Last month, my library held a Black History Month Kick Off Event. It was a full afternoon affair, complete with a mayoral proclamation, storytime, craft, beat making workshop, and a program where participants made their own drum and then formed a drum circle together. It was a fun, vibrant, successful event with lots of enthusiastic community participation.
The craft was my responsibility, and I decided that I wanted to do a community art project that would ultimately hang on our wall. I also wanted the project to be accessible and appropriate for children, teens, and adults. I decided on a paper quilt; I created the basic squares, the community decorated them, and I put them together and hung it up. I'm thrilled with how it turned out, and it's absolutely an idea that would work well for Women's History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, a local history project, or any other number of celebrations. Here's how I did it!
First, I decided I wanted to make 49 quilt squares - 50 seemed like a good number for our estimated 100 attendees because I knew some participants would work alone an others in small groups - and planned to create a 7x7 square quilt. I conducted research to put together a list of 48 individuals (the 49th square is the signature square - more on that later!). My working document included each person's name, a brief blurb about their accomplishments/what they're known for, and a link to a black and white image of them. I tried to have roughly even numbers of male/female and past/present African Americans and a variety of professions/areas of influence. Here's my list. If you want to make a larger quilt, there are absolutely more amazing individuals worth celebrating.
I printed photos roughly 3" x 4" and the text, and then I glued them on to yellow, green, and red paper. I squared off sheets of white cardstock, and then glued on the prepared center. I punched holes in each square's four corners and then used reinforcement labels on the back. To make the signature square, I printed the library logo with the city and date underneath, and glued that onto stacked circles of colored paper. At this point, it's a good idea to weigh stacks of the squares down with a heavy pile of books because the glue makes them want to curl, and the goal is to keep them flat.
On the day of the event, I spread out the squares on a low table so people could choose which they wanted. I also provided crayons, markers, sparkly foam, tissue paper, construction paper, glue sticks, and scissors. I told people there was no right way to decorate the squares and to just be creative. The results were fabulous!
Later in February, when I started to lay out the completed squares, I realized that two had disappeared along the way, leaving me with 48 total squares, so my quilt ended up being 6 x 8. Were I making a traditional quilt, it would be a vertical design, but as you can see, I chose horizontal. My theory was that since it would be hanging on the wall, wider was better than taller for viewing <shrug emoji>.
I laid the squares out on the floor and rearranged until I was satisfied. If you look carefully, you can see that I organized the squares so there are diagonal rows of photo frame colors. To "sew" the quilt squares together, I used white yarn to connect the squares using the holes I punched earlier. In four-square intersections, I connected opposite corners, so the yarn makes an X, and just tied simple knots to secure them. Be careful not to pull too tight, as the quilt needs some give, and too tight can also lead to ripping. With the help of another staff member, we hung it on the wall using thumbtacks and taking advantage of the punched holes.
If you have questions, I will do my best to answer them in the comments. If you ever do something like this, I'd love to see! Feel free to share links in the comments :)