Book Reviews – Could any of these be useful to you?
This page is for reviews of the English Paper Piecing, Quilting, Applique and Embroidery books I have bought, read and used , to let you know what I think is useful and what I have found to be the advantages and disadvantages of each of them.
If you are thinking of buying any of these books (no, there are no affiliate links here) and there is something you need to know that is not obvious from the reviews or the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon, send me a message in the comment section at the bottom of this page and I will try to help.
I notice that English Paper Piecing is often referred to as ‘Paper Piecing’ online and, as you may already know, they are not the same thing at all. Books offering Paper Piecing are Foundation paper patterns and can sometimes be difficult to adapt to English Paper Piecing. I will only feature Paper (Foundation) Piecing books if I feel the patterns in them can be adapted easily to EPP.
I am planning to include quilting, hand quilting, collage, applique and embroidery books here because it is always nice to discover ways of using or embellishing your EPP creations and because many regular machine quilting patterns can be adapted to EPP.
ENGLISH PAPER PIECING: BOOK REVIEWS
‘All Points Patchwork’ by Diane Gilleland
I think every EPP lover is going to be jumping up and down when they discover this book. At last I have discovered a book that deals with EVERY shape that is usually used, not just the hexagon, and deals with all the problems that come with them, such as the tails that triangles create. I have always fretted about these and now I know how to deal with them. I love the fact that the author does not include specific projects because I rarely like more than one or two of the projects in any craft book. Instead she has given us tips, tricks and information I’ve not seen anywhere else to give us the confidence needed to create projects of our own, or to tackle what we have seen in other books. There is a good resource page, including bloggers that EPP, templates at the back and stacks of clear, close up, colour photos showing every stage of sewing that you will need. One thing she doesn’t mention is quilting the finished piecing but I guess that’s not specific to EPP and can be found elsewhere.
‘318 Patchwork Patterns’ by Kumiko Fujita
This is a book of patterns as indicated by the title, each one able to make an EPP block – so 318 blocks, which can be used singly or as part of a theme. This book was originally published in Japanese in 2005 but is now available in English. The shapes are simple and can be completed as EPP patchwork or as applique. Each double page is set out in a theme, showing the block pattern and the completed block. Examples of themes are: At the Beach, Down on the Farm, In the Garden,Toy Land and so on. Blocks include cats, dogs, birds, circus animals baskets, teapots, cakes and more. There is also an applique section towards the back of the book but this features more traditional designs (Baltimore style). Both sections come with instructions.
English Paper Piecing – by Vicki Bellino
I found this book quite lacking in charm. The subtitle given is ‘fresh new quilts from Bloom Creek’. Perhaps they are fresh and new in that it gives traditional American blocks the English Paper Piecing treatment and perhaps that hasn’t been done before? However, it is not fresh and new in the sense of being modern, dynamic or surprising. The borders, frames and layout of the quilts seem very old fashioned to me. Maybe it is to give people who enjoy traditional patterns a new twist on these without straying too far from familiarity. It starts with the ubiquitous (and more acceptable) EPP hexagon but also includes diamonds, pentagons and dresden shapes which is good to see. Applique techniques are given so that you can sew the designs on top if you don’t want to piece them or decorate them with floral patterns. The idea is to “eliminate the tedium” which I think completely misses the point of EPP. The patterns provided range from a small quilt you can frame to larges wall hangings and bed quilts but I am unlikely to be making anything from this book.
‘101 Patchwork Patterns’ by Ruby Short McKim
I agree with all the good things other reviews have said here but no-one has mentioned how wonderful this book is as a resource for people wanting to use English Paper Piecing techniques to produce traditional blocks. The drawings/diagrams/patterns have no seam allowance, so are easy to trace or photocopy and many of them can be used the size they are or enlarged as required. The quilt in the photo below is my attempt at the Burgoyne’s Quilt pattern on page 27 of this book, made with English Paper Piecing. (photo shown on Amazon review page)
General Burgoynes Quilt Pattern
‘Traditional Patchwork Quilt Patterns with Plastic Templates’ by Rita Weiss
If you enjoy English Paper Piecing this book is invaluable (and an escape from the ubiquitous hexagon). You receive27 traditional block designs and 4 plastic templates with which to make them. There are clear, easy to follow diagrams that you can alter to any size that you want. Yes, they are in black and white but you are given a good idea of fabric value (light dark and medium shades are given in each sample block) to be able to come up with colour combinations of your own – so much better than a copy of someone else’s quilt. And, what’s more you can make many more designs of your own that are not in the book, using these templates.
‘Twenty Little Log Cabin Quilts’ by Gwen Marston
I have several of the books in this series already. While they were not intended for EPP originally, a number of them are perfect for EPP.Look for the books that include templates without seam allowance included that you can cut out and use as papers. Some have templates with the seam allowance include, like the one pictured above, but I guess you can always remove it I can recommend Twenty Little Patchwork Quilts, Twenty Little Four Patch quilts , Twenty Little Amish quilts and Twenty Little Triangle quilts (this one has templates on card stock!) Check out the others online. The designs are traditional but easy and the books more affordable than most at £4.99 or so.
