I was coming up to my fifth year of retirement after being a school-teacher for 25 years when my children approached me about homeschooling my grandchildren during the pandemic, along with a few of their friends. We transformed the house into a mini school of seven students, four in Grade 6 and three in Grade 4. I feel very fortunate that I am able to provide enrichment in Art, Physical Education, Cooking, Forest School and Sewing. These are all the things I wanted to do when I was a teacher, but with 32 students, many times this was impossible.
However, I always found a way to teach my students how to sew with a sewing machine. Each year my class would make up to six I Spy quilts for the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, ON. One year, one of my students developed a serious illness and ended up in that very hospital and was given one of our quilts! The students learned firsthand how an act of benevolence can impact the lives of people in the most positive of ways.
Even after I retired, I returned to my old school to work with students making quilts. We made a Canada 150 quilt that involved the whole school and it hangs in the library today! I ran an extracurricular lunch group that made quilts for the Outreach program at our guild. And last year my granddaughter’s Grade 5 class made a Quilt of Valour that was presented to a WWII veteran who is in his 90s. I hope these lessons in the value of learning a skill to enrich the lives of others stays with them throughout the years.
When I saw the CQA/ACC 2021 Youth Challenge, I was inspired to have my mini school rise up to the challenge. We began by drawing out our designs, taking into consideration the theme (BFF – Best Friends Forever) and the feature fabric. It was more difficult for the Grade 4 students to incorporate the fabric so I had them think about how the fabric made them feel. One student said “happy” and proceeded to draw a picture of herself in her happy place, which is in Hawaii! She had a picture of herself and her sister in silhouette against a sunset and recreated it using the feature fabric as the sky. Another Grade 4 student also landed on a sunset theme using emojis to represent friendship; she used the feature fabric in the border of her piece. A boy in Grade 4 was thinking of wolves playing together (perhaps he was inspired by Forest School, as we have been talking a lot about nature and wildlife). When I asked him how he was going to use the feature fabric he said: “As the Northern Lights, of course!”
The children in Grade 6 seemed to have their ideas ready, based on their experiences with their own best friends. One wanted to show how she communicated with her friend using their phones. I love how she designed it so that you just see the hands holding the phones. She decorated the phone cases with sloths because she and her BFF love sloths. Her feature fabric was used to make bracelets on the arms and to cut out the BFF letters for a title.
Another girl spent a lot of time with her BFF at the beach in the summer, so she created a design that sees two fish friends sunbathing. The feature fabric was used in the towels and the lettering and I love how she sewed some real seashells into her design! For another student it was all about love birds in a tree, using raw edge appliqué for her design and making the heart and birds from the feature fabric.
The Grade 6 boy was all about hockey, wanting to show friends winning medals. He needed to learn photo transfer for this one as his design was too intricate to recreate with bits of cotton. Using the feature fabric as faces in the stands was a terrific idea!
What amazed me most was how easily the students took to the challenge. There was no hesitation or complaining. They were enthusiastic from the beginning and even though it was a long, involved process, they persevered throughout and are very proud of their accomplishments. They learned to quilt in the ditch with a walking foot and one Grade 6 even learned free motion stippling! All of them used the machine to sew and quilt their pieces. Techniques they learned included raw edge applique, adding embellishments and photo transfer. They are already asking, “What’s next?”
As much as I want this horrible corona- virus to go away so they can all go back to school, I would love to do this with them again next year!