Do you remember the Farmer's Wife Sampler book of a few year's back? It was one of the first online quilt-alongs that I took part in and it certainly introduced me to the delights of a sampler quilt block and the beauty of traditional quilt blocks. when I heard that Laurie Aaron Hird had written a 1930s version, The Farmer's Wide 1930s Sampler Quilt with 99 blocks not included in her previous books, I leapt at the chance to review it.
I liked the original Farmer's Wife book but I love this version. Each traditional block has been renamed as either a woman's name or a noun that relates to a woman- like 'Granny'. The blocks vary from relatively simple to complex with a fiendish number of pieces to sew together but they are all beautifully presented in a mix of reproduction fabrics and solids. A range of construction methods are offered. All the blocks have templates and foundation paper piecing options and there are rotary cut options for pieces that can be easily measured. Here's a taster selection of some of my favourites from the book.
The presentation is breathtaking. I kept this book in the kitchen for the first few days so that every time I sat at the table I could leaf through it with every cup of tea. The letters from farm women written during the Great Depression of the 1930s are collated from the original 'The Farmer's Wife' magazine - hugely popular in USA at the time - and considering the immense strain on people's lives at that time, they tone is generally optimistic and highlights the positive aspects of life. Some made me laugh, one in particular from 'Little Irish Annie' recalls how she was born "an ugly duckling" and despite shaking her fists at her 'homely little face' she later learnt that although she was 'short on assets that you can "Cash in on your liabilities"'. There are a lot more letters than the previous book - one for each of the 99 blocks- which makes for a thicker book and some very interesting reading. I haven't read Laurie's Pony Club Sampler book but I wonder if this is more like that with it's more complex blocks and extended letter selection?
The layout of the book largely follows the previous Farmer's Wife book. The letter excerpts and the block photos are presented side by side - each block is numbered for the construction pages that follow later and are they are not in numerical order in this section. The photos show the blocks on point. I was very taken with 'Jewel', it's quick to make and it was the first one I sewed up. All the blocks I sewed for this post were foundation paper pieced using templates from the book CD.
This block is 'Priscilla' and I did simplify it slightly- you can see extra seam lines in the book photo on the yellow triangles at the centre of the block and they were easy to omit. It is a more challenging block than would first appear as it involves Y seams around the centre propellor shape.
'Granny' is a straightforward block and I couldn't resist using a very similar floral to the picture, it's from Lori Holt's Flower Patch range. You can find some at Pretty Fabrics and Trims as part of an orange repro style bundle.
The letter excerpts and quilt block photos are followed by the assembly details with the blocks now arranged in alphabetical and numerical order- this also relates to the CD. In the book you can see the block photos are now shown square on with the construction diagram and template numbers and quantities needed on the left. Final quilt layouts and instructions are at the back of the book with fabric requirements for Lap Size (32 blocks), Twin Size (84 blocks), Queen Size (99 blocks) and King Size (126 blocks including some repeats). The setting triangles for the suggested layouts are based on a two triangle templates but I am hoping I can work out rotary cutting measurements for these- she said optimistically.
The big difference with The Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt as compared to the original book is that all the designs are available as foundation paper pieced pattern on the CD- I believe this was the same for the Pony Club book. All the blocks I printed off took two sheets of paper and I found it easier not to trim the corners off as it can sometimes short-change the seam allowances on the long acute angled pieces (you can see this on my Jewel block). For those who prefer to hand piece, you can find all the templates on the CD as with the original. Laurie Aaron Hird hand pieced all the blocks in the book and it is certainly a method to be recommended for dealing with the more complex blocks with many pieces although it does require patience and a long term outlook onwards completion!
I was totally enchanted with this book. You can see all my torn up envelope bookmarks in it below! Having enjoyed the My Small World Quilt-Along so much I thought this could be the perfect project to move on to when that completes. I got in touch with Laurie to check that she was happy with that and she graciously gave me her blessing so I will be starting a Farmer's Wife 1930s Quilt-Along #fw1930sqal beginning mid September which gives you time to buy a copy and start planning your fabrics! I have a lot of floral prints in my stash and I deliberately stayed away from them for #mysmallworldqal but for this quilt I am going to indulge my love of a pretty print to the max! I found a great selection at Pretty Fabrics and Trims which was a new-to-me shop and you can see my first order below. Sarah was so helpful and I love the selection bundles she and her mother put together Sarah selects and Penny Picks and I am very happy to have them as blog sponsors, particularly for this project.
The quilt along will be a long project running over a year. The blocks are small- finished size 6" square - and the piecing can be challenging with very small pieces and Y seams. It will start mid September, just before the My Small Quilt-Along finishes. To take part, you will need to buy a copy of the book. I will post here every Monday and my aim is that it will be a collaborative quilt along: I will share one block a week and a guest bloggers posting either on their blogs or here will share the other. There will be occasional breaks for big holiday periods e.g. late December. Posts will involve sharing techniques, fabric choices, the usual stuff and as with My Small Quilt-Along, being respectful to the original text. It will be on Instagram and other social media using the hashtag #fw1930sqal. I already know some people are planning to mix blocks from the first book with this book which sounds like a great idea and how far you commit and how many blocks you make are up to you: quilt-alongs are about the fun of sewing together, not compulsion! The quilt-along will be running alongside a separate yet-to-be-announced Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew-Along which I can only hint at but the two projects provide support for Farmer's Wife block makers everywhere! More info to follow soon, meanwhile, you can find all the publisher's info on the book here:
Copies are available at the usual online sources depending on where you live. Book Depository sells worldwide. I also recommend checking out Laurie Aaron Hird's blog where she writes in more details about the original The Farmer's Wife magazine.