Quilting with Alex

Last week, Doug's niece and nephews came over for a BBQ.  During their visit, Alex*, the youngest going into 4th or 5th grade, was checking out several of my quilts hanging around the house and commented that she would love to learn how to quilt.  So I offered to invite her over for a quilting lesson to teach her some quilting techniques...and today was our first lesson.
In preparation for some fusing fun with Alex
Since this was Alex's first foray into quilting, I wanted to ease her in with a quick and easy project that she could complete in her first 2 hour session. So we started with some fusing fun.

Before our first session, I pulled out a colorful assortment of 5" charms and precut some slightly smaller squares of Wonder Under fusible.

When she first arrived, I showed her some examples of fused quilts from Frieda Anderson's and Laura Wasilowski's books, as well as some of my own finished quilts.  I could tell her head was spinning with ideas, so I asked if she might find it helpful to sketch out some shapes/images, and when she nodded yes, got her some printer paper, pencil and colored pencils to doodle some original designs.

Alex carefully ironing on Wonder Under
After sketching time, it was time for my favorite phase of the quilting process:  fabric selection!  I had her select 10-12 charm squares and showed her how to iron on the fusible.  I asked her if she had ever ironed before, and she shook her head no...so we went over some basic iron safety tips and then demonstrated how to feel for the fusible side and layer the fabric and fusible.  She helped me with a few squares, and then did the rest on her own with me watching on.  I did set up the silicon pressing sheet just in case, but she did a great job keeping all the fusible on the fabric.  While the fused squares were cooling off, I asked her what colored background she might like to use for her art quilt.  She looked around my studio and after seeing several of my recent quilts which had grey backgrounds, she decided on grey.  So I pulled out some solid grey Kona cotton and cut out a fat quarter sized background and chalked on some border lines, ensuring there was ample space to trim/assemble without compromising her final design.  I showed her how to press the solid fabric to remove all the fold lines and wrinkles.    
Alex's colorful fabric selections

We then started to remove the paper backing off the charm squares and I showed her how she could cut out various shapes using fabric scissors and pinking shears, and she went to work creating an assortment of free-form cut shapes.  She wanted to cut out a star but was unsure how to free form it.  So she learned how to sketch designs in pencil on the Wonder Under paper backing and use an iron to transfer the lead lines onto the fused side of the squares, that could then be cut out.  She used that technique for a few different shapes.  When she started to draw a flower, I showed her how she could cut petals out of individual fabrics and layer them onto the paper backing to create an entire unit that could easily be moved around into her design.  She even got into some fussy cutting to cut out certain sections of the fabrics she most wanted to feature.

Alex getting ready to assemble her quilted pillow

Once her composition was complete, we then fused it all onto her background fabric.  I asked her what she might like to do with this finished piece:  make a mini quilt, tote bag or pillow and she was really excited about turning it into a pillow.  So we selected a pillow backing and she chose light pink thread to do some 1/2" straight line quilting onto a scrap of batting to keep all the fused pieces in place.  She helped to layer and baste the quilt top and even helped guide the fabric under the sewing machine as I controlled the foot pedal.  Once quilted, she helped to pin and assemble the pillow.  She was afraid we were sewing it upside down, but I assured her I would never let that happen to her first quilt.  So after I trimmed off the scrap edges, I handed her the inside out pillow and had her turn it right side out for the big reveal.  She then went to work stuffing her pillow and once filled, stitch together the small opening.
Alex and her first quilted pillow

Here is Alex's first quilted pillow--look at that big ole' smile on our budding quilt artist!!

While she was busy creating her quilt top, I went to work assembling a little fusing kit for her take home.  Doug found a small plastic case that we added some more backing grey fabrics, another stack of fused charms, in addition to her remaining fused scraps so she could continue the fusing fun at home.  She also took home a few quilting magazines.

I can't wait to see what she creates...maybe we can use some of her new pieces to learn how to piece together fabric and create a larger project at our next quilting session.

*  Name changed to Alex (she actually chose the name herself--perhaps she is destined to be a world-famous quilter like Alex Anderson!?!?)