Sunday, August 19, 2012

Some Thoughts on Professionalism

I've wanted to write this post for a couple of weeks, but really had to think about it.  It was triggered by an e-mail from a lady in the midwest who has taken classes from me at her local Bernina dealer in the past.  She said: "I'm signed up for a class with you later this year, but saw all of your information about the Brother conference on your blog. Aren't you working for Bernina, anymore?"

Short answer:  I'm an independent and teach all brands, admittedly some better than others.

Long answer:  I'm an independent and teach all brands, admittedly some better than others.  Like many quilting instructors, I started by teaching for guilds, first in California and then around the country.  When we teach for a guild, we don't walk into a classroom equipped with top of the line machines of one top brand name.  There are machines of every make, model and age imaginable because that's what people own and what they are intending to sew on when class is over.  It is my job, as the teacher hired for that workshop, to help people achieve the desired results on whatever machine they have brought.

That isn't always possible; for instance, when people started buying small, lightweight travel machines to bring to class, they sometimes had problems trying to feed a large quilt through that small space in my Fluff & Stuff class.  I feel that I have a responsibility to warn people about this type of thing; for instance, most of my supply lists specify that the students bring a tray or extension table for their machines when quilting and that a straight stitch only machine won't work if you're in my embellishment or applique classes.  Steering a student to success is my job!  (And a note to people who take workshops from me:  If bringing your own machine is required, bring your grownup machine! That's the one you're going to do your actual quilting on....If you don't have to bring your own machine, don't whine! This is a wonderful opportunity to test drive a brand new machine focusing on stuff you actually want to learn!)

I still teach for guilds, but not as often as I teach for shops.  Some are quilt shops, some are machine dealers, some are both.  Sometimes people bring their own machines, sometimes the shop supplies the machines.  It is always easier for me when the shop supplies the machines, simply because I will be familiar with all the machinery in the classroom.  When it comes to machine settings, one demo does it, rather than the several needed when there are a variety of machines in the room.

That brings me to the heart of what I think of as professionalism: knowing enough about the various brands of machines to be able to help everybody in the room.  If a company offers me training or a "loaner" machine -- yes, I'm going to accept that because it will make me a more effective, better teacher.  Does that mean I am working for that company -- no.  I am still working for myself, a better educated self for accepting those offers.

So to answer Sarah's question honestly and fully, I have to say that while I am teaching for Brother dealers and will be reviewing their latest machine (which will not be shipped until September, but I am lucky enough to have a prototype in my sewing cabinet this minute) over the next several days, I still teach for Bernina dealers, Viking dealers, Pfaff dealers, Janome dealers, and guilds.

Each time I teach for a dealer with a machine unfamiliar to me (and there are new ones coming out all the time, which really keeps me on my toes), I make an effort to familiarize myself with the machine I will be using for demonstrations.  Sometimes that involves spending a weekend with a friend (needed to know a LOT more about the Viking Diamond Deluxe that Terry W. had just purchased before I taught for Appletree Quilting in Columbia MO), sometimes it means that a dealer ships a machine to me so I can put it through its paces before I get to their store (thank you, Lonnie, of The Fabric Center in Morris IL for the Janome machine I had for a few weeks).  All of this effort is so that I don't look like an idiot in front of my class -- if it looks easy, the student is more likely to be successful. 

In other words, all of this equates to being prepared.....

And that's how I define professionalism -- any comments?


  1. We are a Bernina, Brother, Janome & Pfaff dealer. We have Paula teach twice each year. We fill the classroom with whatever machine we are promoting at the time. I love the fact that Paula is familiar enough with every brand to be able to point out features that both help and hinder her work. She is very honest and always leaves the customers to evaluate their own quilting interests and hopefully investigate the features that will best suit their needs. All machines have some great features, it comes down to personal preference and Paula never tries to make a decision for them. She gives customers lots to think about, and the permission to buy and sew on what makes them happy. Thanks Paula for being an educator who educates first!

  2. I love that you are versatile enough to teach with different types of machines because let's face it - we all own different types of machines. I'm curious to learn your favorite machine though I won't ask you to name it!

  3. Thank YOU, Rhonda, for the opportunity to teach twice a year on all the newest, latest and greatest machines! To catch everybody up, Rhonda owns four stores in the Salt Lake City UT area and is one of the top dealers in the country for both Bernina and Brother sewing machine sales. She's also an industry leader in the number and quality of classes that are offered in her stores; she doesn't just sell a machine, she offers information on many ways o use it....

  4. That's a tough one, Natalie! I am fortunate in that I get to sew on many different machines, but not all of them live with me! I do have to say, though, that I am definitely loving the time I'm spending learning this new Dreamweaver may become a favorite!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...