Teaching Quilting History to Kids

on February 4 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips, Sewing With Kids | by | with 115 Comments

I usually don’t blog about myself or my experiences. I’m as shy online as I am in real life, so I sometimes break a sweat when I have to reveal. On rare occasions, however, I do like to go on about things I find important. Despite my current career of luxury in which I putz around on the internet and buy fabric by the bolt, I still consider myself an educator at heart and learning and teaching are a couple of things that I like to talk about. Quilts are another. So today I’ll tell you a story to hopefully inspire a few of you to think about quilting in new ways and incorporate the art of the quilt into your family life.

Sewing a quilt. Gees Bend, Alabama--Library of Congress CollectionIn 1994 I was a newly-certified teacher of United States History in an 8th grade classroom. I was young, idealistic and determined to make waves. I scoffed at the US history textbooks provided by the school district (the “rich, white men version of history” was my opinion at the time) leaving them on my shelves, untouched, for the entire school year. Instead I came armed with my tattered copy of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and a classroom set of duplicates of primary documents from the Library of Congress and various historical societies. I was pleased with most of my curriculum, but I still struggled with ways to incorporate the voices and experiences of women with any consistency. One day, in a small meeting room in Salem, Oregon, I found a very unlikely muse—Eleanor Burns.

If you’re new to sewing, you might not know Eleanor Burns. She has some quilting shows on PBS and she’s written dozens of books. She has been one of the driving forces behind the quilting revival movement of the past few decades. She is best known for her strip-piecing techniques that could help you make a “Quilt in a Day.” In 1994 I was definitely not into Eleanor Burns. She was of my mom’s generation, and the sewing and quilting industries were doing nothing at the time to encourage younger sewists. I did a little sewing and I was developing an interest in quilts, but it was not a passion, and not something I did with my friends. It simply wasn’t very cool (and at the time, to be honest, I still cared about cool.)

Grandmother from Oklahoma with grandson, working on quilt. California, Kern County--Library of Congress CollectionWell, imagine my excitement (!) when my stepmother bought us tickets to see Eleanor Burns Live. No kidding, it was a traveling quilting history show to small towns. (Does anyone else remember this?) The room (in a library? a community center?) was full of older (than me) women in folding chairs. Up on the stage was a huge stack of vintage quilts, laid out flat, over 3 feet high. I was itching to get out of there, but I did want to get a look at those quilts…

Cue the Stars and Stripes Forever and enter Eleanor with 2 assistants. For the next hour or so, the helpers would hold up one of the quilts (which were arranged in chronological order), and Eleanor would place the quilt in historical context. She talked about the pattern, the fabric, where the quilt was made, what was going on in the country at the time, what the life of the woman who made it was probably like and so on. Eleanor was as goofy as ever, and the music and corresponding hats were a bit over the top, but the show was fantastic. We were laughing, crying, and just in awe. Above all else, I was inspired.

Fannie Lee Teals with her red, white, and blue American Revolution Bicentennial quilt--Library of Congress CollectionI went back to my school on Monday and began planning. I worked quilts into my curriculum as much as possible. The math teacher got involved and he used quilt blocks to study geometry and tessellations. I enlisted the help of the English teacher, who used historical quilts as writing prompts. I wrote to fabric manufacturers and got them to send me boxes of fabric remnants for free. We borrowed sewing machines and made quilt blocks. It was good, rewarding teaching and I believe it made history more real to the kids. Here are just some of the reasons I loved using quilts as a teaching tool:

