Another two Farmer’s Wife blocks (6 down, 3 to go)

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I’m pleased with these latest blocks. The first one was surprisingly easy though I did a few bits of unpicking and resewing where the white points meet the other pieces, because if even a millimetre or so off they scream for attention because the contrast between colours is so great. On the second one, I tried using templates for two of the burgundy / blue half-square triangles but it was so time-consuming and I thought the end result no better than the other method I use, so went back to that with some relief. These 6-inch blocks are so fiddly! I measured the template for the squares on the second block before I started, so I would get the measurements for the half-square triangles right – after sewing together, each little square measures 1 1/8 inch! I’m not sure I could do any of the blocks that consist of more than 5 squares in a row, so am not even going to try.

I now come to deciding on the colours for the last three blocks. The fabric with the off-white fabric looks brighter than I thought, I hadn’t meant for it to be such a feature. I was going to leave it at three blocks with white in, on one each row, but it looks peculiar because there are always two touching each other at a diagonal with the other out on its own somewhere, so when ‘tother half suggested making four or five and arranging them in a cross shape, either with one either at the centre of each edge (as above if you imagine a matching bottom row), or one as the centre block and one at each corner, I agreed with him… well I have to occasionally, but wouldn’t want to make a habit of it! I need one more block that’s just the tan colour and the burgundy, or the one currently at the top left will look lonely, and then either one or two with off-white, and maybe just one with blue (so either in combination with the off-white, or one of each). I think the sashing should be the plain burgundy, which I’ve only used in one block, the first I made, though of course it means the one with the burgundy flower background will disappear into it. Then I’ll make the back either plain blue, or plain blue with a pattern of some of the cast-off half-square triangles incorporated into it.

All these decisions! It could be a painful weekend. I must get at least one block finished by the end of it if I’m to stand a chance of getting the whole cushion made before going home towards the end of April and handing it over to its intended recipient. I was going to say that if I felt confident about machine-sewing the quilting it would be quicker, but given that I end up pulling out the stitching and redoing sections by hand, maybe not! At least there is the Easter Bank Holiday weekend in a fortnight, though that tends to disappear without trace in the flicker of an eyelid… anyway, mustn’t think that far ahead and wish my life away, some of these blocks have worked better than I thought and I’ve enjoyed them, so will look forward to the next one. Cheerio!

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3 more Farmer’s Wife blocks

After finding the results of my attempts at paper piecing to be ‘not that great’, I decided to make my next block the one on the top right, which I could make without paper piecing. I measured the template for the central square then made the rectangles and half-square triangles in the method I’m used to (the triangles by pinning two squares back to back and stitching two parallel diagonal lines, a 1/4 inch either side of a line drawn corner-to-corner across the square, then cutting along the line and unfolding the resulting two half-square triangles). The plain blue picks out the flowers in the burgundy nicely.

So buoyed was I by the success of this that I tried to make the next block, the one on the top right which is composed entirely of half-square triangles, the same way. Boy, oh boy! First I got the measurements wrong and calculated them as for a 6 inch square after it’s been sewn to the other blocks, i.e. 6 1/2 inches. I only realised after I’d made all the squares and sewn two rows together! I toyed with trimming them down, but that would cut through the stitches. Then, unbelievably, I got the next lot of calculations wrong and ended up making them for what would have turned out to be a 5 1/2 inch square. I am now the proud owner of a whole lot of half square triangles with nowhere to go. Then when I finally got the size of component parts right, the first row I made was still a bit too long, i.e. long enough that a bit of manipulation wouldn’t cure it. I decided this was drawing along the quilter’s quarter with lines that were too thick, so took them apart, bought a mechanical / propelling pencil with 2B leads, and redrew the lines. Eventually, it’s the right size, and looks fine when you stand back and see it from a distance, but at close range it’s clear the squares are wonky. Yikes. Lisa Bongean’s blog tip to use starch helped, but I reckon using my usual method to make half-square triangles just isn’t go to work with such tiny pieces. (P.S. the photo’s a bit dark, the blue’s the same one shown in the photos of the other blocks).

For the last one, I made the inner square and rectangle without making templates, but for the trapeziums I traced the templates onto plastic, tracing round the inside part of the template provided on the CD accompanying the book I’m using. I was confused what to do about the border, so decided that I’d trace the inner part of the template onto plastic, use the new plastic template to draw round onto the fabric, then the quilter’s quarter for the border. Using my new propelling pencil! Also using starch. I was uncertain at first, just following the advice in Lisa Clement’s book to start with the points where the lines meet (once I found this advice, which I missed first time round because I was looking in the section on templates), and afterwards realising I need an extra stitch either side of the line so the borders are sewn down. I had to go back and do these stitches, but apart from that it came together better than I thought, and much more quickly. Admittedly, they’re bigger pieces, but it was so much easier than the last one, I started it on Sunday afternoon and had finished by the time I got off the train after work on Monday, apart from the last iron down. This was aided by taking my new craft mini iron to work, so that when I got to my office at 8.40, and using a folded up teatowel as an ironing surface, I could iron in place the pieces I’d done on the commute in before starting work at 9, ready to take up again on the commute out! Fortunately, I have an office to myself and no one came to see me, but I won’t be making a habit of it. But wasting the best part of 2 weeks on 2 abortive attempts to make a 6 inch block out of half-square triangles will lead to desperation. Patchwork messes with your mind!