‘Discovering Patchwork’: A BBC book
This is a great little book covering a technique that is becoming very popular again. It covers making a pincushion out of hexagons as well as several patterns and alternative suggestions for a variety of cushions. There isa Nine-Patch cushion, a Jacob’s Ladder cushion, a Log Cabin cushion (and work bag) and a Star of Bethlehem large floor cushion. There is also a shopping bag with a six pointed star motif, triangle borders to put on an apron (or anything else) a ‘Square in the Middle’ bedcover, a delightful cot cover (though I can’t say the same about the odd-looking baby under it) featuring the Tumbling Blocks design, and an Amish quilt that looks as fresh and modern now as it did in 1900. Instructions are detailed and numbered one step at a time and there are sections at the back of the book showing a series of other possible block patterns and how to make your own templates. Ok, some of it is a little old fashioned. The work bag is so old in style that it is fashionable again now, and there is a waistcoat pattern that you will probably avoid, but there is plenty that is more than useful here. And don’t forget that all of these patterns can be adapted. Don’t want to make a cushion? Then use the block pattern to make a mini quilt or a placemat or table topper. The price of the book is worth it for the cot cover alone. Below is a photo of the cot cover I made from page 47 of this book and it was the first one I ever made for the baby I was expecting at the time.(Photo visible on Amazon.co.uk)
QUILTING and HAND QUILTING : BOOK REVIEWS
‘Utility Quilting : Simple Solutions for Quick Hand Quilting’ by Carolyn Foster
I don’t think this book is supposed to inspire in the way that a previous reviewer suggests. It’s a way, actually lots of ways, towards guilt-free you-don’t-have-to-be-perfect-and-it-can-still-be-beautiful, quilting. I love the way the writer explains things clearly, gives simple tips that I never would have thought of, and provides several ways of approaching basting, quilting, binding etc so that you can choose what suits you best, or try all of them and learn from experience. I am what they call a quilt topper. I piece the tops of quilt and don’t go any further because the next steps have felt too intimidating. I am so grateful for this book as I now know exactly what to do and have expert, step by step guidance to help me do it, with lots of photos and diagrams. Even the projects towards the end of the book, which I have never found to my taste in previous books, are beautiful, and although they are simple and are based on a traditional patterns (such as Puss in the Corner) they look contemporary. I am delighted with this book and I am sure you will be, too.
‘Pictorial Quilts’ by Carolyn Hall
The first thing you notice when you open this book is that much of it is black and white. There is a sixteen side colour section in the middle of the book but most of the book is quite close printed with black and white illustrations and diagrams, most of which are small to medium though there are some large ones, too. Maybe this is good because it forces you to colour them with your mind but I would love it if there was more colour. Contents are as follows: 1. Imagery: Creating ideas 2. Design: Arranging Elements. 3. Pictorial Space: Making a Scene. 4. The Workshop: Using Artist Tools. 5 Transfer: Moving Pictures 6. Lines: Embroidering (by machine) 7. Shapes: Appliquéing Several Ways. 8. Colours: Beguiling the Eye 9. Textures: Adding a Third Dimension. Each section is followed by a Project to practice some of what you have learned. There are step by step instructions which include supplies, technique, colour, materials, procedure and so on, as well as tips, questions to ask yourself and a choice of approaches. The amount of instructions and numbered steps tend to make my eyes glaze over and I have to blink and concentrate. There is a lot of information here (and much to learn and think about even if you don’t do the projects) but some quilters may find the projects prescriptive. If you want a more organic approach you might want to check out other books on pictorial quilting such as the ‘Quilters Guide to Pictorial Quilts’ by Maggi McCormick Gordon.
‘The Pictorial Art Quilt’ – by Leni Levenson Wiener (secrets to capturing your photos in fabric)
A star missing because I bought this on Kindle. The book itself deserves five stars for its content but I can’t afford the book as it is much, much, more expensive at this time. I do think that some books don’t lend themselves to Kindle and should come with a ‘warning’ of sorts, so that you can decide if you are happy to have it this way. You shouldn’t have to repurchase a book because the Kindle version doesn’t offer you all that you need. Putting the content of this book into practice is based on having a chart of tones that the author has designed, which she asks you to cut out of the book or photocopy if you don’t wish to do that. She prefers that you don’t photocopy it because your ink cartridge may affect the tonal value. Well I can’t cut out anything on a Kindle, or photocopy without downloading it onto my computer first. The author does provide I link where you can purchase it online but I feel miffed that I have to purchase something that comes free in the printed book. However, if I don’t, the Kindle version is useless to me. The content is a delight. I was blown away by the chapter on colour. I have always had an instinct about colour and what combinations didn’t seem to work but now I understand why. I didn’t find this book basic, as another reviewer did, but it does cover fundamentals very clearly and then goes on to put them into practice and build on them step by step. Well worth the purchase in book form and maybe even on Kindle, provided you know ahead of time exactly what you were signing up for.
