Yes, well. I took on a few learn-to-quilt projects, and then decided to join a couple of farmers’ wife quilt-alongs. Which is something like jogging around the block a few times, deciding this isn’t so painful, and signing up for a marathon the next day. I can run for 26 miles without stopping! Why not? Eh? How hard could it be?
The Farmers’ Wife Sampler Quilt is a book that has been enormously popular in the quilting world since it was published in 2009–and almost equally reviled, and sometimes by the same people. The quilt itself is gorgeous, a sampler quilt of many, many fiddly little blocks with many beautiful little bits. The book is charming, publishing as it does a number of 1920s letters from farmers’ wives in America, writing about why they would choose the life of a farmer’s wife for their own daughters. And the instructions are pretty much terrible.
The whole thing is based on templates. There are no rotary cutting instructions. Not only that, but the templates come on an accompanying cd (which is especially fun if you have a super-new laptop without a cd drive), and each one–as in, each type of little block–is published on a separate pdf page, so that printing them all out is a 115-sheet proposition of click-print-click-print-click-print. I’ve printed out about 50 of them so far. And I have also measured any of the ones that are squares, rectangles and triangles so I can bloody do rotary cutting if I want to, then wrote the measurements into the book beside the block numbers, so I don’t need to refer to the templates for those blocks in the future–and if some of those measurements happen to find their way into pictures of my finished blocks, oh well.
At any rate, Needlework (my favourite local fabric store) is doing their first quilt-along this year, based on the Farmers’ Wife Sampler Quilt book. They’re running at a quite civilized pace of one block per month, and starting with something nice and easy: the Friendship Star, composed of five squares and eight half-square triangles (pictured above). And if you use fabric bought at Needlework, you are entered into a draw for a $10 gift card!
I don’t kid myself. I know full well that if I win that $10 gift card, I’ll use it to excuse a $100 fabric purchase. Still, what fun! Since my patchwork skills are still so patchy (haha), I thought I’d start off by making 2-4 of each square, assuming that the first one is guaranteed to be a mess but after having put a few together, I might actually have gotten it right. And if more than one works, then by the end of the year, I might have enough blocks to assemble a lap quilt (each block is meant to be 6.5″ square–apparently, this isn’t stated in the book, but I’ve seen it in the online reviews; and it makes sense with the measurements, since each square is 2.5″, and there are three of them so 7.5″, subtracting two seams of 0.25″x2 each, equals 6.5″. See? And then once they are sewn together with 1/4″ seams, they’ll all be 6″ square. No? Nevermind. The point is that the squares are pretty small, so 12 of them sewn together is going to be an itty bitty doll-sized quilt.)
In the middle of all this, lovely Laura proposed her own quilt-along based on the same book. Fabulous idea! Double the blocks=double the fun! You pick the first square, Laura! said I. And she did. A beautiful block called the flower basket, composed of three small blocks, two large half-square triangles, four small half-square triangles, and a curved handle to be appliquéd on by hand. A titch more of a challenge.
…How on earth does a post about sewing a bunch of quilt blocks become this long? I apologize, Dear Readers. There’s really no excuse. And I’m still not done.
So: two types of blocks over the month, 2-4 of each, and by the end I should be pretty good at them=The Plan.
Four of each type of block over one weekend and the first five not 6.5″ square=The Execution.
All four of the Friendship Star blocks you see at the top came out at about 6.25″ square, which is only a 1/4″ difference, but when you multiply that over a quilt–and also when you are trying to match up seams and sides for sashing and borders–that 1/4″ can become pretty important. And then the first square of the Flower Basket was also 6.25″ square (without the appliquéd handle. Baby steps. I still have three weeks.)
Only one thing for it: make all of the seams less than 1/4″. This saved the remaining three flower baskets, all of which were (with my new eyeballed seam allowance) just over 6.5″ square, allowing for a bit of trimming and neatening up. And the points match and everything!
This (for anyone who is keeping track) comes out to ten blocks sewn up in total, five of which can be used in the final project(s). Hopefully my ratios improve. And I still have some excellent opportunities to bungle my remaining Flower Baskets with that appliquéd handle.
What to do with the four friendship stars and one flower basket that are not quite big enough is my next decision.