Quilting adventures of rural Missouri middle schoolers with my Quilt Journal Cover pattern.
My Quilt Journal Cover pattern lands in the hands of 11 years old's enrolled in summer school. Class#1
As I reflect on 2022 and its highlights, I have to tell you about the most heartwarming, rewarding (and funny) experience I had with two classes of summer school students this year. This is the highlight of this past year for me, and I want to share it with you as 2022 comes to a close.
In June of this year, I received a random email from a teacher named Ms. Lynn letting me know she would be teaching two summer school classes and planned on using my Quilt Journal Cover pattern she bought as a way to help her students with math, reading, writing and ..... teach them to sew and quilt while doing so! She didn't want me to be surprised when 15+ students sent me 'professional' emails out of the blue (one of their assignments was to write an email without slang or emojis). You see, she was a teacher AND a quilter. And she had lost some of her 'sewjo', she confided, due to the weight of the pandemic on her and so many other teachers across the country. She knew this would not only help the children but also help her quilting joy to return.
As a former social worker and a strong advocate for children, I immediately emailed her back and offered to make a surprise virtual Zoom appearance at the end of both summer school classes so I could meet the kids and see all of their journal covers. She made arrangements for wavers to be signed by parents so I could 'be with them' and take photos. She and her assistant Jennifer had practice Zoom sessions with the kids so they would know the process during our virtual time together. I know I eagerly awaited our time together as much as they did!
Meeting the Kids
I opened up our call with the opportunity for them to ask me anything. They wanted to know everything from....did I have pets to.... if I was famous because I had a lot of followers on Instagram.... to what my favorite pattern was to date. There was one young lady, Jade (she had sewn a little with her grandma), who was very enthusiastic (she still emails me every few months to say hi). I could totally see her being a quilt pattern designer someday! She said she hoped to get a sewing machine for Christmas, so I hope that happened. One little boy told me that he picked his army color fabrics because many of his family members have been to war. Another picked his favorite sports team fabrics. Another told me she quilted her journal to have rays of sun bursting from the journal after seeing the sun shining after school one day.
I started out by telling them a little about me and how I started quilting, what I enjoyed, what was hard (even for me still), making mistakes, the process of pattern writing and about trying new things. One by one, each of them held up their journal covers to show me the front and back, where their inspiration came from, what fabrics they chose, why they quilted it the way they did, what they loved about sewing and quilting AND what was hard.
The joy on their faces and seeing how proud they were of themselves made my heart want to burst. I could tell they felt like they accomplished something big- they did! I told them it was an adult pattern they followed! I asked them for feedback and suggestions on the pattern and explained that they wouldn't hurt my feelings because getting feedback is a part of life that helps us improve. Once they knew they wouldn't offend me, they shared very helpful feed back from a kids perspective. Things from adding a definitions chart for abbreviations, to adding more graphics, to showing every single step in my video tutorial of me using the sewing machine (rather than saying 'take to your machine and sew around the edge of the cover 1/8 inch'). I told them that someday maybe I'll write the pattern again, specifically for kids, and that I was SUPER proud of them for being able to follow an adult pattern (with some help from Ms. Lynn and Ms. Jennifer 😉).
When our two Zoom session were over, Ms Lynn let me know that they would each be emailing me a professional mail about their experience and photos of their journal covers. Let me tell you I was so excited for them to arrive! In the meantime, a handmade quilty postcard arrive from all of them. They wrote me the sweetest thank you on the back. I sent them a sticker and bookmarks too.
My sweet thank you post card from the kids.
The Sweet and Funny Emails
Now here is where the funny part comes in. In working with children in my 20's and having a young 11-year-old bonus daughter, I know they can say the funniest stuff because they say things just the way they see them with little to no filter. I hope you enjoy reading these emails as much as I did. There were a few that had me laughing so hard I was crying! Like one of them thinking that a 'fat quarter' was a rapper or one thinking that 'feed dogs' meant to feed the dogs. Another let me know that having to seam rip caused him emotional damage. We can all relate to those feelings when we have to seam rip as adults! And lastly, I'm so glad Ms. Lynn didn't lose a finger after one email I received. The kids were the sweetest, with such grateful hearts (and funny without realizing it)! Here are all of the emails for you to enjoy too.
Making a Difference
I don't know where life will take these young ones, but I do know that I hope to see some of them in our Quiltiverse in the years ahead since I could tell the quilting bug bit a few of them. I hope they always hold on to the feeling they experienced of accomplishing something really hard and carry that with them in the difficult teenage years to come. I hope that Ms. Lynn and Ms. Jennifer are able to continue this wonderful summer school learning experience and realized the gift they have given these children- the gift of being exposed to sewing and quilting. An art that will be lost if we don't provide opportunities for young ones to learn this craft. It's not something that I see at guilds very often due to 'liability' so unless we or people like Ms. Lynn teach them, the legacy of quilting could slowly come a dying art. That's a whole other blog article for another time.
So, here's to the two classes of summer school students and two teachers at a rural NW Missouri middle school. You made my summer by allowing me the privilege of being part of your quilting and sewing adventure. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my first pattern would be used in the most special way I can imagine- bringing academic learning, quilting and self-confidence to precious young children. You made my heart full- you were the highlight of my 2022. 🧡
Until next year quilty friends.....
Make lovely things,