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Students make quilt with newly found skills
McEver Arts Academy fifth-graders Athena Akers, left, 11, and Alex Reyes, 12, hold up a quilt while quilter Linda O’Donnell looks on Wednesday. The fifth-graders created the squares for three separate quilts, which O’Donnell then stitched together. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Quilter Linda O’Donnell has inspired a new generation of sewers at McEver Arts Academy.

"I learned to quilt in 1993 by taking an adult education class," said O’Donnell, a member of the Hall County Quilting Guild.

"Before retirement, I worked at various American embassies in many countries and was always on the lookout for unusual fabrics. Some of my favorites came from Africa."

In addition to being passionate about fabrics, O’Donnell is also a regular volunteer at McEver. When teacher Linda Gillot, whose class was studying Civil War quilts, approached O’Donnell about doing a quilt show for the fifth-grade students, she jumped at the chance.

"Honestly, I thought they would be bored silly," O’Donnell said.

"To my surprise, they were very responsive."

Inspired by their attentiveness, O’Donnell, Gillot and art teacher Kristi Copous got the idea to turn the students’ artwork into a quilt.

"At that time, the kids were to write a story about a memorable event in their lives. They then drew a picture of it in (Copous’) art class," O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell then took the pictures and using a computer program, transferred the images onto fabric to be made into individual blocks for the photo quilt.

The kids got to play an active role in the project when Gillot asked if any of the students would be interested in learning how to sew.

"More than 35 girls and boys volunteered to give up (a portion) of their lunch and recess to make a block for the quilt," O’Donnell said.

"As we only had an hour to make the blocks, to save time I made the kids sewing kits and cut the fabric for the blocks. Honestly, I was a little worried and told myself if they just learn how to thread a needle and make a knot that would be an accomplishment."

Although the sewing session got off to a rough start, it all came together in the end.

"When the day came to make the blocks, the kids streamed in (at noon). They were all asking questions at once and all struggling to thread the needles and make the knots," O’Donnell said.

"Well, a miracle happened because by 12:15 everyone was sewing their blocks together. It was truly amazing."

She took the photo blocks and turned them into a photo quilt for each of the fifth-grade classes.

Even though this was a one-time project, O’Donnell hopes that the students don’t let their newly acquired skills go to waste.

"My fervent hope is that they continue sewing and quilting," she said.

"It is a wonderful hobby."

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