You’re probably familiar with the expression “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I have no idea whether this is literally true or not—our family had dogs when I was a kid, but it’s been a long time since I’ve lived with any. I can tell you that you can’t teach a cat of any age new tricks; they are completely unimpressed by any attempts to teach them anything. But I digress.
Metaphorically, the expression suggests that beyond a certain age we become set in our ways and unwilling to venture out of our ruts. I strenuously resist thinking of myself as “old,” but it’s true that I have been quilting for a little while (I started in 1989—you do the math!). My first quilting class was a local adult ed. offering, after which I took lots more classes at shows or in shops, trying to learn as many new techniques as I could. Sometimes when ideas didn’t stick, I’d take more classes on the same subject—please don’t ask how many color theory classes I’ve taken over the years! I’ve taken classes on curved piecing, improvisational piecing, yarn couching, beading, needle-turn applique, hand quilting, machine quilting, stippled quilt designs, feathered quilt designs… Sometimes it was the topic that interested me; sometimes it was the teacher. (Elsie Campbell! John Flynn! Gwen Marston!) Some of the techniques I used again; some I tried in class, shrugged, and moved on—but all were fun to learn.
But after a while, I wasn’t signing up for as many classes anymore. It seemed I had enough skills to do what I wanted to do, and the itch to learn new things wasn’t quite as strong as it used to be. I’d still look at the classes offered at shows, and local shops, but most often I decided to spend my show time looking at quilts and visiting vendors rather than sitting in a classroom. I was at risk of becoming an unteachable old dog.
So it was something of a surprise for me when, scrolling through a local shop’s e-newsletter last month, I found a class listing that piqued my interest. With the rise of Modern quilts, big-stitch quilting has become a popular style, and (as a dyed-in-the-wool traditional hand quilter) I had no idea how you went about doing that using the techniques I knew. But there, lo and behold, was a half-day big-stitch quilting class that promised to answer all my questions and resolve all my confusion! (It was also scheduled for one week after my birthday, so—birthday gift to myself…) I signed up, gathered my required supplies, and off I went. Sure enough, I learned what I had hoped to learn—and I also remembered how much fun it was to sit in a room with a dozen like-minded quilters and broaden our horizons and our vision together.
So here’s my challenge to you: no matter how long you’ve been at this quilting game, make a promise to learn something new this year! We have a few fun classes coming up in guild workshops, not to mention classes at our affiliate shops, and don’t forget Road to California will be here in January! There are also online classes and YouTube videos if you’re comfortable with technology, and there are still new things you can learn from books and magazines if you’re a Luddite like I am. Put an end to the lie that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Old dogs everywhere will thank you. Now, if only we could figure out how to train the cats…
See you at the meeting,