Bella Bella Quilts Class Plan

by Norah McMeeking

Suggested Class Title: "Sweet Sampler"

Class Description
In this four-week class, beginning and intermediate level quilters will learn the basics of patchwork using contemporary methods and a sewing machine.

Instructor Supply List

  • Bella Bella Quilts by Norah McMeeking
  • Photocopy diagrams on Pullout C, 2 or 3 per student.
  • In advance of the class, color enlarged examples of each block and show how the color placement can be varied.
  • Make examples in paper or fabric for each sampler block.

The instructor should photocopy the foundations she requires from Pullout C, at the back of the book. If the teacher is going to make the quilt top herself, she should buy fabric as called for in the project instructions on pp. 21-24 of Bella Bella Quilts.

Student Supply List

  • Bella Bella Quilts by Norah McMeeking
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • Freezer paper
  • Sheet of fine sandpaper
  • Marking pencils
  • Rotary cutting supplies
  • Monofilament thread
  • Neutral cotton thread and fabrics as called for on pp. 21-24 of Bella Bella Quilts.

NOTE: Each block has information on fabrics required to make that block as shown in the master quilt. The instructor should use that information to assist each student in estimating yardage for a unique design. Students could also be advised to simply buy an assortment of 1/2 yards or "fat quarters" and choose as they sew. I would recommend the latter plan for beginners, so they feel they have flexibility.

Step-by-Step Teaching Instructions

Week 1: Quilting Basics
Working with the diagrams, have a discussion about the role of value in quilt design. Discuss various "strategies" for choosing a fabric palette, using fabrics in the shop. Help the students choose a fabric palette for their quilt, emphasizing the "scrappy" nature of the floors on which the designs are based. Explain that "the more, the merrier" their fabric choices, the easier it will be to make a beautiful quilt. Suggest they buy several "fat eighths" to coordinate with their "main" fabric choices. For example, point out that they could choose many similar value light/or dark fabrics, as I did for the quilt on page 20. On page 14, point out that Nancy Miller's quilt uses a few theme fabrics, but many, many bright scraps in the small triangles in the yellow patchwork "corners."

Show the class the basic tools (rotary cutter, ruler, mat). Do a basic cutting demonstration with a rotary cutter and quilter's ruler.

NOTE: If you don't wish to use foundation piecing methods, use the diagrams on Pullout C (which are finished sizes) to obtain measurements for traditional patchwork piecing and cutting. In this case, the book will serve for design source and assembly instructions.

Optional: Demonstrate the difference between foundation piecing and "normal piecing" using the Flying Geese Block. Cut quarter-square triangles from a 4-1/4" square and half-square triangles from four 2-3/8" squares. Demonstrate the difference in grain line placement that results from these two triangles. Sew the blocks together, discussing "dog ears", bias edges and how to match the points when you join the units.

Now cut oversized patches using the measurements on page 22 for the Flying Geese blocks. Be sure to point out that these are intentionally oversized patches. Cut enough to make one strip of geese, using a copy of the diagram on Pullout C. Demonstrate foundation piecing, referring to pages 12-13 in the General Instructions section of Bella Bella Quilts.

Students should make their own photocopies of the foundations for their quilt. Point out that they can "mix and match" the sections depending on their individual tastes. For example, they could use Square-in-a-Square blocks in the center area and use the X-Block in a side section. Have students make enough copies for all the foundations required for their design.

Send students home to color test, launder and iron their new fabrics. Have them cut and sew 6 strips of Flying Geese blocks to bring to the next class. Tell them not to sew the strips together!

Week 2: Joining Units, Accurate Seams, Pressing
Demonstrate how to achieve an accurate 1/4" seam allowance (special sewing machine foot, needle position adjustment, taped mark). Show students how to sew a basic seam (no backstitching, etc.) and have each one cut two squares and sew them together with an accurate seam allowance. Check each student's work.

Have students "show and tell" with their Geese. Using their strips, demonstrate how the blocks might be used in a traditional quilt (i.e.: longs rows of Geese set with sashing, diagonally as if the strips were sashing, etc.)

