Fantastic Fans Class Plan

by Alice Dunsdon

Notes to Instructors & Shop Owners
Sell the book Fantastic Fansto students at time of class registration if they do not already have a copy of their own. The book is a requirement, as students will be using patterns from it. Be sure to have plenty of fabric suitable for fussy-cutting in your shop. Include the cost of backing fabric in the class fee, as you will be choosing it and handing it out in class. Include options for fan patterns with the class supply list. Recommend that students use fan patterns #6, 9, 10, or 11 instead of #1 if they prefer. For the faint of heart, try patterns #2, 4, or 6 (see page 58). The blades of these fans have spaces between them in case matching is a concern.

Display samples of fans #1, 6, 9, 10, and 11 in your shop using a variety of fussy-cut fabrics. Leave freezer paper and all basting stitches in the samples. This allows students to see how the finished product should look.

Class Description: Electric Fan Pillow
Learn Alice Dunsdon's magical ways with clever "fussy" cutting, beautiful hand applique, and no-mark quilting designs. 3-4 half-day or 2 full-day sessions.


  • Required textbook: Fantastic Fans by Alice Dunsdon
  • Iron and ironing surface
  • Sewing machine in good working order
  • Rotary cutter, ruler, and mat
  • Basic sewing supplies including applique and quilting needles, thimble, and straight pins; pencil to trace pattern
  • 1 sheet of see-though plastic template material with 8-to-the-inch grid
  • 14.5" circle of freezer paper
  • 14" pillow form
  • Small quilting frame (optional)
  • Tiger Tape (optional)
  • Fabric (to be purchased during first session)

In the Classroom:
Have students bring the textbook to each class session.


  1. Discuss the concept of fussy cutting. Having a sheet of paper with one fan blade cut from its center will help clarify how to isolate designs from the fabric. Demonstrate this by positioning the paper over several different motifs on the same piece of fabric. The paper surrounding the cut-out will block out what they do not need to see. Use a bolt of fabric from the shop for this.
  2. Show them the sample fans and discuss what was done.
  3. Explain how to count repeats. Have students select their fan pattern and make one blade template with no seam allowances. Each student using a different fan pattern will introduce the opportunity for more discussion as they encounter different problems and challenges. They will learn from each other.
  4. Turn them loose in the shop with their imagination cranked up and ready to go. Be available for advice as they shop. Once they have selected their fan fabric, they will need other fabrics to complete the project. (See book for amounts.) They will also need matching threads.
  5. Have them use their freezer paper circle to cut out the circle background that goes behind the fan. Then they can use this same circle for tracing their fan pattern. (See instructions, pages 8-9.) Notice the TIP on page 8 which explains the use of the cut-away part of the circle as a positioning guide later. This is a great help in getting the arms positioned right.
  6. Do not neglect the instructions for machine basting the freezer paper templates after they have been pressed to the fabric (page 9). This is essential to the success of this method for those who have never tried it. It will avoid "pop-off," frustration, annoyance, and eventual defeat. This method produces too good a final product to have anyone giving up on it. Should the freezer paper come loose while working with it, stop and re-press in place.
  7. This session can end with them having their turn-under allowances basted and ready to assemble. If not, they can finish this part at the next session.
  8. If there is time, have show and tell. The more interaction you can encourage, the more likely they are to start another project.

This is applique time. All the hard work is behind them. This session will be stress-free.

  1. Discuss geometric fabrics and quilting without marking. If the shop has the trunk show quilts on display, call attention to them and observe how the quilting was done.
  2. Have geometric fabric squares (24" x 24") to hand out for backing. Since students likely will have no experience with this technique, the simplest design for them will be to do cross-hatching in the circle behind the fan and parallel lines in the background surrounding the circle. These two exercises will be done from the back.
  3. You might also suggest that some of the students might like to try echo quilting in the circle around the fan instead of cross-hatching. This echo quilting could be done from the front. Then they could go to the back side to do their parallel lines in the rest of the background. Just another way to develop variety in what each is doing.
  4. For the hand-out geometric, choose a fabric that has straight lines on the bias in two directions. Pin-dot fabrics would also work or any intermittent design that shows imaginary straight lines that can be followed easily.
  5. If you can find a variety of fabrics that would achieve the same results all the better. They will have more opportunity for discussion at show-and-tell time.
  6. The safest color to choose would be light since you will not know what fabrics the students will choose for their pillow fronts.
  7. Show and tell, if time allows.

Homework: Layer the top, batting, and backing. Baste. Bring back to session 3 ready for quilting.

Refer to page 12 for instructions concerning outline quilting around the fan and circle. For those who choose echo quilting around the fan, do this now from the front. For those who will do cross-hatching in the circle, turn to the back side and work from there.

Now for the parallel lines in the remaining area. This will also be done from the back. See first photo on page 12 of book and quilt four diagonal lines from the circle out to each of the four corners. After this is completed, it is just a matter of filling in the sides with lines parallel to these diagonals.

SESSION 4 (optional)
Construct pillow. Discuss doing another project from the book. They could do it on their own or in another class.