1. Quilting is an art form in which women have always taken great pride. It is beauty, patience, skill and love in a utilitarian object. 
2.  Quilts are representative of home economy and recycling. Many quilts were pieced with bits of old clothing, feed sacks, flour sacks and other linens.
3. Quilts make wonderful writing or storytelling prompts. You can ask questions like, “Who do you think made this quilt?” “How old was she?” “Who did she make it for?” “How did it end up here?”
4. Quilting (especially piecing) requires good math skills.
5. Quilt patterns can often be placed in a geographical context. (Chisholm Trail, Rocky Mountain Puzzle, Ohio Star, Road to California, Sawtooth Star, etc.)
6. Quilts are multi-cultural and multi-denominational. The styles and significance of quilts often vary from group to group. (Consider the role that quilting still plays in the lives of the people of Gees Bend and Amish communities.)
7. Stories about quilts can help children (and adults) relate to and develop empathy for people of the past. (For example, it was very common for travelers who died on the Oregon Trail to be “buried in her quilts.” Lists of provisions for pioneers in wagon trains often included 5 quilts per person. Imagine what it was like for a mother preparing for that trip to get all of those quilts ready, knowing that they might have to be put to use in such a way.)
8. A quilt was often a collaborative work by a community of women (think quilting bees and friendship quilts.) They are symbolic of a more communal way of life that is becoming unknown to modern generations.
9. Quilts are beautiful and wonderful to look at.
10. Kids relate to blankies.

A quilting party in an Alvin, Wisconsin, home--Library of Congress CollectionNow I’ve gone on enough. Whether you teach for a living, homeschool, or you’re just into learning with the kids in your life, I hope you’ll consider exposing children to quilting. Teach them the actual sewing part, without a doubt, but also the history. Take the kids with you to the next quilt exhibit that comes to your area. Visit your local historical society, which most likely has a collection of quilts from your state. Get books from the library and check out the scores of resources that exist online. And by all means, if Eleanor Burns comes to your town, you simply must take the whole family!

If you’re interested, here are just a few online resources to get you started.

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115 Responses to Teaching Quilting History to Kids

  1. happy zombie says:

    I’d type you something about how moved I was reading this, and how you have surpassed rock star status… but it’s hard to see what I’m doing through my tears. Remember me telling you about Eleanor and Terry Atkinson being a part of my “quilt life”? I’ve just added your name to that list.

    You are a blessing in my life, Kristin! You are a blessing in everyones life!

  2. Somer says:

    I just wanted you to know that I am once again referring to this post, as I have many times since I first read it. I teach art as a volunteer at my kids school and this post has been invaluable in helping me teach the kids about quilting as an art form. When I was in school no one talked about anything beyond fine art. No one ever told me I could be an artist even if I wasn’t a fine artist. When my daughter was in the hospital I developed a wonderful friendship with a woman who is Amish, one of the things we had in common was sewing. It has been so wonderful to have these references here to help me as I teach the kids of the wonderful heritage and resourcefulness of women throughout history who are true artists.

  3. Sherry says:

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve been quilting for about 6 yrs now & my 15 year-old daughter is a history buff but is definately NOT into quilting. I’m looking forward to sharing this with her!

  4. Angela says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I love the way you incorporated quilts into your teaching — and yep, I bet it made the history so much more alive to the kids. And that they actually remember it too. As for the Howard Zinn book — um, I think it should be given with a warning to all pre-service teachers. Yep, some good stuff in there . Yep, most history textbooks have some truly awful history in them. Nope, you shouldn’t be allowed to use the Zinn book as a manafesto :0) (says the woman who got her history/social studies certification a year and 1/2 ago).

  5. Yvonne says:

    Waht a charming story and a wonderful way to teach so may subjects and be rewared by a quilt at the finish of the project.

  6. Tara says:

    This is such a great post! I’m student teaching in 8th grade social studies and I’ve been wondering how to incorporate my interests and do some black history that will interest the kids and be innovative. Now I’m thinking I may do a lesson or two on Gees Bend.

  7. Andrea says:

    As a textiles teacher I have always taught the background of patchwork, quilting, applique etc and this brilliant post is a gem. I shall certainly look at the sites that you have given. The history is important as we should now where ‘things’ have come from and developed.

