For the most part, I enjoy designing my own quilts rather than using patterns. The most notable exception is paper-pieced blocks. For the past two years, I’ve been working on a quilt with my own paper-piecing design, but half the work was just designing the block itself! It’s tough — you have to be cognizant of how to divide up your shapes, in what order to piece them, and (if you’re putting the block in repeat) how it will look as a pattern. I’m not the most spatially intelligent person out there, so working through all of these steps has been a challenge.
I’d venture a guess that many of us, if we paper piece, tend to use blocks designed by others. It’s just easier that way. The downside is that we’re at the whim of designers if we’re looking for something just right — hence the many, many iterations of the Circle of Geese block. Modern paper-piecing designs are coming around, but we’re still in need of more. Thankfully, Amy Garro’s new book, Paper Pieced Modern (C&T Publishing), is just what the quilting world needs. It combines the ease and accuracy of paper piecing with a modern quilting aesthetic, and provides patterns in a wide range of intricacy and difficulty.
You will not find any graphic representations of sewing machines or birds or irises here, people. There are no pictorial quilt blocks of any kind. The quilt names (Jumping Jacks, Ceiling Tiles, Faceted Jewels) are fitting but not limiting; you can see the inspiration in each title, but you wouldn’t be able to guess it if you didn’t know. Garro designs abstract geometric patterns in a way that is modern in a classic, mid-century sense. Some of these quilt designs hark back to the four-pointed stars and trapezoidal furniture of the Mad Men era, but her modern fabric selection makes them fresh and reminds us why they were awesome to begin with. As I browsed the book for the first time, I found myself spending longer than anticipated checking out each design. I remember thinking, “Well, HUH. I didn’t know shapes could do that!” I really appreciated Garro’s alternative color stories as well; it was fun to see how different a quilt could look when the fabric choices were inverted or changed around.
Paper Pieced Modern‘s organization is stellar, in the way that I’m coming to expect from C&T titles. There is a great tutorial for foundation paper piecing at the beginning, full of photos and well-written explanations for piecing newbies. She also provides a great supply list with both common and not-so-common tools. Garro’s inclusion of the Add-a-Quarter ruler, for example, reinforced my decision that she knows what she’s talking about!
The book is organized from simple patterns to complex, which allows readers to take it slow at first and then ramp up their skill levels. It’s also helpful to have this organization because sometimes the complexity and number of pieces is not always readily apparent. Garro’s designs play a lot with low-volume prints and single solids, and sometimes the pieces can blend in together and look less ornate on the first glance. Overall, the designs represent a wide range of styles, but I appreciated that almost any piece could be adapted to any recipient with the right fabric selection.
This is a book that we’ve needed for a long time, and I’m glad that Amy Garro took the initiative to create it. I wish that I had had Paper Pieced Modern when I first started paper piecing. It’s a fantastic resource for the beginning piecer, and it’s a great source of inspiration for modern quilters of any skill level. I’m hopeful that this book inspires many more designers to create modern blocks using the paper piecing technique. Geese and stars are great, but this book is right: it’s time for something new.