Before digging into the main point of this blog post I want to share two things:
First: in my last post there is a photo of one of the Handi Quilter Education team who seems to not have their face covered. Kitty Wilkin has hearing loss, reads lips, and due to our current collective life situation was attending this learning session by Zoom. The Educator in question has a face shield on so that while she’s talking in front of the camera Kitty can see her lips. Handi Quilter did their best to maintain precautions and safety. Vanessa, Crafty Gemini, and I wore our masks even though we maintained physical distance.
Second: The three of us are currently the Moxie Inspiration Squad. I’ll share more about these two quilters over the course of the next 12 months or so.
Onto our regularly scheduled program:
Failure, in and of itself, is always an option as evidenced by my high school math career and the pile of quilting samples I keep to show when I’m teaching or giving a talk. In a recent conversation a friend asked me, “Have you ever been thankful for those lousy math teachers? They are most likely a huge reason you have become the teacher you are today. You are not content to say the same things again. You strive to make yourself understood in your students language.”
For years I said I’m a bad student, at least that’s the impression I had of myself as a student. Writing papers often happened at the last minute (those were better than the ones I took more time on). Math was a bit of a slog from junior high on through the end of high school alternately failing and passing right through the end of it all. I remember making culottes sophomore year. They never fit right so I ended up remaking them into a skirt.
A few years ago I had a fascinating conversation with someone that led me to understand that my learning style is different. With quilting and other creative endeavors give me the concept and let me go explore. As a teacher it’s all about the process, I want to give you the foundation and let you move forward in the way that is uniquely you. This is reminding me of a conversation I had with a designer friend who I adore. She writes patterns with some of the most exquisite and clearest directions I’ve ever seen. I followed a lot of the directions, got caught up in the doing, skipping some of the pressing steps so what I was making didn’t look quite like it should. In both conversations I had the realization that there are different learning styles, and different ways of approaching different things. It is in writing this blog post wherein I realized that in making those culottes I needed help that, in that particular moment, I didn’t know how to ask for and since I noticed that the teacher was super busy with other students, so asking for help for myself became less important.
I started to learn to free-motion quilt mostly on my own, taking my first quilting class a few years into this. The instructor made a comment that has stuck with me, “I left you alone because you seemed to be getting this.” The phrasing was slightly different however this exemplifies how I learn best. What I needed from the math teachers was a different explanation of the concept, what happened frequently was a word for word reiteration, of the concept, as though those words were enough. I didn’t know how to articulate that it wasn’t and often left those classes feeling rather stupid. Allow me to be clear, I’m not blaming the teachers for this lack of understanding on my part, we teach how we learn. When I’m teaching if a quilter is struggling I try to say things in a different way or show them another way to do it. Both the saying and the doing are key to the student getting it and understanding that they will get it over time, even if it’s not right here, right now, in this class situation. One thing I strive to tell people is that stitching out motifs perfectly the first time out is rarely achievable, that it takes time and here’s how I worked on things, and here’s how things started making sense. Yes I make machine quilting look easy, yes I say it’s not easy – because it’s not easy – however it is achievable. We simply need to find the path that works best for you and that may be how I practice, or it may be how another teacher shows you.
In sharing part of this with a friend she pointed out that perhaps these teachers taught me something important: to think of other ways of saying or show things.
In one way I am the teacher everyone needs, with the flexible, kind of bendy way I approach the class. If I see students progressing quickly I’ll move them forward onto other things. If I see students struggling I’ll slow them down as best I can. We are all in different places. And that’s a good thing! I have other teacher friends who approach quilting in a methodical way, with exquisite detail, in a way similar to the designers patterns. For some quilters this is necessary and good, and works. There’s room in quilting for all the teachers and all the students. There’s room for hand quilters and machine quilters and art quilters and modern quilters and quilters who love solids and who love Civil War prints and quilters who love pink and green together in quilts and ones who look at the thread booth at a quilt show and need to have a bib. There’s room for quilters who like to cook an those who think baking is the better choice.
It’s also making me realize why I’m good at pattern testing and editing and not pattern writing. If I’m editing I’m honing in on the details on behalf of another; when I’m writing it’s about the concept with several built in suppositions. I’m good with that, so I am committed to not writing patterns for public consumption. It’s all about our personal style, the way our brains process information.
A theme for 2020 that’s emerged is “Flip the Script”, or take another look at things. Flipping the Script is in one sense personal, flipping my internal dialog in such a way as to stop harshly criticizing myself when things are going haywire and not working. It’s why I listen to music or watch movies when I quilt, so I don’t hear the rude comments I make to myself as I’m trying to get this quilt done. Flipping the Script does mean taking another look and seeing that perhaps viewing things from another place might be helpful, or going back and looking to see that if I didn’t make this particular mistake in that quilt, I would have made another one and left the quilt with character all the same.
As part of the Moxie Inspiration Squad I’m sure I’ll have plenty of built in mistakes. With anything new there is always a learning curve, it’s part of what keeps us interested and asking questions like, “how do I fix that” and “where’s my seam ripper” and “did I really think that color of thread goes with that fabric” and “what’s next?” It also keeps us coming back for more in pursuit of both “it’s good enough” and “well how about that!”
When things are going all kaflooie, and they do, Flip Your Script, take another look, as other quilters for options they’d choose, methods they’d use so that you can consider those then Choose the thing that makes the most sense to you for your quilt. Flip the Script and see the “rules of quilting” as suggestions, understanding that unless you’re competing which is a whole different set of standards, finished is way better than perfect. Flip the Script to see your own beauty, character and all. Flip the Script to hear criticism is more a reflection of the persons own viewing point, rather than your own quilt making skill. Flip the Script and tell people what you LIKE or Love about their work rather than that you don’t like whatever color, thread or density of quilting they chose. Flip the Script. And on this delightfully sunny (here in TX) Sunday morning, enjoy your quilting because it is the place where you experience great joy, and some frustration.
Happy Quilting friends,