nursery school pillow project

These two pillows are the end result of a fun little project I organized with my son’s nursery school class.  It was a really nice way to get involved in the classroom and share my favorite craft with a bunch of adorable small people.   I was very fortunate that a friend who handles all the administrative aspects of the school offered her assistance on some very key steps.  Here is a quick summary of the project:

-I prepped enough half square triangles (HSTs) to cover two over-sized pillows from the classroom reading nook. I started with 4.5″ squares of fabric.  For the smaller HST’s, I used this brilliant method.  For the larger HST’s, I just layered two squares on top of each other, cut them once on the diagonal to create the triangles, and sewed the triangles together.

-My friend used a permanent marker to draw two grids directly on two pieces of lightweight fusible interfacing.  The grids were drawn on the “sticky” side of the interfacing.

-I went into the classroom and read the class a book about a quilt.  I really wanted to read them this one, but for several practical reasons related to this particular age group, I went with this one.

-After reading the book, I placed one grid on the floor and had the kids sit around it in a circle. I placed the HSTs in a bowl and instructed the kids to a) choose one, b) place it on a small square within the grid and then c) pass the bowl to the next person.  We continued like this until the grid filled up.  {You could speed up the process by using two bowls of HSTs or by asking the children to choose four HSTs at a time.   I did this after a while because the exercise did end up taking longer than I thought it would.}

-Once both grids were filled completely, the kids were finished designing their patchwork and went out to play.  My friend and I fused the fabric squares onto the interfacing using an iron.

-My friend took both grids home and used this method to sew the patchwork together. She did a beautiful job and saved me a ton of time.  I was so, so lucky.

-I  took the two pieces of patchwork and followed this really simple tutorial to insert a zipper and assemble the pillow covers.

That’s all!

A few things to note:

-I used solid fabric from my stash. I decided against using prints because I wanted the patterns of the geometric shapes to shine.  I was inspired by this post on the  Summersville blog.  I loved what she said about how she ended up loving some of the color combos that she had initially considered less attractive. I really didn’t like some of the individual half square triangle combinations I had put together. But as a whole, I love the effect.

-It was interesting to watch the kids make patterns.  At first they were just chosing colors they liked, but later they realized they could make different shapes if they were careful about how they placed their fabric squares.

-Originally, I thought I was going to use only the smaller sized HSTs to cover both pillows.  But then reality set in when I realized how long it was taking me to prepare the project.  That said, I am glad I got a little lazy because I like seeing the two pillows, side by side, in different scales.

-This project could also work as wall art.  It might also be a good concept to adopt if you were designing a quilt to raise money at a school auction.  The only trick is that you couldn’t use interfacing and you would probably want to use larger HSTs.  You would have to take a picture of the design that the kids came up with, and then carefully pick up the squares in the correct order so that you could sew them together fairly easily. But wouldn’t it be neat to have a full quilt that was designed by your child and his/her classmates that has such a fresh and modern look?

-I never could have designed these two beautiful pieces of artwork myself.  I just don’t have the confidence that my mind would allow me to be so completely and wonderfully random.  If you want to achieve a look like this, get a bunch of five year olds to do the design work for you!

On behalf of the nursery school, I am entering these pillows into the Festival of Half Square Triangles at Canoe Ridge Creations.  I realize that sewing HSTs together randomly is not exactly a novel idea, but I do think that the concept of the project is a good model for mom’s who sew and want to get involved in the classroom.  If this project is awarded a prize, I bet the nursery school will put their winnings to good use!

There are a ton of other really great creative projects using HSTs that you can view here.


24 thoughts on “nursery school pillow project

  1. Hi! Your pillows are really beautiful and so live and happy with those bright colours! Wonderful photos, too! x Teje

  2. What fabulous pillows!! Long ago when I taught third grade I did a unit on quilts with my kids. I have a great collection of titles, but didn’t know the two you mentioned. We did four patch handsewn pillows at the end of our unit with lots of parent help! I loved it and so did the kids! I think kids can really learn about the design process – it’s like playing with wooden geometrical blocks (with kids of all ages still love!). I love using interfacing for patchwork – I’ve done it a few times with pillows – works great! Love the pillows – what a great project!

  3. Great job! They’re so pretty. Lainie was sitting on my lap while I read and uttered “Oooh!” as she pointed to the pillows. So you’ve also got the approval of a 2-year old! 🙂

  4. These pillows are awesome. I love how smaller children have not yet learned that certain color combinations don’t “go together” and come up with really wonderful results….Great job.

    I volunteered at a primary school and taught quilting/geometry to Grade One kids with shapes cut from discarded wallpaper samples from my local decorating store! Again the results were fabulous!

    The kids and nursery school is so lucky to have your participation! 🙂

  5. i need to learn how to say fabulous in about 10 languages!! cause that’s how fabulous this pillow is!!! and maybe it takes thinking like a group of five year olds to free up our creative process, because i agree with you. i don’t think i would have been confident enough or loose enough in my own thinking to have come up with such a fabulous design.

  6. I need to learn how to say fabulous in about 10 languages!! cause that’s how fabulous these pillows are!!! and maybe it takes thinking like a group of five year olds to free up our creative process. because i’m like you i don’t think i would have been confident enough or loose enough in my own thinking to have come up with such a fabulous design.

  7. I love these pillows. My daughter is doing a quilting unit in the Montessori school where she teaches. I will have to show her this. Thanks for posting.

  8. What a great idea! I can’t wait to get sewing with my kiddos…there are some many simple and memorable projects that could be done. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  10. oh, what fun! currently settling in for the winter (i do sound a bit like a bear, yes?) and gathering stash. one of my littles will love a new pretty pillow! so glad i found you!

  11. although I’m tardy to this post – it is still lovely – sewing with children is really wonderful – I would also recommend the book – The Quilt Maker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau, lovely story and beautiful artwork of many traditional designs – thank you for the inspiration!

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