In July, I visited QuiltWorks, a wonderful quilt store in Bend, OR. Marilyn Forestell, the quilt store owner, has founded a non-profit organization, Sew Teach Me. Their vision is to match trained and screened mentors with youth to learn to sew at no cost in a safe and nurturing environment supported by a community with the necessary tools, skills and projects for a successful sewing experience.
Marilyn’s team of volunteers teach youth basic sewing skills at her store and want to share their love of sewing with the next generation. The Sew Teach Me website provides a wealth of information and the opportunity for you to set up your own team at your local store. You will receive full guidelines for the projects to help you get started. To learn about becoming more involved, you can also contact Marilyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The four beginning sewing sessions teach basic sewing skills, while creating simple and fun projects, within a one to two-month time period. These classes are free. Materials, including sewing machines that have been donated by the local sewing community.
The four sessions are:
1) Getting to know your sewing machine and making a name tag
2) Making a pillowcase
3) Making a sewing tool caddy
4) Making a pillow pal
The mentors are volunteers who have gone through a background check, and a training session to be prepared to work with students. There are many donation opportunities from donating funds to helping build the program to donating pre-cut kits for the various projects.
I applaud Marilyn for initiating this project which has already introduced over 100 youngsters to the joys of sewing. I encourage you to work with kids. Even if you can’t develop a full program like this, you may have the opportunity to work one-on-one with an eager young person who wants to learn to sew. Start with a small project that may be easily completed, before moving on to larger more time consuming ones. My books, Creative Quilting with Kids and Patchwork and Quilting with Kids have a wide range of projects for individuals and groups. The books are out-of-print, but second-hand copies are available on Amazon.
I’ve had a busy schedule of teaching over the last couple of months. Here are photos of the beautiful Mongolian Ölzii blocks which some of my students made during my Gateway to Mongolia classes at the North Central Washington Quilt Guild in Wenatchee and at the Baltimore Heritage Quilt Guild, MD. The pattern is available at my on-line store. Students are always excited when they complete the block and we display it on the background fabric where it comes to life. I love the variety from all the different fabrics. Some really pop and others are soft and subtle.
In July, I taught a two-day workshop for the Kenai Peninsula Quilters in Soldotna, AK.We did Bargello Quilts with a Twist making my 16-piece Bargello blocks and then designing with them. I love to teach this as a two-day class because students have enough time to complete a good number of blocks and reach the creative part of arranging them to generate many patterns. It was a big group with 18 students. We had a wonderful time and they delighted in seeing the variety of blocks and layouts from all the different fabric choices.
We began by making 16 blocks, but some students had time to make extras for a larger quilt. One lady even completed her quilt top of 24 blocks on-point with setting triangles. Here’s a selection to give you some idea of the many possibilities from working with this block.
At the beginning of June, I was a faculty member for the North Carolina Quilt Symposium, hosted this year by the Asheville Quilters’ Guild in Asheville on the campus of the University of NC. It was a wonderful four day event with 17 national teachers and 350 attendees. I taught two full-day workshops and one half day. It’s always a joy to see my students’ work develop and there is such a variety of fabric choices making for very differing results. Here’s a sampling from my Op-Art Kaleidoscope class, where students made large Kaleidoscope blocks, cut them into nine pieces and rearranged the parts to create these new blocks. This technique works well for batik fabrics, as shown below.
The multicolored scrambling of the block parts rather than only using two fabrics, made for an interesting variety of blocks. This student went to town on her assembly-line piecing and created quite the pile of kite and wedge pairs! Another student from my other full-day class, the Gateway to Mongolia, worked in the dorm room to complete the whole quilt top which she brought to show me at the end of the symposium. I love the enthusiasm of these ladies and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
I recently taught my Gateway to Mongolia class at the Metropolitan Patchwork Society in Beaverton, OR. The pattern is available from my on-line store. Here is what one of my students made. This beautiful Ölzii is made from one fabric.
