Book Review: Simple Appeal by Kim Diehl
Posted by Claire on Sep 26 2014, in Book Review, Quilting
Ever since I tackled Spring Bouquet, I’ve been addicted to applique. When I saw that Kim Diehl had a new book out, Simple Appeal and that it featured a number of quilts that combined piecing and applique, I was sold. I liked the combination of traditional colours with a modern flair.
I was especially attracted to this quilt: Farm Girl Finery. Name’s a bit silly but it’s very pretty. And at 64″ x 64″, a nice size for a throw, with colours I already had to work with in my stash.
Like many (most?) of Kim’s other books, it’s published by Martingale. Lovely photography, with clear pictures of the quilts in situ and flat, with lots of good detail shots.
The binding though, is a bit stiff. I would have preferred a coil binding or a weblink that would allow me to download the applique shapes. Tracing the shapes out of the book for a single quilt has already cracked the spine and loosened the pages. Longevity wise, or if I was planning on making multiple quilts from this book (I may still, since I like “Sprigs and Twigs” and “Late Bloomers” but nothing is definite), I’d worry a fair bit about pages coming out and getting lost.
Since I’m still on my UFO kick, I was reluctant to start a new project (but I got over my reservations pretty quickly and started it anyway! :)). Since I got this book in July, I’ve started on the applique blocks and piecing the inner block border for Farm Girl Finery. Basting all the circles took a good couple of hours of TV. I have also pieced the outer stars, but have yet to applique down the all concentric circles.
My biggest peeve with this book isn’t the accuracy of the instructions, or even the binding, so much as it is the inefficiency of the cutting and sewing directions. Kim’s yardage requirements are off the wall. I’m not a quilting expert, but even I know about HST and QST techniques, and how to make flying geese four at a time. But this book doesn’t use any of those – Kim’s direction rely almost exclusively on the flip and stitch method. That’s great if you’ve only got one square with triangles on the corner, or really irregular measurements but it’s wasteful used exclusively. (I don’t even care about the marking – I mark my HST, too) But when you do an entire quilt with flip and stitch, dozens and dozens of blocks, all the corners you trim off add up to an amazing amount of yardage that you just throw away.
Let me give you the math to show you what I mean. Farm Girl Finery’s finished size is 64.5″ x 64.5″ or 4160 square inches.
As they are written, Kim’s directions for this quilt require 7 3/4″ yards of cream, red and brown fabric. Assuming 42″ width per yard, subtracting out the 1/2yd for the binding and not including all the fat quarters used in the border or the scraps you use for applique (which I’d estimate at another 1/2 yd total), that gives you a grand total of 10962 square inches (7 1/4 x 36 x 42).
4160 divided by 10962 = 0.379. In other words, you’ve bought almost eight yards of fabric and less than 40% of it is going to end up in the actual quilt. Yet with just a little math, using some more efficient piecing methods and bit of preplanning, I was able to cut Farm Girl Finery using only 5 yards of fabric (7560 sq”). That means that 55% of the fabric I bought was used in the final quilt top instead of a measly 38% (an increase in efficiency of nearly 50%) and that I only spent $60 dollars on materials, assuming $12/yd, rather than $96 in materials. That adds up and these kind of numbers effect the number of quilts I will ultimately make.
I don’t think these types of calculations should be left to the reader. Some people won’t have the inclination or the skills to figure out the better way. And, while yes, there will be left overs — scraps you can use for other projects — much of it will be too small to be useful and could have been avoided entirely by using more efficient cutting and piecing techniques. I know this seems a bit nitpicky but waste bugs me. I’ve sewn quilts by designers like Carrie Nelson, where almost every inch of fabric is used. The cutting directions are meticulous, and yes, it does take a little more time to follow them, but I don’t waste fabric or money, both of which are important to me.
So overall, I’m going to give Simple Appeal a B grade. It has a variety of projects in a range of sizes from decor accents to bed quilts, the designs are an appealing mix of traditional and contemporary styles that can be made in a wide variety of fabric types and eras and the project difficulty ranges from determined beginner to intermediate quilter. On the downside, the cutting directions and fabric yardages are sloppy and inefficient, and the binding quality suggests that the book won’t stand up to heavy use. (And like all my reviews, I wasn’t paid (ha! that’ll be the day!) or given a free copy of the book. I bought it myself and my opinions are my own.)