October 3, 2016

Chart 71: Sylvia, Block 95 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt Sew Along

If you love working in metric measure, Sylvia is a perfect block for using metric.  Read the second half of the block PDF before you start cutting.

The metric system of measuring makes so much sense. It was designed to make measuring and comparing sizes easier. It is intuitive and all the units are in multiples of 10. That means all the numbers can be expressed in decimals.

So, I ask, “How did we Americans end up with a standard of measurement that has fractions?!”

Well, it looks like most of those measurements came over on the Mayflower. Take a quick look at this entertaining and educational website from the UK and you will see what I mean.


Read it carefully and you will discover that during Edward I's reign (1272-1307) it was ordained that three grains of barley, dry and round make an inch. So, like they say, “It could be worse”…we could be measuring by half a barley grain! And then you might question was that with the barley grains side-by-side or tip-to-tip?

Read further on the website and you will see that it was not until 1875 that the Metre Convention was signed by participating nations and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) was established just outside Paris.

By that time in the United States, the standard or Imperial system of measurement was very deeply ingrained, especially in the areas of manufacturing. The major industries opposed converting based on the cost of changing all existing machinery, etc. Over the years, we continue to “inch our way “ into more and more metric measurements. Scientific language is metric and so is much of our manufacturing, but day to day ordinary measurements -- "not so much!"

In the final analysis, there are at least two places where I will always prefer Imperial style measurements.

    1. Body measurements: 36 - 24- 36 sounds way more appealing than 91 - 61 - 91!

    2. Cutting a pie – I can do 1/8th of a pie easily, but I have no idea how to cut 1/10th of a pie!

My Sylvia Block 

Click on the image for a larger view. Click the link below to download the Template Conversion Chart for cutting and making Sylvia:

Visit these other Farmer's Wife Sew Along blogs, too, for sewing tutorials and other info about the Sylvia block:



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.

1 comment:

  1. The Lord loves an Engineer. Thanks Marti for keeping us so grounded! I started using metric measurement when I started working for a sewing machine company that used metric measurements on it's embroidery machine hoops! It was just easier to learn what 360mm x 200mm represented, than it was to try to translate it to inches (which were fractions!)... Now you have me thinking really hard about those 6mm seams in my quilt blocks... maybe someday!
    Thanks for making us use our MINDS, along with our hands! - Karen Alexander in Austin, Texas