Plainfield Central School students quilt for Christmas

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Plainfield - posted Mon., Nov. 26, 2012
Reaghan Mandeville and Brian Garceau hold up one of the two quilts their class made. Photos by D. Coffey.
Reaghan Mandeville and Brian Garceau hold up one of the two quilts their class made. Photos by D. Coffey.

Eighth-grader Faith Stimson was busy tying quilts after school on Nov. 20. She has spent one day a week for the last five weeks working on the 29 quilts that she and her classmates have been making. Three hundred students in Sandra Symington’s Family and Consumer Science classes contributed to the quilt project. It was a way for Symington to teach her students how to operate a sewing machine, as well as use up the stash of material she's been gathering in her 31 years at Plainfield Central School. But it was also a way for her students to give back to the community. The 13 baby quilts and 16 lap quilts will be donated to needy mothers and Plainfield's elderly for Christmas presents.

Symington broke the complicated project down into manageable pieces for her students, most of whom had never sewn before. She pre-cut all the pieces of material and designed the quilt patterns before the students ever got involved. There were triangles, squares, small and large rectangles, pinwheel patterns and eight-point star patterns. “It was a lot of cutting,” she said. Her goal was to make it simple: “I was just looking for them to sew two pieces of fabric together,” she said. “That was all.”

One sixth-grade class sewed triangles together, a difficult task given that fabric stretches, said Symington. Another sewed two rectangles together. Seventh-grade students sewed three pieces of fabric – either three rectangles of the same size, or a square, a small rectangle and a large rectangle. They'd sew a seam, iron it, sew a second seam and have a completed square. The squares got progressively harder with each grade.

“Everyone was at the machines and I'd say, 'Okay, everyone, put it under the presser foot. Put the presser foot down. Go three stitches forward, tie a knot, go back. Everyone come down the end and do a locking stitch. That was first thing they did,” she said.

From there, the quilt square project blossomed. Symington does quilting at home. People give her fabric. They've also donated fabric to the school. And there were leftover pieces from all the projects her student have completed in the past, from aprons to stuffed animals. She said there was so much fabric she had to do something with it. The lessons went so well that Symington decided to have her students each make a second square.

The students picked the colors they wanted but they had no idea how the squares were going to look once they were put together. “It's surprising how many different looks and designs we got from two pieces of fabric,” she said. There were colorful, whimsical quilts for the babies, plaid quilts for men, and flowery quilts for women.

Each baby quilt will be given with a book signed by the students who made it. “We hope it encourages the mothers to read to their babies,” Symington said. And each baby and lap quilt will be given with a laminated card that has each student's name on it.

Sharing her talents is nothing new to eighth-grader Cassandra Sleboda, who has been sewing for years. She made 60 stuffed frogs to sell at her church's bazaar this past summer. “It's nice to be able to give back to the community,” she said.

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