Sunday, August 25, 2013

Teaching More Than Myself

While I've been quilting for many years (I think I made my first real, normal-sized quilt around 1995 or so), I'm still learning. I tried applique for the first time earlier this year for a flag for Boston, and it was good enough to send in with the others I had made. I tried machine quilting for the first time earlier this year, too, to finish a baby quilt made from blocks left over from a Hurricane Sandy quilt. Straight lines are my friends, and triangles are still a slight challenge (although I'm getting better!). But I can look at a pattern and immediately figure out how it was put together, even if it's something I'm not sure I personally can put together well.

So, when my neighbor asked me if I'd be willing to teach her daughter how to sew, I thought it would be pretty easy. I could teach her how to sew straight lines, we'd have lots of practice... Oh. Wait. What kinds of projects would an 11-year-old girl enjoy working on? Probably not a great big quilt with big blocks, at least not at first. Okay, then, let's think about what we can do to keep her interested, help her learn, and have some fun?

I started simple, with hot pads. Even easier than a great pattern I found online, it was just two pieces of cotton fabric and two pieces of cotton batting. Nice and puffy, colorful, and fairly forgiving. Her mom even joined us for that session, and made her own hot pad. Everyone was happy after the first day, so I figured I was on the right track. I learned something, too: my sewing machine's presser foot was not good for machine quilting, as the top and bottom fabrics were moving at different speeds. This was made worse by the extra thickness of the additional layer of batting. Oh, well, mom and daughter didn't notice, so that's something I can fix in the future.  Here's the hot pad I made that day:

Next session, we did mug rugs. I figured the student could use lots of practice sewing straight lines, so we pieced some strips together, put borders on them, quilted on the back, and folded the back over to create the binding. The pattern came from the In Color Order blog (thanks, Jeni!). These took longer, even without her mom with us, but I think she got a lot of good practice.  Here's my mug rug:

Okay, so that is a few mug rugs. :)  The first one I made is the top left; I had so many strips left over that I made four more, and the other two here show the back folded over ready to finish the binding (bottom left), and the one on the right is just quilted and trimmed. I gave all five mug rugs to my parents when they visited, as hostess gifts for one or more of the people they were going to be staying with later in their trip.

What's a mug rug? Best description I've found/come up with is, a quilted fabric coaster that is big enough for a mug (cup of coffee, stein of cocoa, tea cup, etc.) and a muffin (or cookie or apple or...). These ended up being about 10" long by 6" wide.

This post is getting long, so I'll save some for next time.  :)


  1. Welcome to your first blog. You are off to a great start. You chose a great project for first timers - they get a finished product in just one sitting, and get to learn about piecing, quilting, and finishing. And they can use and admire their finished project every day.

    1. Thank you, Shasta! That was the point of the first few projects: something she could do in one session (each about an hour or hour and a half), take it home, and use it or show it off.

  2. I'm doing a once/week after school program at my shop for the next 7 weeks, and a mug rug will be one of my projects. They all need to be projects they can finish in an hour and a half. Don't be surprised if you see me copying you...

    1. It's not copying if the projects just make sense for the ages and time allowed. :) I think the mug rugs were actually done in two sessions, as she and I were both working on them at the same time, on one sewing machine. If it was just her on the machine we probably could have done it in one session. Plus, if you do fewer strips, it would take less time, too. Folding the back over to bind it made it faster than trying to do a separate binding.