farmer’s wife quilt

I’ve been contemplating taking on the farmer’s wife quilt for a while now, and I’ve decided to take the plunge.  The quilt is described in this book.  The contains a series of letters in response to the question, Would you recommend to your daughter that she marry a farmer?  The letters are written by farmers’ wives.  With each letter, there is a quilt block.  There are a total of something like 111 unique blocks.

Here is what the back of the book looks like; it shows the finished quilt:

I’ve been poring over the Flickr group filled with Farmer’s Wife blocks and quilts.  I’ve been torn over what fabric to choose and so on, but to start, I decided just to try the first six blocks.  My game plan is going to be to try and do six blocks a month.  I’ve never done any detailed piecing before, only squares and one set of half-square triangles, so I figured that the first six blocks would be throwaways anyway.  Which they are.  Anyway.

Block 1:

This block turned out reasonably well, except that it came out to be 6 3/8″ rather than 6 1/2″, or 1/8″ too small.  I attributed this to general skill issues and moved on.   I used a mix of modern fabrics here and I like it but don’t love it.

Block 2:

This one was considerably easier to do since it had only squares and no triangles.  It came out to precisely the right size, and I rather like the mix of fabrics here.  It is also L’s favorite.

Block 3:

This is my favorite of the bunch.  However, it came out to be 6 1/8″ – much too small.  At this point, I realized that when I printed the templates, I had fit-to-page selected.  Normally, this wouldn’t matter since the page was meant to be 8×11 to start, but it was causing small scaling issues.   I love this block, but it’s not usable.

This one was tricky as well because I had to applique the basket handle on.  The handle is actually a rectangular piece of fabric that cut on the bias, wetted, and then stretched into shape.  This was nontrivial.  I have come to dislike fusible web as I don’t like the way the fabric feels stiff afterwards, and I just don’t like the way it looks.  I decided to do hand applique, which means I turned under the edges of the fabric and sewed the handle on.  I’d never done this before, so it was a bit tricky.

I started at the bottom right corner and went around, and you can kind of see how I got better as a went along.

Block 4:

This one as described in the book looks like a swastika.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until I’d sewn it together.  I tore it apart and re-pieced it into a cross.  Now, the swastika used to be called the fire cross before the Nazis appropriated it, and it was a common symbol in traditional knitting and apparently traditional quilting as well.  With that being so, I think it was in poor taste for the author of this book to include blocks that look like a swastika.

Since I figured out the printing size issue, this block came out the right size, and I like it well enough.

Block 5:

This one came out fine in terms of size and general piecing.  I’m not a huge fan of the monochromatic nature of the fabrics I picked, however.  It’s just kind of boring and true blue.

Block 6:

This one was the toughest to piece, and you can see that the points don’t match up terribly well.  I believe this is because I used a single template over and over to cut all sixteen pieces of fabric.  The edges of the template got chopped off over time, and I think that resulted in the pieces of fabric gradually not being quite the right shape.  I think if I were to cut 4 or 8 copies of the template, it would come out better.  I’m not sure how I feel about the colors here, either.  I love the patterns, but again, it feels a little boring to me being so monochromatic.

One thing I struggle with is that the individual blocks I like best do not necessarily result in the quilt I like best.  The quilt is more than the sum of its parts.  111 beautiful blocks might look like a bit of a hodgepodge all sewn together.

Many of the blocks in this quilt are traditional, and it’s based on letters written in the 1920s.  That makes me want to use traditional fabrics.

Consider this stunning block.  It’s done using very traditional fabric – small florals, no bright colors.  Then there are the more modern florals – like this one.  Still florals, but larger and brighter.  Then there are more modern blocks – like this one and this one and this one.   As I was looking through all the photos on Flickr, I really gravitated towards the blocks made with modern fabrics.  Nevertheless, I’m leaning towards using more traditional fabrics for the quilt.  Actually, I can’t make up my mind long enough to even type out what I’m leaning towards.

Here are some full quilts I like:

From City House Studio:


From Blueberry Patch:


This one from Flickr.

This one from Flickr.

And this one by Heike Schneider:

© 2014 by Heike Scharmann


I’m torn about whether just to use my scraps, or to buy two or three fat quarter bundles.  I’ll only need about four yards of fabric to do the blocks themselves.  Even assuming 50% waste, that’s still only eight yards of fabric.  The amount of fabric in a fat quarter bundle varies tremendously (by number of prints and thus fat quarters), but most have at least a couple of yards of fabric, so it wouldn’t be a crazy investment to by three or four fat quarter bundles, given that the project will likely take a year and a half or more.  Decisions, decisions.  I’ve done my six blocks for June, so I’ll probably spend the next couple weeks pondering fabric and try to decide in time to do six blocks for July.

2 thoughts on “farmer’s wife quilt

  1. Sarah

    This is cool! As soon as I saw the first pic I thought “ooh, what would this look like in modern fabrics?” (I have a pretty strong dislike of traditional fabrics…not so much for the patterns, but I just don’t like the drab colors as much.)

    I like your idea of having a goal of X blocks per month also. I’ve been debating whether I should set a similar goal for the giant hand-pieced quilt I’ve been (sloooowly) working on.

  2. admin Post author

    I’ve never really had an interest in traditional fabrics before, Sarah, but where quilting goes, I am unbelievably fickle. As of yesterday, I’m slightly obsessed with civil war reproduction fabrics. We’ll see if my interest lasts til Friday.

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