by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly staff
BANGOR — Imagine having knitting and quilting as homework. The art of quilting, sewing, knitting, embroidery and weaving are thriving in the yearlong fabric design class art teacher Kathleen Hartley conducts at Bangor High School.
Two of her students, junior Abbey Kidder and senior Morgan Williams, both of Bangor, are immersed in intricacies quilting for the rest of the year.
Morgan, who is taking the class as an independent study option, is working on a quilt dubbed Fast Diamonds. She has drawn on her past lessons in fabric design with Hartley to create the quilt. She said spent several months dabbling in hot wax and dye solutions to make, piece by piece, batiked fabrics to use as bands that frame 9-patch blocks. “I took the fabric design class last year,” she said. “It’s about making our own patterns, making art on fabric.”
As in independent study student Morgan gets to spend 80 to 120 minutes each day working on her quilt. When the quilt is finished at the end of the school year, she will raffle the quilt and donate proceeds to Downeast Horizons, an organization for those with developmental disabilities. Raffle tickets, she said, are $5 each and and may be obtained by calling 941-1087. “As an independent study student, I can do anything I want that has to do with fiber art,” she said.
Morgan has made two other quilts in the class — one has curved pieces in a free-form design made of fabric she hand-dyed. The other utilizes linoleum block prints and hand painting techniques. Her career goal is to become a pharmacist and do art on the side.
“The main goal for the fabric design class,” Hartley said, “is to teach the students how to follow directions and patterns so they can do projects on their own.” Hartley is a 25-year veteran art teacher, with 15 of those years at Bangor High School. She has been teaching the fabric design class for two years. “Many of my students go on to become art teachers,” she said. “Others find out how much fun teaching is and go on to teaching. I hope I am inspiring students to be teachers in general, as well as art teachers.” She also wants her students to learn to follow through. “If you don’t have follow through, you wouldn’t survive the first semester,” she said.
Hartley sewed her own clothing and made her first quilt when she was in high school.
Abbey has completed a sample quilt done in shades of purple in the Attic Windows pattern, using screen printing techniques to transfer her original design to fabric. Now she is working on a small piece in the Cathedral Windows pattern which eventually will grow to a full-size quilt. “It will be a lot of work,” she said, but she likes the fine detail work her project requires. She started sewing when she was 10, learning the craft at a creative summer camp at Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts store in Bangor.
Abbey’s homework over April vacation will be to finish cutting out the pieces for her quilt. She said her career goals are leaning toward graphic design or fashion design.
This year the fabric design class has only seven students, but Abbey said it has been a positive experience. “We’re all very much introverts, shy and quiet,” she said of her classmates. “[In the class] we found an outlet for creativity and found a way to be extraverts. Everyone talks and enjoys helping one another.” She has made new friends in the class.
“Everyone talks and shares — like women through time at quilting bees or sewing circles,” Hartley said. “Everyone helps and gives ideas.”
Abbey and Morgan bring their own sewing machines to class, although the classroom is equipped with more than half a dozen. “It helps them to get more proficient at using their machines,” Hartley said.
Earlier in the school year, when the focus was on knitting, Abbey knit a polar bear and Morgan knit a bunny.
At the end of the year, the students’ fabric design projects will be showcased in the art room.
“I hope they acquire a lifelong skill, or a hobby, from taking the class,” Hartley said. “I can’t believe we don’t teach home economic or shop classes anymore. [Young people] don’t know how to cook or do anything to a car. Even boys want to learn to knit. It’s sad that we don’t have that anymore. I hope I’m filling in a gap.”
As for Morgan and Abbey, they are confident the lessons they have learned in fabric design class will accompany them into the future.