Episode #5 - Teaching Quilting Classes - Transcript Continued

This is part 2 of the transcript for Episode 5: Teaching Quilting Classes. Click Here to find Part 1.

Now for the actual class. I think I mentioned this before be on time, be ready for your intro. Have that down. More than anything else I think that's important and I've met a few teachers that ... I wouldn't say botched the introduction but it really set the class off on wrong foot. It took her a while to pull everyone back around.

It's almost like getting people on your side is the way I look at it. A lot of times when I start a class, of course I'm in my 30s, and I look young. A lot of times I feel like I have to jump people into machine quilting really quickly in order for them to be willing to listen to me. That could be just my own insecurities coming out but I have found that that's generally the best way to start so I try and talk very little at the beginning.

I introduce myself, I say, "I'm Leah Day from the Free Motion Quilting Project. I'm so happy to be here and then we're going to learn about Free Motion quilting." I list the settings that people can try on their machines and then just jump right into the very first design that we're going to stitch together and I draw it.

I like to have a whiteboard. My absolute favorite place to teach is We're Sew Creative in Concord, North Carolina. The reason I love to teach there is she has mounted a teaching whiteboard to the back of the room so that I don't even have to hold it. They're on the wall. It's like a classroom. It's wonderful.

I love that space because I can write, I can draw up the design and leave it there and then I only have to erase it whenever I need to move on to the next technique. I'll draw that on board, ask for questions say, "Okay go stitch."

Usually that intro lasts about five minutes and then I start walking around to all the students. Anybody that's walked in late I introduce myself, shake their hand, give them some one-on-one attention, talk about the settings, if they need some help getting started.

A lot of times in that first initial walkthrough I'm looking for anyone having problems with their foot. If it's a close toed foot I usually will mention breaking it at that point. Usually within the first two or three hours I'll start walking around and breaking feet for people. There's a video on it online I'll link to it so that way you can see what I mean.

Basically break the foot open and then stop if from hoping. They're thankfully becoming far less common but that style of foot can be really challenging to learn with. I always offer that right at the beginning. Then I'm also looking for any thread issues. I bring thread with me to class so that if a student's struggling then they can just grab a spool of Isacord or a spool of Aurifil and try that instead.

A lot of times they won't feed properly from the spin, the pen on the machine so I'll switch to a spool stand or just put it on the table top and feed the thread up and then into the machine and that often times works a lot better. I'm looking for all those little things that are easy to fix, that are easy to notice and pull out and fix quickly.

Then I'm also just walking around being encouraging. Usually those first stitches are terrifying and it's all crazy and wobbly. Usually I'll start with stippling as the first design in a machine quilting class and it might be a little scary like, "Oh my gosh mine doesn't look anything like yours" that kind of thing.

I hear that a lot. It's all about being encouraging and supportive. That looks great. It might not look all that great but if it's good enough to put on a quilt I tell a student immediately like, "Wow! That looks awesome. That is ready to go on your next quilt."

Because I think more than anything else especially with machine quilting a lot times students will question their experience so much that they won't actually go home and do it. They won't actually go home and continue to try and actually put it on a real quilt so they never really build the skill.

I see it as really important to let students know that they are ready. You are ready to put that on quilt. You are ready to stitch that out.

In a piecing class I think this would come in looking around at people's quarter inch seam. Like, "Hey do you have a quarter inch foot? Let's double check and see if you have a patchwork foot in your supplies or let's measure that quarter inch seam." Carry around a ruler in your hand and measure that quarter inch seam and give some tips on making it more accurate.

If a student is struggling with points being loped off or seams not coming out right or the block not coming out exactly right. That will also allow you to catch it. Like someone stitching something wrong then you'll catch it before they stitch too far and you'll be able to catch it and get them back on track whether they have to rip something out or just start on the next set of blocks.

