Posts Tagged ‘classes’

Ellenism’s: Things that Come Out of My Mouth

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Like anyone who teaches, I’m aware of the steady stream of things that come out of my mouth, particularly in class. I talk alot. It’s part of the craft. You can’t teach anyone if you can’t get their attention. So you keep a stream of verbiage going on during demo to keep them focused on you. It helps if it’s funny. Few of us are really still Sesame Street watchers, but that 30 second attention span for learning efforts started there and is still where most people are. You have to keep the students with you.

 And there are certain things that are really worth saying. You don’t always say them at the same time in a class, because you’re waiting for the context to say it in, but it should be said. I have a list of them. Actually in different books of mine I. have different lists covering the topics. They’re the things that should be said. They’re going to make things easier for students. Easier is good. If it’s technical stuff that will make their world work better, I make them say it with me. Childish? Well, of course! How grown up are you?All learning happens in that child’s space. We can be any age at any time. The child space is where we can try, play and work without being so desperately concerned about being good enough.

 So I thought I’d share some of them outside of class. These are my Ellenism’s: the things that come out of my mouth in class.

One of my favorite ones is “Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly”. Yep. You heard me right.

I always have an intake breath from someone in class on that. What did she say? What did she mean?

I don’t really mean that things shouldn’t be good. I mean we can suspend judgement on what is and isn’t good for an awfully long time. And that really good things happen for us in doing that. Most art history suspends that judgement for 50-100 years. Within that waiting spot, within that time of action without judgement, we can explore, try, succeed, retry, retreat, go forward, step back, and accomplish the things that come only in time with lots of repetition and odd trials. 

If you are in love with your product, you’ll live your life in a series of disappointments. Either it will be the most wonderful thing in the world, and then you’ll have to be disappointed with all your less wonderful efforts, or it will not measure up to that one wonder. IF you are in love with your process, there are no judgements. One process gets you to another. That in itself is a huge win.

Everything you love is worth doing badly. Step by step forward and back you will find yourself doing it well simply because you’re doing it. Drop the judgement. Drop the fear. Simply do it and be amazed at how what you do ebbs, flows and changes into something wonderful in time.

Have I made enough dragonfly quilts? I can still imagine them dancing in a way I haven’t seen yet, over skies and waters unknown. Its worth doing. Badly or well. Simply because it’s worth doing.


Monique Kleinhans: Lunatic Nestled in the Kalispell Valley

Friday, October 19th, 2012

I met Monique at Glacier Quilts in Kalispell. Glacier Quilts is perhaps my most favorite store. It caters to people’s every pleasures. Huge pile of fabric, machines waiting for people to use, fabulous teachers,  babies to borrow, a place to drop off babies, and a coffee run when needed. It even has a sporting shop just outside where you can check your significant other. You can almost move in.

And it has, among the other amazing staff, Monique. 

Monique is constantly in creative motion. She studied costuming and theater at some point. But you get the feeling there are at least 6 quilts going on in her head, all at once.

Her work is as wild as where she lives. She’s in the valley nestled between the mountains and all the creatures seem to know her by name and come visit. Her work teams with them.

Monique makes bed quilts as well. But of course, I love her wild embroidery best!

Here’s what she says about herself.


“I was born in the Flathead Valley and raised on the farm where my grandfather grew up. Just as my father took up the plow from his father, I learned to love and work with fabric from my mother. An avid quilter and teacher, mom’s works lit my creative fire, and much of what I’ve learned has come from our playing and experimenting together.
I draw a lot of inspiration from the natural beauty around us; the constantly-changing seasons, and the majestic (and sometimes humorous) animals that wander by daily.” 
Her work includes traditional quilting techniques, appliqué, and thread painting, along with fabrics she hand-dyes  is available at Paint Metal and Mud Gallery, located in the Historic Kalispell Grand Hotel.

Monique teaches a variety of classes in textile art at Glacier Quilts.  You can also find some of her handcrafted items at her Etsy store at


Mushroooooooooming! A new Mushroom Class

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

I’m from a long line of Hobbits.  It’s pretty actual,  actually. My father’s people came from Durham and he topped the clan at a whopping 5’6″ in his loafers. I might have been taller if I hadn’t fallen down staircases as a child for a hobby. I am now officially 4’11.5″ We count it all.

I believe that Tolkein tapped into a basic fact of English history. Very short, very smart, rural  people who were always England’s backbone. Thumbalina was my family’s unofficial theme song. And he was totally right about the need for Shroooms! So every so often, I feel a desperate urge to do mushrooms. Fried. In Pizza. Sauteed with bacon. and in Quilts!

