Setting Solutions Class Plan

by Sharyn Craig

There are many ways to structure a class based on Setting Solutions. When I teach the workshop I bill it as "Independent Study with Guidance." The class is structured for the quilter who has blocks not yet set into quilt tops and who needs some assistance in addressing the issues and problems. Many times quilters don't even know why they haven't been able to get the blocks together into a quilt. They may know that they aren't happy with the blocks, but not be sure how to proceed. It is going to take a teacher who is confident in her knowledge of quilt basics, including but not limited to drafting, color, cutting and piecing techniques, and problem solving. Being able to handle this workshop takes someone who is capable of teaching a number of different quilters a number of different things, simultaneously.

My favorite format for this workshop is a retreat-like atmosphere with multiple days spent working together on various quilts. A workable amount of time would be 2-1/2 days. (Even better is 4 full days, but work within what is reasonable and realistic at your shop.) Perhaps you could start on a Friday evening with a 3-hour introduction, followed by all day Saturday and Sunday. It might be fun for students to do a potluck salad luncheon each day, and even send out for pizza Saturday evening. Encouraging students to stay and work into the early evening can be very rewarding, for both the students and the teachers. This is a class that's nice to be able to focus on, walk away from, then come back after a short period of time (like lunch?) refreshed, and often with a new idea.

Textbook: Setting Solutions by
Sharyn Craig
Quilt blocks, any size or color (can be blocks they've made themselves, were given, won, bought, whatever)
Fabric - lots of it!
Flannel for design wall
Rotary cutter, mat, rulers
Template plastic (optional)
1/8" grid graph paper (optional)
Sewing machine and basic sewing supplies

This is the time for students to set up their work stations and flannel walls. (Establishing boundaries and parameters.)

I recommend beginning with a discussion about the problem-solution concept. Address the basic problems of size, color, and orphans. Talk about the 3 basic ways to fix size: cut down, add to, and remake. Go into more detail on the "add to" concept (coping triangles and strips) (chapter 2). Then have a discussion about color as presented in chapter 3. Next, spend some time discussing negative visibility, accent, and power bars. Finally, go over the definition of orphans and some suggestions for dealing with odd numbers of blocks (chapter 7). This is a good time to show some of your own quilts that use some of these solutions.

Next have students place the blocks they brought on the flannel wall. If they brought more than one set of blocks, encourage them to select one to begin with but to keep the others out, so teacher can get a feel for what raw materials are available.

Go around to each student and ask these questions:
1. "What do you see as the problems facing you with these blocks?"
2. "What goal do you have in mind for these blocks?"

They need to be able to put these two things into words before they can proceed. Tell them to make up answers if they honestly don't know. It is important that they actually say the thoughts out loud. It isn't necessary to solve any problems that night, but it is important to get an overall feel for what's available and what's expected. Encourage interaction among the students. Often it is easier to help someone else than it is to solve your own problems. Make sure every student knows that it is okay to help, but the person who owns the blocks must make the final decisions.

This is a good place to break for the day. Send them home to sleep on it. Encourage them to bring other blocks and fabric from home when they come back.

DAYS 2 & 3
One nice way to start is with everyone flipping through Setting Solutions looking for a quilt that they like, either layout or color-wise. Another good way to proceed is by auditioning fabric on the flannel wall with the blocks. Encourage input from others. Discuss sashed sets as a way to begin thinking how the color might be used. If size is an issue (and it almost always is) spend more time with coping strips and triangles.

Encourage students to begin cutting and sewing the minute they are ready. Keep moving around the classroom, getting people to talk about what they're thinking. Let ideas pop out and build from person to person. Involve particular lessons from Setting Solutions where appropriate.

Your job now is facilitator. Get them working on their projects. Circulate. Ask questions. Answer needs, but get them to create their own quilts.

By the end of Day 3 try to spend some time evaluating the experience with the students. What did they learn? What might they want to try next time? Are they still confused about anything?

Much of the success of this class is going to rely on the teacher's ability to think on her feet. You don't have to have all the answers at once, but show the students you're thinking about their problem. Maybe throw out a suggestion or two, but then say, let me think on this for a bit. Often when you walk away and are helping someone else the answer is going to pop into your head.

At the conclusion of the workshop plan a reunion 4-6 weeks in the future. This will encourage them to finish their tops and perhaps start others, which they can then bring to the workshop for suggestions and critiquing. Punch and cookies will be a definite hit along with their quilts!