Quilting with Kids

I recently donated this quilt, Octopus’s Garden, that was made at Blakely Elementary School in 1997 to the Bainbridge Island Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu). This fish print quilt is featured in my book, Creative Quilting with Kids, now out of print, but still available second hand on Amazon. See the book for more pictures. The quilt looks great in the toddler play area of the museum, hung on the yellow wall. I’m delighted that it is now out for people to enjoy, rather than being stored in my closet!


I worked in collaboration with the Art Specialist, MJ Linford and the fourth graders. We had a real octopus, rock fish and cabazon donated from the local grocery store. We used rubber fish too, which I have also donated to KiDiMu for their art projects with kids. The fourth graders were eager to paint the critters for printing. The background piece was prepared ahead of time. There are wonderful fabric possibilities to create the rocks and weed. These were applied using Steam-a-Seam2 fusible applique. The painted critters were arranged carefully and the background cloth placed over the top. We pressed the fabric gently using the back sides of spoons and the palms of hands. It was astonishing so see that even the suckers on the octopus’s tentacles were printed and the kids were very excited to see the results. They wrote the words of the Octopus’s Garden song in the border around the quilt. It was a fun project. The kids also brought t-shirts to school to print with fish so that they had a take home memory.

Teaching at WA State Quilters, Spokane Chapter

In September, I was given a warm welcome by the quilters of the Spokane Chapter of WA State Quilters. This is a large group and over 400 quilters attended my two lectures. They were incredibly generous in their support of the Mongolian Quilting Center and we raised over $2,500 in donations and sales. I taught two days of classes, Bargello Quilts with a Twist and the Gateway to Mongolia. We had a nice light and spacious classroom at the hotel where I was staying, so it was very convenient and the hotel catered our lunches.


As usual, I enjoyed seeing each student’s choice of fabrics and how these turned out in their projects. Here’s a selection of the Bargello blocks. One of my students made a quilt top before coming to class! It’s always reassuring when people can successfully follow the directions in my book with great results.

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Here are some examples for the Gateway to Mongolia. They are all so different and it’s interesting to see how the Olzii pops out against the background. Some pop more than others and this class is a good lesson in the importance of value to get smooth transitions for achieving the woven effect.

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5th Grade quilt project, Chestnut Hill Academy

I spent last week quilting with 5th Graders at Chestnut Hill Academy in Bellevue, WA. It’s been six or seven years since I worked with kids and I was excited to be enlisted. My daughter teaches 5th grade math and science at the school and secured a grant from the PTO to fund this project. We wanted to involve the kids with as much of the quilt making process as possible which required careful planning and thorough preparation of the materials. It was an intense week, but great fun and the kids enthusiastically embraced designing their quilts and using the sewing machine. There were two classes, 26 kids in all and we made two quilts. The quilts will be auctioned at a school fundraiser in the spring. I was assigned a large light room for the week and the kids came for presentations and sewing. Privacy regulations do not allow me to share pictures of the kids, but here’s the classroom and me doing a presentation.

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We began with a talk to all the kids about quilting in general with a little bit of history to tie in with their studies of the colonial era. Then each class came in turn for details on their project. I had chosen the Bowtie block for them to sew and each quilt was to have 16 blocks. I showed them a PowerPoint presentation of EQ generated patterns depicting a variety of ways to arrange 16 Bowtie blocks. There were choices to be made – should all the Bowties be colored on a light background, should all the Bowties be light on a colored background, or should we make half in half? Here are some examples.

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The top two show all blue Bowties and all white Bowties and the lower two show half blue and half white. There are many more options for rotating the blocks and designing different patterns. The kids were intrigued by this. Both classes chose independently to make half colored and half light Bowties for their quilts. After making this decision they chose their fabrics. One class did a green quilt and the other did a blue one. I had prepared packages of pre-cut pieces for the blocks. There were at least 20 of each color, so that the last child to pick still had several from which to choose.

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The next task was to sew the blocks. The children came to me in groups of three or four and it took about 45 minutes to complete the blocks. Over half of them had used a sewing machine before, but I had all of them practice sewing on a piece of graph paper to sew along a line and get the feel of how hard to press the pedal to determine the speed. I had two sewing machines and one iron. We always all went to the iron together so that I could supervise. If I do this again, I would probably work with just two at a time and I think we could do the blocks in 20 minutes. I had a free-standing work wall with 16 of my Bargello blocks so that kids who were waiting for their turn to sew could arrange the blocks into different patterns and they loved this. By Tuesday afternoon (day two), all but four blocks were finished. I colored in paper blocks, so that the two groups could design their quilt layouts.

