Time to Improvise!

We’ve all had the lovely opportunity of experiencing a moment, a day or maybe a weekend when the unexpected found its way into our quilting reality.

 Ah yes, that moment of “Uh Oh” when for mere moments time stops, and you become acutely aware that something is wrong with the current situation.  During that particular period you inwardly talk yourself off a cliff and realize you would have to improvise somehow in the immediate future.  Are flashbacks running past movie clips in your mind as you relive that less than wonderful occasion?  I have had numerous occasions where improvising played a major factor in the success of my day.

I’m Willing to Share ONE Example

“Divide and Design”, one of my all time favorite classes to teach.  I love introducing my students to this amazing method of designing their quilts.  The facial expression of “By Golly George I Think I’ve Got This” that gradually travels its way across everyone’s face is priceless.  However, you cannot bring smiles, and feelings of success to your class when you neglect to bring the drawing templates that are essential to instructing the class.  Listen folks, we aren’t talking overlooking pencils, we are talking about a major component of the Divide and Design tutorial.  

Judy and I looked at one another and deduced that an immediate trip to the nearest Wal-Mart, or K-Mart was of the essence!  We flew by the seat of our pants and did whatever it took  in order to make this class work.

Let the Lisa Improv Show Commence!

Our speedy jaunt had us purchasing cups, plates, and bowls.  These were transformed into my templates for this particular class, allowing me to illustrate my Divide and Design method.  Above you will see that I grabbed a few items in the studio to show that they too could have also been utilized for teaching that class had I had them readily available.  What started out as a panic attack eventually turned into “I can handle this”.   The class went well, Judy and I survived one, of many, winging it adventures.

A Friendly Tip:  Keep Your “Uh Oh” on the Down Low

  Try to remain calm; easier said than done I know.  However, those around you don’t need to bear witness to your oops.  Heck, depending on what the oops is, no one may even realize you’ve improvised in the slightest way!  There is no reason to advertise your fault, we are all human and I big believer of “it’s not what happens to you, but how you deal with what happens to you”.   At one point in time we all need to improvise in way or another.  Whether it pertains to our business or personal life; every now and then we need to fill in the blanks with words, or items we have forgotten.

If You Must, Fly By the Seat of Your Pants

  Do what you gotta go.  If it requires running to K-Mart,or Wal-Mart then that’s what one must do.  Those of us in the quilting world are very creative people!  Use that gift to your advantage when it comes to improvising.  You will be amazed with the ingenuity your creative juices will produce when push comes to shove.   So improvise, improvise, improvise! You might just surprise yourself and actually love what your spontaneity  brings about!

Have you had to improvise, fly by the seat of your pants or wing it to get through a quilting event?  If so I would love hear about your experience.

Classroom Etiquette/ Both Sides of The Fence

I couldn’t believe the response I received on my Quilt Show Etiquette post, so I figured I’d roll with it and end the week with a post on Teacher and Student Classroom Etiquette.  Notice I am being unbiased and am exploring BOTH sides of classroom etiquette.  So let’s take a look shall we?

Etiquette:  It was a toss of the coin which to discuss first, obviously Teacher Etiquette won or lost (however you want to look at it).  The instructor has obligations to his/her students, these individuals paid to be in their presences.  I am a huge believer of giving my pupils what they have signed up for, and giving them their money’s worth.  That being said we, as teachers, need to be mindful of the following:

  Arrive EARLY!  Yes, make sure to arrive with more than enough time to organize and prepare your class for what you will be teaching.  No student wants to enter a class that they have spent money on to wait patiently for the first 30 minutes while the instructor finishes arranging class materials etc.

Be Prepared!  Do you have enough materials for all your students?  Are you ready to discuss the topic you are going to present to the class? There is nothing worse than sitting before a teacher that is unorganized, they obviously haven’t worked through the class agenda or how each aspect of what they are sharing will transition into one another.  In a nutshell it’s a students nightmare! You have lost them at “Ah Good Morning, Give Me Just a Second”.

       Turn Off Your Cell Phone!  There is no need for your phone to beep with a text message, or ring during your lecture or hands on demonstration.  No student should wait while you pause momentarily to glance at the screen of your mobile device to view a text from your husband that inquires “When will you be home?”  That is simply rude!

