Birth of a Class–the work begins

I used the word birth on purpose because writing a class is a lot like making a baby.  Getting the idea is the fun part.  Then you get to the labor pains.

My high school teachers would be delighted to know that I outline my classes before I start.  Otherwise, it is too easy to get sidetracked and lose track of the main theme of the class.

An easy class would be one in which you choose a project, list the supplies, provide a pattern and outline the steps to make the quilt a reality.  Most Quilt University classes are not like that.  We really do think of them as courses and want our students to come away with lots of new skills and the confidence to use them.

For the Next Step class, that meant my first chore was deciding just what I wanted them to learn.  I had decided to focus on the grid but all traditional blocks are based on a grid which meant I needed to narrow it down.

I decided to go with the most popular two sets of blocks: the 4-patch and the 9-patch.  There are hundreds of blocks in those two groups, but it was a start.

I like to work with Electric Quilt.  It gives me a way to play with blocks, fabrics and quilts quickly and efficiently.   By the time I opened my project file, I had changed the name of the class to Step Two.  There would be several more names until I finally settled on Anatomy of a Block.

At the last minute, I worried that Anatomy sounded too scientific and I polled the students who hang out in our Student Lounge to see what they thought.  I wish there had been a resource like that when I was naming my children!  My daughter ended up being Jennifer, since I had only known one my whole life.  As it turned out, that was the most popular name for a girl that year.

Anyway, I picked a slew of blocks and then started trying to set them into quilts.  Over the years, I have fallen in love with blocks that refuse to play well with others and I wanted to be sure that these blocks would coexist together in a variety of ways.

counterchange_allover   counterchange_cross_connector
I loved the Counterchange Cross block and made it work in both these layouts, but it isn’t a good sampler block, so it isn’t in the class.

In the middle of all this planning, I became executor of my mother’s estate and the class got set aside for 4 months as I tackled the gargantuan task of clearing out her house.  That is definitely a story for another day.

When I got back to the class, it took a while to get back into the groove, and I thought playing with fabric might stir up my enthusiasm and get me engaged again.  Lots of people refer to quilts with many fabrics as scrap quilts, but I actually pull 20-50 fabrics for almost every quilt I make.  The trick is to find one piece that I really love and then make sure that everything else will be happy in the same quilt with that piece.

Once the stack is pulled, I am free to use any fabric for different parts of the quilt, knowing that they will all be visually pleasing together in the final product.  Well, most of them will.  There is always a piece or two that sticks out no matter what you do.  Stripes can be hard to use, especially if you are making triangles and they point off in all different directions.  Even worse, they may not be printed straight on the fabric and end up all cattywumpus.  (That may not be a real word, but I bet you can tell what I mean.)

Some conversation prints are the same way.  My starting fabric for the pile was a gorgeous print with Japanese style lanterns on it.  They looked just awful cut up and used sideways or upside down, so they didn’t actually make it into the quilt at all.

I tell my classes about mistakes like that because it helps them to avoid making the same ones.

right_hand_of_friendship   gentlemans_fancy.
The Right Hand of Friendship was a terrific looking star and I also liked Gentleman’s Fancy.  Both were tricky to put together.  I could do it but I could envision frustrated beginners running into problems.   They came out of the class.

In the end, I made enough blocks to carpet my family room, so I divided them up into three piles.  The first became a sampler, sized to fit the twin bed in our guest room.  The second has blocks that are almost all purple and I suspect it will end up with my daughter.  The third pile hasn’t decided what it will be when it grows up.  For the time being, I will just think of those blocks as part of the sourdough starter, pieces and parts just waiting to belong to a quilt.

corn_and_beans_finished   ohio_star_blues
Two purple blocks – Corn and Beans and the Ohio Star

Right now, I am working on the border for the sampler.  The center is sewn together.   Several of the tricks I teach in the class give you leftover half square triangles.  I wanted to show a way those could be used, so I am trying to work them into the border.  The idea needs work.  Hopefully, it will look smashing when it is finished.  I like to follow patterns up to a point and then I enjoy the challenge of working things out on my design wall.  That’s just a fancy name for a big piece of flannel nailed to the wall.

A slice of the sampler before the borders – the first border will be a blue strip which will move the emphasis away from the reds and into the blue family.

(It wasn’t until I stood back to take a picture of this quilt that I realized how inadequate my camera was.  Purchased because it fit in a pocket, it has no real wide angle capabilities at all.  With luck, that problem will be remedied this weekend.)

The class is written and registration opens in a couple of hours.  I don’t know whether I am the mother giving birth or the nervous dad pacing in the waiting room.  Either way, I can’t wait to see how the students like it!