Alta Profitt's Laurel (Indiana) Elementary Preschool class and their quilt. Photo courtesy of Alta Profitt.
Alta Profitt has been teaching preschool at Laurel Elementary School in Laurel, Indiana, for the past 11 years. And for 25 years before that, she owned and operated a nursery school.
In both venues, she has always taught her young students to quilt. Alta credits her love of quilting to her grandmother, who, on cold nights, would pile so many quilts on her granddaughter to keep her warm, that it was almost impossible for her to turn over in bed!
Still, it’s one thing to love quilts and quilting, and another to want to teach nursery school-aged kids how to do it. “When I opened Tot Spot Nursery School, I went to a workshop and a saw a project where children had made ‘story pillows,’ and I started making those with my children,” Alta recalls.
“Then it just hit me that it would be fun to make a story quilt. I took the pictures that the children had drawn for their pillows and traced them onto quilt squares. The children painted them with fabric paint. I didn’t use filling but did do a backing. I painted each child’s hand and made the handprint on the backing. Anita Ratz, a teacher who worked with me, sewed the quilt together and put a binding around it and made a pocket for a dowel so it could hang on our wall. It was such a success that, ever since then, I’ve been making quilts with my students.”
There is always a theme to the quilt that is chosen by the kid—or sometimes by Alta—and she then uses the experience of making the quilt not only as an art project, but also as a means of incorporating all aspects of the curriculum in a variety of ways.
Math principles, the seasons, geography, the alphabet, animals, or whatever is being taught—the quilt engages the students in the learning process in a fun and unusual way.
At the preschool level, though, there is a limit to what those little hands can safely do. While Alta (or another adult) does any cutting and the actual sewing, the kids do learn to use a needle. Some of her classes have tied their quilts by pulling yarn through the top and back layers of the quilt and tying knots in the corners of the quilt squares. Other classes have embellished their quilts by sewing buttons on the top.
An artist at heart, Alta combines that gift with a love of teaching. “Sometimes a four- or five-year-old will say, ‘I don’t know how to draw ______ [whatever they’ve been asked to draw],’” said Alta. “But when you show them that everything is a shape, the look on their faces is wonderful to see. They are always excited to see the finished quilt. And all of them, every single one, will say to their parents when they visit our room: ‘That’s my square. I did that!’”
Some of the finished quilts hang in the school library or hallways. Others have been given away in class raffles. The students are always photographed with their quilt, and that photo goes into the memory books that they take home at the end of the year.
Who knows how many future quilters might be getting their first taste of quilting in Alta Profitt’s classroom? It’s not far-fetched to say that more than one of them, when asked at some future date how they learned to love quilts, will be able to respond, “Oh, I’ve been making quilts since preschool!”
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Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor
See other archived columns here