When I first saw the fabric choice that this student brought to class, I wasn’t sure how the fabrics would work together. However, she was able to fussy-cut from selected areas of one fabric to create the desired effect and it is very successful. She used motifs in the pattern for the intersecting squares of the Ölzii design and sections of fabric that changed from lighter to darker green instead three different fabrics for a color gradation. The fabric in the outer edges of the Ölzii also came from this fabric. It really pops on the black background and we were delighted with the results. Here are another two, one on a light background and the other on a dark background. Both students did a fine job on achieving the woven effect with a good gradation of colors.
In late April, I taught at the Goshen County Quilt Guild in Torrington, WY. This is a small farming community with a population of under 6,000, but the quilt group is thriving and active. I had a huge class of 22 students for my Bargello Quilts with a Twist class. I was concerned about teaching such a big group, but they were wonderful and all did really well. I loved teaching this as a two day class and snowy weather didn’t deter anyone from showing up on the second day. Having the second day allowed everyone enough time to complete a good number of blocks and to play with the orientation to design their quilt tops. There were so many options and a great variety of different fabrics. Here’s a sampling.
For the purple one, the large squares in the blocks were cut separately so that the little mountain scenes and trees could be fussy-cut and their orientation manipulated to the right way up. The striped fabric in the other one adds to the secondary patterns created when the blocks are put together. Both of these have 16 blocks.
The elongated pattern made from 16 blocks is an interesting design. On the right, this lady made 32 blocks and this was her first ever quilt!
These last two are made from the larger 9-1/2″ block size. On the left, we were auditioning different sashing fabrics to see which ones worked best. On the right, the large squares were cut separately, creating a lovey kaleidoscope design in the center.
In late April, I taught at the Cheyenne Heritage Quilters’ Guild in Cheyenne, WY. It was a large class of 19 ladies and each designed their own unique Kaleidoscope Puzzle quilt. It’s always fun to see the patterns emerging and the variety of fabrics that the students bring to class. They learn a great deal by looking at the fabric combinations used by their fellow students and also the importance of choosing a variety of values, (contrast between the different fabrics), so that the patterns they create are easily visible. They could design squarely set or on-point quilts. Here’s a sampling of their work.
I spent two weeks in March teaching at four TX quilt guilds. Spring was definitely springing in TX, where they had unusually warm weather in February, combined with enough rain to make for a bumper crop of gorgeous bluebonnets. Here I am in Bryan, surrounded by these beauties. I loved the brilliant swaths of blue along the highways, then patches of rich orange Indian paintbrushes and areas of delicate pink primroses. Of course, time with quilters always involves visiting the local quilt stores and I relished several on the trip. Here are some lovely TX wildflower fabrics sold in most of the stores there, (check at a later date for blogs on the TX stores). These are so appropriate for this area.
My first engagement was with the Greater San Antonio Quilters’ Guild. I taught my Op-Art Kaleidoscope workshop the day before the guild meeting. Several of my students continued piecing their blocks and quilt tops at home that evening, and here they are putting on a nice display during “Show and Tell” at the meeting. After the meeting, I did a half-day UFO class discussing quilt design and problem projects. The next stop was the Brazos Bluebonnet Quilt Guild in Bryan where I taught my Bargello Quilts with a Twist class.
From there I transferred to the Vereins Quilt Guild in Fredericksburg and The Hill Country Quilt Guild in Kerrville. In Fredericksburg, my students worked on precision piecing of triangles to make Sawtooth Star Bear’s Paw blocks. Here are some partially completed blocks. My final class in Kerrville was the Gateway to Mongolia. In all classes, it was such fun to see the variety of fabric choices and results.
Visiting four quilt guilds made this trip logistically complex, but with careful planning and collaboration all went smoothly. As I was transferred between the groups, guild members took excellent care of me and made me feel welcome wherever I went. I taught five workshops and they were all different. After packing the essentials of the quilts for my trunk shows and workshop materials in two suitcases and my hand-luggage, I only had 12 lbs left for two weeks’ worth of personal effects. Both suitcases were within less than a pound of the maximum 50 lbs. I sent five packages of books, patterns and Mongolian items for sale by mail in advance. So, lots of stuff!