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Here are some of the variations they made. I took digital photos of each variation and then the kids voted (eyes closed so there was no peer pressure). This process took an hour for each class which was longer than anticipated but the kids were mesmerized by the design possibilities and really enjoyed arranging the blocks. Once the pattern was determined we made some minor changes in the positioning of certain fabrics. I trimmed all the blocks to 9″ to remove irregularities around the edges and for ease of assembling. The children were fascinated when I demonstrated the use of the rotary cutter (which was put away during their sewing sessions). On day three we completed the remaining blocks, and the kids came in pairs to do 10 minutes of sewing of the pieced borders – piano keys for one quilt and stepping stones for the other. Everyone had a turn.

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Here are the two quilt tops. They turned out beautifully and I’m so proud of the kids. I sewed in the evening of the third day and all day on the fourth day to complete them. On the evening of the fourth day, we basted both quilts ready for the kids to tie on the final day. The backs are flannel and quilts are both around 52″ x 52″. It was a marathon, but we did it! Perhaps if I do this again, we would arrange three days at school, then a weekend to complete the tops and baste, and then another day or two at school instead of five days in a row at school. The Bowtie was an excellent choice with just enough sewing and such a variety of options for patterns.

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The children came in their class groups to see me demo machine quilting and tying. I machine quilted in the ditch between each block on the green quilt. On the blue one, I outlined the blue shapes. The kids came in pairs for 10 minute sessions to tie four ties in their blocks. We used variegated pearl cotton. I was concerned that they would have trouble stitching through all the layers to make the ties, but they did really well and all but one did all four ties in the 10 minutes. We had to limit the time, so that everyone got a turn and it worked out fine. This week I’ve added some more machine quilting to the borders and machine stitched the binding. All that is needed to complete the quilts is to hand stitch the bindings to the back and make a label with all the names, date etc. We will also include a picture panel of a scene from Washington DC. In April, the kids fly there for a four day field trip. It’s a highlight of being in 5th grade (the top grade in the school) and this will serve as a reminder of this special trip to those lucky enough to take a quilt home after the auction.


Teaching at West Houston Quilt Guild

In September, I lectured and taught at the West Houston Quilt Guild. My workshop was held in the classroom of a large quilt shop, Quilt Works, (see a previous blog for a tour of the store). I taught my Bargello Quilts with a Twist workshop, based on my book of that title. We had plenty of space and good lighting and of course air conditioning (it was like a sauna outdoors with a temperature of 92 degrees F and very high humidity). I always enjoy teaching at a store since it affords shopping opportunities for all of us and I can help my students select fabrics if they aren’t happy with what they brought to class.

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Everyone brings their own choice fabrics and we had a great variety of blocks. My students are always surprised at how different the each person’s blocks look and then delighted at how they can rotate the blocks and make many patterns. Here are some examples from the class.

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Sometimes my students send me photos of their completed quilts and I’m always glad to see these. My hope is that when the class is over, they will still be excited by the possibilities, understand and feel confident with the technique, and have a desire to finish the project. Some even go on to make more quilts from Bargello blocks.

Quilt N’ Cruise to Alaska

I was thrilled to be one of the quilting teachers on this 10 day Quilt N’ Cruise trip to Alaska on-board the Golden Princess cruise ship, sailing from San Francisco on 10th August and returning on 20th August. This enormous ship had about 2,000 passengers, 70 of whom were quilters taking classes from the four teachers. Not a moment at sea was wasted! We had a two day class while we were sailing north to Juneau, and then two days of classes on the way back from Ketchikan with a break of a day for a stop in Victoria. The Alaskan scenery was spectacular and the quilting was great fun!

