Quilting with Children

Gail's experiences with teaching her children to quilt

Gail Winter writes:

I adopted three school-age sisters from Russia last spring. One end of the dining room table always has my sewing machine and a quilt in progress for the few spare minutes I can find. All three girls (almost 11, 9 !/2 and almost 8) have made the odd foundation pieced block with much direction from me. Having a line to sew on made it easy for them to practice on. These were small blocks off the internet though, and there interest only lasted long enough to make one block, back it, and stuff it as a little doll pillow.

Then the middle one, a classic middle child who has had the most difficulty in school, became adamant a few weeks ago about wanting to make a quilt for her doll. I had her choose half a dozen fabrics from my stash. We spent quite a while placing three or four different fabrics together in all kinds of combinations and then running to the other side of the room to look at them from a distance. She enjoyed the game and made her own choice of the three fabrics that looked best together to her (and she chose wisely). I showed her how to use the rotary cutter to cut 2" strips and held the ruler while she cut. Despite my close attention, she managed to cut herself once. Again, we tried all the different orders those three strips could be put in and she chose her favorite. Then I had to get the idea of the 1/4" seam across; once the proverbial lightbulb came on, she sewed the strips almost as accurately as an experienced sewer. It was just shy of 5" wide. Included here was the lesson on how to properly iron the seams. We made two sets of strips. Next Mom showed her how we were going to make squares by measuring just shy of 5"; I held, she cut...no fingers this time. Then how to lay the 16 squares in a rail fence/basket weave pattern. She sewed them all into 8 sets of 2, then 4 squares of 4, then 2 of 8 and finally, one whole top. By this time, all she needed from Mom was a check on which way to put them together and which side to sew. She wanted borders, so it was back to the stash to pull out several to try and judge from across the room. She sewed on the borders, and then the backing for the quick turn method. I was kind enough to baste on the batting for her, but made her close the opening after we turned it right side out. Then it was tied and done.

How long did this take? One week, about half an hour a night on school nights and then Friday night she begged me to stay up til the top was completed. She probably worked 3 good hours on it that night, most of it with minimal supervision from me. Saturday morning saw the work completed. It will be her entry in a fine arts fair at school.

I thought I was pretty smart including my subtle lessons in how to select fabrics to go together. But tonight it was her older sister's turn to start a doll quilt, and she saw no difference in how fabrics looked together.

Anyway, I don't have pictures developed yet (or the roll finished for that matter). Then I don't have a scanner, but I will try to send it along later. Obviously, this was a one on one project, but she has a good foundation of all the steps now. Actually, she is bugging me to let her do a full size quilt next as a birthday gift to her sister.

If you'd like to share your story on these pages, please email Heddi at qwc@thecraftstudio.com.

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