Search Press describe themselves as “The world’s finest art and craft books”, and Sarah Payne’s Quilt School certainly is deserving of this description. This is an ideal book for those starting out on their quilting journey. For someone like me (I consider myself to be an experienced quilter – I’ve been quilting for over 20 years), this book is a source of information and inspiration; it is one you want to have close to hand for reference.

The book starts with a section on tools and materials and then moves on to basic techniques. After this comes the body of the book, and it is only natural that a book that has ‘School’ in the title contains lessons. The lessons are group into different topic areas, which cover squares, triangles, circles and beautiful scraps – and I think that it is genius to have a section on scraps, as it gives ideas of what to do with the leftover fabric. Even better is the instruction “Just have fun playing!” – being encouraged to play and have fun in a lesson is a key element to making sure that lesson sticks in the memory!

It is gratifying to see information about tools in the sewing box – several pairs of scissors – complete with the note to not mix the fabric and paper scissors, a few seam rippers (why is it that seem to disappear?) which is referred to as a “reverse stitcher”, and notes about pinning and needles. Indeed, Sarah Payne looks to be my kind of quilter – pinning “when necessary and no more often than that” and her take on needles mirrors my own: “you can never have too many sewing needles”.

Included in the introduction is a guide to how many squares of different sizes you can cut from a fat quarter, which is very useful to know. She also includes a guide for both hand sewing and machine sewing.

Each lesson includes colour photographs, showing each step. At the start you are given the fabric requirements for the project. Throughout the lessons there are tip boxes, which stand out from the step-by-step instructions, providing additional information useful to many projects.

One of the features of this book that really stood out for me is found in lesson 4. It is a double page spread about choosing your colours for a Disappearing 9 Patch block and it shows you the overall effect when choosing different fabric layouts. I love this block, and this double page spread really shows how colour choices change the overall look when the blocks are combined. It is what I had been looking for when I was thinking “What if…?” with the Disappearing 9 Patch quilts. This approach to layouts continues in lesson 6 – showing different ways to layout half-square triangle blocks, in lesson 7 with the Jacob’s Ladder block, and again in lesson 12 with the Drunkard’s Path block.

Double page spread from Sarah Payne’s Quilt School, by Sarah Payne, published by Search Press (permission kindly given by Search Press to include this picture)

Lesson 8 could be considered a masterclass in the flying geese block, as it includes three different methods for making flying geese units. Within each method there is a box detailing common sizes for flying geese blocks, so that whatever your preferred method, you have the fabric requirements for 4 different sized finished blocks – an ideal reference tool.

Once all the lessons have been covered, there is information and instructions about layering, quilting (whether by hand or machine) and binding; the binding section goes further than just simple binding – it includes bordered binding and flange binding too.

This is an ideal project and reference book, very readable and easy to follow, and I would recommend it to anyone – experienced or inexperienced; I know that it will be one of my most used reference books from now on.