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.
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.