May is the time for a delightful annual event held for our 4th grade students at A.L. Lotts. Laura Ingalls Wilder Day is a celebration of the stories and era written about in the Little House on the Prairie book series. The event features a program in which the students star. Parents get to enjoy songs, dances, informative introductions, and a wonderful play based on On the Banks of Plum Creek. Afterwards, students and parents attend a variety of stations that focus on aspects of life on the Prairie. From butter churning to woodcarving, students are immersed in fascinating activities and presentations. The horse-drawn carriage is always a highlight. And yes, there is a wonderful quilt presentation that focuses on patchwork traditions!Our modern-day Stargazer Story Quilt was not only on view during Laura Ingalls Wilder Day—one of the most exciting, busiest days of the school year!—it was actually an optional activity! Parents could stop by not just to see the quilt but also to select a button and sew it on! Students could sew on a button, too, as long as they had an adult working with them. Mrs. Richters spent the day at the school facilitating the “Button Bee.” It’s a good thing she was there, because we discovered that sewing handmade buttons onto a giant art quilt was NOT as simple as one would think!
Mrs. Richters put great care into the craftsmanship of the quilt. She hid all of her knots and buried within the layers of the quilt the ends of every single thread on the quilt. The back of the quilt is as well-crafted as the front of the quilt—and just as beautiful, though not nearly as colorful! The backing is a mottled blue, and the embroidered leopard is the only subject that is visible on the back. It looks glorious; all the orange-yellow swirling spots Mrs. Richters stitched freehand on her machine really show up against the intense blue fabric.
When sewing on the buttons, we wanted to maintain a high degree of workmanship. We didn’t want to have buttons sewn on all willy-nilly! We needed the buttons to be sewn on securely. We wanted the knots to be hidden under the buttons, not visible on the back of the quilt. We wanted the stitches on the back to be neat, short and subtle… not messy, long and obvious. We also had made a decision that all of the buttons would be sewn on with a dark blue thread, to be less obvious on the mottled blue backing…except for the buttons in the sashing. I suggested that the buttons on the sashing be sewn on with the same yellow-orange thread of the leopard’s quilting. I thought it might make for an interesting frame around the leopard on the back, filled with a confetti-like pattern of warm-colored stitches.I have come to regret this idea. Choosing a different color thread for the buttons on the sashing made the Button Bee a bit more complicated than it needed to be! But the decision was made, and we are sticking to it.During the Button Bee, we aimed to stitch buttons onto the sashing and inside triangles, not onto the sky panel. This was for several reasons. The sky is in the center of the quilt, making it more difficult to access. The sashing and inside triangles are closer to the edges, making them an easier location for our volunteers to stitch onto.Volunteers could select a button from our button table. They would let Grandma Donna know whose button they had (Grandma Donna was our record-keeper for the day), and where it was sewn on. Mrs. Richters and I tried to oversee the sewing-on process, and provided instruction whenever needed. As I stated earlier, it was more difficult than we anticipated! But it was also tremendous fun. We had a wonderful response from the parents and students and community members who came by. Our Button Bee was set up right outside the school office, so any visitor was sure to see it.We managed to get 83 buttons sewn on that day. Our Principal Mrs. Lenn as well as our Assistant Principals Mr. Pratt and Dr. Mobley all stitched a button to the quilt. Our school nurse, Mrs. Menestrina—an accomplished quilter herself!—donated her time, as did our music teachers, Mrs. Ward and Mrs. Swinson. We had parents, grandparents, students, and even some community members who donn’t have students enrolled at the school stop by and donate their time and attention. How enjoyable it was!My father, a.k.a. Poppop, took some photos early in the day. Thank you, Dad! And thank you, Mom, for your diligence in keeping the button log! We sure have a lot of buttons to keep track of, but it is my intent to have a record of each button on the quilt. Mom, a.k.a. Grandma Donna, did a wonderful job of documenting each button throughout the Button Bee.