Saturday, June 30, 2012

Smith Mountain All Day Long!

I have so much to learn.

And I’m always open to suggestions on how I can do a better job, or what would have helped students more.

I will never be the one to think that I know it all --- but I admit, in my desire to give students options to choose from, sometimes it makes it harder for them TO choose---

Smith Mountain Morning is a very involved class. It’s specialty-ruler-heavy ---Easy Angle, Companion Angle, Tri-Recs --- and the way the pattern is written in the book, you find out in one paragraph on the first page that I used these rulers and 3 1/2” strips and 2” strips to do the units in the quilt. But the book also gives “regular” rotary cutting directions for those who don’t have access to these rulers.

The class supply list doesn’t say to cut out the whole quilt ahead of time –and I have edited the supply list to say that there is SOME cutting that can be done ahead of time for those who want to cut --- they can come with 3 1/2” strips of blue and brown and neutral, and some 2” strips of blue and brown ---but that this is a 6 hour class, and that should be enough to get them started and keep them busy for a while. They can bring fat quarters and other yardage to cut into as time allows.

My biggest fear is that someone will spend hours cutting their valuable fabric ---only to find that if they had waited for the demo they would have done it better, done it differently if they had seen the demo first.

And there-in lies my quandary. How much cutting is enough? How do I give folks options without it being too much information?

Do I put a warning on the class supply list --- Do not cut triangles first unless you have experience using these? I don’t want someone cutting with the stitching line as their cutting line as has happened in the past and have all of their triangles too small.

I don’t want someone cutting all the regular rotary cut measurements – piles of 3-7/8” squares --- only to find that if they had waited, and tried the ruler method that they could have used 3 1/2” strips and been happier with the technique and the results.

How can I be a better teacher allowing people to think things through for themselves and choose the best option that works for them? This is something I worry about all the time.

There are evaluation sheets given to the students, filled out at the end of class in triplicate, and I receive my copy of each evaluation at the end of class. Of course, they are anonymous – and they can all be wonderful and praiseworthy and make me feel really good until I get to the ONE that says “Should have had better pre-cutting directions”.

But there are reasons why I didn’t?

So this is a thoughtful post this morning ----I realize that I have a long way to go to being the confident teacher that I would love to be ---

But at the same time I do believe I gave it my all – and we had a wonderful time and the quilts that are coming out of this class are going to be so great!

Today! MYSTERY CLASS!! So guess what?! There won’t be a lot of pictures because this one is appearing in Quiltmaker Magazine in the fall ---

We will still wave at you – there just won’t be a slide show to go with it ;c)

Have a super Saturday everyone!


  1. I've been following your blog for a while. Though I had the companion angle ruler before, I was never quite sure what to DO with it. Same with the tri-recs. Through doing your mysteries and making lots of the quilts in your books, I have become a ruler convert. I REALLY like the the directions in the mysteries and how they conversationally discuss the ruler usage while mentioning other options. I am always just a little disappointed when making a quilt from one of your books and when there aren't many ruler directions mentioned. I've become confident enough now that I can look at the regular directions and know how to use the rulers, but If I didn't understand the correlation and tried to cut it all from weird squares, it would be harder and not scrap user system friendly. For example, I just finished SMM and wished the directions mentioned the rulers more specifically. Because let's face it, templates are just silly these days.

    1. There isn't ROOM in a book to do all the ruler tutorials. It took til my 3rd book to even get Kansas CIty Star to let me include mention of them at all.

      You just can't include it ALL in a book ---- there aren't enough pages to hold everyone's hands all the way through everything, and I wish there was. There in lies my frustration --and I do try to show everything I can during mysteries and on the blog/website --but I can't in a book. My hands are tied.

      And the people are disappointed in my books that they don't read like the website.

    2. I buy all your books, but if there is a quilt on your site I want to do (also in the book) I always print THOSE directions and go from there. I love the explanations online far more than those concise ones in the book. Too bad there isn't a way to put a link in the book to a website that only those with the book could go to for "expanded" directions or something like that. LOL, maybe there is such a thing.
      I also teach (not quilting) and have learned that if the masses are happy I am doing fine. If there are a few complaints or negative comments I try to figure how to improve in that direction (as you are doing) but I don't let it make me feel too bad...you can't please all the people all of the time. In fact, I just saw something on fb that said something like you can be the juiciest, sweetest peach on the table and still there is someone who doesn't like peaches! Andee in AZ--your number one fan!

  2. Hi Bonnie,
    I have gone to having two cutting instructions that I send in the packet--basic cutting and advanced cutting--the advanced gives all the details of what the finished sizes of the units will be and the options that they will have to make these units.
    The basics are just that--my favorite way to make the units and what I will focus on in the class.
    I do take out a time to show the options for those interested.
    I make sure the basic and advanced are clearly marked as two options for class prep, However, some still come totally confused...

