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Book Review: Sewing School 2: Lessons in Machine Sewing

Sunday, October 5th, 2014


Sewing School 2

Sewing School 2: Lessons in Machine Sewing
Amie Petronis Plumley and Andria Lisle
Storey Publishing; $18.95

We are all interested in seeing sewing expand with each generation, and we need to make it fun and accessible for young kids. I love what Amie Petronis Plumley and Andria Lisle have done with Sewing School 2. The authors, owners of The Sewing School in Memphis, share their own experiences teaching kids. The projects are fun, varied from simple to complex, and useful. The book starts with an intro section for parents about how to teach sewing and then instructs the kids on choosing and using a sewing machine, and more. Some of the projects include a simple pin cushion and a secret message pillow, a backpack and a quilt. The authors include some sidebars on how kids can make the projects more individual, plus a sewing playlist. Definitely designed to inspire kids to enjoy sewing successfully.

You can look for the book at your favorite quilt shop or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.

Meet Mimi Dietrich, Our Teacher of the Year

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

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.

Book Review: Appliqué & Embroidery Fundamentals

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Applique and Embroidery
Appliqué & Embroidery Fundamentals
Janice Vaine
Landauer Publishing; $27.95

With 45 years of sewing and needlework experience, Jan Vaine starts you in the classroom where she teaches you her Perfect Placement Appliqué method followed by lessons on the appliqué stitch, reverse appliqué and a variety of stitches. The instructions are complete and the illustrations are very large, a plus. The bulk of the book includes the letters of the alphabet each encircled by a floral wreath. Jan’s goal is for you to learn new embroidery and embellishment techniques as you work your way through the alphabet. She then offers 18 additional stitches and six additional projects for using the skills you’ve learned. I appreciated the supplies shopping list at the beginning of the book, too.

Look for the book at your favorite book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.

Meet Pamela Allen, 2012 Quilt Teacher of the Year

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
What standards of workmanship do you require of your students? What do you do if they don’t attain them?

This makes me smile, as I may be somewhat of an aberration when it comes to traditional workmanship as defined by the standards of a quilt show judge. The focus of my teaching is always the making of art that just happens to be stitched fabric. I believe that any construction method and any technique is appropriate so long as the piece has structural integrity. I help students to find a resourceful and personal way to solve technical problems and often demonstrate techniques and share helpful hints that may be useful to realize their idea.

How do you encourage creativity in your students?

I’m a believer in lots of discussion and lots of visual stimulation. When I set up the classroom, I try to make it look like a working studio with lots of artwork on the walls and, when possible, a U-shaped plan for the tables so students can see one another. I also like to have a common pool of fabrics, donated by the class and me, to encourage each artist to try materials they may not normally choose. My instructions to students are more about attitude than technique in that there are no patterns, very few rules and only general parameters for each exercise. I talk about the idea that a new work is like a stream of consciousness, where what has gone before will dictate what comes next, and I support any number of solutions to a given problem. Thus the student isn’t pursuing a narrow avenue towards a fixed goal, but rather an expanding highway with many exits and entrances. This allows the student to choose her own subject matter and personal content and encourages a meaningful attachment to the work. As a work progresses, I ask for the work to be put up on the wall, and the student and I have a brainstorming session about problems or where to go next. Other students benefit from this as well because they may be having the same issues and can learn by sharing.

How do you encourage students’ further growth in quilting, beyond the formal class?

Building confidence is an important element for further growth.  This is why, throughout the class, I try to focus on the students’ strengths and encourage them to build upon those. Often all it takes is to overcome a self-conscious reticence, and the artist can make the leap into the unknown with wonderful results. I encourage the students to conduct their designing by asking, “What if I do …?” With a growing confidence, the artist can answer by actually trying a solution without fear. Another reassuring phrase I repeat is, “What’s the worst that can happen?” I try to share my own experience of revising less than perfect work or cutting and reassembling it into a new idea. I suppose it is related to my idea of being flexible about the direction a work may take. Humor is a big part of this process as well, and there is often much giggling and hilarity when the solution turns out to be a very funky potholder!