  8. Cheyenne says:

    That is an amazing article. Thank you so much

  9. Emily says:

    Wonderful! I am going to learn more about the history of quilts myself and make sure to teach my children about them too. Thanks for the great article and peek into your life! Em

  10. erin says:

    Thank you for passing along this info

  11. Melissa says:

    I’m studying to me an art teacher. I save all my scrap fabrics so I can introduced fabric, sewing, and quilting into my art projects

  12. Lauri says:

    What a great, informative post! How wonderful it would be if all teachers could take that enthusiasm for a subject and use something (whether it be a quilt or whatever) as a hands-on project for the students…I think they would actually learn and retain a lot more!

    Starting this coming Saturday, I will be teaching my first sewing class for kids…we will be making a pillow in the first class, and a tote bag in the second. I hope to do some quilting and embroidery in the near future, also. I think I’ll dig around now and find ways to throw some history in there, sneaking it in, hoping it will sink into their brains a little bit.

  13. ERIN D says:

    Absolutely wonderful! Our kids and young people really do love being creative.
    Just give them the chance. Open the doors. They are ready to listen.
    I’ve helped 1st graders piece a square – boys and girls. They loved it.
    We’ve made quilts with all grades in our school for fundraisers. They were
    beutiful. Junior high students made a quilt, one girl even glued hers together
    because she didn’t know how to sew. Now I’m teaching a high school girl.
    The kids love it. I love how you open the door and just expose the kids to it.
    Very very inspiring!

  14. Kathy says:

    It was great to hear your voice and read such an inspiring post! What a fantastic curriculum you had the opportunity to promote, an incredible gift to the children.

  15. Deborah Fair says:

    I used to teach classes in hand quiltmaking several years ago and I always included women’s history as I taught the craft of quiltmaking. So many people, young and old, have no idea of the amazing history tied, or stitched, up in quilts. Sometimes quilts are the only way we have of knowing anything about the history of women. Thank you for your teaching and your inspiration. It’s great to teach the children this history, but I think it’s also important to teach the adults.

  16. Sam VanDerPuy says:

    Thank you so much for this inspiration. I am a fellow teacher, and I also teach art to kids in an after-school program. I’ve taught basic sewing skills, but always struggled with how to tackle quilting. Lack of sewing machines is a big hurdle. This has given me new inspiration and gusto to somehow get it in there. Mostly b/c I want the next generation to “rediscover” this amazing art, just as our generation has!

  17. Cocoa says:

    How inspiring! My daughter’s love to sew and have each sewn their own quilts. We have also used family quilts we have inherited to teach them about their family history.

  18. Andrea Elizabeth Johnson says:

    Awesome article, thank you so much – and for the resources too.

  19. Linda says:

    What an amazing post. I imagine if anyone visited who was not a quilter or a sewer, then I’m sure they would have left inspired to try their hand at it. You took us into your classroom with you as you described your lesson plan. Thank you.

  20. geek+nerd says:

    Great post – you convinced me that quilts are a wonderful teaching tool!

  21. Jane says:

    I have really enjoyed todays post. And I cam appreciate the inspiration of Elanor Burns. I have seen her live several times, and I am never disappointed.

  22. Maxine says:

    What a lovely, lovely post. I really enjoyed reading it and now I’m going to go off and find out all I can about quilting history, you’ve really got me interested!

  23. Crystal says:

    Fantastic post!

  24. Shannon says:

    Wonderful article! Very inspirational! Thank you so much for sharing.

  25. Christine says:

    What a wonderful post. Thank you.

  26. Myra says:

    Wonderful post; I am a quilter, but never read Eleanor Burns yet. I will have to get her book. I have a 6 yo daughter that loves watching me sew/quilt, even though she is a tomboy. I just got a new machine & saved the old one for her in a couple of years.

