December 27, 2010

Quilts, That Nostalgic Homemade Look

Every school year,  I like to read the book, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt to my second graders.  The first question they always ask is, "What's a quilt?"   After I show them pictures of the quilt in the story, I notice that a light bulb lights up in a few heads!  Yes, some of them have a quilt on their bed at home, they just never called it a quilt!  And every now and then, a few second graders may have a mom or grandma who makes quilts.

Sweet Clara was a young slave girl who was taken from her mother and sent to another plantation to pick cotton in the fields.  Clara was very frail and did not enjoy working in the fields.  Another slave, Aunt Rachel, taught Clara how to sew, hoping that Clara can work in the master's Big House instead of in the fields.  Clara quickly takes to sewing, and eventually sews for the mistress of the plantation.

Since the sewing room was next to the kitchen, Clara was able to meet many people who knew the countryside.  She learned of the Underground Railroad.  Clara secretly made a quilt using scraps of fabric from the Big House.  It included the surrounding land with a map to show the way to freedom.  When the quilt was finished. Clara ran away and headed north to freedom.  Of course, she knew the map on the quilt by heart, so left the quilt behind so others could use it's map to escape to freedom, too.

Happily, it is not necessary for any of us to create a quilt/map to escape to freedom. Some people make quilts just because they want to--they love playing with colors, shapes, and patterns.  Maybe you are one of them!  Or maybe you are like me--I don't want to make quilts, but I can genuinely ooh and aah over quilts that other people have made.

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