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Hello Dolly! Or A Paper Piecing Adventure


My stack of 6.5" (unfinished) Farmer's Wife 1930's blocks is growing. I have to admit that I had originally not had ANY plans to participate. Truth be told I am not a big fan of 'sampler quilts' - and I haven't really "done" a lot of complicated piecing in many years. It seems, however, that 2016 is my year to re-visit the basics of quilting and block construction...which in my case may be a very good thing!

The Farmers Wife 1930 by Laurie Aaron Hird seems to be something that a ton of people are working on, and Angie from GnomeAngel and Marti Michell are doing a great job of doling out the blocks twice a week and keeping everyone on schedule...with no quilt police in the rear view mirror! The book includes a disc that has all of the template pieces as well as all of the paper pieced patterns...but, being a fan of templates, I was all to happy to buy and use Marti Michells template wizardry and most excellent piecing instructions. As I have mentioned before, I started this project in order to use up at least some of my stash.... I have a collection of 1930's print that were gathered over years...and they need to be used up!

My first hint that the Dolly block (#28) might be a wee bit of a challenge was when our fearless leaders suggested giving it two days to to cut and one to sew. The book (the page is shown above) made it look simple enough- despite the 50-something pieces for one small 6" inch block! Being a person who reads instructions as a last resort, I blithely cut out the pieces using Marti's templates and began to sew using her diagrams for piecing. After about an hour of frustration and few decidedly unladylike cusses, I decided to start all over and began by printing out the paper piece diagram. Small finished two-part squares measured 3/8" = a recipe for hair pulling IMHO !

Paper piecing (using a paper foundation) has never been a favorite technique of mine, but I have used it in the past (most recently for my Wagon Wheels quilt) and I do feel that it has a lot to offer. My experience has been enhanced by buying the correct weight paper (Carol Doak's foundation paper and, as is said, practice does make it easier. I have come to value knowing how to paper piece and, for small blocks with many small pieces I think it might be mandatory!

Revisiting the basics of block construction is proving to be a valuable experience. I like quilt projects that hone my skills, teach me something new or just help to make me a better quilter. There is value to precision...something that I have never in the past considered very much...and paper piecing is an excellent tool.

The image above shows one section...the bottom image is pieced with templates and, on the top, using paper piecing. Similar perhaps, but more precise with paper.

Not as much of a difference with the simple 9 patch center (paper pieced on the right, and template pieced on the left). Those little squares measure 3/8"! Note the measurement on the first photo above and on the diagonal line of another piece shown below.

Paper piecing this block worked out much more easily for me. Perhaps it is because it provided me with much more precise results ...though not perfect still. Yes, it did take some time...either way this was a time consuming block and I am not sure that it was worth it, but is done and, eureka, it measured out perfectly. I am, for a day or so, finally caught up on my three large projects and not lagging behind too much with my fun little hexagons either.

Now I feel like Tilly (pardon the poor image quality)...wanting to just hang out and feels good when I am caught up and on track.. I have a mixed media trade to make that is overdo...I should really get working on that before I say that I am really all caught up!


Do you ever do anything to celebrate feeling all caught up?

Are you usually able to keep,up with projects easily or do you too sometimes fall behind?

Do you prioritize projects ? How?

Do you think that you can ever really be caught up?!



  1. never caught up! and I know I have two bins of needlework patterns and fabric in storage still in NC! I have started deciding what projects I am going to work on and concentrating on those 2-3 at a time. And I list out steps needed for the project. And I am behind on my 1930's Farmer's Wife while I worked on the Bonnie Hunter Mystery Quilt....oh well....

  2. no! i never catch up as i ad on a project/idea in motion because i love the "what if" factor of developing a seed of an idea and letting it grow on its own steam, own time frame. i may not finish and that is really okay with me when i learn what i need to learn from that project.Time is finite and i am not that type of personally needs to finish every thing i start. i am more of a shifter. Oh, and sometime part of project go into other pieces, stored or dumped. Aloha, Sonja ( i do miss our trades though.)


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