona Cotton in Grellow, and Manchester metallic in silver and bronze. The book suggests mixing different colours for the stars and only scraps are needed as the squares are very small.  I starched all my fabrics with non-aerosol spray as the metallics and denim are all prone to fray and I had to lower the iron temperature with the metallic fabrics.  Precision is the key in these blocks, they look deceptively simple but one mistake and the layout can be totally messed up. There are hints and tips included to help keep the strips and squares in order which I did follow but I confess I sewed this in more than one sewing session which interrupted my concentration and a seam ripper was used more times that I would like to admit!  In addition, I would recommend cutting the strips lengthways (parallel to the selvedge rather than cross grain) to reduce stretch and also sewing the vertical seams in alternating directions to avoid any bowing. There are constellation line diagrams in section three of the book and I marked this in chalk and hand stitched with 12wt Aurifil (colour 2132) and a random metallic thread I had in my supplies. The colour is better seen in the close-up photo above; winter grey days make dark colours hard to photograph accurately.

This is destined to be a cushion but as it's a Christmas gift I don't want to post a finished pic yet or even say what the constellation is for fear of spoiling the surprise for the recipient.  Constellations does appear at first glance to be a niche quilting book, but there are a lot of quilters and astrological enthusiasts out there and I would put money on their being a sizable considerable crossover between the two groups and as well as interest from fans of minimal decor too.  For me, it is a great book to turn to for a tasteful baby quilt or cushion gift and I know I'll be using it again.  
Thank you to Search Press for sending me a free copy to review, all opinions are as ever my own.


  1. Oh, it's going to be really lovely!

  2. Somehow the effect of the narrow piecing makes me think of a top with little pin tucks in it - it looks lovely. And such a gorgeous looking book too.


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