For 27 years the International Association of Professional Quilters has recognized outstanding teachers. This year our award goes to Maryland appliqué artist Mimi Dietrich. Here is some insight into her teaching philosophy:
What standards of workmanship do you require of your students? What do you do if they don’t attain them?
I am an appliqué teacher. As far as standards of workmanship, all I ask is that my students try. Some students come to my class with preconceived ideas about applique. Some are very afraid of the “A” word when they come to my class, some are afraid they will not be able to make small stitches that they have read about. I just ask them to try. To try to make the stitches as small as possible on the top of their work, as consistent as possible, following steps that I give them for the traditional appliqué stitch. As they practice and keep stitching, the stitches will get smaller, more even and consistent on the top and bottom. I ask them to have fun stitching the appliqué to the background fabric, trusting that they will get better with each stitch. They usually get hooked!
How do you encourage creativity in your students?
I encourage creativity in my students by suggesting that they substitute elements in the applique patterns. They can substitute a gathered flower for a rose, folded buds for little flowers or clumps of berries, or even add their favorite butterfly to a floral design. Many students feel that they have to follow a pattern exactly. I love it when they change things and make the design their own. I also encourage them to make Baltimore Album quilts using their favorite colors and fabrics, rather than the traditional red and green. We discuss how the traditional quilts were made, but it’s exciting to see students make the quilt with their own style.
How do you encourage students’ further growth in quilting, beyond the formal class?
I encourage them to do “research,” which means searching for photos of appliquéd quilts and looking at quilts in shows. I give them names of books, magazines, quilt shows and web sites to inspire them. One of my favorite ways of helping students grow is a group I host once a month called my “Graduate School.” It is only for students that have taken my year-long class in Baltimore. I am not paid for it because I love it so much, and we are now in our 20th year! Right now there are 40 active participants. In the morning we have show and tell. In the afternoon, we choose a project for the year and work on different blocks each month. My favorite part of this is that I require each student to be a “presenter.” They are wonderful and this has encouraged some of them to “really” become appliqué teachers.
What do you feel is your greatest contribution to the field of quilting?
My greatest contribution to the field of quilting is the first book I wrote, Happy Endings: Finishing the Edges of your Quilt. I wrote the book in 1988 and this year it is going to be re-released with its fourth edition and a new cover. That’s 25 years! That’s amazing in the world of quilt books. But the true importance of the book is that it taught thousands of quilters how to put binding on their quilts! That means quilts are getting finished!
Please share your thoughts or leave a reply in the section below.