Two new autumn blocks

Trying to get back into the groove with my autumn quilt, I’m pleased to have finished two new blocks. The first I started in November before my ‘much less orange’ rule (downgraded from ‘no orange’ on realising it’s virtually impossible with autumn fabrics) but it got put to one side while I finished Christmas projects. The second comes after reviewing the whole quilt.

I put in an earlier post that I’d laid out everything so far and photographed it, and decided there was too much orange. I put it on my screensaver on my work computer and occasionally stared at it and picked out a couple of blocks that the quilt would be improved by not having. On a slightly depressing weekend, because it involved thinking and no productivity, I took these out, pinned together some of the best ones, and hung them from the wardrobe so I could stare at it and decide what blocks would improve it.

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Of the ones not included, some may go back in, but others I want to take apart and see if I can do anything with the pieces. Quite disappointing, but it’s called learning the hard way!

Farmer’s Wife cushion cover- block 1 (yikes!)

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Block number 1, labour of love and hair loss (due to tearing it out), so I’ll see how block 2 goes as to whether it’s worth keeping going!

Having received a Farmer’s Wife book for Christmas, I decided to make blocks from it for the cushion cover I wanted to make for my brother, to replace the Christmas one I’d made him while it’s stored away as a Christmas decoration. The book comes with a CD of templates which I dithered about what to do with… I’m still not sure from the books I’ve looked at if it’s possible to sew these shapes together without using paper piecing, so thought that was the method I should try. However, my attempts at making paper pieced hexagons ages ago had gone awry and have pretty much been abandoned, so I knew this would be difficult. Anyway, I chose fabric from my stash, including from a January sales spending spree (!) and some designs from the book, with the intention of trying one to see how it goes.

This is the long list of possible fabrics, from which I quickly chose the three in the picture. I’d like to use the plain blue because it picks up the blue flowers in the piece with the burgundy background (and it’s for a boy, to stereotype!), and then I think one other lighter one.

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When I drew up a short list of blocks from the book I found it easier to draw the outlines of them on graph paper, so I could see clearly what they are without the patterns of the fabrics used in the book distracting me, and without having to flip back and forwards through the book.

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(Designs from Laurie Aaron Hird, ‘The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt’ (2009) )

I chose to do this one first because it seemed to me a striking design and could be my lead piece, as it were, around which the colour choices for the others could be based.

I’ve taken the paper out of the middle pieces,  because throughout I was worried I was sewing through the paper and was keen to see if I had or not, and wanted to see at least part of it without the tacking stitches, but thought I should leave them in the pieces at the outer edges for when I come to sew them onto the sashing. I’m pleased with the colour choices, being now sensitive to colour choices due to the mess of the autumn quilt. On the whole it’s not bad, but the result is not so neat as I’d like, particularly the very centre point where the four points of the parallelograms meet, and the top plain burgundy one of the four looks like the point is blunt. I found it very difficult to do the whip stitches evenly and they are quite messy.

The blocks are meant to be 6 inches square when finished, and it’s a 20 inch square cushion pad, so I was thinking 6×3 = 18, so 9 blocks with an inch-wide border would do it. I’ve only chosen 7 blocks and will either repeat 2 of them or choose two more. I don’t like the bears claws designs or the ones with a shopping basket or maple leaf so much, and there are some I don’t think I could do yet (or indeed ever), despite liking them, namely the stars and mariner’s compasses. I may change the first one in the picture for one where instead of a square in the middle, it’s orientated as a diamond. For some reason I hadn’t taken into account that as the designs go right up to the edges they need sashing, so now realise I’ll have to have a very thin sashing and border to make it fit a 20 inch cushion pard, rats! That’s if I actually get to the stage where they’re good enough to be made into a cushion!

The square has turned out not to be 6 inches, but 5 5/8 inches; I don’t know why. Also, one edge is actually 5 1/2. I’m now worried that the next block I try will turn out to be a different finished size to this one… what to do if that happens?! Abandon it, or hope sashing will disguise it if it isn’t too much, or try and offset the blocks – no, that sounds too complicated! I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I come to it. I’m quite keen to try making the next one without paper, but don’t know if that’s feasible. That’s for the weekend. Meantime, I’m pleased I’ve eventually chosen a design for the next autumn block, after dithering about it for the best part of a fortnight, so at least have something to just get on with instead of having to try to make decisions, not my forté!