Eleanor Burns has used her more than 90 quilt books, a PBS television series (first airing in 1990), and a Web site (quiltinaday.com) to show quilters how quick, easy, and practical quilting can be.
Eleanor keeps a rigorous teaching schedule of hands-on, fun-filled classes that focus on the Quilt in a Day method that she first introduced 30 years ago. American Patchwork & Quilting followed her when she taught from her book Day & Night (2009, co-written with Michelle Countess) at the April 2009 AQS Quilt Show in Paducah, Kentucky.
Before Day & Night class begins, students select a fabric kit. The book Day & Night includes an acrylic triangular ruler that makes cutting blocks faster than using a method such as paper piecing.
The Day & Night pattern calls for a light to medium “day” fabric, a deeper contrasting “night” fabric, and one or two accents. Eleanor’s students make their strip sets from three fabrics. Here she shows a variation of the pattern that uses four fabrics.
“The blocks start out as strip sets,” Eleanor says of Day & Night. “It’s the ruler that helps you cut the shapes. When you put them together, there are lots of seams, but they lock together to make everything look perfect.”
Because students cut triangles from their strip sets and match up the points, Eleanor reminds them that the accuracy of the blocks rely on the accuracy of the strip sets’ 1/4-inch seam allowances. Learn how to create perfect 1/4-inch seams .
When it’s time to cut, Eleanor encourages her students to work from opposite sides of the table and help the person across the way cut her pieces. This way, each quilter stays in one place and no one has to rotate a cutting mat.
Always the entertainer, Eleanor finds creative ways to keep quilters engaged while she teaches. From “flying” polka dots to goofy glasses, she uses props to keep the mood light. A magician’s costume raises the fun factor and reinforces the pattern’s theme.
Class isn’t just a comic routine. When she teaches, Eleanor uses a TV monitor so students can get an up-close look at each step. “I’ve learned from my students to be direct and clear,” Eleanor says. She breaks the process down into basic steps. “I really try to keep people from being frustrated,” she says.
While her students work, Eleanor mingles and provides one-on-one instruction when necessary. “I’m always showing and doing,” she says, “giving quilters confidence and encouragement.”
After units are cut and pinned, Eleanor instructs students to create blocks with assembly-line stitching (or chain piecing), another one of her time-saving approaches. She first incorporated this technique into her own quilting during her early days of teaching when she noticed waistbands and pockets from a nearby clothing factory were sewn this way.
“No sleeping after lunch!” Eleanor says to her students, leading them in a stand-up-and-stretch break to help them overcome a mid-afternoon slump.
After the units are stitched, Eleanor shows them how to assemble the blocks.
At the end of the day, students are encouraged to share their projects in a show-and-tell. Eleanor has shown the students how to use their scraps for other projects, so all that is left of the original kits is what she calls “fabric confetti.”
To join in on the fun and learn more about Eleanor Burns’ streamlined approach or purchase Day & Night, visit her website quiltinaday.com .
Download the free pattern for Fast Flying Geese , a color option pattern inspired by Eleanor Burns’ Fly Into Spring (featured in the April 2010 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting).