Monday, July 3, 2017

Hey, Anyone Ever Taken, Or Taught, a Beginner Quilting Class?

Happy Holiday Weekend to all my American friends, and Miserable Monday to the rest of you!  I need to pick some quilters' brains today.  I'd like to hear from anyone who has either taken or taught a quilting class for beginners.

My local Bernina dealer, (whom I adore because their customer service is awesome and they are always there for me to keep my sewbabies purring smoothly), has approached me about teaching a class at their shop for true beginners who have never quilted before.  I've never taught a sewing or quilting class before and I taught myself to quilt from books, so I'm trying to find out how much can be covered in a single all-day Saturday class.

This is the project I came up with:

Beginner Class Sample Top, 37" x 37"
It's 37" x 37", and my goal was to create a project that was simple enough for beginners to complete fairly quickly, before getting discouraged and giving up.  I also wanted to cover all of the basics:
  • Choosing fabrics, thread, and needles; pros and cons of prewashing, benefits of quilt shop cottons vs "bargain" fabric from chain stores
  • Basic equipment and supplies
  • Rotary cutting: straightening and folding the fabric, cutting strips and squares, using rulers correctly
  • 1/4" seam, relationship between cutting habits and seam allowance, why this matters, and different feet and methods for achieving accuracy
  • Matching seam intersections
  • Sashing that doesn't ripple
  • Borders that lay flat and square
  • Choosing backing fabric and batting
  • Layering and pin basting
  • Machine quilting with a walking foot
  • straight grain binding with mitered corners, machine stitched to front of quilt and slip stitched to the back
  • Basic quilt label
Sewing On Sashing with 97D foot
The 37" x 37" size is perfect for a small stroller or car seat baby blanket, or for a wall hanging using seasonal novelty prints for Halloween, Christmas, etc. 

Cars and Buses Version
Holiday Favorites Version
Tula Pink Tabby Road Version
The large 9" blocks are great for showing off large scale novelty prints.  Once the newbie quilters have completed this project, they will be ready to move on to other projects with confidence -- from other classes, books and magazines, Block of the Month, etc.  And that's what intrigues me about this teaching opportunity -- the chance to share something I love with other people, to equip new quilters with the basic skills they need to be successful.  When someone emails me and comments on my blog that something I wrote about helped them to be successful with their own projects or encouraged them to try something new, that absolutely makes my day.  

SO...  Here's my question for all of you, especially for any of you who have previously taken beginner classes or who have taught beginner students:  Is it unrealistic to try to teach this entire project in a single day?  I was able to put the quilt top together in two evenings, but it's still not quilted and I didn't have to stop and explain anything along the way.  I did have to stop and dance around when my favorite songs came on the radio, though...

But seriously -- after finishing the sample quilt top, I'm thinking the class should end with the addition of the borders and completion of the quilt top.  Newbie students are going to ask questions.  They are going to make mistakes, and that's great -- I want to have time to stop and show them how to FIX those mistakes.  I don't want to overwhelm the students by dumping too much information on them at once and rushing through the class, and if I DO teach the quilting and binding, I want to do it in a follow up class so that anyone who falls behind has a chance to finish their top and participate in the quilting part.  It's really important to me that every student is able to be successful and feel good about their project.

What do you all think?  Does anyone have any tips or suggestions about teaching quilting classes in general?  My dealer suggested a maximum of six students for the beginner class, by the way.  I deliberately avoided triangles because there are so many different ways to cut and sew them, the bias edges can be tricky, and I wanted the students to be able to make an actual quilt (albeit a small one!) rather than just a placemat or something.  Anyway, as always, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Stitching!  I'm linking up with:

·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
·       Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
·       Moving it Forward at Em’s Scrap Bag:


Val's Quilting Studio said...

First....I think you'll be okay in a one day class...but I love the idea of a follow-up class. As when I took my first class I didn't learn to quilt or bind and that frustrated here I was with a finished quilt and didn't know what to do. I think you kept the quilt basic enough....that in a one day class they will go away inspired and knowledgeable. Focus on vocabulary too. My first teacher did I didn't know what sashing and cornerstones were. She was slow and kind. Most of all....have fun (as I'm sure you will) :) :)

Home Sewn By Us said...

Hi Rebecca,
I haven't taken or taught a beginner class, so I can't help you there. The lesson plan you outline is great! Without knowing the pacing it is hard to judge how long it will take you to cover the material. You have great examples of different fabric choices. Perhaps if your shop has some kits already together or different suggestions pulled it will save time? As long as you have the lesson detailed, everyone will know what has to be covered which should help. I look forward to hearing how this goes for you, and am wishing you great success. {{Hugs}} Don't be nervous - you will do great. You are so well prepared. ~smile~ Roseanne

Anonymous said...

