The Farmers Wife Quilt – A Journey

The Farmers Wife Quilt – A Journey

(Picture heavy post ahead)

A couple of weeks ago, I added the last border to my farmers wife quilt top. And just like that, a major part of this gigantic project was done. I stopped at 83 blocks even though I could've easily gone on and on; those blocks can be addictive. But I now have a top that turned out 80 by 100 inches which is already a bit too big for my bed. 

On a side note, I love sewing up my own designs. But once in a while, I like to follow a pattern and concentrate on other aspects of quilting. In this case, I conciously decided to work with templates as I have never done this before. Also, would I manage to pull through or give up? 

On another side note: Please excuse the quality of the following photos. I took them all with my phone (bad blogger!) in varying lighting situations. 

If I had to pick favorites...

I made the first block 51 weeks ago, while still living in Switzerland. I was trying to outweight the traditionalism of this quilt by choosing Doe by Carolyn Friedlander because of its edgy, modern and not very feminin look. Of course, in the end it remains a traditional quilt but it still feels a bit more modern. Also, I am so happy to see other amazing and fresh takes on the farmers wife quilt around the community. Have a look at this one. So beautiful! The good thing about doing the old version of the book is that I can do the new version another time, HA! But I need a loooong break from the farm first before I even start thinking about it.

I copied the idea of my personal project hashtag from Elisabeth Woo – its the perfect way to document your project on instagram to go back...for example to see when you finished your first block.

I chose to pair Doe with solids from my scrap bins (a weak attempt to make a dent), mostly Kona Cottons, I did not stick to a color way but simply picked colors for each block (which was the most fun, by the way). This adds to quite a rainbow-y look of the finished top and I'm quite smitten with it. 

A little bit about my progress

  • I followed the blocks in the order they appear in the book. I left out those I didn't like. In the end, I went back and "filled up" the last couple of missing blocks.

  • I printed the templates and laminated them (which makes them kind of slippery).

  • No paperpiecing or shortcuts (like 4 hst at once) in my case, I blindly used templates, even though it meant much more work. I loved to slow down and slowly work on these blocks.

  • The templates were organized in groups of ten, held together by wonder clips :) this way I could easily find them. I stored them in a flat wooden box. I heard of people filing them but that would have been too much trouble for me. Lazy person that I am...

  • I splurged on a rotary mat, small rotary cutter (28 mm) and a tiny ruler (1 by 6 in). It made cutting so much easier! But you certainly don't need all those extras...also, its a miracle that I did not cut off parts of my hands. 

  • To save some time, I usually cut 6 - 10 blocks at a time and then enjoyed some serious chain piecing.

  • While piecing, take your time, use lots of pins and don't forget to breathe! The best moment for me was each time I trimmed a finished and freshly pressed block and put it on the design wall. What a feeling! (Major nerd feelings)

  • Watch out for mirrored pieces cut from one-sided (printed) fabric. I cut countless pieces in the wrong direction because I wanted to save time and layered pieces of fabrics for cutting. Seriously, after the 3rd time I got so mad at myself but it still kept happening...

  • Pressing: I usually press all my seams open. But in this case, I pressed which ever way it made most sense for each block. So if you look at the back of my farmers wife quilt top, its everything but neat. Its a beautiful mess. Seams are pressed in all directions. Also, using pressing board worked miracles, it makes for a much smoother finish than pressing on my cheap ironing board.

  • Find the yahoo group here

I pinned like crazy, used starch and took my time. But still, there are many, many flaws in this top. Lost points, wonkiness, directional prints that I messed up, using too much heat on Art Gallery solids (yes, its a thing), working in the dark and using scraps of two different yellows for one block. The list goes on and on but I am still madly in love with how everything turned out so far. Its a me quilt, not a show quilt.  

Its wonderful that there even is a top, looking like a farmers wife quilt, if you remind yourself about just how many pieces its made of. Lost points, who cares! Quilt math is amazing. 

I tried to sew some blocks every week. Some weeks I made none at all, others I turned into crazy hermit sewist and did 12 on one weekend. Still, it took a year until I had all my blocks. To be fair, I packed all my things and moved to another country so other things were on my mind during the last 12 months. The beauty is that this project will always remind me of that personal transition (although, the migration quilt is a much more visual translation of this period). 

Piecing the top

As soon as I had a couple of blocks, I started playing around with the layout. As a trained designer, I use my usual tools from Adobe like Photoshop and Illustrator. I tried fresher layouts but always went back to the traditional on point setting. I strongly identify as a contemporary quilt maker but this time, it was irresistible to go the traditional route and I am so glad I chose to go that way.
Now, choosing colors for the setting triangles, sashing, border and outer border took forever and was one of the more daunting parts of the project. After around 30 blocks, my design wall was full. So I snapped pictures of every single block and made a mock layout to play around with colors and border-widths. I ended up choosing Kona white, Charcoal and Sage and – phew – I still like it sewn together in real life. 

Putting my office manager skills to good use, I labled everything. This way, I wouldn't mix up the blocks while assembling everything (of course it happened, I accidentally switched two blocks). It took roughly one week to assemble the whole top. 

Our dining table, which is big, was still way too small to trim the borders. It was tedious and I was so scared that I would cut off too much fabric, especially for the first border. I left the small, dark triangles big enough to have some wiggle room (see above) but still...also wrestling this big top through the machine to add the borders was no fun. And ironing! How do you iron such a huge thing on an ironing board? I ended up using tables on all sides but still, it was a pain. It looked ridiculous. Good thing I live in an apartment with huge windows. Sometimes I wonder what our neighbours think of me and my work.

A little blueberry park. This is the only non-Friedlander fabric in the whole top besides the solids.

Achtung, yellowish night time picture!

I have done quilting on this size before (for example baptist fans on the Swoon, 80 by 80 in) but I'm scared that I will ruin it by choosing the wrong design. 

I was thinking about sending it out to be long armed. But I haven't found a long armer here in Germany yet who appeals to me (Seriously, how come a city like Berlin doesn't have one? I should get my own....somebody give me the $$$ please).

All suggestions are welcome! How should it be quilted? I'm at a loss here.... 

One year, 83 Blocks. Here it is, in all its 80 x 100 in glory:

Are you thinking about getting tripods and a crossbar? Do it, its great for documenting really, really BIG quilts.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. 

PS Squarespace made commenting stupidly complicated. If you want to comment, choose the person icon on the left and simply leave your name (and optional infos) and you're good to go. Sorry for the inconvenience!

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