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Teaching Kids to Quilt: Three Tips for Getting Started

The Quilt Alliance has always been dedicated to documenting the ‘now’ of quiltmaking. We record interviews with quiltmakers who are making quilts today, and who have shaped the long history of the quilting world. But we’re also excited about the future of quilting–which we hope is long and robust! That’s why last year we launched our KidsQuilt Quilting Kit--everything a kid (or anyone new to quilting!) needs to make their first quilt. The kit includes pre-printed wholecloth panels, a needle, thread, binding tape, instructions, and of course, a label and permanent archival pen.

If you’ve got a kid in your life who might love to make their own quilt, we encourage you to get started teaching this future quiltmaker! There are a lot of ways to introduce kids to quilting, but it can be tricky to know how to get started. We looked back in our archives for interviews with kids, grandparents, teachers, and family members who shared their stories of quilting with kids. Here are just a few pieces of advice that we’ve learned from our oral history projects. As we say in our KidsQuilt instruction book, “there’s no wrong way to make a quilt when you’re just getting started!”, so we’d love to hear your stories and tips about quilting with kids.

1. Start small!

Kelly Anderson, interviewed for QSOS in 2009

Often, the biggest satisfaction comes from seeing a project all the way through from start to finish. One of the best ways to begin a kids quilting project is by starting small! Picking an easy, manageable project as a first foray into quilting has a lot of positives: it’s scaled for kids, portable, and can be easier to finish before little attention spans start to wander. This is why we picked a 10 x 10 inch block for our rainbow star KidsQuilt Kit.

And just because it’s small doesn’t mean it’s not useful! Small quilts can be great as placemats, wall-hangings, potholders, doll quilts, a mat for Lego-creations, and other accessories for imaginative play. Quilter Kelly Anderson was in 5th grade when she made this 8.5 x 11 inch ladybug quilt that she talks about in her 2009 Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories interview. Here’s Kelly talking about her quilt, and the feeling she gets when her work is finished:

Kelly Anderson: It was a quilt that I had made in about October. I used the iron on stuff and so then I ironed the patterns onto my quilt and then I just stitched around it to make it look nice. I dedicated the quilt to my Papa Lyn who had Alzheimer’s. It was in an auction just recently and it was sold for $100.00 and so I’m really proud of it…

Karen Musgrave: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

Kelly Anderson: I think it’s fun, I think it’s a way you can make express how you’re feeling and you can like show it off to friends and family. I like putting beads on my quilts. I also like looking at other people’s quilts because I think they are just so beautiful sometimes […] I like making them for family members and just having the feeling that they’re done and looking at them and seeing my mistakes and also the great things about them.

Karen Musgrave: Is there any aspects of quiltmaking you don’t like?

Kelly Anderson: Well, sometimes I don’t like how long it takes because sometimes you’ll get this great picture and sometimes it will just take quite a while, but then when its done its always really great.

Read Kelly’s full interview here.

 2. Let them pick what they love (even if it’s not what you love!)

Toni Baumgard, interviewed at the International Quilt Festival in 2000

Even if the kids in your life aren’t interested yet in the actual construction of a quilt (and hey–I get it! Doing the actual quilting is my least favorite part, too!), they might love to work together to design a quilt. Bring them along to the quilt shop and let them exercise their creativity by picking their own fabrics or selecting a design. In her QSOS interview, quilter Toni Baumgard talks about making a quilt with her granddaughter, who selected a pattern that maybe wouldn’t have been Toni’s first choice. As Toni tells it, playing a role in designing the quilt made it even more special to her granddaughter.

Toni Baumgard: All of the quilts that I have made have been given away. I always have made them for someone.

Renee Jackson: And do you make a particular type of quilt?

Toni Baumgard: Whatever the person wants. I’ll give you an example. My granddaughter was 9 and we went down and picked the material that she wanted, and she picked out that pattern which was the hardest, most complicated appliqué that you could ever imagine. We color keyed it in, and she still has that hanging in her room and she still loves that quilt. It meant a great deal to her to help me pick it out.

Listen to Toni’s full interview here.

3. Pair your quiltmaking with philanthropy

There aren’t many warmer, fuzzier feelings than giving away a quilt that you’ve made and watching the recipient’s face light up. Quilts can be amazing sources of comfort, memory, joy, and honor. Consider sharing that feeling with a kid in your life, and work together to make a quilt just for gifting. It’s a gift that keeps giving: a chance to be creative, to learn a new skill, and a great chance to teach about the power of community, sharing, charitable giving, and thoughtfulness. This might mean collaborating on a quilt for Quilts of Valor or a local hospital. Or making a doll quilt for a sibling’s favorite teddy bear. Making a quilt to give is a fantastic way to talk with kids about that warm, fuzzy feeling of giving something to someone else.

Here’s an interview with Lindsey Kroening, who made a quilt with her grandmother for a neighbor and veteran:

Go for it! Start quilting with a kid today!

Quilt Alliance KidsQuilt Kit

Quilt Alliance KidsQuilt Kits are available from our webshop here. They contain fabric, batting, binding, pins, needles, thread, a fabric marking pen, and full-color instructions–everything you need for a color mini-quilt all tucked into a sturdy canvas backpack.

Another way you can help: Sponsor a KidsQuilt Quilting Kit!

  • Make a $25 donation on our donation page here.
  • In the order notes write “KidsQuilt Sponsorship.”
  • We will ship a KidsQuilt kit to one of our nonprofit Museum and Community educational partners.
  • A needy kid will be gifted the kit (with a Welcome to Quilting card) and matched with a volunteer as needed.

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