Adult Education in the Professional Quilt Instruction Community 1995-2006 By: Pam Tracz PDF  | Print |  E-mail


Craft and education have long co-existed. Through crafts, women have explored and demonstrated their creativity, learning styles and abilities; taught through a method known as familial teaching (Clover, Stalker and McGauley 2004, Chadwick (2002), and Synder-Ott,). Informal learning is a vital and cherished tradition within the handcraft community; without it, many handcrafts would not exist, as we know them today. Barber (1994) posits that women have taught each other the necessary craft traditions through centuries, sharing techniques, patterns and inspiration. This informal, familial form of learning is what the guild structure of 12th-18th Century Britain was based on as well as ensuring quality and maintaining local guild control over production. (Parker, 1981, Chadwick, 2002) The teaching of craft has changed over time. Our contemporary society encourages learning in workshops, classes and through books rather than learning in the familial environment.

machine Blues
Kathy Tidswell CQA/ACC  2005 “ Teacher of the Year”
Bank Machine Blues 29 1/2 inches by 20 inches, 2005

Study Background 

When a new skill such as quilting is learned, some people will not only learn the techniques necessary but also attain a level of confidence in their practice; some will aspire to share and teach those skills to others. Becoming a quilt teacher does not follow a set path or timeline-some will become teachers quickly, others take significantly longer. Some quilt teachers will go further in their practice, become “professional,” and teach at a State or National level, further developing their abilities.

The process of being recognized for quilt teaching is somewhat blurry. What makes a good quilt or craft teacher? How does one become a qualified teacher of craft or quilting? To what organizations or groups does one belong to be a qualified teacher? Indeed, do you even need to be qualified by an organization to teach quilting? If you do, what are those qualifications? Further to this, what are the indications of good teaching? Who determines what a good quilt teacher is and how she is recognized? When someone is recognized as an outstanding teacher, is this recognition important to the industry? Does it lead to better teaching by others? Is there a process of teacher training or role modeling that occurs?

These are questions I seek to answer by studying the Instructor of the Year for the years 1995-2006 as identified in Professional Quilter Magazine, a trade publication of the quilting industry. As well, I will examine the quilt instruction community and define some of its practices from an adult education viewpoint.

Nomination Process

Annually, The Professional Quilter issues a call for nominations for Instructor of the Year; candidates are nominated for the award by their peer group. The nominee then completes a written questionnaire based on her[1] teaching and professional practices.

The questionnaires are evaluated by a selection committee, using the following guidelines: Commitment to development of fine workmanship and personal expression of  students;     Involvement in and contributions to the field of quilt making; and Professionalism, including personal code of ethics and serving as a role model.                                                                                                                        (Professional Quilter website, 2007)

The selection committee then determines who will be the Instructor of the Year and the decision is announced in the spring issue of The Professional Quilter. A profile of the Instructor of the Year and her answers to the written questionnaire are printed. A brief biography of the other nominees is also published.


In this case study, I examined the Professional Quilter, profiles of the Instructor of the Year and the nominees from 1995-2006. I was particularly interested in the education process of quilters and “professional quilt Instructors”[2]and how they teach the craft of quilting as they identified themselves. I used a qualitative case study methodology (Merriam and Simpson, 2000, p. 109) examining the biographic profiles of 10 American professional quilting Instructors named; “Instructor of the Year” by Professional Quilter. As part of the study, I compared the brief biographic information for the other nominees, to determine whether there is a correlative effect between being nominated and being recognized later. The public profile of the Instructors[3]compared to determine whether published books, attendance at national quilt shows, videos or other technological tools bear any effect on the nomination or successful achievement of Teacher of the Year. Simple statistical methodology was applied to this section of the analysis. At no time did I execute verbal interviews. My observations come strictly from what was published in the Professional Quilter issues from 1995-2006, as well as verification of online presence on the Internet when mentioned.

Time spent in Skill Acquisition

When I examined the number of years that the nominees[4] had been quilting there is a broad time range for development from learner to Instructor, the least is just 2.5 years, the most is 45 years. Within that range, many Instructors indicated they had been quilting for 15 to 20 years at the time of the award. My hypothesis was that the time spent teaching quilting would be less than the time spent in quilt skill acquisition. Therefore, I examined the time spent quilting versus time spent instructing. I was not able to garner exact quilting start dates for all the nominees from their biographies. To calculate time spent quilting in this case, I assumed that they began quilting at the same time they began teaching. For example, Mary Lowe, (2005) [5]indicated she had taught for 20 years, but did not indicate how long she had been quilting prior to teaching, in her biography; therefore her time spent quilting would be 20 years. Using this assumption allowed me to calculate the number of years spent quilting at the time of the award and the number of years teaching. The amount of time spent in skill development is impressive, in total; the 178 nominees from 1995 through 2006 have 2635.50 years of quilting experience. This makes for an average of 30.82 years of experience for each of the nominees. Certainly, this would garner master craftsman status under the medieval apprenticeship models where 7-10 years of apprenticeship was necessary before attaining master status (Rorabaugh, 1986). This is indicative of their dedication to the craft and the level of technical expertise necessary to be nominated for the Instructor of the Year.

The gap between time in skill acquisition and teaching practice was smaller at 2.17 years. On average, the Instructors had 28.17 years of teaching experience at the time of nomination. This length of time is significant, as it indicates how long an Instructor takes to develop her community of practice and other skills such as tacit knowledge and brokering abilities, which I will discuss in the next section.


Kathy Tidswell Majestica , 39" X 30" 2008

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