Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A year in the making

Last week I started piecing together my Farmer's Wife sampler quilt...and within 48 hours it was done.  There's still a border to make (fabric is on order), backing to select and piece, and now a queen-sized sampler to hand quilt and bind...but last week's sewing frenzy felt momentous, nevertheless.  On flickr I have been sharing progress shots and basking in the glow of accomplishment and kind words from flickr buddies...and yet I haven't blogged about this.  I think I needed to let it all sink in.

This was a long and eventful year and sometimes bumpy year, and my FW quilt memorializes it all for me.  Although there were some very, very low points, the quilt itself feels joyous!  Triumphant!  Yay!

I really hadn't been a quilter for very long and certainly hadn't done very much piecing of traditional blocks when I began this project.  In trying to (finally) put together a post today, it has been interesting to retrace this sampler's progress, just in broad strokes....

It was some time around June 11, 2011, I made my first blocks (or at least the first keepers).

Oddly insecure about my palette and fabric choices, I plowed ahead with encouragement from some of the 1000+ followers of the Farmer's Wife flickr group...making a couple of versions of block 1, Attic Windows -- without yet having access to the book itself, which was on order and then stuck in a postal strike -- until I achieved the correct size, 6.5" unfinished.

Farmer's Wife block #1, Attic Windows

It's very strange to wade back through the annals of my flickrstream and see how uncertain I was as I started out.  I was considering re-making Attic Windows (and this was already my third attempt) -- but why, I don't know!  I love this block now, and in fact it is the very first one I sashed last week, as I started the amazingly fun process of piecing together all -- ALL, I mean all 111 -- of my blocks.  But I'm getting ahead of myself....

By the beginning of July 2011, with my book and set of cardboard templates well in hand, I had a  pretty decent number set of blocks.  If I remember correctly, I was starting to lose a little steam in August, but I kept at it.

FWQAL group shot

My pace ground to an absolute halt several times during the first half of the academic year, but in fits and starts I made more blocks.  And in the late winter I rediscovered some passion for this project -- thanks in large part to my bloggy/flickr friend Melinda! Her enthusiasm for the project and the sight of her stunning blocks motivated me...and through March and April I pieced together FW blocks like there was no tomorrow.

In late March I had about 76 blocks, and was contemplating sashing colours.
FWQAL progress

I remember telling my husband that I was planning to stop at 83 blocks, ready to just wrap it up.

And he asked why?

Why don't you do the whole thing?  You've already done so much...?

Why indeed?!

I cast that plan aside and in the next couple of months I made the 35 remaining blocks -- including some of my favourites.

FW block 40, Friendship Block
FW block 49. Honeycomb

FW block 37, Flower Pot
FW block 44, Gentleman's Fancy
FW block 47, Homemaker
FW block 59, Night & Day

FW block 87, Star Gardener
So I ultimately made every block in the book.

Many of them had looked very daunting when I began, many didn't have immediate appeal to me.

 FW block 104, Wild Geese

But I made them all, with this last one recorded on May 31, 2012.

Of course I continued to torture myself with the sashing and cornerstone choices, but my fabric stash yielded up some good options. I settled on natural Essex linen and teal Quilters Linen.

Once I started the process of piecing last week I just couldn't stop. 

FW sashing underway

Ramone (whose own life was completely and utterly transformed in the time it took to make these blocks) was there to cheer me on!

FW sashing underway

FW sashing progress

oh Ramone

FW pieced...better pic's soon!

it's done!!!!!!!

There are lots of imperfections in my blocks, but I don't see them any more.

I love this sampler, and am still stunned by the thought that I made all of these...I made these, I perservered -- and I exited from a difficult year with joy. This quilt will always remind me of that fact.

I am absolutely certain that another sampler is in my future...and I think I know of at least one other person stuck on samplers after this project...we'll have to come up with a plan and see if anyone else wants to join us!


Lesly said...

Super spectacular! You have every reason to be proud of yourself and your work! Too bad you can't stick this in your promotion/tenure file!

Melinda said...

What a lovely post, Jennifer. It's made me a little teary! I think that the big-L Life that is wrapped up in these things we make is so magical. Thank you for pointing it out. The time we spend torturing ourselves over choices and imperfect blocks is completely swept away by the big-picture joy. A perfect metaphor, I think! xo ~the other Melinda

Sue said...