  3. by the way, for a confused bunch and complicated task, they sure came up with some lovely blocks!

  4. Bonnie, I've been a school teacher for over twenty years and the most important things I have learnt are.....Do the best you can do...Nobody can do more than that. Also, you can't please eveyone. As for teaching adults....everyone is at a different level of experience........There is one teacher to x number of students. People have to take responsibility for their own learning......ie if a ruler can be used in a class and you have one....find some tutorials and teach yourself how to use one beforehand.....Participants in the class do not have flip top heads, waiting for you to pour all knowledge in. From the number of blocks you show on your blog, you do a marvellous job, Bonnie, keep doing what you do!

  5. Hi Bonnie, First let me say I really like all the quilts you have made! Some are beginner, intermediate and others are for the advanced intermediate. And it is up to the person taking the class to determine where they fall in their comfort zone. Not every class is for everyone. Thought we all would like to think they are.
    So you might want to state what level of quiter would do best with the classes.
    As for the rulers, I think I have owned, at one time, every ruler made. And there si one thing I noticed way back, they ALL come with directions on how to use the ruler. If the owners do not read them and become fimuliar with them it is not your fault. Also I have saved all the directions for the rulers. I sure cannot remember things like I used to. (Age causes this).

    Don't let the one negative comment get you down. If this is the only one get, you are well into the best of the best teacher hall of fame.
    Remember you will never be able to please all the people all the time. So let the nay sayers go and get on with doing what you do and that is TEACH!!!
    Enjoy the rest of the time there.

  6. I'm with Sue tell them to get on you tube they have a tutorial for EVERYTHING !!!!you are there to show how to make the blocks not to give involved ruler instructions .....maybe you can include in the pre class instructions that these are the rulers & if you don't know how to use them here are some sites to visit & put some on there but you will never please everyone all the time..but also all the rulers come with instructions don't they ....

  7. Anonymous8:37 AM EDT

    Bonnie I have taken a class from you and you are an execellent teacher. Listen to your good reviews. And by the way using your free patterns are so easy to do, they are even better than classes I have taken from other teachers in the past. sue in fl

  8. Anonymous8:40 AM EDT

    I am so hoping you get into Burlington and then down to Lake Champlain. You would/will Love it.

    Love your blog.

  9. Anonymous8:55 AM EDT

    OK - got to chime in here. I've taken a class from you and cannot wait until you get to Nashville next year! You are a VERY patient instructor and thorough. I saw you explain things several ways until someone gets it. (Your mystery instructions are written the same way). While I appreciate the comments above, it is not your responsibility to provide directions for EVERY method there is in making patchwork. I have been to classes before where I have cut things incorrectly, or not read the directions thoroughly, and it's just not the teacher's fault. Sometimes, we just need to "lighten up" and enjoy the process. It's OK to say oops -wish I hadn't done that. Thanks Bonnie for your patience!
    Teresa in Tennessee

  10. Anonymous8:58 AM EDT

    Bonnie you are a fabulous teacher and you are very concerned that your students learn something from you. From past experience with other classes I have taken, you do a fabulous job. Everything is concise and clear. I have had a class that said precut your strips to 4.5 inches and bring them to class. after cutting up about 5 yards of fabrics to make the quilt, we get there and the teacher goes you messed up. they should be 4.25 wide. we show her the directions and she says oh, you should have gotten the revised listing. our quilt was a smaller version and we had to tweak measurements all the way through because of a typo. I still love the quilt but it was a struggle all the way through and never made the pattern again.
    Your directions are always clear and you always say "I do it this way" in case someone can find a better way than they are doing it now. that is a true great teacher! KUDOS to you!
    Dawn in MA

  11. Howdy Bonnie, I will be attending one of your workshops in mid-July (I can't wait!). In preparation for the class, I purchased the companion angle and easy angle rulers. For the fun of it, I decided I would do a couple of "test" cuts and sew test blocks just to see if I could figure it out on my own. If my test block was a disaster, than my plan was to simply wait until your workshop...complete with a zillion 2 1/2" strips of fabric and happily let you teach us how to use these "new fangled rulers". I'm proud to say that with only one bad cut (which I quickly recognized was incorrect), I figured it out like a big girl and was SO proud of myself! LOL I now feel confident in my ability to go ahead and pre-cut more of the pieces just so I can finish a few more completed blocks at the workshop. If I get there and you show me an easier way to do it with the remainder of my strips than GREAT...I'll just do the happy dance. Don't worry, you won't be hearing any complaints from me. :)

  12. Anonymous9:16 AM EDT

    Don't let one person's misdirected anger (angry at the instructions rather than angry that they misread or didn't understand) make you doubt your teaching. As an older quilter, I really enjoy learning to use all the new rulers and tools that are now available - think rotary cutter! I love your blog, keep doing what you are doing. You do it well.
    Paula in Texas

  13. Could you include in your class instructions: "The strips need to be cut prior to class. We will use special rulers to cut the strips the day of the class. You will need to bring "such and such" rulers with you."