   Answer Questions from your students.  Again, these lovely people are spending their morning, afternoon or entire day with you.  They are there to learn, and with any education we all learn differently.  Some of us need to hear information more than once, others of us are filled with curiosity and love the word “Why”.  Finally there are a  few that just like to hear themselves talk.  Regardless of the reason, there is no such thing as a stupid question.  If you want your class to gain confidence and understanding let them ask away.

  Provide Breaks Throughout Your Class.  Teachers need to refuel, use the restroom and just take a breather.  Implement a couple breaks throughout your class.  Trust me no one wants to hear you drone on and on for 4- 6 hours (no matter how entertaining you may be) without the chance to step away for a minute or two.  You will find your students more productive and more relaxed if they are given a few minutes throughout their session to sit back and reflect on what is being taught.  By the way this is a great opportunity to reply to that distracting text of when you could be expected home!

Make Learning Fun!  No student has the desire to sit for 4 to 6 hours bored out of their mind, breaks can only provide so much relief.  Nor do they want to pay for boredom.  It’s a good idea to create an environment that allows your class to feel relaxed.   Providing a little humor makes the day for them and you pass by much faster.  So don’t get so wrapped up in being so professional that you appear stiff and uncomfortable, it’s a day of educating others on what you LOVE to do…so show them some love and let loose a little.

Time to Turn the Tables

 Etiquette:  Yes, educators are thrilled that you have chosen to spend your time with them and they look forward to enlightening you. Hopefully you will be exiting their class wearing a smile of satisfaction and eager to register for one of their other classes. However, there are a few things we instructors would like you to keep in mind, and they are:

Don’t be Late!  Please arrive a few minutes early.  It is not fair to the rest of the students to watch the instructor stop her class in order to get a tardy pupil settled for what they missed.  If you want to see several eyes roll, and heavy sighs then show up late and let the “late show” begin.

  Turn Off Your Phone Please.  Your fellow student and teacher do not want to try and talk or listen over a ringing cell phone, no matter how cute your ringtone may sound.  Place it in your bag, or pocket until break time, trust me there is voicemail on mobile devices for a reason.  Besides, don’t you want to get the most out of your class, after all you’ve paid to be sitting in that chair.

   If You Have a Question…Ask!  Rather than sit and chat with the person next to you on what is being taught… speak up. Who is the best person to ask, definitely not the person to your left or right…the teacher! In addition, it is distracting to the teacher, who is talking, to view students talking amongst each other while they are in the process lecturing or demonstrating.  If there is a concept you don’t quite understand you have the right to gain a better insight on what has been shared.  You should never leave a class confused or feeling lost on the topic.  Raise that hand high!

  Please Keep the Sickies at Home.  Sorry, but teachers AND students have NO desire to be exposed to the germs that will invade everyone’s work area by someone hacking with a cough or some other illness that should have kept them at home.  If you insist on attending the class you put yourself at risk for death stares and unkind mumbling from those surrounding you.  And trust me the instructor will not send sympathy smiles your way.

  It’s Okay to get Outside Your Comfort Zone.  The last and most important aspect of student etiquette is encouraging ALL students to step outside their comfort zone! If the instructor has done their job and given you something to giggle about and has urged you to relax then please do so! Trying to educate a group of students that won’t let go and feel free to embrace all that is presented before them makes for a difficult 4-6 hours. You are in a “no-judgement” zone (if you don’t think you are, slip out the door fast) during your time as a student.  Make the most of every moment, this is your chance to soak up all you can on that new technique, or concept. But soak it up with a clear understanding that learning should be fun and positive; especially when you’re stepping outside your comfort zone!

I am sure there are many other tips I could have elaborated on, like please don’t hate the teacher for the temperature of the room (I realize no one likes a classroom that’s 85  degrees); but I thought I’d just share a few.  Do you have a tip to give to either students or teachers?  I’m sure I’ll hear from some of you!

The Inner Struggle of Teaching

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 I LOVE teaching! I actually beginning prepping for an upcoming class weeks ahead of time, partly because I am OCD and need to be super, duper prepared, but mostly because I am just that enthusiastic about teaching!  I look so forward to the actual day when I am able to walk into the classroom and share a morning, afternoon, or entire day with those that are willing to endure my instruction for a length of time and share in my passion.  But I cannot ignore the fact that prior to every session I teach my mind starts the playing “The Doubting Game”.  images-111

And here is how this game plays out.  I gaze upon my class roster, I look at what I am teaching that day and the wheel starts spinning.

At the first spin the wheel stops on:

Will it be worth their time?  

