How Workshops Work Best

By Nico Laudenberg

Leave Your Comfort Zone

Sometimes, the best workshops are those you didn’t want to take in the first place. Not my taste, not my thing, I’m not doing this particular technique. Or: I know my stuff anyways, why bother with new hassles?

You don’t – like/need/do/you name it – this? How would you know before you knew? Some of my most interesting and educating classes were those that I was super close to skipping. Because I had signed up a while ago and then realized that I didn’t like the teacher’s art, or thought I wouldn’t use the very technique that was taught, or I didn’t know a single person in the classroom, or just needed the day for other than quilting. In the end, I didn’t cancel, and never regretted it, because I always came out with something unexpected and new.

Know Thy Teacher

Check your future teacher’s website, social media accounts or possible books. Know their style and what to expect. This will help immensely to pull fabrics or materials for your class. You’ll be able to make decisions based on what you already know about what you’ll be doing in class.

And it widens and extends the experience: have fun to dive into the teacher’s approach, digest their art, browse books, museums and such to find out more about a new style.

GAAQG Classroom

Be Poised

Come to class in time, so you can settle down and set up your workspace. Be prepared and have your stuff at the ready.

Read the supply list carefully, especially whether it calls for homework to be done in advance. Don’t wait until the eve of your workshop day to get things together under pressure, maybe even without daylight (been there, done that? yep, me too). It is way more fun to pull goodies at ease (and proper light) and enjoy the thrill of anticipation. And don’t forget your phone, a notebook and a pencil to take notes/pictures.

Feel Comfortable

Make each workshop your own feel good day. Bring fabrics/material you like to work with. Especially when trying a very new, maybe intimidating technique, it might help to work with your go-to colors, designers or themes. Make it your own. The teacher will offer you new approaches, ideas, skills. You can pick what you like, but you are not forced to copy what you don’t like. Just savor the possibilities.

Don’t Beat the Teacher

Take your time. Don’t stress out. You’re not here to show that you know better than the teacher. You want to learn or try something new, think out of the box, leave your comfort zone… this won’t happen in a blink of an eye (and would probably frustrate the teacher, who worked hard to reach her/his level of competence). Take it easy and enjoy the process. This is – read my lips – no competition (and just ignore the overachievers – or: let them be and copy their ideas).

Don’t Fear UFOs

You mightn’t walk out of that one day class with a finished quilt. You won’t even finish a top. You know that doesn’t happen. And you feel bad about another UFO sitting in your sewing room. Don’t! This is not a sweatshop, you don’t get payed for finishing stuff. You want to try something out. That’s what it is. You learn some new techniques, but must the first attempts become your masterpiece? Keep it as a sample, finish it if you like it, or just toss it, and keep the skill you have learned.

Make More Friends

One of the perks of workshops in your own guild is getting to know likeminded gals from your hood. Meet them again at the next guild meeting to chat or at a SafeHouse open sew, go out for lunch or even team up and found a new small group. Enjoy the social aspects of your amazing hobby.

Have Fun

Right? That’s what it’s all about. Kick back and have a great time.

Classes are still available at our 2019 QU event held July 26 through 28 at Washtenaw Community College.  The  Quilt University Workshop Registration link is

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This post was written by Kathy Johnson

1 Comment

  • Nico, thanks for these wise words! I sometimes “pass” on workshops that I might have taken, and then hear great things about the event. And wish I had signed up. I like your approach about keeping an open mind, and being prepared. Great article!