Quilting with Machines 2010, Part I: The Classes

October 13, 2010 at 12:34 pm 1 comment

It was such a great experience to attend Quilting with Machines again this year.  Going last year was fantastic, and I learned an incredible amount, but I hadn’t really had much idea what to expect.  This year, attending as a veteran of last year’s event, I felt fully prepared to soak in the knowledge.  And soak I did, as if Madge from the old Palmolive dish soap commercials were facilitating:

Upon registration, along with a lovely and well-designed tote bag and badge holder, we each received a name badge that listed all our class numbers on it.  I was interested to see that Diane and I were definitely on the upper end of the curve for having filled up our badges, taking nine and ten classes respectively over the course of the three days.  While some other attendees may have been just as busy as we were, since all-day classes would have been represented as single numbers just like the more common 2-3 hour ones, I definitely got the impression that most of the other registrants had left themselves a lot more free time than we did.  However, to my way of thinking, if I’m going to take time away from work, family, and other obligations; if I’m going to go all the way to Sandusky, Ohio, incurring all the travel time and expense that involves; if I’m going to pay to stay at the resort; then darn it, I’m going to pack as much into that experience as I possibly can.  Not to mention, with the ample selection of excellent classes to choose from, I certainly wasn’t stretching to fill my days; if anything, I had to make some very hard decisions as I haven’t yet figured out how to be two places at once!

tote bagPlus, even though QwM had a bigger vendor mall this year than last (future post) and they held their first actual honest-to-goodness quilt show (further future post), it’s not like I needed additional time off during the day to investigate those more fully (better for the budget that way, too.)  More free time during the day may have allowed us to explore more of the area quilt shops, or more of the area itself:  right next to Cedar Point amusement park and right on the banks of Lake Erie, it’s apparently quite the tourist destination.  But I was there to learn to be a better machine quilter, and we could have been on the nuclear test site at Alamo, Nevada as far as I was concerned, as long as I achieved that goal.

Only time will tell if I’m actually becoming a better machine quilter, but it won’t be for lack of a good education on the subject.  My ten classes were almost uniformly excellent, and the few that fell somewhat short were still very good, just not quite up to the extremely high standard set by the others.  Here was my schedule:


8-10 a.m. Stunning Sashings, Sue Patten

11-1 p.m. Continuous Curve Quilting, Dawn Cavanaugh

1-2 p.m. Solutions for Quilting Star Quilts, Cheryl Barnes

2-4 p.m. Filling In the Fillers, DeLoa Jones


8-10 a.m. Design-O-Rama, Kim Brunner

11-1 p.m. Every Little Bit Counts, Sue Patten

2-4 p.m. Leaves, the Fun with Shapes Way, Diana Phillips


8-10 a.m. Show Off!, Renae Haddadin

11-1 p.m. Echoed Puzzle Filler, Dusty Farrell

1-5 p.m. Feathers, Glorious Feathers Part 2, Patsy Thompson


Every little bit counts

Class sample, "Every little bit counts" by Sue Patten


Among the standouts was Sue Patten, of course.  I had taken a class from her last year and found it to be not only extremely entertaining, but probably one of the most practically useful classes on any subject I’ve ever taken, as far as being able to go home and immediately implement what she’d taught.  My strategy for class registration was to make a list of the teachers I absolutely had to take a class from, and make sure I had at least one with each of them before filling in the rest of the schedule.  After last year’s experience, Sue was right at the top of that list.  This year I took two classes from her, both lecture/demonstration classes during which she quilted on the longarm machine while explaining what she was doing in her own inimitable way.  Each room with a longarm was also staffed by a young man with a high-quality video camera, so that what was happening at the machine was simultaneously projected onto a big screen, like at an arena rock concert.  We followed along with her excellent handouts as she stitched, adding notes and occasional pattern variations, and leaving with a whole catalog of new, interesting, easily executable designs, as well as some very funny stories and one-liners, like “We don’t handstitch in the church basement any more.  It’s too cold down there, and there’s no more brownies.”