I have just completed a beginners course. I had never quilted before and had barely used a sewing machine. It was 6, 2 hour classes. There was alot to cover. just picking the material took an hour. I was able to complete the quilt ( called a sampler, it was 6 squares, finished completely) I was the only one, out of a class of 4, one dropped out and 2 had quilts unfinished. I like the idea of a baby or seasonal quilt. it may have made picking material easier, and the pattern is fairly easy compared to learning 6 samplers. I am not sure I could complete a quilt fully in 6 hours. your lesson plan looks excellent. Good Luck

Anonymous said...

I taught a beginner class back in the day before rotary cutters when quilt piecing was done by hand. We made 9-patch hot-pan holders in a 2-hour class.

As I understand it, you will talk about fabric then they will go and select fabric.They will have to wait for it to be cut and to pay. You will have talked about prewashing or not, but they will not have a chance to prewash, so some comment about that will be needed.

You will talk about cutting and probably demo; they will cut.
You will talk about 1/4 inch seam and meeting the seams and they will sew. Then line up at the iron to press.

I like the two-class approach.

If you had them sew one row, then one row of sashing, then one row of border you could demo each step and they could do it without having finished the top. then with whatever time was left they could finish their tops (getting reviews as needed) or not, depending on their speed.

Everything will take longer because it is new to them.

If everyone is faster than I think they will be, you could do a "preview of coming attractions" about sandwiching. The confident could forge ahead and the timid take the second class.

Anonymous said...

I believe the beginner class that I took was 4 classes, each 3 hours long. Plus we worked on it some at home. Our oroject included 2 9 patch blocks and two appliqué blocks, so that as a whole additional echnique that you won't be dealing with. I consider it the very best gift to myself as ALL of the info has been invaluable over the years.

Julie said...

I was a 4-H leader for many years and taught quilting. I used a basic 4 patch for the first year quilters and quilts were about 38 X 48. I didn't have the students for an entire day at a time, so it is hard to judge how many hours it actually took. I think if there is anyway you could do two sessions it would be a lot better. Some of my students were super slow sewers. If the beginning quilters have any sewing experience it might go faster, but mine were totally green to sewing machines. Binding was actually time consuming for them. It is fun to teach new quilters, but it is a bit stressful too! I hope it works out for you!

ES said...

I would personally be wary of committing myself to teaching (with the time and effort for preparing etc) if it's going to limit the time I have to quilt. I know you recently did a post regarding your sons special quilt that you would like to make and make it super special, will teaching take you away from your own quilt making time? Will the preparation for teaching be worth it for one session or will you repeat that class several times? I think teaching is a great opportunity to meet new people and share your enthusiasm but it's ok to say no to it if your plate is already full :)

Podunk Pretties said...

I taught a class a few years ago. Beginner quilting. My first mistake was assuming everyone was familiar with their sewing machine and how it operated. Some had bought the machine just for the class and had never plugged it in, never sewed on a machine before. The second mistake was thinking everyone knew how to read a ruler. Most didn't even know anything past the numbered marks. So we managed to get passed those issues and it was onto the sewing, what could go wrong there? Everyone of them wanted to either push or pull the fabric through the machine as fast as the machine would go. I could go on and on but what I learned from my experience is never assume your students know anything.

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I'm self taught so no help from me on that. I assume the students will already know how to use a sewing machine and how to sew? with only six students you should be able to be moving ok from person to person if help is needed. Good luck

Bonnie said...

Yikes -- is this a 6 hour class? Will the students already have the fabric when they arrive? Will they know how to actually use a rotary cutter? Will they know how to use their sewing machines? Will they be sewing in class? Do you want them to walk out with the top finished? If your goal is to have them walk out with a finished top and they are really neophytes you may have over designed the quilt. Talk to the folks at the store about whether they think this is doable in the amount of time. Or, consider whether they can get the center part done and you'll teach them how to do the borders, but they'll do them at home. And if it is an all day class remember you'll lose time to lunch too. You might be better off if you could do this in two sessions -- say borders and quilting done in a second half day session. Keep us posted.

Janet M said...

Hi Rebecca,
Congratulations - you will be a fantastic teacher!

I think a quilt with sashing and corner blocks would be challenging for a beginner in a 1 day class. I'm thinking of the time it will take for students to choose and purchase their fabrics(the hardest part for me!) Quilt shops are busy on Saturday unless they will open earlier for your class that day. I like the above commenter's suggestion for kits or suggested fabric combos. Will the students be bringing their own sewing machines or using class machines? In either case, you might want to require basic sewing knowledge on a machine so you don't end up teaching a beginning sewing class instead of beginning quilting! I like your design and it would still be very cute sans sashing.

Looking forward to hearing more about your adventure - I love reading your blog!

Miaismine said...

