Quilting covers more than math

Project: An activity intended to teach geometry skills gave pupils a chance to learn about history and donate their work to needy children.

September 10, 2004|By Katie Martin | Katie Martin,SUN STAFF

It started as an idea for a simple geometry project, but it became a yearlong endeavor that turned 21 pupils into quilters, historians and curators.

Two Carroll County teachers wanted pupils in their extended enrichment programs to make quilts as a way of applying math skills, such as measuring, and understanding geometrical concepts, such as shapes and sizes.

Ivy Allgeier, a fifth-grade teacher at Winfield Elementary School in Westminster, teamed with Deb Lemieux, a fifth-grade teacher who worked last year at Spring Garden Elementary in Hampstead, for the project.

The problem was that neither teacher, nor many pupils, had quilting experience, so they enlisted several quilters and experts for assistance.

"We cut, we sewed, we stitched everything by hand. ... It was a hoot," said Allgeier, detailing the trials of one pupil who cut blocks for his center patch four times before getting the sizes correct.

The project for last year's fifth-graders grew beyond learning geometry and making quilts. The students also spent time researching the history of the antique quilts owned by the Carroll County Farm Museum and writing about that history for a display at the museum.

Two pupil-made quilts and the research on the antique quilts will be part of an exhibit, Stitching Through Time, which opens at noon tomorrow at the farm museum.

"I'm very excited about it," said Jillian Porter, 11, one of Lemieux's former pupils. "We are going to tell people all about the quilts since we studied them."

Jillian and fellow pupil Cori Victor researched a quilt created in 1890 by Fannie Jane Manahan of Carroll County.

Pat Brodowski, historian and educator at the farm museum, provided pupils with information about the history of quilting in the area, as well as access to about 30 quilts from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s stored at the farm museum.

"We started pulling out these beautiful quilts. ... All were donated, and there was not much information about them," Allgeier said.

Lemieux said the quilts "made the past real to them. ... It provided a link to Carroll County history."

The pupils used reference materials provided by the Library of Congress, the Maryland Historical Society and other local organizations for their research. They studied patterns, including applique quilts, a 16-patch quilt and a pineapple quilt, and attempted to date each by examining the fabrics. Each quilt was also measured and photographed.

"To touch the quilts, we had to have gloves on so the oil on our hands would not stain or eat away the fabric," said Derek Wagner, 11, another of Lemieux's former pupils.

Derek and Megan Cronhardt, 11, researched a multicolored log-cabin quilt with a traditional pattern of light and dark bars. He said it was small and could have been used in a cradle.

"It was a mystery," Megan said. "I enjoyed making predictions about the quilt."

The pupils wrote summaries for the display, recording their research and their theories on the creation of the quilts. They spent about two hours arranging the display last month.

"The kids were inspired when writing about the quilts. ... They were really trying to think along the lines of the person who was quilting it," Brodowski said.

Hanging with 11 historical quilts in the exhibition are the two made by the pupils.

Everyone in Lemieux's class contributed an identical multicolored block to a 54-inch-by- 54-inch log-cabin quilt. Allgeier's students made a nine-patch quilt from scraps of donated materials.

Some of Lemieux's pupils embroidered dates on their blocks, while Allgeier's class included a label with the quilters' names.

The students will donate both quilts to Project Linus, a national nonprofit organization that distributes afghans, blankets and quilts to seriously ill or traumatized children, at the conclusion of the exhibit Oct. 21.

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