  27. I was delighted with your post. I think this is the magic of traditional handcrafts in general. It´s a real expression of social groups’s culture and history values. Thanks for the post 🙂

  28. Thanks for sharing this inspiration post. Although I sew, I’ve never made a quilt. That is definitely going to change. Still, the only thing that scares me is #4 – Good at Math…LOL. But that’s what they make a calculator for, right?

    With friendship,

  29. Liz says:

    What a fantastic inspiring post. It is good to be reminded that quilt are about so much more than sewing.

  30. Nada says:

    I’ve just forwarded this to a homeschooling collective I hope to join 🙂 thanks for the inspiration!

  31. Helen says:

    Having children inspired me to get into quilting. They are used to me sitting at my machine, hand sewing binding down or cutting out fabric. But the questions and looks I get from their friends that come to play who haven’t even seen a sewing machine in action! Lovely post written from the heart.

  32. Camille says:

    Thank you for sharing this Kristin – I’m inspired to supplement my desire to learn the skilsl with the history behind this art form.

  33. Jody says:

    Wonderful! My mother-in-law teaches special needs kids and every year she has classes that participate in a quilt square contest and it’s a great experience for them, as it would be for any children.

  34. carmell says:

    i’m gonna have to let my sister read this. shes a teacher. great post

  35. Mika says:

    That bicentennial quilt is so beautiful. I can only imagine all the work that went into piecing it. I’ll bet it was pieced (not paper pieced).

  36. Missy says:

    Your story touched my heart.Missy

  37. Kristin says:

    Quilting does require good math skills. I have already learned this lesson the hard way.
    I am fascinated with quilt history, it is one og the biggest reason I am getting started.

  38. Tia says:

    Wonderful post. Thank you so much for the resources. I am putting a class together here in town for 10 year olds, they will eat the knowledge up!

  39. Georgiann says:

    Kristin, that’s a wonderful story. I do love Eleanor Burns; her passion and enthusiasm always make me smile. Georgia Bonesteel is another PBS jewel who helped to re-ignite passion for quilting.
    Making and studying quilts allow us all to be a part of the beautiful history of quilts. Thanks for reminding us of that.

  40. Jess says:

    I am working on my very first quilt, this post was so inspiring! Its nice to really get to know a little bit about a person who’s words I read on a regular basis. Written words in emails dont often convey what we are really thinking or feeling since there is no emotion. Thank you for sharing yourself with us!

  41. Kieny says:

    What a great post! Loved reading it, thanks for sharing it.

  42. Heather says:

    Thank you so much for this post!

  43. kim says:

    Great post!!! DD had a teacher that when they got to Little House on the Prarie in the English class they made quilts. Small doll quilts about 21″ square. What fun!! Boys and girls making templates and sewing by hand. I love how she taught the children to iron. One hand behind their back, No burnt fingers. The teacher retired and DD still has her quilt 10 years later.

  44. LadySnow says:

    I agree that quilting is an american art form. It is so wonderful. 😀

  45. Lisa K says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I love the idea of showcasing the importance of the work completed by women. I work in a very male dominated area and it grounds me to read articles like this one. I love the idea of teaching surrounding the quilt.

  46. Terri says:

    I wrote a final paper for a graduate class last summer on domesticity in literature, specifically, in Susan Glaspell’s A Jury of Her Peers and Alice Walker’s Everyday Use. I enjoyed reading your post, which elaborated on the history and education of sewing and quilting in many more subjects. Thank you for the info and for being an inspiring teacher!

  47. Stephanie says:

    I could not agree more, Kristin! I have very strong feelings about those same points. Quilting is so “American”. It is a part of all of our pasts. I hope this information continues to be passed down to young women for many, many generations to come. Already my 21-month old daughter refers to my “sewings” and takes a special interest to fabric!! 🙂

  48. Dawn says:

    What an awesome post! I teach high school social studies (both American and Global) and the idea of using quilts as a teaching tool is very exciting. I don’t have as much time for projects because of state exams but I am thinking now about an extra credit assignment or after school activity. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  49. Debora says:

    thanks! how inspiring!

