The Best Way to Learn a New Technique

Cate pratoin stitchesI've heard that one characteristic that makes someone a good teacher is the ability to explain a concept in more than one way. In other words, if the student doesn't understand a verbal description, being able to provide a real-life example might help. Or demonstrating the concept in a visual way.

My husband is very good at this. I am not. I think it has to do with our spatial/directional abilities or, in my case, lack thereof. Not only that, I need someone to teach me in a variety of ways before I can pick up a complex subject.

For example, I'm not good at following written directions for three-dimensional tasks, such as sewing or building. I need to see the process in action, too.

I experienced a learning revelation the first time I went online to find instructions on how to bind off my knitting  and discovered not just written instructions and an illustration, but a video that repeated the bind-off stitch again and again, as many times as I wanted. This was several years ago, before YouTube, and I felt like I had hit the how-to lottery.

in stitchesI was remembering this recently when I tried out the new Quilting Arts In Stitches, Vol. 2. My 14-year-old is really into wearing fabric cuffs, and I was checking out Jackie Cardy's article in this eMag to see how she made her Silk Embroidered Cuffs.

Jackie's cuffs have an ingeniously simple construction, but preparing the cuff includes making a little template–not my strong point. However, because In Stitches is interactive, I could zoom in on each image to see it clearly and pick up subtleties like which way the crease is folded. The images can be viewed as a slideshow, and they also pop up when you click on the icon at each step in the directions. I find this amazingly helpful as I have trouble finding, say "Figure 3," if it's on a different page from where the directions are for that step.

I can also print the directions off the eMag if I need the hard copy next to me as I cut the fabric or stitch the embroidery. This is true of all of the articles in the eMag, some of which also have helpful video, like Faith Cleary's demonstration of how she makes stitched pet portraits and Liz Kettle's helpful hints on how to use metallic thread without throwing it across the room in frustration. Not that she's done that, of course.

cleary in stitchesAlthough I've never met Liz or Faith, I felt like I had a friend guiding me as I learned their processes, and I could review their hints and tips again and again. Stop and zoom in. Study the patterns, steps, and see up close what each step is supposed to look like.

In Stitches Vol. 2 makes learning new techniques so much fun, especially for someone like me who needs a good teacher: a conduit of information that combines verbal, spatial, and three-dimensional learning techniques.

If you want to get a feel for the experience, you can see a preview of Quilting Arts In Stitches in the Interweave Online Store.

I'm also curious: how do you learn best? What do you look for in a teacher when you're learning a new technique or skill? Leave your comments below and we'll get the discussion going!

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