A quilt is more than a blanket, it tells a story. This is doubly true of a quilt recently donated to Matthew’s House by a grade two/three class at McMillan Elementary School in Abbotsford.
The quilt, which one of the students titled Once Upon a Quilt, is themed around fairy tales with fabric panels carefully drawn and coloured by students who each chose a fairy tale to represent visually.
The idea for the project came from Dayle Thiessen, who worked as a student teacher at the school last spring. Her own children had created similar quilts as kindergarteners attending school in Yarrow, which were then donated to charities like Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to benefit a family overseas. She saw how well her own children responded to this kind of hands-on project that would benefit others and knew that the students at McMillan would respond as well.
“The art came effortlessly as the children were very engaged in the stories we explored,” she says, adding that she based her lesson plan on the Applied Design portion of the new BC curriculum. “They developed skills around quilt making and we focused on how their creation would contribute to the individual, family and community.”
The children were not the only ones contributing to the story of this quilt as the community truly became part of the whole project. Thiessen works in a group home in Chilliwack and she invited one of the ladies who lives there to help with the sewing of the quilt. The woman worked the foot pedal while Thiessen guided the fabric through the machine, building the fabric strips that would create the face of the quilt. Thiessen’s sons’ kindergarten teacher offered advice and lent fabric crayons that the students used to create their artwork on the blank panels. A quilter from MCC helped finish the quilt with beautiful top stitching.
“The quilt turned out more beautiful than I expected and I believe it was the contribution of so many talented people,” Thiessen says. “It was an idea that I wanted to reinforce in the children, that we were a community working together to create something that would benefit another person.”
The beneficiaries of the quilt are the children and youth who live at Matthew’s House, a home that supports families whose children live with complex care needs. Thiessen wanted the project to stay within the Abbotsford community and Matthew’s House seemed like a natural fit.
“I thought the children could make a personal connection, knowing their project went somewhere local. It was a way for us to look beyond ourselves and to be connected to community.” – Dayle Thiessen, student teacher
The creation of the quilt took about 3 months in total. The students enjoyed many aspects of the project: they enjoyed hearing the fairy tales, being able to choose where their personal fairy tale design would go on the quilt, using the fabric crayons, and seeing their artwork on the finished quilt. As they considered those who would receive their gift, they imagined a Matthew’s House child snuggling beneath it.
“The children hope that whoever uses the quilt will like their pictures and that they would have ‘sweet dreams’,” Thiessen says.
It is a fitting, “happily ever after”, to the story of Once Upon a Quilt.