Natalie,  Pamela

Sewing a Quilt: Art, Math, & History

“People who said women weren’t as smart as men should have tried sewing a quilt!”

— what Natalie said in the midst of sewing her quilt

Studying American History was one of the highlights of our Applewood School adventure.  We traveled (to Boston, Washington DC, Colonial Williamsburg, Charleston and the Sea Islands, SC, and Charlottesville, VA).  We read an enthralling series titled “A History of Us” by Joy Hakim.  And as part of our studies, we decided we would both learn how to sew quilts, just the way women did in the past.

Some interesting quilt information:  Although unproven, some believe that quilt designs were used to signal and direct slaves to escape routes on the Underground Railroad.   During the Civil War, it is estimated that women in the north sewed over 250,000 quilts for Union soldiers.  There is a resurgence in quilting these days so that it’s no longer a thing of the past — we recently learned about Jacquie, who discovered quilting only four years ago and is doing amazing things.  She recently moved from a large sewing studio in Kansas to a 9 x 10 space in a Chicago apartment (that is just one foot bigger than Applewood Schoolhouse!).  See pictures of her amazingly organized studio under “About Me” at her blog

Here’s what Natalie wrote about starting work on her first quilt:  It all started with a piece of graph paper.  I sat down at the kitchen table, the spot in our house where all my good thinking occurs, armed with a pad of paper, a pencil, a picture, and a box.  The picture was of a quilt I liked, and the box was full of my very well used colored pencils.  Then I set to work copying the quilt in the picture onto paper.  Soon the piece of paper was covered with faint, erased pencil lines, but I had the pattern down and colored in with the colors of my fabric.

The next day we were sitting in the back room of our local vacuum and sewing machine shop with our quilting teacher, Jacqueline (who turned out be really nice, creative, and a whiz with numbers).  Completed, beautiful quilts hung on the walls, an iron steamed in the back, and scissors and bits of fabric were scattered across a table.  I was excited to learn quilting.

I was too! (Pamela here).  As I’ve said many times, returning to middle school (in our novel way) allowed me to learn all sorts of things.  My plan was to cut up seven of Natalie’s too-small dresses and turn them into a simple patchwork quilt.

Nine months and many laughs and stitches later, we completed our quilts.   Here they are:

Natalie's Quilt
Pamela's quilt



    • TwointheMiddle

      Your quilts are beautiful! If you could see my quilt close-up, you would see my many mistakes. I laughed when I learned that the Amish always include one mistake as proof of human’s inability to achieve perfection. Natalie’s quilt has few errors, because she is so meticulous with details. I think it has something to do with her piano-playing fingers. We have made three baby “quilties” (a cross between quilt/blankie) with silky backing for little fingers. Those were so fun to make.

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