  50. Kristin says:

    Thanks for sharing your post. I work in education with special needs kids. I have often thought it would be fun to do a quilting unit with them and complete a quilt as a class. Thanks for the inspiration.

  51. Concha says:

    what a great post! I loved reading about your discoveries and teaching methods as well as quilts!

  52. Carol says:

    I’ve seen Eleanor Burns and she IS a hoot! She’s also a true inspiration.

  53. punchanella says:

    that is a very fresh and inventive way to talk about a history that is largely ignored. aside from the ‘suffragettes’ there is little i remember about the history of women in class, and i think this is a wonderful way to talk about it.

    i wish that i was in your class, although i don’t think i would have made the age cut. i hope my CHILDREN make it to a class just like yours. fancy moving to canada so they can have you to teach history?

    well done. 🙂

  54. Anna says:

    Kirsten, what a shame that you are lost to the school system. Teachers like you who think out of the box and are creative in their teaching approaches are few are far between. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope that many young minds were inspired.

  55. janet says:

    Innovative and resourceful. I love the 10 ways to use quilts as a teaching tool. Especially poignant is reason #7. I majored in history in college, and I really appreciated reading this post. Thank you.

  56. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for this informative post. Passing on ideas and experiences to children is so important. Love those photographs, too.

  57. Jane says:

    It’s amazing what our ‘foremothers’ did with fabric… made beautiful quilts without fancy machines or equipment or big name quilt teachers! They learned from each other and did the best they could with what they had. I have really enjoyed the internet for that same reason… it’s mostly quilters learning and sharing with other quilters. You can learn so much! I’m looking forward to seeing the Gee’s Bend quilt exhibit when it comes to my area and will make sure to bring my kids with me… thanks for reminding me to ‘pass it on’!

  58. Emily says:

    I’m going to cry! You are so awesome. Thanks for such an inspiration.

  59. Anna says:

    We home schooled about Quilts when the Quilts of Gees Bend came to our city’s art museum…… ohhhh we had so much fun with it! There is so much that can be done with quilts…. We did quilting math, and even my youngest who is three did some “quilt piecing” using paper shapes and glue!
    We also read “The Quiltmaker’s Gift”, and visited a local church quilting group that quilts for charities….
    Thanks for this beautiful post. : )

  60. Cassie Ogle says:

    This is such a wonderful post. There is a museum near where I live that currently has a beautiful display of quilts made by local women from the late 1800’s to mid century 1900’s. There are nearly 100 quilts on display along with a little history on each one. I want so badly to take my niece to see them, if she is interested that is. Also, I’ve just started a quilting class and hope to pass down what I’ve learned to my two nieces.

  61. Beth says:

    With the 100th day of school coming up I thought I would tell our little tradition. We put together a 100 patch quilt for the teacher. Just a small quilt to put up on the wall.

  62. Char says:

    Thank you for sharing about yourself and an inspiring part of our historical fabric. I wonder why you are not teaching any more. I was a teacher for five years, and then my son was born. I wonder if I will go back to teaching myself… your story reminds me of why I do love the teaching profession. Thanks again!

  63. Rachel Zerkel says:

    Three cheers for history education! Hip hip HOORAY!

    I feel like I have found kindred spirits here….thank you.

  64. Carolyn says:

    Thanks for sharing……..Your story is wonderful……I’m sure you have inspired many mothers, grandmothers and teachers.
    Your story reminded me that just like today, in years past quilts where used as gifts for “coming of age” parties, engagements, weddings, and births as well as friendship/signature quilts as tangiable gifts of love and support during trying times.

  65. Julia D says:

    I LOVE the idea of using quilt history to teach american history!! And math! brilliant!!

  66. dangermom says:

    Great piece, thank you! I love quilting history and thinking about all those women who didn’t have leisure to write, but who made beautiful things with what they had for the people they loved.