So glad you posted your FW here on your blog. It looks marvellous. The blue and grey for the sashing and cornerstones is a great choice. I am hand piecing mine and was pinning a couple of pieces of Box together as the page loaded, which is my third block. *blows a raspberry @ imperfections* If it was made by a machine it would be perfect. The little quirks and idiosyncrasies of our quilts give them character and a sense of individuality. The Civil War Diary Quilt and The Civil War Love Letters blocks are interchangeable if you are looking for a new sampler. The blocks are all foundation pieced.

Jo @ life in lists said...

Wowsers! What a great quilt story. I love the last few photos showing the sashing going on row by row. I went a bit cold on my own Farmers Wife, but I'm looking forward to picking up a few sampler quilt books at the festival of quilts in a few weeks and planning my own, unique, sampler quilt.

LizA. said...

Love, love, love this! The teal & linen are perfect. Seeing yours completed makes me want to work on mine....alas, the washer & dryer are blocking my sewing machine and I'm not sure what box this project is in......

Ronny said...

That is one FANTASTIC quilt! I am totally in love with it! Amazing job on the colours!

Sheila said...

I am almost speechless with admiration - what a wonderful quilt, well done for keeping going, I think many people have ditched FW.
And I always love a Ramone pic!

ritad said...

What a great post.. Love you sashing and border fabrics! I think all of us who have completed all the blocks in this project should feel a great sense of accomplishment. I am hand quilting mine in the Baptist Fan quilt pattern and I am about 1/4 finished.. I thought I would never get the hand quilting started, but once I did it is going really well.

Claudia said...

Well, you're inpiring me to continue to plug away at my FW. You're right .... I look back at my very first blocks started a long time before the QAL, and it's a bit like an archeological dig. I know this quilt in particular, when I finish it, will be meaningful to me, always.

Love your colorful blocks and it looks spectacular all together. I may possibly be up for another sampler QAL, but something perhaps more personal? Maybe the blocks should be designed by the QAL members?

quirky granola girl said...

you are amazing. i'm so glad you decided to go back to the beginning to tell this story. the FW is really a journey. i feel like this quilt has let me experiment and find my own style. i think it might have done the same for you. i can't wait to see what kind of sampler-style trouble we can get into together! oh! and swaps. we should do that sometime, too!
ps--please, please add your quilt top to the finished tops and quilts thread in the flickr pool. it deserves a place of honor there :)

Jennie said...

I love your finished top! And looking forward to seeing your next sampler adventure - I'm on the lookout too!

Archie The Wonder Dog said...

It's fabulous to see the whole journey in one go - I love your blocks and I love your quilt! Well done for sticking it out and for making a wonderful quilt!

Nic said...

Congrats on the finish, it's gorgeous! So is your cat, who obviously knows it :)
Another sampler? Have you looked into Dear Jane? That's the one I'll be making after FWQ.
Or... If you don't want to go down to 4" finished blocks, have a look for moonglow on Jinny Beyer's site. It has 11 different types of stars, increasing in difficulty up to a mariners compass. Plus an easier block to alternate and make up the quilt. She sells kits for it, but you can also download the kit for free and pick out your own fabric.

Cille said...

It s an amazing quilt. ... A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!

Mary said...

This is a beautiful quilt. So nice to hear about the journey you went through in making it. I love the photos of the sashing and cornerstones bringing it all together. I'm inspired to look at my FW book again!

Marg M said...

That is so wonderful. I have just found you via another blog but I think this is the best sampler I have seen. Thanks for the colour and inspiration.

Pam @ Quilting Fun said...

Thank you for the fabulous story and pictures. Your quilt is a wonderful inspiration. Just purchased the book!

Run Quilt Knit Write said...

Oh i love it!!! You must be very proud and if not, well you should did a great job and it certainly showed strength of character and perseverance getting it all finished. Well done!!

Wens said...

I also am about to buy the book! Your quilt is absolutely lovely. I can't wait to get started now. Thanks for the inspiration!

craftytammie said...

what a gorgeous quilt! i love your sashing choices too!

Cathy said...

Your quilt is fantastic! So much fun to look at and read about. I especially like the photos that have your "assistant" Ramone checking things out. My cat Hairyit gets on top of all my sewing projects!

The LadyBugs Garden said...

I love your Sampler, its beautiful all put together.I am sure it made you proud of your self to complete the entire set of blocks. I want to start one my self soon.

Heather D. said...

Love it! Do you have any idea how much fabric is required? Meaning just to complete the blocks, not the sashing etc.

Heidi Grohs said...

Hi there! I know this is an old post, but I am dying to know how the linen stood up? I'm finally going to start my Farmers Wife and I would love to hear your thoughts on how it did washing after it was all quilted? I keep hearing conflicting things on Essex linen, but really want that look for mine! Thanks!!!