Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book Review! The Practical Guide to Patchwork

Small Plates quilt from The Practical Guide to Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman
Kitchen Window quilt from The Practical Guide to Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman
The Practical Guide to Patchwork, New Basics for the Modern Quilter, by Elizabeth Hartman, published by Stash Books

There is a new craft movement today that is only picking up speed as it picks up a whole new generation of creative do-it-yourselfers and quilting is one of the arts that has been picked up and revitalized using new designer fabrics, techniques and even a little new technology.  This movement is spreading like wildfire due to social networking websites like Flickr, Facebook and individual blogs. 

Why a modern quilting guide?  Was there something wrong with the traditional and still very active quilting methods?  As someone who sewed their first dress in 1969, 

and made their first quilt in 1982, then let my sewing skills atrophy for a while, let me say, this movement is just what our recession tired world needed!

I “met” the author, Elizabeth Hartman by finding her blog, Oh Fransson!, online one day, probably through one of the MANY Flickr groups I belong to that are related to fabric, sewing, quilting and the like.  I was drawn to the blog because it was written so concisely, yet not wordy, simple to understand, gorgeous photos of brilliant techniques and perfect craftsmanship.  There are a million quilt bloggers out there but Elizabeth is able to boil down all the fluff into exactly what is needed and wanted by the modern quilter.

And so her book, just as lovely, practical and wonderfully applicable to all levels of whatever you call yourself; sewist, sewer, seamstress, fabric artist or quilter!

The book is laid out in the following sections:

All the Basics:

         Materials and Supplies
A description of fabric types, including pre-cuts (charm packs, jelly rolls) and how to select your fabric and some basic fabric terminology for the new quilter.
         Planning your Quilt
What I like best about Elizabeth is her ability to describe color choices.  This is certainly why her quilts are so gorgeous.  She discusses how to choose colors, put them together, warm colors, cool colors, using opposites on the color wheel.  Truly brilliant.
         Step-by-Step Quilt Construction
A step by step guide to all the aspects of making a quilt; cutting fabric, piecing by machine (most of her instructions are for machine sewn quilts), ironing, machine quilting with a walking foot and free motion.  Also, a quilt binding tutorial which really shows the steps in photos that is so clear that anyone should be able to figure out those pesky mitered corners.

Divided into Projects for beginners, confident beginners and intermediates, these sections contain detailed instructions for making 12 different quilts.  Each quilt pattern instruction includes a photo of the finished quilt front and back, diagrams for piecing blocks and the whole quilt, a list of materials including the exact measurement of fabrics and batting, cutting instructions, making the blocks, making the quilt top, making the quilt back, finishing the quilt AND alternate ideas and more fabric options.  The alternate ideas and fabric options are genius.  Photos of the same block using different fabrics and colors are provided so you can change the pattern, even ideas on amounts of fabric needed to change the quilt. This is why I like Elizabeth.  She is not just a teacher or instructor but a mentor; she wants you to use your own creativity.  It’s nice to see this humble attitude in today’s sometimes too narcissistic world. 

Tips:  Sprinkled throughout the book are VERY helpful tips, for example, bed quilt sizes for twin, double, queen and king are provided in the planning your quilt section.  Each quilt instruction has a tip or two specific to that quilt, how to make your squares line up more accurately.

The book is so practical and makes the projects look simple and with the clear instructions and photographs and tips, they really are.  Elizabeth’s tone in this book is encouraging, learn from me but make it your own.  The quilt patterns lend themselves to that philosophy as well. 

The only negatives I can think of are that for the quilter who is looking for a piecing challenge, this is not the book for you.  If you're looking for a new technical challenge in your quilting, again, the book is not for you. 

Modern quilting seems to highlight the fabrics more than the patterns, using simple yet appealing patterns.  Sometimes the modern quilt is purposely wonky.  This allows the colors and fabric patterns to become more important and this book really takes this to its highest level.  If you have never quilted, quilted a little or quilted for years, you will take away a wealth of information and inspiration from The Practical Guide to Patchwork.


  1. This book is definitely on my wishlist.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.