1/7/15

To teach, or not to teach...that is the question.

I put myself through a lot of unnecessary angst sometimes when I have to make a decision, especially decisions that put me in front of a group. The weird thing is that every time I do a presentation, I enjoy it immensely. You'd think that experience would make it easier. But it doesn't. Its still very very hard to make that decision. If you followed over the last few years, where I've had to decide whether to teach at my LQS and whether to do a guild presentation, then you've read (and maybe rolled your eyes) at how hard it is for me to put myself out there. 
 
Self confident people are so lucky. 
 
Rob is a self confident person.  He always has an easy smile and he can talk to anybody.  That makes him a great foil for me.  I'm just one bad odor away from being a cave dwelling hermit. 

I've been asked to teach at a guild workshop. It was  suggested that I teach something related to free motion quilting. But I've taught FMQ and it's hard work. Might not look like it, but it is. It's a complex topic and people often approach it with unrelistic expectations about what they can learn in a few hours.  And it takes a lot longer to teach than these guild workshops provide. Plus, i don't have any experience with modern machines, with all their computerized settings. Imagine the first time I explained tension adjustment, one of the basic fundamentals of a good FMQ stitch, and was told that tension couldn't be manually adjusted on one participants model. Unfortunately, she broke a needle about every 6 minutes of practice, which discouraged us both. 

Anyway, you guys know how obvious ideas sometimes alude me until i have one of those "hit myself in the forehead" V8 moments, when the answer becomes clear. Somebody suggested I teach something other than FMQ. How obvious. Unfortunately, at that moment, she had my right fingers round my back and touching my left ear as she tried to twist my arm into a commitment, so it took a few hours for me to hear the logic of what she said. 
 
Okay, so here's a funny story from my childhood.  When I was in elementary school, I was supposed to perform in a choir concert.  It was the winter concert and I had either a solo, or a speaking part from the Bible, or both...can't remember.  Anyway, for a reason I don't quite remember, I decided I wasn't going to participate.  My choir teacher tried to pressure me.  And, the more she tried, the more I dug my heels in.  So, my classroom teacher tried.  And, at that point, my heels were dug so far in, there wasn't anything she could do.  So, my Mom tried.  But, by that time, she couldn't have gotten me on that stage with a buggy whip.  I've always been this way.  The more pressure, the more I resist.
 
Anyway, once my mind grasped the concept that I could teach something else, I started thinking about things I do well, and different than I've ever seen them done before, and that brought me to Foundation Paper Piecing.  I use Judy Mathieson's freezer paper method from her book Mariner's Compass Quilts, Setting a New Course.  I love that you don't sew through the paper, so you don't have to remove all those tiny little bits.  But, I also have a unique way of measuring and preparing the fabric pieces that is different than Judy's. 
 
I'm going to draft my own block to teach, because pattern copyright stuff is getting crazy complicated, but it will be slightly based on this block, except a little simpler, with only 8 points instead of 16.  This is the QNM Birthday Star block that they offered in 2008, to celebrate the QNM birthday.  I made the quilt from the pattern in the magazine and it started my love of star and mariner's compass blocks and paper piecing.

 

I even have my first set of fabrics picked out.  This is the challenge block for the Georgetown Quilt and Stitchery show, sponsored by Handcrafts Unlimited.  I've entered quilts in the show, but this will be my first time to enter a challenge block.  As soon as I saw the fabrics, I knew I wanted to piece a star.  In all the shows I've attended for this group, I've not noticed a star block in the competition.  I can add a small amount of additional fabric, but I think all I'll need is a medium green.
 



 
I'll use this to create one class sample, and other fabrics to make another.  I need to make sure I can teach this block in three hours, so I plan to take it with me to bee this weekend and time myself while I complete the whole process, from needle punching the freezer paper, to piecing one quarter of the block.  I think if we piece a quarter block in class, the participants will have all they need to finish the block at home. 
 
So, that's the plan.  I wish it hadn't taken three months to make the commitment. 
 
But, that's apparently my process.  Whether I like it or not. 
 
I also need some help with an English to English translation, I'm trying to help a friend in the UK with old fashioned cooked starch...if you're of a certain age, that's the kind we cooked and cooled and thinned and then dipped shirts in, way back in the olden days, before starch came in a spray can.  We've run into a difference in terms, and I'm betting that I have followers that can help us with that.  I suggested she try corn starch.  Is that the same thing as corn flour in the UK?  Also, I suggested rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol).  Is that the same as surgical spirits? 
 
