Piecing: Expanding the Basics Class Plan

by Ruth B. McDowell

Piecing: Expanding the Basics is designed to assist your experienced quilt students to discover new, exciting, and challenging skills. Part One, Technical Skills, can be formatted as a series of exercises for use by an individual, or with a group, or with a teacher to master advanced techniques. It also suggests a different way of approaching the process of patchwork which will be extremely helpful in developing designs. Part Two, Designing Original Piecing, can be formatted as a second series of classes. It applies what was learned in Part One to the design process. The material in this book is planned for the student who has mastered basic patchwork skills and quilt-in-a-day projects, and is searching for new territory to explore.

Plan a short series of classes. (Refer to pages 64-65.) The number of classes would be gauged according to the skill levels of the students.

Kits could be prepared by the instructor, or students could bring supplies for each exercise.

Lead the students through the exercises in curved seam piecing (pages 12-19); inset corners (pages 20-32); and piecing puzzles (pages 33-35). Then introduce the concept of y seams and Y seams (pages 36-41). Use traditional blocks that they are already familiar with as examples. Make class samples using simple color schemes of Four Patch, Broken Dishes, and Pinwheel blocks to show how moving diagonals away from the corners simplifies sewing and adds movement (pages 42-45).

Exercises in linear elements begins with narrow templates (pages 46-47). Demonstrate how the direction in which seams are pressed makes a visual impact. Refresh their skills of sew-and-flip methods to make very narrow linear elements (page 49). Make class samples of the other possibilities on page 50. Have the students experiment with each technique, perhaps following the small tree format (page 48), and ending with the "invisible trees" (pages 51-54).

Using the Four Patch, Broken Dishes, and Pinwheel class samples, introduce the concept of slipped intersections as a design tool (pages 55-57). They'll be delighted to experiment with slipped intersections for their different visual effects after having spent time mastering precisely pieced Four Patches. Using a very simple color scheme, prepare class samples of both simple landscapes and discuss the visual differences between them (pages 58-63).

Encourage the students to explore what they've learned by applying some of these techniques to traditional quilt blocks, or by making both types of simple landscapes of their own, or by inventing simple blocks of their own. Display everyone's effort and talk about what you see happening in each one. Avoid competition and judgments. Focus on what you can learn from each example.

A second series of classes can be prepared from the materials in Part Two, Designing Original Piecing, by introducing the simple leaf. Make class samples of many of its varieties. Demonstrate the process of making progressively simpler leaf blocks working from an outline, and working from a skeleton. Refer to pages 66-76.

A leaf is a convenient way to explore this process without intimidating students who have not had much experience drawing or designing. As a class exercise, collect different leaves, trace their outlines and veins, then enlarge them on a copy machine to at least 8". Have each student select one enlarged tracing and develop a series of progressively simpler piecing schemes. Show each series, and talk about the differences. As a final project, have each student make one design in fabric.


From these beginnings, Piecing: Expanding the Basics will lead you on to many other advanced classes. Try a class in tessellations, from a geometric point of view or from the process described in the Radish quilt (pages 77-83). Plan a series of classes in radial patterns like the St. Johnswort variations (pages 92-111), or in Log Cabin patterns like the Three Grizzly Bears (pages 112-117). Or jump off into Landscapes (pages 118-144).