Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What Did I Learn?

I always tell people that I learn so much from the students I teach, and they don't always get it. Sometimes it's as simple as this:

These bed risers underneath a work table to make it easier to work on.

My friend Mary, a former schoolteacher, sent me this email last night:

Hi Lynne,
How did it go?  I'm assuming you've been evaluating the experience...what went well, what you'd change, if anything, etc.  
Did anyone approach you with a new idea...perhaps something you'd never considered doing...a new adventure?
I'm going to be interested in how you like your new Elna.

 After typing my reply for about half an hour it occurred to me that you all might like to know just what I did learn. So here it is:

Hi Mary,
Well, the biggest thing I learned was that I had to find a better way of carting my stuff back and forth. When I was in St Louis with Julie and she had this nifty little folding cart. So I have to get (and in fact have already ordered) one of them.

With all this packing and unpacking of my tools every time I teach a class, I finally got smart and decided to get extras of all my nifty tools and keep them packed and ready, so I ordered those from Amazon. (Rotary cutter, spare blades, various rulers, blue painter's tape, seam ripper, pins... stuff like that.)
The room was a typical conference room. It was smallish with a sewing machine and about twelve inches of desk space for each user. Not much. I like to have a central place where the students can work on the bird legs and I can give demos.  The  Center of NH set up a worktable for me just outside the room. I had brought a cutting mat and big ruler, so we used that.

I am so accustomed to classes providing ironing boards it never occurred to me to ask for one. There were two outside the room, but the irons weren't hot and there were always lines. So one of the things I bought at the show was a portable ironing board for the students to press the bird legs. I probably should have bought one that sits on a table, but I got one that has legs and can stand by itself.  Anyway, problem solved.

I love steam irons. So I try to have an extra one on hand. The one I have been using just died, so I pulled out it's trusty twin and didn't miss a beat. So I just ordered two more. One to keep as a spare (kinda line a spare sewing machine) and the other to go in my [new] travel kit, which is my least favorite suitcase on wheels.

When I was at the Bedford Quilt Guild, they put a table up on bed risers and OMG!!! Was it awesome to work on. So I ordered a set of those for my trusty travel kit.
And oh yes... luggage tags to identify what bag, cart, quilt stand is MINE!

I will make a portable design wall. I am so used to being at Quilted Threads where I have a place to pin stuff up, but I need something to show everybody... So I will get a piece of foam core and make a small design wall (18 x 24", same size as a cutting mat I bring to my classes now.) Of course I will order another one of those some time. I will wait until JoAnn's has a sale because I hate paying full price for anything if I can get it on sale. I'd get a portable easel, but places like the Center of NH often have those for the asking. I'll see how that goes. I don't really need to lug more stuff around.

An inexpensive portfolio for carrying artwork will carry my mat and portable design wall very easily.  It will also be a good place to store that extra 6-1/2" x 24" ruler I need to bring to classes. 

I usually keep a ruler in one back pants pocket and a rotary cutter in the other. My cell phone lives in my front pocket. I use it for taking pictures. I'm always putting something down and then walking away. It happened so many times that the students told me I should get an apron with pockets. Damn! Why didn't I think of it? I can make one of those... and OH, can I have some fun with THAT!!!

In a big class (like one with 20 students) it's easy for students to miss out on part of a demo. Very often students sew the head triangle to the bird the wrong way (they sew the long side of the HST to the body. Wrong, wrong, wrong.) I often have examples pinned up on a wall for reference, but this class didn't have walls for that and I didn't have a portable design wall. So I need to make samples, but they need to be BIG, so I students can just look up and see the CORRECT way to sew these pieces together.  So that's something I have to do.

Years ago Julie told me to make a bunch of birds and hand them out to each student before they get to work on their own birds. They can't keep them, but they can turn them over and see how I put them together, how I pressed them, etc. Several students told me this was VERY helpful, especially if I was across the room.

