Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Class We Go

This isn’t exactly a rant…not really.  These are just a few thoughts that I have about quilt classes – both taking them and teaching them.  I have done both (both taught and taken), so I think I’m speaking from all sides of the sewing machine on this one.

I love to take classes.  Even after quilting over 30 years, I still have a lot to learn.  With every class I sit in, I come away with something new.  It may a little thing – like a new organizational idea – or a big thing – like how to make Y-seams easier.  Equally, I enjoy teaching classes.  I don’t teach as much as I used to, but I do enjoy meeting new quilters (new to me or new to quilting).  I love the teaching process and I love sharing what I know.  And I always learn something from my students.  Always.  Their feedback makes me a better teacher.

After teaching a recent one-day workshop where I encountered a few hiccups among my students, I wondered if they had thought through exactly what they needed to do before class in order to be ready for class.  As a former high school science teacher, this concept is not foreign to me.  The first several days of a new science class were always  spent telling those kids how to prep for a lab and what I expected from them in class.  However, with a quilt class or a workshop, there usually isn’t much more than a supply sheet or an email to get folks ready for a day of quilty instruction.  With this blog, I want to give you the nuts and bolts about how to get ready for class.  And unlike high school where you could see the teacher the next day to clear up any confusion, you won’t see your quilting instructor until the next week, the next month, or if it’s a one-day workshop, maybe not ever again. 

First, let’s look at what the class is.  That sounds pretty silly, but let’s define it.  A quilting class or workshop is a time to learn, fellowship, and share.  You’re hopefully going to learn something new, have a chance to talk with other quilters, and share ideas with each other.  Now let’s look at what the class is notIt is not a gossip session.  It is not a gab session.  And for heaven’s sake, it’s not a guild meeting or a bee.  I’ve run into situations where I’ve taught or been in a class where there were several members of the same guild in attendance.  I’ve heard more about their guild’s business than I had a right to know.  Please remember everyone has paid their class fee and that money is spent to learn

Okay, that rant over, let’s move on.  With any class, there is a supply list involved.  Don’t wait and read it the day prior to class – as a matter of fact, read it at least a week before the class.  Read it thoroughly.  Then read it again.  Highlight, underline, or circle anything you need to particularly remember or special supplies you need to purchase.  Then read it again – just to be on the safe side.  This list is important because it’s not only going to tell you what you need to have as far as fabric and notions go, but it will also let you know if there is any special equipment you need to bring, if you need to bring your own pressing station or if one will be provided, or if there is a cutting station and there is no need for your own mat.  The instructor should have his or her contact information on that sheet.  If you have any questions, ask the teacher for clarification.  They honestly won’t mind this one bit. Clearing up any questions before class means there is more time for actual instruction and fun!

Next gather up all your supplies.  From a teacher’s point of view here, it’s really great if you have exactly what’s on the supply list.  If your instructor requests fat quarters and you decide to bring enough scraps that equals the number of fat quarters required, be prepared for a longer prep time.  When I’m teaching, I know that I don’t ask for anything superfluously.  I have a good reason behind everything I require for class.  Most quilting teachers do.  And if the instructor asks you to do some prep work before class, make sure you have that in hand. 

As you gather all your supplies, organize them.  Plastic boxes with snap on lids are great, as are Ziploc bags.  Caddies that hold your general sewing supplies are awesome, as are thread catchers to keep your area neat.  It’s also a great idea to put your name on everything.  I can’t imagine anyone stealing in a quilt class, but one yellow Olfa rotary cutter looks pretty much like another yellow Ofla rotary cutter.   And if you accidently leave something behind, the teacher will know who to contact in order to get that back to you. 

Also note what supplies may be for sale at class and their costs.  Sometimes teachers prefer one brand of thread or a certain notion or will have the pattern available for purchase at class.  Bring cash to purchase them.  I know we all use debit cards out the wazoo now, but not all teachers are equipped to take them.  Correct change is a terrific thing to have to make your instructor’s life easier.  If the class is held at a LQS, the shop may have the supplies and then debit/credit cards can be used.

While we are talking about supplies, let’s also hit equipment at this point.  As a teacher, this is one of the areas that gives me the most grief, so let me park it here and discuss a few things about any equipment required – primarily your sewing machine. 

 Make sure you know your machine

This is a biggie.   If it’s the machine you regularly use and you haven’t used it in a few days, plug it up and run few stitch lines to make sure it’s working okay.  If it’s a machine that you only use occasionally, do the same thing.  And if you’ve been blessed with a brand-new machine (lucky you!), definitely spend some quality time with it before class.    Know how to change the needle.  Know you to thread it.  Know how to change the feet.  Know how to wind a bobbin and change the needle position.  Go into class at least knowing the basics.  This is important because the class instructor may not have ever sewn on your brand of machine.  This means he or she may not be able to help you if you have issues.  Couple that with the fact that if you need help with your machine, you’re cutting into class time and selling the other people in the class short. 

  •  Make sure your machine is up to par.

If it’s been about eighteen months since you’ve had your machine serviced, make an appointment with a tech and have it serviced.  This extends the life of your machine and makes it sew so much better.  If you’ve had it serviced, make sure you’ve got a new needle in and you’ve cleaned and oiled it (if you’re machine can be oiled). 

  •  Make sure you have all the supplies for your machine.

Be sure to pack your machine’s power cord and foot pedal (if needed).  You’d be surprised how frequently those two things are forgotten.  Extra bobbins (preferably wound before class) and sewing machine needles are very handy, as well as any extra feet you think you may need. 

While you’re gathering up your machine and supplies, also pack a positive attitude.  Come to class excited to learn something new.  Support your fellow classmates.  Be encouraging to each other.  I love it when this attitude pervades a class – any I’m taking and certainly any class I teach.  It makes life so much better and I think you actually learn more when this is present.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Some teachers may request that you hold all inquiries until the end of class or until he/she is finished explaining a point.  If that’s the situation, you may want to make note of that question and ask it at the appropriate time.  No question is ever stupid.  And as a former teacher, I can certify that if you have a question, there is the distinct possibility someone else in that class has the same question, too.  Ask it. 

Finally, mind your manners.

Be on time.  If you’re taking a class that requires you to bring your sewing machine, come a few minutes early so you can have the machine set up and ready to rock and roll when class is supposed to start.  If you’re running late or must miss part of the class, most teachers would appreciate an email, text, or phone call to let them know ahead of time.  If you have to come in late, set up as quietly as possible so not to interrupt class.  If you must leave early, do it quietly and inform the instructor beforehand. 

If you have to share a sewing space, be sure to respect boundaries.  Allow the other students in class to have enough room to use their machine and tools.  Be courteous to your teacher – not just with words, either.  If the instructor is speaking to the entire class, stop sewing or winding bobbins (which should have been wound before class) or talking to a friend.  Give the teacher your full attention and enable the other students to do the same.  Keep walkways and aisles free of clutter for safety’s sake.

Lastly, when class is over pack everything up and prepare to leave so your teacher can also leave.  Most teachers, including myself, don’t mind staying few minutes over to answer any questions.  However, don’t hold the instructor hostage.  If you have a question that requires a detailed answer, ask if you can call or email him/her later to get clarification.  Most teachers don’t mind this at all.

In closing, I would like to encourage you to take as many classes as you’re able to.  I always learn something in every one I take.  And if you’re a seasoned quilter, think about teaching someone else.  It doesn’t have to be in a classroom setting.  One-on-one works perfectly fine.  Pass the art of quilting along to someone else!

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

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