What I learned after quilt class

I already blogged about how the class itself went.  But, it was AFTER class that I learned my lessons as a teacher. 

Here is the lesson and it is a hard one for me. 

Keep it simple.

Yep.  That's it. 

When I taught the first class in April, I was doing a lot of dense background quilting on my quilts.  And, that's what I taught.  Not a lot about FMQ, but a boatload about tiny, dense work.  Before class, I was working on the red silk quilt.  My practice pieces during class were also dense background work.  It's beautiful work, but it wasn't what I set out to teach; the basics of FMQ.  Fortunately, that first class was made up of experienced quilters and the dense filler was a good class for them.  But, not all classes are going to be experienced as they were. 

Remember that I shared how I had them pin baste a quilt top for me?  This is it.

I pieced this quilt several years ago.  It's a reproduction of the QNM 25th anniversary block maybe???  I got it as a web extra many years ago.  I'd swear I pieced this before we got Sydney and that was 5 years ago.  But, it never got finished...just hung in the closet, waiting for me to figure out what I wanted to do with it.  It even had a border pattern pinned to it.  I guess I planned to add a complex border that the quilt doesn't need.

Yesterday, after errands and cooking and housework, I secluded myself in the sewing room and I got almost all the ditchwork done (I left one corner section unquilted to do in class next week) and those feathers marked and stitched into the black sections.  I don't know yet what I'll do in the gold sections.  Still trying to figure that out.  I found a template that I like yesterday and will likely end up with that.  Something nice and plain as it is intended not to stand out.  And, I'm going to do a rope in the border, just to fill it and give a nice quilted edge, but nothing to draw attention away from that central star. 

While I was doing that, I was making a list of "basic" things that I didn't cover in class on Saturday.  Basics like how to pick out quilting stitches (tho every time I said pick out quilting, one of the students made a face).  How to fit a template into a given space by adding or subtracting in the repeats so you don't end up with a big gap at the corner.  Lighting for quilting at home...you can't quilt it if you can't see it.  How to do a feather wreath by drawing three circles (the stem and two outer edges to fit the feathers in so they are consistently sized). 

And, how I leave random spots unquilted so I can go back later and fill them in.  My quilting changes as I work my way through a quilt.  If I leave spots unquilted, and go back and fill them in later, I don't have to worry about all of one side looking one way and all of the other side looking another.  That's come in especially handy as I've continued to work on the Pond Mountain quilt. 

My quilting has gotten more and more dense as I've worked my way around.  It changes with my mood and when I was nervous about class on Saturday morning, those clamshells got very small.  Because I've left some spaces unquilted, I'll go back and fill them in at the end and they will give the quilt a more even appearance as I can fill them in with more or less density to give the overall appearance more consistency.  It's a trick I learned when I started the dense background filler that has saved my bacon on a regular basis. 

My other tip that I didn't share is that if you make a mistake, don't stop and correct it.  Wait.  Keep moving forward.  At the end, look for mistakes and fix the ones you can find.  There are two reasons for that.  Number one, it breaks the concentration to stop and rip and repeat as I quilt.  That stopping, and the accompanying frustration, really break my rhythm and inevitably lead to other mistakes.  And, two, if I can't find it later, it wasn't so much of a mistake to begin with. 

So that's what we'll go back and do next Saturday.  Cover some more of the basics.  And, we'll do unmarked, free-hand, free-motion.  And, if we get to dense filler, that's great.  And, if we don't, that's great, too.  Because not every quilter wants to do dense background filler. 

I think that from now on, when I'm prepping for a class, I'll work on something other than the dense background filler so that I have the basics fresh on my mind going into the class.  Those basics are what people really want to know. 

You know, if I teach this class another 500 times, I might just get it the way I want it.

Last night, I was guilty of some bad parenting.  Hey, it happens, right?  I was working so hard and getting so much done all day.  And, then it was bedtime.  And I didn't want to stop.  I began to channel my inner 5 year old that didn't want to put his toys away and go to bed.  I did it, but I grumbled about it instead of flinging myself to the floor in a fit of hysterical sobbing (even though that's what I really wanted to do).  I picked up my stuff so I wouldn't have to deal with it first thing this morning and went out into the house, and into the kitchen that I had left spotless after an hour of washing and scrubbing up.  And, I found dirty dishes.  And, someone had emptied the paper towel roll and just left it for me to deal with.  My good cake pans were in the sink, filled with water, threatening to break out in rust spots.  And, someone had left trash on the dining table.  The dog's water bowl was empty.  And, all my calm and zen parenting that I'd been practicing for months went right out the window and I unleashed a loud diatribe about laziness that would have made even the worst parent proud.  Not my best moment and not my best handling of the situation. 

