Learning Style

Conventional wisdom says that in order to learn something new, one starts with a simple example and gradually adds complexity into subsequent examples.  Or one could do what I usually do, dive in head first, then wonder why I attempted something so difficult.   I’m not the only one, though.

To explain that, some background about quilting, Hawaiian quilts specifically, is necessary.  Instead of the piecing that is usually associated with quilting, Hawaiian quilt patterns are cut from one piece of fabric, very much the way children make paper snowflakes.

Several years agon, I had the good fortune to hear Nancy Chong speak at Quilting by the Lake, a wonderful annual quilting conference.  Just being there was an example of diving in headfirst.  It was like someone who was just learning to swim being present at the Summer Olympics.

Nancy Chong  told how she learned to make Hawaiian quilts.  After living in Hawaii several years, she became enarmored with the quilts and wanted to make one for her own bedroom, even though she had never quilted before.  Again, Hawaiian quilts are cut from one piece of fabric like a paper snowflake.  That’s fine for a project that’s maybe six inches by six inches.  When you’re talking the size of a queen or king size quilt, that’s a bit daunting, especially if you’ve never quilted before.

She thought she’d start with a small, manageable project such as a pillow.  Having found Margaret  Luika Kamaka, who taught Hawaiian quilting, Nancy walked in and said she’d like to make a pillow. 

Margaret said, “Oh, you must like pillows a lot; your house must be filled with pillows.”

“No, not really,” Nancy said.  “I just wanted to start with a pillow.”

“Then I can not teach you.  Come back when there’s something you have a passion about.”

“Oh.”  (At this point, my notes were lost, but the gist is that Nancy blinked at the thought and left.)

Nancy went back and indeed made a queen or king size Hawaiian quilt for her first project, an accomplishment that still prompts awe at the thought.  She and her sister went on to found a business that specializes in Hawaiian quilting.

This post then is my “pillow,” my attempt at a smaller, more manageable post before attempting the equivalent of a king size Hawaiian quilt.


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