Posted by JaneMiller on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
Just when I was wracking my brain for a blarticle idea, this fell into my lap. Regular readers of the Urban Elementz newsletter probably know that Cindy, our "office manager" has been working on her first quilt. (If you're wondering why I'm using quotes, it's because Cindy is our only office help, and she's probably amazed to learn that she has a title by default.) But the quilt: The top is finished, Patricia has quilted it, and it would make me very happy to say that Cindy's thrilled, but she's not. In fact, this will probably be her only quilt. I wish I could say that the style that Patricia selected for Cindy was too difficult for a beginner, but there is nothing easier than the Whacked-Out Stars pattern. And after she finished the stars, she even decided not to whack them, so there was even one less step. But she'll soon have a finished king-sized quilt—more on this later—which she can use until it wears out.
All this kind of got me thinking about why some beginning quilting students become obsessed while others, even those in the same class, decide that they've made their one and only quilt. Conclusion: beats me, but I'm always willing to speculate. I think that part of it is the way the students feel before the class. The ones who start out excited seem to stay that way. They're willing to be more careful to begin with and rip when necessary. Those who say they just want to try it out, usually as the latest in a long line of prospective hobbies, seem to be more likely to drop out and move on.
When I first taught Beginning Quilting it was an 8-week class. When class enrollment waned, we cut back to a 6-week class by eliminating instruction on hand-piecing, drafting, quarter-square triangles and diagonal sets. The students, who had been allowed to select a project from among 8 or 10 blocks, all made the same quilt: 9-patches alternating with half-square triangles. That worked well because they learned strip-piecing and the importance of an accurate seam allowance, as well as lattices if they wanted them, borders, backing and binding. They were still well-prepared for subsequent projects and classes. When we eventually went to a 4-week class in which the students made a rail fence, I stopped teaching Beginning Quilting. And over the years I'm not sure that there was a correlation between the difficulty of the class and the drop rate, as the percentage of dropouts seemed to be fairly constant. I wonder if enrollment declined as it became more and more difficult for students to make an 8- or even 6-week commitment.
So I have several questions: Is it better to make the beginners struggle a bit more if they learn more about quilting in the process, or is it better to make it as easy as possible so they feel successful sooner? Is it really fair to let them think that they know how to quilt when they can't even cut triangles? Is it fair to their next teacher? Or am I just being an elitist quilt snob? (I must admit that one of my Beginning Quilting students admitted years later, after we had become good friends, that she had thought at the time that I was a picky bitch for drawing her attention to the fact that she had cut off all the points on her stars. As I recall, that was immediately before or after I told her that her cow print background didn't really have enough contrast with her pig print stars. She became an excellent quilter, but I think that was due more to her personality than to my tutelage.)
And as a former teacher, I would also like to know why there is at least 1 student in every Beginning Quilting class who wants to make a king-sized quilt, and why that student is usually the one who won't listen when you say that it's better to start with a smaller project. They must either underestimate the amount of work or overestimate the amount of fun. Or both. Even so, a surprising number actually finish the project and go on to other, usually smaller, ones—they got the bug in spite of themselves. But not Cindy. She doesn't love her quilt—it's already been relegated to the guest room—and she doesn't seem to want to ever make a quilt again. So although I had nothing to do with this project, I am sad for quilting to have lost a prospective quilter and sad for Cindy that she seems to have been inoculated against it. And if she thinks she doesn't like it now, just wait until she finds out about binding.
© 2011 Jane Hardy Miller
4. Denise (17 July 2011 at 8:41 p.m.)I am so proud and happy to be our student! English , quilting and surviving skills at the same time.
3. Anthony (27 June 2011 at 4:43 p.m.)good afternoon
2. Devoted customer (14 April 2011 at 4:08 p.m.)The fun of quilting varies from quilter to quilter. Myself, I have fun striving for perfection. I hate ripping out seams. I also quilt for others who don't even give perfection a thought, it just happens for them and they don't even know why. Others work so hard at achieving say perfect borders and can never get it right. What is right ?? Right to me is just doing what I enjoy moment to moment.....isn't that all we have? Maybe Cindy's love for quilting ends with helping us get our beautiful patterns from you, Patricia.... Let her bask in what makes her happy....the love of quilting may not be from making the quilt but from enjoying the quilts that others make.....it's a thought. To end may I send a big CONGRATULATIONS to Cindy....I think in years to come, she will cherish the fact that she did finish that one and only quilt....some of us who love to quilt only end up with UFO's.....and to us, that's fun!
1. Former Bad Quilting Student (26 March 2011 at 11:58 a.m.)If we take a collection for a pottery or woodworking or scuba diving class for Cindy; then she will see how much more fun and rewarding it is to quilt.