Handdyed cheesecloth makes the most wonderful background for mushrooms. I fuse it on with Steam A Seam 2  and free motion in a painterly way. I had some British friends at church explain to me that these are not mushrooms. They are toadstools. Either way, how can you resist.

Look for  the premier of this great 3 hour class, making mushrooms at Ginger’s Spycewear Sewing Center in Crown Point. Kit  and classroom machines available. You’ll come out of class with a great embroidered mushroom that can seamlessly go on any quilt, jacket, or other project. And some new great thread painting skills.

You’ll find the Hobbit at If you haven’t read it you’ve missed a marvel. The movie is coming in December.

You’ll find more information about Spyceware Sewing Center on two of my blogs

New Apron Class and

Little Store Miracles

On their face book page

and their web site



Care and Feeding of Guilds: The Right Classes

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

It’s that time of year when guilds start to pick next year’s line up. As a teacher I spend a lot of time figuring out how to really give students what they need in a class. This is some of what I think about when I’m building my class line up.

It helps that I came out to teach. I have a degree in Primary education. The economy of the time had other notions. And when it came down to it, I’m good at imparting information and lousy at crowd control. When I ended up teaching 8th grade, that was fatal.  I’ve come to love teaching quilters, where everyone wants to be there, and every one wants to have fun.

 I’ve learned two things about guilds. First is that guilds are all different. Their members, skill levels, interests and passions run the gamut.Secondly that you don’t teach classes, you teach people. You take them right where they are and they learn from there. Thirdly is that class is just people, so toss the class plan if it isn’t working,and give them what they really need.   I’ve learned to offer several different kinds of classes so students really get the teaching day they want. And I’ve learned to change class on a dime when I can see they need other and want other skills not on the plan.

Lectures are visual snacks. They need to hit the spot: Does your group want to learn about color? Thread work? Design? Pattern Free Applique? Or talk about development? I have a lecture for each of those, focused for differing skills and interests.

Thread Magic Garden

Of course I have classes based on my new book,Thread Magic Garden.You can check the rave reviews from

Thread Magic Garden, includes a pattern-less method of flower design, special skill builders on couching, machine beading, corded buttonhole binding, and Angelina fiber, 6 different stitches for free motion applique, 25 flower designs (which can be used to mix and match), 50 new quilts and 2 fabulous projects to get you started in your own thread magic garden. 

I’ve got all kinds of new classes focused on patternless floral applique.

The Thread Magic Garden lecture is brand new.It shows fabulous gardens in life and fabric with wonderful ways to make fabric flowers out of simple shapes. Recommended for groups interested in flowers and in beginning abstract design.

Classes based on Thread Magic Garden

  • Thread Magic Irises

  • Thread Magic Roses

  • Thread Magic Bleeding Hearts

  • Thread Magic Abstract Florals 

Then I like to offer classes focused on how you like to learn

 Do you want to design your own projects? Master Classes are the place for that. I offer master classes in

  • Abstract Floral Design

  • Thread Magic Mastery: Every Kind of Thread

  • Thread Magic Jacket/Vest

  • Free Motion Applique Mastery

  •  Thread Magic: Painting with Thread

Do you want a One day classes that focus on a specific achievable project? These classes offer that.

  • Dragonfly Sky

  • Ladybug’s Garden 

  • Dye Day Workshop

Do you want classes that teach technique and don’t work on a project but teach a specific skill? Here are some great skill based classes

  • Thread Magic Technique Book

  • Stitch Vocabulary

  • Corded Binding 

  • Thread Magic Overview

Are you looking for an easy entertaining class,just for fun?

These achievable projects are a great afternoon sit and sew.

  • Perfect  Pin Cushions

  • Guilding the Lily

  • Thread Magic Badges 

  • Tea Towl Sampler 

    So why do I set up so many kinds of classes? I really want to teach groups what they really want to know. If you ask me for a special class, of course we’ll set it up. That’s how new classes start.

    How do you get classes with me? Just ask.  I’ll say yes. But your best venue is your local guild or shop. If you ask them for my classes as a member, they’re so much more likely to respond than to my my adds or offers. Guild requests are responsible for probably about 70% of my teaching invitations.
    Don’t belong to a guild? Well, you’re missing something. Guilds have always been the backbone of the quilt community. They offer companionship, fun, fabric opportunities, and inexpensive classes from world class teachers. And you get to touch the quilts.

    For a complete list of lectures, workshops, and pricing please visit my web site at  for all her class  and lecture offerings.

Sarah Hinman will be handling Ellen’s Scheduling. You can call Sarah at 616-485-5646 or email her to schedule your class time with Ellen today!

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

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

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 

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