  67. Jocelyn says:

    Thank you for the lovely post.I am just learning about quilting and am so excited to get my daughters involved.We homeschool and are always looking fo History that is fun and what a great hands on experience.Can’t wait to check out some of the links. BTW Sarah,I would love to see your documentary.

  68. Erin S. says:

    Fabulous post! Thanks so much for sharing this.
    My mother and her friends all took the Quilt in a Day class from Eleanor Burns at the Carlsbad Rec. Center back in the day. You’ve brought back memories in addition to telling a great story.

  69. Sarah says:

    I thought this might be of interest. If anyone is in the great lakes area, Michigan State University (Lansing, MI) has a Museum section devoted to quilting. The Great Lakes Quilting Center. Here is the website for more information:


    I have a relative with quilts in their collection. I have yet to be able to visit in person, but hope to very soon!

    : )

  70. What a wonderful post! So inspirational about incorporating quilting into the classroom and “across the curriculum.” My daughter and I’ve been involved with some quilting projects in school classrooms and had a fantastic time. Just today, a local librarian talked to me about developing a quilting program for them. Thanks for sharing.
    I write the Quilting and Patchwork blog (www.quiltingandpatchwork.com) and will suggest that my readers visit you this month.

  71. Claudia~L says:

    What a wonderful post.

  72. Deb says:

    LOVED this post!! Eleanor Burns’ Quilt in a Day was my first exposure to quilting. Wow, I’d love to see the traveling quilt show she does. Thank you for writing.

  73. Shelly says:

    I have a poster of civil war quilts that were used as communications on the underground railroad. Really quite facinating. I think even more admirable that it was done all by hand!

  74. Barbara says:

    Thank you for the beautiful article and also the resource links. You have inspired me to include this in our homeschool studies!

  75. Sarah says:

    Quilting is a wonderful thing to explore in the classroom! I have taught Quilting history, the social relationships surrounding quilting and tied in a math component as well.
    I have done much research on the ties among women’s relationships in the west as they relate through quilts and on the wonderful community of Gee’s Bend in Alabama.
    I researched and created a short documentary style film on the community and quilts of Gee’s Bend for Elementary age children. I am sure I have the file somewhere if anyone is interested. I was inspired to make the piece to show to the school before we were visited my the quilters themselves!
    I am so glad you shared your thoughts and ideas! I am no longer a teacher but am still in love with this topic and the women who came together to create warmth and love for their communities.

  76. Kristi Van Os says:

    Wow – thanks Kristin for the wonderful post.

  77. Joy says:

    In the face and hands of Fannie Lee Teal I see my grandmother.
    She was a quilter of necessity in the 20’s-40’s in rural North Carolina.
    She had beautiful quilts to keep her family warm and the machine
    she used to piece things was exactly like the one in the photo from
    Alabama. I wish I was fortunate enough to have some of her quilts
    but they seemed to “disappear” soon after her death.
    I think they may have gone home with an aunt who was, sadly, only interested
    in the dollar value of the quilts.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  78. Amy says:

    I agree with the comments above — thanks for a terrific post. I hope to do something like this with my own children.

  79. Kathy says:

    Thank you for this very interesting and heartfelt post. How wonderful it must have been to be in your classroom. I’ve been teaching my children to sew and will share this with them.

  80. Amy says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. It’s amazing how an “old-fashioned women’s task” can teach children about math and history and so much more!

  81. Regina says:

    Thank you for sharing this! We have a teacher in our continuing education program who has just started a quilt class for kids this term. I will pass this along to her.

  82. Michele says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful post!

  83. Water Works says:

    My mom’s a quilter and I was raised hearing the stories behind the patterns, colors, and fabric choices. While I have not begun quilting, I am an avid sewer (I hesitate to say seamstress) who can really appreciate the mediums available to me.

  84. Carrie says:

    What a wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing. My little ones aren’t quite big enough to get into quilting yet, but this gives me some great information to keep in mind as they get older.

