Taking a Quilt Class: Paying Attention, Letting Go and a Giveaway

I enjoy being on the other side of the table and learning new skills that I can add to my toolbox for future projects. Every so often I am fortunate enough to take a class from one of the many talented quilt teachers offering instruction these days.

Little did I know when I signed up to take Lura Schwarz Smith’s five-day class, Imagery and Imagination: Inks, Paints, Pencils and Fun, at the Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar in California, that there would be many more unexpected and valuable lessons awaiting me.


In preparation for class, I was asked to bring either a portrait of a person or pet. I chose this sweet image of my adorable great nephew Eli. Thinking I would be piecing and appliqueing, I purchased a variety of flesh-colored fabrics, as well as stripes and other textural fabrics to use for his hair.


The first morning of class was spent working through a series of helpful lessons in perspective drawing and shading.  I calmly completed the lessons, determined to soak up as much as I could. Next Lura walked us step-by-step through an exercise that would lead to drawing a face. I have never taken any formal art classes and can’t remember the last time I tried drawing faces–probably around third grade or so. This was quite a stretch for me, and definitely a humbling experience; we all laughed a lot at seeing our finished faces. I just can’t take these things too seriously. With Lura’s excellent instruction, patience and gentle encouragement, every student successfully accomplished the lesson. I was impressed at how well we all did.

Don't these look like fun?

Don’t these look like fun?

Next Lura demonstrated how to use the variety of inks, pens, pencils, and markers that she brought for us to experiment with. Again, this felt like being back in grade school. It was so much fun.

The next step was to trace the main lines onto a piece of transparency. This was the first step before transferring the image onto fabric.

The first step is to mark the main lines onto transparency.

The first step is to mark the main lines onto transparency.

After I transferred Eli’s shape onto my background fabric, I innocently asked Lura which techniques she preferred for appliqueing fabric pieces onto the background. She calmly replied that no applique was necessary. We would ONLY be using the paints, inks, pencils, and so on for our projects. Why did I think I would be piecing and appliqueing? Did I not accurately read the class description? Oh my goodness! I can still feel the anxiety coursing through my body at the thought of stepping way out of my comfort zone. What was I going to do? This was Day 1 and I’m feeling “Yikes! I don’t/can’t paint or draw. I have no experience with this. How am I ever going to get through the next four days?”

I was silent and dumbfounded. I remember leaving the classroom and returning to my room in an effort to calm my nerves. I had a choice to make and decided to let go of all the unrealistic expectations.

I returned the next morning with a good attitude and willingness to give this my best shot. After a few hours of playing with inks and colored pens I was pleasantly surprised to feel how relaxing and enjoyable the process had become. I worked slowly for several days, watching the evolution of my piece. Certainly it has more work to be done, but I must say I am quite pleased with the results, especially since this was brand new to me.

Enough rambling for now. Here’s what I accomplished by the end of the class. So what do you think? Not so bad for beginner. Lura has inspired me to purchase a sketchbook and try my hand at drawing. The possibilities are endless and I’m excited to do more.


Being primarily a traditional quiltmaker, I had decided that if I ever wanted to take a step into the art quilt world, I would like Lura to guide me. She is truly one of the most patient, kind, encouraging, inspirational, gentle (you understand what I am saying!) teacher I have ever had.

Please visit Lura’s website to see her beautiful work, as well as the Gallery of student work she has included. (Jennifer featured Lura in a past post here.) She travels extensively, so be sure to check out her teaching schedule. If you ever have the opportunity, I encourage you to take one of her classes. I promise you will love it and may even open up many doors to new forms of creativity.

Here is just a sampling of her work to whet your appetites.

Seams A Lot Like Degas by Lura Schwarz Smith

Seams A Lot Like Degas by Lura Schwarz Smith

Dancing Peace by Lura Schwarz Smith

Dancing Peace by Lura Schwarz Smith

Granite Shadows by Lura Schwarz Smith

Granite Shadows by Lura Schwarz Smith

Universal Language Dreams by Lura Schwarz Smith

Universal Language Dreams by Lura Schwarz Smith

bookcoverTogether with her talented husband, Kerby C. Smith, they have written Secrets of Digital Quilting: From Camera to Quilt, published by C & T Publishing. In addition to Lura’s instructions on inking, painting, and drawing on fabric, their book teaches you to easily create your own richly colored, unique fabric by printing your on photos on fabric. Lura and Kerby are generously donating a signed copy of their book for one of our lucky readers. Simply post a comment telling us why you would like to receive a copy by end of day April 19th and I will announce the winner in my April 23rd post.

Lura tells me that she has a newsletter coming out the same day that this post goes live. Be sure to check it out for updates on her teaching schedule.

That’s all for this time. Happy quilting, drawing, or pursuing whatever creative outlet you choose.


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39 Responses to Taking a Quilt Class: Paying Attention, Letting Go and a Giveaway

  1. Pingback: Pre-Wash or Not? Quilting’s Perennial Question |

  2. Deb Anderson says:

    I am amazed at your blog . I think you did a outstanding job with your first attempt. I would love to try this. I live in a rural area and do not have access to classes. One day I would love to be able to attend this class.

  3. Beth Carver says:

    Your rendition of Eli on fabric is excellent. I have been wanting to venture out in my quilting to the art side and perhaps this book would be the tool to get me started. I have doubted I would get good results, but your story has inspired me.
    Thanks for a chance to win the book, Beth in AL

  4. Deborah M says:

    I’ve been wanting to learn how to make photos into fabric as a project with my husband, who is a professional artist. This might be very useful!

