Quilty as Charged
by Spike Gillespie

University of Texas Press: Austin, 2007. ISBN 978-0292705999.
Reviewed by Tracie Nichols
Posted on 10/22/2007

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Arts/Crafts

This is a book about the topic of quilting that anyone, quilter and non-quilter alike, can enjoy. It's written, as the author points out, "in the spirit of quiltmaking—that is, many small stories pieced together." Well-done interviews with traditional and art quilters, teachers, and award winners from International Quilting Association (IQA) shows are interwoven with tiny stories set off in square boxes (naturally!) from some of the hundreds of quilters the author interviewed. It's also a story about a woman journalist who moves from the "job" of writing a newspaper article about quilting into choosing to write a book about the world of quilting and about the impact that learning how to quilt, quilts, and quilters have on her life along the way. The author, Spike Gillespie, deliberately chooses to write a book about quilting from the perspective of being a novice. As a matter of fact, she admits in her introduction, "I did not sew. I'd sooner tape, staple, safety-pin together or simply throw away torn clothes. Under no circumstances would I voluntarily undertake a from-scratch sewing project."

Gillespie has a down-to-earth sense of humor, which, if you noticed the book title, includes the tendency towards puns. Her writing style is readable and concise. And her descriptions of her own attempts to learn quilting drew me, a non-quilter who has also been known to use a stapler for clothing repairs, into the book and helped me appreciate the interviews with skilled quilters. She talks openly about her, and often other people's, assumptions about the people who quilt; the "granny in a rocker" syndrome, and how surprising some of the quilts produced now are. My favorite parts of the book, though, were the concluding chapter and the epilogue. She's transparent about how often the process of writing a book, regardless of the topic, doesn't follow a nice tidy plan of action, and she relates a story that shows just how deeply quilts and the process of quilting have touched, and even changed, her life. In her words, "This is what the quilting community has brought me. I understand now the power of the quilt."

Spike Gillespie is the author of Surrender (But Don't Give Yourself Away) and three other books. Her essays and journalism have appeared in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Traveler, Texas Monthly, and the Dallas Morning News, among other publications. She lives in Austin, Texas.

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