Quilting with Children: Associación Al Niño con Cariño


The Associación Al Niño con Cariño is located in an old elementary school just outside Alajuela, Costa Rica.  It is run by an order of nuns from Columbia.

The girls that the nuns care for, ages 5 to 16, live there during the school year from Monday thru Friday where they attend a public school.  They go home for the weekends and holidays.  Home for them is a simple wooden house in a slum.  I went out with a couple of the Hermanas (Sisters) once to take photographs of their homes.  This experience gave me a new perspective of seeing what theses simple wooden houses meant to these single mothers.  They all felt blessed to have a place to call their home.  In one case, the mother and her three daughters had been living in a cave in the back of her in-laws’ house that was built against a man-made cliff.  The in-laws had dug a hole in the dirt wall for them and this is where she and her daughters lived when the nuns found them and took them to a better place to call home.

I began teaching after school yoga and meditation classes helping the girls find balance and harmony in themselves.  At the time I was also teaching myself how to miniature quilt so I ended up integrating the yoga, meditation and sewing into one class.

I hope they learned from me at least half as much as what I learned from them.

It was the best 3 years of my teaching career.

Quilted Tales: Why Miniature Quilts?

I was 10 years old when I made my first embroidery piece.  Didn’t know what I was doing but I did enjoy it.  Then I found a small book on embroidery for 35 cents and taught myself how to work with these wonderful stitches.  Still have the book.  I painted with thread and needle as a painter paints with brush and paint.

When I was in Jr. High School a friend’s mom made a handmade quilt for her bed and I was both hooked and enchanted.

Traditional quilts were too large though.  I like to do smaller pieces like I did with the embroidery so it wasn’t until many, many, many years later when I was living in Costa Rica and visiting family in San Diego that I saw in a book store a magazine called Miniature Quilting that the world of textile art changed for me.

Through this first magazine I learned about foundation piecing and made my first quilt using the house pattern in the instructions and creating my own until I had a quilt that depicted what a Costa Rican community was to me.  I ended up teaching miniature quilting to a group of nuns and the young girls under their care.  A whole new world was open to me.

Miniature quilting, to me, has more to do with the art of quilting and needle work.  I have had traditional quilters tell me that a quilt is not a quilt unless you can snuggle in it.  I love to snuggle and have a lap sized quilt that I made that I love to lay under during the winter.  I also love to look at the smaller quilts as I would a piece of art and enjoy the movement of color, form, and design that went into them.  Some were challenging where I had to learn how to create effects that I wanted.  I can get more detailed in a small quilt than I would in a larger one made to cover a bed.  Each stitch has a thought in it.  Sometimes that thought is about the friend that I am making it for, sometimes it’s about life.

A few weeks ago I was hand quilting in the dentist office waiting for my daughter.  The woman sitting across from me said, “You’re hand sewing that?!?”  Of course.  The more modern work today with the computerized sewing machines where they do it all for you look like something store bought.  Too perfect.  I love the look of handmade.  The perfect imperfections of the stitches.  It’s an intimate moment pushing the needle through the three layers or adding embellishments to a piece.  I never know how it will look in the end for I always add to the design as I go along.

Quilted Tales is about the journey that I go through in creating my quilts.  My hope is to enchant you as I was enchanted by that first quilt laying across my friend’s mom’s bed.


Detail of Colores de Costa Rica: El Pueblo, first miniature quilt.