Practical Thread Magic

When I come to teach to a group, there's always a frantic rush of questions and concerns. I don't play with the same toys other quilters do. Though I talk about that at length in class, I thought it would be helpful to have that information available in a blog. So here we're going to discuss the nuts and bolts of the kind of thread work I love and teach. We'll discuss products, choices, threads, fabrics, tools, stabilizers and all the things that make my work work for me, and will help your work work for you.

If you have an upcoming class with me, you should know I bring almost all of the things I use for your needs. If you want to try something you've got, absolutely bring it. But if you're having trouble finding it, please don't stress. I'll have it there for you.

About Me

My Photo
Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
View my complete profile

Would You Like To Have A Class With Ellen?

Ellen would be delighted to have a class with you or your group! You can check out her classes at She also offers independent studio time in her studio in Indiana. Talk to Ellen about classes at 219-921-0885, or contact her scheduler Melida at 405-735-3703 .to set a date
Saturday, November 26, 2011

To Kit or Not to Kit: A Teacher's Dilemma

The decisions we make as artists are so different than the decisions we make as teachers.
I came out in the seventies with a primary degree, ready to teach first grade. 
It was after several breathtakingly bad years substituting  when I finally got a job, only to find I was really bad at crowd control. It doesn't help when you're personally leading the riot.

But your life finds a way.  I worked in a fabric store and quilted insanely, until someone asked, "Could you teach a  class on that?"
Well, when teaching adults, it's ok to be leading the riot. It's kind of what they hired you for. They want excitement and new ideas and that roller coaster feeling of a whole new stash of toys they've never tried before. I'm exactly where I should be.
But the decisions I make about class are almost in opposition to decisions about the studio.
When it comes to materials, I believe that more is more. More colors please. More resources. More options. Certainly more choices. So when I've taught, I want that for students too. So how much and what do you pack? I used to bring whole bolts of stabilizers, fusibles and piles of books for design.
Strangely enough, it comes down to weight. The new luggage fees have changed that world and I have to think like a teacher, not like an artist. It's very strange to pack what I'm sure you'll need. And to leave the things that you might want back at the studio.

So I am proud/sad/confused/and conflicted to announce for the first time in my life I'm kitting classes. I'm still bringing fabulous fabrics I personally dye, hand-dyed threads you can't get anywhere else, hand-dyed cheesecloth and a collection of the most beautiful commercial threads I can find. But I'm kitting up the stabilizers/fusibles/and patterns to make your life easier the day before class. I'm also producing small classroom books for project classes that cover the material, give you pattern, how to illustrations, tips, sources and gallery photos all in one one pretty little booklet. Simplification really is a math project.

This is my first year to do that.You as students and fellow artists will have to let me know how that works for you.

The downside is that you can't always be sure what that kit will cost. Your group will ask me for a cost for that perhaps a year before class, usually when they book the class. Prices can raise dramatically in a year, and I've usually sliced it down to give students the best break I can. So if shipping or the price  spikes, I have no choice but to adjust the kit fee. What I've told students is that if the extra means you eat peanut butter for a week, I'll offer you a dispensation. I can absorb the extra for one or two, but for twenty it becomes a problem.
Like all works in process, I'm trying to figure this out. So as students and artist, what do you prefer? Do you want to strictly find and bring your own supplies? Do you prefer a kit? and can you handle a small price adjustment if it's needed?
This little dragonfly was started in my Dragonfly Sky class, a class built and streamlined with kits, a set pattern, and a booklet to help people on their way. 
The booklet is available separately at
Dragonfly Sky
or at Amazon 
If you order from Ellen you get your book personally signed.
Or you can ask your guild to bring Ellen to teach you to make your own dragonfly sky. Ellen's  Teaching information 


Janice PD said...

I always prefer the option. If I take a class I want the finished work to look like I did it even though it is the teacher's techniques.

Janice PD said...

oops, to clarify a little....if I use my own dyed fabrics and the color palette I normally use, it will be more 'mine'

Anonymous said...

Seems like your kit mostly includes "tools" and still leaves lots of room for creative variables. That sounds fine. I'll bet you know about price variables in time ti get out an e-mail. . . Also, it'd be easier to schlep an extra kit or two than a whole bolt of stabilizer!

Nikki said...

I like to have the kit as an option - some speakers/teachers require the kit - but it's better to make it an option - that way people don't feel they're being put in a corner. I ALWAYS buy the kit - most of the time - I buy several if they are in different colorways. I understand the cost of things and don't mind the price increase. But I'm different than most guild members. There is always those guild members who insist on the best speakers and workshops and then they don't attend and if they see the word "kit" - they run. I LOVE kits.

Charlotte said...

I like the teacher to bring for sale the unusual supplies separately vs a kit. That way I can pick and choose what I want/need to buy, esp the stuff that is not easily found locally. That way you can price them at the going rate. I don't like the fabric/embellishments to be in a required kit so we all walk away with the same looking project.

If it's a wonderful teacher and there is a required complete kit I'll still take the class but the project will probably never get finished. I'll just be taking the class for techniques learned ... which is what it's all about to me anyhow.

alison schwabe said...

