Youngsters learn joy of quilting from adults Experts share art in the classroom NORTH--Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

January 19, 1993|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,Contributing Writer

It was a traditional quilting bee in Hampstead. Needles i hand, quilters old and new clustered elbow to elbow to share hours of stories as they stitched.

But this gathering was in teacher Jan Van Bibber's art room at Spring Garden Elementary School. And it attracted Carroll County's master quilt-makers, who cheerfully joined fourth-grade novices at the quilting frame.

The 10- and 11-year-olds have designed a white-on-white spread -- the champagne of quilt styles.

Each new visitor brought history into the art room. Last week, Nancy Ogletree and Anna Ray Hunter, quilters from the Carroll County Farm Museum, joined Manchester quilter Pauline Folk, who has adopted the project and the whole fourth grade.

"The love of sewing passed from mother to daughter," she said, and so she continues to help children learn to stitch.

Oh, it's a different century, they agreed. Anna Ray Hunter, 88, smiling over her row of tiny white stitches, said, "We had to [quilt] when we were young, before we got married. We didn't have blankets. We worked at this all winter while listening to the radio -- Orphan Annie, I recall."

For the design, teachers assisted students in selecting symbols from the fourth-grade study of Maryland history. Each student drew one symbol, from the Key Bridge to the Frigate Constellation to log cabins and black-eyed Susans. Drawings were copied to uncolored muslin quilt blocks.

Kim Peake, a volunteer mother, sewed the blocks together with a border made from student initials and the school's paw-print symbol. Volunteers from the North Carroll Senior Center visited to stretch the quilt upon a frame.

"I'm overwhelmed by such beauty for fourth grade," said Terry Lettau, viewing the intricately detailed quilt. She and volunteer mother Karen Chilcoat organized the quilt project and the dozens of volunteers.

Regular art instruction takes place next to the quilt. The dour faces of a display of African masks watched as children shifted from architecture to painting.

Volunteers stopped by to add a story and work their needles. Sandy Differ, a volunteer mother, took up a needle with Terry Lettau, who had come between driving her routes on the school bus. One day she joined her son Kyle, already at work with classmates Alison Ensor and Tracie Mitchell. "He quilts better than I," she said.

Plans for the finished quilt include a display on a tour of the county and a raffle to raise money for future art programs at the school. Mrs. Ogletree and Mrs. Hunter, who are familiar with quilting for hire, said a typical quilt goes for $200 to $250. White-on-white quilts, like this one, are far more demanding to sew.

Making the quilt is an inspired extension of teaching sewing skills in the fourth grade.

"Sewing is an incredibly important part of many cultures," says art teacher Van Bibber.

Initially, she taught the rhythm of sewing -- in and out, up and down -- with large needles on open-mesh cloth for a pillow project. For the quilt, children sewed a smaller image on a sandwich of muslin and polyfill in a hand-held circular frame.

What children will experience from the quilt project, however, might surpass needlecraft.

In a year of quilting at the Farm Museum, Mrs. Ogletree said, "I've learned more about quilting, farming, friendship and understanding, all around the quilt frame."

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