Saundra Wimberley, a first grade teacher at Crestview Elementary, has spent the last 16 years creating a class quilt each year with the help of her students.
Quilt making is a rich tradition in Saundra Wimberley’s West Texas family history. From each generation, Wimberley’s great-grandmothers, grandmothers, along with herself all have made quilts in their lifetimes and enjoy the work, art, and stories they represent.
Wimberley, a first grade teacher at Crestview Elementary, has carried her family tradition to the classroom for the past 16 years, making a quilt for each of her classes with the help of her students.
“Quilt making is becoming a lost art,” Wimberley said. “I want to make sure my students understand what they are and what they can represent. When my students begin learning the ‘qu’ combination in class with ‘quilt’ as our keyword, I bring several quilts of mine that my grandmothers and great-grandmothers made to explain and demonstrate what a quilt is. I bring one that is really beautiful that has many pieces and is quite artistic with the wedding ring design. The students are amazed.”
Some of the other quilts she brings to her classroom are just big pieces of leftover fabric from things sewed — a shirt, dress, apron, and even pieces from cotton seeds and flour sacks.
“These quilts are definitely old,” Wimberley said. “I can remember my grandmother when I look at those fabric pieces. Quilts weren’t always fancy, and most were made for convenience from leftovers and were just something made to keep you warm.”
The quilts Wimberley makes for each of her classes are quite different though as they are made from a piece of fabric that represents each child.
“The overall saying is ‘We are each beautiful, but look at how amazing we are together,’” she said. “This quilt helps show that we are different from each other, but we can still appreciate one another.”
Each child has one square on the quilt that Wimberley then pieces together. At the beginning of the school year, she reaches out to the parents, asking to send a piece of fabric or material that is at least 9-inch square. The piece of fabric though signifies something special to the child or family, including a favorite out-grown T-shirt, a print with a favorite character or topic, a piece of a baby blanket, favorite pair of pajamas or even a piece of material that is simply the child’s favorite color.
“I love seeing fabrics included that reflect something special about the family or the family’s culture,” Wimberley said. “Through the years, I’ve received lots of outgrown sports shirts, favorite pajamas, fabrics with characters on them, but also some very precious pieces. One year, a student of mine brought a Chinese handkerchief to show her heritage. There are always fun, special items I receive for the quilt.”
Once Wimberley receives all of the fabric pieces from her students, she then spends her time off creating the quilt. She also has the students write what that piece of fabric means to them and then traces their handwriting onto the fabric.
At the end of the school year, she auctions the quilt off to the parents and uses the money for classroom expenses.
“Some years I don’t break even, and some years I make enough to enhance some of my materials or room décor, buy books or just to get the next year started,” Wimberley said. “It always helps. The quilt is always fun and is well worth my time and money.”