Sunday, April 3, 2016

A quilting class with Pepper Cory—the complete package

Pepper Cory at A Mountain Quiltfest.
Last month, my quilting buddy, Cristy, and I were fortunate to get the last two openings in Pepper Cory's "Sweet Potato Quilts" class at A Mountain Quiltfest. Aside from Pepper Cory being a prolific quilter, a respected teacher and author, and an icon in the quilting industry, she is a fabric designer for StudioE Fabrics—one of the companies I rep. StudioE produced a number of Pepper's previous fabric collections and now offers her two current collections— Peppered Cottons and Brushstrokes—in its lineup. So, I wanted... I needed... to take a class... any class... she was teaching at the Quiltfest... just so I could... meet... her... in person! (ooooh, I was so thrilled to get in!)

If you've ever taken a class from Pepper Cory (and I hope I get the opportunity again), you know what I mean when I say "with Pepper, you get the complete package." Her extensive background in quilting and knowledge of all areas of the industry are woven throughout her discussion of the class project, the tools you're using, and in the demonstration of the technique. You get tips and instruction to help you with the class project, but you'll discover that other choice little nuggets get tossed into your toolbox for use in your quiltmaking endeavors down the road.

The project for this class, "Sweet Potato Quilts," was inspired by an antique quilt in Pepper's collection. Students were treated to the story behind this scrappy, orange-and-brown quilt as well as a history lesson about quilts from that era and the quiltmakers who made them.
Pepper Cory discusses the background of the orange and brown antique quilt.
Following the introduction to the project and the overview of the quilt block, there was an exploration of each student's fabrics. All the class participants got Pepper's suggestions and guidance on colors and prints that would work for our quilts. With the suggestions, Pepper interjected a lesson and Q&A on the Elements and Principles of Design and how they should be considered when making fabric choices. (See what I mean by the "complete package"?)
Fabric selections for my sweet potato quilt.
Pepper even helped one student re-draft the block pattern to suit her fabrics (a.k.a the complete package!).
Pepper helps a student re-draft the quilt block.
Several examples of sweet potato quilts were shown during the class. A handout and pattern for the block was provided. We had a demonstration on "marking" the paper foundations for the blocks (a new technique for me). And there was a discussion not only about piecing blocks and potential block layouts for the top, but consideration for potential quilting designs for hand and machine quilting. After all, it's not a quilt 'til it's quilted, right?
The Baptist fan design can be done by hand or machine.
These are examples of both (left by hand, right by machine).
Pepper enjoys big stitch quilting and discussed threads as well as thread manufacturers. Did you know that one thread company, Presencia, offers a 3-ply 60 wt. cotton? (Bonus nugget!)
Hand quilting on Pepper's current project using the big stitch (left), and
the hand quilting on a the antique quilt—showing knots and all (right).
Along with the big stitch, Pepper includes decorative embroidery stitches (see the white feather stitch on the lower left of the photo) on her quilts.
Detail of Big Stitch quilting and embroidery stitches
on one of Pepper Cory's Sweet Potato quilt.
By late afternoon of this full-day class, students had one or two completed blocks. Pepper assembled the group outside the classroom for a display of everyone's accomplishments. Even though we each chose different fabrics, the star block unified the composition and all our blocks could have easily been assembled together into a lovely quilt. Pepper suggested this block would be perfect for a group quilt or a block swap. (Again, the complete package.)
A group discussion of the Sweet Potato star block with ideas for
additional applications.
Students' Sweet Potato star blocks made in class.
As in many a class, unexpected situations or "teaching opportunities" can arise. The best teachers, in my opinion, are those that can capitalize on these unplanned instances and turn them into benefits—or "bonuses"—for the class participants. During a break, I brought in my fabric color card and quilt samples using Peppered Cottons. This is a clip of Pepper talking about her shot cotton fabric line [Peppered Cottons] and graciously promoting a vendor that had them in a booth on the show floor.
The second sample (quilt top) is a modified version of a pattern called "Point Taken" by
Boutiques and More. It uses two charm packs of Peppered Cottons by StudioE Fabrics.

Cristy and I invited Pepper to join us during the lunch break and she did. It was great to have lunch with Pepper and also bounce around ideas about StudioE's fabric lines—especially the new 108" Peppered Cotton wide backings that will be coming out this fall. Stay tuned! Be sure to contact YLQS (your local quilt shop) and request them.
Me with Pepper Cory at A Mountain Quiltfest.
A Mountain Quiltfest and Pepper Cory's class was a delightful and energizing experience for me. It was fun to spend the day piecing scrappy quilt blocks (on the student's side of the table), and listen to and learn from such a high caliber teacher. There were several other golden nuggets that I and my fellow students took away from this class—too many to mention here. Just know that if you ever get the chance to take a quilting class with Pepper Cory, don't miss it! She's the complete package.

This embellished photo is for Scott, the president of StudioE. Think his ears were burning???
Our outfits were even color-coordinated!
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