    1. I think this is a great compromise. I am familiar with both TriRecs and EZ Angle and could easily cut all the pieces prior to the class. However, if I did that, would I sit in the class sewing away while everyone else got up to speed?

    2. I think this is a good idea. Even saying "cut 2-4 strips will yield 1-2 blocks in class" or whatever the numbers would be. Then if someone doesn't like this method they get the idea for making the block and can adapt it to their favorite method. Of course, an experience quilter knows this but may need to be reminded.

    3. Anonymous11:42 PM EDT

      I think all three of you are correct. Have them bring strips for 2-6 blocks depending on the length of the class, the rulers and remind them it's not a race, that there are more beginners than pros. Have fun, enjoy the fellowship and watch the magic begin.

  14. I can't wait until March 2013 when you come to our guild. Actually... I am joining this third guild just to take your workshop!

  15. Hey Girl
    From one Southern Belle (Bonnie) to another. You are a wonderful teacher and pattern writer. There will always be someone who wants more. You already give so much. Just keep doing what you are doing. Thanks for all the help you have given us thru the years.

  16. Hi Bonnie, although I've never taken a class from you, I speak from experience. People do NOT read instructions, they gaze through them and pick out what they know. I'm currently working on Carolina C. from you, and I've specifically chosen this pattern to increase my comfort level with the rulers, I'm not big on any gadgets or specialty rulers so making a big quilt with these rulers are improving my skills and expanding my knowledge. Having said this, I do like to pre cut before going to a class. Usually I'm taking a class to learn something new or get a different spin on a skill I already have, so I say, Pick a method, but add *many other ways to do this* notation, but stick to doing what you do best. Hey, you can't win them all! Have a great Saturday.

  17. Bonnie if you were not a fantastic teacher you would not be having this conversation and thoughts. Your web site is fantastic and have bought your books which I love. You always answer questions and take care of our concerns. Your concern is something all great teachers go through and I am sure you will learn from this too. People just need to go to your web site and read a few past tutorials before coming to class and before starting a quilt from your books until they have sewed with you. Love ya

  18. Anonymous12:58 PM EDT

    Well, all I can say is this - I've been quilting since Christmas following your blog and using your patterns and instructions, and at my first ever meeting with a quilt group last month, a lady called from the back, "When is she going to teach us?" It was show and tell and they were holding up your My Blue Heaven that I'd just completed in reds. I was so proud at the big round of applause as it was only my 5th quilt, but you taught me how to make that through your on-line instructions. Have no idea how anyone has the cheek to complain about anything to you!
    Thanks for everything, hope you have a good evening,


  19. I have not been fortunate enough to take one of your workshops yet, but hope to in the future! I have not made one of your quilts yet using a specialty ruler, I am working on "Star Gazing" now, because I thought it would be fairly easy. Next I plan to make "My Blue Heaven" and have already purchased the easy angle and companion angle rulers. I dont't expect to have any difficulty using them because of your excellent instructions with the pattern. Maybe an idea for a fifth book? Using specialty rulers? Love your quilts!!!

  20. Anonymous1:21 PM EDT

    Bonnie, you do a wonderful job with your directions. When I teach a class I always say "this is how I do this but there are many different ways of doing the same thing". There is not time in a class to teach all the techniques such as the many ways to make half square triangles. As a quilter it is my resposiblity to find the technique that works the best for myself. If we take a class or buy someone's book than we should be prepared to make things their way. As a side note my biggest complaint is when someone comes to a class ane expects me to show them how to use their machine!

  21. Bonnie, I took your class at Quilt Beginnings in Columbus and loved every minute of it. I told my friends there's a reason you've been voted Teacher of the Year the past two years, and your concern about this is another reason why you're such a good teacher! I found your demonstrations to be really good and I don't think you should change anything about them. I'm glad you've changed your class handout though. Since it didn't say not to cut out my fabric before the class, I thought I should since it is a complicated quilt (because of the rulers). As for the books, perhaps they could use an asterisk or a star to alert us to use the specialty rulers and direct us to your directions on how to use them. Please don't take this as a criticism, I know book space is limited, but publishers should at least attempt to listen to their authors. You're the woman on the street and you have a better feel for what's going on than those in an "ivory tower."

