Becoming a Better Quilter: Taking Classes and Workshops

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I admit that I absolutely love to learn. If I had the means, I would be a great perpetual student — hanging out on a university campus and working my way through the course catalog. So it was no surprise that, once I discovered quilting, I signed up for every class, workshop and convention that was available to me.

When you’re a novice quilter, taking classes is hard. Everything is new and difficult. Trying to get fabric together —  along with your classroom machine, notions, patterns, and the appropriate  sewing machine attachments — is very stressful. You can feel like a failure when seasoned quilters are whipping through their projects and you can’t sew a consistent 1/4″ seam. It is embarrassing being the slowest person, being a few steps behind everyone else in the class.

My philosophy was that someone had to be the slowest — so it might as well be me. I tried to laugh at my “adventures” and keep going. If I forgot my 1/4″ foot, I bought one. If I brought the wrong fabric for a project, I tried to make it work. Recently I attended a block of the month and realized I’d done the wrong block. Oops! I apologized to the teacher and did my best to keep up.

For the most part, I have had excellent and patient teachers. I did have one horrible experience, when I made a cutting error and the teacher threw my project in the trash. She was furious that I had not followed instructions, and I was humiliated that she was got angry at me in front of a dozen strangers. I almost never returned for another class. Almost. But deep down I knew that it was more about her sense of failure than my ineptitude … and I kept signing up for more (although I will never take classes from this individual again).

As I continued to take classes and workshops, I started to enjoy myself more. Somehow I managed to get my sewing machine together. I stopped forgetting thread, brought the right fabric, and even managed to bring the accessories box so I had a selection of feet.  I stopped being the slowest one in the class. Now I can actually offer assistance to more novice quilters.

Many people are afraid of classes. Yet the are one of the easiest ways to grow as quilters.  Sometimes it’s simple things — like the teacher who noticed that I had my bobbin threaded the wrong way. Sometimes it’s encouragement that warms our soul — like the workshop leader who took me aside, told me I was talented, and advised me to buy a decent sewing machine. Sometimes it’s a new technique, or the ability to work in a small group with someone who is miles ahead of us on the quilting journey. I admit that some teachers are better than others. However I have learned something from every single class I’ve taken.

Tomorrow I have a workshop with John Flynn. I am excited. I will be learning some of his techniques. My goal is to learn and to enjoy the process. If I forget something, or if I mess up, or if I don’t understand the process … that’s okay. I will ask for help. And I will leave, tomorrow afternoon, a better quilter than I was in the morning.

 

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