The Joy of Beginners
I taught a small group of beginning quiltmakers recently. Oh what fun!
I came up with a new design that I hoped would teach a variety of skills without being too difficult while still being attractive. I wanted something that would lend itself to whatever color scheme a beginner could imagine.
My first idea was this nine block quilt with two kinds of stars. But I was teaching this at Mangelsen’s in Omaha and we only had two sessions on the calendar—one full day and one half day, with a couple of weeks for sewing at home in between.
As I developed the class, I thought maybe a quilt of this size might overwhelm some beginners, so I designed a smaller option with just four blocks.
You don’t know exactly how a class will go until you teach it for the first time. As it turned out, some people chose the small quilt but several wanted a bigger project. I was so glad I had both available.
This simple block is a good one for beginners. It forces them to test and adjust the seam allowance. If they’re off by 1/8″ on each seam, the block will be 5/8″ too small in one direction. People are surprised by how skinny (“scant”) the seam allowance needs to be.
A red, white and blue quilt wouldn’t appeal to everyone,
so I presented an alternate coloring. People embraced the idea and some beautiful color schemes emerged in class.
Friendship Star seemed like a good block for beginners to learn half-square triangles and the basic idea of sewing patches into rows before sewing the rows together.
I also decided to give them a taste of improvisational patchwork with an easy wonky star block. The results were fascinating, as students did this work at home after trying it quickly in class.
I loved Rita’s wonky star, above. You need only to suggest a shape, and a viewer’s eye will fill in the rest. Even though all of her points are not pointed, the star is still evident. Our minds fill in whatever is missing.
Dorothy had different star points on her wonky creation. Hers are very small and that’s just fine, too. Our eyes still know it’s a star.
Everyone got pretty far on their projects and I was really pleased with how well they did.
They were really brave to try walking foot quilting in class. We used gently waving lines as our starting point.
Deb has experience as a quilter so she quilted straight lines using painter’s tape to guide her. Aren’t her colors pretty?
Ann is not a beginner but she came with her daughter Denise, who is. Ann’s patriotic quilt is a little larger so she can use it as a throw at home. She made 12 blocks and I love how she moved the values around for different effects.
Denise made really brave choices all along the way, and I think her results are wonderful. This is a happy quilt!
You can imagine how much fun it is for a teacher to introduce students to the joy of making quilts. And when it’s for the first time, my gosh, it doesn’t get much better than that!
If you’re local, I think we will put Learn to Quilt on the schedule at Mangelsen’s again in the fall. If you’re from anywhere else in the world and you’d like a beginning class online, please let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to consider doing a workshop on Zoom.