January 10, 2013

Free Conversion Charts for the original Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt

Edit: If you are interested in receiving the conversion charts described below, use the "newsletter" link on our website www.frommarti.com.  The 1920s conversion chart mailings do not follow the same format as the new 1930s Quilt Along. Please note that this blog post is dated 2013 and refers to the original Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt book.  If you're interested in the 1930s Farmer's Wife Sew-along, there is info about that in my blog archive in the January 2018 files. Note that the same basic template sets are used to make the 1920s and the 1930s Farmer's Wife blocks. :) Thank you.

Probably every time you hear someone mention the Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt, you think one more time, "I would like to do that someday." Well, now is the time! We can make it easy for you to cut small blocks accurately, which makes them super easy to sew.

The great thing about a sampler quilt is that you can learn a new method or technique by making one block vs. one quilt. It is a great way to fast forward your quiltmaking skills! I always try to remind quilters who use the From Marti Michell templates that their use is not restricted to quilts that I design. Our templates are very versatile and can be used to cut at least 80% of the classic patchwork patterns you will see in a book or magazine.
So, when I picked up Laurie Hird’s book, The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt, published in 2009, I could tell in one quick look that it was a great collection of classic blocks and most of them could be cut with our templates. 

I also liked the story behind the book. Laurie included a collection of prizewinning letters from the Farmer's Wife magazine's contest, "Would you like your daughter to marry a farmer?" along with 111 block designs to make a sampler quilt. My mother was a farmer’s wife at the time the Farmer’s Wife magazine was published, and she had two daughters. I couldn’t help but wonder if she might have entered that contest. For the record, my sister and I both married engineers. If you're married to an engineer, you'll understand when I joke, “I’m thinking of running a contest:  'Would you like your daughter to marry an engineer?'”  Here Mary and I are laughing at that idea!

Because the magazine contest was held during the 1930s, I chose ’30s reproduction fabrics for my blocks rather than Civil War prints. But the blocks are fun in any fabrics, batiks, brights, blue and white, etc. I admit, ’30s fabrics aren’t my favorites, and I had never used them for small blocks like these -- I learned why solids were so popular during that time! Depression era prints and reproductions are almost all the same density and value, so without solids, it's hard to get the contrast you need to see the patchwork. 

I was able to cut 101 of the blocks in the book with our templates! Here are a few of my blocks:

I have always loved diagonal set quilts so I will probably use the layout in the book. The hard part is deciding what color to make the sashing strips. “That green” of the 1930s was so popular because it was almost a neutral to the popular pastels of the time—just like leaves go with flowers, that green goes with almost everything. Or maybe I'll use creamy off-white with green cornerstones, or lavender for my mom -- she loved to tell how she was the talk of the neighborhood when she painted a bedroom that ’30s lavender! I’ll let you know when I decide.

The Original Farmer's Wife Template Conversion Charts (book cover shown above) 
At quilt shows, people were asking if our templates could be used to make the Farmer's Wife blocks. So, with the permission of the publisher, I put together a set of instructions for using templates to cut 101 of the blocks in the book, cross-referencing the template numbers in the book. In other words, our instructions mean nothing if you don’t have the book. Rather than follow the book numerically, we have sorted blocks so they have something in common. Usually, they share the same shapes or piecing procedures. 

A typical chart
We have put the blocks into groups of ten and periodically, we create a new mailing list and send PDF charts for cutting 10 blocks with our templates every two weeks. If you want to cut all your blocks with templates, we offer options for another 10 blocks, too.

Because the block designs are created from all different grids (3x3, 4x4, 5x5, etc), it takes several template sets to cut them. The great thing about our templates is that they are common shapes in common sizes, so you can make many different block sizes with the same template sets. 

More Details about the Original Farmer's Wife Conversion Charts
Many people ask us for "the" Farmer's Wife template set. There isn't one template set, because we have been making the template sets since 1995 and each template is unique; we don't duplicate sizes from set to set (except for a piece in the Feathered Stars sets, which is also in one of the A-B-C sets). If you have purchased our templates in the past, you probably already have some of the templates we used to cut our blocks.

The way it works out (because the 6-inch blocks are 3x3, 4x4, 5x5, etc), 101 of the 111 blocks in the Farmer's Wife book can be cut with several different sets of our templates. I substituted 10 other blocks that can be cut with templates, like LeMoyne Star and a 5-patch basket, and made a really cute little block with 3 rows of mini Tumblers.  

The most frequently used sets are A, B, D, N and S.  The "most" blocks you can make with one set is Set B, followed by Set A. Occasionally a piece or pieces from another set is used, like 2 pcs. in Set M come up once or twice, one from C. If you own the 1"-2" Log Cabin Ruler, or the small Kaleido-Ruler, they're handy for a few other blocks. That kind of thing.

A few times a year, we start a new email program where we send a PDF every 2 weeks to a new Farmer's Wife mailing list.  There are 10 charts, so it takes a few months to get them all; each one has about 10 blocks grouped by which of our templates they can be cut with, and the first one is Set B.  The 2nd uses Sets B and A, as I recall. The 10th PDF has 6 or 7 blocks to cut with Set S, and the PDFs in between use a mix of templates.  

The best thing about the PDFs is that we eliminate seams wherever possible, so you get used to looking at a block design and thinking about ways to cut/sew more efficiently. Then you can "scale up" the same kind of planning for making bigger blocks more easily and accurately. 

Visit our website to check on the date when the next mailing will begin. If we're in the midst of a mailing program, bookmark the page and check back later, or write to the office.

Thanks for reading this far!  :)