Monday, June 26, 2017

Learn to Quilt in Two Days

For 30 years I've been teaching quilting classes, many of those to beginners. I've become a much better quilter because of that--we always learn from our students. My Quiltmaking 101 class is 5 weeks long, and the students end up with a quilt top, approximately 48" x 60", although some make a larger quilt. Most of their sewing happens at home, there is LOTS of homework.

In the Summer, I don't offer the 5 week class because most people aren't home for all 5 weeks. This year I decided to offer a 3 day class I called "Learn to Quilt This Weekend". The plan was: Friday and Saturday, 9-4, Sunday 12-4. The students would make a top, baste it and start quilting it, all in that one weekend.

Three people signed up and I was eager to try out this experiment. Two days before class, two of them, friends, dropped out. I contacted the remaining student to see if she still wanted to come, being a "student of one". Not everyone likes being the only student, some get nervous with too much attention. She said she was happy to get what would be essentially private lessons, as she was looking forward to the class.  I learn a lot about what can and can't be accomplished in the time available the first time I teach any class so we went forward.

The pattern is my 2017 Sew-A-Long project. They would have all the instructions and step-by-step help should they want to make another one of these later 2017 Sew-A-Long:

Melinda starting learning from the beginning--selecting her fabrics. At first she wanted me to do it, but I walked her through the process, selecting 6 fat quarters, one background, a border, and then getting to work. We decided to wait to select the perimeter fabric, mine is yellow, until she had a few blocks done to see how they would look on various fabrics.

Quickly, she was cutting fabrics and was soon ready to sew. The advantage of having me as her personal assistant, is that, once I knew she understood how to carefully cut strips from her fabrics, I took half of them and cut too. In  no time, she was ready to sew the Churn Dash blocks. She had a brand new sewing machine so we took a few minutes to figure out how to achieve the 1/4" seam allowance we strive for and then she was off and running.

I quickly realized she didn't want me to hover, just to be available to answer questions as they came up. By lunch she had 4 of the 12 Churn Dash blocks done and was pleased with her progress. After lunch, she started on the Old Italian blocks, and had all 6 of those done by 4 p.m.--it was a very productive day.

The next morning she got back to work on the remaining 8 Churn Dash blocks--they were done by lunch. It was time to select a perimeter background fabric. We tried blue, green, yellow and, the winner:  RED!

After lunch, I explained the process of sewing a quilt together "on-point", a diagonal set. She cut the triangles from the red, both half-square triangles for the corners and quarter-square triangles for the edges, and put her quilt top together. Here it is before the borders:

With a striped border, there are several options for how to address the corners. She could put the borders on left/right, then top/bottom., like my sample. Or she could use a corner block:

Or she could go the extra mile and miter the border, a bit more work with the cutting and sewing but it makes a striking finish.  The choice was hers.

Melinda opted to keep it simple and was very happy with her finished top, complete by 3:30 p.m. the second day:

As this was a new machine, Melinda didn't have a walking foot yet. I explained how that would be very helpful with the quilting. She decided to wait until she had that foot before we meet again for 4 hours of quilting/finishing instruction.  She has a baby quilt she had previously made that is basted and ready for quilting--she will practice some free motion quilting on that before we meet again too.

All in all, Melinda was very pleased with all she learned. I learned that 3 solid days is too much for most students so if I teach this again, we'll put a week between the first 2 days and the final half-day session. Had there been a full class, there would have been at least a couple students who didn't get this far on the first two days--they would benefit from the extra time to complete their tops.

I love teaching, both beginners and more experienced quilters. I have 3 goals for my beginning students:

1. They feel their time and money was well-spent at the end of the class
2. They actually finish the project
3. I addict one of them, completely and totally, to quiltmaking--so the industry/craft/art can continue to grow.

I am happy to say I am always successful with that 3rd goal. With Melinda as the only student, it was more of a challenge, but I think we did it.

Let's quilt!



  1. What a bonus for her to get the private lessons, and a good thing for you to get a better feel for the timing on the class. Looks like she did a great job!

  2. It seems like a bit of win- win for you both!

  3. This is a fun quilt to make. Her's is beautiful!

  4. Sounds like it was a win all the way around! I think it works better to have time to practice what you learned in class. Also, as I have "matured," it is physically uncomfortable to sit in a class for multiple days so planning time in-between the class is smart! I LOVE that one of your goals is to addict one student to quilting! What a special person you are!