Have the students use their rulers, cutters, and mats to trim the seam allowance on their foundation strips to 1/4". Remove the foundations.

Show students how to join rows of geese together. Point out that by alternating the direction the geese "point," they'll distribute the seam allowances on both sides of the match. Demonstrate accurate pinning as shown on p. 15 of Bella Bella Quilts. Stitch seams and press the seam allowances open.

Review the cutting instructions for the remaining blocks in the quilt (Cosmati Triangles, Square-in-a-Square, X-Block and diagonally set Diamond-in-a-Square).

Review cutting and foundation piecing with the X-Block, as it is the most difficult. Point out the two parts of the foundation. Show that the design can be simplified by eliminating the square (1a). This will make the block from a single foundation and will require cutting a larger triangle (half-square triangles cut from 2-3/4" squares) to replace 1a, 2a, and 3a. Point out the tip on page 22 for pressing and assembling the units.

Allow students to work in class, helping them with color choices and any questions they might have.

The students will need to finish 5 sections of patchwork for the next class.

Week 3: Bands and Assembly of Center of the Quilt
Demonstrate how to cut accurate, straight strips using the rotary cutter, ruler and mat. Cut the strips required for Bands A, B, and C (p.24) and lay the units out on a table. It might be helpful to use some of the students' units for this too, enjoying the different effects created.

Demonstrate how to mark matching points along the bands, using the finished size to mark where each major block seam should fall (i.e.: every 3" for Flying Geese, every 2-1/4" for Diamond-in-a-Square, as shown on p. 7.) Point out the 1/4" seam allowance at the beginning and end of each strip. Refer to the diagram on p. 24 for the assembly sequence of the patchwork and bands.

For homework, the students should assemble the center unit only (leaving Triangle G cutting for the final class).

Week 4: Machine Appliqué and Final Assembly
Use the cutting mat and rulers to demonstrate how to cut oversized squares and divide then into half-square triangles for Triangle G.

Mark the center of the long side of Triangle G with a crease. Do the same with the Band A centers. Match the two together and stitch, taking care not to stretch the bias edge (see p. 24). Use a long quilter's ruler to trim the excess from Square F (shown on p. 25).

Demonstrate use of a compass to draw circles for templates as described on p. 24. Be sure to advise students to cut the templates carefully. Glue the seam allowance of each circle to the back of its template as described on p. 18. Use a pin to match the centers of the large and small circles and glue baste the smaller circles into position on the larger ones. Using machine appliqué as described on p. 17, appliqué the circles together.

Demonstrate how to measure and mark the position of the roundels on Triangle G, referring to the diagram and instructions on p. 25. Glue baste the roundels into position. If necessary, have students iron freezer paper behind each roundel to stabilize it and appliqué in place. Demonstrate how to cut out bottom layers and remove the freezer paper templates. TIP:I bring several small paintbrushes to class for students to use during this step.

Finally, demonstrate how to cut the long outside bands. Pin to the center and attach with a 1/4" seam to complete the quilt top.

Shop Marketing Opportunities

  • Have a contest!
    Create a fabric challenge and require students to use one (or perhaps choose from 2 or 3) of the quilts in the book to design their contest quilt. The shop owner could add a couple of accent fabrics to the challenge fabric, or just let the contestants add fabrics as they wish. It's amazing to see how many designs can be generated from one basic layout.
  • Book the Trunk Show!
    Generate excitement for classes when you show how fabulous the completed Bella Bella projects are!

Shops Could Also Sell:

  • A good selection of monofilament threads
  • Batik fabrics - these are good for beginners for the foundation pieced projects as they have no "right" side.
  • The usual quilter's rulers (I prefer Omni-grid rulers)
  • "Yardstick-style" compass (I think Omni-grid makes the points for these now) for drawing circles, other types of compasses or rulers that can draw larger circles (C-Thru rulers, etc.)
  • Roxanne's Basting Glue
  • Glue sticks
  • Freezer paper
  • Sheets of fine sandpaper