I did take a beginner class that began with selecting fabric and ended with a finished quilt rail fence top. I loved it, but it was spread out into 4 classes.

First, we learned about the tools, tool safety how to check a 1/4" seam. Then we picked fabric and began cutting our strips and sewing them together. We also learned about pressing seams. Our homework was to sew all the strips together.

Second, we cut our strips up to make the blocks, creating interesting borders complete the flimsy and make our backing. Our homework was, of course to complete the flimsy.

Third, we learned how to pin and make a quilt sandwich and begin quilting. Our homework was to finish quiting our quilt.

Finally, we learned to make, attach and hand stitch the binding. Our homework was to finish attaching the binding.

I loved this method of teaching because each step was clearly explained. Because we had plenty of time, I could really soak in the lessons. In fact, I still break up my quilt making in this manner!

I hope that this somehow helps!

Tammy Hutchinson said...

I am also self-taught, but a couple years in I took a beginner class. It was stretched out over four weeks, about three hours each session. Many folks in the class did not know how to use their machines properly, and getting everyone to a scant 1/4" took awhile. I ended up being an 'assistant.' I think your outline is great but believe you will be better off chunking it up somehow into sessions, if you are willing. Unless there will only be 2-3 students that already are comfortable with rotary cutting and their machines! Another help is to have 'step-outs' prepared, along with a good hand-out, as not everyone will work at the same pace. But, the students will have a gem of a teacher!

Rebecca said...

No way in one day is my thought.
How many "students" are you going to work with at a time?
How long is your learning/teaching day going to be?

What is the level of sewing experience of your students?
Do they sew regularly? Do they think hemming a pair of pants or making an apron a couple of times a year is a sewing foundation?

Even if they are experienced sewers do they know about the different"Quilting" tools you are going to show them how to use? A rotary cutter and mat dose not seem that unusual to us now but I can remember the first time I saw them used and the questions I had.
A design wall, design bed, design table, design floor ? Gods how I dislike working on the floor.
Heck even fabric has its secrets beyond color.....

Are they bringing their own machines and how familiar are they with them?

1/4 inch seams are not a slam dunk for anyone and a demo of what can go wrong and why is a good part for any new quilter.
Pressing and ironing is a different skill set also.

Sashing with corner blocks is not a beginner step.

Teaching someone to quilt and create is a thrill. I love it when sometime latter a gal I taught to quilt stops me and says they are still quilting or they took additional lessons.
But I would never try to do it in a day.

Lisa Boyer said...

I have taught many beginners, and I'd have to agree that this is a 2-3 session class, at least. When they are learning to use a rotary cutter, understanding the 1/4" seam, and learning to match seams and fighting with bobbin issues (new machine), they will not be listening to anything beyond the step they are currently learning. All the great information about wavy borders and machine quilting will go right over their heads because they will have no idea what you're talking about. You have to stay at the step they are on, or they will get very frustrated and feel rushed and overwhelmed. The one thing I've learned about teaching is that most are there to have fun and relax--while you think your job is to give them information--and sometimes those two goals clash! You can be ready with information, but you have to let the class proceed at its own pace. You can supply info to the achievers so they don't get bored, and give personal attention to the slow and frustrated...but the pace of the class will be somewhere in between. You can be prepared if you have a class of achievers, but drop any expectations of pace. You won't know until you meet your class! Hope that helps, and remember to have fun.

Lisa M said...

To me, this is too much for a beginner. Find a project that requires only a charm pack or two. Have fun! I learned from watching Eleanor Burns on television every weekend. There used to be tons of sewing programs on tv every weekend....where have they gone!!

Janice Holton said...

Rebecca, You will be a fantastic and fun teacher!

My very first thought when looking at the pattern you want to teach is take out the sashing. That's a lot of matching up of seams, which for beginners who may not yet have mastered the 1/4 inch seam, might be a challenge. That's one of those things that took me a while. I think I would go for a much simpler pattern like a log cabin or rail fence for a very beginner class. Someone else had mentioned a 4-patch which would be great too.

All of the things you have on that list are important, but I don't see how you can do justice to all of them and still have time for sewing. You may have to pare down the list to the most important basics. You could do a test run of the class by picking out the topics you think most important and dividing up the amount of time you have to actually teach and sew and then figure out how many minutes you can devote to each subject and how many minutes of sewing in between being sure to account for lunch and breaks. That will give you a better feel for how many topics you can get through.

SewingAdventures said...

The cornerstones are cute, but will be difficult for newbies to line up all those seams. You will be doing very well to get the top done. Maybe have at least 2 sessions with homework in between so everyone can catch up to the same point. I can see that you are trying to do a quilt that is useful, but a smaller quilt or doll quilt might be large enough for the technique. Ideally I think this should be 2-3 classes at least. The piecing could be one class, quilting one class, and the binding could be the third class-- Binding alone could take several hours after discussion, cutting, sewing it on- joining the ends, and hand sewing to finish.