This tip I learned a long time ago. It's almost simplistic, but when I park my car in a parking garage, I always take a picture of the nearest location sign. After a long and stressful day of teaching, I can barely figure out what to do next, let alone remember where I put the car. Something like this helps me remember and keeps me from losing my cookies while dragging stuff all over hell just to find my car.

Another tip: Decide where I am going to treat myself for dinner after class BEFORE I leave in the morning. Along with trying to remember where I parked the car, knowing I won't have to go home and make dinner (translation: macaroni and cheese out of a box, eaten with a soup spoon directly from the pan as I sack out on the couch...) but still get a good meal really works wonders. Sometimes it's fish tacos from Shorty's, sometimes it's pizza at 900 Degrees, sometimes it's a steak and cheese sub at Nadeau's or fish and chips at Daniel's. Sometimes it's pasta at Johnny Troy's and sometimes it's a steak at Longhorn, the deal is, I don't cook. It's amazing how a good meal rejuvenates me.

So that's it Mary. This class taught me about working in a tight space, and lugging my stuff long distances and how to avoid making several long trips to the parking garage and packing my things better.


Just Ducky said...

HA! love the quilting without a net.

Your apron. Make it like a construction worker toolbelt. You have lots of little pockets, you can adjust the size for phone, ruler, cutter, etc. For whatever you want to hold.


Quiltdivajulie said...

Excellent!!!!! Love the traveling suitcase plan (DH had one of those in the trunk of his car aka the office on wheels - including a power strip and array of charging cables for his devices.). I need to look for one of those portfolios for my large flat items -- thanks for that idea!. And I have one of those aprons -a simple one but it keeps me from losing stuff.

The Selvage Fairy said...

A custom-made apron is a life-saver. I used to have a job (I think you know the place) where I ran around the factory floor all night. My apron held a tape dispenser, notepad that was just big enough I could tuck the 3x5 cards that were part of the process into for safe-keeping, marker and highlighter, four color pen, tape measure, calculator, knife, and scissors (those last two pockets were leather lined). And a velcro closure so it always fit, no matter what.

Wendy said...

A quilting workshop I attend regularly uses the bed risers under the layout tables. They are back-savers for sure!

karen said...

Love that ironing table! So glad you provided a link. Standard boards are never wide enough for pressing quilt tops.

Shasta Matova said...

I think the ironing table with legs is a great idea. You never know when you will have limited table space, and this will avoid that problem.

Judy in Michigan said...

Excellent ideas!! Can't wait to see your new apron!

Mary Howland said...

Great ideas for us workshop particpants to use, too. Please show the carrier once it arrives. I have one which is like a big box on wheels plus it has a collapsible handle. Also, I love my sewing machine suitcase. It rolls so easily and turns easily. It was expensive but has been worth it! Thanks.

Mari said...

As my colleagues and I constantly say in wonder-- we learn by teaching! Good ideas!

Havplenty said...

Great ideas and suggestions to make your traveling/teaching life a bit more convenient for you.

Tammy Hutchinson said...

Love the ironing board and will order the studio size today! That you! I also really like the idea of blocks to pass around-perfect tip. Thank you for reflecting. :)

vickiroma said...

I loved this post! And I have one of those ironing boards, and they are the BEST...so well made!! I use mine constantly, and have a smaller travel one for classes...because I hate standing in line to press. I can't wait to see what you do with the apron idea...that is brilliant! May I ask which iron you are using? I'm looking for a new one. Thank you!

co coya said...

A quilting workshop I attend regularly uses the bed risers under the layout tables. They are back-savers for sure!

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Cindy Beal said...

First of all, I envy all those who get to take a class with you!
I bought bed risers for myself & my guild years ago - backsavers! I too keep a to-go bag packed as we try to go on a retreat every few months to my beautiful NC mtns! I quickly learned it was easier to acquire duplicates of my fav tools and leave them packed. Otherwise, I will forget something.