Thursday, 30 June 2011

To be a farmer's wife

If you have come looking for my midsummer giveaway, you will find it in the post below - you have until the beginning of next week to enter.

It may not have escaped your notice that a certain Farmer's Wife quilt has become all the go in Blogland, and having seen the most wonderful quilt blocks being created by Dragonfly, Leila, Nicky, Angela, and some others I can't quite remember (prompt me if you can), I have decided to take the plunge and am now in proud possession of the book.

Being of a thrifty turn, I did not buy it myself, but it so happened that it was our wedding anniversary, and I bought the Head Chef a card with a most poignant quotation, guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye. We have an agreement not to buy each other cards and wasteful consumerist tat on our anniversary, so  such a card elevated me to a moral high ground (which is a most satisfying place to be, as I constantly remind my offspring) from which I could broadly hint as to the sort of present which would be an exceedingly acceptable reciprocation (I also sent him a clickable link and held his hand while he navigated the darkest reaches of the Amazon website).

A present from my dear Head Chef
And lo and behold! (yes, once again life is full of surprises) what did I find but a nice little parcel arriving post haste at my cottage door. The Head Chef knows me so well and judges my taste so exactly, that it was the perfect appreciation for a loyal wife of so many years, who is so devoted to her lord and master and panders to his every whim in a sweet and complaisant tone. Whether she exists or not is another, more metaphysical question, and one to which I cannot imagine the answer ...

As to the book itself, I can highly recommend it. It is the sort of craft book which I love, being more than a mere set of instructions: there is as much to read and look at and think about as to do. This, for example, is why I enjoy Jane Brocket's books The Gentle Art of Knitting and The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making: they are a visual feast, and encourage one to think about the why of a craft as well as the how, and lead you to exercise your own creativity and explore colour and form, whatever your level of technical skill. Books like this demonstrate that a high level of technical expertise is not a prerequisite for producing a meaningful and beautiful piece of work, and manage to appeal to readers of all skill levels. (And what's more, there is so much to read, to look at, and to enjoy, that you needn't feel guilty if you don't actually get round to making any of the projects.)

But not only have I read and enjoyed The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt book, I have made my first two blocks. The book has patterns and templates for 111 blocks (included on a CD so you don't have to draw them out yourself), and if you make all of them you will have enough for a king-size bed quilt, but you don't have to be daunted by that number. The smallest quilt, which is 57 x 67in (around 1.5 x 1.7m), takes only 55, thus is much less of an undertaking, and will produce more of a sofa-sized quilt for snuggling up by the fire (rather appealing to me, chilly soul that I am).



The blocks take inspiration from and have been designed to accompany a series of letters from farmer's wives from the 1920s, entries in a Farmer's Wife magazine competition, and are a wonderful piece of social and domestic history, giving a window into the world of country women in the early part of the twentieth century, how their lives had changed and were changing, as they talk about their lives, reminisce about the past, and hope for the future.

I have been pondering my approach to this project, and how I will use this book to produce my own quilt. The notion of a farmer's wife quilt is one with which I can connect: I am the granddaughter, daughter, and mother of farmers, the wife of a smallholder, and have also worked and work on the land myself. I am a countrywoman at heart, leading a country life and want this quilt to be pieced out of my own memory and experience, so a big part of it will be made from stash, those leftovers from other projects which carry memories of their own. For my first blocks I was also able to use some of the fabric that Leila so kindly gave me as part of the Sew Mama Sew giveaway.


It could be difficult with a project like this to ensure that the colours work, because it seems to me that it is not one that I would buy coordinating fabrics for at the outset, but I think it is important to have some unifying theme or idea that will tie the quilt together metaphorically, if not visually. For me, I think it will be the colours of the natural world around me - which gives a pretty big palette to work with if I look closely.


The first block I stitched was block 2, Autumn Tints: I have used the colours of autumn. The circles in the centre squares talk to me of sunset and sunrise, the large, low westering sun and the harvest moon (and I deliberately did not fussy cut so they would be partial, sinking over the horizon). There are little red berries to harvest, the colours of fruit and wheat, sky and earth, all mellow and red and gold.



