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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…

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