Book Review: Ruth B. McDowell Design Workshop

Ruth B. McDowell's Design Workshop: Turn Your Inspiration into an Artfully Pieced Quilt Ruth B. McDowell’s Design Workshop: Turn Your Inspiration into an Artfully Pieced Quilt by Ruth B. McDowell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I love Ruth McDowell‘s books and have most of the books she has written. My favorites are Piecing:Expanding the Basics and Art & Inspiration: Ruth B. McDowell.

McDowell’s information is always good. I have to say that, initially, I was disappointed in this book. It seemed to be, mostly, a rehash of the Piecing book, which is one of my bibles, so I know it very well.

After sticking with the book (rather than abandoning it) I found a few good sections. Around page 50, McDowell discusses thinking through a different way of piecing her Muir Woods quilt, which she had done a couple of times before. I really like it when quiltmakers discuss their process and I am also pleased to see that McDowell is working in a series.

One section is about using fabric. Ruth McDowell has a lot of little gems about, which could be considered good ideas and rules to live by, including using and choosing fabric. This section has some commonalities with Lorraine Torrence‘s advice to “make visual decisions visually.” I think this is an interesting section because McDowell gives insight, again, into her process.

McDowell makes a comment [on page 61] that making a quilt is not taking a photo. YAY!! Finally, an author has the guts to come out and just say it. She follows that up with more advice on using fabric in landscapes.

I particularly like the “Flamingo Demonstration”. She really makes a good point about how foreground pieces can blend in to the background if you don’t take care to separate the foreground (in this case flamingos) pieces from the background pieces. McDowell says “regardless of your intentions you must be honest with yourself about what you really see.” It is a reminder to me that if I think “oh, this choice will be ok”, it means that I have been lazy and it will probably NOT be ok.

Ruth McDowell has an excellent discussion of background fabrics and creating backgrounds, especially creating light backgrounds. She talks about including what different scales and motifs adds to and takes away from a background.

Another thought about backgrounds that Ms. McDowell discusses is about balancing colors in the overall quilt. The backgrounds can be unrealistic if the fabrics are the right colors. She says that it is more important to balance the colors in a quilt than make a realistic quilt.

Ruth McDowell is a thoughtful quiltmaker. She really thinks about all aspects of the quilt and their design. After thoroughly discussing the foreground and background, the main portion of the quilt, McDowell launches into an excellent discussion of borders. You might think that borders are easy – just slap on a long piece of fabric and you are done, but McDowell shows how borders can add to the entire piece. She shows what a border is and how the border are part of the piece.

I really like the buffalo quilt on page 82. I am not a big fan of buffalo, necessarily, but I like and respect the way Ruth McDowell completes the composition by using a non-border border. The border in this quilt is so subtle that you don’t even know it is a border. She skillfully integrates the border into the overall composition. I love the fact that the quilt has a border, but it doesn’t scream border at me.

The book has the obligatory section on quilting, batting and binding. Fortunately, Ruth McDowell doesn’t try to teach people how to quilt, choose batting and bind in 3 pages or less. She makes this section her own by telling the reader what she does rather than trying to teach everything there was to know about quilting, binding, and batting.

I was also pleased to see a disclaimer saying that the fabrics may not be available.

Finally, this book has an index. Indexes are fabulous in any book with sections to which you might want to refer later.

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