The joy of teaching

I had an “Aha!” moment yesterday – one of those days when you say to yourself, “Yes! I know exactly why I am doing this”. I was teaching my patchwork group how to stitch the selvage strips I showed you in my last post. From a teaching point of view, this is not a technically difficult project to teach. The skills needed are pretty simple and it really is all about having fun.

I always try to make my students feel like there is “no right or wrong way” to do something. Sure, there may well be an easier or more efficient way to do something. And of course, there is often a traditional way to do something. But no single method is “right” or “wrong”. If it enables you, the crafter, to produce an item which gives you pleasure then whatever method you chose was “fit for purpose”.

For most people, patchwork and embroidery are leisure pastimes that should be a fun and creative outlet. To my mind, weighing down the process with notions of “Am I doing this right?” tends to kill creativity rather than enlivening it. So, I try very hard in my classes to say, “This is how I do it, but by all means give your method a try if you think it will work better for you.”

Teaching selvages is great for this because the process is naturally so free. Choose a bunch of selvage strips – all one colour family (all reds maybe?), or coordinate a set of colours (reds and greens with a dash of yellow perhaps) or just grab a selection and see what happens (the rainbow or scrappy effect). Overlay the strips onto a backing fabric and wadding sandwich, and stitch down such that the selvage edge of one strip encloses the raw edge of the next strip. Continue for as many strips as you need to cover your block. Stitching not quite straight?  No problem. You will still end up with a beautifully interesting block ready to be used in a myriad of different ways.

So yesterday was always going to be fun because I love teaching projects where I can really encourage my students to relax and just enjoy the process. The “Aha!” happened when one of my students quietly took everything off in her own direction. She was overlaying the strips on her wadding/backing fabric sandwich just as I had suggested, but instead of using a simple straight stitch to sew down the selvage strips, she decided to use a variety of decorative machine stitches. The effect was superb! Sort of crazy machine patchwork meets selvages. I absolutely loved it.

But I loved even more that it just completely reinforced that teaching is always a two-way street. Every time I teach, I learn something from my students. It is humbling and rewarding at the same time. So much effort goes into preparing notes, sourcing materials, packing everything up and then setting up at the venue….but this is all so worthwhile when you have the privilege of witnessing someone else’s joy in learning something new, or their own creativity getting to work and taking your ideas in a completely new direction.

Image sourced from http://www/edudemic.com

Image sourced from http://www.edudemic.com

So this is why I do what I do… for the sheer joy of teaching and sharing my passion.

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