Why do you teach?

I confess I really enjoy teaching! I like meeting new people and going to new places. I love it when I can see a student take some risks, try something new, and then have a eureka moment as the reward! I enjoy hearing from former students that they have been juried into some national show or won a prize at their local guild show. Some have sent me photos of the class quilt that they have gone on to finish, and I can “read” the pleasure they have taken in it. It is not a one-way street either. I have learned things from my students as well. I was not the greatest sewer in the world at first, and it was a student who sat me down and showed me that making bindings wasn’t that hard after all!

You can read more about Pamela in the Spring issue of The Professional Quilter, the journal of the International Association of Professional Quilters. The journal is available to members, and you can join here.

Please share your thoughts below.

Teaching Through Your Website

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Earlier this year in The Professional QuilterGloria Hansen focused on how you can teach online without dealing with the technical aspects of creating a website, marketing to get the word out about your class nor collecting class fees. It works for the person who wants to show up at the virtual classroom, teach, get paid and then move on. For those who want to teach but also run the complete show, another option is to teach through your own website. Here’s an excerpt from her article listing some teachers who take this approach:

Popular mixed media artist/author Judy Coates-Perez ( teaches color theory on a password-protected website that she created. “I prefer having control over how the class is presented and taught without having to format things to someone else’s technology/website,” she says. “I can also control class sizes and when I want to teach them.” Judy’s website is clean and easy-to-navigate with links to each specific lesson. Each lesson includes instructions, color photos and links to further information on the topic. Judy also set up a private Yahoo group for students to post pictures and discuss their work.

Canadian teacher and quilt artist Pamela Allen ( rose to the challenge of online teaching in part because of a change in border regulations that negatively impacts on her ability to teach in the United States. To continue offering her classes to all interested students, she developed five online classes. She offers her students downloadable lessons, “mini-lectures” on the principles of art and art history, and “one-on-one personal critiques.”  “I can teach my class how I want it, and I can immediately troubleshoot any problems,” she says.

Artist/author Sue Bleiweiss has been using the online world for years to share her vast knowledge and offer classes, such as for journal making. Her latest three-week class, Watercolor Exploration for the Fiber Artist, came about after hitting on a process that allowed her to work through ideas for creating new fiber artworks. “My goal is to make it as personal an experience as I can for my students, which is why I make it a point to be online constantly throughout the class checking my email so that no student has to wait too long for an answer to a question or feedback on a photo that they’ve posted,” she says.

Mixed media artist/author Alisa Burke ( began offering online classes about three years ago. To make the experience more personal, Alisa includes video instruction. “Much of the class content is photos and video that I film in my studio of me working and demonstrating techniques,” she says. “I film and edit everything myself (camera on a tripod). I use iMovie and Final Cut Pro to edit my videos and then upload them to Vimeo (a video service), password protecting them, and then embedding each into a private  blog.”

Artist/author Carla Sonheim ( has a series of online classes with all of the right ingredients. Her popular The Art of Silliness class features one downloadable “activity sheet” per day for thirty days. Her goal is getting her students to “play” for ten minutes a day with pen and paper. Carla offers a dedicated blog and a Flickr site for her students to share, and to keep things fun she offers prizes. She also considers the comments and feedback extremely important to the overall success of the class, and she blocks out an hour per day for the month the class is in session to be available to her students.

Artist/author Diana Trout ( teaches an online class called Inner Circle Journal with lessons and videos. “Since the format of online classes is so different from an in-person class, I will be offering different subjects that will allow students to go into more depth than in-studio or retreat classes would,” she says. “There is more time for thinking, playing and allowing time for paint and glue to dry. These are huge benefits! Also, the blog is interactive so that students can post their artwork and get feedback and questions answered.”

Each class is unique to the instructor. While these teachers have successful online classes, others do not. I’ve spoken with several students who were unhappy with the experience. Just as your reputation as a teacher spreads when teaching in-person classes, so does it spread when teaching online classes.