As a student I would never sign up for a class that required me to buy a kit from the teacher - to me that's already a form of limitation on my own creativity which is always operating even if I am just learning a new technique. I've been around for while and probably have plenty of things at home that could do as well as teacher-supplied kit stuff. I'd rather take that along, and be prepared to pay a small materials fee for something like, in this case, the teacher's preferred stabiliser, so essential to Ellen's particular techniques. And as a teacher, I don't want the kit-dependent student in my classes, either. Gathering materials for a project is part of the overall project, and removing the student from that process denies them a valuable decision making opportunity.

Marie Z. Johansen said...

I think it depends, somewhat, on the class... and also where the class is to be given. I live in a place where we have no access to thread, fabric or other goodies. Buying materials requires either an online purchase or a day long trip to the mainland for shopping.

My preference is to be able to buy the supplies from the teacher after culling what I wanted from my own stash (from the class materials list).
We are thrilled when a teacher brings lots of things for sale and, invariable, I believe the teacher sells a lot of product when they come to here to teach.

I have many friends who really prefer a materials kit - making it easy for them to focus on learning the specific technique from the teacher using the technique specific materials. If the materials are available for sale at the time of the class they buy what they want, take the sample home and begin using it in their own interpretations. I can understand a preference for this method too.

Bottom line - being able to buy supplies from a teacher is the most important ingredient for those of us who live in "materials' hinterlands!

Linda said...

Ellen, I used to hate the idea of kits, but now would choose the use of them. I take a class to learn techniques and for inspiration and I rarely finish the projects. So I'd prefer not to have to dig around in the studio and then lug all the things I think I can do without to class. The fee would not matter.

Pat Winter said...

Being a teacher that offers customized kits, (yes this takes much more time) I like to offer kit optional. This way a person new to crazy quilting does not have to run out and buy 15 fancy fabrics, embroidery threads, beads, sequins, laces and trims to take a class they may or may not (rarely ever) enjoy enough to use up their new stash supply. My kits include everything however the student is invited to bring anythng they might have and want to work with. I make every kit different, no two ever alike. Kits are nice to offer, I just wish the students knew the actual time teachers spend putting them together to ensure a fun no stress class.

Anonymous said...

I have taken classes from you Ellen, once in my own city and once about 12 hours drive from here - Both times I brought just about everything I owned that I thought would be useful in class - as did you. I would definitely be open to kits and welcome them. Many of the people in the classes I took from you didn't have the materials, threads, or other items needed. I think more "newbies" would sign up for classes if kits were available, but not required.

Vicki Davis said...

I like the idea of bringing kits with basic or hard to find supplies, but would also provide a list of needed items for those who have more extensive stashes. I'm like some of the other posters, I have a lot of supplies, but if I don't have it, I'd have to order it. For something I might not need again, I'd rather get small amounts of supplies in a kit, instead. I'd suggest an estimated cost for the kit, and estimate on the higher end of what you think it might cost.

Sybil said...

You teach a fairly unique procedure and product and people are coming to your class to learn how to do it. Your process is not quick.
I think that in that situation, a kit helps BUT I think the price needs to be preset.

Angela said...

I have taken a class from you (wonderful!)because even though I have my own version of Thread Painting, you are the master and I did learn quite a bit (thank you!). In my experience, optional kits will sell very well and students will be very glad you brought them. There are always a few who, for one reason or another, do not have the things required or recommended for a particular class and at the last minute realize 'oh! we need this stuff?'. Then there are the ones who figure, if there is a kit available with the recommended supplies and they don't already own them, they would rather just purchase that than hunt all over for them. For me, I had everything needed for the class, so I was able to buy those gorgeous fabrics and threads you have hand dyed so beautifully, and one of those lovely wood hoops.

Linda Teddlie Minton said...

Hi Ellen, I love having the option of a kit, since I'm there for the learning experience, not necessarily for a finished product. A slight price variance would not bother me, especially since you would be giving advance notice that circumstances might cause that to happen. Although sometimes I might prefer to bring my own tools and supplies, it is very often more convenient to work from a kit. Thanks for the opportunity to put in our 2 cents' worth!

California Fiber artist and composer said...

Hi Ellen--_I think that kitting or not depends on the venue where you are teaching. If you are teaching in a well stocked shop maybe you do not kit. I like to know what the kit costs before I take a class. I would rather that you put some padding into your price to allow for inflation/shipping increases, than suddenly be surprised with a price increase the day of class. I would wonder why the change even though it was mentioned; plus some venues e.g. Quilts Inc. have students pay kit fees at the time they enroll for classes. I would suggest having kits in venues where the items are not readily available, or at ;east having kits containing the hard to find stuff.

Joy V said...

Ellen, I love it when a kit is provided. No matter how much information I have on a course I always manage to leave something important at home. It doesn't worry me if the colours/materials etc are not what I would have chosen, I find I always refer back to what I made or learnt when working on another project. Perhaps when a student enrols in a course you could give them the option of a kit or not, then you would know how many to put together before the class begins.


Essential Embroidery Stitches

Essential Embroidery Stitches
Get this free book from Quilting Arts. It has a series of articles I wrote called Defining the Line

My Blog List

Guest Blog On Quilt Gallery

Guest Blog On Quilt Gallery
A Beauty Beheld

Guest Blog On Subversive Stitchers!

Guest Blog On Subversive Stitchers!
The Stories Tell Me

Quilt Teacher Blog Ring

Quilt Teacher Blog Ring

Home/Join | List | Next | Previous | Random

Networked Blogs