Art of Quilting column, Aug. 02, 2009

Book provides answers to key quilt questions

Quilting, I have come to learn the hard way, often presents more questions than answers. If someone would only come along and compile a list of “do’s and don’ts” to keep me on the straight and narrow, my life as a quilter would be much easier and less stressfull.

Well, I recently discovered a new book on the market, “The Quilting Answer Book” by Barbara Weiland Talbert of Vancouver, Wash., that delivers such knowing assistance.

The cover of the book says it offers “solutions to every problem you’ll ever face.”
Written for the beginner to advanced quilter, the handy pocketbook-sized manual includes Quilt Anatomy 101, choosing fabric, gathering supplies and tools, cutting, templates, stitching, batting, finishing and embellishments. 

For those of us who are not so fond of arithmetic, Talbert even provides a chapter on quilting math with charts so you don’t have to refigure for every new project.

For example, if I want a quilt block of half-square triangles to measure 5 1/2 inches when finished, what size should I cut the original two squares?

The answer on page 406: 6 3/8 inches.

If I’m making quarter-square triangles, the answer is 6 3/4 inches.

Thank goodness, I don’t have to try to calculate this myself.

In compiling information for this book, Talbert drew on her extensive background in the sewing and quilting industry.

She is a past editor of Sew News and worked five years as editor-in-chief of That Patchwork Place.

She made her first quilt in 1975. In 1999, she designed and introduced her own pattern line, Jo-Lydia’s Attic.

Talbert says learning how to prepare fabric, cut it and piece it accurately is most critical to quilt making.

“If you don’t get it right from the beginning, you won’t have a satisfactory outcome,” she says.

The chapter she wrote on patchwork and building blocks is also important for beginners, Talbert believes, because “quilters need to understand how pieces relate to each other” — four-patch, nine-patch, etc.

She offers plenty of helpful tips throughout the book, but the best advice she can give a novice quilter is “find a quilting buddy to help you.”

A few practical ideas that were new to me include:

• How to square up a quilt that’s a bit longer on one side than the other: Machine baste on the longer side’s raw edge, then pull the bobbin thread to gather the fullness and ease that side into compliance. Machine stitch on top of that stitching to secure and stabilize.

• Remedies for sore fingers from hand quilting, small cuts or pinpricks: Some quilters swear by Preparation H for overnight healing (this is not a joke); others suggest using a lip balm such as Carmex on them.
• Making sure rotary cut pieces are accurate: Cut all of the pieces for your quilt on the same day — stress and other distractions can affect your cutting accuracy from day to day.
Talbert’s goal in writing “The Quilting Answer Book” was to give basic guidance that will still be applicable to quilt makers a decade from now. The latest gimmicks and gadgets, frankly, are unnecessary.

“I can make a beautiful quilt if have a good iron, a good straight-stitch sewing machine with a quarter-inch foot, a rotary cutter, a mat and a ruler,” she says.

To Talbert I say, thanks for giving us just the facts, ma’am. The advice is much appreciated.
Yours is one reference book I intend to keep on my cutting table at all times.

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