Monday, 26 March 2018

I've Written a Book...


I've just looked up the date and found that it's 23 months to the day since an email dropped into my inbox that was the catalyst for the book you can see at the top of this post. I did consider waiting a month to write this post when I realised that, as it would have so much more symmetry, but impatience seems to have won out.

Before I tell you about my own book, I want to rewind to 2012, when I wrote a post mentioning one about the late Lucy Boston, written by her daughter-in-law, Diana Boston. That biography very quickly became one of my favourite books about quilt-making and it didn't contain a single pattern; I loved it because at the end of the day when I finished my own sewing, I could take it to bed at night and continue to immerse myself in quilting by reading about Lucy's life and the way she thought about fabrics and the way she planned her quilts, which I found fascinating. I spent hours pouring over that book, admiring the beautiful photos of her finished piecing and looking at the trail of letters she wrote about her various quilting projects. It left me feeling that if I ever wrote a sewing book myself, I wanted it to be one that people could 'read', as well as make things from.

Fast-forward to 26th April 2016, when an email landed in my inbox from the US publisher, Fons & Porter (now the Quilting Company), inviting me to write a techniques-based book about English paper piecing, containing 8-10 hand pieced quilts. The email was so warm, friendly and personal that I was immediately interested, but two thoughts rumbled around inside my head that let me know I wouldn't be the right person to write that book for them: for me, sewing is a joyful thing, in part, because of its slowness and so the idea of sewing that many hand-pieced quilts in the space of a year left me feeling unenthused - I'm always in awe of authors whose passion only seems to be intensified by such a prospect, but I was fairly sure there was a danger it would crush mine entirely; secondly, I knew that if I were to put myself through such a thing, at the end of it, I still wouldn't have written the book that I really wanted to write.

So when I replied, it was to ask them to consider my writing a completely different book to the one they'd been hoping for. This was how I summarised what I wanted to do in one of our many emails: I’d been hoping to write a book that would feel a treat to dip in and out of: storied, thought-provoking, discursive, emotive, questioning - not only a how-to around English paper piecing, but within that, also an exploration of ‘why?’ - because it is such an odd thing that we spend so many hours fixating on cutting up small bits of fabric and then sewing them back together again, often even acquiring repetitive strain injuries in doing so. I see this exploration of ‘why?' naturally unfolding over a series of interviews, but also in looking generally around the subject of working with our hands. I then went on to make a very long list of all the specific things that I wanted to write about; several of which relied upon people - many of whom I had no idea if I could even get in touch with - agreeing to be interviewed by me.

Although I had a strong belief in my vision for a book, in all honesty I hadn't expected to find a publisher who would agree to my approach, so I was both surprised and delighted when the acquisitions editor wrote back to say that she loved the sound of it and would like to put it in front of the rest of the team to get their feedback. I feel truly lucky that they were willing to take a risk on what, at that time, was a rather underdeveloped collection of ideas.

So, let me tell you a bit about the book that eventually grew out of those initial emails. The first half is full of discussion, stories and interviews, not just about English paper piecing, but more generally about working with our hands. Amongst other things, it will take you on a journey into prisons to hear about men who hand-sew as a way of creating a new life for themselves; we'll look into why humans are so drawn to symmetry and repeating pattern; I'll bring you with me on a day trip to see Lucy Boston's English paper pieced quilts in person; we'll consider how fabric has influenced the English language; you'll find out how the acclaimed novelist Tracy Chevalier came to write a story about hand-pieced quilts; we'll explore why people feel compelled to sew and what the mental and physical benefits of doing so might be; we'll meet the granddaughter of a man whose individual quilts contained more pieces than I could ever hope to sew in a lifetime; and from there, we'll go on to discuss what drives some people to undertake (and successfully complete) such extraordinary feats of quilting. In my research, I pored over books and papers written by quilt historians, neuroscientists, physicists (Richard Feynman and quilting have more in common than you might first imagine), psychologists and mathematicians, as well as consulting with fellow quilt-makers - the result is an eclectic collection of bite-sized articles and essays (for want of better words - neither of those actually feel quite right), rounded off by a series of interviews where I'll introduce you to some of my favourite modern-day English paper piecers.

