Quilting with the Girl Scouts

My daughter is a Girl Scout. She and her troop are so lucky to have two amazing women who volunteer to lead their troop. It's a major time commitment to be a troop leader, which is why I've never done it, but every year what I do do is volunteer my time to do an art based project with the girls. Last year it was nature journaling. This year - quilting! 

Time was limited to an hour and a half for our first meeting, an hour for our second meeting, and five minutes for our third and final meeting.

In the first meeting I planned to teach them to how to hand sew a four square block, in the second how to hand tie the quilt and make the quilt label, and in the last, a final viewing and photo before donating it to the local hospital. In between the meetings, I worked on the quilt at home to have it ready for the next. 

Here's how I prepared for our meeting #1:

First I cut four square pieces of fabric for each girl. I selected a range of fabrics from my stash, limiting the color range to that within my "yellow through red" drawer in order to have somewhat of a cohesive look.

In order to have some movement throughout the quilt, I chose both lights and darks. (If they were all light or all dark, it would have flattened the design which was not what I was going for).

Then, I cut each fabric into strips (I believe they were 4" wide) using a rotary cutter, and each strip into squares.

Since I'd be teaching them to sew by hand, I drew 1/4" seam allowance around the perimeter of each fabric square using a white chalk pencil (which doesn't seem to show up in photo above). This way they'd have a guide for sewing a straight line.

I then selected two light and two dark pieces of fabric and pinned them together using four pins and one needle. This saved time in having to distribute the pins and needles to each girl during our meeting.

I forgot to get picture of our sewing session, probably because I was very busy! Even with the help of both troop leaders, teaching 16 girls (9-10 years of age) how to sew was a great challenge.

The difference in sewing skills amongst the girls in the troop made teaching them a challenge.  But these same differences are what gave the quilt it's uniqueness.

The difference in sewing skills amongst the girls in the troop made teaching them a challenge.  But these same differences are what gave the quilt it's uniqueness.

There were different skill levels across the group; a small portion of the girls had had sewing lessons in the past and knew the basics (how to thread a needle and how to align and pin right sides together). Most of the girls hadn't sewn before, but seemed like they'd had lots of experience with crafting in general, and were able to catch on quickly. For the remaining few, this seemed to be one of their first experiences making something with their hands. For their sake, I wish we'd had a smaller ratio of adults to children. One on one would have been best for them.

Even so, the girls couldn't have been more enthusiastic about the process. They were interested, engaged, and loved the experience. Better yet, most of them were able to complete their sewing by the end of our meeting.

At home I machine sewed all the blocks together, added a bright orange Kona cotton border and backing with a layer of Warm & Natural batting in between, and pin basted it all together in preparation for our next meeting.

Pin basting the quilt with the help of my Girl Scout.

Pin basting the quilt with the help of my Girl Scout.

Pin basted quilt ready to be hand tied in meeting #2.

Pin basted quilt ready to be hand tied in meeting #2.

Meeting #2 went a little smoother than the first. I'd explained the steps I'd taken at home to get the quilt to it's current state, and pointed out the three layers. 

Then, the main portion of the troop went on to an (unrelated) activity while another mom and I worked one-on-one with two girls at a time teaching them to tie the quilt.

Towards the end of the meeting, we all came together to make the quilt label. I had prepared the label fabric by ironing a piece of wax paper to the backside to stiffen the surface for writing on. Also, I had drawn out guide lines with a fabric pen to keep things neat.

The troop decided what the quilt label would say, and then each signed their names.

The troop decided what the quilt label would say, and then each signed their names.

Knowing that we'd be donating it to our local hospital where it would be given to a sick child, they came up with the wording you see above. I wrote their message onto the fabric using a permanent pen, and then they each signed their names (going a little overboard with their decorative accents!) 

At home I finished the quilt by machine quilting three lines around the perimeter of the patchwork, sewing on the binding, and attaching the label. See end results below!

Future generation of quilters showing off their first finished piece.

Future generation of quilters showing off their first finished piece.