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Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia

Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia

Written by: 
Carrie Nelson

William Butler Yeats wrote that "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

As a quilt historian, author, designer, leader and source of inspiration, Barbara Brackman is also an educator in the truest sense.  She's a founding member of the American Quilt Study Group, and she writes two excellent blogs about quilt history and patterns, including Material Culture and Civil War Quilts.

CT Barbara Brackman

She also wrote what has been the must-have book for quilters for over twenty-five years.  After a life-long fascination with quilt patterns, Barbara indexed more than 4,000 pieced patterns, and in 1993, Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns was published.  Since then, it has been one of the most valuable, and necessary, reference books for quilters.

A reference book.  That's a work intended to be "consulted for information on specific matters rather than read from beginning to end".  Barbara's Encyclopedia is definitely that, but it's also so much more.  I think many quilters - traditional and modern - would confess to having gone through the book page-by-page, lingering over each block, imagining possibilities.  I know I have. 

CT Barbara Brackman Encyclopedia Front Cover

Barbara's iconic - not hyperbole - Encyclopedia has been updated for a Third Edition, and it really is better than ever.   

CT Barbara Brackman Encyclopedia TOC

With 161 new blocks-patterns, the new edition has over 4,000 pieced quilt blocks-patterns.  Published by the Electric Quilt Company, the new edition has been modernized to include full-color images and line drawings.

CT Barbara Brackman Encyclopedia Inside 2

This new edition of the Encyclopedia has a softcover with flaps, and is finished with a "perfect binding" so that it lays flat.  (This is a popular, widely-used method of binding for soft-cover books.  The pages and cover are glued together at the spine with a strong, yet flexible glue.)

As before, the book is easy to use.  If you know the name of a block - or think you know the name - it can be looked up that way.  You probably already know that many blocks have more than one name, and there are many instances of different blocks having the same name.  

Blocks can also be searched by method of construction, or by type.

CT Barbara Brackman Encyclopedia Inside 1

We use these methods to identify the original name of blocks submitted by designers for Block Heads and samplers, and to confirm the origin. 

When a quilt design is being created for a new collection, Barbara's Encyclopedia is a favorite starting place.  Going through the pages, looking for a block that catches our eye and suits the fabrics is a always a pleasure.   

CT Barbara Brackman Encyclopedia Color Block

While I will miss the hand-drawn, black-and-white blocks of the original Encyclopedia, I am excited to add this new edition to my library.  Barbara's Encyclopedia was the first block book I bought, and it is still the most-used block book in my collection.  Over the years, I have searched second-hand shops and online resale websites for copies of the original Encyclopedia to give quilting friends, and I expect that a few will receive this new edition for Christmas. 

The Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns will be released on Tuesday, December 1, 2020. 

Thank you to Barbara, and to The Electric Quilt Company.  This was worth the wait.