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Raise Your Creative Workshop Engagement for Quilting and Crafting Teachers

Updated: Apr 10

by Tori McElwain

Grab Your Free eBook, Design Your Workshop, here.

I was so embarrassed, I just wanted to crawl under the table and hide. I had no idea what this instructor was talking about! I was around 14 years old, accompanying my mom to a quilt class making a….I-don’t-even-know-what table runner.

The instructor seemed like she was speaking a different language and seemed so frustrated and annoyed that I was even there. I didn’t finish the project (my mom finished it to practice FMQ), but the same feelings of embarrassment and frustration fill me whenever I looked at that table runner.

It fell out of the closet yesterday while searching for a backup toddler sheet set and even now, 17ish years later, those feelings are almost as strong as the day I stood in class.

I’ve been learning a lot about psychological safety and how it can be used inside a workshop.

In creative workshops, it’s important that your students feel safe to be creative or it will be difficult for them to create, like it did in the story above.

How can we as instructors help create psychological safety so that our students can let their creativity out?

Here are 3 simple ways you can create psychological safety in your next workshop:

1. Introduce Yourself at the Beginning of Your Workshop

Let them know who they are trusting their time with. Share your background and your experience with the subject you're teaching. Give them some insight into your personality and maybe even share a fun short story that is relevant to the subject. When they know more about who you are the more comfortable they will feel in your workshop.

selfie of tori 2020

I loved to share how I was introduced to quilts. I was 9 years old when I made my first quilt, so when I started teaching quilting I had already been quilting for 19 years! I always got a reaction when I started out letting them know how much time I had spent in this craft despite being only 28 years old. Then I would go into a story about when I started with the technique (especially if I struggled) or how I started designing patterns if I was teaching a pattern class.

You can keep this fairly short about 5-7 minutes, but it will help them get to know your expertise, building trust with your students and authority. They will then feel like they have made a good and safe investment for their time and money and be ready to learn!

2. Embrace Imperfections and Mistakes

Mistakes happen when you’re teaching and that’s okay! The projector won’t turn on? The sewing machine is refusing to stay threaded? Did the needle break in the first 15 minutes? Show your students you can keep your cool and forgive your own mistakes generously and they will feel so much better about their own mistakes!

This will help create a safe environment for learning, because when we're learning we're making mistakes. In the quilting craft in particular there is very little room for mistakes. Many quilters have been taught that perfection is the goal. This may be the case in competitions and shows, but in a workshop, mistakes are THE BEST way to learn. Help your students feel safe making mistakes by embracing your own and giving yourself grace.

3. Use Genuine Praise, Celebrate, and Thank Them for Sharing

Adults need praise and encouragement. We don’t get enough. If you praise one student or thank them for sharing their work or their voice, the other students will feel safer sharing theirs!

When giving praise, be specific. Point out how they are taking risks and it's paying off. Point out their progress and celebrate it.

When teaching free motion quilting, I had so many students freeze up after putting their free motion quilting foot on their machine, too afraid to start. When they did - I celebrated! "You did it! You started! Now, it only gets easier from here." With in that same class, they would have a practice square 12.5 in x 12.5 in, and by the time they quilted the same motif from one end to the next, they would make progress. You could see the pride shine through when I pointed it out. Many students won't see the progress themselves until you point it out. Be their cheerleader!

These small changes can make a big impact and leave a beautiful impression on your students.

They will feel safer, happier, and more successful in the workshop, and guess what? Successful students come back to learn more!



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For time management, check out my blog post: Making Time For What You Want to Do.

Grab Your Free eBook, Design Your Workshop, here.


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