The Magic Quilt
The quilt looks a little Magic here, in the glow of the morning sun. It also looks a bit lonely with no children on top or seniors gathered around.
I made this quilt nearly 20 years ago to replace an old family quilt I destroyed from overuse with children. And even before I lugged quilts to classrooms for storytelling, I used rugs when I was a kid myself, babysitting younger children. You could get kids to brush their teeth faster if you promised to play "flying carpet" for a few minutes before bed!
I will admit, I used to sometimes feel guilty about getting paid for pretending with kids! I love telling stories and I love having children add their own imagination to the story telling. Why else would we have two Rapunzels in this story? These children at The College School in Webster Groves, Missouri brought their own version of Rapunzel to life and eventually put it on film. Incidentally, one of these Rapunzels is grown and has played major roles alongside Reese Witherspoon and Glenn Close.
Is no one listening to me? Is my son pouting?
This photo is the only one I have of the old quilt in use. This was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the quilt began to lose chunks of fluff and batting with each class.
I think it's just a bad photo, but we could probably use it to make a point that I had no control or enthusiasm because I needed a new Magic Quilt!
The New Quilt
So I finally bought material, used my mother's old feisty machine and created this 9X9 foot quilt. (real quilters would not be impressed)
I created a sitting space with borders, so children could "sit on the blue" and focus inward. The printed material was inviting to kids. There were animals and crayons and boats and things to sing or talk about.
It worked. Whether it was the soft material or the colors, or the cozy island feel of being together on a space, the quilt unified us. I learned quickly that I had more control with kids on this quilt. The wilder kids seemed calmer. The quieter kids grew more animated. Children listened longer to my quilt stories and their enthusiasm motivated me to create more.
Magic Quilt Classes
I had so much fun making up stories about all the places the Magic Quilt could take us, that I ended up teaching classes that revolved around these silly "what if" stories.
The photo above, shows kids at Center of Contemporary Arts in St. Louis, practicing a little percussion before acting out a story about an imaginary trip to a jungle. Between the storytelling and the acting, there had to be lot of time to explore and create...games and music...costume and prop making!
Comfort of the Quilt
These kids are in a Magic Quilt class in Sugar Land, Texas. They're having fun, which has been my goal for using the quilt with kids. However in recent years I've started using the quilt in places where it is more needed...where it can bring comfort and support as well.
I am not allowed to photograph the kids who now pretend with the quilt on visits to the Fort Bend County Women's Shelter. I also have no pictures from when I used the quilt with children at the Astrodome and the Red Cross shelter when Houston housed victims of Hurricane Katrina. These are different kinds of quilt experiences, less structured and more informal. But whether kids gather on the quilt as a fun after school activity or as a distraction from some bigger worries, the quilt seems to bring a bit of escape to all...me included.
What I have learned...
Whether on a bed, wrapped around a child in a Norman Rockwell painting, or resting on a floor with kids on top...A Quilt is a Welcoming Thing.
I have heard people say, the older the quilt, the more valuable. Since I believe a quilt's value increases with each person it comes in contact with... then I guess that must be true!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.