In the second half of the book, there's an extensive techniques section that covers everything from looking at how different shapes tessellate, to how to make your own templates, along with step-by-step instructions and photos walking you through every technique you might need for EPP. The book also takes an in-depth look at fussy cutting and the effects that can be achieved by cutting fabrics in a variety of different ways (there are some fun visuals to go with this bit). Finally, there are three rosette patterns, each named after a place where I've lived, and then a bigger quilt pattern that contains more advanced techniques, including tackling curves.

My book is available for pre-order now through WaterstonesAmazon UK, Amazon US and other places where you can buy books :) I may also stock it on my blog to be sent out directly if there's any interest.
This feels like a long, wordy post, not broken up by many photos, but I'll share more over the coming months. My book is out in the US on 29th May and in the UK on 29th June, which was feeling like quite a long time away, until it received its very first review in a magazine this month and now suddenly it feels like my book may not just be a figment of my imagination and as though there may be a day when it's sitting on the shelves of a real bookshop or quilt store. Above, is the review written by Julie Sheridan in Popular Patchwork magazine - I'm not sure I could ever have hoped for a more generous write-up. Just click on the image to enlarge, if you'd like to read it.

I'll hopefully follow this post up with one about the book writing process as it's always something I'm interested in reading about from others.

Wishing you a happy week,
Florence x

59 comments:

  1. Huge congratulations, Florence!!!

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  2. Wow, I have never commented before...though a long time reader of your blog...Thank you so much for writing a book...so excited, definitely going to get it, I just know that it will be good!!

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  3. Hopefully Oxfordshire libraries will get this in as I would love to read it. I like the sound of it "looking generally around the subject of working with our hands." Right up my street.

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  4. How exciting. I am popping straight over to Amazon to add it to my wishlist. x

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  5. congratulations, looking forward to getting this book

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  6. Excellent! I will look for it to appear on Amazon US.

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  7. Great work, Florence - it sounds like a real treat of a book. So glad you and they had enough faith in your idea to not just do what they originally asked for. How come the Americans get it first - like movies used to be?! x

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    1. I imagine it's probably to do with slow-moving boats and imports getting stuck in customs, although that's entirely made up in my head...It's still like that with some tv though - season 2 of This is Us is already airing in America and I am desperately (and very impatiently) awaiting its arrival here! x

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  8. Congratulations! I'm delighted to hear of such a success story and that your publishers embraced your thoughts and wishes! I'm an avid follower of your blog and certainly will be snapping up your new book! It sounds very 'wholesome', practical and inspiring! Well done! 💕💕

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    1. That's so lovely to hear - I'm very flattered - thank you :)

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  9. I am SO EXCITED that you have a book coming out. I totally hold you responsible for my dabbling in EPP! Congratulations! I cannot wait to add this book to my collection. It looks beautiful!

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    1. I'm incredibly flattered to be held responsible for that, Angie! x

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  10. Amazing! What a lot of hard work and effort that must have been alongside life / work commitments. Congratulations and what a lovely book review - the first of many I'm sure!

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    1. Yes, the juggling was tricky, but so worth it as I really loved every bit of the book-writing process and felt quite bereft when I finally turned the manuscript in (predictably, sewing to a deadline was the only part I really struggled with)!

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  11. I cannot tell you how excited I am for this book. I saw your IG post about the review a few days ago, and the idea of a techniques-based book by you was exciting enough, but now having read the actual premise, I'm looking forward to it even more. Your writing is what drew me to your work as much as your technique, and I suspect the two combined will place this book among my favorites. Just preordered! Congratulations on getting to write the book you truly wanted.

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    1. Thank you so much! Your comment has made my day, Jessica. I hope you enjoy the book when it arrives. x

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  12. How exciting for you and us. Looking forward to reading it and being inspired.

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    1. I will keep my fingers crossed that you enjoy reading it - thank you, Julie!

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  13. oh it sounds so lovely! I have added it to my amazon wish list. Congratulations to you!

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  14. I imagined that whatever you had written had involved lots of research but this sounds like so much more, can't wait to see and lose myself in it!

