I consider myself very blessed to write a bi-monthly column in American Quilter Magazine. I’ve covered such topics as, Are You a Thread Snob?, They Put Those Lines on the Mat for a Reason, What Not to Do if You Plan to Enter a Quilt Contest, and How to Snap Out of a Quilting Rut. But my recent column, Quilt Class Etiquette has taken on a life of its own. At Quilt Festival in Houston last month, more people than I can count stopped me in the aisles to tell me how much they enjoyed reading that column and hit it really “hit home.” I’ve received countless emails and many have asked to reprint the column for their guild members. One clever gal even suggested the column be required reading for every student before they are permitted to sign up for a class at a quilt show or conference! I’m tickled the article has had such an impact and caused folks to think about the do’s and don’ts of quilt class behavior and I’m sure there have been some who’ve had a (guilty) giggle or two when they read it.
The editors at the American Quilter’s Society have graciously allowed me to reprint the article here on my blog. (Thank you, AQS!) And if you enjoy reading this column and you’re not already a member of AQS and subscriber to American Quilter Magazine, now is the best time to join! There’s a fall membership special going on so you can join for $20 (a $5 savings!) and you’ll receive a FREE book and a $10 gift certificate to spend. You’ll also receive all the benefits of AQS membership and a subscription to the magazine so you’ll be enjoy all the fabulous articles and quilt projects plus my column, Kimberly’s Korner. To get this fabulous deal with all the benefits and free stuff, you MUST use the code A66 and go through the link provided HERE.
Quilt Class Etiquette
This year, like so many previous years, I’ve been blessed with a very busy travel and teaching schedule. I’ve given lectures and taught classes for many guilds and at national quilt shows. I absolutely love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to meet so many quilters from around the country and around the world! It also provides me the opportunity to see and spend a bit of time with many industry friends who are also national teachers. I cherish these times on the road (although admittedly the TSA lines, delayed or cancelled flights, and all the schlepping of heavy luggage and boxes…..not so much.) But meeting new students and seeing former ones who bring their completed class quilt projects back to show and share more than makes up for any hardships.
Recently I had lunch with a group of my quilt teacher friends and we chatted about the fact that while most quilters who come to class are a delight to meet, there are a few students who prove to be, shall I say, challenging. Afterward I thought about the experiences they shared – many of which were quite funny – and my own experiences with students throughout the years. It certainly makes for an interesting discussion of some of the do’s, don’ts, and “oh no she didn’t really do that in class?!” Of course I’m absolutely sure none of you reading this column have committed any of these faux pas! Still, I think anyone can benefit by learning from some of these common classroom situations.
The first thing to remember about being a good student is to show up for class on time. This may seem obvious but it happens quite frequently when a student arrives late. Sometimes being tardy simply cannot be avoided (traffic jams, lack of parking, etc.) but with careful planning and making travel arrangements with plenty of time to spare you won’t be hurried or get a speeding ticket on the way. It’s true, I’ve had a couple of students come to class in years past completely frazzled and in tears because they were pulled over by a trooper and issued a speeding ticket. This is never a good way to start class for either you or the teacher! If you do arrive late, don’t expect the teacher to drop everything to get you up to speed. Like me, many teachers have the lesson perfectly portioned for the allotted class time and it’s not fair to the other students for you to expect the teacher to stop and repeat all the steps you missed just so you can catch up on the spot. If you’re later than, say 10 or 15 minutes, simply come in and sit down quietly and be willing to audit the class to learn what you can. In most cases the teacher will be willing to spend a little time later on if his or her schedule allows to review any information you might have missed.
Be prepared. Nothing ruins the fun for you – and quite possibly those around you – if you’re frantically looking for parts and pieces that should have been cut prior to class or because you didn’t label your supplies correctly! Follow the supply lists provided by the instructor and bring exactly what is listed in case a kit is not provided. For instance, don’t bring fusible interfacing when the supply list clearly indicates you were supposed to bring fusible web. Don’t wait until 11pm the night before class to begin preparing your fabrics or gathering your supplies. I can’t tell you how often this actually happens! Inevitably, you’ll cut your fabrics incorrectly or forget something necessary to complete the class project. Your frustration will spill over and make not only you, but those sitting around you, distracted and unhappy.