One day, I will be perfect.  Unfortunately, I will most likely be dead.  Dead people make so few mistakes. 



Auntie Em said...

Those are 2 awesome tips about freemotion quilting that I will definitely try to remember. I like your approach that if you can't find the mistake later it wasn't so bad to begin with.

Kim West said...

Your tips are awesome...

And sometimes it is hard to be calm after you spent all that time cleaning and then you walk away and then to come back to a mess... I always feel that way when I mop... Because inevitably, just minutes after I mop, the kids will do something and make a huge mess on my freshly mopped floor. It drives me crazy.

Bianca said...

Thanks for those great tips on FMQ. I am still practicing this, I was a big believer in stippling, but the last time I did, I got bored with it and wanted to do something else. And glad I did. I'm now am trying feathers, which isn't easy. Practice, practice, practice....

About parenting I can't give any replay, 'cause I don't have kids. But I was one (loooong ago) and I turned out pretty good, eventhough my parents were driven crazy, desperate and out of their minds by me!! So, keep hanging in there and never give up. ;-D

Kath said...

when I worked in social care the definition of good parenting was

Basic physical care
Love and affection
Stimulation and encouragement
Guidance and boundary control
Age- appropriate responsibility
Age appropriate independence
Predictability of key routines

None of us has to be a perfect angel, hissy fits are allowed, we're only human.
You come across as a great parent Lane, don't be too tough on yourself.

JoAnne said...

Having taught a few classes myself--mostly in scrapbooking, I have found that it never goes how you "want" or "plan" but still the students are happy. I think as long as they learn something and get excited about a new technique, that it has been successful. Each class seems to have its own "feel." As to the parenting, we are all guilty of bad moments! They happen and we move on. It's life after all.

Rebecca Grace said...

I am going to put one of your FMQ tips into practice TODAY -- the one about moving around the quilt top and working your way back, for a consistent overall look even though the quilting evolves/changes as you're progressing. Thank you! I'm just beginning to learn FMQ, getting over the fear of messing up a beautiful quilt top.

As for your parenting freak -- been there, done that. I think we have the same cake pans. But my sons just left to spend 3 weeks in Florida with their grandparents. I spent all day yesterday cleaning up after them in an eerily empty, quiet house, and now that the toothpaste is no longer splattered on the bathroom wall and the candy wrappers are confiscated from beneath their mattresses, I wonder if cleanliness is really that important...

Ugh! Of COURSE it is! I don't want ANTS in the bedrooms! ;-)

Linda said...

I never thought of leaving a space to come back to for evening out my quilting. What a great idea! I also love to do dense quilting and I seem to get denser as I go. This would certainly help with the problem of uneven quilting.
No parent is perfect. That's where love comes in. If she knows you love her, she will forgive the mistakes you make. And you will make them unless, like you said, you're dead!

lw said...

That quilt top with the star is wonderful-- I do like the idea of keeping the quilting simple to enhance the piecing.

Remember Ronnie's speech from Moonstruck?

"...love don't make things nice, it ruins everything, it breaks your heart, it makes things a mess. We're not here to make things perfect. Snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us."

In the end, Sydney will love you more because you're not perfect-- but you do love her and when you make mistakes, you admit them. How awful would it be to have everyone around you be perfect, knowing how imperfect we all feel?

I bought an automatic dog bowl that attaches to the hose and refills itself on amazon for about $25. Then, even when I skip a groove, we're covered.

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Elizabeth said...

The thing about parenting is that it is a 24/7 pop-quiz. There's no manual to tell you what to do and you still have to pull it off even when you're not at your best. The trick it so make the positive out weigh the negative. Based on that, I think Sydney will turn out just fine. Be kind and forgive yourself.

xo -E

Vesuviusmama said...

I'd have been that student making faces when you said "pick out stitches". Yuck! And I have bad parenting moments regularly. I'm not proud, but I bet it makes my kids appreciate when I am reasonable.