Wednesday, 6 August 2014

How to Make a Quilt: Book Review

How to Make a Quilt: Learn Basic Sewing Techniques for Creating Patchwork Quilts and Projects

by Barbara Weiland Talbert
Disclaimer: I received a free electronic preview edition of this book from Net Galley for review. I have not received any compensation for reviewing this book.

In order to review this book more effectively, I decided to construct the sampler quilt by following the book's instructions. Given that the preview edition doesn't have any pictures, it was rather like sewing a mystery quilt, only harder. Indeed, having never seen a Tam's patch quilt block before, I was rather in a quandary when I was told to construct it according to the diagram, which wasn't there. I ended up having to google Tam's Patch, and even so, since this was a variation, I had to decide how I wanted to arrange the final four sections. I had a similar issue with the Two by Two and just kind of randomly threw it together how I wanted to.  But that glitch is not the fault of the author. However, there were a few things in the actual instructions that left me scratching my head. 
In constructing the Tam's Patch block, I needed to make two half square triangle units. The instructions told me to cut one square of each of two fabrics, cut them in half diagonally, and then sew a light triangle to a dark triangle. The book then warned me to be careful not to stretch the fabric as I'd be sewing along the bias. I really didn't know anyone was still using this method for making half square triangle units. By drawing a diagonal line corner to corner on the light coloured block, putting a light and a dark coloured block together, sewing 1/4" each side of the line and then cutting on the line, you end up with two HST units without having to worry much about stretching the bias. For me, that's much more efficient. So, I was rather puzzled that any instructor in 2014 would still be teaching the old way. (If you're interested, you can see both methods explained here: Intro to Half Square Triangles). In this case, I did not follow the book's instructions. Ditto with the Hourglass block. The book said to cut the two blocks in quarters diagonally and sew bias seams. I knew there had to be a more efficient way to do that block, so I googled once more and found Jenny Doan's youtube instructions. Quick and easy! With either instructions - the book or Jenny's video - I would end up with two hourglass blocks. In Jenny's case, it would be for a whole quilt. In the case of the book, I only needed one hourglass block for the sampler quilt, so I ended up with an orphan block. I hate orphan blocks. They make me feel guilty, like somehow I must use this block so it won't be left alone and forlorn. Isn't there a way to make just one hourglass block? 
And on the subject of extras, the instructions for Tam's Patch said to cut two rectangles of fabric from both the light and the dark, but only the dark were used. I'm still puzzling over that one. What am I supposed to do with the light ones? Hopefully this has been corrected in the published edition of the book. 
The final block was the pinwheel block. For these HSTs, the author said to use the folded corner piecing method. This may work well for Flying Geese units and the Snowball block, but to use it for HSTs wastes a lot of fabric and time. I did the initial cutting for all of the blocks prior to sewing, so I only read enough of the instructions to know what sizes and shapes I needed to cut. Therefore, I didn't realize until it was time for sewing what a waste this was. Following the directions, I cut out 4 dark and 4 light 3-1/2" squares, when all I really needed was 2 dark and 2 light 3-7/8" squares if I was going to use the regular HST method. Grrr! So not impressed. So I cut the pieces I needed to do it my way, which to me is the logical way. I finally finished all of the blocks, and added the sashing, cornerstones and border. Here's the quilt top:
Blocks as follows:
Pinwheel - Flying Geese - Snowball
9 Patch - 4 Patch - Two by Two
Square in a Square - Hourglass - Tam's Patch Variation
Though the book does give directions for finishing the quilt, I don't plan on finishing it right away. It's hardly worth paying to quilt something this small (30" square) on the long arm. If you've been following my blog, you know that I am challenged when it comes to machine quilting on a domestic machine. I haven't been able to learn so far with several online classes I enrolled in, so I am hoping to take a live class this fall. I will probably need some projects to work on in the class, so I will save this quilt top for that. 
Meanwhile, back to this book: While there is useful information in it, I was disappointed with some of the techniques used and don't feel they're the best choice. I can't honestly say that I would recommend this book to someone who desires to learn how to quilt. There are so many better resources available out there.