The end of August always represents back to school for me. Working in higher education, it’s one of the most exciting times of the year as students return to campus eager to tackle the new academic year and dive into their studies.
As a quilter, I’m always on the lookout for the opportunity to learn new quilting techniques, develop skills, and improve my quilting practice. So in the spirit of back to school learning, let’s dive into some ways we can learn as quilters!
In Person Classes
In-person classes are probably still the most popular ways for quilters to learn new techniques and try new patterns. Classes can either be held in a single session, or as ongoing classes over the course of weeks or months. Most classes will teach either a technique or a specific pattern. You can find in-person classes at your local quilt store, at a quilt show, or at your quilt guild.
In addition to hosting formal in-person classes, quilt guilds will sometimes include less forming teaching moments in their meetings. I’m a member of the Las Vegas Modern Quilt Guild, and at every meeting there is a fifteen minute mini-demonstration or lecture by one of the current members. It’s often technique based: two recent presentations were a looping quilting knot and big stitch quilting!
In a sew-along (sometimes also called a quilt-along), participants will all be working on the same project in their own homes. These are often hosted by quilt pattern designers, and are either free or paid. Sometimes they are for a specific known pattern, but other times they are a mystery where the final pattern is only revealed at the end. Bonnie Hunter is well known for her yearly mystery quilt using paint chips to plan out the fabric colors. Mom and I both made her 2020 mystery quilt, Grassy Creek, and it was really fun to be working on the same project even though we live thousands of miles apart.
Sew-alongs typically have clues or steps released week-by-week, and there is often an online community (such as on Facebook) where sewists can show their work and help each other with any challenges. Participating in a sew-along can be a fun way to try something new and to learn from other quilters along the way.
The advent of online classes has made learning available to more and more people. Online classes can vary greatly in their set-up, length, and ease of understanding. Some online classes will be offered at a specific time and date, making them very similar to in-person classes. Other times they will be offered asynchronously, allowing quilters to learn on their own schedule. The American Quilter’s Society offers online classes through their iQuilt platform. During and now after the pandemic, many quilt designers and teachers also host their own online classes; you can usually find information on their websites or in their newsletters.
Online Videos and Blogs
In addition to online classes, standalone blog posts and videos can be a great resource for learning, especially if you want to focus on a specific technique. We have a great blog post tutorial on my favorite English paper-piecing technique. Try searching on YouTube for a specific skill you want to learn, such as needle-turn applique. You’ll find lessons and demonstrations from many different quilters. Watch a few different ones to find a teacher that works well with your learning style, and then check out their homepage to see what other teaching videos they offer.
In addition to YouTube, you can also use Google Search, or other social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Each platform will have its own style and its own set of quilters, so explore until you find the right teacher.
Give It A Try!
Think about one quilting skill or technique that you’d like to either learn or improve, and commit to finding at least two different ways to learn. Maybe you’ll find a class at your local quilt store, as well as a YouTuber who has videos about that exact skill! Share in the comments what skill you’re focusing on and where you’re going to learn!