Becoming a quilt teacher—part 1
I know how to quilt…so what’s next?
If you’ve got some experience at patchwork and quilting, you may think about teaching others…and getting paid for it. Not everyone has the confidence in the beginning—many famous teachers/quilters have described their first times as terrifying and afterwards they’ve had a cry about it—but they kept going and grew to enjoy it in a short amount of time. Imagine where we’d be if they’d given up? So I’m going to share my experiences with you and encourage you to give it a go.
There are many ways to teach:
- in a classroom style set up
- show your friend/relative/quilting group/guild how you made a particular quilt
- teach for free at a craft group
- write a book or make patterns
- and online video tutorials (whether they be paid for or free)
If you get stage fright when public speaking, try online videos or write a book, but I would also try a small classroom situation. You’ll be talking about a subject you are passionate about and enjoy. It’s a great way to overcome the stage fright. It won’t be like giving a speech at school on a dreary topic. Teaching the same thing many times gets you familiar with your speech and it will roll off the tongue in no time. You get to set the mood and tone of the course so enjoy it. The students want to hear what you have to say.
I started teaching friends and a few relatives how to make a quilt one year after I started quilting. It was a lot of fun to see them get the same pleasure out of it that I did. Then I started to teach for free at our local church craft group. Once I started machine quilting, I started to teach that too. Then one of the groups in town asked me to teach them—for money. This sent me into a pickle as I felt guilty about charging people for doing something that I had done for years for free.
Being scared of people saying that they didn’t get their money’s worth out of the course, I went overboard in how I went about setting up the course. It was a two-day course on machine quilting. As there were no “real” teachers in town or a patchwork shop, I didn’t have to come up with my own unique angle for teaching (although how I break down machine quilting is different to how a lot of people teach) so I wasn’t worried about that, I was going to teach what worked for me. The main thing that worried me was that it’s not like teaching appliqué or patchwork where you can pick up the technique fairly quickly. Machine quilting isn’t something you can teach in a weekend or a day, it takes time, commitment and courage to know that you are going to get it if you practice.
You’ll learn as much from your students as you teach them. Embrace the two-way learning street. They will show you that they may struggle with concepts that you find easy. You have to analyse what they do and why a problem is showing up, whether it be with their machine or technique. I picked up this skill a lot quicker than I thought and find I’m telling the student what is happening before the answer has reached my brain. It’s a weird skill!
Becoming a teacher is an exhilarating thrill although there are many talented quilters out there that don’t think they have it in them. You’ll inspire someone to follow their heart and creativity wherever it may lead them. Something you say may spark an idea or technique in them that you will be inspired by. You can even make a life long friend out of a student. You might do some of your best teaching for free. I’ve taught a lady or two to quilt that were heading off to Africa to teach ladies to sew and quilt to provide them with and income. That’s so cool!
The next posts in this series will be on writing course notes, making samples, money and creating a time frame, what to expect when teaching and what happens in class.
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