Teaching Sewing with Frivols

   Ever dream of a job working with fabric? Then you might be jealous of Kim Desper—she’s got two of ‘em.

By day Kim teaches textiles at East Noble High School in Kendallville, Indiana, and in her off hours she works in the fabric department at Yoder Department Store in Shipshewana, Indiana. But Kim’s not the only lucky one—her students benefit too.

Jade carefully measures before cutting

That’s because Kim was happy to adapt her curriculum when an opportunity came her way to use Moda Frivols to teach students to sew. Her students, as it turns out, were equally as happy. “We have a six-minute passing period between classes, and they’d be here with three minutes left to go, already cutting and chatting,” says Kim of her advanced textiles students. “In the 13 years I’ve taught I don’t think I’ve ever had students this excited!”

Jade matches pieces in preparation for sewing

While making clothing is a main focus of the class, Kim knew working with Frivols to piece quilt tops would teach students plenty of applicable techniques, including learning to read a ruler, rotary cutting and safety, combining prints and colors, and following simple directions. “The Frivols patterns are very step-by-step, and they’ll be able to apply these skills to garment sewing,” says Kim. (The class is using the Frivols No. 5, with French General fabrics.)

Sara Williams (center) and classmates take turns with the rotary cutter and ruler.

Her students agree. Sara Williams, who knew some sewing basics when she started the class, has learned much more. “The instructions are easy to read and follow—it really is quilting for beginners,” she says. “It’s beneficial because you can learn all these techniques in one quilt, and the class is teaching me how to use a sewing machine to its full potential.”

As any quilter knows, one of the techniques we learn sooner or later is how to handle a seam ripper. “Students gain an understanding that if you don’t have exact quarter-inch seams now, five seams later you may be short on fabric,” says Kim. She’s emphasized that it’s possible to correct mistakes, and saving scraps in case students cut incorrectly and need to piece fabric together later.

Seraphina using the ruler and rotary cutter

There were not enough rotary cutters to go around, so some students cut “old school.”

Student Jade Powers acknowledges that she’s learned to focus, and not to rush. “Sometimes if you’re going really fast and thinking about other things you make mistakes,” she says. “I think with a quilt you can have hard times and easy times, but they’re really fun.”

Each of the 15 girls in the class is piecing a small quilt top, about 36” by 42”, and Kim plans to teach them to quilt as well. She says the girls (this class is all female, although she does get the occasional male student) have loved working with the quality Moda fabrics, though the scrappiness of the quilt was challenging for some. “Getting kids to mix up their fabrics, to put a plaid and stripe together in a quilt took some convincing,” she says.

Seraphina and her chain piecing

Whatever she said apparently worked. Student Seraphina Mock, who plans to give her quilt to her mom, credits Mrs. Desper with inspiring her throughout the learning experience. “Her advice and energy makes it enjoyable,” she says. “Making a quilt is time consuming, of course, but at the end it will be rewarding. I’m really proud of my sewing.”

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24 comments on “Teaching Sewing with Frivols

  1. Susan says:

    I LOVE this post and how wonderful that these young students are learning this wonderful needle art! I, also, loved the story about the department store! Wish we had a store like this in Northern CA!

    • Jade Powers says:

      Thank you! I am one of those students, Jade Powers. I love to sew and I am glad that I took this class!

    • Katie Wyatt says:

      It warms my heart to read that students are still learning how to sew in school. I took sewing classes in the early 70’s for 3 years which was basically clothing. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I happened to fall into quilting. I also love Moda fabrics and have several jelly rolls that I just don’t want to use. I have also learned to keep the fabric I love until I find the right pattern. Keep up the good work Moda and if you ever need someone to work with some new fabric lines count me in! All the best, Katie

  2. Sharla Dial Anderson says:

    This is fabulous! I was so excited to hear they actually have a sewing class in school again! What a wonderful opportunity for those students to learn a beneficial, useful and fun craft that will be with them the rest of their lives. I certainly hope sewing makes a comeback in schools all over the country.

  3. Angela Short says:

    Very cool that these things are being taught. I think it’s great!!

  4. Becky says:

    So glad to see students creating in what was called “Home Ec” in my day. We learned how to make an apron and a skirt and some basic cooking techniques. So helpful when we got out on our own. And now in my 70’s I quilt and just love it. Mrs. Desper, thank you for guiding these students into a helpful and enjoyable craft. I hope your school knows how valuable this class is. And to the boys….Check out the guys in quilting such as Ricky Timms and Rob Apel. They are so much fun and are making a living at quilting and fiber art. Sew On!

  5. Carol Detloff says:

    great story – inspiring a lifetime love for the needle arts. It is time well spent .

  6. Pat Bley says:

    This is just great. I wish every school would do something like that to keep the trade going. I quilt and sew for people, and I much rather quilt for it is so relaxing so that just might be the way to go to get kids interested in this trade. I teach 4-H sewing so maybe I should think about doing something like this. Thanks for the idea!

  7. Helene says:

    I taught Textiles (and Food) in the UK for 30 some years with interference in the curriculum in the latter years! Boys took the subjects too and many of the school football team took Textiles to exam level. However these subjects have been phased out in many schools and desperately need to be reinstated as equal to other subjects. It is so good to see that the art of sewing is alive and well at this school in Indiana. Well done Mrs Desper and long may your students love you for this.

  8. Great story. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Kaylene Nelson says:

    You are doing a great job! I wished my grand daughters would have had this opportunity to learn. Keep up the good work.

  10. Thelma says:

    What a wonderful story, thanks for sharing Linzee. It made my day to see this group of young enthusiastic quilters working away on their projects.

  11. Mary Andra Holmes says:

    Fabulous posting.

  12. Beth T. says:

    When you consider how many of the other subjects get pulled into quilting, one could make a convincing case for a quilting class. I use math far more in quilting than in any other area of my life, and wish I had a better grasp of geometry. There’s surely art involved, and I know I would go further if I could sketch figures for appliqué. Reading comprehension is used every time a pattern is deciphered. The list goes on and on. The patience I practice in quilting is a boon to every other aspect of my life. Like “shop” classes and music classes, textile arts classes can stand on their own artistically but they can also make valid cases academically, I think.

  13. Ruth says:

    Fun to read this post. Hope this is the beginning of a lifetime hobby for the girls.

  14. Jean Etheridge says:

    Awesome!

  15. Renee M. says:

    They are so young and making their first quilts! I started quilting in my twenties! What beautiful quilts they are making and will make all along the way. Good luck to all of these young ladies!

  16. Barbara Esposito says:

    So exciting to see sewing being passed on to the next generation. You are giving them a gift that will last a lifetime!

  17. Julie Hardgrave says:

    What a great idea! Great to read about it! Thanks Linzee !

  18. Tracey says:

    Great post!! I love seeing our craft passed down to the next generation!!

  19. jmquilts says:

    What a great idea! Great post with the students’ responses as well!

  20. Sharon B. says:

    Love this! I wish I had this class available when I was in school! So much is learned while making a quilt… and when the quilt is finished…. you have something beautiful and utilitarian to cherish for years! Perfection!

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