The second is block 4, Basket Weave. Here I was inspired by the mixtures of green and gold just beginning to appear in the lanes and fields about me.


 The beginning of end-of-season senescence is present even in midsummer as the peas start to desiccate, some of the earliest leaves begin to yellow, and the green wheat takes on a golden tinge.


The lightest fabric has a trellis reminiscent of baskets, and is full of memory as I used it in a summer frock for a little princess who is growing up fast, and all three capture this sense of summer on the turn: they have flowers and green leaves, as well as the golden tints which hint at the harvest to come.


And that I think is enough for one day - just notice the difference in appearance between the blocks set square and on point - something to remember when piecing, as they will be on point in the quilt. And I love the look of the hand pieced blocks - something imposed on me by the continued absence of my much-missed Rose, but I think in keeping with the feeling of this quilt. Surely memories must always be stitched in by hand ...?

32 comments:

Hen said...

Ooh brilliant, I look forward to seeing all the blocks you produce...
Hen x

Nicky said...

You have put a lot of thought into this Pomona - wow - great set of blocks and so glad you joined in the party.

lily said...

Hi Pomona, love your choice of fabrics for your blocks, it's nice to reuse special fabrics full of memories.........the book looks visually interesting and a good read.

lily x

The Weaver of Grass said...

I do like this pattern - it is slightly like log cabin I think.

Amy said...

Good for you, stitching those blocks my hand. It makes them all the more impressive in my opinion. I am going to have to get this book eventually.

{Leila}Where the Orchids Grow said...

I love how much thought you have put into these blocks, they're lovely!

Julie said...

I love the sound of this book and of the stories it contains - sadly, I don't think I'd be patient enough to make so many different blocks - especially to do them by hand like you are (will this continue when Rose returns?).
I grew up on what was effectively a small holding and have always lived rurally (sometimes extremely so). I feel much more at home in the countryside and where we are now, even tho' it is a fairly small town, is the first time I've lived in a street. But I know we will get out of town one day in the next few years, I just need to be patient.
Will look forward to seeing more blocks. Juliex

Carol said...

Oh, now this could be very tempting. I have been ooohing and aaahing over Helen's http://henhousehomemade.blogspot.com/ amazing quilts and actually bought some pieces of fabric from USA via ebay. It is a long time since I did any quilting (30+ years) and then only small projects so..... I shall have to watch your progress.
Carol xx

Lace hearts said...

Thanks for leaving a comment today. I hand't heard of the Farmer's Wife sampler quilt book, but it sounds lovely. Your first blocks are looking really good. The colours work so well together. x

faith76 said...

That was a very interesting read. That book sounds wonderful and the fabrics and the way you have come about choosing them is great.

Leah x

Sue said...

Oh no, this looks like a really fun project and I'm not sure I dare start anything else at present. Mind you I do have rather a collection of fat quarters that would just be perfect! I'm trying desperately to finish lots of unfinished things at present. You have been busy and your blocks are looking lovely.

greenrabbitdesigns said...

They're beautiful! I love the thought you've put into choosing your fabric and the fact that you're hand stitching them!
Looking forward to seeing some more.
Vivienne x

dragonfly said...

I'm so glad you decided to go for it!

Your post is so beautifully written echoing the sentiment of the book.

Arianwen said...

Funny, I have been eyeing up this book all week on amazon. My grand parents were prairie farmers( very little house on the prairie) and I think even though my granny doesn't quilt she would find this book interesting. I look forward to seeing all of your blocks

taylorsoutback said...

What great fun to follow you along as this quilt becomes reality. The Farmer's Wife is very popular with my quilting buddies and I gave a copy of the book to one of my friends as a gift...it was soooo hard to give it away LOL...Need to get a copy for myself and join the fun!

Frances said...

