Earlier this year, after a break of 20+ years, I returned to teaching piano. I have just a few students, and I’m enjoying them so much! Working with them has helped me look at teaching quilting in new ways.
Let me tell you about Hank. He came to me with a Clementi Sonatina. Even though he had practiced it for two years, he still could not play it without dozens of stops and starts all the way through. The problem wasn’t that he wasn’t good enough to play it. The problem was that he didn’t know how to practice to get it consistent and flowing.
If you’ve been trying to learn to do machine quilting you might recognize this problem. You know what the patterns are supposed to look like. Maybe you can even draw them. But you can’t quilt them so they look consistent and flowing.
I helped Hank build a “toolbox” of practice techniques – the ability to recognize whatever is hanging him up, and techniques for practicing to solve the issue. The key was to practice in ways that embed the correct muscle memory. It’s been a little over a month since we started working this way. He can now play the piece straight through with almost no pauses, and he has started to memorize it.
Whether it’s quilting or playing the piano, you learn what you practice. Your hands develop muscle memory. Muscles don’t know if the motion is correct or not – they just memorize it. If your practice is wrong, your muscles learn to do it wrong — perfectly. If you practice with bumps, pauses and glitches (piano or quilting) you will become perfect at doing bumps, pauses and glitches. You can’t practice one way and then suddenly one day have it turn out differently.
Watching Hank progress so quickly by building correct muscle memory inspired me to apply this approach to free-motion quilting. The idea is simple: just give your muscles the right set of practice motions so they embed the correct muscle memory. I’ve been testing it since last summer and the results have been spectacular. One student said to me “I’ve taken four machine quilting classes and failed at them all. But I can do this!” Another said simply “I feel empowered.”
I turned this approach into 30-day, step-by-step system for learning free-motion quilting in my new book Free-Motion Mastery in a Month: A Block a Day to Machine Quilting Success. Along with the book, there is a tool kit for building muscle memory – even when you’re not at the sewing machine. The system works for both domestic sewing machines and longarms. The book and tool kit will be available in time for Christmas. Pre-ordering will be available by Thanksgiving – watch for more news in the upcoming days. If you’re as excited about this as I am (or even just curious), click here and let me know you’re interested. I’ll add you to a special list to be the first ones to get it. (You don’t have to send any money now.)
P.S. Watch for news about my New Year Quilting Challenge and begin 2017 by achieving the goal of mastering machine quilting!