I have a lot of books – and magazine ’specials’ – with a Christmas theme. Most of them were bought in my early patchworking years when I felt in need of ideas, inspiration and patterns and many were acquired second-hand. Later on they were useful to take into class with me to show students who also needed that help with ideas and techniques that books can provide. But – have I ever made anything from these books and magazines? I honestly cannot remember, but I think on the whole I haven’t. I have taken a couple of techniques and put my own spin on them; I have taken a few patterns or ideas as a starting point for something else but I haven’t actually made something exactly as described in any of these books. But let’s have a look at them first.

My first four books were all published by That Patchwork Place. I’ve always liked their publications as being clear, well-illustrated and full of information and ideas. However, going back in time to the first two of these, I realise how much things have changed in the last 36 years. A Quilter’s Christmas by Nancyann Johanson Twelker was published in 1984 – no rotary cutting, pages of templates instead. It has brief instructions for the various techniques required to make a wide range of ‘gifts’ and ‘decorations’ including guest towels, pillowcases, potholders, and fabric-lined envelopes as well as runners, wall-hangings, tree decorations, and table mats. With modern fabrics and methods many of the designs are still fairly timeless, but there are a few that are best left in the past.

Which is how I feel about many of the patterns in Christmas Classics by Sue Saltkill which was published a year later in 1985. Even with modern fabrics many of these ‘gift’ items would be very dated – hostess apron, anyone?

Folded Fabric Fun by Laura Elizabeth is slightly more modern being published in 1990. The projects in this book are all made from folded fabric (as suggested by the title) which can be glues or stitched in place to create blocks of various sizes – tiny ones for tree decorations and larger ones for cushions or totes. It gave me lots of ideas to try out with my Young Quilters.

My final book from this publisher is Christmas Quilts by Marsha McCloskey. Published in 1985 this one has stood the test of time. She discusses the images and colours of Christmas in considering what makes a quilt a ‘Christmas’ quilt and there is gallery of colour photographs of both antique and modern quilts to illustrate this. A variety of block patterns – applique and pieced – is given, with templates, so you can design your own quilt.

A similar ‘book’ comes from Rita Weiss, published in 1989 by the American School of Needlework. I have called it a ‘book’ because it only has 17 pages including the back cover and is just what the title would suggest – Templates for 63 Christmas Quilt Blocks. The blocks are coloured in shades of grey, and red with white backgrounds and have names that (at a stretch) are associated with the theme – so all ‘tree’ blocks have ‘Christmas’ added to their name, as do the ‘wreath’ blocks and so on. Templates are provided to make 8, 12 or 16 inch blocks and there are 63 blocks – so, despite its size, plenty of scope to design your own quilt.

Also by Rita Weiss and published by the American School of Needlework in 1981, I have an equally skinny book – The Patchworker’s Christmas. This one has patterns for making things such as a banner, a tote bag a quilt, tree skirt and table mats with card templates for all the pieces.

Another skinny book is Always Angels by Lynda Milligan and Nancy Smith published by Possibilities in 1991. I’m still not quite sure what made me acquire this one as it is a one idea book – a simple angel design for applique or embroidery which is used to decorate anything from a quilt to a greetings card via a ‘cookie tray’. This may be the first time I have actually looked closely at it! (And now I come to think about it – I may have won it in a raffle).

Christmas Quilting by Terry Thompson Evans and published by Dover in 1988 has “20 decorative projects” to make – mostly mini blocks to use as tree decorations, but also a fabric holly wreath, a tree skirt and a quilt. Most of the book is taken up with the necessary card templates.

Linda Seward’s Christmas Patchwork Projects was published by Stirling in 1986. This is a much more substantial book with lots of ideas and patterns for making everything from wreaths and tree ornaments to tote bags and table mats. Patterns are then provided for thirty 12 inch blocks, some traditional and some Linda’s own and these are followed by a variety of ideas for using the blocks in runners, quilts or cushions.

Like most of us I have managed to accumulate a lot of scraps so I bought Christmas Scrap Crafts by Maggie Malone (published by Sterling in 1991) in the hope of being able to use some of them up making useful things. The book has patterns and ideas for a wide range of items from quilts to place mats, and wreaths to tree ornaments. Have I ever used some of my scraps and made anything from it? No!

My final book is another from Dover and published in 1984 – Easy to Make Christmas and Holiday Lightcatchers by Ed Sibbert jnr is a stained glass pattern book. These books are brilliant for those of us who can’t draw but who need a design for applique or quilting. I may never make a stained glass lightcatcher, but I have used some of the designs to add a quilting pattern to a Christmas quilt and even to do stained glass applique.

As for the magazine specials . . .

Again, I don’t think I have ever used them, but, like the books, they may be useful one day!

Most of these books are out of print but you may find them second-hand; Linda Seward’s book however has been reprinted in a new paperback edition and is still available.