‘The Quilters Guide to Pictorial Quilts’ by Maggi McCormick Gordon
None of the reviews of this book so far have described the contents so I was a bit worried that it would not be was I was looking for. I would have liked more information on hand stitching but thankfully it does get a mention under sections on applique and embellishment which is great because it is often left out in other books. However, this won’t be a problem for most quilters using machines.The book starts with a history of pictorial quilts and is thereafter divided into three sections: 1. Designing pictorial quits: Here choosing colour and fabric as well as creating texture and adding embellishments are explored. 2. Techniques for pictorial quilts: Here materials and techniques are covered. There is a very good section that covers more applique methods than I have seen before for both hand and machine. 3. This section covers the various themes that you might want to experiment with, land and seascapes, animals, figures, flowers and places. There are colour pictures, both large and small, on every page showing examples of quilts and instructions are accompanied by a series of pictures to make them easier to follow. The back page gives sources for organisations in both the UK and America. I would say this book prepares you for making a pictorial quilt, offering considerations and techniques that may be necessary or useful for any idea you have, rather than providing particular projects to complete. For a book that offers a series of specific projects you might want to try Pictorial Quilts by Carolyn Vosburg Hall.
‘The Quilters Resource Book’ by Maggi McCormick Gordon
I found this rather an odd book. It’s a resource certainly, but where does its true audience lie? It seems to be aimed at beginner quilters or people considering taking up quilting, and indeed the introduction says that “each of three main quilt making methods are explored with instructions for trying out aspects of the technique and basic information on getting started with quilting making”. It seems such large book for a beginner to invest in, especially with a bare one or two pages of instruction for each project. Clearly it is not for beginner sewers as you need to be handy with your sewing machine. And since there is no glossary, it is taken for granted that readers will already have some idea of the quilt making tradition and at least some of the terms. Lovers of textiles would enjoy the variety here but would find the quilting instructions unnecessary. Historians would find the diversity of traditions here fascinating. I loved the bits of history that were included but there was just not quite enough to satisfy. I longed to know more. The book is essentially an overview of quilt making – the categories, varieties, styles, designs, decoration and creation of quilts. Some are described in great detail. This suggests to me a resource for the experienced quilt maker who can truly appreciate the workmanship, and who want to extend their knowledge within and beyond the Western and European tradition. The book includes hundreds of large colour photos and in this it excels. It would be hard to find such detail and variety in other quilt making books. It has perhaps tried to be too all-encompassing and not quite managed this but it a valuable book all the same and one that deserves a wider audience.
Quilting Step by Step by Maggi Gordon
A fabulous book, colourful, clear and contains all you would want to know as well as plenty you never would have dreamed of (for hand and machine work), such as a page of different sewing machine feet and their various uses, with pictures. Every page is crammed with bright colour photos, to show technique and to accompany step by step instructions as well as to show the choices available. The two pages showing types of thread jumps out at you with it’s huge pops of colour. I think it’s the colour that make it so exciting to thumb through, but for usefulness I would say it’s a must-have resource for every quilter’s book shelf.
‘The Quilters Applique Workshop: Timeless Techniques for Modern Designs’ by Kevin Kosbab
Lovely book. I agree with everything other reviewers have said. A nice, clear, no fuss approach to different methods of applique and pretty much all you need to know about them to get going. Each project allows you to practice what you have learned, whether your preference is by hand or machine. The only thing I would add is a reminder that, if you are buying this book in the UK, the projects in the book are designed using US measurements so you may need to make some changes for pieces to fit together properly. That is unless you are old enough to remember when we used inches in the UK, as I am, in which case it’ll be fine. The cover does not really sum up the sort of projects found inside which are very varied. They include the use of fruits, flowers, trees, circles and contemporary organic as well as geometric shapes. There is a kid’s quilt, wall quilts, bed quilts, a lap quilt, table runners, a table topper and a pillow to try. The pillow (cushion in the UK) has full instructions on how to make it, as well as to add appliques to it.
‘Contemporary Applique’ by Julia Triston
This is a book that is both practical and lovely. Lovely, because of the soft fabric feel of the cover, the varied and informative coloured diagrams, tables, illustrations and photographs (at least one on every page) and its clear layout with plenty of ‘breathing room’ between sections. Practical because it gives a good overview of Applique as a technique. The book is called ‘Contemporary Applique’ and we get to appreciate what this really means because it is placed in the context of time and culture and we see how it has developed from its beginnings. Everything important seems to be covered in this book. There are sections on Historical Perspectives, Design Skills, The Basics (for hand and machine sewers) and an overview of techniques both traditional and innovative. The last section, called Pushing the Boundaries describes ways to experiment with new methods and materials. Perhaps most valuable of all is that the section entitled Applique Techniques provides a description of each process followed by instructions to allow you to try it for yourself. The down side? There isn’t one really, except to say the instructions are brief and, in only one or two places, they weren’t quite clear enough for me. But this isn’t meant to be a detailed ‘how to’ book after all; it offers a journey towards inspiration and design ideas and I think it manages this very nicely.