Becoming a quilt teacher—part 6

Have you ever felt the horror of a blank page staring at you when designing a class sample? Or is that just me?


After the course notes were written, I had to create samples. What were the best designs to teach people the techniques? Where they suitable for beginners to learn?  Designs had to be appealing to most people.  Not really being into feathers and cables, I didn’t really want to teach them.  What could I use instead – or would my students want to learn feathers?  I figured that I would teach the very basics of feathers to tick that box.

Once I had made up some samples, I had to look at what I was strongest at and what designs I needed to practice. There was no point in making myself look like a fake teacher by teaching something that I wasn’t good at.  The valid point of “I’d better practice the hell out of that design so I can teach it and teach it well.” went through my head a couple of times!  Put hanging sleeves on all samples in case you get a chance to hang them.  It can be hard to talk, point to areas of a sample and hold it at the same time.

Samples had to be created that can be hung in the shops where I taught too, so they could advertise the course.  With machine quilting, the sample is going to end up a little differently to what the students do because yours will be neat and tidy whereas theirs will look like a five-year old scribbled all over it.  As long as what you teach is on there, it’ll be fine.

I show students an example of my learning practice sandwich, mistakes I’ve made as well as quilts that show my brilliant work.  They need to know that you started off where they are now.  I used to take a ton of quilts to class as examples but now have created smaller teaching samples showing all of the techniques.  Many classrooms in shops are small and don’t have room for heaps of quilts.  It also saves time as you’re not searching through a pile of quilts to show one technique.  Any sample you plan to show in class needs to be seen clearly from the back of the room but small enough to be handed around the room.  Use a contrasting thread colour to the fabric and a thread thickness that can be seen at a distance.  If creating appliqué samples, try creating a sample in the correct thread colour too.


Left: My second attempt at stippling. Top right: Micro stippling. Bottom Left: After a three year break from FMQ, this attempt was okay. Lesson here...You are the only one that will notice the imperfections, especially when you're looking at it from a distance of only a couple of inches.

Left: My second attempt at stippling back in 2000. Top right: Micro stippling. Bottom Left: After a three-year break from FMQ, this attempt was okay. Lesson here…You are the only one that will notice the imperfections, especially when you’re looking at it from a distance of only a couple of inches.


When it comes to how the students set up their practice quilting sandwich, I prefer to get them to draw a couple of my designs on the quilt top around the edges (but not too close) and leave the majority of the space free for them to learn to quilt.  This works well.  I’ve heard some teachers like students to practice their designs in neat boxes on the sandwich and this may not work well with raw beginners.  I believe the open space reduces the stress levels as they are learning to control the machine’s stitch length and direction of stitching and don’t need the worry of trying to learn that within a box.  Their practice sandwich needs to be big enough that they can do everything that they need to on there and have room to place their hands on the quilt but not big enough that it’s hard to manoeuver under the machine. Some people need a lot of room to learn to quilt while others leave enough room to go through the filler designs you’ll be teaching.  If their sandwich is too big, cut it in half and they can use one at a time.  I find a 30″ x 20″ sandwich is a great size for them to learn on.

If you’re teaching patchwork or appliqué, you may need to make up samples showing each step of the way.

From time to time, you may have to update your samples as they get tatty or the fabrics go out of style and you haven’t got time for them to come back in fashion.  You may even find a new and easier way of doing the same thing and want to teach that.

Happy quilting,


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