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Quilting As Math Class At Home

With schools closing down across the country many parents and grandparents are being thrust into the role of teacher.  People are sometimes amazed by some of my math abilities, being able to see a quarter of an inch, how many piecing you can get out of something, the way to maximize a piece of paper to get as many cuts as possible, etc.  All of those skills came about from quilting.  My mom ran her quilt business out of our home and when I was home from school she put me to work.  I never saw it as work or as learning, it was hanging out with my mom.  Now is the perfect opportunity to share your love of quilting with the littles in your life and teach them some math skills while you are at it.

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Now you need to realize kids aren't going to organize, sew, or cut the way a seasoned quilter does.  We didn't organize, sew, or cut the way we do today.  Organizing and cutting though are standards in math, so is spatial reasoning (how many will fit), quilting is filled with fractions to add and subtract, changing fractions to decimals and back to fractions, measuring, geometry, algebra, and probably even more that I'm not thinking of off the top of my head.  Most of all though it will be a distraction for your child and will turn this scary time into a beloved memory of the time they spent with you.

Organizing Your Scraps

The skill of sorting starts in preschool.  Have your littles sort scraps by color and put them in a bag or box.  Ask the child what color they are sorting.  Have older kids sort by shape and general size after the smaller ones have sorted by color.  If you have 3rd graders or older have them measure the scraps and sort them that way.  If you have kids old enough to sew allow them to pick some of their favorite pieces to sew together later.  They could make string blocks, half-square triangles, hot pads, or mug rugs with your scraps.  If you have more scraps they could make pillows, doll quilts, and wall hangings.

Fractions in Quilting

We use fractions every time we quilt. A quarter-inch seam, eighths and quarters are common cuts, adding seam allowance, are all things we do without thinking about it.  Depending on your child's skills really changes what can be done.  If you have older kids that can add or subtract the same fractions have them figure out how much fabric it will take to make 10 4 1/2 squares.  Or have them figure out what size to cut your blocks for half-square triangles.  Have the kids check your machine for a 1/4" seam.  Give an older kid a quilt block and have them change the size of the block and then let them put it together to see if their math was right.  

Measuring Fabric

Some of these ideas go along with sorting your fabric.  Have kids measure and tag pieces of fabric with the dimensions.  Show kids old enough how to cut fabric and have them cut pieces of fabric a specific size.  Have kids figure out what the area of some pieces of fabric.  Then have them figure out how many squares or rectangles you can get out of that piece.  


One of the things I remember doing with my mom is tracing templates.  We don't do as much template quilting today as they used to do but we can still give kids a square and a piece of paper to trace.  Have them see how many squares they can fit on the piece.  Have kids trace hexagons for a hand project.  Let them cut out the pieces that they drew and explain why careful cutting is important in quilting.  My grandma started me sewing with yo-yos.  I traced, cut, and hand-stitched circles to sew together to make a small pillow.  I know now it was busy work but I loved doing it as a kid.  Sitting on grandma's lap while she helped me trace, cut, and sew.  Make those memories!  


Kids love to color and frankly, a lot of adults love to color too.   Coloring quilt blocks is a fun way to play with color.  I have a set of coloring sheets available.  There's one big block and then a page of smaller blocks that can be cut out and used to layout a quilt without using any fabric.  If you print them on cardstock the kids can play with the small blocks over and over again.  Maybe they'll surprise you with a new layout or an interesting combo of blocks.

The most important thing to remember is to make memories, keep things as normal as possible, and know we will all get through this together.  If I can be of help with project ideas please reach out!  I'm happy to help any way I can.  Don't forget you can also use cooking to help with fractions and fill the house with yummy smells.

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