Thursday, 27 October 2016

Piecing Makeover, Patty Murphy: Book Review

I enjoy reviewing books from time to time and I choose the titles carefully; I only have limited shelf space and I want something I am going to use, not just coffee table inspiration (although I don't totally rule that out!).  I saw Piecing Makeover by Patty Murphy and it's alluring strap line, 'Simple Tricks to Fine Tune Your Patchwork' and I had a feeling with my love of quilting tips it was going to be my kind of book...

If like me you like finessing your piecing and learning new tricks to improve your piecing accuracy, this is the book for you.  I'm not familiar with Patty but her blog is here is you want to read more about her.  It's easy to read with a photo rich layout, so you can get up close with common piecing issues and be given common sense and easy solutions to those problems.   Either work you way through it for a bit of everything or head straight for the contents page and choose a particular block or feature that you'd like to discover techniques for and read some common problems and their solutions.  

As a fan of piecing/quilting tips - as well as Pinterest boards I keep a photo folder of screen grabs of some of the best I see online - I did wonder if there would be sufficient new stuff for me but yes, there definitely is.   Patty's advice is  knowledgable but not judgemental or dogmatic, e.g. in the basics section at the start of the book, the age old pressing seams debate is addressed in bullet points.  Some quilters like to be told- definitely press one way/open etc. but I feel the decision needs to be based on many factors- fabric colour, bulk, the sort of quilting that will be used etc. so I agree with Patty, firstly you need to know what the different options are and then "Overtime you will learn to anticipate the best way to press a block and think it through before you start".

 I wanted to test a new tip on a project so I plumped for half triangle piecing.  I had some cushions in mind using some souvenir fabrics bought in Amsterdam on a summer holiday plus some stash fabrics and the only way I had thought for piecing large half-rectangle triangles was hand drawn paper piecing templates on very large paper- I was planning on making 18" square cushions so larger than A4/letter paper allows.  Patty suggests a method and I carefully followed her with some test fabrics.  Like many of you I'm sure, I often have a mental block when working with diagonals so I referred constantly to the photographs, made sure my diagonals ran the same way and it worked a treat.  It is still a tricky shape; once the block is pieced it needs trimming down and I put washi tape on my ruler to help with this as you can't line the ruler with the 45 degree diagonal line like you would with a half-square triangle.  

As you can see, I came out of it with a pair of half-rectangle cushions.  The nature of this block is that it will make a pair and I was replacing two pillows so it worked out perfectly for me.  

I'm working my way through this book.  The pictures are large and there isn't too much text on the page so I find it a great book to read whilst sitting on my bed and I mark pages with post-it notes or commit tips to memory.  It does lack an index which is a shame because at it's heart it is a reference book and although the contents page is relatively comprehensive, I can't quite understand why it doesn't have one - that's my only grumble.

As you can see, the Problem-Diagnosis-Solution concept repeats all the way through the book.  In amongst the various advice there are some great rescue remedies for that moment when you think you've really messedup.  Sometimes those moments create the defining feature of a quilt although it  doesn't tend to feel like that when you realise your border fabric is 4" too short or you've trimmed a block a little too much.  Piecing Makeover is going on my shelf next to my other favourite quilt reference, Erin Burke Harris' Quiltessential which I use to check things like quilt maths or techniques that I don't use very often.  This would also  be a great book for a guild to club together, buy and use at meet-ups, maybe even share their own clever tips with each other.  Available at the usual places.  
(I requested this title and was sent a kindly sent a free copy by Search Press.)


  1. Love your half rectangle triangles. That is one tricky shape and these look perfect! xo


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