  85. Rose L says:


    Thanks for a wonderful post – you must have been a terrific teacher while you were in the classroom. The resources look great – I’m looking forward to trying out a geometry lesson using quilts. 🙂

  86. alison says:

    Wow! Thank you for that post. It must have been tricky to get get quilting to fit with the curriculum. I’m sure that you inspired many children.

  87. Teddi says:

    Thank you so much for giving of yourself and your knowledge! I have felt that urge to teach my children but couldn’t have said it so eloquently! We have tied quilts together but think we’re ready for the next step! My daughter wants to move from her mini machine to my big machine – it’s time and my son can learn as well. What a great idea to take them to a quilt show. Thank you again!

  88. Thank you for writing your article! I needed that nudge — our 10yo daughter and I are learning quilting from an older lady at our church this week, but I hadn’t really thought of adding the history bit to her lessons (homeschooled). Gee’s Bend’s quilts are coming to our town in a week. We’ll have to plan on attending!

  89. Kim Anderson says:

    Many years ago there was a traveling exhibit at our county museum that displayed all of the quilts one woman had made over her lifetime. From her first quilt at 12 to quilts she lovingly stitched for grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It was amazing. It inspired a love of quilting in me that has continued to this day. I also love Eleanor Burns. She got me started quilting with her log cabin quilt-in-a-day book.

    Thanks for a lovely post and a wonderful web-site!

  90. Amber says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this..It’s nice to know I can share my love of quilting with my children and incorporate some history in too!

  91. Gina says:

    Thanks for this! Great information/history!

  92. Angela says:

    Fascinating!! I will definitely do some more research on this and figure out how to incorporate this into my daughters’ homeschooling! Thank you SO much for sharing with us–you really should do it more often! 😀

  93. Michelle says:

    A total treasure of a post, Kristin. Thanks so much for sharing.

  94. trishia says:

    outstanding post! This may be my favorite post here. I think you are striking a cord with so many women. Many of us are seeing the effects of our fast world: our kids know every in and out of their video game, but don’t know the ins and outs of the local park, don’t know the neighbors names. We are feeding them high fructose corn syrup by the bushel, and many children today would be surprised to learn that potatoes come from out of the ground… I think that along with the revival of quilting and crafting, we as a society are calling for a slower life, a life of family and friends, a life enriched by real foods and human interaction.

    Did anyone else notice the look on Fannie Lee Teals’ face in her photograph above (with her quilt)? Look at that joy, that pride! beautiful.

  95. That was an awesome post!! I have 2 little ones that love to get into the process as much as they can, and I will defintly try to include some of what you have written about. There is soo much to learn from the quilts of the past. Thanks for sharing!

  96. daria says:

    Terrific links, thanks so much for sharing!

  97. Ritz says:

    thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I don’t have kids yet but when I do I will definitely teach them about quilts. Until then, I will enjoy learning about quilts for my own growth.

  98. Alisa says:

    Thank you for the great post! Now those of us can be reassured once again that we are not crazy, just a part of a rich history of piecing and quilting.

  99. renee says:

    great post! this is why i have been drawn to learn sewing, embroidery, quilting and other “home” arts. To get back to women’s roots. Some friends say i’m so old fashioned that way but i think there is something so powerful in what these women were able to accomplish. I especially love quilts with feedsacks because of their history. My 2 year old has really shown enthusiasm for quilting. I’ve only done one but if i dare cover him with another he squeals – no no no, blanket mommy made. Warms my heart through and through.

  100. Lisa Clarke says:

    I’m glad you stepped out of your comfort zone a bit and shared that story – it is inspiring! Do you ever hear from any of those children? It would be interesting to know how they were effected by their exposure to quilts. I wish I had been a part of such a learning experience when I was younger!

  101. kirsten says:

    wow, excellent post, kristin! I love that you took this to another level.