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    1. Thank you so much, Kerry :) I found reading felt like a different, much more active, thing when it was for research and I got addicted to those moments when I'd find something that felt like it chimed exactly with what I was hoping to say - I've really missed having a highlighter pen in my hand since! x

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  15. I now have it on preorder at Amazon. It sounds a great book and I might even order another for a quilting friends birthday. She is in the middle of a Millefiore quilt so this would make a super present. Congratulations

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    1. Thank you so much, Catherine :) Is that Willyne Hammerstein's book, Millefiore Quilts? That's still one of my favourite quilting books (although I'm yet to finish my La Passicaglia). x

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  16. Well done! Can't wait to read your book. It might even tempt me to try EPP.....

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  17. This sounds like such a fantastic book and I am so pleased you got a chance to write it! I can't think of anyone better to do the subject justice and I really can't wait to get my hands on a copy! Huge congrats Florence!! xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Jo - I'm blushing - that's so kind. x

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  18. I saw this come up on amazon a few weeks ago under the craft section, I believe, and I cannot say how excited I was! This sounds absolutely wonderful, it’s exactly the kind of thing that I’d love to read. I am really so excited for it to come out! And congratulations, this is amazing! From the previews that amazon gave it looks like a wonderful book, the pictures and blocks that you’ve made are stunning (which is of no surprise, of course!).

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing in my excitement, Anna. xxx

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  19. I am so excited! I can't wait to get my mitts on this! Congratulations!

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    1. Thank you, Fran! I'm so pleased you like the sound of it.

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  20. Congratulations! I look forward to your book!! I'm sure it will be lovely!

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  21. I’m so excited to hear that your book is about to see the light of day. Many congratulations! I love that you wanted to write a book that could also be read, with interesting facts, background information as well as techniques to try. I can’t wait to read it. Well done! Xxx

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  22. Congratulations, Florence! This book sounds fantastic and I love EPP so I can't wait to get a copy!

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  23. Congratulation Florence. I am along time follower..and I am excited to read your book.
    hugs,Amira

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  24. Congratulations Florence, I’ve been reading your blog for sometime now and found it inspirational! Just ordered a copy on pre order from Amazon. All the best, Gaenor x

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    1. I'm so flattered - thank you, Gaenor - I hope you enjoy it when it arrives! x

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  25. I'm also looking forward to reading your book- a book that has lots to read and not just patterns alone. Congratulations on being published!

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  26. Congratulations! I visited Lucy Boston's home just last weekend,and could have gazed at her exquisite quilts for hours. I would urge anyone to visit this magical house, now Diana Boston's home. As a lover of the Greene Knows' stories, it was particularly thrilling- I felt I had stepped into the pages of the books! https://www.greenknowe.co.uk

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    1. It's amazing, isn't it, and Diana is such a generous host. x

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  27. Congratulations! This sounds like an absolutely wonderful read, and I can't wait to dive in.

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  28. I am so delighted for you Florence! And so excited about the release of this book! It's definitely going on my wish list!

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    1. Hurrah! I'm really pleased you like the sound of it. x

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  29. Fantastic! I've just pre-ordered my copy. Your blog inspired me to try EPP, I have almost finished my first large project. Thank you for the ideas and encouragement. I am really looking forward to the book.

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    1. Congratulations on nearly finishing! I only have two large EPP projects under my belt - the rest are lots of small or mid-sized ones - so you have all my admiration as I can imagine how many hours you must have poured into it. I'm so pleased to have been a jumping off point for that. x

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  30. As I was reading your post, I could feel my eyes "well up" with tears! I wish I could meet you and say, "Congratulations!". I am so happy for you. I have spent an embarrassing amount of time on your blog and your excellent writing has brought me a lot of joy. I KNOW your book will be a bestseller. I can't WAIT to read it and write a review on Amazon US in June.

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    1. Oh, Rhonda, that did make me smile. Thank you for having such faith in me and also for enjoying my random thoughts here too. x

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  31. Oh this is good news! Please do stock on your website so that your fan’s may have some words penned by yourself to go with this new treasure. That personal touch is not something we could hope for on Amazon etc. I’m really looking forward to the end of June and I’m quite sure it is going to be the new bible for some of us! Congratulations,
    All my best,
    Naomi

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

A few of the books/products that I link to on Amazon from my blog contain affiliate links and very occasionally, I'll mention a product that I've been given free of charge. I choose the things that I recommend carefully and my priority is to only share things that I love.