The Art of the Quilt
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The Unit will be divided into the following sections with an art activity connected to each section:
I—History of Quilt making
The students will learn why fabric was first sewn in layers and how it was used. This technique which was first for purely practical purposes developed into making items of beauty, giving the makers opportunity to develop skills, use their imaginations creatively and share something with their family and/or community. As the art of the quilt developed, patchwork and appliqué became two distinctive types of quilts made in many different cultures.
II—The African Connection
In West Africa fabric design in a variety of techniques has been developed. Appliqué has been worked for generations into flags and banners which use symbols of status and power to communicate, events or stories. In this section students will identify, compare and make 3 different fabric design types which will become a basis for looking at the quilts created by African Americans.
III—The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers
Harriet Powers made two quilts which are now housed in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC and in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In this section students will learn the story these quilts tell and find the connections Mrs. Powers’ work has to African design in the colors shapes and subjects she uses to tell a story. Students will begin the construction of their own story quilt block.
IV—The Development of Quilt making in the African American Community
There are over a million quilts made by African Americans in the United States. The oldest of these were made by unidentified slaves. Sewing techniques were passed from parent to child in black and white communities of the 19th century, so that children grew up learning to sew, piece and appliqué from a very young age. Some quilts were made by the house servant or slave seamstress for the use of the masters’ family and some of the quilts were made for the use of the quilter, passed on through the quilter’s family. In this section we will study both the type of quilts made from the mid 19th Century to present, and the stories they tell. We will look at the roots of bold colors, asymmetrical designs and abstract designs—how they reflect social structures. We will also look at the connection between quilt making and other arts. Students will have the opportunity to make a crazy quilt.
V—Quilt Your Own Story
In this section, students will create a scene from their life story by building upon techniques learned to make one quilt square of their own design. The squares will be arranged together to tell the story of the entire class. A culminating event will be inviting family members to come in for an evening quilting bee to sew the entire quilt together.