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 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
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Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
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
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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
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Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
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