Teaching an Extreme Beginning Quilt Class: the class

Here’s the rest of teaching extreme beginners~

When participants come into the classroom, the table with quilts draped on it is the immediate draw! I like to provide samples showing several colorways and also different shapes that work well with a hexagon shape such as diamonds and stars. Seeing finished quilts is a good inspiration….

To begin the class, I have the participants introduce themselves. Though it does take some time, it’s useful information. I take note of who can sew and/or may be a quilter. These people will be able to work more independently and might help their neighbors. And it is a library class – I want “the locals” to get to know each other and perhaps make a friend.

When I start to talk, I begin by defining the project, which is piecing a hexagon; piecing being the operative word. In the US we call the craft quilting and so students gleefully say that they are quilting. In most other parts of the world where I have traveled or lived, they call the craft patchwork quilting, which is a much more general term. Most of them probably will not get to the quilting part! ;-D

The obvious goal is to get everyone sewing seams. Because I can’t be everywhere at once, I explain how to mark the middle hexagon so that some ladies can get started with that task. Two or three at a time, they prepare centers for the flowers and there is a table set up for this. (And I hope that If they mark and cut a quarter-inch seam, they will remember how to do it when they get home.) It makes the experience more personal and means that not everyone is sitting and waiting to get started sewing. For the Glen Ellyn group, I cut green and orange hexes for the petal area and because of the time of year, included some Christmas and Halloween fabrics.

For the first hour or so, the rhythm is this: I demonstrate how to sew a seam to 2 or 3 people sitting next to each other and continue around the room. The learning objective is to sew a straight line, on the line, on both sides! I spend some time talking about this and the importance of doing so. Sometimes I pull the stitching out, much to the horror of the stitcher. But if I feel they can sew on the line (I had a lady with a broken arm once….) then I encourage them to do so. By then, the first group needs to know how to end a seam and I show them that. I get around the tables as fast as I can and then re-check them. It takes about three times around the room to get people comfortable with the sewing part.

When everyone is sewing, I start to show them more general things, such as how to make a strong knot. Threading needles is another thing that most people can’t do and the poor lighting makes it even more difficult.

The reality is that you will have a variety of people in every class that you teach! Several years ago I learned an interesting tidbit at a workshop on teaching rug hooking. The leader said “each person has paid the fee and each person should get the same amount of attention”. It was an ah-ha moment for me. You may have someone who has stitched before and is working quietly. You may have a woman saying “I can’t make a knot, I don’t know how to finish a row, I cut the fabric without a 1/4” “. At the end of class you should have spent an equal amount of time with both the “needy” student and the independent worker.

When someone finishes a flower shape, then I start to demonstrate how to press the hexagon shape. Towards the end of class, as they’re sewing away, I explain how I start my grandmother’s flower garden quilts, with strips of fabric and cut middles in a baggie. I hold up a top being pieced together, when I have one,and talk about how to fill in the odd spaces at the edges of a hexagon quilt. Another finish I discuss is how to applique or sew the grandmother’s flower garden piece on a square of fabric. This can be made into a pillow or wall hanging. Don’t get too detailed. The librarian who pushed me into doing the flower basket class kept asking that I talk about batting. Good Grief! The reality is that most of the people in the class are not going to make a quilt! I also tell them about local quilt stores (not chains with nasty fabric) and what is available in the way of classes in the area. Many librarians will pull out quilt books and have them in the room, which is a nice touch.

The Glen Ellyn class was small (it was pouring rain that night) and everyone completed their hexagon. Because I had extras, I encouraged them to take another packet of petals and mark a middle to work on at home. They were a fun group.

After my initial library teaching gig, I began getting e-mails about teaching and couldn’t understand what was happening. It turns out, at least in Chicagoland, that area librarians get together once a year and have meetings and share information. And – they compile a list of people who have taught for their library and were well received. I was “on the list”! When you are a no name quilt teacher, it sure is a nice surprise to get e-mails about teaching out of the blue!

If you like to teach, I would suggest checking out local libraries. It’s a fun job and certainly gets your name “out there”!

2 thoughts on “Teaching an Extreme Beginning Quilt Class: the class

    • I love teaching beginners, particularly a sampler type of class. Sadly most don’t want to take the time to learn the basics with an overview kind of quilt. I like sampler quilts and playing with the colors in each square.

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