Enjoy a guest post today all about quilting from Allyson! ~ M
As winter arrives and the cold settles in, one more arrival speaks to the rapidly approaching holidays: the craft bucket. Out comes the big blue bucket of quilting materials, threads, cutters, yarn and knitting needles, and many other goodies. While our family works on crafts year-round, as winter rolls in we spend almost every evening enjoying some craft or another over a cup of hot tea.
One of the great things about crafts is that you can involve your children in them! Home-made and hand-made items are great as holiday gifts, and I’ve yet to find a grandmother who doesn’t melt over the (somewhat sloppy looking) gift of their grandchild’s first pillow or 9-square quilt patch. Crafts can give so much more, though!
For the home-schooling parent (or the after-schooler, like myself), quilting, sewing and cross stitch become lessons in art, color selection, design, following directions, and most importantly (to me), math. Of course you don’t have to tell the little ones that; let them enjoy it as the simple craft it is.
Quilting is a great teacher for children. It encourages them to learn complementary colors, practical mathematics, and a lot of hand-eye coordination. Sewing in general helps the development of hand-eye coordination, small item manipulation, and is a gentle introduction to what sharp things can do to your fingers if you’re not careful. Cross stitch, too, works on all those things as well as detailed following of instructions and learning about maps and keys.
I like to read parts of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series to my children before we work on quilting, so that they understand a bit of the history of what they’re doing. They also get a deeper understanding of how pervasive sewing used to be, as Laura complains to her sister about her 9-square patch. It links the present to the past in a way that even very young ones can touch and feel.
Quilting is a simple craft that any adult can do, and most children can also with a bit of help from mom or dad. When I work with our two, who are seven year old twins, I cut out the squares for them because we have a rotary cutter that is very sharp and prone to biting people who aren’t paying full attention. I let them pick out two fabrics that they like, and we cut out nine squares – five of one color and four of another. I tend to keep our squares about 4 inches square because they’re big enough for smaller hands to handle, and small enough that you end up with a patch that has many possible uses.
Iron the squares so they are very flat, then sort them into piles. Each pile should be one row of the quilt top. For instance, if you are making a yellow and blue quilt, then you’d make a pile of the pieces for the first row: yellow, blue and yellow. Then you make a second pile that will be blue, yellow and blue. The third pile will be a repeat of the first.
Pick a pile to start with and place the right sides of two squares together. Pin them so they are very straight. Now sew those two pieces together with a sewing machine or by hand. Children should sew by hand, but teens and tweens might try the sewing machine if you have one. When the first two pieces are together, add the third (so that you’re making a strip of yellow, blue, yellow, for example) and stitch that in place.
You should end up with a single row of three squares. Repeat this process for the next two rows.
Lay out your three rows of squares, and then iron them. You want to iron the seams on the back so they lay to one side or the other. I generally iron mine out from the middle. Use the steam setting on your iron to make certain the seams are as flat as possible.
Pin together two of your rows so the contrasting colors form a checkerboard effect. Sew these together, again by hand or machine. Add the third row and pin, then sew that into place. You should end up with a nine square piece. Iron it as you did with the other seams, so that it lays out flat.
Your nine square patch is now done! It can be incorporated into a larger quilt, made into a blanket for a doll or stuffed animal, or even turned into a pillow. Don’t worry about the little imperfections. They are what make your gift unique. If you take a look at very old quilts from the pioneer days, you’ll find all sorts of puckers and pulls, and those quilts are loved and cherished.
Cross stitch is another fun project that can occupy children and produce some very personal gifts. There are beginner kits that come with the pattern stamped onto a bit of fabric, for those who are brand new to cross stitching. There are also hundreds of simple, small projects to be found online and in stores like Michael’s and Joann’s Fabrics that include all the threads, fabric, and even a needle to go along with them. The average price is $3.00 for the small kits, and $4.00 for the slightly larger ones.
The concept behind cross stitch is very simple. On a piece of aida cloth, which has regular holes in it at various sizes, you make tiny x’s to create a pattern. Some patterns require a variety of different colored threads, and others are all one color. Some are simple and others more complex. There’s something for everyone, including some large holed plastic versions for small children to practice on with plastic needles and yarn.
There are designs for everyone. The two beginner kits I picked up for our daughter are of a dolphin swimming, and a kitty cat with a flower. She’s worked diligently on these projects for a week now, putting a half hour or more per day into them. I’m currently making my way through a single color design that’s a heart full of reindeer and snowflakes, which will become a present for a family member.
None of these projects need to cost much at all. Cross stitch threads run about $0.35 per skein, and you can often find boxed deals that have several colors in them. Thread for quilting costs between $3.00 and $6.00 per spool, depending on the size, color and quality you choose. Fabrics can be expensive if you buy new, but there’s no requirement to go out and buy anything. Recycle old blankets or tee-shirts into quilt pieces. Older curtains can also be cut up, or sheets and pillow cases that have become worn in places. If you don’t have anything at home, consider visiting the Salvation Army store nearest you, or any other second-hand store or church tag sale, where you can pick up sheets and old clothing for cheap. The best part about it, is that your designs are limited only by your imagination!
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Allyson is an Interfaith Minister, author, and mother to her family. She lives on an acre or so of land in southern NH, and is in the process of bringing her homestead to life. You can follow her homesteading adventures at: Our Freehold.