Quilt-opedia Book Review

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I'm always looking for any excuse to buy books, so when I heard about Quilt-opedia  by Laura Jane Taylor, it was an obvious impulse buy. I've had it for a couple weeks now, and felt like it deserved a thorough review.

When it come to craft books, I usually prefer books that focus more on general techniques, materials, and tips, but I also enjoy some specific projects and patterns. Most of the quilt books I have read seem to lean strongly to one side or the other for their content. Quilt-opedia on the other hand, tries to be the best of both worlds with half of the book focusing on general equipment, materials, techniques, and skills, and the second half devoted to projects. The book's tagline is "The only quilting reference you'll ever need," which I'll say is quite the overstatement. However, it's a decent general reference for beginning quilters. And when I say reference, I mean that in the most literal sense. This book is not going to teach you how to quilt. It will however, reinforce what you already know and give you a quick answer to any brainfarts.

Generally, Quilt-opedia has good illustrations and photography and plenty of fabric porn that help distract from its faults, primarily the nonsensical organization of the first half of the book. To best review it's strong points and shortcomings, I'll be breaking it down section-by-section. Brace yourselves for all my feels.

Equipment & Materials
The first few pages of this book are a good indicator that this is a reference, not a teaching tool. Taylor writes under the assumption that you have had at least some exposure to things like quilting rulers, die cutters, etc. If you have had experience with general sewing, but not quilting, the info provided should be adequate.

In contrast, Taylor's coverage of fabric selection by color, value, theme, material, print types, and precuts is great for even those without any sewing or quilting experience. She explains everything very succinctly and I definitely learned a thing or two. Her pages of batting and thread are also super helpful. In many other recent quilting books I've read, the authors just list the available types of materials and say whether or not they use/like them with little explanation why. Taylor lets her personal preferences take the back seats and explains what each material is best suited for and any potential drawbacks. One other nice thing about this section is Taylor's distinctions between terms that vary from the US to the UK (like muslin vs calico).

This...this is not helpful. 
Her coverage of other notions is limited to a single spread with some scattered stock photos...my ultimate pet peeve. You cannot claim your book is the "only quilting reference you'll ever need" when your only mention of tools like fabric pens, pins, thimbles, etc is a single stock photo! Not to mention her editor missed a glaringly obvious error in which a seam ripper is labeled as a "marker." 

The big issue with this section is that it's manages to screw up a very simple objective. If you name the section "Equipment and Materials," wouldn't it be wise to cover those all those? Instead Taylor randomly decides to omit certain items (different kinds of marking tools and anything related to basting) from this chapter and then cover them in later chapters, which completely defeats the purpose of the structure she sets forth.

Section Rating:  ☆ - Her coverage of fabrics, batting, needles, and thread are good. Coverage of rulers, cutting tools, and sewing machines are just a basic refresher. Other notions are virtually ignored or arbitrarily left for later chapters. 


In this section, Taylor covers the quilt-making process...except for the actual quilting. It would make sense if this chapter was just meant to cover how to make your quilt-top, but it doesn't! She literally covers all the how-to's EXCEPT quilting. She even includes a section on quilt-as-you-go, but no traditional quilting. I really don't understand Taylor's structure here at all.

She takes the "keep it simple, stupid" approach. She covers piecing techniques like half-square triangles, quarter-square triangles, pressing seams, etc. fairly well with clear illustrations and photos. Her instructions are brief with no frills or added time-saving tricks (something I was hoping see). 

The pages on binding are good text-wise, but are lacking in photos. Consequently, if you're a visual learner who's never mitered corners or done 100% machine binding, you're going to be very confused.

She also goes over basting methods (and the necessary tools she omitted in the first chapter) and making your quilt sandwich. 

Section Rating:  ☆ - Taylor gives you the basics simply and to the point. For people like me who want a quick refresher to turn to in the case of a brainfart, this section gives me just what I need. Her decision to leave quilting techniques for the following chapter seems poorly planned.

Further Skills
Apparently quilting a quilt is a "further skill" and not a technique. What kind of distinction is that anyway? 

Taylor covers both hand quilting and machine quilting on your home sewing machine. The way she covers machine quilting is less about how to execute these skills and more along the lines of reminding you what your options are. Beginner quilters will need to refer to other resources before attempting machine quilting, especially free-motion, as this is clearly not meant to provide actual instruction.

I did appreciate (and learn from) her sections on quilt labeling and display methods, although I recognize that there are more options available than the ones she describes. Her tips on laundering and storing quilts are less exciting necessities that I haven't seen addressed frequently, and thus was happy to have for reference. 

Section Rating:  ☆ - This is where the "reference" aspect of this book is hammered home, but not in a good way. Only 4 pages of this section cover the actual quilting process and the text is far from dense. To be a good reference, I'd expect to see a lot more photos of possible quilting options.

The projects are categorized by level of experience
Quilt-o-pedia includes 27 projects: 7 "simple" projects, 10 intermediate, and 10 advanced. They include quilts (duh),  pillows, table linens, wall hangings, a few bags/pouches, and even a Christmas stocking.

If you're a visual learner like me who likes to see plenty of step-by-step illustrations and photos, you may find this book coming up a little short. There are some illustrations, but not many per project. Luckily, these project are not overly complex so you shouldn't have too much trouble working out any kinks.

Section Rating:  ☆ - It's about what you'd expect. It's not meant to be a project-centered book, so they aren't meant to be the main selling point. Nothing amazing, but nothing bad either.

Block Directory
This is one thing I really like about Quilt-opedia. Taylor includes 20 pages of diagrams and instructions for a some classic quilt blocks that can easily be modernized with contemporary fabrics. I've found myself referring to this section quite a bit!

Section Rating:  ★ - This section is wonderful! I only wish it was longer!

Overall Rating: ☆ - While the structure of the first half of the book made me a little bonkers, I have found myself checking this book frequently just make sure I'm doing something properly. Her photos are both beautiful and inspiring as well. I can't help but want to start sewing after looking at them. For under $20, this book made a handy addition to my library. 

1 comment :

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