Blast from the Past: Using Quilts in Homeschooling

An Amish Pieced & Quilted Cotton Coverlet, Indiana or Ohio, Circa 1910
An Amish Pieced & Quilted Cotton Coverlet, Indiana or Ohio, Circa 1910

When I was in college, I bought an old sofa for my dorm room for $10. It was so ugly, it needed a covering, so I took fabric scraps left over from clothes I’d made and pieced a quilt to throw over it. After that, I was hooked on quilting.

At that time, quilting was mostly something you did with scraps. But it soon blossomed into a huge industry, with fabrics designed specifically for quilters and an explosion of shops to promote those fabrics. Since then, most quilts begin when the quilter purposely buys fabric to make a quilt. You can easily spend a few hundred dollars doing so.

But that’s the pricey way to make a quilt. Making a quilt from scraps is still an inexpensive way to have fun while making something useful. This is what our foremothers did during the Great Depression, when money was tight and re-using things was the wisest thing you could do.

For homeschoolers, learning about quilting is a way to study both history and math. The math part is best learned by doing: calculating the size of the blocks of your quilt and the most efficient way to cut each piece of fabric can challenge the math skills of adults, much less kids. Even if you use a pattern, there will be some calculations involved.

And who knew there were quilt math books for kids? Wish they’d been around when my kids were younger!

Studying the historical aspects of quilting can be a lot of fun. Quilting is an integral part of American history. The different patterns and fabrics used help researchers determine the age of an antique quilt, and quilt historians are almost like detectives as they research the background of a given quilt.

The patterns used to make quilts are a major clue to their histories. Long before there were quilt magazines, patterns were passed between quilters of a given time period. Here’s a link to many patterns popular in recent American history.

The fabrics used over time have very distinctive looks. Today, textile companies reproduce such fabrics for quilters who want to make new quilts that look historically accurate for a given time period. Looking at such fabrics give you an idea of what kind of fabrics people used for clothing in that time period. Here’s one site with a group of links for fabrics of different time periods.

The 1930s were particularly good years for quilts because the financial difficulties of the times forced people to be very creative with the materials on hand. As a result, many quilters created incredible quilts. The World’s Fair of 1933 included a quilt contest sponsored by Sears. It received thousands of entries. See some of the best of these quilts here (scroll to the very bottom of the page and click on thumbnails.

There was a resurgence of quilting in the mid-1970s as the U.S. Bicentennial approached. Bicentennial quilts became all the rage. Since then, quilting has remained quite popular.

One of the best ways to learn about history through quilts is to visit a museum that displays them. Many history museums do show a few quilts along with other artifacts, but to see a wide variety of them, you need to go to a quilt museum. Perhaps the best-known in the country is the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society in Paducah, Kentucky.

You can also “tour” quilt museums while online. Here’s a page of links to such museums. While there’s nothing like seeing a quilt in person, this is the next best thing to being there.

Ready to make a quilt with your kids as a homeschooling project? If you already know how to sew, you’ll find it to be quite easy. Quilts can be hand-sewn, machine-sewn, or made with a mix of both techniques.

There are great how-to-quilt books at your local library. You can also find a friend who can teach you or take a class at a local quilt shop. You can also learn from online tutorials. You’ll find many web pages with basic quilting information like this one. Also, here’s the first of a thirteen-part series by expertvillage on how to make a baby quilt as a first quilting project.

It’s fun to quilt with your children, and who knows? It could become a lifelong hobby for you and for them.

(Originally posted 2/9/09.)

Happy New Year!

OK, so I’m a little late. I’ve got a good reason for that: I’ve been busy!

I’ve been quilting, writing, and reading for pleasure most of the time. Yes, I do still cook and clean and spend time with my family, but now that I’m not homeschooling, I can embrace my freedom, and I do!

So if you’re tired after a long day of working with your children, and you still have all your other tasks waiting for you, please know that your day will come: lesson plans will be just a good memory, and you’ll be able to pursue your interests. There really is light at the end of the tunnel!

P.S. Guess what? My Stages of Homeschooling eBook series can now be read for free at Amazon.com! Learn more HERE.

Jelly Roll Race Quilt and Ripple Effect Table Runner

A while back, I emailed a friend a link to this video, saying “This looks like fun!” And the next time I saw her, she had already made the quilt! So of course I had to try it, and discovered that you really can make a quilt top in a little over an hour, and have fun doing so. Here’s my version post-quilting:

Another project I made was a Secret Santa gift for someone at church. This name of this table runner is “Ripple Effect,” and it comes from Gudrun Erla’s book, “Fast and Furious Family.” It was easy and fun to make, and now I want to make one for myself!

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Your Time Will Come

 If you’re a mom in the homeschool trenches, you may often wonder (when you get a moment to yourself) when you’ll ever have time to do the things you used to enjoy doing. I used to feel that way a lot.

Now my kids are grown and I have more time to myself. I can finally do things just for fun. Here are a few of my recent projects. I pieced the bed quilt and began hand-quilting it in the 1980s. Tried machine quilting some of it in the 1990s but burned out the pedal on my vintage sewing machine. Recently I bought a new machine intended for free-motion quilting and decided to turn the bed quilt into my practice piece. What fun!

I bought the smaller quilt as a kit at a quilt show last year. It was fun to make, too.

What do I like best about these quilts? That I was finally able to finish them! :)

 

Back from the Quilt Festival

My friend and I are back from our vacation. Many thanks to those who sent us best wishes! We had a great time.

We went to the Shipshewana Quilt Festival in Shipshewana, IN. The show itself was wonderful, with some of the most amazing quilts I’ve ever seen. Quilting has become a sophisticated art form.

There was also a display of World War II quilts in the Hudson auto museum; we enjoyed that, too.

We hit all the best shopping spots in Shipshewana, including Yoder’s Department Store. We also visited several small Amish shops in the outlying areas and came home with some nice fabric, including several pieces for a quilt I’m making for my first grandchild, due this fall.  :)

While in the area, we tracked down several quilt gardens, which were just beautiful despite the drought in the region. Here’s one in Elkhart, IN:

We also enjoyed the barn quilts on various buildings.

I spent a lot of money at the Amish bulk store, where I bought 25# of natural sugar (cane, not beet), several pounds of three varieties of popcorn for 60 cents a pound (my husband makes popcorn almost every night), and 5# of cocoa for $1.09 a pound, along with some other goodies that we will enjoy (for quite some time!)

But the very best part of our trip was the night we went to an Amish farm.

While there, we were served a yummy homemade dinner (salad, fried chicken, Salisbury steak, homemade bread, buttered noodles, stuffing, gravy, green beans and two kinds of homemade pie!) followed by a quilting bee.

What fun! There were nine of us quilter-tourists plus two Amish women who quilted with us. We chatted while we worked, which is how we learned that the Amish lady quilting next to us had ten children, the youngest of whom has Down syndrome. When we told her that both of our youngest sons have Down syndrome, she was clearly quite touched and it gave all three of us a lot to talk about. We had such a nice time that night.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the boys and their dads were doing just fine without us. I think we had the harder time adjusting to being away from them. We really missed them, plus it felt weird not to have to make meals for anyone; we just went out to eat whenever we got hungry. Between outings, we’d take a break in our room and comment on how quiet it was without our families around. And before we checked out of our hotel, we both scoured the room, looking under the beds and in the drawers out of habit from years of making sure our kids hadn’t left anything behind.

We returned home very tired, but refreshed just the same. If you get the chance, check out Shipshewana, IN. It’s a nice place to visit. And if you’d like more info on how you can quilt with the Amish, just let me know and I’ll send you the contact info.