Another Modern Quilting Book

I have mixed feelings about The Modern Medallion Workbook, one of the latest books riding the coat tails of the modern quilt movement. In a nutshell, I think it’s a perfectly OK book with some nice patterns from a bunch of quilters active in the modern quilt movement. However, I think it’s a marketing hook to call many of the book’s quilts modern.
What makes a medallion quilt modern is never defined. All that’s said on this is it’s a medallion quilt with “the addition of modern fabrics and a modern aesthetic.” I take this to mean modern medallion quilts are what the authors and their friends made. Only a few of the eleven quilts – Drop of Golden Sun, June, Graphical Modern, and One Step At A Time  – seem modern to me.  I focused on the use of negative space, asymmetry, and a pared down look. Melanie at Catbird Quilt Studio’s recent post about what is a modern medallion quilt talks about other aspects of modern quilts.

The rest, such as the examples below, look like traditional medallion quilts with different fabric choices. One, Zen Medallion (on the book’s cover,) is made in wedges. I like it, but it certainly doesn’t use the usual medallion quilt construction methods.

Modern Medallion008Modern Medallion007

Good Points:
-The book gives planning, organizing and general quilt construction instructions that apply to any quilting project, and beginners might need/want to consult them.
-There are line drawings of each quilt so you can try out color combinations before you cut fabric.

-I’m inspired by the half circle outer border on Oviedo (the quilt shown on the book’s cover.) Accuracy would be crucial to ensure matched corners.

Bad Points:

-In the special techniques section (piecing curves, flying geese, half square triangles, paper piecing) I have issues with the curved piecing technique shown (too many pins,) and the paper piecing section leaves out some helpful trimming steps. Freezer paper piecing, which would be a good technique to use for the book’s patterns, isn’t mentioned. There’s lots of detail offered for different ways to make flying geese, but only one way to make half square triangles.

-The 6 pages on designing your own medallion quilt seem OK until you try to use the formulas given on pages 112 and 114 for adding, subtracting, or resizing blocks to fit; or for adding filler borders. As was pointed out to me, they are WRONG. The reader is told to multiply, when the correct mathematical operation is to divide. I suspect that somehow the wrong sign got inserted, and copy editors/proof readers never caught the error.

-I think the quilts need a degree of difficulty rating. Some involve intense paper piecing. The Migration Medallion has you piece 48 1 1/4 inch by 2 inch flying geese. That’s tiny.

-There’s no resources section or tip of the hat to the long history of medallion quilts – and books about them. I think a case could be made that many “old” medallion quilts are modern.

What do I consider a modern medallion quilt?  I’ll let Gwen Marston speak for me.

liberated-medallion-quilts- -by-gwen-marston-add-3-534px-534px



Filed under Books, Commentary

21 responses to “Another Modern Quilting Book

  1. Hi, I’m Alison Schmidt. I was the technical editor for the book The Modern Medallion Workbook and I’d like to thank the person who initially found the error in the book. The text that explains how to make the borders fit is correct; unfortunately, the formulas on pages 112 (Methods 1 and 2) and 114 (Method 4) are incorrect.

    We strive for perfection at C&T Publishing, but regrettably, sometimes errors do slip through. In this case, multiplication (×) symbols were printed where there should have been division (÷) symbols. The error will be corrected in all future printings and the correction is posted on our website here:

    Thanks for pointing this out, so that it can be corrected.

  2. Some excellent points! Quilt book tradition lacks the academic book tradition of citing what has gone before, with the result that the authors sometimes appear to be re-inventing the wheel, when one assumes they were actually inspired by the wheel (if that doesn’t overextend the metaphor). We could use some acknowledgment of our sources in most quilt books!!! It would be clearer and more honest, if somewhat more labor intensive for the authors.

    • You make good points about the lack of quilt book tradition for noting earlier work. I think it exists to some extent in older quilting books, and some authors do like to note books which have influenced them. I’ve seen such notations in other modern quilting books, even if the inspiration is Aunt Effie’s scrap quilts, and I always am grateful for it as most quilters’ work hasn’t emerged sui generis. And crassly, quilt book publishers are missing a chance to plug other books they publish.

  3. Pam

    We seem to be overwhelmed by quilt books right now with four being published before the last three hit the shelves. I usually hold back on buying a book and it’s interesting to see which ones stand the test of time. I just bought a few that have been around a while and am not disappointed. Your reviews are thoughtful, well written and educated. Thank you very much!

    • Thanks for the kind words. The last fabric related book I bought was second hand, published in 2004. I discovered it at the library and decided I had to have it. At $4, it cost less than a fancy coffee drink.

  4. farmquilter

    Thank you for the in-depth review! I don’t particularly like medallion quilts so this was not on my list to buy, but I do really like quilts that give me fun space to quilt in. From the reviews I’ve seen on other blogs, I could not figure out where “modern” applied to the quilts other then the use of solid fabrics. The “modern” movement is going to burn itself out if everything is labeled “modern” – rather like “new and improved” when no one can tell the difference!!!

    • Yes, modern quilting has become rather all encompassing, with the inclusion of “modern traditional” in its definition. I’ve decided to view it as the next generation of quilters, with their own networks and fabric design preferences.

    • Wow, I LOVE this point: ‘The “modern” movement is going to burn itself out if everything is labeled “modern” – rather like “new and improved” when no one can tell the difference!!!’

  5. Thank you for saving me the expense of buying this! I’m not a great fan of Modern quilts for the sake of modernity, I’d rather rely on the tried and trusted formula of harmony, balance and instinct. And a book that purports to teach surely ought to be sure of its facts…

    • As I said in my review, I think the authors had the formulas correct originally, but somehow the wrong math function was inserted and the error never caught. And no, I wouldn’t buy this book. I borrowed it from my local library, which is my way to review most quilting books. There are a few I buy.

  6. Thanks for the review. I will just look through the book at shops and continue learning more about medallions from Melanie. I’m comfortable on her site b/c I don’t feel it is an advertisement to buy fabric lines. And I’m glad to find your blog through hers today!

    • Welcome to my world. I hear you about blogs as fabric marketing pitches. There are many good blogs written by folks who also have Etsy shops or are teachers, but some are too cluttered with ads.

  7. Reblogged this on Catbird Quilt Studio and commented:
    If you love medallions as I do, you may be interested in the new book, the Modern Medallion Workbook. I have NOT had a chance to see it in person yet. But here is a review by Joanna the Snarky Quilter with her thoughts.

  8. Thanks for the review. I still haven’t had a chance to see it yet, and there aren’t reviews out on the book sites yet, either.

    As said in my post, I think very few of the modern medallions I’ve seen are modern. The one shown above that would make the cut, as I define them (and not including Marston’s) is the Graphical Modern. And frankly I don’t especially like it as I think its proportions and balance aren’t very pleasing. The Zen medallion is great, but as built in wedges isn’t technically a medallion. Used as the center of a different quilt, however, it would be fabulous.

    And yes, I feel the right to opinions on medallion structure because of my expertise on the topic, though of course opinions on aesthetics are just that.

    Thanks again.

    • You make a good point about how important proportions are when you deviate from tried and true quilt designs. To be off kilter for the sake of it often leads to a quilt that brings no visual joy. My impression is there’s been a bunch of blog marketing for this book but there’s only one Amazon review. My chief reason for writing a review was to alert potential buyers about the formula errors.

  9. I like your book reviews–you make a clear judgement and support it with a reasoned argument!

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