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After all these students have paid to sit before me and learn something.  I always to strive to give my student quality instruction.

Next spinner lands on:

Will they absorb the information I am trying to convey?  I can prepare materials, go over what is being taught in my head and feel confident that I am going to nail the information I will present. But then that nagging uncertainty creeps in and this is what I always fear will be looking back at me when the day is upon me (and I will see about 15-25 of these faces)

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Then the spinner slowly falls upon:

Are my students enjoying what they are learning?  Let’s face it these individuals should enjoy their time of being educated.  No one wants to sit in a classroom and feel like they are sitting before Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

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Ah, NO way! I want my students to have a great time AND learn!

Lastly, the wheel comes to a halt at:

Was this class productive?  Did my class give my students what they expected, and wanted over the last several hours AND for what they paid for?  I want these quilters to exit my session feeling as though they have gained at least a few new tools, and concepts.  My inner voice has me wondering if they will all  feel better equipped to take tackle their design.images-99

For me the major challenge of teaching is creating an environment where I give those before me the opportunity to learn, and feel empowered to take the next step in the quilting journey.

This is what I hope to witness at the end of each lecture, or class.

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For all my fellow instructors out there, do you have an aspect of teaching that you find most challenging? If so do tell!

This Bird is Back from Virginia

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The Birds of a Feather Convention was Great!

Let us recap our trip to Virginia, shall we?

Well our trip seemed quite uneventful leaving at 9am Wednesday morning, with no morning traffic to wrestle with, UNTIL I observed a vehicle on my bumper.  Typically I notice some young thing in a hurry to get somewhere, but to my surprise I was amazed to see Motoring Mom-Mom behind me.  Unfortunately due to SOME traffic could not easily slide to the right lane and this only enhanced Motoring Mom-Mom’s road rage. My rear view mirror gave me quite a show as her head was shaking back and forth in great dismay at my inability to achieve a driving speed of 95 mph.  Sorry mom-mom I don’t wants  to ruffle any police officer’s feathers with exceeding the speed limit too much! Eventually I moved over, and as she crept up to my car, this older women passed by giving me a piece of her mind with several head motions.  Oh my!

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I was actually hoping we would see her at the Marriott! Maybe she just couldn’t wait to buy one of my rulers?!

images-8I loved the ability to network with all the amazing people I encountered over the four days I was working.  Whether we exchange ideas, share experiences, or provide inspiration to one another it is incredible what a conference room and class room full of individuals can bring to your future.  However, one thing I did neglect to bring which does help when connecting with new contacts is BUSINESS CARDS!  I need to start making sure I have them here, there and everywhere.  Making sure they are packing should be a no brainer, especially during a business trip.

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For Students: Take a class every session? Well, of course that ultimately is a personal preference.  However, you may want to consider the classes you are contemplating attending.  How long do they run, and how much of a break you will provide yourself with prior to your next class?  For me I know I need a little breather, so I can refuel and get my head back in the game.  Otherwise my mind turns to mush.  I realize it’s difficult to choose especially with so many different topics and instructors but don’t feel as though  it’s imperative for you to jam pack your day to the point of walking away having all that you have experienced blurring into one fuzzy period of time.

One of the most exciting things about teaching and attending these conferences is that I rejuvenate my mind and help others step outside their box of creativity.  Instructing students gets my design juices flowing and hopefully those I educate walk out of my classroom having gained some of those quilting juices.  Understanding that stepping outside the box will promote individuality and confidence. Ultitmately their style will come full circle.  And it never hurts to remind those that have come to spend their mornings or afternoons with us that constantly attempting new skills (even when our intial attempts fail) and techniques allows us to slowly become the best quilter we can be.  Our quilting journey is never ending!

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Lastly, I think surrounding myself with other educators, and quilting peers is a trip filled with plenty of smiles, common passions, and most of all fun.  AND never forget there are moments that we all know what happens in VA stays in VA!

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Do I have any quilting friends that also enjoyed their time in VA?

Pantographs, Good or Bad for the Newbie?

My adventure in longarm quilting took off in 2004, and at that time I longed to be able to stitch out a pantograph.  Alas, I did NOT seem to have any talent for producing a  pantograph.  I was totally “Pantograph Challenged” which was a blessing, unbeknownst to me, in disguise.  But during that time period it was sadly, quite clear pantographs  and Lisa weren’t going to be friends.

