Friday, February 20, 2009

The Quilter's Legacy, Elm Creek Quilts: A book review

The Quilter’s Legacy (Elm Creek Quilts Series #5) continues the story of the Elm Creek quilters by focusing once again on the life of Sylvia Compson. More accurately, the novel focuses on her ancestry, and Sylvia’s mother, Eleanor, in particular. When Sylvia prepares to go the attic to find her mother’s quilts, she is informed that her sister sold them several decades ago. Sylvia then decides to conduct a nationwide search in the effort to determine where they might have gone.

Along the way, we are given a lot of detail regarding Eleanor and her relatively short life. We learn that she was born with a condition that rendered her physically less robust than others, which, she was told, would eventually lead to an early death. However, when she lived beyond childhood, which was not anticipated, Eleanor began to truly live life and to make decisions, such as getting married and having children, that she had otherwise never dreamed she’d be able to do. We not only learn about her family life before she married and left home, but we also learn about her difficult relationship with her parents, and how they lived during Eleanor’s adult years. In this history of Eleanor’s life, we learn of the quilts she expertly sewed at certain times and in response to certain events.

Yet this novel is as much about the importance of the documentation of family history as it is about a particular family. Eleanor was faithful to sign and label all of her quilts, which provided Sylvia with a bit of assistance during her search for them. However, had Claudia, Sylvia’s sister who sold the heirloom quilts, been faithful to at least note where she sold them or to whom she sold them, it would have perhaps given Sylvia a bit more of assistance when she searched for them.

The manner in which the story unfolds is similar to other Elm Creek novels, yet slightly different. As in earlier novels, the history is told in flashbacks. However, unlike other novels in the series, only the reader is allowed to know the history; the characters remain ignorant of the events. So, essentially, while we find out about Eleanor’s life, Sylvia and her friends do not have the benefit of receiving the same information. Again, here is a reason to ensure that a family’s history gets recorded; it would have been nice for Sylvia to have more knowledge of her mother than the few scanty details that she had.

As always, you will enjoy this book as the lighthearted, entertaining novel it was meant to be. Even in spite of the author’s desire to incorporate a dose of reality into the book, it is still rather “pie in the sky” at times. But I think you will still find this book entertaining and, at times, even suspenseful and tear-jerking.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Color Mastery from a master

On Monday, February 9th, Maria Peagler will be stopping by my other blog ( to offer expert advice on creating quilts with visual "bling" through color choices. She will most likely be offering excerpts and juicy tidbits from her new book, Color Mastery: 10 Principles for Creating Stunning Quilts. I have a copy of it; it is eye candy at its finest! Fabulous color illustrations, step-by-step processes, lots of great detail and explanation--and for those of you who are intimidated by the use of THE color wheel, she explains this very clearly! Maria is eager to discuss the incorporation of fine arts into the homeschool environment, by using a craft as practical as quilting.

Hope you can drop by; see you then!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Runaway Quilt, Elm Creek Quilts: A book review

In this fourth book of the series, The Runaway Quilt (Elm Creek Quilts Series #4) opens with Sylvia Bergstrom having received news that her family's connections with the Underground Railroad may have been more than what she'd originally been told. When a quilt which was most likely made by a resident of Elm Creek more than a century ago ends up in the hands of the descendants of slave owners, Sylvia is driven to determine the truth, and to find out the extent of what part her family played in history during the pre-Civil War era.

Sylvia tackles a task she'd been putting off for a long time--she goes to the attic and begins searching through over a century's worth of family heirlooms to find clues to her past. She discovers a trunk with quilts and a journal, written by her great-grandfather's sister, her aunt Gerda. Sylvia is delighted and reassured to find confirmation of many of the family stories which had been handed down through the generations. Her family did indeed conduct a station on the Underground Railroad. However, they came to be stationmasters in a rather unexpected manner. The journal holds other surprises, as well.

The story is told in a series of flashbacks, with Sylvia moving between the past and the present. Her friends are supportive of her journey, and Elm Creek Manager Summer even quietly conducts library research to one day share with Sylvia. Sylvia's relationship with her suitor and childhood friend, Andrew, continues to grow and blossom. Other recurring characters make an occasional appearance. But, clearly, this particular book of the series is about Sylvia.

This book also makes reference to the myth of quilt codes being used on the Underground Railroad. The author, however, chose not to support too strongly the fabricated "quilt clues," only occasionally making reference to these unfounded elements. Rather, she opted to use the concept of a picture quilt, showing the way like a map, not unlike a well known children's book published not many years before this novel. Perhaps this concept should have been left out altogether, as there is no evidence that such picture quilts existed either, but the author at least made somewhat of an attempt to make clear to the reader that all of these concepts are not historically accurate.

Nonetheless, it is another light-hearted, enjoyable read in the series. The Runaway Quilt (Elm Creek Quilts Series #4) will keep you in suspense, and brings you to a couple of very surprising and unexpected revelations. If you like fiction, and you like to quilt, you will like this book!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Cross-Country Quilters, Elm Creek Quilts: A book review

Book three of the series, The Cross-Country Quilters introduces us to new quilters. As suggested by the title, these quilters make their way from various regions of the country to Elm Creek for a quilt retreat. Naturally, the established characters make appearances throughout the book. Sylvia is on the mend from an occurrence in the second book. Sarah and Matthew, who have now assumed a greater role in the management of Elm Creek Manor, are seen from time to time, as well, with issues between them growing.

We are introduced to women who are unlikely to become friends, were it not for their Cross Country Quilters group, but yet form friendships. One character, Julia, is making a last-ditch effort to revive her failing movie career by learning to quilt for a part in a movie. Two other quilters, Donna and Megan, met on the Internet and have the opportunity to meet in person at Elm Creek Manor at the quilt retreat. Vinnie, a spunky octogenerian, is hoping to pair her grandson with Donna.

We are introduced to quilters of color in this book. Grace, a world famous quilter, has been unable to quilt for several months. While she states that she has a severe case of 'quilter's block,' the reality is that she is hiding MS, a debilitating illness, which robs her of her ability to hold scissors or to sew fabric pieces together. We also meet Judy, whose soldier father abandoned her and her mother not long after she was born. Judy has recently been contacted by her father's other family, and is debating traveling to meet them.

As always, there is a healthy mix of triumphs and trials, successes and failures in the book. In a society where a large segment of the population is nearing retirement age, dealing with issues of aging and illness are very appropriate. It is also appreciated that quilters of color are included, as well. Also, there are parenting challenges, marital problems, physical illnesses (other than MS), just to name of few. Cross-Country Quilters is an enjoyable read.
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