Thoughts on Learning to Quilt

I’m sure I have done this before, but its always good to revisit things. We are a business where we teach long arm quilting and rent our machines so that you can finish your project yourself. We do all the maintenance so you don’t have to. We have a variety of thread to choose from and try to offer further classes so that you can grow on your long arm quilting journey.

Before all of that happens, we have a beginning class we require you to take. In this class we talk about getting your quilt ready for the long arm, how thread and batting choices can affect your finish project, and we put some practice fabric on the machine and go through some all over quilting things which gives you the chance to see how the machine moves and to play a little bit.

There have been quite a few people coming through our doors since we opened in 2007. Some do not want to learn how to machine quilt and that is fine, we offer long arm services as well. Some think that it is going to be hard, some think its going to be easy, and some decide that they really enjoy the piecing process the most. We have had customers leave us to purchase their own machines and customers coming to us after having given up their own machines. It has been very interesting, and I mean that in a good way.

While we are teaching our customers a skill, we are also learning from our customers. Sometimes they have tips that I hadn’t thought of and really should start writing down. We can also see that there are things lacking in our quilt community and the biggest one is education.

What I mean by that, is all books and patterns assume a certain level of knowledge. Which they have to or they would be voluminous. However, not all piecers have the knowledge required. Many are self taught. Most do not take advantage of introductory lessons at their local quilt shop if they have one. While you may have taken a class regarding a certain pattern, that usually involves a technique particular to that pattern designer and that is what you are learning.

There is no time in that kind of class to go over fabric cutting basics, how to press (which I’m sure I could use some help with at times), or how to use your sewing machine. The instructor isn’t able to truly spend quality time on those things because they want to show you how to use their technique (which is what you are paying for) and if they took that time, you would not get to that technique.

There is nothing wrong with being a self-starter or learning on your own. However, there may be things that you are missing. Learning how to quilt is a lot like stories being passed down in the oral tradition. We add to it as our craft grows and changes, take away things that are not needed, and expand in other areas. Taking a beginning piecing class gives you an instructor sharing all those experiences with you so can develop solid basic skills.

This isn’t to say that all this type of instruction takes place at a quilt shop. You may have friends or family members who quilt and can teach you. Another place would be through a local quilt guild where you take advantage of classes, or sew days there. Members there may be happy to help a new person get their bearings. Beginning piecing instruction is something that we seem to take for granted.

Please don’t ever think that you are doing it all wrong, or that you aren’t a real quilter if you haven’t taken a class, or that you need to re-do all the tops that you have already pieced. All of this is part of your journey. Believe me, I have some tops in of need quilting and one look is all I need to tell me where I was in my journey. I won’t be taking those apart and hopefully will get them quilted some day, flaws and all. The fabrics I chose still bring me joy and good memories and I look forward to having time to finish them.

I haven’t taken many piecing classes, and what I learned about piecing I learned from a more knowledgeable friend. A formal class isn’t always the answer, but if you have the opportunity it can be a wonderful first step. If nothing else, you just might meet other like minded folks on the same journey you are – quilting.

If you have a place where you can learn how to long arm quilt, take a class there. Even if it scares you and even if you don’t think you want to do your own quilting. You will learn a lot about the whole process which will only help you be a better quilter.

Most importantly, don’t forsake where you are in your journey, just be sure to enjoy the ride!

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