In this lesson students will work with tangram shapes and learn to spot the shapes in Elizabeth Hopkins’s Album Quilt. After reading the book Eight Hands Round by Ann Whitford, children will have the opportunity to create their own quilt squares with tangram shapes.
Intended Age GroupEarly childhood (ages 3-5)
Length of LessonTwo 30 minute lessons
Standards AreaVisual Arts
Student will be able to:
- manipulate, identify, and create designs with geometric tangram shapes;
- listen actively to a story;
- identify the colors red and green as complementary colors; and
- exercise their creativity in making a quilt square.
- Warm-up: Begin by inviting the students to manipulate the tangram shapes into objects such as flowers, animals, boats, baskets, etc. For very young children we recommend Giant ManipuLite Floor Tangrams. Tangramables by Learning Resources is a book with reproducible pages. It is possible to make these shapes yourself out of construction paper or tag board. Allow students to share their tangram creations with the group.
- Gather the group together and read aloud Eight Hands Round by Ann Whitford. Spend a few minutes having students identify the tangram shapes that they find in the illustrations. The book looks at 26 quilt patterns and each one corresponds to a letter of the alphabet while describing aspects of pioneer life.
- Show children the Hopkins Album Quilt and ask them to find tangram shapes in the quilt squares. Help the children by pointing out the sails on the ship, the stars, baskets, tulips, and some of the leaves.
- Ask students what colors they notice. Use a color wheel to point out that red and green are right across from each other on the color wheel. That means they are complementary colors.
- Display the Hopkins Album Quilt for the students and ask them to recall the colors and shapes they found in the previous lesson.
- Explain to students that they will each use tangram shapes and make a quilt square just like the squares in the Hopkins quilt.
- Pass out 10½ x 12 inch pieces of white or cream fabric/paper and cloth/paper tangram shapes to the children. Point out that they are using the same colors that Elizabeth Hopkins used--cream, red, and green! Invite the students to experiment with making designs with their tangrams.
- Have each student glue down his/her object on the quilt square. Then, help him/her to glue ribbon or paper strips around the square as a border. If time allows, have students add details with stamps, sponges, or hand/finger prints.
- When everyone is finished, have the students piece together their squares by laying them on the floor, creating one big quilt. Do any of the squares have the same design? What colors do the squares have in common? Do they like how the squares look individually or all together?
- One copy of Eight Hands Round by Ann Whitford
- Other books we recommend: The Name Quilt by Phyllis Root, The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaolo, Quilt Block History by Mary Cobb
- Tangram shapes for students to manipulate
- 10 ½ x 12 inch pieces of cloth or paper to serve as a quilt square for each student: cream colored or white
- Variety of sizes of tangram geometric shapes in cloth or paper: red and green
- Ribbon (red/green) or paper strips (red/green) for quilt square borders
- Color wheel
- About the Art section on Album Quilt
- One color copy of the quilt for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Visual Arts
- Invent and Discover to Create
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
- Envision and Critique to Reflect
- Language Arts
- Oral Expression and Listening
21st Century Skills
- Critical Thinking & Reasoning
- Information Literacy
About the Art
Who Made It?
Album quilts were often made by a group of women, with each member contributing a block. This quilt, however, was made entirely by Elizabeth Hopkins. Born in Connecticut, Elizabeth made this quilt after marrying her husband Charles Hopkins in 1841 and moving to Port Jefferson, Long Island. Charles was a seaman and it is believed that in the early days of their marriage, Elizabeth accompanied him on some of his trips, during which she saw examples of album quilts from Baltimore. Album quilts flourished in the 1840s and 1850s along the Eastern seaboard. Each block of an album quilt has a different motif, made by stitching shapes cut from solid or patterned material to a background fabric. Elizabeth filled some of the blocks on her quilt with images that were relevant to her family. This quilt remained in the Hopkins family until it was acquired by the Denver Art Museum in 2007.
What Inspired It?
Album quilts of this type tended to use solid or small-scale printed fabrics. Many of the floral and decorative motifs on the Hopkins quilt are common to album quilts of the period, but some of the images are more personal. Flying the banner “HOPE,” the sailing ship surrounded by blue fish references Elizabeth’s husband’s life as a seaman and the maritime community in which she lived. Hopkins also quilted a lighthouse and a heart on the ship block. Another block (fourth row down, third column across) may represent a compass, a navigational instrument used by sea captains. The quilt block that shows a well-furnished interior and the blocks with musical instruments suggest that the family lived in a comfortable home.
Hopkins used both geometric and organic shapes. Geometric shapes, like triangles and diamonds, were used to create the baskets and star-shaped images. Organic shapes, with their more natural, curvy lines, were used to create leaves, flowers, and fruits.
Various fruits and plants—grapes, apples, pears, strawberries, cherries, and tulips—can be found on different blocks throughout the quilt. Some of these details are padded and project slightly from the surface of the quilt.
The two outer blocks of the third row from the top are quilted with a snowflake-like symmetrical pattern. Though they look similar, there are small variations in design. For example, look at the center of each snowflake; one has a heart and the other has a circle.
Several green and red printed fabrics were used for various parts of the quilt. Look for the green printed fabric on the outside perimeter of the quilt and the red printed fabric used to create the violin and strawberries.
The tiniest details on the quilt—like the notes on the sheet music and the face of the clock—are drawn by hand.
The stitching on the quilt not only holds the layers of fabric together but also allows for additional patterns and designs. Hopkins created hearts and leaf-shaped designs with her stitches.