Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sew and soup

I'm teaching a workshop on improvisational strip piecing next week in Cincinnati and have never taught exactly this format before, so I wanted to kick the tires on my agenda.  Strip piecing, as you may know, involves the construction of panels made up of several strips of fabric.  You do an awful lot of sewing to get these panels made before you get to the fun part, which is to cut up the panels and put them together in interesting ways.

My major question was whether I was asking too much of my students for the time allotted -- I hate workshops where you can't finish by quitting time, and especially where you lose the presence of the teacher just when you get to the hard part where you are most likely to need help or the exciting part where you would appreciate some suggestions and critique. 

I remember, for instance, being on the learning end in a workshop on collagraphy, a printmaking technique where you make the printing plate by gluing stuff to a cardboard background, then coating everything in a layer of acrylic to protect it from the ink.  We had only four hours in the workshop, and at least one of them was spent in holding hair dryers on our plates to help the acrylic medium dry faster.  Watching paint dry, now that's what I call a good use of $20 worth of weekend workshop time!  Then, of course, time ran out just as we were starting to make prints.

So I invited two of my friends over to be workshop guinea pigs.  The only place we could comfortably set up shop was in the kitchen, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it adapted itself to become a sewing studio.  Each person had a design wall (a piece of insulation board) and her own cutting station.  Soup cooking on the stove, just out of spattering range of the ironing station, added the gourmet aroma that many studios might benefit from.

The good news: the panels were all sewed before lunch, and both quilts substantially finished when we stopped work.  We had spent six hours sewing, not counting lunch, and the actual workshop will be seven hours, so I feel confident that the participants will be able to finish comfortably.

Much as I love teaching in roomy spaces where there's lots of space to move around and spread out, I have to admit that teaching at home has lots of advantages. No shlepping of stuff from studio to car to classroom and back again, no fretting if you forget to bring your seam ripper, all your quilts on hand in case you want an impromptu show and tell or object lesson, and best of all, plenty of fabric in boxes if somebody needs some green and didn't bring it.

My guinea pigs tell me I should do this more often -- have two people in to learn whatever they ask for in an intimate studio situation.  And eat lunch, of course. 


  1. We are looking forward to your workshops in Cincinnati, Kathy. What a great idea to test-drive your workshop curriculum in Louisville first!

  2. I'll come over for soup and sewing! I love your work and your blog!

  3. I loved reading this. How interesting to see how you set it all up in your kitchen! Looks like an idea is born!

  4. How I wish I could be a guinea pig, I am always hungry....for soup and inspiration!