When contemplating whether teaching through your own website is right for you, Sue stresses that you do your homework. Whether you are comfortable with creating the class yourself or if you only want to focus on teaching and leave the technical work of the site to someone else, online teaching can offer the opportunity to reach a broader range of students while earning additional income. Before you have students start their homework, however, be sure to first do your own.

Please share your experiences with online classes, either as the teacher or the student, below.

If you would like to read more of Gloria’s article on teaching online, it’s included in the Fall 2011 issue of The Professional Quilter and available to IAPQ members. The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership here.

Meet Teacher, Designer, Author Margaret Miller

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

The Fall issue of The Professional Quilter includes a profile on teacher, designer and author Margaret Miller by Eileen Doughty. The photo on the cover that you see to the right is of Margaret’s quilt “Passion Flower.” Here’s an excerpt from the article:

How would you characterize your designs?

The more you look at my designs, the more you see. Variegated and gradated fabrics add depth; stripes create new areas not bounded by individual blocks. I have always striven to camouflage where blocks adjoin each other and where they adjoin the border. This is done by looking for motifs that naturally extend out of one block into another and letting color accentuate that effect. It bothers me when people say that my quilts are “complicated” when actually they are all based on such simple ideas.

I am known for my use of color – lots of it! I try to use at least three color families in every quilt and go all the way up in the lights and all the way down in the darks.

What is your teaching philosophy?

In all of my workshops, students are encouraged to reach for the unexpected and to make their own design and color choices. I tell the students to have patience with themselves – the first time they try something new in quilting, it often feels awkward or confusing. At the beginning of every workshop, I announce, “This is not a race and not a competition.” It is immensely gratifying to see a student grow in confidence in her quiltmaking skills or make a breakthrough in understanding color.

What are you working on now?

I’m most excited about the next design direction I’m pursuing – combining Easy Pieces and AnglePlay™ into what I’m calling Fusion Quilts. I’ve begun doing five-day retreats at The Quilt Gallery in Kalispell, Mont., for this technique, and the students are producing refreshing results!

Also, I am focusing on training others to teach my revolutionary piecing technique with long triangles (right triangles formed by cutting a rectangle in half diagonally). This long triangle is going to be the next classic shape in pieced quilts, I believe, after the square and the half-square triangle. Four-day-long Teacher Trainings will cover how to work and design with the long triangle. Information on teaching updates, reunions of teachers, new patterns and new workshops will follow. These trainings will help both experienced and aspiring teachers to hone their skills and develop new workshops around the AnglePlay™ templates. They will also develop a network of teachers all around the country.

The heavy question: What would you like your legacy to the quilt world to be?

Actually, that’s easy! I want to be known as the teacher that (1) enabled people to reach for the unexpected in their quilts, (2) enabled quiltmakers of all skill levels to painlessly include more colors and a complete range of values in their quilts, using a simple block and (3) made the use of the long triangle accessible by way of the AnglePlay™ templates. I hope I will leave a design legacy of many new blocks and quilts that feature that long triangle shape, which introduces the possibility of undulating lines and circular and spiral shapes in pieced quilts – for people who want a refreshing new look to the pieced quilts they love to make.

Please share your thoughts below on the blog.

If you would like to read more of Eileen’s article on Margaret Miller, it’s included in the Fall 2011 issue of The Professional Quilter and available to IAPQ members. The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership here.

Are You Using Testimonials to Build Your Business?

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Testimonials are a terrific way to help market your quilt or creative arts business. It’s word-of-mouth advertising, only you get to decide who hears it and what is heard. While you may get unsolicited testimonials, it’s a good idea for you to actually ask for a response. In some cases you might want to offer a thank you gift for the comment. Here are some ideas to try:

1. For the fiber artist or longarm quilter who has finished a commission, include a self-addressed stamped reply postcard with the work. Ask for comments that will help you in the future. You might try: Was the communication between quilter and customer adequate? Was the project completed in an appropriate time frame? Encourage the buyer to send you a photo of the quilt in use and ask for any other comments. If you want to thank the person giving you the testimonial, perhaps a small discount on a future order is possible.

