What to expect when you’re learning to machine quilt in a classroom

I could drive a truck between my travel stitching lines in my first attempts. Practice got me putting the needle in the previous holes. My pebbles have 2-2½ lines of stitching around each one and I use #100 thread.

One of the biggest challenges in learning to machine quilt in a classroom with a teacher will be to allow yourself to go through the emotions of learning a new skill.  In my case, the emotion I felt was one of being overwhelmed.  So let’s take a look at what to expect.

In class, you will probably be sitting too low, your shoulders will be raised causing not only back, neck and shoulder tension, but stress too, which does not enhance your learning experience.  Take a couple of cushions to sit on class just in case.  Sit near a light source if your eyes need it, or near the teacher if you have any hearing issues. You may not be able to control your classroom environment but when you’re at home (at your own sewing table) you’ll definitely feel more at ease with learning.

As classes are typically only 1-2 days long and have several people in them, the teacher will probably have a set amount of time to teach you many things.  This may leave you overwhelmed but don’t panic.  The idea of the class is to give you the basics to practice at home.  Re-read all of your notes and the teacher’s handouts at home and absorb them at your own pace.  You can also watch on-line videos as someone else may explain the same idea in a different way.

It can be a natural feeling to want to give up on it because you weren’t ‘getting’ it in class.   I find I don’t really learn that much in class.  When I get home I have time to take it at my own pace and go through exactly what was taught.  It’s then that it makes sense to me and I am in control.  The a-ha moment will come with practice, I promise!  It’s one of those things that you only ‘get’ by doing.


Technique and practice will get you there. You can do it, it just takes time!

Technique and practice will get you there. You can do it, it just takes time!


You may be confident with patchwork and appliqué and expect you know enough about quilting to do it ‘right’ immediately.  When you went to your first beginner patchwork class, did you put the expectation on yourself that your work had to be perfect from points lining up to invisible stitches on your appliqué, and of course, to have the most amazing colour scheme known to man?  I hope not!   But this is the kind of pressure people put on themselves to learn machine quilting (in a weekend or less). They may feel that quilting is a footnote to finish off the quilt—instead of a whole new skill which takes as much time to learn as the patchwork/appliqué side of things.  It is an art form in its own right.

Your skills will be different to your classmates.  I was, for want of a better word, one of the “worst” in my class and I use the word loosely as we were all learning a new skill.  I had no previous experience before the class.  You’ll always have a couple of people in class that have had a play before or done another class and they will be ‘better’ than the raw beginners.  I want this fact to encourage you, showing that with a little practice, you can achieve what they have done—and go one better!

Finally, your teacher will be looking at your technique.  You will probably be looking for perfection.  Developing the correct techniques for you and your machine is better than striving for perfection your first weekend. Your teacher wants to set you up with the correct technique so in time, if you want to achieve perfection, you can.  If you just want to have fun, your teacher knows that’s fine too.   So before you go to class, have a think about these things and allow yourself to make mistakes—but don’t run over your fingers—that would be bad!

Happy quilting,



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