  22. Hi, Bonnie...loved your blog today. My guild retreat is in September and I got the instructions last week on what needs to be pre-cut and you know what? I'M NOT DOING IT. I hate to pre-cut fabric for a variety of reasons (1) I wait until last minute for fabric selection (2) when left to my own devices cutting 100's of anything I will cut them the wrong size (3) I can usually find an easier way to do it once I get there. Case in point -- I can tell from my retreat list (it's a mystery) that we're doing lots of triangles. I'm not cutting anything with "7/8" in the instructions...I use the easy angle thanks to you. So, I'll cut strips, but nothing smaller. When the class starts I'll be a little "behind" but so what? I'm not in a hurry. As long as I'm able to get a couple blocks completed before I go home I'll be happy. mdmontalvo@yahoo.com

  23. I've never taken a class from you, but hope to in 2013 when you are teaching classes for my guild. I will say that your instructions on the blog for your mystery quilts and free patterns are so clear and easy to follow that I can't imagine anyone getting mixed up before your classes. I like the suggestion above to say "I prefer this method and will be teaching it in this class. If you want to try this method, then pre-cut fabric as follows:" A class is not a race or competition to see how many blocks you can complete . . . it is to learn a pattern and method. I'd never cut up fabric for an entire quilt before I started piecing anyway. I just do not play that way.

  24. Bonnie, I've never taken a class from you but I've followed along with the mysteries and have done quilts from your website. Perhaps the unhappy member of your class has never done any of your quilts before and was unaware of your methods.
    As someone else said, you can't please everyone and you have to toss out the top marks and the bottom marks, and what is left are the honest responses.
    I enjoy reading about your travels and your classes and hope to one day be a member of one of your classes.
    Anna in IL

  25. You've mentioned the cutting/ruler issue before in your blog. I wonder if the negative comment comes from a newer quilter that doesn't fully understand what you're saying.
    When I first started quilting and taking classes we brought our uncut pieces of fabric to class with the rulers the teacher required. She then demoed how she wanted us to cut the fabric and how to use any special rulers. Now days we students want to jump start the class and bring everything cut and ready to sew.
    Normally when I take a class the instructor tells us the cutting method and rulers they want us to use...at least for the duration of the class. We can use whatever method we want after class to finish the quilt.
    I've spent money on specialty rulers for a class that I never use again. And I've spent money on specialty rulers that I love! I take classes to learn about different methods, rulers, ideas, etc. Sometimes a quilter isn't "flexible" and only wants to do it their way and I think they miss something with that attitude.
    Please know that the vast majority of us LOVE YOU! Don't let one comment get you down. (someday I'll be in one of your classes...it's on my bucket list!)

  26. Some participants wouldn't be happy if you cut it and sewed it for them. Sounds like you are doing a good job and explaining things the best you can. I wouldn't let it bother you.


  27. Anonymous8:59 AM EDT

    When someone spends all morning/day doing something and it ends up wrong because they did not listen, watch, read, ask questions, more than likely they are looking for someone to blame. And it isn't going to be them. One teacher can only do so much. You can only describe, and demonstrate so many times. It really is up to the student to sharpen her skills before she gets to you. These workshops are months/years in advance. These people can read, watch youtube and prepare. I would. I know these comments must hurt, but try and remember the many more who loved the class and got it!
    I love the web instructions, but the book ones are just different. Now, I know why. Again, you have rules to follow. I appreciate your time and creativity developing these quilt patterns. No complaints here.
    Judi butzij@cinci.rr.com

  28. I'm not much of a pre-cutter. I like to do a few blocks, see how they go, see if there is a better way to do things, see if I want to change anything before I go and cut everything. Even after I decide how I want to do things, I don't cut everything at once. Cutting is boring to me, and the longer I do it the sloppier I get. I cut some, sew some, iron some, cut some... It is not the most effiecient method, but I'm not usually in a hurry. Quilting is not a race to me.

    I think the person with the pre-cutting comment has a more rigid quilting style than I do. Not better, not worse, just different from mine.

  29. Hey Bonnie, I love your patterns and I'm sure your teaching is just as great. I was wondering if the publisher would allow you to refer to the tutes in the books? You could also do that with your class materials also. "Go to yada yada for a Tutorial on using this ruler".
    Just a thought.

  30. As a member of the Smith Mountain Morning class at VQF, I'm so sorry that one person had to spoil Bonnie's day. I had a great time and really enjoyed myself. Bonnie is so warm, encouraging and patient!! It was so nice to meet her and discover that she is just as friendly in person as she comes across on this blog.

  31. Anonymous3:53 PM EDT

    Years ago we had a Thimbleberry club at a now gone quilt shop. For 1 year I made it my challenge to cut all the blocks using the easy angle and companion angle or tri-recs rulers. It was a personal goal to become familiar with the speciality rulers and I now translate all patterns to be cut with the rulers. None of the patterns that year featured the new rulers, so I had to read the instructions that came with them and figure them out. (This was waaay before I discovered how much instruction can be found on the internet.) Bev (kwiltpharm@aol.com)

  32. Bonnie, Teacher of the Year twice. I understand giving too many options confuses students. You keep doing the best you can do no one can do any more than that.


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