2. For the teacher, include an additional comments line on your evaluation form. You’ll not only get ideas to improve your classes, but you’ll also get wonderful and heartfelt comments to use as testimonials.

3. Any book author can tell you how valuable the testimonial blurbs are on the back cover of their book. You will need to ask someone if he or she would be willing to write a blurb and then provide a galley copy of your book for reading. A published book might be a nice thank you for the testimonial.

4. If you sell a product to the general public, you can include a comment card in your packaging. You can request that someone leave a comment on your website or return the comment card via regular mail. Another idea would be to encourage feedback from the user. All products include some written material. You can add a couple sentences about how excited you’ll be to hear back from the user about their experiences with the product. You’ll be surprised at the response you’ll get. I think this would be quite effective for pattern designers.

5. For shop owners it’s easy to get testimonials either with a return card with a purchase or a comment card box somewhere in the store.

After you start receiving these comments, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back. You are delivering a great product and building an ongoing relationship with your customers.

What do you do with the testimonials as you get them? Be sure to include them in all your advertising. Here are some specific ideas:

1. Create a page for testimonials on your website. We have one we call Success Stories. You could also intersperse them throughout your site.

2. Include testimonials in your catalog. For example, a pattern designer might include a testimonial about how easy to follow her instructions are.

3. Include testimonials in your tri-fold brochure if you are are teacher or do commission work. It lets potential customers know the value of your work.

4. Include testimonials in any of your print ads. Study ads in magazines to see how testimonials are used.

5. Include testimonials on your product packaging, if space permits. It might be limited to just a few lines, but it could make a difference in someone buying the product.

Lastly, remember you don’t have to use the whole testimonial. You can use an excerpt, just be sure to keep it in context.

How do you gather and use testimonials in your business? Please leave a reply and share your experiences.

Meet Lyric Kinard, Teacher of the Year

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Each year the International Association of Professional Quilters selects a Quilt Teacher of the Year. Our 25th Teacher of the Year is Lyric Kinard, from Cary, N.C.,  who specializes in surface design and the basic elements of art and design. Here is some insight into Lyric’s teaching philosophy.


What standards of workmanship do you require of your students? What do you do if they don’t attain them?

The only “standard of workmanship” that I ask of students is that they try the technique, give it a fair shot. If it doesn’t live up to some impossible standard in their head after one try, they may then say, “I’m still learning this,” “I need more practice” or “I might just have learned that this isn’t the technique for me.” The only thing I don’t allow is the “I can’t” mentality. Beginners often compare themselves to those who have already put in many hours learning and mastering a technique then feel discouraged by their outcome.


How do you encourage creativity in your students?

I never tell students what they should do when creating a work of art. I ask question after question after question until they find the answers for themselves. Helping students to gain confidence in their own creative choices is one of my greatest goals.


How do you encourage students’ further growth in quilting, beyond the formal class?

Everything I teach is geared towards giving the students the tools they need to grow and develop their own creative abilities. Sometimes the techniques are simply tools to help them achieve the vision in their minds. Sometimes it is opening and freeing their minds and hearts so that they are able to give themselves permission to experiment without fear of failure. I teach that failure is simply a learning process and often a necessary step on the road to great and creative works.


What do you feel is your greatest contribution to the field of quilting?

I’ve recently authored the book Art + Quilt: design principles and creativity exercises. In it I express my firm belief that art can be learned and that creativity is present in every person. It takes time and effort, but it can be done. If I am able to help quilters to reject the inner critic that keeps them from experimenting and moving forward, if I can help them embrace and encourage their inner artists, that is all I can hope to accomplish, and it will be enough.

You can read more about Lyric in the Spring issue of The Professional Quilter, the journal of the International Association of Professional Quilters. The journal is available to members, and you can join here.

