The Zoom-Zone of Truth

Heads up about this blog, folks…it’s a Zone of Truth today.  I’ve mentioned Zoom in several previous posts.  I’ve explained about how my local guild operates with Zoom, how I’m able to attend guild meetings with a New York guild, how my beloved Applique Society uses Zoom to bring together appliquers from all over the world, and how I meet with quilters for local and international Sit and Sews via Zoom. Through this modern technology, I now have the wonderful opportunity to join other guilds from all the United States as long as I have the app on my computer, a router, modem, and internet. 

Zoom was the modern miracle which kept us all together when the world was falling apart from Covid. 

I guess what I’m surprised at – where this Zone of Truth is – I don’t understand why more quilters don’t take advantage of quilt workshops and classes offered through Zoom.  I’m not talking about monthly guild meetings, but actual, honest-to-goodness quilt classes — the type which once were only taught at quilt shows, large retreats, or in the instructor’s studio.  Trust me, if you’re not taking advantage of all Zoom has to offer concerning quilt workshops and classes, you are seriously shorting yourself.  These have the best of both worlds to offer, and the fees are not outrageous.  The most I have spent in quilt classes was for on-line long arm classes.  The price for these cost me some serious coinage, but the cost included the kit (which contained silks), thread, and two classes a month for six months, and  the class was videotaped.  These tapes are on a teaching platform I can access for the rest of my life.  So the price I paid verses what I received in return was more than a win-win ratio for me.

In many ways (at least in my opinion),  Zoom classes are better than in-person instruction.  First, Zoom has brought quilting teachers from all over the world right to your device.  I’ve taken classes with English, Canadian, Spanish, French, Australian, and New Zealand instructors.  Without Zoom, I would have never been able to do this.  The expenses of travel, lodging, and instruction to six countries would be prohibitive.  But thanks to the internet and PayPal, I can point, click, and then have a front row seat with some of the best quilting teachers in the world.  Which brings me to the second way Zoom classes are awesome…

You literally have a front row seat.  Seriously.  These quilting teachers have pretty much perfected their on-line instruction.  Quite often they work from three or four cameras, switching between them so you’re able to see what they’re doing up close – no crowding around the instructor and her sewing machine, hoping you can get a good view of what’s going on. 

The third reason on-line classes are great is you don’t have to pack up to attend the class or leave it.  I don’t care how careful I am, it seems I always forget something when I have to go to a class.  And it’s just as easy to leave something behind when you pack up to leave.  There’s none of that worry with a Zoom class.  I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it is to simply walk across my studio and retrieve a tool or a piece of fabric I need.  And once the class is over, I simply put everything away.  There’s no unpacking. 

So how do you find these wonderful on-line instructors?  Most  of the well-known quilting writers/designers/instructors offer Zoom or Zoom-type classes.  Find their website and quite often you’ll come across what they offer and when it’s offered.  Many quilt organizations, such The Applique Society, offer workshops through their organization with well-known and talented instructors.  The Quilt Show offers classes, too.  It may take a bit of searching and some Googling, but there are classes out there for almost every aspect of quilting. 

With all of that said, in some ways an on-line class is no different than an in-person one.  You can’t just show up, turn on your computer, and log-in.  There’s a bit more to it than that.  After you pay your class fee, you are usually given a supply list.  Sometimes this is emailed to you, sometimes it’s on the website where you signed up.  It’s important you have this.  Read through the list and note if there are items on it you don’t have in your studio.  If there are supplies you need, don’t wait until the day before class to get them.  With our supply chain still under stress, it’s not as easy as it was a few years ago to waltz in your LQS or big box store and find everything you need.  Some supplies may have to be ordered, so be sure to allow time for shipping. 

Personally, I always prep for any class a week out  — whether the class is in-person or on-line.  Read through the class instructions.  Some teachers want the fabrics prewashed.  Others may not.  If any prewashing, starching, cutting, or marking needs to be done, do it then.  This allows you to read the directions thoroughly and make sure all the correct steps are taken.  You’ll also find out if there are items you need you didn’t anticipate, such as new rotary blades or thread conditioner.  In addition to this, I make sure I complete a few extra steps normally not listed in class directions.

  1.  If the class involves machine piecing or my long arm, I always wind extra bobbins before the class starts.  Classes don’t move so fast you couldn’t possibly stop and wind a bobbin, but it’s just easier to grab a wound bobbin, drop it in your bobbin case, and keep moving.  Then you don’t feel rushed to try to make up for the time spent winding the bobbin.
  2. Thread your hand sewing needles.  Under normal circumstances, I have no issue getting the thread through the eye of a needle.  But throw the fact I’m in class with this action, and I can’t do it to save my life.  I feel too rushed, the eye of the needle is too small, or I can’t find the needle.  It saves time if you can have your hand sewing needles threaded and ready to go.
  3. Arrange the sewing area into a U-shape, if possible.  Ideally, I like to watch my classes on an iPad.  This is the best way, I think, because there are stands such as this: 

For an iPad.  This can be set directly in front of your sewing machine, at eye level, so you can watch the Zoom class while you sew.  If I can do this for any class I take involving my sewing machine, it keeps me from turning to my left or right to view a laptop.  Then on the left-hand side of my machine, I have my pressing station, and on the right-hand side I have my cutting area.  I don’t have to get up and move to any other part of my studio while the teacher is instructing us.  I set up the same way if I’m taking a hand piecing or a hand applique class. 

