Art Lesson Plan: Linoleum Reduction Print Quilts

Three Quilt Designing Lessons

Submitted by:Kelli Wilkie
Unit: African American & American Folk Art- Quiltmaking -Printmaking
Lesson: Linoleum Reduction Print Quilts
Grade level: Middle School (adaptable to elementary with foam plate)
Alternate Lesson: Hawaiian Quilt Designs -Radial Balance -Symmetry
Paper Quilt Lesson by Sue Holland - below
Linda Erling-Baker - 2nd Grade Quilt Idea below
Related Lesson: (Archive) "Freedom Quilts" Kennedy ArtsEdge
Related Lesson: (Archive) Quilt Blocks: Geometry with a Cultural Warmth by Patty Winkler



  • The students will be able to identify quilt designs along with the meanings and symbolism behind those designs.

  • The students will understand the uses of a quilt and the controversial connection to the Underground Railroad. Student will appreciate traditional African American quilt design and African sources for inspiration.

  • The students will create his/her own design.


Symmetry, Radial balance, line of symmetry, point of symmetry, reflection, mirror image, rotation, positive/negative shape. Relief print, reduction, registration


1 2


1) 5 x 5 (13 x 13 cm) Linoleum.
2) White Drawing Paper. 17 x 17 (32 x 32 cm) per student
3) Linoleum Cutters.
4) Block Printing Inks., Brayers.
5) Inking Plates.
6) Construction Paper.
7) Rulers. - Scissors.
8) Charcoal. (or Pastels. - for transferring (Optional - Saral Transfer Paper.)
9) Optional: Graph paper.



The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts.- A "conductor" based in Philadelphia helped guide fugitive slaves to safety in the years before the Civil War. He also created this unforgettable history, a collection of carefully preserved letters, newspaper articles, and firsthand accounts about refugees' hardships, narrow escapes, and deadly struggles. Over 50 illustrations.


Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad. - Hidden in Plain View documents Tobin and Raymond Dobard's journey of discovery, linking Ozella's stories to other forms of hidden communication from history books, codes, and songs. Each quilt, which could be laid out to air without arousing suspicion, gave slaves directions for their escape.



  1. Discuss the Underground Railroad to clarify its purpose. Talk about the connection quiltmaking has been made to the Underground Railroad - whether using the quilts is Fact? or Fiction? This site has examples and meanings. (Archive) | See resources below that debunk the myth presented in the book Hidden in Plain View..
    See Lesson Plan "Freedom Quilts" (Archive) from Kennedy ArtsEdge for resources that may support use of quilts in underground rail road. ArtsEdge lesson will help with Math concepts.

  2. I give my kids a handout with 11 of the most popular quilt designs connected to the underground railroad - Handout was revised to put online - Nice handout for six patterns pdf

  3. I give them another handout with the names of each design and they must match the designs to the names as best they can without any information about the design. I like to do this to really make them look closely at each pattern and see the connection on their own. It's not graded and they can work together or in groups if they want. This can really generate discussion.

  4. Then we go over each one. I ask for their answers and why they chose them and then discuss the right answers and the true meanings of each design.

Note from Judy: Make a larger chart with each quilt pattern. Put a large letter on each pattern for quiz.



  1. My kids are always required to do 3 thumbnail sketches, but an easier way for this project is to have them cut out small squares from construction paper and then cut those into triangles.

  2. Draw a 5 x 5 (12.7 x 12.7 cm) square in their Sketchbooks. and arrange the triangles into pleasing arrangements. When they find one they like they can trace it and then start another one. This is quicker than drawing designs by hand. I allow them to add other embellishments to the triangles.

  3. When they decide on a design they cut it out [5 x 5 (12.7 x 12.7 cm)] and color the back using charcoal. Place charcoal side down on top of 5x5 (12.7 x 12.7 cm) linoleum and trace the lines to transfer onto the linoleum. Carbon paper can be used to transfer.

  4. Alternate approach - Design on 5" (12.7 cm) graph paper - Mark square into fourths bisecting sides or angles. Design in one quadrant - then slide or rotate 90° around the square. Create symmetrical design - or point of symmetry - OR 5" square construction paper could be folded into fourths - cut and arranged onto the 5" graph paper.