Please share your comments here.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business.  Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.


Want to Host Your Own Quilt or Art Seminar?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Have you ever gone to a terrific seminar and left wondering if you could take that experience and improve on it, running your own seminar? That’s what happened to Alice Kolb and partner Barbara Quinby when they decided to join forces to host the annual Texas-style quilter’s seminar, now known as Quilting Adventures. The annual seminar started in the early 2000s when Barbara built on her experience from her business career to invite four to six national quilting teachers per week to a classy, yet casual resort to offer students a week of learning from one teacher, good food and lodging. Today the seminar receives rave reviews for its attention to detail and the enriching experiences of its participants. If you, too, think putting on a seminar can be rewarding, here are some tips from Alice’s article in the Winter issue of The Professional Quilter.

1. Analyze yourself. Critique your strengths and energy – both financially and physically – and check your enthusiasm record for a long-term project.

2. Determine your level of commitment. Do you want to own a seminar company, either by yourself or with a partner? It’s a job with responsibilities that last all year from hiring teachers to handling student queries.

3.  Put together a business plan. You need to determine how much time and money are needed to bring your seminar idea to fruition. You will need to make payments well before you ever bring in any funds and you need to be sure you can handle this financial responsibility. You also need to clearly identify the market you want to reach.

4. Research potential site locations. Do they match the style of your event? Will they meet the needs of potential students identified in the business plan? Can the faculty and students easily get to the locations?

5. Personalize your event. Consider the student you identified in your business plan and how you can make the event unique for them.

6. Consider how you will attract students. This could include advertising, personal trips to shops or shows for promotion, printed material and a website. Most important, determine how much time and money you can invest to do this.

To read the article in its entirety, you can join the International Association of Professional Quilters. This issue will be the first one that you receive as one of your member benefits.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business.  Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Meet Peggy Martin, Teacher of the Year

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Since 1983, The Professional Quilter and now the International Association of Professional Quilters have recognized one teacher with its Teacher of the Year Award. This year’s award goes to Peggy Martin, a quilt teacher from San Diego, Calif., who specializes in foundation piecing. Here’s an excerpt from the Spring issue of The Professional Quilter that provides some insight into Peggy’s teaching philosophy.

What standards of workmanship do you require of your students?
What do you do if they don’t attain them?

Students work with different strengths and weaknesses and different levels of experience as well. Presenting techniques and tips to improve the end result is what I try to do; I can’t say I actually “require” any particular standard of workmanship in my classes. I am happy if they try their best, realizing that better results will come with practice. In that same vein, if someone is clearly struggling, I try to make positive suggestions, rather than providing a negative critique. Asking students if they’re happy with their work will often bring up any issues they have had, and suggestions can then be made for improving their work. Students take classes to learn new techniques and to have fun, so I try to create as comfortable and relaxed an environment as I possibly can, which includes an accepting attitude. We all aim for perfection, but making something perfect is not the goal. Learning and feeling appreciated and validated for their efforts are what I try to provide for my students.

How do you encourage creativity in your students?

Part of my teaching always includes showing alternative methods to achieve the same result. I also try to show variations in terms of color and style of fabrics with many different setting options. By showing students the steps I go through when coming up with new ideas, it gets their own wheels turning and they begin to realize how easy it is to explore their own creativity. I’m never happier than when students comes up with a totally different look for their quilts than I have shown them. Seeing that spark of excitement and watching them take the next step beyond is one of my greatest thrills as a teacher.

How do you encourage students’ further growth in quilting, beyond the formal class?

Making sure that students leave the class with the idea that there are myriad possibilities and options open to them and trying to encourage them to have the courage to explore new ideas is one of the things I try to accomplish. Many people lack confidence in their own creativity, and I hope to bolster their faith in themselves, so they leave class with the courage to trust themselves to try their own ideas and follow their own instincts.

You can read more about Peggy Martin in the Spring issue of The Professional Quilter. This journal is just one of the benefits of membership in the International Association of Professional Quilters. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.


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