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My inability to stitch a panto forced me to initiate my work from the front of my machine.  It became apparent if  I wanted any of my designs to come alive on fabric I would need to start the process off this way.  I took baby steps, to begin it was just a meander.  Next I incorporated stars, loops, and hearts to this meander.  As my baby steps grew, the strides in designs grew.  Over time I was no longer taking steps; I was running!  My confidence finally paved the road to implementing feathers, feathers flew into custom, custom brought about stitch in the ditch…and so on, and so on, and so on.unknown-27

Being “Pantograph Challenged” was fate.    I truly believe that piece of my quilting journey drove me to become the quilter I am today.  If creating pantos had been smooth sailing from the get go I often wonder where I might be now.

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So this raises a question to many quilters:  Are Pantos a Good Place to Start?

They aren’t  necessarily a bad place to begin.  I encourage my students to become more familiar and comfortable standing in front of the machine, rather than behind the machine.  Starting in the front of the machine will help in a couple of ways:

  • Gaining insight and understanding regarding “proper balance”.  Was the quilt evenly quilted or did it become smaller and tighter on one side?
  • Hearing the sound of the machine when things go awry.  With some machines the sound changes, (i.e tension) In addition, being positioned in front of the machine will provide the ability to  SEE the stitches. Obviously having a visual will allow immediate access to viewing issues.

After about a year, I became proficiently decent at pantos.  I vividly recall completing an entire row of quilting, only to spend an unpleasant amount of time ripping out the that row due to tension issues. Yes, I had heard the machine, it sounded a little different.  Yes, I chose to ignore it.   And yes, I ultimately paid the price for my lazy choices. What took 15 minutes to establish, took 3 hours to eliminate.  That most definitely was not  a good quilting day.

Are you new to your machine?  If so I would ask you to consider working from the front of your machine for a couple of months prior to diving head first into attempting any pantos from behind.  Then let me know how the transition went.

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Bring On 2017!

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My wish for my blog this year is to reach new members and sustain those that have already joined my journey.  In my “perfect blog world” each viewer would walk away taking with them at least one of the following:

A Smile: Each day, you should smile and giggle at least one time.  Did you know that the average child laughs 3oo times per day? That is incredible! If I can provide a little comic relief to someone’s day through my entries then 2017 will mentally be a tremendous year for many of you!

A Piece of New Information: Whether it’s acquiring insight on a technique, product, or one of my life experience’s as a quilter, hopefully, you will gain a little bit of education on various topics.  Should I succeed in sharing more than a little bit of new information than KUDDOS to both of us!

A Platform to Voice Your Thoughts:  Yes, I want to hear from you! I learn so much from those that follow my blog.  Your comments, and questions fuel my ideas and drive me to further grow both professionally and personally.   I greatly  appreciate all those that take the time to give me feedback.  Trust me, I learn so much from the thoughts that you all share.

SO BRING ON 2017!

AND 

May 2017 bring all my followers twelve months of learning, living, and loving their passion for quilting.

Class is in Session

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The BERNINA Ambassador Reunion in Chicago IL, December 2016

I recently spent a few cold days in Chicago, very COLD days, uniting with BERNINA Ambassadors.  The time in this more than chilly state placed us in the roles of students as we embarked upon three classes that would give us insight on concepts, machines, and tools we may not have experienced until now.

It has been quite awhile since I have been placed on the side of the desk where our class participants sit; it was refreshing and quite an educational experience.  I walked away after those few days reflecting on my style of teaching and realized I might just need to tweak my instructional ways a little bit.

Talk a Little Slower Lisa!

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I know I get very excited and have a tendency to talk a million miles an hour when I begin speaking to my students.  And although I feel I’m making perfect sense I am quite certain those sitting before me feel a bit like Sally.  Time allotted, and speed at which my information is relayed could be balanced just a tad. My enthusiams may come across as a few very, very fast run on sentences.


Cramming in Too Much Information 

Again, finding a balance is challenging.  I am always working to make sure that my students leave their time spent with me feeling that they have gotten their monies worth.  One of my greatest fears is an individual exiting my class thinking “I just spent my afternoon for what? AND it cost me ____???!!!”  Working and reworking the information I share in my lectures, and classes is a continual revision.  I would hate to think I have pupils looking at me feeling like they are out-of-order half way through my class.

