07 January, 2011

Hobo Quilts

Every now and then a book completely grabs you, unexpectedly. You aren't sure why you are drawn to it, or what holds the appeal when it seems to obviously not your taste. Regardless of whether you think you should like it or not, you do. And you can't stop thinking about it. So you buy it, even when you aren't supposed to be spending any money.

Hobo Quilts is the most recent addition to my personal library. It's a book filled with over 50 block patterns and 20 quilt patterns from those blocks. It's more than that though. It is also filled with stories from people who rode the rails, fed them, entertained them, policed them, and more. Part oral history, part quilt book.

The patterns are based on a symbol glossary common to people who rode the rails. And the stories are all from archived collections and the author's family.

Each of the block patterns is accompanied by a story. The patterns themselves are quite simple. A life-size line drawing of the block with cutting instructions. That's it. It's up to the reader to put the block together. Some other reviews do caution that the cutting instructions and finished block do not correlate. For an experienced quilter, however, none of the blocks are so difficult that you couldn't adapt it for your own taste and size. There is a pretty good split between applique and pieced blocks. Here are some of my favourites - for the design or simply the name.





On first glance, these blocks may not appeal to the modern quilter. The history attached and the fabric choices in the book are not likely to appeal to someone used to working with large scale brights. But the simplicity and graphic nature of many of the blocks should not be overlooked. Combined en masse many of these blocks would make a striking, modern quilt. Your fabric choice and scale of the block could radically change from what you see in the book. It just takes some imagination.

Debra G. Henninger
2010
Krause Publications

21 comments:

Lesly said...

I bought that book this summer because I loved the simplicity of the blocks and the stylized "message" in each one. Haven't done anything with it so far, but I do like to look at it.

Rossie said...

It looks awesome. I'm kind of in love with codes and have always been intrigues when I've seen hobo codes in the movies and such. I'll have to check this out.

Meghan said...

Nice find, Cheryl. I'm going to have to look for something like this on my next trip to the library.

MariQuilts said...

I've been drawn to that book too. Everytime I see it in Chapters I'm tempted to buy...not sure why I haven't.

Jennifer said...

What an interesting book! When I was looking at the pictures I actually found myself thinking that the blocks had such strong lines that they could be quite modern.

Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer :)

Victoria said...

I heard about this book somewhere, and thought it sounded intriguing, as I love the history and story aspect of old quilts. Thanks for giving us an inside peak!

(Also, I like the idea of the simple, "figure it out yourself" way of presenting the blocks... worded directions leave me in the dust scratching my head, and I also think this way helps promote some individual problem solving and creativity.)

live a colorful life said...

As always, I appreciate your insightful book reviews. Thanks, Cheryl!

Em said...

Oh - what a great book! I will have to look for it and put it on my wish list. I love the idea of making some blocks with meaning to them! So cool!

felicity said...

Way cool book! I agree with Jennifer - those simple designs are very modern to me.

Jan said...

I also purchased this book last year. What appealed to me was the simplicity of the designs and more imortantly the history aspect of it.
I have read somewhere that the whole hobo quilt idea is a work of fiction and not fact, but whatever, I still like the idea that people used this system codes to survive.

kait. said...

I saw that book in JoAnn's actually and wasn't sure about it.. I have some friends that hop trains so it appealed to me in that way but I didn't like the crudeness of the blocks. I'll be curious to see if you do something with them but thanks for your good word, you're already swaying me!

anti snore said...

I love the history and story aspect of old quilts. Thanks for sharing!

Angie said...

I am a modern quilter, but I love the history behind quilts. I just finished taking an underground railroad class and it was wonderful to learn about the history.

Esch House Quilts said...

Love the blocks - you're right, they look very modern.

HipHome said...

This is right up my alley!!!

Mary said...

I looked at this book a few months ago...I thought it was a great book! I will have to give it another look :)

PatSloan said...

well now I need to read this one!! Thanks for the intro to it!

Madame Parfait said...

Thank you for the review, to tell the truth I've had my eyes on this book ever since I saw that "Hobo" episode of MadMen!

sleepycathollow said...

I bought this book earlier this month to make for my husband. He wanted a railroad quilt and loves the hobo history.

I'm having a heck of a time getting the book away from him so I can make the blocks! :)

Kathy B said...

I bought the book took and think it might be a fun quilt along?

Erika C said...

I haven't bought the book yet, just checked it out of the library so far. But I used the first block in the book last night as my 'very first ever' attempt at a quilt block, and even my 'very first ever' attempt at paper piecing. I was a little confused at first, but once I got the hang of it, but I'm pretty proud of the result, and everyone I've shown it to thinks it looks terrific. I used scraps that other quilters I know had given me that they were throwing away. I have to buy the book now!