Hand Piecing Workshops!

Although I’ve been quiet on a daily dose, I’ve been working! It’s been a year full of deadlines for classes and workshops. All things that I wanted to do, but it’s kept me very, very busy.

I finally got myself in gear and offered two Summer workshops at Greenville Center for Creative Arts, where I volunteer. Much to my delight, I got enough students to run the class! I wasn’t at all sure – at present, most of the classes are of the fine art variety and who knew if anyone would be interested in making quilts.

The first workshop I offered was Hand Pieced Quilts – Grandmother’s Flower Garden. This will be no surprise to any of you who have been followers for a while – I love to sew hexies! I had a lot of samples and ideas and it was perhaps a bit much for the five women who hadn’t had much exposure to the world of quilting.

Olivia was a very enthusiastic sewer. She told us that she sewed a lot and enjoyed making dolls to sell. I am confident that she will get a throw made with the speed that she sews.

Sarah designed a very striking flower, didn’t she? It is fun to see how people put together fabrics.

The second workshop was Hand Pieced Quilts: 60 degree diamonds (or tumbling blocks or baby blocks). I have offered this before and wasn’t very enthusiastic about it. Though I like baby blocks, I’ve never enjoyed sewing them.

As I prepared for the class, I perused Pinterest and was reminded that a setting for 60 degree diamonds is called the Seven Sisters pattern. I noodled around with that and discovered that I really liked this version! (Perhaps because it makes a giant hexagon….)

Here is a starry, blocky setting for the diamonds. I like this variation as well.

Just about everything needed is included in my workshops. When working with new sewers, I don’t want them to have to run around and buy a lot of supplies. The quilt patterns I am offering are traditionally scrap quilts and goodness knows that I have a lot of fabrics! It’s been fun sharing my stash and seeing others incorporate the fabric in their own work.

I am very fond of holiday themed quilts so I was delighted to see that Shawn brought a Halloween selection to make baby blocks.

It’s been interesting to offer quilt classes to novices. In the past, I have taught in quilt stores and generally my students have had some sort of experience or exposure to quilting. Most of my students at the Art Center were very, very new! In the Grandmother’s Flower Garden class, I presented way too much material and I am learning to scale back what I initially present and see where the students want to go.

Next up; workshops that I hope to offer this Winter. ;-D

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”!

Teaching an Extreme Beginning Quilt Class: the preparation

I had the pleasure of teaching a beginning quilt class at the Glen Ellyn Public Library last week. I thought that those of you who like to teach or who are looking for new places to offer classes, might like to know how I plan and execute this type of class. I enjoy these groups because you get such a variety of curious people, much more so than when you teach at a quilt shop. I dub them extreme beginning classes as most people have not worked with a needle and thread…

I started teaching at libraries a few years ago. We have a friend whose wife is a librarian and in charge of programs. She is always looking for new ideas and when her husband told her about my studio full of fiber stuff, she called me and we came up with a plan. The libraries in this area pay about $100 per 2 hour class. It sounds like a lot, but I provide everything (except scissors) and so I have a lot of preparation. In these days of high gas prices, they will often add some money for that. The participants pay a $5 fee. More than paying for the class, I’m told that the fee makes people actually come to the class.

Of course I teach my favorite hand sewing shape – hexagons – and sometimes baby blocks.  It’s worked well. Nancy, my first librarian, has been in charge of  enrichment activities for years and she helped me shape my class.

Here is what I take:

  • Threaded needles! Nancy was very concerned that people could not thread needles and that sure is true! (Bad lighting plays a big part) In the photo below you can see pieces of pink felt with the threaded needle and a few pins.
  • The template for them to make and use at home.
  • Mechanical pencils, plastic templates, sandpaper, scissors and thread
  • A sample ready to sew. You need “swap outs” as they are called on TV, so I have some hexes ready to sew together and some sewn and ready to attach to the middle. (Use contrasting thread so that the ladies can see your stitching.)

  • Six hexes cut and ready for the students to sew for the “petal” area of the Grandmother’s Flower.
  • Fabric choices for the middles.

  • An iron, an extension cord and a towel to press on. I do want to show them the whole process and pressing is an important step.
  • Rulers for them to add the quarter-inch seam.

A word of warning – librarians may push you, so be careful what you commit to! My second gig was for a librarian who had done some quilting with her church. I tried to sell her the GFG class but she wanted more. (In hindsight I think that she chose the class for her needs rather than the participants’) I had taken some quilts to show her and she chose two patterns she liked…… She wanted me to teach this basket and an Ohio Star and include everything they would need! It’s hard to remember why I agreed but it was a tremendous amount of work to prepare for and then to teach. And waaaaaaay too complicated for most of the group. Simple is better!!!

Do not forget to bring extra fabric, needles, supplies, everything!!! I did not bring extra fabric when teaching the flower basket class and it was a disaster! Luckily not everyone who signed up was able to come and so I took apart the kits and quickly cut some pieces, but the librarian was quite annoyed. And I was so angry with myself for getting hornswoogled into teaching an inappropriate beginning project!