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Q&A with Barbara Brackman

Posted 11-22-2020 by | Posted in: New Products   Q&A  

“Are you nuts?”

Among lots of thank yous and compliments, that’s the most common question Barbara Brackman gets in regard to her Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns book. I suppose that’s a fair question considering all the research and organization that went into compiling over 4,000 quilt block patterns. Read our Q&A with her to hear about how it all came together, plus some insight on using BlockBase+, Barbara’s online lectures, cocktail parties, and Cary Grant. ;-)

When and how did your interest in quilt blocks come about?

Barbara: I’ve always loved pattern. When I was enrolled in an art history class at the University of Kansas I came across Carrie Hall’s 800+ quilt blocks that she donated to the museum there in the 1930s. I was hooked.

Carrie Hall's blocks at the Spencer Museum of Art Carrie Hall’s blocks at the Spencer Museum of Art

How did you go from casually collecting a few patterns to creating a full Encyclopedia? What was that like?

Barbara: I’m just one of those OCD collector types. After looking at Hall’s blocks I thought I’d make a block in every quilt pattern, but first I made an index card. Pretty soon I had thousands of index cards. And I wasn’t getting any sewing done. But I am a better indexer than a stitcher so that has worked out fine.

Looking back, would you change anything?

Barbara: In life? I probably should have listened to my sister when she told me not to get a dachshund as they are impossible to house break but other than that: No.

Photoshopping is another hobby. Me and the late, lamented, un-housebroken dachshund Dorothy Barker. Photoshopped into a portrait of Ottoline Morrell.

Hahahaha! I actually meant, would you change anything about the book!

Barbara: Oh you mean about the book. Very little, I love the color and the improved organization. I would have added new patterns up to the last second. But that might have caused a riot in the pattern-drawing department. We could put a sticky note on every copy shipped with new/old patterns like this square inside a triangle pattern. Just found it last week: “No name: From a quilt about 1910.” But the sticky note concept might cause a riot in the shipping department. So we’ll just say things are perfect as they are.

For those who don’t know, give a brief explanation of the Encyclopedia and who it’s written for.

Barbara: The Encyclopedia is a visual index to quilt patterns, organized by pattern design, which gives you the published name with the source for the earliest publication. In the back is an alphabetic index to the pattern names.

There are really four audiences.

1) The quilt collector or curator who wants to know the name of a pattern and its source.

2) The quiltmaker who wants visual ideas.

3) The pattern designer looking for a theme in pattern names, like blocks named for states or cities.

4) And people who love pattern and enjoy leafing through it. My painter friend Marty Olson often finds ideas to create background pattern for his paintings.

Marty Olson,“Back to the Garden”, 2020 Acrylic on a wood panel 12″ x 12″. Source:

What’s the most common question or remark you get about the Encyclopedia?

Barbara: “Are you nuts?” Answer: Yes. But I have redirected my obsessions into a product that benefits society. And it all keeps me entertained.

In your own words, please explain BlockBase+ and how the two products complement each other.

Barbara: BlockBase is a digitized version of the book index—again organized visually with published names and published source. I use them together all the time. The one thing BlockBase does that the book cannot is draw the pattern for you. Having grown up with books I often begin my pattern search with the book Encyclopedia; I am more comfortable leafing through pages than scrolling on the screen. If I am doing a Block of the Month on a theme like the Yankee Notions quilt we did on my Civil War Quilts blog in 2020 I can read through the alphabetic name index quickly looking for words like New England or Northern and see what catches my eye. Then I use the number or name to find the entry in BlockBase and have it draw the pattern for me. As I use the computer more and more I am getting comfortable with scrolling digitally. The program is great if you know the name or a part of the name and can type it in the search box.

Looking for patterns useful for a Yankee Notions quilt? BlockBase reference and published source: Northern Lights.

BlockBase+ coming Spring, 2021!

Now, switching gears to some fun questions… If you could author a book or create a product of ANY KIND, what would it be and why?

Barbara: I wish I were a computer programmer and could develop an app in which your phone looks at a quilt block and directs you to the correct number in the Encyclopedia. My entomologist friends tell me you can do that with an insect—an app tells you what kind of a moth you’re looking at. Why not quilt patterns?

What has kept you busy this year? Have you developed any new hobbies?

Barbara: Revising the Encyclopedia has kept me busy during the year of staying at home. I haven’t minded the isolation too much because I do enjoy sitting at the computer and looking through quilt photos and poking around in long-ago women’s lives through genealogical sources on the web. Some of my digital penpals and I have worked all year on an applique sampler based on the work of an 18th-century artist named Mary Delany. Living in the past is a great escape. And I blog a lot.

Penelope Pierce is quilting along with our Mary Delany BOM called Flora Delanica. She’s interpreting Mrs Delany’s paper collages in wool and embroidery.

My new hobby is Online Meetings. I’ve learned to use Zoom and Facebook to connect with friends I used to see once a year. Now we meet weekly for a glass of wine and quilt history gossip. It’s wonderful to have that connectedness. I’ve also realized that with online meeting skills I can go back to giving programs for quilts and museums—something I have sorely missed. Friends and I have developed a Facebook page advertising our digital lectures. Ask to join Quilt & Textile History Programs here.

Quilt & Textile History Programming. Online programs for the digital age.

Ask to join Quilt & Textile History Programs here.

Favorite movie, favorite show, favorite quilt – go!

Barbara: My favorite movie is His Girl Friday for the snappy, cynical dialog and I adore Cary Grant. I fall over in laughter everytime I see him say: “That’s the last time I hire anyone with a disease.” He plays such a terrible person with such aplomb.

