Sorry it’s taken me so long to get this post up. It’s a long one, so make sure you have a cup of coffee and some biscuits!
The primary concept of the class is that each block in a quilt can be broken down into basic shapes, and by tackling individual segments rather than trying to think of the quilt as a whole, it’s easier to get through quilting without being overwhelmed with having to come up with an overall design. In the class, which was 3.5 hours long, we tackled squares, triangles, diamonds, hexagons, circles, and touched a little upon borders and backgrounds (there was a separate class dedicated to borders and backgrounds as well).
Let me start by talking a little about Angela’s teaching style. For starters, she is warm and personable, and everyone in class got acknowledged in one way or another. She was positive and encouraging, and so welcoming to all participant levels. The classes were small (10 students) and each included at least one student without any quilting experience. Her way to make the newbies feel included was to say:
“You’re new? Good! That means you have no bad habits!”
What a wonderful way to put people at ease! Most of the participants were French or German, with varying levels of English. To accommodate them, she spoke slowly to make sure that everyone understood what she was saying and demonstrating, all the while cracking hilarious jokes (possibly lost in translation for some). As I took notes in class (kudos to Handiquilter for providing really high quality gridded note pads), I started jotting down the funny things she said. I’ve given a couple of examples, but I have about two pages’ worth.
The class format was a combination of drawn demonstrations, machine demonstrations, and then individual practice. Angela would spend about half an hour drawing out designs on a flip chart, usually showing both an easier and a slightly more elaborate variation, which we practiced on paper as well.
Next Angela demonstrated the designs we’d just learned on the longarm (an Avante 18 machine, same as mine—and hers)
And finally, we got to practice on the longarm.There were five machines, so for practice time each machine was shared by two people and each got about 7-10 minutes to practice the designs. Each person worked on half of the practice panel, which at the end of class we could take home if we wanted (I only ended up taking one of these, which I regret because the only thing I have to show you for these classes is my sketches).
As we practiced, Angela walked around and offered tips and encouragement. All together we had 3-4 demo/practice “segments” in each class.
Angela had also brought several samples with her and encouraged us to examine them and to take photos.
We started out with designs for squares, and in addition to showing how to create the design, Angela offered tips for traveling out of the block to continue quilting without breaking thread. Her general practice is to cut thread as little as possible so she can get through quilts quickly.
Next we worked on triangles
We touched upon diamonds and got our first hint of a swirl.
“I’m a swirl girl.”
I had been shown how to do swirl hooks in a previous class and just couldn’t wrap my head around them. Angela broke it down for me and I proceeded to spend the entire week breaking into swirl hooks, even when we weren’t working on swirls.
“If you don’t like the hook… we can still be friends.”
We then continued onto hexagons. Or if you’re me, pentagons? I’m not generally a fan of hexagons (it’ll be a cold day in hell before I hand piece hexagons) but she showed a fun way to tackle hexagons on a quilt, which is to break them down into four segments—two hexies and two triangles—by putting an X across the middle. You could then quilt the diamonds with the same design, and the triangles with a different design. Alternatively, you could choose a different design for each diamond. It might look funny on a single hexie, but if you have a whole quilt of hexies, it creates a secondary vertical design down the quilt. Clever.
Next we turned to circles, starting with a feather filler—I really struggled with this one, because you have to quilt the feather backwards and I kept wanting to change direction to go forward.
I’m not generally a huge fan of feathers either, so I didn’t worry about this too much because even if I do try feathers, I think it’ll be unlikely that I’ll try them in a circle to start. We then looked at some additional circle fillers.
“If you have a design that isn’t working, think what to change to make it work.”
Sing it, sister.
Lastly, we tackled borders and some overall designs. I absolutely loved this bracket border design and what I found especially useful was her tip to do the borders as you roll down the quilt rather than doing the entire border and then starting the filler, since it will require rolling the quilt up and down repeatedly and might lead to warping. I’m definitely going to try this one soon.
The overall filler design is essentially a random quilt-whatever-you-want filler; anything goes. You start with a large motif, like a flower or a big swirl, then fill in around it with smaller motifs like pebbles, paisley, etc. This was fun for me and not a terrible struggle since I’ve been doodling for months and recently did a similar free-for-all practice piece.
I had some great takeaways from this class.
“When you’re learning, take out parts that are difficult and add them later.”
This was a great one—the swirl hook is a perfect example. It wasn’t working for me so I left off the hook until I eventually wrapped my head around it. The same is true for any design you struggle with. Break it down to its bare bones and then add elements as you become more proficient.
In addition to being an artist, Angela is at heart a businesswoman. She loves what she does but she’s perfectly aware of the fact that it’s also her job and that she needs to do it efficiently for it to be financially viable.
She wisely advises to only do detailed work in areas that will be very clearly seen in the quilt. There’s no point in spending time on an elaborate pattern that will be completely lost on a busy fabric. Spend time on the areas that will get noticed.
“Custom work gets you customers, edge-to-edge gets you money.”
In the next post I’ll talk about the Borders and Backgrounds class.
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