The Art Of... Quilting | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Emily Gagnon, 12, Shelburne

Matthew Thorsen

Emily Gagnon, 12, Shelburne

The Art Of... Quilting 

Published September 1, 2011 at 4:00 a.m.

Stitching memory quilts might sound old-fashioned for a generation of kids whose thumbs are more accustomed to using touch-screens than thimbles. But, June Bugbee, owner of Sew Many Treasures in Williston, says her young sewing students find the traditional skill habit-forming. Bugbee takes a moment from snipping through bolts of fabric to pluck a photo from the door frame behind her cutting table and cash register. 

In the snapshot, seven smiling girls holding their beautifully patterned lucky-star quilts on a sunny summer's day. "Once I get them once...," Bugbee says, raising her eyebrows in amusement.

Bugbee teaches quilting during her annual summer sewing camp; she also offers lessons the rest of the year. Camp attendance has multiplied from six students five years ago to 60 this year. In Camp 101, students learn about sewing machines, seam allowances and patterns, and receive an overview of types of fabric. "The kids come back year after year," she says.

Anna Werner, 9, and Liza Stone, 10, are perfect examples of that devotion. Werner attended last year. Stone liked her first session so much that she signed up for a second one two weeks later.

For her first quilt, Stone says she chose fabrics in blues and purples and one patterned with glow-in-the-dark stars. Choosing the material is part of the fun. Quilts can display favorite color combinations or illustrate family memories using patches from outgrown baby clothes or old sports jerseys.

Once quilters have chosen the materials, they stitch together the patches that form the top side, then place the quilt top over the batting, and sew on a backing, binding the top and bottom together to make the finished product.

Because sewing requires precision — every fraction of an inch counts — kids might not be ready to start until age 8.

But Dee Lamberton of A Quilters Garden in Montpelier started her daughter sewing at age 6, cutting the pieces for her. Lamberton also offers classes at her shop throughout the year. Novices begin by working on simple projects like pillowcases and doll-sized quilts. They learn to follow patterns, employing math skills in the process.

Lamberton advises beginners to choose a pattern made of squares or rectangles and not triangles; the seams of triangles are trickier to line up. She recommends a nine-patch quilt, with three rows of three squares.

The learning curve can be steep to start, but the excitement of turning a special piece of fabric into a keepsake provides students with an incentive. "Picking out their own fabric, they usually love that," Lamberton says. "And having something that they've made."

"The Art of..." spotlights creative skills that enrich kids' lives. Got a class or teacher to recommend? Email us at ideas@kidsvt.com. Kristin Fletcher is a former sports editor for the St. Albans Messenger and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus who lives in Cabot. She has two children, 12 and 9, and works for Re-Bop Records. Got a comment? Contact feedback@kidsvt.com.

What You'll Need

A sewing machine: Becoming familiar and skilled on one machine is a real time-saver and the primary reason to invest in a sewing machine of your own. Models start around $200 and you will want to select a machine based on your projects and fabrics.

Fabric, scissors, cutting mat and ruler: Good, sharp scissors, a self-healing, slip-resistant craft cutting mat and a ruler can be purchased anywhere sewing supplies are found. While rotary cutters are the best tools for cutting fabric, they are a safety hazard and not necessary for new quilters. Adults should cut fabric for young and inexperienced children.

Good resources for beginners: "Show Me How: Quilting," (Sixth&Spring Books, 2007) a storybook for ages 9-12, and "Start Quilting with Alex Anderson: Six Projects for First-Time Quilters" (C&T Publishing, 2001).

Where to learn: Sew Many Treasures, 8016 Williston Road, Williston, 878-3373, sewmanytreasuresvt.com; A Quilter's Garden, 342 River Street, Montpelier, 223-2275, aquiltersgarden.net; Yankee Pride Quilts, 9 Main Street, Essex Junction, 872-9300, yankeepridequilts.com.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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About The Author

Kristin Fletcher

Kristin Fletcher

Bio:
Kristin Fletcher is a former sports editor for the St. Albans Messenger and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus who lives in Cabot. She has two children, 12 and 9, and works for Re-Bop Records.

About the Artist

Matthew Thorsen

Matthew Thorsen

Bio:
Matthew Thorsen was a photographer for Seven Days 1995-2018. Read all about his life and work here.

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