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How to Get The Most Out Of Quilting Classes posted: 7/21/2003
by Hallye Bone Printable Page
Category: Tips Method: All
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Quilters love to renew their skills in classes on the latest techniques. But, are you taking more classes and often feel disappointed? Or, are you on a major guilt trip because you aren't completing all of your class projects? Here's help in choosing the right class for you and how to get the most out of the ones you do attend.

  • Learn before you choose: Read all you can about your instructor. Preview her books and articles. If your guild is offering the class, make sure that you understand exactly what will be covered in the class. I've taken classes advertised as "color" studies that turned out to be geared at piecing methods. Sometimes, a surprise is nice, but you may get stuck in a class you weren't expecting.

  • Check with friends: If a fellow guild member has taken classes from your teacher, check out her reaction. To me, even basic classes aren't a waste of time. But your friend can enlighten you, and save you time and money.

  • Read class descriptions carefully: Do you need to bring a sewing machine? Do you need special knowledge or skills? I recently taught a student who had purchased an expensive embroidery machine. The class was a hand-appliqué skills class! It was an unproductive day for both of us.

  • Prepare: Assemble your materials well ahead of class time. Re-check the supply list several times. Take extra bobbins, rotary cutter blades, and extra needles. I keep a tote bag full of necessities—scissors, neutral thread, pins, and pencils—handy. The bag is ready to go at all times. Take sharp scissors—dull, huge shears won't work at home or in class. If you have a favorite, special gadget, such as an awl to hold tiny pieces in place, take it.

  • Quilting Tool Insurance: Tie yarn or fabric to identify your scissors. Write your name and phone number on rotary cutter, ruler, and mat.

  • Listen and take notes: For many years, I have kept one notebook of handouts and information I've gleaned from diverse quilting classes. I have referred to those notes many times.

  • Pay attention: Sharing is the joy of quilt making. However, a talkative student misses out on tips and distracts the teacher and others. It's inappropriate to out-talk the teacher, even if you know more about that subject. However, it is appropriate to point out a gemlike hint when there is a lull in the instruction. Some of my students bring a small tape recorder to class. Check with your instructor; sometimes, the information in class is under copyright.

  • Ask the teacher: Some instructors will offer a phone number or address. If you write a letter, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Most quilting teachers are very generous and are pleased to answer your questions, long after class.

  • Guilt and UFOs: All of us have unfinished projects tucked away in closets and under beds. Don't feel guilty if you don't complete every class project. Think of a class as an enriching experience. You'll use the knowledge later, in some way. I took a "Schoolhouse" machine piecing class and finished only two blocks. I later used those two blocks for a tote bag to attach to my friend's wheelchair. She loves the tote bag; a large, finished quilt would be of no use to her. Richard Carlson, author of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" and "It's All Small Stuff," says we weren't meant to complete all of our creative projects.

  • Divide and conquer: It's not necessary to learn every method and take every class that comes along. Check with a friend. You could take hand quilting and she could take the basting class. Get together later to share your skills.

  • Quilting is sharing: Get together with a group of stitchers and share what you've learned. I hosted a group for six years in my home. We began making "Double Wedding Ring" quilts, encouraging and helping one another with many projects that followed, often explaining techniques we'd learned in classes. Our sharing was enriching and energizing.

  • Take a class to enrich yourself, not to take and go home and teach it to your whole guild. Passing on information you have learned is certainly acceptable up to a point, but remember the teacher you took the class from has researched her subject, prepared the handouts, samples and other things needed to teach her class, so if you go home and teach the whole class again to your guild as a formal class, you are taking someone else's subject matter. Some National teachers will give a student permission to teach her material to her local guild. Of course, if you are teaching in a local quilt shop or a guild class, one of the requirements of the class is for the student to purchase the pattern or book by the National teacher.

If you're taking classes and feeling frustrated instead of empowered, be pro-active. Take a bigger part in choosing classes. Then, prepare adequately. Take plenty of supplies. Enjoy widening your horizons as you try new approaches to our ever-changing craft—quiltmaking.

©2003 Hallye Bone

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