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The camaraderie was excellent and my students were enthusiastic and productive. I loved making new friends and acquaintances and the benefits offered by two day classes giving us more time to get to know each other and to make progress with the projects. My concerns about the teaching space were soon dispelled when I saw the size of our dining room classroom. It was a huge room divided into different areas. Despite my large class sizes, my students had plenty of space to spread out if they wanted to lay out their blocks etc. Each teacher had their own area and we didn’t disturb each other at all. We couldn’t have irons in the classroom so used wooden irons which worked out just fine and students could go to the laundry rooms to iron their completed strip sets and blocks.Here I am with my 26 Bargello Quilts with Twist students.


In addition to class-time quilting, students could sew in their own cabins and there was a room available on several evenings for communal sewing. Some people opted to stay on the ship instead of going on land excursions. I was astonished at the work done and the progress made. By the end of the trip, several people had their Bargello blocks assembled into quilt tops. Coline Simmons worked tirelessly and completed 100 Bargello blocks to make this lovely queen-sized top! Coline also took my second class on the way back to San Francisco and completed 49 template-free Kaleidoscope blocks! Here is Marina Muller with her Kaleidoscope Puzzle quilt top. I taught Marina at the South African Quilt Conference in 2013. It was such a delight to have her with us on the cruise, all the way from Namibia!

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Thank you to all of my students and to Terry Caselton of Pam’s Travel for giving me the opportunity to teach on this cruise. I hope that I’ll have the chance to meet some of my students again, if I teach at their guilds or we are able to cruise together another time. Here’s my Kaleidoscope Puzzle group.


Teaching in Colorado

I love teaching and traveling and had a wonderful time on my October 2014 trip to Colorado. I taught at three guilds in the Denver area – Arapahoe County Quilt Guild, Columbine Quilt Guild and Longmont Quilt Guild. All the groups welcomed me warmly and I enjoyed lecturing at their meetings and the workshops. My home stays with guild members were wonderful and each home had its own character and quilts, a small piece of which I’m sharing here.

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My first stay was with Kelly Collins in Littleton on the southwest edge of Denver. In Kelly’s living room she had this lovely Log Cabin antique quilt top stretched over a frame to hang as an art piece on the wall. It looked stunning. My bedroom was decorated with a red and white theme with a red-work embroidered quilt on the wall and this lovely little arm chair. Kelly and her mother upholstered the chair with red and white Log Cabin blocks and it makes a perfect addition to the room . On the bed was a lovely house quilt – see detail of it below.

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My workshop for the Arapahoe County Quilters was The Bears Come out at Night pattern, my variation on a traditional Bear’s Paw block with Sawtoothed Star mini-blocks. Here are two of my students with their completed blocks alongside my quilt, Winter Garden.

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I taught my Bargello Quilts with a Twist workshop for the Columbine and Longmont Quilt Guilds. One of my students, Lu Ann Klider, finished her table runner quilt top in time to share it at Show and Tell at the Longmont Quilt Guild meeting. The quilt on the couch was made by Adele Williams, with whom I stayed in Arvada. Adele purchased my book two years ago when I lectured for the Colorado Quilt Council in Pueblo and made the quilt following the instructions in the book.

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In Longmont, I stayed at the beautiful home of Dawn Hunter. Dawn had this stunning Bella Bella quilt hanging at the top of her stair well. The pink quilt and several other similar quilts were presented at the Longmont Quilt Guild meeting. October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the guild members made these quilts to present to breast cancer victims and survivors. Around February time, a committee decides on a simple block and they organize sew-in days for guild members to make pink blocks. They make as many quilts as they can – I think there were at least 10 this year. Guild members can nominate recipients for these quilts and the recipient doesn’t have to be a guild member. The nominations are pulled from a hat and the quilts given away. Being a breast cancer survivor, I was very touched by this outreach project, one that I haven’t come across at any other guilds that I have visited.


Lecture and stay in Mukilteo, WA

In June, I had an enjoyable trip to the small town of Mukilteo, WA, just across the Puget Sound and a little to the north to lecture for the Lighthouse Quilters. Mukilteo is well known for its lighthouse in a beautiful park which attracts many visitors. It is right next to the ferry terminal for the ferries to Whidbey Island. Just up the road is the enormous Boeing plant of great economic importance in our area.

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The Lighthouse Quilters is a small group of about 35. The picture was taken during show and tell. My lecture was Creative Quilting with Kids. I’m not often asked to do this talk and it was fun to pull out several quilts made by children during my years of doing projects in Bainbridge Island elementary schools. The tree quilt in the background was made at Blakely Elementary by first grade students and is featured on the cover of my book, Creative Quilting with Kids.

