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|
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 ...?