As if I weren’t enough of a fan already, I won the door prize drawing to take the class sample home from the sashings class:

Sue Patten sashingsAnother high point was Kim Brunner, of the aforementioned Twirly Whirly Feathers book and DVD.  The class was mainly about how to design the quilting for a quilt based on its intended purpose and cues from the design and fabrics, and was chock full of helpful content.  However, the main thing I learned was exactly why she won the Machine Quilting Teacher of the Year award for 2009.  She was absolutely in control of that room, overcoming administrative difficulties (our attendance sheet was MIA), technical difficulties (her portable graphics tablet stopped working partway through class), and student difficulties (you know how there are so often 1 or 2 students in a class of 30+ who think the class is just for them alone?) with astonishing grace and flexibility.  She kept her cool and sense of humor no matter what, had a list of guidelines and procedures at the beginning of class that really laid out what we could expect from her and what she expected from us, and generally was just the apotheosis of friendly professionalism.  And if that wasn’t enough, I won another door prize, this time a year’s subscription to Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine!

Kim was also our speaker for the Friday night banquet, which had already distinguished itself by having surprisingly good food for a big hotel sit-down dinner; none of the cliched rubber chicken there.  She gave a talk entitled, “Grandma’s Girl,” about the quilting women in her family going back a century in rural Minnesota, that had us all laughing and crying at different points.  I think my favorite moment was when she revealed her horror at learning she was descended from the dreaded Sunbonnet Sue (prompted by finding a photograph of an ancestor in a poke bonnet that hid her face), but there were many hilarious and poignant moments throughout the presentation.


Good feathers gone bad

Class sample of "Good feathers gone bad" by Dusty Farrell


I didn’t expect Dusty Farrell’s class to be one of the standouts, but I was pleasantly surprised.  He’s the biker-looking guy you see at the Nolting longarm booth, quilting on the machine decorated with painted skulls.  He’s heavily tattooed, including some quilting designs he drew for the tattooist to follow.  Not only was the improvisational quilted filler design he taught gorgeous and inspiring, but I was really impressed by his whole attitude and philosophy about quilting.  I took down lots of quotes in my class notes like, “You only get better if you play, and the only way to play is to make your quilting fun.”  He owns a quilt shop in northwest Pennsylvania with his wife and his mother-in-law, made a total career shift to longarm machine quilting for hire after losing his job as a high-end luxury item repo man (!!), and just approaches the whole field with a refreshing outsider’s outlook and a very serious-minded dedication.  I actually wished my husband were there to hear Dusty talk, which is a first for me at a quilting event. Plus, his quilting was very entertaining to watch, as he used the YLI blacklight-activated thread on black fabric with a blacklight bulb in the longarm machine, so it was more like watching a laser-light show than watching someone quilt.  His class models were amazing as well.  He’s just getting into teaching, and I hope he gets many more opportunities.


Echoed puzzle filler

Class sample, "Echoed puzzle filler" by Dusty Farrell


Patsy Thompson’s class was simply wonderful.  For all I’ve learned watching her DVDs (and I own 5 of them!) there’s just nothing like having her right there in person, giving gentle guidance and feedback.  This was a hands-on class on the domestic sewing machine, and I felt very fortunate to be able to participate at all after the near-disaster I had precipitated through my own negligence.  Before leaving home Wednesday, I had very carefully packed up my supplies, actually physically checking items off the class supply list Patsy had provided — and then I accidentally left my bag with all my notions, threads, sewing machine feet, bobbins, scissors, Machingers, etc. in my car trunk parked outside Diane’s house, three hours’ drive to the southeast of the resort. Whether I was distracted, excited, or just blind — black bag on black trunk carpeting — who knows, but I was devastated when I realized what I’d done.  I had my sewing machine, thank goodness, with its cord and foot pedal; I had my practice quilt sandwiches; and I had left my freemotion quilting foot on the machine because I’d been quilting before I left the house.  But I had no thread, and not a single bobbin for my Janome.  Fortunately, the Superior Threads booth at the vendor mall (staffed by Bob Purcell himself!) came to my rescue.  I was going to buy some threads anyway, and it turns out that the size L prewound bobbins fit my machine!  With a Tim Gunn “Make it Work” attitude, and the addition of some kind loans of supplies from Diane and from Patsy herself, I barely missed my forgotten bag, and was very happy with the techniques I learned and the work I did in class.

Patsy Thompson samplesNext post:  the vendors!


Entry filed under: Quilt Shows, Travel. Tags: , , , .

PA National Quilt Extravaganza 2010 Quilting with Machines 2010, Part II: The Vendors

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Michele  |  January 20, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Hi Sarah! I’m a new long arm quilter and will be attending MQX New England in April for the 1st time. I’m hunting for quilt teacher reviews to help me decide which classes to take and came across your post. I’d love to hear about which classes weren’t quite up to par with the others. Like you, I want to make the most of my trip and want to avoid the classes that aren’t the best ones for me. Thanks so much.


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