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Onto to two things I know everyone can benefit from in my class:

CHOCOLATE

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 and BREAKS!unknown-22

Whether it’s a Hershey’s Bar, Twix, or Kit-Kat, whatever floats your boat; chocolate is never a bad thing to get you through my classes.  Secondly, providing breaks is a Lisa MUST! If you are going to tolerate me for half the day or go big and endure a full day worth of Lisa’s instruction giving time to stretch, and regroup is a big deal! I don’t want any eyes glazing over during my class!

So I thank you Chicago, and those at the BERNINA Ambassador reunion that gave many thoughts to ponder over.  I am sure those entering my future classes will thank you too!  I love knowing that I am forever finding growth which will enhance my business and personal craft.

Oh, I did come back to Pennsylvania with one very selfish realization…I really, really WANT the BERNINA Serger!

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What have you learned while being attending a quliting conference or class?

Every now and then it does a teacher good to sit on the other side of the desk; gaining a new persepective is never a bad thing.

Drea’s Hitting the Books “The Language Of Quilting”

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There are so many learning curves being presented to Drea as she begin this new endeavor.  Perhaps the most critical element for her to embrace is that of learning and understanding the Quilting Language.  Flashbacks of Spanish 101 are bombarding her mind.  Those days back in high school when she spent countless evenings memorizing Espanola vocabulary for the next day’s quiz.  Now many moons later she find herself hearing words and looking at me with furrowed brows saying “Huh, you want me to learn about SID??”  I had to reassure her that this was, in fact, a term pertaining to quilting.  Not a new health topic that she would frantically need to research and discuss with her fourteen year old son in the near future.

Now that I’m temporarily a “A Foreign Language teacher of Quilting”, Drea is being tutored on various quilting terms that I feel are essential.  Those fundamental concepts and words that she will hear frequently.  I found this day of schooling to be quite humorous and felt inclined to share this session with all my peers. Therefore, below you will observe a few words I unveiled to Drea.  You will note Drea’s perception of what these words signify and then the enlightenment I bestowed upon her.

SID (Stitch in the Ditch) – No, not a topic now being required by health teachers to educate those entering high school; but Stitching in the Ditch is a machine quilting technique that involves quilting in the seam line.

DSM (Domestic Sewing Machine) – This is not an artificial sweetener now being placed in consumer bought products to reduce calorie intake.  It is a device that stitches materials together with thread. They range from foot-operated or electric domestic machines to large, industrial machines. Sewing machines are mainly used to make clothing faster and easier than is possible by hand. According to Drea she was required to use one of these in Home Economic class in 9th grade to create a skirt that had to be worn to school.  Let’s just say Drea wore shorts under her newest article of clothing on that designated “wear your skirt” school day.

FAT (Fabric Acquisition Trip) – Drea was offended that I was bringing her calorie, and carbohydrate content into the studio.  I was happy to educate her on the fact that it simply means “buying fabric”.  This doesn’t have to be an ugly word people!  And no, I don’t stash my fabric.

Feed Dogs – In Drea’s home this implies that promptly at  5:30 am and 5:00 pm her two cockapoos will begin begging and whimpering until they are given their evening meal.  To those of us that quilt it is a toothed metal piece under stitch plate that moves fabric along.

UFO (Unfinished Project) – Drea was shocked and disappointed to learn we weren’t talking about the movies, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “E.T.”, or “Men in Black”.  Sorry Drea, these are pieces that have been put aside and are incomplete.

FQ (Fat Quarter a Square Quarter of a Yard) –  Adding a little spice to our class time Drea depicted herself as contestant on Quilters Jeopardy, buzzing in a few times with responses, “What is Fairly quick?”  Her second attempt “What is frequent questions?”  And her final chance at answering correctly “What is  financial quotients?” In my best “Alex Trebek” voice I leaned forward stating “Sorry Drea those are incorrect, the correct answer would be , What is a piece of fabric that measure ~ 18 inches by 22 inches”.   My recommendation is for her to forget Jeopardy; after completing this course Drea will be a stellar Wheel of Fortunate contestant!

Tackling the Quilting Language will be an ongoing process for my new assistant.  After turning forty the mind isn’t what it used to be, but I am confident that she will gain the ability to speak fluently in the language of quilting.

Do you have a favorite quilting term you feel is key for Drea to build into her quilting repertoire?  I would love hear from you! This is just one of many learning curves my “Jenny” will need to conquer; but she is willing and ready to take on the Quilting Language!

 

Lisa