Let me start by saying this is not my original idea. I got the idea from Alycia at Alycia Quilts on the left sidebar. Check out her website and help her make a Quilt of Valor! She has a goal of 400 quilts by next May. She has about 200 of them now (130 are quilted) and could use all of the help she could get. When I asked her how she made quilts with her kids, she told me what she did. Since I like to see things as well as read about them, I thought it might be nice to share with everyone in words and pictures how I took what she told me and applied it to the quilts I made with my son's preschool class. I also learned a thing or two on my own that might help you avoid one of the biggest problems I had with these quilts.
1. Prewash your muslin fabric. Don't try to wash a whole 25 yard bolt at one time. Cut it into manageable size pieces, maybe 1 yard each, but not tiny squares either. Dry it in the dryer on the hottest setting. You want it to do all of its shrinking before you get started. I made a nap mat cover for my son and didn't wash the muslin first. The muslin shrank way more than the other fabric I used and now it is all wonky and crooked. It is only a nap mat cover and nobody really cares, but for a quilt, you don't want your muslin squares shrinking tons and making the quilt all crooked.
2. Iron the muslin after it comes out of the dryer if it is really wrinkly. Mine was pretty nice, but having wrinkles in the squares makes it hard for the kids to write on.
3. Tear off pieces of freezer paper. I tried this a couple of different ways. I cut squares of freezer paper the size of the finished squares I wanted and then ironed them onto the fabric and that was ok, but I'm in this for speed. The way I did it was to tear off a piece of freezer paper about the length of my ironing board. Then, I cut a piece of muslin the length of my ironing board and cut it in half the long way. This was with the 45 inch wide muslin. With the 36 inch wide muslin, I left it whole and ironed two pieces of freezer paper to it, one overlapping the other by about an inch. I ironed the freezer paper to the muslin. The freezer paper has a paper size and a waxy side. You will know which side to put down on the muslin. If you try to iron on the wrong side, it will stick to your iron and ruin it. Be sure to iron on the paper side of the freezer paper. This stuff is really cool!
4. Take your freezer paper/muslin combo to the cutting mat and using a rotary cutter, make squares the size you want. I cut my blocks 9 inches. Again, I was going for speed, so I laid the paper/muslin combo over on itself and cut through several layers at one time. The freezer paper is exactly 18 inches wide so that was really nice for cutting.
5. When you have enough squares (make a few extras just in case) let the kids draw on the using crayons. I used Crayola crayons. The really cheap crayons like Rose Art I wouldn't trust. I bought mine at WalMart for 20 cents for a pack of 24 crayons. They weren't on sale, they are always this price around here.
6. Here is where the hard part comes in. Try to get the kids to keep away from the edges. They will want to draw right up to the edge, but you will need 1/4 inch for the seam allowance and whatever they draw or write at the edge will disappear under the seam. Get them to write their name in the middle of the square if possible. Depending on the age of the child, this isn't as easy as it sounds.
7. When the kids are all done drawing, turn the paper/muslin squares fabric side down onto a brown paper grocery sack. Iron them to get the excess crayon off and to set the crayon into the fabric. Do not use the same part of the grocery sack over and over because the crayon will just go back onto the fabric if you do. Move the sack around for each square that you iron. Be careful not to iron too long or you will burn the paper! Also be careful because the paper gets really hot and holds the heat longer then you might think. I burned my fingers a couple of times trying to move the squares off the ironing board.
8. When you are ready to sew, peel off the fabric from the muslin and sew just like you would any other fabric. Make sure you aren't sewing the squares upside down ;)
9. I cut my sashing fabrics 3 1/2 inches. These quilts came out about 43 x 60 inches a perfect size for curling up on the couch with or taking a nap.
10. If you would like to make one of these for QOV, please make them 4 blocks by 5 blocks so they are big enough for the wounded soldiers. You can send them to Alycia for her QOV project at the address listed on her blog. You can even make a quilt top and she will do the quilting for you. Think of how much fun it would be to try this with your child's class. Have each child draw a picture, thanking a soldier for their service to our country, or a picture of what it means to be an American.
I'm going to have my son's 6th grade class do this. I can't wait to see what they come up with.