Wednesday, 30 September 2015

quilt for the soul ~ Becky and Bonnie ~ Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Sampler Quilt Sew-Along

Today is my first post as a guest blogger for the Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Sampler Quilt Sew-Along with Fat Quarter Shop and Gnome Angel. It is such a thrill to be part of such a dynamic and assorted Sew-Along!

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W; RRP $28.99 – Click here to purchase.

I will be showing how I constructed #12 Becky and #16 Bonnie using English Paper Piecing, as well as sharing general tips that apply no matter what piecing method you use.

Please note this is not a tutorial on how to English Paper Piece (epp), if you would like to learn I recommend this tutorial by Clare at Selfsewn - I had never done it before I came across her blog and she taught me well! There is also a great tutorial by Angie at Gnome Angel, which includes how to glue baste. If you would prefer to watch a video I suggest this one by Jen Kingwell and Fat Quarter Shop.

To get the papers for the block I simply printed the diagram (from the CD that comes with the book) and cut it up. Make sure your printer is set to 100% or not scaled, to check measure the whole block. The benefits of using the diagram rather than the templates are that you only need to print one sheet of paper, it's much easier to cut with fewer lines and you know it will still perfectly fit together!

There was no grand plan when it came to fabric selection, I chose a limited palette of navy, coral and mustard brown (is that even a colour?!) but knew I would add to it with whatever else I felt like. It wasn't until I actually got the book that I decided what I wanted to do. The letters really spoke to me. I'm sure that sounds very hippy but that's all right! I felt so moved and it is already my favourite part of sewing a block, it is enjoyable to meditate on the words while I sew. 

I am choosing to read the letter and pick fabrics based on:  the overall theme / a word or phrase that stood out or inspired me / the feeling provoked by the letter. 

#12 Becky
Treat yo self! I included strawberries and a tape measure as a reminder to spend time on things I enjoy and to have little "goodies".

To make the most of these fabrics I did some fussy cutting (to select the part of the fabric I wanted for a specific part of the block). I did this the old school way by holding the fabric up to the light and pinning the paper on the back.

The beauty of sewing by hand and doing English Paper Piecing is that the blocks go together just as pictured. I like to think of it as a puzzle, you separate the components and then build the block back together.

For those final longer seams, or where you have points meeting, I like to use clover wonder clips to hold the pieces as I sew them. It really helps stops my hands from cramping.

#16 Bonnie
"The strong winds of trials and tribulations" was the perfect opportunity to use the Zephyr Gale print and the dandelions are to me a symbol to "look for the good side". Nature is out of our control but our own nature and how we handle life is within our control.

Again I built the block up step by step:

It is very easy to make a neat block when you English Paper Piece and everything lines up nicely.


- I think it is worth deciding whether you want to have your blocks on point (as I am and as the author Laurie Aaron Hird did) or whether you will have them be square (as you see them in the block assembly part of the book). It makes a big difference if you are fussy cutting fabrics! Having said that, quilts that are used get seen from all angles so don't worry too much about it ;)

- While I was putting the blocks together I literally turned the book so it would be on point, this just made more sense to me and meant I was sure I was sewing the pieces correctly.

- I will be probably not English Paper Piece all the blocks, I would like to do some hand piecing as well and think that will be easier for the blocks that have more smaller pieces.

- Don't worry about mixing methods for the sew-along! If you would like to try and English Paper Piece one or more blocks you can easily gain back the seam allowance around the edge of the block when you remove the papers. Just be sure you add 1/4" around the paper when you baste your shapes. When you pull the threads out or unpeel the fabric the block will measure the same size as ones that are paper pieced on machine or hand pieced.

- I recommend thread basting if you know you want to English Paper Piece the whole quilt because it will last and you need the papers to stay in to sew them together.

- Glue basting is quicker. Since I am going to hand piece some and English Paper Piece the rest of my blocks (therefore don't need the papers to stay in) I will glue baste from now on.

- Hand sewing is always going to be slower than machine though. I'm happy with that, I enjoy the pace and find it relaxing. The sew-along is going to take a year and I don't need to rush it.

- Check out the English Paper Piecing tutorials back up there at the top of this post! If you have any other questions about epp or my blocks just leave them in a comment and I will answer you :)

I hope you find some of that useful and that you might be encouraged to try English Paper Piecing.

Head over to Oh How Sweet to see fellow guest blogger Melissa's blocks and tutorial!

Are you joining in the Farmer's Wife 1930’s Sampler Quilt Sew-Along? How are you piecing your blocks and are you trying anything new?


  1. Lovely fabric choices Lucy! I will be watching from the sidelines of this QAL.

  2. I love these blocks so much and I'm so excited to see you EPP them. Great blocks for beginners to learn about the awesome that is EPP. <3

  3. Wow beautiful! Great job pattern matching those clouds! ❤️❤️

  4. I love the fussy cutting in your blocks!

  5. Love your blocks! Thanks for your tips about EPP and about fussy cutting. I've decide to make two smaller quilts instead of one big and one will be set on point the other will have straight setting. hope my plans work and that my book arrive soon (amazon tells me it'll arrive end of october, boo:-(

  6. I love that you are picking out fabrics based on theme!

  7. Lucy ... Great Post! Great Advise on EPP. I Will be trying this method. thank-you :) Your blocks are Too Cute!
    I do Love this Sew Along ... xoxo

  8. Love that fussy cut measuring tape - makes me smile! What fun blocks you have made!

  9. Your blocks are beautiful! I love how you are using the letters to inspire your choices for each block-I may have to go back and do that as well. Thanks for the tutorial!

  10. Took your advice! Sometimes I think hand sewing is quicker than machine if it is really complicated as otherwise I'd have to unpick it several times whereas hand piecing I will get it right first time! Great beginning and love how much thought you are putting into this project

  11. Beautiful, such painstaking work! I admire your hand work, I don't have the patience. I'm going to try on point too, I think the star blocks in the book look pretty that way. Very cool fabrics too

  12. Wow - I think you have just inspired me to purchase the book & start stitching!!

  13. I love your blocks! What are you talking about you are a hippy at heart! Hair removal, still makes me laugh! :D

  14. Your blocks a beautiful! You are a hippy!

  15. I really didn't consider paper piecing these blocks until reading this post. I love the fussy cut strawberries! I am thinking this would be great to do while I'm sitting at the swimming pool during my kids lessons.

  16. Look at your beautiful stitches - you have more patience than me! I tore through Bonnie on my machine, like a maniac :)

  17. How interesting. I just finished hand piecing a King size Irish chain quilt, using English paper peicing. I got the inevitable shocked comments "Why aren't you doing it the quick way?". Because, like you, I enjoy the relaxation of hand sewing and the accuracy. I've made several quilts this way.

  18. oh my gosh! you totally nailed the spirit of the book. what better way to pick fabrics than according to the theme of the letters! Glad I only made a few blocks so I can switch gears!

  19. Beautiful post!! Love your thoughts on the blocks and hearing how you chose your fabrics!

  20. I just started on my FW blocks. Thanks to your lovely tips I'm going to EPP, but I have one question. How do I fold the corners down on my square and rectangle pieces? I have only done hexies and diamonds, so I'm not sure about the right way to do a square corner. What I'm trying doesn't leave my corner looking very sharp.