Over the last couple of weeks, I have received a few emails from customers with questions about what samplers were, how they worked and were the idea came from. I knew a little bit about the topic but as a result of these questions, I did a bit more research and thought I would share them with you...
A BIT OF HISTORY
It seems that prior to the mid 1800's, most quilts were traditionally created as medallion style quilts, both here in the US and back in England. The center medallion was the focal element of the quilt and the remainder of the quilt was created around the medallion with various borders both plain and intricate.
In the early 1800's, American quilters slowly began experimenting with the currently more utilized, grid pattern- both sampler and one single repeated block, where each block is the same size and is set in some sort of a grid with or without sashing. Reasons were most likely numerous but it seems that these kinds of quilts lent themselves more to being done in groups and in community, by those just starting out and could be made more frugally with scraps and small fabric pieces. Samplers began to be very popular at this time- in various formats but primarily with one size block, each one different.
These kinds of projects were often done as block exchanges or family compilations or as "bees". As a result they were usually quite scrappy and blocks were original and varied. Mothers also used this method often to teach young girls how to quilt and, very similiarly to the popular cross stitch samplers, quilt samplers were often the very first quilt a young quilter might make.
... this is kind of what I have always imagined a bee would look like. Sometimes I wonder if I should have been born in another era.
When I was learning how to quilt and in my early years working in our local quilt shop, I had absolutely no desire to make a sampler quilt. Nothing about it looked good to me. I wanted to work on the blocks quickly, wanted to strip piece them, wanted to be efficient with my time. Mostly I wanted to get to the end stage of the quilt as fast as possible so I could see the outcome of my work and move on to the next quilt in my head!
Many quilters around me made samplers as a way of learning many techniques in one project but since I was self taught [from a book], I was not convinced. It has really only been in the last couple of years that vintage samplers have really caught my attention and the beauty of them has really stood out to me above many other quilts that I have seen. Perhaps its me that is changing but there is something so beautiful and awe inspiing about them. All of a sudden the idea of working on one block at a time, perhaps in a pre-determined timeframe like a block of the month, has become quite a draw.
For me personally, the ones that had a somewhat focused or more limited color palette were the ones that I fell in love with the most...
We decided to try it out and started our first sampler quilt as a Fig Tree program with our VINTAGE FARMHOUSE quilt. Based completely on a vintage sampler that we fell in love with [shown above], we loved both the blocks, the quirky feel and the color palette. [This was an 8-month program that we did last year and that ended in the fall of 2014].]
We continued on when we jumped on Moda's MODERN BUILDING BLOCKS bandwagon but made it a bit more "figgified" with a mix of mostly solids and some Fig Tree fabrics from our current Somerset collection. MODERN BUILDING BLOCKS FIG TREE STYLE was born.
We loved the very modern feel of this quilt with some gigantic blocks and some little ones, mostly solids and a very graphic feel. This quilt was completely different than anything we had ever liked before and it has been so much fun to do along with many of you. I can't wait until we are done next month and I can see the whole thing put together in its entirety! [This was a 7 month program which ends next month- this month's shipment will be processed by the end of the week.]
Currently we are working on the FIG TREE MYSTERY SAMPLER with many of you participating and we are adding in many of our long time favorite blocks [such as pineapple, rolling stone, nosegay, churn dash, weathervane, clamshell to name a few...], working with classic Fig Tree patterns and adding in a few things to challenge all of us just a bit!
The quilt is a mystery... even to us... as we are working just a month ahead the rest of you [don't worry we do have a general plan just not the specifics]! We can't wait to see how this quilt evolves and are absolutely in love with how its turning out so far... maybe that has something to do witht the fact that we choose all of our favorite Fig Tree colors, fabrics and blocks! [For this program, we are working on finishing up month #3 as we speak and those will go out next week for those of you who are in the program.]
As you have seen we have kind of fallen in love with samplers and you shouldn't be surprised if you see a new one coming up in the next month or so....
Happy January everyone!