Everybody have a great Wednesday.  Thanks!  Lane

12 comments:

Gisela Suski said...

Lots going on, I love the block. I had stage freight and my granddaughter is the same way, smart but she is shy. I went to toastmaster because my job included doing presentations every Monday morning; it helped. I feel for you but you will be fine. I just lose sleep over things like that.

Mari said...

Hi Lane! Yes, in the UK, corn flour is corn starch. (But not any where in the Americas, where corn flour is NOT corn starch but is the flour used to make tortillas and such). Surgical spirit is indeed rubbing alcohol. In the UK it used to come in a purple bottle. These days it should be labelled "isopropyl alcohol" somewhere on the label so that people know not to drink it. Hope that helps. (Also, all good teaching is hard. You must be doing it right!)

lindaroo said...

I can see why you were inspired by that star block, it's dynamic! I'd love to be in your workshop, to learn your techniques directly from you.
I'm the current president of my quilt guild, 200 members strong! I get so flustered in front of the group, but everyone is supportive and kind, and they help me out when I ask.
Someone told me, the butterflies in your stomach never go away, you just teach them to line up and fly straight. I'm learning to use the nervous energy for enthusiasm and connection. It helps!

Frances Welch said...

Hi Lane isopropyl alcohol is just that in UK or was when I was a practicing pharmacist a few years ago it is not the same as surgical spirit which is a form of denatured alcohol but is not coloured like methylated spirit which is coloured purple.Hope this helps.

Megan said...

Lane - I'm very pleased to read that you've decided to teach. I believe that you will be an excellent tutor, especially for students who strive to do things well. That said, it's not necessarily the case that you only teach workshops that involve methods/techniques where you do things differently from others. What you've proposed to teach sounds wonderful, but don't ignore opportunities to lead workshops on well-known techniques developed by others or even basic techniques that some quilters may not have mastered even though they've been making quilts for some time. Hand piecing or hand quilting, for example, might be a useful workshop for quiltmakers who have only ever made quilts by machine.

Just saying ...

Good luck on your workshop. With you skill and investment in preparation, I'm sure that it will go well.

Megan
Sydney, Australia

PS. I think you made a very sensible decision on the free-motion machine quilting. Reading blogs, magazines and books gives the impression that 'anyone' can do it - that it's just a matter of being determined and 'having a go'. Very few present realistic pictures of how much practice it takes to master.

Anonymous said...

I have a similar problem. If I do something like teach a lesson, I torture myself for years afterward. That the person took it the wrong way. Some people just aren't meant to do some things, I believe. But you have such a talent, it is a shame not to share it. That quilt block is the most beautiful I have ever seen!!

Lakegaldonna said...

Hi Lane
Such wonderful comments from your readers! You'll do just fine as you are so detail oriented.

May I make a suggestion? You know I'm going to write it anyway as you are not going to answer......
Please take this in the manner that it is offered. While teaching something new, keep all the unimportant factors, the small things as to not be a distraction to the students.
With that said, think about making your finished class sample and the teaching aid samples all of the same fabrics and placements. Some students get confused when looking at the finished sample and then looking at the teaching aids and they get stuck on these small things and then it disrupts their train of thought and then they feel lost.
I taught at our guild a couple times and the second time when I used the same fabrics it went smoother.
Hope you have a great day and can get some sewing in.
Like I and others above me have said, you'll do just fine!

Leah Day said...

Yes, I definitely agree that teaching free motion quilting is one of the hardest quilting techniques to teach. I've found that teaching at a LQS that is also a dealer/servicer really helps. I always ask that the service guy is on hand to deal with machine issues and that REALLY helps. Maybe instead of teaching FMQ in person you could try shooting some videos and share them online. Just an idea!

lw said...

I am currently have machine issues with FMQ at home, so Leah's comment is really on point.

I wonder if it would make a difference if you could pick your students? I used to teach costume workshops, everyone welcome, and they all would have gone better if I'd chosen just the four or so who I thought would really benefit.

lw said...

Oops. That's "having machine issues." Sheesh.

Sarah said...

Hi Lane,
Lakeland (uk homewares chain) sells the old fashioned clothes starch.

Anonymous said...

Corn flour and cornstarch are the same thing. But beware, In Australia cheaper brands of cornflour are actually wheat, not corn. Make sure your friend checks the packet.