  •  Make sure all the standard sewing tools and any specialty tools needed for class are nearby.  Keeping all of those together cuts down on frustration when you can’t find something.
  • If there is a pattern or a book involved with the class, be sure to read through it before the date of the workshop.  If the teacher has written a book on the same topic as your workshop, usually the book is a great investment, even if it’s not required.  The book gives you two advantages:  First, it’s a wonderful way to get to know the instructor.  It gives you an idea about how he or she may pace the class, what will be emphasized, what kind of sense of humor the teacher employs, and what parts he or she is a real stickler about.  Second, it lets you know if any additional tools may be good to have on hand, even if they’re not listed on the supply sheet. 

If a pattern is required for the class, reading through the pattern does the same thing, with one additional caveat:  it allows you to know ahead of time if you want to construct every part of the pattern the same way class calls for it to be made.  If you quilt for a while and try out different techniques for basic block units, I guarantee you this will happen – you’ll discover a construction method you will not compromise on for any class with any instructor.  For me, you cannot beat making four patches via the strip-pieced method.  I’m good at it, I’m fast at it, and I’m extremely accurate with it.  If a pattern calls for four-patches, this is the way I will make them unless there’s a very good reason for me not to.  I have similarly strong feelings about flying geese and half-square triangles. 

  •  Check your rotary blades and your sewing machine needle.  If either or both are dull, change them.  And if the class calls for a particular type of thread which needs a particular type of needle, make sure that sized needle is already in your machine before class starts. 
  • A small design wall comes in handy.  I make sure mine is close by in case I need it for class. 
  • Make sure you have food and drink nearby.  If you’re taking a class which is several hours long, lunch can be a toss up.  Some teachers I’ve had incorporate a designated lunch break for students (around 30 minutes).  Others don’t.  If you don’t see it indicated somewhere in the class information, assume there isn’t a lunch break.  If the class is a morning one, and you need a warm caffeinated beverage to assist you with your alertness, you may want to pour that pot of coffee or tea in a thermos or carafe and have it in your studio.  I make sure I have several bottles of water nearby (stay hydrated!) and some high-protein snacks as well.  If there is a designated lunch, I make a sandwich or fix a salad before class starts and have it ready to go.  I have learned if there is a lunch period, many of the students hang out on the Zoom class and eat together.  It’s a great way to make new friends. 
  • Make SURE your viewing device is fully charged.  Most of the time, a fully charged device is good for a class which is a few hours.  However, as a backup, it’s a good idea to have your chargers nearby and be able to plug them in without disrupting your classroom experience. 
  • Remember to stand and stretch.  Sitting for hours at a time is hard on your body.  If you find your once-comfy sewing chair becoming uncomfortable, a cushion can be helpful, also. 

By now, most of us have used Zoom or at least have more than a passing knowledge about it.  If you need a refresher before your class there are lots of YouTube videos which explain the process.  However, just like at an in-person class, there are some etiquette guidelines to follow – and the first one is how the teacher wants questions asked.  Some teachers are fine with you speaking up and asking while the class is conducted.  Others want you to put your questions in the chat module.  If this isn’t indicated in the class information, ask this question before the teacher begins instruction.  Second, mute yourself (if the instructor doesn’t) when class starts.  No matter how much and how often you’ll tell the people you live with you have class, you’ll get interrupted, and the other folks don’t need to hear those conversations.  Likewise, your cell phone may ring.  And here’s a helpful hint:  if your bandwidth is giving you issues, muting your mic and turning off your camera can sometimes give it a little bit more room and help your viewing situation to run smoothly. 

Fourth – and this one is really important – Don’t try to video tape the class via the Zoom option or with your cell phone.  Doing this had never even filtered through my mind, because I know these workshops and classes are one of the ways our quilt instructors/teachers put food on their tables and pay their bills.  However, not-so-long ago, I took a class from an internationally known long arm artist and she requested we leave our video on at all times.  Being curious, I asked her why.  She told me previously she had allowed students to keep their cameras off if they wanted, but then she found out one of her students turned their laptop camera off, but video taped the entire class on their cell phone and then loaded it all up on YouTube!   Having the students keep their cameras on during class prevented this from happening again.  Unless the instructor has given you express permission, don’t video any of the workshop.

Finally, be forgiving.  In many ways, Zoom classes are no different from in-person classes.  Accidents happen. There are delays.  With Zoom or any internet classes, connections can be faulty, equipment can balk at the worst times, and cameras can fall off their stands.  Most teachers are prepared for this and can quickly get class back on track.  However, none of them have control over the internet providers.  Sometimes connections can get sketchy.  I’ve had classes completely rescheduled because of this.  Just keep in mind all of us are human and there’s only so much we can do.  But I will add this – in my experience, disruptions such as bad internet connections rarely happen.  Overall, I would give all of my Zoom/internet class experience a solid 98.

That’s it.  This is my Zone of Truth for today.  Take a Zoom class or find an internet class which interests you.  Maybe start with a one-day class which only lasts a couple of hours, then take a longer one. If you don’t try one of these wonderful quilting options, you’re missing out on some awesome learning experiences – trust me on this one.

Until Next Week, Make Your Quilt Yours!

Love and Stitches,


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