Thursday, January 12, 2012

I love to teach!

Since 1989, I've been the Beginning Quiltmaking teacher at my local quilt shop, Patches & Stitches. Tuesday night I started the next 5 week session with 8 new students.   I love to teach beginnners.  They are both excited and terrified.  Some are true beginners, making their very first quilt.  Some are self-taught and eager to get better at quiltmaking.  Some doubt their ability to be successful, some are over-confident.  Everyone gets excited as the classes progress and I just love to see happy, beaming faces as they show off their completed tops at week 5.  Here is the project I teach:

Mix and Match Stars Variation, Glad Creations Pattern

In recent years, I've noticed many shops teach very simple beginning classes and I can understand why. I still prefer to teach a more complex quilt, in ways that are simple to understand and master.  My goal is to get the student excited about the art of quiltmaking and eager to make their next quilt.

A few years ago I was asked to be the "expert" in a series of videos to be shown on a web "how-to" site,  Over more than 6 hours we shot 7 short videos and the course is called "How To Quilt".  Can you imagine:  teaching the entire process of quilting in seven 3 minutes "lesssons"!  I thought it was pretty simple, basic stuff and a little "cheesy" perhaps but I have to say, my beginning students absolutely LOVE having this as a reference.  Class goes by quickly each night and most leave wishing they had more time.  With this tool, they can watch the steps as many times as they need.  If you know a beginner who might benefit from a little help, send them this link:  How to Quilt.

I find the most challenging part of the quiltmaking process for students to learn is that dreaded 1/4" seam allowance.  Those who are garment makers can draw 5/8" with their eyes closed but struggle to get the 1/4".  The primary reason this is a challenge is because we have wonderful sewing machines with wide feed dogs so we can zigzag, make buttonholes, embroider, etc.  A 1/4" seam on a 9 mm feed dog means most of the fabric is not being guided by the machine. Just because it's a challenge doesn't mean we can't master it--it just takes practice, patience and determination. 

What tricks do you have for getting the seam allowance right?  Is it a struggle or a joy?

Do you remember your first class?  What challenges did you have?  Did you almost give up?  Do you still have your first quilt?  Those who become addicted to this sport always wish they had kept their early work, if they did not, so they can show the progress and path their quiltmaking has taken. 

Bless the beginners because they will improve and more the quilt world forward.  Now, let's quilt!



  1. I still have my first quilt I made in your class. It's hanging up in my living room. I still love it and am proud of the way it turned out. Thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule and teaching people like me how to quilt!

  2. I am just working with my SIL on her first quilt. To help her with the 1/4" seam, we used a seam guide. Her seams were perfect and this quilt is so on the money being squared up, that it laid out like butter when we went to the basting steps.

  3. I love my 1/4" foot. But I do check it every once in a while to make sure it's still accurate. Sometimes I mark. I really enjoyed your video sessions, Barbara, but even more have I enjoyed both of the classes I've taken from you! :)

  4. Since I just finished my first quilting class (with Barbara), I still have my quilt. :-) I did have to send a picture to all my email friends with a big TA-DA!!!!! I have to use the 1/4" foot - I think that I day dream a little :( and get off if I am not forced to stay in the lines.

  5. I just started a beginning piecing class also. I agree that the 1/4" seam is the most challenging, especially with such a variety of machines that come to class. Your quilt is a little more complicated than the one I teach. Still a sampler with lots of different blocks, but simple sashed borders. Hats off to you...I know both the challenge and the reward from sharing are love of this art.