We started by discussing the Civil War. I showed them a quick Powerpoint I put together. We talked a lot about women's roles in the Civil War. Most women stayed home and kept things in order while the men were away fighting. Many women would meet together and quilt or sew to visit with one another.
Another possibility is that quilts were used as part of the underground railroad! It is rumored that log-cabin-type quilts with a black center hanging out on a clothes line signified that was a safe place for runaway slaves to stay. How cool is that? No one knows for sure if this is true, but I sure hope so! That is really neat. I read my class a book called "Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt." It goes right along with this idea.
The next thing we did was choose a quilting design to create on paper. I let students draw it out on graph paper first. Then, in small groups, use construction paper to create a large quilt to hang up. Students need to measure out the dimensions as well as make the quilt accurately to scale. This is great practice for when they actually use fabric.
Then, begin discussion of making a real quilt with fabric. Describe the steps involved. Decide as a group on the design that we will create. Each student can color and design it on graph paper to scale first. Discuss materials and what will be needed to create the quilt. If you do not know how to make a quilt, ask parents or teachers at your school for help. You would probably be surprised at the number of people who know how to quilt. Really all you need to be able to do is sew a straight line and cut with a rotary cutter!
Gather materials and show the students the safe and proper way to cut fabric. We used a rotary cutter. You could also use a stencil and scissors. Student can then help to cut and formulate the pieces. If they decide on a quilt that involves drawing on the blocks, now is the time to complete that. Each child in my class did a log-cabin block and then decorated a solid white block with a picture.
Then begin the sewing process. Students can help with pinning and trimming the strings. Sew blocks together to create strips. Iron all of the seams. Continue with sewing the strips together in order to complete the quilt top.Sandwich the backing, batting and quilt top. Tape to the floor to keep it straight and tight. Let students help to tie the quilt together with embroidery floss. You will need some very large needles for this part.
Take the finished quilt and sew on the binding to finish. Have a time of sharing about what they learned during the process. Let the students show the quilt to the other 5th grade classes. They can then explain the process that they went through as well as the significance of each quilt block.
I have the finished quilt hanging in the hallway outside my classroom for the whole school to look at. So do you do any special sewing projects for the end of the year?