My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After I started the book, which I did read from cover to cover, I knew I wanted to spend time on this review, which is why it took me so long to get it up. I didn’t want to rush, because I want you love this book as much as I do. The short version is that if you have even the slightest bit of interest in blocks, drafting blocks or quilt history, you need this book. It is a fabulous reference, full of inspiration, well written and well organized. Go buy it right now.
This is a follow-up to her 1980 book, The Quilter’s Album of Blocks & Borders. If you see the 1980 book for a decent price, it is useful as well. Make sure it has the plastic grid insert.
The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns is not a sequel necessarily, but Jinny Beyer built on the original idea to come up with this larger and more comprehensive book. The basic idea that I got out of the original book was that if you understand the structure of the block, you can make any quilt. I understand that all quilts aren’t made from blocks, but having a good foundation makes analyzing the structure of all types of quilts easier.
This book lists the all the names by which a block is known. The primary name is listed first and comes from the oldest source she could find. This means that you will see blocks you know by one name entered in the book by another. Have no fear! All the published block names are listed under the primary name and the comprehensive index makes finding your favorite blocks by almost any names easy. She has limited herself, primarily to blocks created before 1970. As she says “This book would be at least four times its size if I had attempted to catalog all designs that have been created since the 1970s. I purposefully limited myself to traditional quilt blocks created for the most part before 1970…”. The exception are blocks Ms. Beyer has designed. You may not find more modern variations or names listed here. I hope she or someone else will do follow-up or a volume two adding truly new blocks to this resource.
The beginning of the book is extensive and includes not only the Table of Contents, Acknowledgements and an Introduction, but also A Primer on Pieced Blocks. The last section includes some history of the block sources, a description of the way the blocks are organized and how to draft a variety of blocks, even the oddly shaped blocks.
I was amazed to see how many catalog offering there were prior to World War 2. People could buy pre-made blocks, quilt pieces and even quilts made up. Some may lament the advent of quilt kits now, but shop owners are following in the footsteps of the “good old days” of quiltmaking.
The blocks come next and are organized by shape: squares, hexagons, continuous pattern blocks, one-patch blocks and miscellaneous patterns. It was amazing to me how the bulk of patterns are based on a square grid.
Beyer talks about the grid and this is the piece that is important to understand that will allow you to analyze blocks in a quilt at a show, draw it and go home and make it. Read this section carefully and make sure you understand before you move on.
The drafting section is very useful. It explains geometry related to quiltmaking, so those of us who tried hard to stay awake in that 9th grade class have a reason to stay awake now. My favorite part was the magic that is drafting the perfect square. Beyer gives, at least, two methods. I also liked her method of making a perfect grid. As a bonus, understanding these drafting instructions really help when you are working with a program like EQ7. Understanding the grid and how a block is drafted makes using that program much more intuitive.
The section on blocks takes up the bulk of the book. Each group of blocks is broken down by the type of grid it uses. For example, the first section is called 2×2 Base Grid Category. The blocks in this category are what we would normally call four patches. Each block is shown in Jinny Beyer fabrics and colors and also as a line drawing. Included on the page is the block name and reference.
Another bonus is that Ms. Beyer has gathered like blocks together into a section called Quick Reference: (theme). This is a good and easy way to find all the blocks with a certain theme to use in a quilt. One Quick Reference is called Boats. There were also Quick Reference pages for leaves, baskets, Red Cross blocks and Feathered Stars. All the blocks on a Quick Reference page have the name of each block and where to find it in the book.
As I moved through the book I marked blocks I liked as well. Most were my standard favorite categories like Baskets all with a twist. In a way I was creating my own quick reference pages, which I, sometimes, found were redundant with Jinny’s quick reference pages. Still, I enjoy seeing my own notes and references.
One of the things that I loved was the names of the blocks. i always knew that quilt blocks had interesting and funny names. This book gathers all of those names. Crow’s Nest, Scroll Work, Night and Day, Open Sesame, and California Sunset are all wonderfully evocative and spur on the imagination, but have nothing to do with the piecing. Like modern paint color names, I guess.
Like the previous book, this one comes with Transparency Grid Sheets as well. These tools allow you to lay the transparency grid on top of the blocks to see why they are categorized as the grid indicated.
There is a comprehensive table of contents, a bibliography, a variety of cross references, footnotes, tables and a fabulous index. All of this warms my librarian heart. This is a well done book and well worth the money.