I'd agree with so many of the earlier comments that this book does look like a very good way for a would be quilter to actually turn into a true quilter.

Your choices of fabrics do look so perfect for incorporating into a block by block quilt. I think that your creation will be something that will become a family heirloom.

Yes...absolutely prefer hand sewn quilts!

xo

carrad said...

What a lovely, thoughtful post. You really should write it up as you go, taking photos. You can then create a little book to be handed down with the quilt as a family heirloom xx

ted and bunny said...

I used to agree with your notion that memories should be stitched by hand and stitched my thoughtful-pieces painstakingly.

My lovely mum bought her sewing machine in 1950, the year she got married, and it gives me such pleasure to still use it today as I think of all the projects she made.

I'm sure she'd smile down to see what was at the time an expensive purchase to a meagre budget still giving sterling service- even if my needle skills fall quite short of her standards!

Have a lovely weekend
x

Rowan said...

I love the idea of theming this by the natural world and the seasons, I don't quilt but am tempted to buy the book anyway:)

andrea creates said...

i love seeing how everyones blocks look. it looks like a fun book to learn lots of techniques from.

susan said...

Thrifty is good! I just got my husband to go and pick up my now fixed machine from the shop as he was going into town after all. Not sure if he realises what it costs to fix a sewing machine - but he soon will!

millefeuilles said...

Another beautifully written post, Pomona.

Quilting is something I yet have to tackle although I have Jane B's marvellous book because it is, indeed, a feast for the eyes and imagination.

I wrote a Phd thesis chapter on Pomona, by the way. I thought I would drop that into my comment... as you do. I was quite obssessed with the lady.

Helen Philipps said...

I love the sound of the Farmer's Wife quilt book, it reminds me of the early settlers in the US and the stories of the quilts they made on their journeys and for their new homes. You have made such lovely blocks there, and the memories will make this quilt even more special. I love the blocks set on point like that - I made a quilt called a Floating Four Patch where the red and white blocks 'float' agains the white background. I do look forward to seeing your progress with your lovely quilt. Have a happy weekend.
Helen x

Callie @ MuMu and Squeak's Place said...

Ive just nominated you for an award over on my blog! :o)

C x

Jennifer Montero said...

I'm so glad you're blogging again - did I mention that already? I come here for an eyeful of pretty, and thoughtful words. I agree - memories are stitched by hand.

I have terrible colour sense and have avoided quilting for that reason, but I love the lore and history that surrounds quilting: making new from old, quilting bees, and outlet for artistic expression.

I'm knitting a tea cosy at the mo, a "frivolous" project for me but it's a little cottage which game me a chance to embroider flowers, and put fancy touches on it, to no utilitarian end. I wouldn't have had the gumption to do it but I look at your blog and see that it's OK to make something, just because it's nice to look at.

Lynne (Lily's Quilts) said...

Gosh you write so beautifully and I love your review of Laurie's book - wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you for linking up :-)

Menopausalmusing said...

It's going to be a great pleasure watching this quilt progress. The book sounds like a beauty.

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Thank you for introducing this book to me; it looks like it will, shortly, reside on my bookshelf as well.
I am not the farmer's wife, rather the farmer but I do quilt and enjoy all "homely" activities that make our farm a cozy nest.

The Fairy Glade said...

Looks like another book to add to the "list". However, I am currently still enjoying Jane Brockets fabby one. Looking forward to seeing more of your blocks as and when. Have a lovely week. dev x

Crafty Green Poet said...

sounds like a good book! Enjoy making your quilt!

Barbara said...

Looking after the 'homestead' and any guests I am amazed that you find time to quilt Pomona.

elizabethm said...

Oh that is just my kind of book but what do I do about the fact that even my infant quilting has been blown out of the door by the garden and the aged father in law and an attempt at work and running the cottage and celebrating OH's major birthday? If I buy this book I shall feel bound to have a go and then I shall drown. Maybe I shall ask for it for Christmas when at least the garden will be hibernating! Gorgeous blog.

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