  102. nikkapotamus says:

    I am an art teacher and ALWAYS work in a unit on quilting. Some years it’s just construction paper and other years, like this one, I actually have fabric enough for all my kids to make a quilt square. I am teaching 4th-8th how to make a very simple 4 square block. They are all hand sewing them with an old fashion needle and thread. All of their squares will be put together to make one big quilt by the end of February to show off as a school. The best part, is that I can’t get them to stop. They just want to keep making squares!
    Thank you so much for posting your experiences. I will add your resources to my lessons.

  103. Tex says:

    As a person who loves family history, a large part of what appeals to me about quilting is it’s history–who made it? where did the fabric come from? how did it get to me? This is a wonderful post about “doing” history and getting children involved–helping them think about history in a manageable way for themselves. What a great teacher.

  104. Lorajean says:

    That was a fantastic post! Thank you so much for sharing. I love it when an everyday item like a quilt offers so much to tell as a cultural/historical marker. It’s like knitted designs in N Europe or lace in Italy, block print in India and rug weavings from the East. We all did so much with our hands (and communities) before machines.

  105. Joanne says:

    To add to this curriculum, you may want to also talk a little about Faith Ringgold and the way she uses quilting for storytelling. Not only can you discuss quilts, but you can also teach about art, illustration, reading/english and black history.

  106. Katie says:

    I liked this write-up. I always tell my husband that I want a daughter since a lot of the old domestic traits are dying for example sewing, quilting and canning. I think it’s wonderful that you feel so strongly about teaching the next generation! That’s exactly what I shall do with my daughter (if I get one! lol).

  107. Emily says:

    Thank you for sharing all of this information. Its really neat how you and your fellow teachers incorporated so many elements from quilting into your lessons!

  108. Pamela says:

    Wow! You are my kind of teacher and history/quilting enthusiast! Thank you for sharing this and especially the links. Made my day! 🙂

  109. terri moore says:

    the photos are amazing…pure joy on fannie lee teals’ face…thanks for overcoming your shyness to share this with us!

  110. Jen says:

    GREAT post. This is one that I will be printing out and refering back to again and again.

  111. Jacquie says:

    I was just lamenting with a friend as we worked out this morning that so many young people never learn to sew or even think about making items by hand. (I had just shared a quilt that I am going to give to my nephew to celebrate their wedding.) I so appreciate that my mother, father, grandmother, great-grandmother etc not only shared their creations with me, but provided opportunities for me to appreciate the work of others, encouraged me to create with them and on my own, as well as helping me learn the skills I needed to try those things that interested me. I have tried to do the same for my own children. I need to do more in my community to encourage a new generation to know, appreciate and participate in not only sewing and quilting, but the experience of creating by hand.

  112. Deanna says:

    Thanks so much for your inspiring post. I really enjoyed reading it. Though my family never talked specifically about the history of quilts, they have always had a part in my family. One of the few things I wanted after my grandmother passed away was one of her quilts that I had always loved using when I slept at her house. My Mom has always quilted and and makes a lovely quilt for each child when they get married. I, myself, took a good couple of years to suffer through the process of making my first pieced quilt (it was filled with many frustrations for this perfectionist!) and I truly hope that it will be something that will be passed on in my family. How true it is that each quilt has its own story and heritage!

    Thanks again!

  113. Susan F. says:

    Thank you so much for this! As a teacher you knew how to make “history alive” for your students and I am sure they responded in a positive way. Working with the other teachers was an excellent way to make each day more interesting for these students, they were so blessed. I hope someone was able to continue your curriculum.

    One of the things that I have learned about quilting, is there is no right way to do it but there are so many creative ways to make a quilt!

  114. Chris Worthy says:

    What a lovely, thoughtful post. We will add this to our growing list of homeschool projects. Thank you for sharing your insight!

  115. What a fantastic post! Thank you for that – I really enjoyed reading it and feel inspired once again to find out more about quilt history for myself and my children! Lucy x

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