The Farmer’s Wife: A Story of Quilt Blocks and Books

Quilts by Laurie Aaron Hird
“Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt” • 83" x 103" • 2009 • Quilted by Nell Coons | Photos copyright of F+W Media, Inc. unless otherwise noted

“Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt” • 83″ x 103″ • 2009 • Quilted by Nell Coons | Photos copyright of F+W Media, Inc. unless otherwise noted

The beginning of an idea

“I love the farm,” wrote Mrs. G.B.S. of Saline County, Missouri in 1922, “and I had rather be known as a farm woman than by any other name.” When Laurie Aaron Hird stumbled onto a collection of letters from 1920s farm women, she was charmed. All the letters answered a question posed by The Farmer’s Wife magazine: “Would you have your daughter marry a farmer?” The letters—all clear-eyed, heartfelt, valuing both the independence and joy of farm life— answered the question with a yes, and inspired a legacy of sampler quilts and quilt books.

Laurie Aaron Hird was no stranger to both the hard work and the joys of living a family-centered life in the country. She and her husband live in rural Wisconsin, where they raised 11 children, she says “on a 6½ acre farmette complete with a big, old farmhouse, a little ‘used-to- be’ farmhand house, woods, pasture, and gardens.”

Laurie Aaron Hird

Laurie Aaron Hird

One spring, Laurie developed a foot injury that forced her to spend far more time idle than she would like. “I prayed that the Lord would give me something to do while I sat in my chair pouting.” An idea blossomed when she found a copy of Rosemary Young’s The Civil War Diary Quilt. It brought to mind those wonderful letters she’d found years before.

Laurie begins the Famer’s Wife Sampler Quilt

“I began by entirely hand-piecing my quilts,” says Laurie. “I have improved my machine piecing skills in the past few years, but for accuracy, I still prefer sewing by hand.” Hand piecing also allowed her to sit in the living room with her family, and sew in the evenings. This was her only time to work on the quilt, as seven children still lived at home, five of whom she was homeschooling.

One of Laurie’s favorite quilt blocks is called Linoleum. “It speaks to the hopes and dreams of farm wives,” she says. “We take simple floor coverings for granted, but for the women who had only rough, hard-to-clean boards on their kitchen floors, linoleum had to be a wonderful invention.”

“The Bible Sampler Quilt” • 84½" x 108½" • 2016 • Quilted by Peg Ries

“The Bible Sampler Quilt” • 84½” x 108½” • 2016 • Quilted by Peg Ries

When The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt was published in 2009, it became a stunning best seller.

The quilt itself is breathtaking, and the sampler aspect appeals to both experienced and beginner quilters. “I believe that there is no better way to learn quilting than by making a sampler quilt,” says Laurie. But the allure of this quilt is more than that. The voices in those letters ring so clearly, that you feel as if you know the women writing them. Certain currents run through the letters that resonate today: true partnership with their husbands, the ambiguous affects of new technology and social changes, a desire for joy and beauty, and love of family, the natural world, and God.

 

“The Farmer’s Wife Pony Club Sampler Quilt” • 2011 • Quilted by Nell Coons | Photo courtesy of Laurie Aaron Hird

“The Farmer’s Wife Pony Club Sampler Quilt” • 2011 • Quilted by Nell Coons | Photo courtesy of Laurie Aaron Hird

 

Popularity grows

Laurie didn’t expect so many similarities. “One woman mentions spending so much time with her new radio that she is becoming unaware of the happenings in her neighborhood. Nowadays, many of us could just substitute ‘internet’ for ‘radio,’ and know exactly what she means!”

Detail of “The Farmer’s Wife Pony Club Sampler Quilt"

Detail of “The Farmer’s Wife Pony Club Sampler Quilt”

Preserving the name of the block is important to Laurie, as is the traditional template-friendly, because it helps us remember. “The theme of my books is remembrance—remembering both old and nearly forgotten quilt patterns, and old and nearly forgotten letters.”

Read the full Trunk Show article in Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting, and get more inspiration from Laurie Aaron Hird by checking out her other quilt books: The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt and The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt Coloring eBook: Color 70 Classic Quilt Designs from Your Favorite Sampler Collection.

Happy quilting!
Vanessa

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