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I was fortunate to stay overnight in Mukilteo at the home of Ann Lindquist and she gave me permission to share her beautiful quilts. The bed in which I slept was covered with a colorful vibrant quilt. Here’s Ann with a quilt she recently finished. I love the striking spiral design created by the placement of the dark and light values in this monochromatic piece.

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These two quilts were hanging in Ann’s dining room. I was particularly drawn to the Snail’s Trail quilt made using a wonderful variety of blues and limy greens. The smaller scale blocks in the border really add to this quilt and make the perfect frame around the larger center blocks. Thank you Ann, for a warm welcome and a delightful stay.




Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh

Spring Quilt Market was stimulating and exciting. Downtown Pittsburgh is pleasant and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center is spacious and an ideal spot for the 500+ booths. I stayed in the Omni Penn Hotel which is a fine building and the accommodations were very comfortable. My roommate was Catherine Redford who was my host when I lectured and taught at her quilt guild in Naperville just outside Chicago a couple of years ago. It was fun to see her again and catch up with her teaching activities including TV work.

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The logistics of setting up all the booths are staggering and it’s amazing to watch it all going up during the couple of days before the exhibits open. Some of the booths are very elaborate and require all kinds of props and supportive structures. There are fork lift trucks, containers, rolls of carpet and all kinds of activity. The Schoolhouse presentations were during this time and held upstairs where there was a passage with windows overlooking the main exhibit hall. Here it is during set up.

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The Schoolhouse presentations were inspiring. I loved these colorful vibrant quilts by Barbara Persing and Mary Hoover of Fourth and Sixth Designs, all made from Island Batik Fabrics. My presentation on my template-free Kaleidoscope technique was rather late in the day, but was well attended and I was delighted to receive some very positive feedback afterwards. 

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Here’s the QuiltWoman.com booth, Nancy Dill our fearless leader with the worker bees and me at my demo spot. I spent each morning at market in the booth and then had some time in the afternoons to explore the other exhibits.

Teaching in Federal Way

I recently taught and lectured in Federal Way for the Crazy Quilters. We had a half-day Kaleidoscope Puzzle Quilts class and my students had enough time to cut out plenty of kites and wedges and then play with their design layouts.

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There was a large hall adjacent to the classroom, so when it came to designing, some of my students moved in and spread out their pieces on the floor.

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It was so much fun seeing the patterns come alive. The value placement and fabric make such a difference and we had a great variety. The students learnt a great deal and were inspired by looking at other student’s choices and making layout suggestions. These traditional Kaleidoscope blocks can take on quite a contemporary look like this black and orange on-point example.

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Ocean Waves Quilt Camp, OR

I had a wonderful time last October teaching at Ocean Waves Quilt Camp on the Oregon coast, just north of Tillamook. Quilt Camp is an annual event organized by Jane Wise the owner of Jane’s Fabric Patch quilt shop in Tillamook. My good friend Nancy Watts is a regular attendee at this annual event and suggested I contact Jane about teaching. If you are looking for a quilting get-away with three days of workshops from a wide variety of teachers, this is a great opportunity in the beautiful location of Twin Rocks Camp. There were about eight teachers and 85 attendees. Here we all are. Jane in her hot pink jacket is in the front center.

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I taught workshops on all three days. Here’s my classroom during Bargello Quilts with a Twist. On the other side of the partition, Peggy Gelbrich was teaching and the photo on the right shows some of the beautiful pieces her students made in her Swinging on a Star class.

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Here’s a couple of Bargello block arrangements from students in my class. On the Christmas one, the cardinal is fussy cut to go in the center of the four middle blocks. The blocks look great.

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On the last night, we had show and tell. Nancy took these pictures of some of my students displaying their projects. It was fun to see everyone’s work. A couple of my students did study hall for a day after taking the Kaleidoscope Puzzle class, so they made great progress with their larger pieces.

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I enjoyed seeing projects from other classes too, and several people brought completed quilts from previous quilt camps. It was a wonderful grand finale to an action packed three days of fun (including jokes read out by Jane at every meal and many door prizes). As an added bonus, the food was excellent. I can highly recommend this camp and I know that Jane will welcome you as will all the regulars who have been attending for years.