by Suzanne Labry
4-H QUILT QUEST
For well over 100 years, the 4-H program has been providing learning opportunities for young men and women in the United States.
Beginning around the turn of the 20th century under the auspices of land-grant universities (educational institutions created when federally-controlled land was given to each state to teach agriculture, science, and engineering), 4-H was initially founded with the intention of instructing rural youth in improved farming and farm-homemaking practices. Through the decades, both the 4-H program and the land-grant universities have continually expanded their scope and areas of interest.
Nebraska’s land-grant university is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), and the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design in UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences, includes faculty who assist in curriculum development for the
4-H program. The department also is the academic home of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSCM) and offers a unique masters degree in Textile History with a quilt studies emphasis, which is the only program of its kind in the world.
The IQSCM has the world's largest publicly held quilt collection, dating from the early 1700s to the present and representing more than 45 countries. Having such extraordinary quilt scholarship and 4-H curriculum development under the same roof, so to speak, provided just the synergy needed to produce a special educational module for the 4-H program called Quilt Quest.
Quilt Quest is a “comprehensive guide to designing and making a quilt. 4-H’ers learn about the history of quilts; preservation of both old and new quilts; documentation of quilts; using the designs in other media such as glass, wood, or paper; photographing quilts; and
The base curriculum is called Beginning Basics, which covers such topics as fabrics and patterns, cutting out a quilt, troubleshooting a sewing machine, and getting ready to sew. The base curriculum is supplemented with a series of six components requiring increasing degrees of skill: Project Block 1—Creative Corners; Project Block 2—Terrific Triangles; Project Block 3—Fantastic Fabrics; Project Block 4—Perfect Paper Piecing; Project Block 5—Elegant Embellishments; and Project Block 6—Amazing Appliqué. The entire course is available on CDs.
The concept of a 4-H curriculum on quilts got its start in 2004. Dr. Diane Vigna, Emeritus Associate Professor, Extension Specialist in Textiles at UNL, was one of the core members who created it.
“Quilt Quest was developed because the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is housed in the University's Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design. It made sense that if the center for academic scholarship of quilts was in the TMFD department, it should be the department to develop a curriculum for 4-H,” Dr. Vigna says.
“A team was put together by the 4-H curriculum design specialist, consisting of the state's two extension specialists who were housed in the TMFD department, and several Extension Educators who had personal interests in quiltmaking. The decision was made to write a comprehensive curriculum that could take youth, ages 10-19 on a journey of discovery into the art and science of quiltmaking.”
For the past few years, Holli Weber, Nebraska Extension Specialist, has served as 4-H Quilt Superintendent at the State Fair. According to her, Quilt Quest was initially implemented through hands-on workshops, focusing on the experiential activities in
It was presented to all the state's Extension Educators, and was quickly picked up by 4-H’ers across the state. It was also presented at numerous national and international conferences. It was considered by Girl Scouts as well as 4-H for national audiences. As a result, 4-H clubs in many other states have adopted the curriculum.
“The number of exhibits for Quilt Quest has been astounding. From the beginning, most all Nebraska counties adopted Quilt Quest and sent exhibits to the Nebraska State Fair. The quality of the quilt exhibits is very high,” Weber says. “Each year, a number of quilts are selected from the State Fair for showing at ULN’s Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery's Celebration of Youth - an exhibit featuring excellence in art and design from the 4-H Quilt Quest, Clothing, Home Environment areas.
“The Quilt Quest Curriculum allows 4-H youth to really show off their talents and creativity. The skills that are learned through quiltmaking are going to stick with these youth for a lifetime. I truly believe this curriculum is allowing the art of quiltmaking to come alive again in our next generation,” she continues.
“The most satisfying aspect of this project is watching youth reveal their true talents and creativity, and express their feelings through quilts. I am always so impressed with the accomplishments that these young men and women make in their 4-H projects. It is