To picture the setting in Gathering Blue, one might imagine a melding of twentieth-century American suburbia with seventeenth-century Native American wattle-and-daub construction (see link). Since the story is a post-apocalyptic tale, its setting is in a village that has been rebuilt after a "Ruin" that has left only one building from before the cataclysm standing. That building is a large brick church with stained-glass windows and a tower bell. In the area that would formerly have been built up with suburban homes, the land was cleared, and in the clearing people built "cotts" with easily obtained materials, such as tree branches and mud. These were built within easy walking distance of the Edifice (church). Rather than manicured lawns, small garden patches accompanied each cott. An open-air marketplace allowed villagers to trade with each other informally.
Beyond this area, considered the village, were several other areas that were also part of the larger community. A river ran close by the cotts, and people went there daily for water, clothes washing, and bathing. On the outskirts of the village was a poorer part of the town where the huts were closer together. Across the stream from that area was the Fen, a place of squalor equivalent to a modern-day slum. The cotts there were in disrepair, and the residents did not attend to the cleanliness of their homes or bodies to the same degree as in the main village. The river there was filthy, probably flowing with human waste and refuse.
A thick forest abutted the village, and citizens seldom went there, except when the men went on hunts for meat. Legends of beasts kept most residents within the confines of the village or Fen, but Annabella lived by herself in the forest, and perhaps others did, as well, although the story doesn't mention them. At a fair walking distance from the village was the Field of Leaving, a vacant, treeless plain where the community left their dead.
Author Lois Lowry imagined a post-apocalyptic society that returned to the lifestyle of the Native Americans while retaining a bit of architecture and technology from the modern era.