It’s always inspiring to see the work of other quilters and I enjoy the “Show and Tell” at the guild meetings. I’m blown away by the talent and also the generosity of quilters who support many philanthropic organizations with gifts of quilts stitched with love and care. Guild members come together to make opportunity quilts as fundraisers for their guilds, the proceeds of which pay for education and the likes of me coming to lecture and teach. Here is the beautiful red and white raffle quilt made by the Hill Country Quilt Guild in Kerrville. The theme for their next quilt show, taking place on Memorial Day Weekend, is “A New Twist on an Old Favorite: Two Color Quilts” at which this quilt will be displayed. I am drawn to this traditional classic look and love this quilt. Talking of the generosity of quilters, I’d like to thank the members of the guilds of San Antonio, Bryan, Fredericksburg and Kerrville for their incredible support for the Mongolian Quilting Center. We raised a whopping $3,650!
In January and February, I made several trips to Chestnut Hill Academy in Bellevue to quilt with the 5th Graders in collaboration with my daughter who is their science and math teacher. I loved the fresh enthusiasm of these kids who embraced both hand and machine sewing and were so excited to see the two quilts come together.
There are two classes of 15 kids and each class made a quilt. We cut out 45 hearts backed with fusible webbing, ensuring that every kid had a nice variety from which to pick. This is where having a good fabric stash comes in handy! I included some really funky fabrics and was surprised that the kids thought that they were cool, e.g. spoons and forks, clocks, and water melons. We fused the hearts and then taught the kids how to hand blanket stitch around them. For some this was really challenging, but they persevered and everyone finished.
We gave them a choice of fabrics for the corner triangles on the blocks and I took two sewing machines into the classroom working with two kids at a time for the sewing. They practiced on graph paper to get the feel for the stitching speed and sewing in a straight line before sewing the triangles.We made color photocopies of all the blocks and put them up on the bulletin board. The kids each received a copy of their block for their work portfolio too. After I had assembled the quilt tops and we had basted them, I went back into the classroom with my sewing machine and worked one-on-one as each child machine quilted around their heart. Then, I finished the quilts.
The quilts will were auctioned in early March at the annual school fundraiser. Here are some detailed shots. I have to smile every time I see the heart with a grinning dinosaur and the cartoon eyes in corners of the block.
The kids were very enthusiastic about the project and excited to see the finished quilts. It was a rewarding experience for me and I’m really proud of the job they did. I encourage you to quilt with kids, girls and boys, to keep this beloved tradition alive and to have the joy of completing projects together.
Earlier in January, I taught at Quilting at the Lake, Lake Havasu, AZ, a wonderful annual quilting event organized by the Havasu Stitchers. I can highly recommend this well organized and fun retreat. This was my first time to teach in AZ and I was delighted at the opportunity to take a winter break and head for some sunshine by the lake! The event was held at the London Bridge Resort and I was excited to have a beautiful view of the bridge from my classroom!
As a child, living in the UK, I can recall hearing about some place in Arizona which had purchased the London Bridge and was transporting it stone by stone to the desert and creating a channel over which the bridge could span. This was a big joke to us especially as it seemed to us that they had anticipated getting the Tower Bridge! However, the locals don’t remember this disappointment and are very proud of their bridge which is a major tourist attraction and can take the credit for the prosperous growth of the town. I have to say, that the bridge is definitely a highlight of the city and looks very handsome, fitting in surprisingly well with the beautiful lake and spectacular surrounding mountains.
My class was full and I taught an overflow group two days later. We worked on the Gateway to Mongolia pattern making the large central Olzii block. This motif is painted on the doors of yurts in Mongolia to bring long-life and prosperity to the people who live there and to drive away wild beasts and evil spirits. It also has special significance in the Buddhist faith which is practiced in Mongolia, symbolizing the universe and never-ending cycles of life and death. The woven effect is achieved by using a color gradation of fabrics. Having a smooth gradation of fabrics is key to the success of the under-over illusion. The pictures show some of my students’ work. The purple and green one was an unusual choice of fabrics but it worked! I always enjoy seeing the different results from the variety of fabrics brought to class.