  5. Janet Estridge says:

    I would love to give a copy of the book to my church library. Thanks for the opportunity to do so.

  6. Lynn says:

    What a wonderful give away. I would love to receive this book as I too have been interested in jumping into the art quilt world. I used to paint a bit and painting on cloth has fascinated me for years and I even have some supplies but am frozen not knowing where to begin.

  7. Susan says:

    This looks fun-kindergarten all over again! After seeing Eli I would love to make a wall hanging of my grand daughter.

  8. I love how your piece came out, it is beautiful. I love the idea of doing art quilts and would love to make some. I enjoy using different mediums to create art with fabric and machine quilting and would love a book to help me, get started.


  9. Mary Elizabeth Kinch says:

    Absolutely awesome Laura! You are an inspiration for letting go and the power of play!

  10. Christina in Cleveland says:

    Yay Laura, you did a fabulous drawing AND painting! Your description of your anxiety after that first day was visceral. You really did a GREAT job! Yay Laura!!!
    ~Christina in Cleveland

    • Laura Nownes says:

      Thanks so much Christina. I got so much more from this class that I ever expected. It was such a bonus. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Heather says:

    Your post on this learning process was interesting and whetted my appetite to learn more about Lura’s work and techniques. Would love to have the book to continue this learning journey.

  12. Rosemary says:

    Those drawings and quilts are amazing! Although I have an Art minor as it was necessary to have an “academic” minor to get a teaching credential in the 1970’s I know that I am graphically challenged and it’s probably more than likely due to the fact that I don’t practice drawing enough. Thanks for the opportunity to win a great book, but I’m afraid I will need 1:1 tutoring!

    • Laura Nownes says:

      Thanks Rosemary. What a learning process this was for me. Expectations can be paralyzing but so glad I was able to work through them. I’m loving the process. Thanks for stopping by.

  13. goonyburd says:

    It was a very good post! I’d love to win the book to learn something new! LOL!

  14. Anne B says:

    Laura, this is wonderful! You captured little Eli beautifully!

    • Laura Nownes says:

      Thanks Anne. He is such a cute little guy I just wanted to have fun trying to capture his sweet innocence.

  15. Lois says:

    You certainly captured the essence of that little boy. I have recently been trying to do the same thing by hooking with dyed wool. This book would be great foe rug hookers and quilters.

    • Laura Nownes says:

      Ah yes, what a great idea. I haven’t tried rug hooking yet but it is definitely on my to-do list…in my free time!

  16. Hilda says:

    That was a great experience you had. Good to learn something new! I would love to win the book!

  17. Deborah says:

    What an opportunity you had even though it wasn’t what you had planned on. Tanks for the give away!

  18. elaine says:

    Laura, you are my hero. not only are you one of the most patient, kind, encouraging, inspirational, and gentle teachers…. you are so human and share with your heart. my very first quilting class which i was lucky enough to take with you, gave me the same fears you had until i was in your class. thanks for all you do for us.

    • Laura Nownes says:

      Elaine, you are the sweetest. Funny how we bring those crazy fears and insecurities with us, even at our age!

  19. Connie says:

    What an inspirational post….thank you for sharing! Lura sounds like an ideal teacher and her book would be a great resource.

    • Laura Nownes says:

      Yes, and yes! Please be sure to check her website for updates, classes and lots more inspiration. Thanks so much!

  20. Beth Klingel says:

    Oh Laura, I know just what you felt when taking Lura’s class. I did the same thing, thinking I would be using photographs and applique. I also told her I cannot draw!! I called my husband after the first day and told him I had wasted so much $$ coming to Asilomar. Lura is the “most patient, kind, encouraging, inspirational, gentle (you understand what I am saying!) teacher I have ever had.” I so totally agree with you. The quilt I started in her class went on to PIQF and I am so proud of it. All because Lura pushed me out of my comfor zone.

    • Laura Nownes says:

      HI Beth – Thanks so much for taking the time to share your similar experience. What a great learning experience for both of us. WOW PIQF! Would love to see photos of your quilt if you are willing to share.

  21. Penny says:

    Wow! I would LOVE to win!!! I love these kinds of quilts! I’m a huge fan of art quilting and this is a new technique I’d love to try.

  22. lynn jarzombeck says:

    Oh I would love the book because I too need to expand and printing a photo on fabric is calling me. Thanks for the chance.

  23. I would love to win because I just saw the picture you completed and it is awesome. I understand it was a five day class, but the book would be a start to something I’ve always wanted to try.

  24. Sandy says:

    Wow if that is your first attempt at drawing, I am blown away!!! That is amazing!! We are are own worse critic, don’t done playa how great it is, be proud!!! Amazing!

    • Laura Nownes says:

      Thanks Sandy – I am probably more surprised than proud at this time. I need a little more time to play and experiment. Can’t wait. Hope you give it a try.

  25. Shirley says:

    What a beautiful job you did. I am inspired. I was a decorative painter turned quilter and I would just love to try this.

  26. susan o schaller says:

    Your result was spectacular. Truly a realistic rendition of a sweet face. Have just started painting on fabric with inks and pigments and certainly need more help. Lura’s work is fantastic and if I could faintly emulate her work with the help of her book I would be thrilled. Thanks, Susan

    • Laura Nownes says:

      Hi Susan – I truly believe that if I can accomplish this anyone can do the same. Hope you give it a try. It’s so much fun.

  27. Nancy M says:

    I would love to receive the book after seeing what you have accomplished after such anxiety. If you can do such beautiful work while thinking you couldn’t… well that’s just amazing. I want to learn this too.

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