I Like My Tea Black

I think the quilting world knows by now that I do everything with style. I can’t tie my shoe laces (ha, or have that adorable Latino boy bending over in front of me do the same) without a severe element of style. So it was no wonder that Christa Watson approached me at QuiltCon about reviewing her book, Machine Quilting With Style. Before I said yes, no, or maybe so, I told her straight up, “I’m warning you, I’ll give the good with the bad, all in a piping, hot mug of Truth Tea. Can you handle it?” Christa stared into my eyes and said, “Molli, I like my tea black.” Mmm hmmm, no arguing with that! A lady who knows what she wants will turn my head every damn time.


I had already turned on heel, book in hand, “But while I’ve got you,” she called after me, “can I get the two for one special?” Now I ain’t runnin’ no charity around here, and I didn’t even know I was offering a special. Y’all know how I feel about my time: the word precious comes to mind. “Christa, darling, what ever do you mean?” Then out of nowhere, and I do mean nowhere, (the woman was wearing big sleeves and all, but still), Christa pulls out a second, different book! This one had her gorgeous face on the cover, along with someone I thought I recognised from a QuiltCon lecture I had just attended. Something Angie? Alexa? Wilson? Waters? Crystal Waters? Angie Davis, no, no … hold up, let me just look again, I can never remember … Angela Walters! Right, yes, that’s her! So anyway, I’m standing staring at this second book, titled The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting. “Okay, fine, I’ll give you the special [what special?] just this once, Christa, but Ultimate? That’s a bit much, don’t you think?” Then Christa turrrrned and went full on diva with moi! Can you even? I won’t tell you exactly what she said, but girl, colour me impressed.


So here I am, two books in hand, and I need to tell you all about them. In a word: surprising. I don’t mean that as an insult, as after hearing Christa have her diva breakdown with me, I knew the lady was fully capable of expressing herself! However, upon first glance at the covers of these books, I was like, “Snore me a river. Really.” The publishing team at Martingale need to invest a bit more in their graphic design team to slick their covers up a bit. Yes, don’t judge a book, blah, blah, blah, but don’t even pretend like you don’t do it. I’ve got five minutes of spare time in my life, and it’s rarely spent at a book store, so if I am there, I need something to grab me quickly. Peach and sea-foam green colour ways, multiple font styles and sizes, and non-aspirational quilt patterns are not going to be the things to do it.


But, and this is a HUGE but (baby, got back!), rip the covers off and keep reading because there’s so much good stuff in both of these books. I’m not a quilter extraordinaire, but after reading these books, I kind of want to be, and more oddly, think I could be. The overall tones from Christa and Angela are ones of empowerment, encouragement, and endearment. I’m not sure if I read this in the books, or I’m totally making it up from the inspiration I gained from reading them, but “When in doubt, quilt it out.” Is that not like a metaphor for life, or what? Both authors make their readers feel like they are invested in their learning, regardless of what stage or level of the process they’re attempting. They just want you to quilt, and enjoy the hell out of it. You can also tell they both really love what they do, and that exuberance clearly shines through their writing.


So what I expected to get was a whole slew of information on machine quilting, with the latter book also including long-arm quilting. I don’t currently have a long-arm machine, so I was sort of thinking, meh, I’ll skim past those pages. However, the way both books are structured, is that you get instructional quilt patterns, as well as instructional ideas on how to quilt them. Remember that two for one special? Exactly, each of these books is a two for one special in and of itself! That was a total shocker! So instead of it just being, “here’s a quilt top, let me show you how to quilt it,” there are full instructions on how to make said quilt tops, and then multiple instructional suggestions on how to quilt them. Now, keeping it real, many of the quilts are pretty basic in design. I can’t see myself making any of them, but there were a few that gave me an interested pause. That being said, appliqué is introduced in both books, and these basic designs do allow prime settings for practicing quilting styles and patterns. Regardless, you’re really getting bonus quilt patterns (that many will love!) in books that are only required to teach you about the quilting process.


Like I said, I don’t have a long-arm, but I still found Crystal Angela Walters’s section extremely engaging. Many of her suggested quilting tips transcend the long-arm machine (I’m assuming Christa’s would do the same in reverse), and if nothing else, she’s made me want a long-arm machine. That’s gotta be good for the economics of the industry, right? My bank account, however, not so much. Angela discusses the basics of long-arming, which is also really educational for those people sending out their quilts to be quilted by long-armers. Respect! The page I keep going back to though is when she writes, “There is no such thing as perfection in free-motion quilting … to me, close is good enough.” Can someone remind me of that every time I get behind my sewing machine, please?

Finals B1324.indd

To sum it all up, I’m glad Christa asked me to review these two books, Machine Quilting With Style and The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting. They both surprised and delighted me with their tone, and the voluminous amount of information that was presented. I actually want to quilt more now, which means I need to make more quilt tops, which means I need to buy more fabric. That’s how this works, isn’t it? Circle of life, and all that? Either of these wonderful books will serve you well in inspiring your creative quilt journey, and provide a platform to increase your mad skills. Oh, what’s that? I think I hear the kettle whistling … black tea, coming right up!

Photos by Brent Kane and Martingale.

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12 Responses

  1. Trude Jackson says:

    Oh My Gosh… Reading this review…I’m THRILLED! I’m taking an all day class with Christa Watson in June…if I was excited before…now I can’t wait! WOOHOO!!!!! Thanks for the review!

  2. C says:

    This is hands down the best book review I’ve read in a long time.

  3. Susie says:

    Great review. Now I’m intrigued. And yes, I agree with the you on Martingales’s cover ‘issues’. I’ve bought two of their books in the last 12 months whereby both the publisher and designer were lucky I saw them in the person. I would never have purchased them online based on the cover. Yes! I do judge a book by its cover – even authors do it.

  4. Mary ann says:

    Had the pleasure yesterday of actually being in Angela’s shop! Talk about inspiration/ intimidation but as you said in your oh so characteristic voice, Angela and her team team jumped right in with encouragement on how to begin and how to be successful with small pieces and panels. I haven’t met Christa but I think I will be getting this book. Thanks for the info.

  5. Thanks Molli – that was some mighty fine tea. Let me know when you are next in town and we’ll have a second cup 🙂

  6. Ioleen says:

    Loved the review. I was fortunate enough to win Christa’s Machine Quilting with Style and love it. I still am sending my large quilts out to be quilted but I am trying out some so what Christa does on smaller quilts….so far so good. A cup of black tea is good for the soul.

  7. Tish says:

    I’m going to agree with you on the cover thing. I have bought some of my favorite books because the covers spoke to me, saying “read me, I must come home with you.” I would have never discovered blogger and author, Jenny Lawson, if the book covers had been Plain Jane. I think you may have talked me into this book. I love both ladies and have the first book, but I was afraid it might be a rehash of the the first book with the addition of long arming (I’m a sit down gal). But I think you have renewed my interest. Off to purchase a book and possibly make some tea.

  8. Sue L. says:

    Molli, you are a rock star in my book. Thanks for always saying it like it is. Love you.

  9. Kathy says:

    Molli, I knew you would be candid about this and I love your style! So thanks for the honest review!

  10. Brenda says:

    Thanks for the reviews. I think I need both of these books (my birthday is in July if you’d like to know). I get inspired just reading your reviews of the books — can’t wait to actually see them for real.

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