Being in class this goes back again to the beginning of why you teach, what you want to share and where you're coming from. I really think this comes from the heart. You have to want to be there, you have to want to help and you have to really want people to be successful.

We want our students to learn how to do multiplications tables, right? Then you want them to learn that stained glass appliqué technique, you want then to be able to go home and do it themselves.

I hope that you will in your classes allow photos of your quilts, that you will answer every question that you are asked and you will answer it as fully as you are able. If someone asks a question that you don't know how to answer be honest about that. Say, "I'm sorry I don't know the answer to that yet but maybe we can figure out the answer together." That kind of thing.

I think the worst thing that can happen is to teach a class not to teach but to get attention for yourself. That is not the point. That is not why people come there, that is not why people attend your class and that is not the reason to teach a class, but I see it and it makes me very, very sad.

I'd say that the last tip is to take a lot of classes and to pay attention to those teachers that light you up and make you feel amazing. Make you want to go home and make beautiful quilts and have given you the resources to make those quilts and to do a good job with them. Pay attention to those teachers and figure out what it is that makes them so special and what it is that has made them so successful.

Then also when you take a class and it is horrible and makes you feel bad. Makes you angry, because there have been those classes that I have left furious at the end of it because I learned very little. I just felt like I was there to stroke the ego of whatever teacher was pretending to teach the class.

When that happens pay very close attention to what made you feel that way. Was it that she just basically didn't teach, that she just demoed, that she just sat there and stitched herself the whole time or was it that she didn't allow photos. She didn't answer your questions or how she answered your questions, how she went about responding to students.

Even how you stand in class to stand with your arms wide, your feet wide apart, that is a very open stance, a very giving stance. When someone is closed up and sitting down hunched over that is a very closed stance.

I know that's getting into physicality, that's coming from my yoga stuff but it makes a difference. I know it's crazy. I have a friend who is a yoga instructor and a massage therapist and she always give me this advice whenever I'm going somewhere doing something. She says, "Ground through your feet, spread your feet wide and ground through your feet."

I know there is also a really popular ... It's not Captain Marvel, a Wonder Woman pose, you stand with your feet apart and your hands on your hips and it makes you look like Wonder Woman. It is a power pose.

It does make you feel better about yourself. It makes you feel more open and more giving. Before class stand in that pose for a good five minutes and channel that energy and you'll bring it to class. It might sound a little hokey and you might feel a little hokey doing it but I promise you it'll make all the difference in the world.

That's it for this episode! I have really enjoyed sharing all this with you and I hope that it will inspire you to go and teach and share this wonderful, wonderful skill of quilting with other people. I can't think of anything more amazing to be able to do. I love teaching, I love sharing this wonderful amazing art.

What I love the most about it is that for the most part quilters get it. They get this desire to share and this desire to spread the word and get more people addicted to it. I think most quilters understand that this is a craft that came from sharing, our grandmothers would share quilt blocks. They would sit down together and stitch together.

My great grandmother would host quilting bees I think it was every weekend. From what I have heard of the stories she would have all of her sisters, and she had I think eight or nine sisters, and they would all come over to her house. She had a quilting frame that she suspended from her ceiling. Her house was super, super tiny so she suspended her quilting frame from the ceiling and she'd drop it down and she and all of her sisters would sit around the quilting frame and they'd quilt together.

They would work together on quilts for one another so they were all getting their stitches in and then that quilt would go to one of them. Then they put another quilt on the frame and they'd stitch it together next. That kind of sharing and sense of camaraderie I think is what makes quilting so amazing. I think that is the most valuable thing about this craft.

If you want to teach please teach.

Please share this wonderful love and awesome craft with other people and do it in an amazing way. I think that this has hopefully set you off on the right foot.

If you have any questions of course you can contact me through LeahDay.com/contact. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook @LeahDayQuilting. You can find the episode show notes plus some links to everything I mentioned in this podcast at LeahDay.com/episode5

Until next time, let's go quilt!

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