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Elementary school students learn life lessons while creating quilts - May. 21, 2014


Kathy Bockus/Courier
Students at St. Stephen Elementary School learned how to quilt this year, thanks to members of a Thursday evening sewing club which meets in St. Stephen. Club member Linda Rideout, left, helps Leigha White, 11, tie a quilt while Sharon Richardson helped granddaughter Sophia, 9. Each of the girls in the lunchtime class sewed and tied her own quilt.

Kathy Bockus
St. Stephen
They were an excited group of girls at St. Stephen Elementary School.
The 10- and 11-year-olds were part of a lunchtime school quilting club who had completed their lap quilts and got to take their projects, bursting with colourful squares and backed with cozy fleece, home.
There were plenty of hugs and “thank yous” offered to the ladies who had taught them the basics of what some fear may become a lost art.
Linda Rideout, Sharon Richardson, Kay Weeks and Florence (Skip) Firlotte are all members of a Thursday night sewing group who started meeting at the Kirk-McColl United Church in St. Stephen about 10 years ago. The eight to 12 members now meet in a room at the Vocational Centre on Union Street and if the little girls’ enthusiasm was any indication, the group may gain some new members – in a few years.
The women have volunteered their time since the first of the year in a program that was supposed to last for just six weeks and was intended to help little girls learn to sew and make quilts.
While an occasional Wednesday storm day which closed schools did add to the program’s extension, it was the enthusiasm the women and their protégées had for the projects that lengthened the program.
“It started Jan. 15 and was supposed to be for six weeks and here we are,” laughed Judey MacDonald, SSES community school coordinator.
MacDonald is pretty confident the program will be offered by the ladies again next school year. “It’s been one of my favourites,” she confided.
“They are beyond excited today,” MacDonald said laughing as the little girls dashed about the room, wrapped in the cozy confines of their quilts, getting ready to say goodbye to their new friends.
“This has been wonderful,” said MacDonald. She remarked the girls not only learned about sewing and quilting but about lending a helping hand to each other as they made sure all the quilts were done and able to be taken home. They’re already looking at other quilting patterns.
“These are our future quilters,” said Rideout, smiling as she looked at the excited girls. She’s noticed a big difference in the girls since they started the program. The youngsters admitted they had never sewn before and “some were scared to death.”
“Some of them want us to come to the (St. Stephen) middle school next year to be with them again,” Rideout said with a laugh.
Completing the quilts not only taught the girls how to sew but gave them a sense of accomplishment and pride, said Rideout, and showed how, by working together, they can achieve wonderful things.
Members of Rideout’s sewing group donated the large, already cut, same-sized squares of fabric – “scraps from our stash” - which the girls sewed together, attaching a piece of fleece fabric for backing. The quilt tops were then “tied” using colourful crochet cotton.
Rideout said it is important that young girls learn to sew so they may carry on what could become a lost art. She said most of the adult members of the sewing group learned how to sew in school in Home Economics classes or had a mother or grandmother who sewed and made quilts.
Weeks said she “loves quilting” and enjoyed her time teaching the girls.
“It was fun with the kids, with all of them,” she said.
“Especially with me!” piped up Rayleen Brisley, 10, as Weeks helped tie the youngster’s quilt.
When asked what she liked about the sewing program, Brisley said, “I love how they help with everything.”
Richardson said she was new to the quilting group so the school program enabled her to learn along with the girls.
And being able to work with granddaughter Sophie Richardson, nine, was an added bonus.
For Sophie too, it seems. When asked what her favourite part of the sewing class was, Sophie answered “Getting to see my Nan.”
Leigha White, 11, said she loved quilting and especially liked the program because “most of my friends are here.”
The girls are possessive of their creations.
When Richardson suggested the girls might want to give their finished lap quilts to their moms for Mother’s Day, White, exclaimed, “I worked too hard on this to give it up now!”