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Q&A with Barbara Brackman

Posted 11-22-2020 by Electric Quilt | 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 ArtCarrie 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!

Making Snowflakes with EQ8’s WreathMaker

Posted 11-19-2020 by Jenny | Posted in: EQ8

We’ve seen a few snowflakes here in Ohio and it inspired me to design a snowy quilt in EQ8 using the WreathMaker. It’s super easy and you’ll have a Sketchbook full of unique snowflakes in no time! Let’s Make Some Snow! Open EQ8 and click Design a block from scratch on the Home screen. On the Block Worktable, click Applique on the ribbon, then Motif in the palette. (If you want your snowflakes to have a background block, you can choose Block instead of Motif. But I have a plan for these snowflakes you’ll see at the end of this lesson!) For this exercise, the block size doesn’t really matter. But I do think it’s helpful to have the Graph Paper on with the Horizontal and Vertical set to 2 so you have a vertical guideline to draw your shapes on. Click the Shapes tool and select one of the

Lessons with Yvonne – Use Your Birthstone Color to Create a Quilt

Posted 11-15-2020 by Yvonne | Posted in: EQ8 EQ8 Lessons with Yvonne Favorite Posts

My birthday is in November.  The birthstone for that month is Topaz.  This is a yellow/orange color.  I don’t like that color at all.  But, as a challenge to myself, I will make a monochromatic block using that color.  I find it is good to challenge myself in all kinds of ways as this is when I grow the most and learn all kinds of discoveries. I once made a quilt in browns and oranges that I don’t care for either, but it is now one of my favorite quilts.  Surprise! Open your EQ8 and name your project ‘birthstone designs’. Click on the block worktable icon on the upper right side of the screen. Click on NEW BLOCK>Pieced>Easy Draw. Set the block size to be an 8 x 8-inch block with 24 snaps horizontal and vertical. I don’t care for the colors I am using so I will create areas

What do Judy Martin, Tula Pink, and Alex Anderson have in common?

Posted 11-14-2020 by Christine | Posted in: EQ Company News EQ Company News EQ News and Press New Products New to EQ

These women are all fantastic designers, authors, and quilters we look to for fabulous creations. They are among many pioneers who have shaped the quilting industry into the wonderful world that it is today. We are so honored that these women, among many others, have expressed their shared love for the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman (speaking of pioneers!). Tula puts it perfectly when she says, “No matter how much we evolve as quilters, our foundation will always remain rooted in the traditional building blocks of patchwork.” Judy says, “Barbara’s research is invaluable, and her system for organizing blocks by their construction basis is genius. It allows you to easily find a pattern and learn its name, based on what it looks like.” Learn how to use the book here. In case you’re not familiar with previous editions of Barbara’s Encyclopedia, take it from Alex Anderson, “When

EQ8 Block Spotlight: Checkerboard

Posted 11-10-2020 by Jenny | Posted in: EQ8 Block Spotlight

Welcome to the EQ8 Block Spotlight series! Each month we highlight a block from the EQ8 Block Library with a few design ideas. Then we want YOU to show us what you can do with the block. Whether you’re a brand new EQ8 user or a seasoned pro, come join in the fun! This month’s block: Checkerboard Where to find it: 01 Classic Pieced > Four X Design ideas to get you started This block is pretty simple, but that gives you plenty of space for creativity! I look forward to seeing what everyone does with this block. My first quilt is a 5 x 5 horizontal layout. I alternated the original Checkerboard block with a simplified version of the block where I deleted the lines in the center square. It is mostly colored with Tula Pink fabrics and I did a little fussy cutting with the floral print. The

How to Find a Quilt Block with the New Encyclopedia

Posted 11-04-2020 by Jenny | Posted in: EQ Company News EQ News and Press New Products

The soon-to-be released Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns is 522 pages of quilty goodness with 4,000+ blocks to inspire your next quilting project! The book is primarily a reference on how to identify quilt blocks. Curious how to use the book to identify a quilt pattern? Let’s step through an example using an antique block found at an estate sale. Here is a photo of the block I’m trying to identify: Key for Locating Patterns The Key for Locating Patterns starts on page 7 of the Encyclopedia. Step 1 asks if the pieces are not organized in square blocks. This block is square, so we can move on to the next step. Step 2 asks if the block is a Medallion, Two or Three Block, or a Block with a Sashing set. None of those apply to this block. Moving on! When I get to Step 3, I can start

Good Vibes Challenge – Winners Announced!

Posted 11-03-2020 by Christine | Posted in: Congratulations

We always love to see the beautiful entries that are submitted to a design challenge! The Good Vibes quilts are awesome!! (See them in the original post here.) Thanks to everyone for participating! Winners There are two winners for this challenge; one selected by Benartex, and one by Christa!  Each will receive a bundle of the Good Vibes fabrics!! Congratulations to….. Benartex’s Choice: Karen Kehl “This was so much fun! I love the playfulness of these fabrics and I have enjoyed seeing everyone’s quilts. I decided to modernize a traditional block. I love the range of colors and how this quilt pops!” Christa’s Choice: Elizabeth Wickes “I call this the Color Maze and it is meant to showcase the low volume/high volume and contrasting colorways of Good Vibes! The high volume prints are on the outside with the longest lines and the low volume are on the inside. Fun patterns when you

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