You can begin to get young children involved by letting them choose the colors and fabrics for their quilts. They can use crayons and paint sticks, cut out simple shapes with scissors and sew on buttons and other embellishments. With guidance from an adult, they may be able to sew straight piecing lines with the sewing machine. Children have a short attention span, but they are eager for any new experience. Chose projects that little ones can complete in one or two sittings. Start with something simple; chances are, after that item is finished, they may be willing to invest time in a longer, more involved project.
My granddaughter, Amber, has been sewing/ piecing since she was 4 years old. Even at that young age, she had preferences in colors and fabric choices. She pieced a bed size quilt top with my Featherweight; my job was to watch her fingers and keep them out of harm’s way. Blake was 5 when he made his wall quilt with crayon rubbings from truck and motorcycle tires and steel impressions. He loves his quilt and is very proud of the work he did.
Teens and tweens can make more complex decisions about color and layout. They can iron their fabrics, use the rotary cutter with guidance and use the sewing machine with instruction. This age group brings lots of enthusiasm and a creative eye to the work.
When you work with young people, look for a variety of styles to keep them interested. We used the art forms of collage, rubbings, and mosaic, along with the traditional quiltmaking techniques of piecing and appliqué. Our collage quilts incorporate a T-shirt logo and carefully chosen embellishments to make wall quilts that are personalized and meaningful to each child.
When projects such as the postcards, ornaments, and collage quilts are done as group activities, young quilters can share fabrics, offer design suggestions, inspire each other, and make important memories at the same time.
Once young people feel the sense of satisfaction in creating something new, something for themselves or their friends or family, they will enjoy quilting forever. Amber’s large quilt has been entered into several big shows and has won a first place ribbon. Look for quilt shows that include a junior category, or work on adding one to your guild show.
Quilting and other arts are not only a way to create something beautiful, but also to teach math, eye/hand coordination, color and design, critical thinking, problem solving and group dynamics/cooperation. What young person do you have in your life who would love to work with you?