Favorite Movie: His Girl Friday

Favorite quilt: Just looking at this log cabin yesterday. In the collection of the New England Quilt Museum. Perfect.

Favorite Quilt. Log Cabin from the New England Quilt Museum/Binney Collection

Favorite TV show: I loved the PBS/British series Victoria. Period dramas are my favorite—the clothes, the sets, the view of historic villains. And Rufus Sewelll as Lord M.

Doing anything exciting now or have anything fun coming up?

Barbara: Well, a little goes a long way these days. My extended family (most of whom I am not related to) is going to meet for an online cocktail party before our lonely Thanksgiving dinners (ours here ending with frozen pumpkin cheesecake from Trader Joe’s.)

If you’d like to hear more, check out the video, “The History Behind Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia Book” on YouTube!

Order now!

Click here to buy the book!

Photos from our Kid Giddy Photo Shoot!

Posted 09-15-2017 by | Posted in: EQ Artists  

This last week, Kid Giddy aka Kerry Goulder sent us a few quilts and tons of blocks to photograph. They were all designed in EQ7! Her blocks are all super intricate! Look for all of the fussy cutting she did in her blocks. She even painted the star in Santa’s eye. Hot Skates – Designed by Kerry Goulder Queen Bee – Designed by Kerry Goulder Land of Magic – Designed by Kerry Goulder Mug Club & Winking Santa Mug – Designed by Kerry Goulder Totem Bear & Totem Wolf – Designed by Kerry Goulder French Bulldog Block – Designed by Kerry Goulder Daddy’s Quilt Blocks – Designed by Kerry Goulder Which of these blocks or quilts are your favorite? Let us know! Watch for more of Kid Giddy’s work in future social media posts!

Photos of Hoop Sisters Quilts!

Posted 08-02-2017 by | Posted in: EQ Artists   Photographing Quilts  

HoopSisters‘ quilts are some of the most amazing quilts I have seen. Each square has such complexity and together they form a stunning quilt! Take a look at some of the close ups to see how intricate each square is! Summer Dreams by HoopSisters Feathered Star by HoopSisters Jacobean Journey by HoopSisters Do you like these quilts as much as we do? Let us know what you think!

Amy Friend Quilt Photos

Posted 07-26-2017 by | Posted in: EQ Artists   Photographing Quilts  

Amy Friend, one of the EQ Ambassadors, sent us a few of the quilts from her new book Improv Paper Piecing. I was excited when they came in because they are all super colorful! I also really like the names of her quilts. I never knew that catawampus was an actual word; I always thought it was just something that a couple people in my family came up with to say that something was a little off kilter.  Amy’s quilts are incredibly unique, which makes them even more amazing! Photographing Amy’s quilts was a lot of fun. We went to two different parks in the area. One of the parks was where we photographed Lori Miller’s quilts. It was amazing to see all the different flowers that were blooming this time around. Take a look at a few of the pictures we took! Peacock Crossing – Amy Friend of During

Tracing Images

Posted 07-19-2017 by | Posted in: EQ Software Tips   Lesson Spotlight  

Tracing images can be tricky. It’s hard to think ahead and make sure that everything drawn on the screen is piecable at the sewing machine. With some practice, it gets easier to create incredible paper-piecing and applique blocks by tracing images. When I was younger I remember going to sewing events most Saturdays with my grandma. Some weeks it was machine embroidery club, block of the month, or just going to a quilt shop to socialize. One week at embroidery club, they showed how to make fabric post cards. I don’t remember much else about the meeting other than the fact that I liked this idea and wanted to make my own. Several years later, my grandma and I took a class at our local quilt shop that taught us how to take the concepts of art quilting and use that to make cards. I have taken what I learned

Nancy Mahoney Quilt Pictures

Posted 07-12-2017 by | Posted in: EQ Artists   Photographing Quilts   Uncategorized  

This past week we were lucky enough to be able to photograph a handful of Nancy Mahoney’s quilts. Her work is absolutely stunning and it was fun to find places that helped to show that. Take a look at some of the pictures we took! True Colors - Nancy Mahoney 2013 Crooked Path – Nancy Mahoney 2014 Split Star – Nancy Mahoney 2015 Gum Drops – Nancy Mahoney 2013 Infinity – Nancy Mahoney 2014 It’s really neat to see all that Nancy has been doing with EQ7! It has been so much fun to take quilts out that I have seen on the covers of her books and in magazines. It is surreal to see all of these quilts in person. Check out more of Nancy’s work on her website! Look for more of her photos in upcoming social media posts!

Photographing AnneMarie Chany’s Quilts

Posted 07-05-2017 by | Posted in: Photographing Quilts   Uncategorized  

Quilting and Photography are two of my greatest loves, and recently I have been able to put them together. One of our EQ Artists, AnneMarie Chany, brought us a few quilts to photograph. Moccasin by AnneMarie Chany – Gen X Quilters The first quilt, Moccasin, she called her “Fourth Child” when she dropped it off. Her design is phenomenal with quilting just as stunning. Read more about her creation process for this quilt. We decided to go to the Wood County, OH Historical Society to take picture’s AnneMarie’s quilts. The structure that the quilt is hung on is an Oil Derrick, which was used to mine natural gas in the late 1800’s. We waited until the exact second that the wind died down to shoot this photo. Wind only stops for seconds at a time most days in windy Bowling Green, OH. Alternate views of Moccasin Purple Bonfire by AnneMarie Chany –