Unknown said...

Hi Rebecca, I know you are an accomplished sewer, I've read your blogs and posts!
I am a sewing teacher in my own studio and teach on a regular basis. I agree with several posts on this plan of yours and I agree this is too much to accomplish in one day-long class. It takes even a smart, gal time to absorb the concepts you are sharing. Small quilt is better. Forget sashing and corner squares. Your Bernina person is obviously not a quilter or they would not think this can be accomplished in a day or even a second all-day class. Wow! I know you are great but, this is way beyond what I would take on for any amount of money or recognition. Do what you think best and this process will teach you what can be absorbed by your future students, yes future students. You will love teaching and sharing this life skill and continue to teach and share!

Jenny K. Lyon said...

No way this is one class-it sounds like 4 classes to me. So many things, haven't read comments above so maybe someone else has covered. First, most will not know their all. You very well may have a 30 lb 50 yr old machine with fraying wires, I guarantee someone will bring in a machine still in the box from JoAnn's thinking you will teach her, someone will forget their cord or foot. Then fabric-several will bring in tragic fabric and it will be hopeless to work with. These are just normal innocent decisions by newbies.

I taught a similar 6 block class including the quilting in 7 classes and it felt rushed! A teacher's rule of thumb-if it takes you 1 hr it will take your students 2-3.

I don't want to discourage you from teaching, just need to set your stage well. Do remember that this is a zero sum game-it will take you many, many hours to prep for this class which will remove hours from something else. Especially beginner classes cannot be charged much so you won't make much at all. I LOVE to teach and the trade-off is worth it for me. You have such a wonderful full life, just hope it works for you. I would love to take a class from you!! Just not beginning quilting, grin!

Patsy said...

First, you will be a wonderful teacher, so please do this!

I love how you've organized this and thought through all the salient concepts/techniques that you'd want to teach a beginner. Everything is spot on.

The one part that doesn't seem realistic is the time frame. Everything takes much longer in a class setting than it does at home, so there's no way you could cover this in a 6-hr class. There are so many parts of this that are wayyyy out of your control (like the fact that you will have at least some students who have no idea how to operate their sewing machines, and by the way, YOU will be presumed to know how to operate/fix all brands/makes/models of sewing machines that show up in your class), and even the parts that you can control will just take far longer than you'd think. I don't see a way to do all this short of dividing it up into 3-4 separate classes. Please do this and blog about it; I'd love to hear your take on it.

Debbie said...

I take a lot of embroidery classes for fun, and every single time I end up helping my seat mates learn how to use their machine. It gets kind of difficult. Also, picking out fabric for newbies is such a job. Although to us your pattern is way basic, for them it will be hard. I keep up with a quilting for beginners group and watch what they post, and it is more than basic--just sewing squares together. Don't get me wrong, I make a lot of charm pack quilts to give to charity but I don't have to agonize over the details.

Your students will love that quilt top, though!

dq said...

I agree with some of the comments ahead of me. When I taught quilting classes I expected my students to arrive with their pieces already cut out. With cut pieces they may be able to piece enough of the top in class to be able to go home and finish piecing it on their own. I recommend having them pre-cut and offering a pre-class for those who don't know how to use rotary cutters. The borders, quilting, and binding will all be following up classes if they need full lessons. Often these newbies just pay someone to quilt their tops.

YOu will do great!

Ramona said...

I taught a beginning quilt class to friends last year and none of them had quilted before then. All had experience sewing, but all were new to quilting. They didn't know how to use a rotary cutter or ruler, didn't know how to square up fabric, line it up, etc. Preparing the cutting the fabric was almost one entire class. And, yes, picking the fabric was quite an ordeal for one person. The pattern I had them make was a nine patch with alternating large blocks. They did add two borders. It was very successful for all and two have really taken off with quilting. Two of the three quilted their own tops... quilted in the ditch. It was a wonderful experience for me. I loved seeing their excitement and finished results, but at times I expected things to move more quickly than they did in reality.

Linda F. said...

The sewing shop in VA where I teach beginning sewing has a successful beginner quilt class. They use a free Elizabeth Hartman charm quilt pattern which you can see here: . It can use yardage or charm squares. I believe they offer it in 3 two hour sessions but there is homework in between and so not equivalent to a 6 hour long class. Class one deals with the fabric selection, cutting and piecing. Class two is the sandwiching and quilting and class three is the binding. I have been told that it takes 3 times longer to teach a project class than what it takes you to make the project and my experience agrees with this. You have gotten a lot of good advice. I hope you can sort through it all and that you have a good experience. Teaching beginning sewing has been so much fun for me who had also done a lot of sewing and never taught until my local shop asked if I would do so. Best of luck!
Linda F. in DC