School’s in for Stitchers: Planning Makes Perfect!

As hard as it may be to believe, it’s back-to-school time here in Northern California. Where in the world did the summer go? As I write this, my stepson and his Dad are off corralling the usual supplies. Being prepared is a big part of the success of any learning experience. As you can see, even that quilting icon, Sunbonnet Sue, knows it doesn’t hurt to bring an apple for the teacher!

"Back to School with Sunbonnet Sue," made by Chris Porter for our book, "A Year in the Life of..." More on Sue later in this post.

As the new year of learning begins for the young’uns so, typically, does a new season of quilting, sewing, and fabric-crafting classes. Moms, grandmoms, and other caregivers suddenly have a little time to spare and–dare I say it?–the holidays, and all the attendent gifting, costuming, and decorating, beckon.

Naturally, we want to be as prepared as we’ve helped our kids to be. If there is a class or workshop in your future, here are some tips (with a “little help from my friends”) to help ensure that you’re ready to make the most of every creative moment.

As soon as you’ve signed up and paid your fee, enter the date, time, and location of the workshop on your calendar, be it analog or virtual. We’re all busy, and it’s easy to forget that class starts at 9 AM…not 9:30(!).

Record the date, time, and place...before you forget!

Read over the supply list a few days ahead (not the night before) so that you have time to search or shop for what you need.

Whenever possible, pack up your supplies a day in advance, rather than waiting until the morning of class. (Essential if you’re a hopeless non-morning person like me.) Make sure your tools and notions are labeled, and check the items off the list as they go into your tote or carrier.

If you can, pack your supplies the night before. Labels help identify your tools and notions in a "creatively messy" classroom.

If your class requires one, take out your sewing machine and make sure that it’s ready to roll, cleaning and oiling it if necessary. If it’s been a while, reacquaint yourself with the basics: how to thread it, wind a bobbin, change a needle, adjust the tension. Make sure to pack all the essential accessories (e.g., foot pedal, knee lift)…and don’t forget the manual!

If it's been a while, reacquaint yourself with your machine and give it a little TLC before (rather than during) class.

The morning of: Room (and for some of us, our body!) temperature can be fickle. Best advice? Dress in layers on class day.

Finally, here are a few items that might not appear on your supply list, but may prove useful…or invaluable. I divide them into two categories.

Beyond the Basics. These items are not critical, but can make the day run more smoothly. They include a few pre-wound bobbins, an extension cord/power strip; a camera (always ask before taking photos); a pocket calculator; an extra pair of “readers” (if you use them; I keep a spare pair with my basic sewing supplies); a bottle of water; and a comfortable chair cushion.

Emergency Supplies. Not every class or workshop is held in or near a quilt or fabric shop. Having or not having extra machine needles, spare rotary blade(s), and a replacement bulb for your sewing machine can make or break your day.

Beyond the Basics and Emergency Supplies: Looks like it's time to purchase a spare sewing-machine bulb!

I’m sure you’ve got lots of tips as well. Post a comment, offering your best suggestion for “optimum” class preparation or sharing your personal workshop must-have, by noon (PDT), September 7, and you’ll be included in a random drawing to win a copy of my book, A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue, co-authored with Chris Porter. You might decide to make a “back-to-school Sue” for someone you know, get a jump on the holidays with Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas Sue…or encourage your local quilt shop to sponsor a class. In any case, you’ll be prepared!

I’ll announce the winner of the book in my Friday, September 9, post. ‘Til then, happy stitching…


27 thoughts on “School’s in for Stitchers: Planning Makes Perfect!

  1. Great post! Since I love to buy quilting notions I have been lately trying to buy duplicates of everything I need for guild/classes, and plan to have a whole tote devoted to that – READY TO GO! I hate to worry that I have forgotten something (and sometimes I have) so I think, for someone like me, this type of preparation may be worthwhile. I’ve never brought a tabletop light, but there have been times I would have liked to have one! I like to bring my calendar/planner, too – many times future dates/events/classes are announced and it’s a good way for me to remember them, All the tips here are great – thanks!


  2. Forgot to mention. CA just now returning to school? My grandson started back on August 8 in Ga. Most SC schools returned Week of August 15. Judy


  3. Always take a pencil and note pad. If you take any medications during the day put class days suppy in small pill container with you class supplies. I keep one with my ‘travel supplies’ so I have that as a reminder to fill it. Still love to take classes. Judy


    1. Judy, Good tips! As for classes: with all the classes you’ve taken and quilts you’ve made, it’s a wonder YOU aren’t the teacher. Still remember–and will never forget–our first classroom experience together 😉 Darra


      1. Darra, I did teach locally for several years. Now that I have had my knee replacements am considering getting back into it. We have a new quilt shop in town and she planned a great classroom. Yes, I do remember our first classroom experience. That one is a real memory keeper. As the saying goes ” have came a long way” Thanks to you. My ‘Darra Said I Could’ quilt is still on the bed and in use. Judy


  4. Wow can’t believe nobody mentioned chocolate under emergency supplies! I am heading to my first class ever in September and I can hardly wait. Hope I didn’t leave it too late as it might be harder to unlearn my bad habits than to learn new things.


    1. Colleen, You’re right! How in the world did we miss chocolate??!! Congratulations on your first class. May it be the first of many wonderful experiences. Darra


  5. Get to the class early. Often the time listed is when the actual lecture starts and one needs to be set up and ready to go by that time. Also, the last one arriving usually ends up in a dark corner with the worst chair. Also, take a chair cushion so the height of the sewing machine is more comfortable.


  6. Don’t forget the post-it notes to mark your place in the directions or to mark stacks of pieces cut. Another thing would be a bottle of water or a cup with a lid for the water. We don’t want any dehydrated quilters in this class.


  7. I’m with Sue, I recently needed plaster strips when a twig got in my toe at a retreat, the light was better outside to display my Quiltop and well I always take Wet Wipes, so they came in handy for the toe too. Have never (touch Wood) , cut myself with a rotary cutter, but we still need them for other emergencies.


    1. Cindy, Sometimes those retreats can be in REALLY rustic places 😉 Lighting can be an issue, can’t it? I usually don’t take a light to a class/workshop at a shop or hall, but always tuck a portable desk lamp into the car when I’m “heading for the woods.” Hadn’t thought of wet wipes… Darra


    1. Both are wonderful suggestions, Sue. With rotary cutters in use, a first aid kit is always a good idea. Hopefully, you never need to use it, but better to not need it and have it, than vice versa. Darra


      1. Unfortunately have used both several times while teaching and taking classes. Steptic pencil have been one of the most valuable items, in the First Aid kit, stops bleeding fast!


  8. Since I go to a weekly group, I keep a “tackle box” always ready to go with basic supplies. When I use something during the week from the box, it forces me to be organized and put the item right back where it belongs. The hardest thing for me to remember is the cutting board; I put it on top of the bin of fabric so I have to see it.
    Thanks for the suggestions!


  9. i love Sunbonnet Sue. I have been working on a quilt with Sam and her since I got back from a recent trip to Lancaster, PA. Your quilt is cute. I would have loved it in my classroom.


    1. Would love to see a photo of your quilt when you’ve finished it, Margery. If you click on the link to Sunbonnet Sue in the post, it takes you right to the book on the Martingale site. Click under the cover, you can see all twelve of the little Sue quilts. Chris and I had so much fun making them!


  10. You’ve thought of everything! Well done. I am not a morning person and always must prepare the day before. Also, I LOVE the little sunbonnet sue quilt, especially that the apple is green. Happy weekend sewing, everyone!


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