School Spirit in Patches- Quilting by Students.

My best school memories are from Kindergarten. My Teacher’s name was Mrs. Swan and she owned a farm with her husband. She loved taking the class to her farm for field trips. We even got a Pumpkin picking trip and hayride back to school out of the deal. Well, whatever, I still think that was super cool.

Oh the Nostalgia!

Oh the Nostalgia! Just kidding my elementary school was built during the Eisenhower administration. It was single story concrete block construction and it had a flat concrete slab roof with carport.

Now I know that my kids, who live in Brooklyn, will never have the same experience as me. And this is not particularly bad. After all, my kindergartener and second grader get to skate at Rockefeller Center and are serious doughnut connoisseurs. But there are moments when nostalgia for a bucolic childhood weakens me and I do crazy things. LIKE volunteer to organize and make a class quilt project. Yes that was totally crazy.  Again Cray Cray.

The basic concept of a Class Quilt is to give each student a white cotton square of fabric and have them draw with fabric markers images that describe their heritage, family or neighborhood. The fabric squares are then collected, ironed and sewn into a quilt that displays their collective heritage and school spirit.

Let’s go through it.


  • 1 White cotton Layer Cake of fabric (A layer cake is quilting slang for 40 pieces 10″ by 10″ squares of light weight cotton.)
    Depending upon the quilt design which you wish to use, you may want to cut down your cotton squares before the kids get them. I have found that 10″ square make a huge quilt while 8″ squares leave enough room without the extra 2″. I asked the kids to leave a 1″ border on the cotton squares so I could leave room for seam allowances ect, but they totally ignored this.
  • One or two Jelly roles. These are packages of fabric composed of 2-1/2″ strips. The strips are perfect for making sashes which are placed between the blocks.
  • Colored Fabric Markers. Make sure that they are designated as fabric markers and not just permanent like a Sharpie. (Sharpie does make specific fabric markers which are good. But I prefer Tulip.)
  • Light Box. Or just get the app to make your iPad into a light box. It’s called Light Box Illuminator Viewer.
  • Masking Tape (blue painters tape.)
  • Stencils or black and white photocopies of Flags, country shapes, symbols or figures.
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Quilt pattern or simple idea of how you want to layout the patches.
  • Sewing Machine with an adjustable blindhem foot or a 1/4″ quilting foot.
  • White Standard weight thread.
  • Bobbin Washers
  • Various cotton fabric depending upon which pattern you choose. Most of my fabric was bought on Etsy. But the most simple of quilts will only need one Jelly Roll either in a solid color or varied patterns to be used for sashes. (Again a Jelly Roll is quilter slang for 40 strips of fabric measuring 44″ by 2.5″)
  • Rotary cutter, ruler and board.
  • Square-up template

Directions for the Kids:

  1. Sketch out your designs on pencil and paper. Think about images which celebrate your family, your heritage, your community or all three. Then outline your designs with black marker on the paper.
  2. In school transfer the drawing to a fabric square and color it with fabric markers.
  3. If transfer is difficult use stencils, a light box or shapes that you can trace around to help you.
  4. Be sure to have you name or initials on the fabric but not too close to the edge.

Notes to Consider:

It is very important before you start this project that you pick out quilting pattern to follow. This is because the pattern will determine the size of the fabric pieces that you give to the kids. (I really recommend using fabric pieces of 6″ or larger.) The pattern will also determine the finished size of your quilt. (Otherwise you could end up with a huge quilt or a lap size quilt.) You must also consider the total number of student patches to be integrated into a design and use this number to select your pattern. The smaller the class the more flexibility you may have with pattern selection. If you have more than 20 students, simple is better.

Since I am still new to quilting and not exactly a pro, I decided that the easiest method  for me was to pick a pattern which required the minimal need to have exact corners meet. I chose a pattern called “A slice of Life” from Missouri Star quilting.heritagequilt-missouri If this pattern seems too complicated, because you really have to keep track of your block orientation, just use a simple frame pattern. I would recommend the French Window Panes from Sweet Jane. Sue Pfau’s book Quilts from Sweet Jane has loads of other options too.

Directions for the Adult:

  1. To set the fabric marker designs, lightly iron each student patch with the design facing down. Make sure that your iron has absolutely no water inside. Do not wash these patches either! If you are concerned about your ironing board discoloring, place a sheet parchment paper down first.
  2. At this point you can proceed with your own pattern if you choose. I followed the above pattern for one quilt. (But cray-cray me. I volunteered for another class quilt too. Needless to say, the second quilt had a simpler design.)
  3. To start, thread your machine and place a bobbin washer in your bobbin case (if you have a top-loading bobbin case). This will prevent knotting of the thread while sewing. Don’t forget that unlike regular sewing, quilting only has a 1/4″ seam allowance. So use the quilting foot or adjustable blind hem foot.heritagequilt-sashinng
  4. As per my pattern directions, I made six huge nine-patch blocks with 2″ sashing. (Each nine-patch block had 4 student blocks, one on each corner. The four center blocks were made from patterned fabric.) (6 nine-blocks x 4 student designs per nine-block = 25 spaces  the for students) heritagequilt-blocka
  5. After this I cut down each large nine-patch into four blocks (each 16.5″ by 16.5″.)The cuts were made a cross vertically down the middle and horizontally through the middle of the nine-patch…………. Because the final block orientation of these new blocks were to be different from the initial giant nine-patches; I had come up with a system, layout and a key.The arrows on the key indicated which way up should be for the student block.

    As per my diagrams the letters are located above the grid and numbers are located on the grid’s side. This system worked like a Punnett Square. Each new square was labeled by the location in its original nine-patch. (Example A1, A2, B1, B2, ect.) The layout had each space for a student design labeled. So by looking at the final block orientation and location, I could go back to the initial nine-patch block diagrams and determine the correct orientation to sew each student block in its nine-patch. (Yes, I know my brain hurts too.) But you can use a new app called Quitography to test out a design before the massive headache.

  6. I squared up each 16-1/2″ patch. This means that I re-measured each patch and cut it down as necessary. (Don’t panic if many of your patches are less than 16-1/2″! Just cut an extra 1/4″ around each patch so that every patch is now 16″ by 16″.) You must use a “square-up” acrylic template for this.
  7. Sew your patches back together to form your quilt top. Congratulations, you are halfway there.
  8. But this was too complicated for another quilt!
    So you can tell that the second quilt’s pattern was much simpler with a ladder pattern.

At this point if you are a beginning quilter like me, I would really recommend to send your quilt out to be basted, quilted and bound. This means that a professional will create a quilt sandwich, sew that sandwich together and then finish the edges.

I would recommend sending your quilt to Missouri Star Quilting. They are super nice, profession and reasonable in terms of time. They did a fantastic job on mine.

All Done!

All Done!