Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Only The Best Way

I'm attending a weekly quilting class.

I've taken several classes and workshops before, but for some reason though this class is calling out my inner-former teacher. I'm really seeing things that could/should be done differently in the class.

Although it good for the class to learn the history of the teacher, it's at least equally important for the teacher to do a needs assessment and to learn what experience the students have with quilting.  Lessons may need to be modified to meet the needs of the students.

Teachers should expect to have to do preparation for a class.  Even though they usually only get paid for the time they are in front of the class, they need to accept that they will need to devote additional time preparing the lesson.

Instead of just saying that there is only one way, the best way, presented in class.  A good teacher will also show variations.  Examples and non-examples!

The first lesson in the class was to make an X-block.  One way.  The best way.

In reality, there are so many variations to this block.  What fun it would be for the teacher to have the block prepared with different widths of strips, some the same for both parts and some different for the students to understand how she came to the conclusion that her one way is best.  To have the blocks make by slicing the square in half inserting a strip, then slicing it again and inserting the next strip, or to have an extra piece cut so there is a square in the center of the block. Putting two squares down and cutting them both at the same time, then rearranging the fabrics.  Not to mention different sizes of squares and angles for the cuts.

To press the seams in, to press the seams out, to open the seams, and to press the seams in the same direction. Perhaps showing how to make the block by sewing on paper, or even sewing raw edges down or using interfacing. (Perhaps it doesn't make any difference in the end, I'm not sure.  According to this current class teacher the best way is to press the seams toward the feature of the block, that way the feature stands out. It does look nice, but it seems to me once the block is quilted the pressing won't matter.)

Of course before setting us off to get fabrics, there is so much to be discussed.  A teacher could collect samples of many fabrics - perhaps squares or rectangles could be distributed to students.  Individually then in small groups they could arrange small collections by different criteria.  Quality of materials, colors, value, hue, tints, solid or prints, size of prints, and more.  Tricks of looking thru different lens using the camera on a phone, squinting eyes, looking from different distances and angles and touching.

It's a good idea to have students test a procedure for a block and their measurement and cutting skills, by making a testing/example block.  A teacher could make arrangements with a charity to donate fabric and the students pick from that fabric to each make a block or two before using their own fabric.  (This way the students are practicing skills and creating blocks that can be used as practice later to learn adding sashing, quilting as you go, basting, etc.)

Each student could be tasked with cutting donated fabric in different sizes, then they could pick pieces to make a block - to be made and contributed to a charity quilt.  A terrific lesson to see how to see how different fabrics change the look of a block, then a variety of sashings and borders could be shown and tested.

Class projects should be designed so they can be completed using a limited number of fabrics. Some of the students would not have any stash collected.  (It's almost unkind I think to ask students to make a class project that starts with 34 different 8 inch squares.)  I'm sure a nice project could be made with charm squares or with fewer fabrics!

I have a lot more to learn about quilting, but I'm afraid the instructor of this class so far is not really teaching. This isn't a workshop, it supposed to be an ongoing quilting class.


To be honest, the main reason I'm attending is to meet local quilters.

I have now met a few ladies who now say hello to me and text messages before or after class, so I appreciate that and hope we will become friends.  I'm perhaps really hoping eventually to be invited to join the subgroup of quilters that seem to meet at each others homes and make margaritas and dinner together - and sew too! : )


What ideas do you have for good class exercises?

Published 2-15-17.


  1. I agree that it sounds like your instructor isn't very good at teaching! Anytime someone tells me "this is the BEST way, the ONLY way," I get stubborn. At the very least, he/she should be saying, "I've tried lots of techniques and really like this one. I'd prefer you do it this way in class so we're all doing the same thing, but feel free to try other techniques at home and see what works best for you."

  2. Hi, June! Is this an older post? It just came through my email feed today (June 28, 2017) but I see several dates on the post itself, including Nov 2, 2016 and Feb 15, 2017!

    In any case, I agree with your frustration about taking a class from a teacher who isn't prepared. I also bristle against being told there is only "one way" or "the best way" to sew a block. What defines "best"? Flattest? Strongest? Fastest? Most traditional? A good teacher shows by example so that the student has an "Aha!" moment, that's what makes the lesson stick, not rote memorization. But you already knew that :)


Feedback is welcome!