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Teaching Sewing with Frivols

Teaching Sewing with Frivols

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

   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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