  1. Draw a 1" (2.5 cm) border around the outside of the 17x17 (43 x 43 cm) white Drawing Paper..

  2. Label the colors on the linoleum piece (place an arrow or x on the backside top so they always know which direction they should print).

  3. Using the lightest color, roll the ink on 5" ( square blank plate to completely cover the paper inside of the border - start in one corner and work over. Be careful not to leave fingerprints

  4. Once the paper is filled with the first color, cut out each section on the linoleum that will be that color.

  5. Now print the next lightest color. Make sure the first color is dry, lay the 5x5 on the top left corner and rub. Pull linoleum off, re-ink, if needed, and print the rest of the paper rotating it every time. (Rotating is optional) Three prints will fit across.

  6. Wash the 5x5 plate and cut out each section that will be that color.

  7. Now print the next lightest color, and so on.

What's so great is...

This project can easily be changed or improved. You can keep the same project but change the medium. The first time I tried this I had them use Colored Pencils... I liked the results but we really wore down our pencils. Oil Pastels would work nicely too. Size is adaptable as well. I would like to try this project on colored paper instead of always using white. You can also have the kids create a meaning or story behind their design, like the examples used at the beginning of the lesson.


Alter this lesson for Radial Design in Hawaiian Quiltmaking, see Geometry and Quilts Lesson. (Archive)
Use 6" (15.25 cm) square linoleum or Soft-Kut Printing Blocks. - make a mirror image design on paper. Fold paper along the diagonal - draw nature inspired motifs - transfer to other side. Open design and transfer to block with carbon paper. Carve plate. Print on larger 12" (30.5 cm) square paper rotating around the square to make a radial balance design.


Resource: The Hawaiian Quilter by Helen Friend


Submitted by: Sue Holland
UNIT: Quiltmaking, Experimental Watercolor techniques
Lesson: Paper quilts
Grade level: 4rth grade (elementary)


1      2     3
See finished Quilt

See watercolor techniques - give student some choices to try.


Susan introduces this lesson with an introduction to traditional quilt patterns. The students select a pattern to use for the the class quilt - for Unity. They create a second square that has an original design - and assemble a quilt with those squares - for Variety. They talk about the connections that have been made to quiltmaking and the Underground Railroad - Whether their use is Fact or Fiction?


From Susan: I am do paper quilts with 4th graders. We made paper "fabric" by doing frottage (Crayons.' rubbings textures) and watercolor painting over. The kids are piecing two quilt squares by cutting up the paper fabric and gluing it onto a construction paper backing. One square they make is supposed to match a particular pattern, and the other square will be their own design. We draw simulated stitching on with GelFX Markers..

The squares will be combined into two quilts for each class. One will emphasize the unity (the one where all the square patterns match), and the other will emphasize variety. Then we can discuss how the unity quilt really includes variety and how the variety quilt is unified. Then we will examine African American quilting traditions and see what connections we can make to our project.



4 Submitted by: Linda Erling-Baker
Unit: Watercolor techniques
Lesson: Paper Quilts


This is a great lesson to teach experimental watercolor techniques to younger students. The papers become "fabric" for these colorful paper quilts.


We did ours using a sheet of paper with crayon resist designs, "blotto" prints and paper from the scrap box. Mount to 12" x 18" construction paper (or desired size)


Resources (For African American Quiltmaking and Quilts used for Underground Railroad):

Here is a list of Web sites that gives information on the accuracy of the story of the underground railroad quilts.


Forwarded to me by San D Hasselamn:

See Lesson Plan "Freedom Quilts" (Archive) - Sources listed may have more about quilts and their uses in Underground Railroad.

Antique Quilt Dating Web site,
Hart cottage quilts Web site,
History of Quilts Web site,
National Geographic Web site,
Quilt History Web site,

African America Quiltmaking - Culture

Gullah Culture - Gullah Net was designed to introduce Gullah culture and language to children on the Web. One lesson activity is a strip quilt.



Add to or Comment on this Page:

More To Explore