Depending on the venue, your classroom may have sewing machines provided by a manufacturer or local dealer. The show organizer or class catalog should clearly state when machines will be provided. You need to understand and respect this before you sign up to take the class. If you’re not sure, ask in advance. Don’t arrive and insist you must be allowed to sew on your own sewing machine! The manufacturers go to a great deal of expense and manual labor to equip those classrooms with brand new or gently used machines and highly trained educators so you can simply show up and get right to the fun of sewing without having to haul heavy equipment. Yes, of course they want you to try their machines. Keep an open mind – you may find your new BMF (best mechanical friend) while sitting at this new-to-you machine! Even if you’re not in the market for a new machine, be respectful of all the work, expense and effort that went into getting everything prepared so you can simply enjoy the classroom experience.
When it comes to the class project, please don’t try to customize the size to suit you and don’t ask the teacher to “resize it to fit your bed.” As teachers, many times we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Some students don’t want to leave class with a project so large that they take home yet another UFO to finish while other students insist they don’t want to make yet another table runner or wallhanging! I hear this from all my quilt teacher friends and many times we just shake our heads because as hard as we try, we simply cannot please everyone. As teachers we spend many long hours writing patterns, class handouts and supply lists when we’d rather be sewing. Simply be willing to prepare everything as listed on the supply list and bring it to class as directed. Expect to learn the new technique or particular project in the size the teacher has planned and take these new skills home to apply them as desired for the next quilt you have in mind.
And when it comes to learning a new technique please, please don’t come to class with another teacher’s ruler or method and extol the virtues of this method or tool to your fellow classmates or worse yet, the teacher! You may think you already have the perfect ruler or tool to make half-square triangles or flying geese units, but it is very awkward to the teacher if your preferred method isn’t what he or she is teaching in class that day. Be respectful of the teacher’s own method or proprietary tools and be willing to give them a try with an open mind in class. If at the end of the day you still prefer the other method, that’s fine. But you don’t need to embarrass the teacher or make the other students feel uncomfortable in the meantime.
At some venues there might be several people at each table to make room for a full class. Your personal sewing space may feel quite limited and uncomfortable but try to go with the flow. It’s temporary. It won’t last long. Bring an extra cushion or pillow to bolster you up on those low, folding chairs or bring a small light to help brighten the sewing space around you. Wear layers so you can take off a sweater if the room becomes too warm. Do try to keep your area tidy especially around your chair on the floor. Nothing is worse than someone tripping and falling over bags, cords, fabrics flung everywhere or your totes and Tutto. If you simply relax and enjoy the lively chatter and all the creative energy around you, you’ll end up having such a great time you’ll forget about the cramped quarters.
If you feel as though you need to provide feedback to the teacher, realize there is a time and a place to do so. Most major quilt shows provide evaluation forms (either paper or online) so you can rate the teacher, the room, the class content, and so on. It is perfectly fine to give your feedback but if the ratings you give are low, be willing to take a bit of time to write constructive comments so the teacher and show organizers can strive to improve. Don’t just circle the lowest rating numbers without giving reasons for doing so. You certainly are entitled to give constructive criticism but be kind. You don’t need to tear someone down for silly things unrelated to class. Remember: those evaluations are read and taken to heart by teachers who are first and foremost, quilters just like you. I’ve seen more than one teacher end up in tears over hurtful comments from an unhappy student which had no bearing at all on the class content. And please don’t give your ‘insightful feedback’ to the instructor in front of other students. You may think you’re doing him or her a favor but it can quickly escalate into a dog-pile if other students join in the nit-picking! If you truly do have a comment that might be helpful to the teacher, you can always wait until everyone leaves after class and speak privately or write a courteous email afterwards. And by all means, if the instructor did an excellent job or you learned something new, be generous with your praise! Give high ratings and ask the show organizer to bring her or him back again. Your words have the power to tear someone down or lift them up. Use them wisely!
Most importantly, when you sign up for a quilt class come prepared to learn and have a great time. Quilting is supposed to be fun; it’s a time to learn new skills and refuel your creative mojo! It always surprises me when a student shows up for class as a bundle of nerves or consumed with anxiety. Relax and enjoy your time with the teacher! She or he is there to share a new technique, method, and knowledge and you’ll have a great time if you just keep an open mind and enjoy the process. Classes are YOUR time to learn, to create, to grow and ultimately to quilt!
See you in class……