“Online Quilt Classes Are a Rip-Off”

No, of course–I did not say that, but “Online quilt classes are a rip-off” is a direct quote from a member of a social network quilt group to which I belong. Appalled, I made no rebuttal at the time, thinking it better not to blow things out of proportion by starting one of those social network discussions where everyone must take sides and nobody wins.

Still, these words about online quilt classes being a rip-off echoed in my mind for a long time, so I now choose this time and place to put forth my argument. The beginning of a new year is always a good time to take stock of the past and set up some useful plans for the future. Read what I have to say and then decide for yourself about this contentious issue.

Here’s a well-kept secret from my personal experience: Statistically, the majority of quilters who sign up and pay for an online class do absolutely nothing with it!

During all my years of teaching for Quilt University and in more recent times teaching for QuiltEd Online, these statistics hold true consistently:

  • Of all the students who sign up for an online class session, 50% of them greet the teacher and their classmates, but at least 50% say nothing at all in class!
  • Of the 50% of students who introduce themselves, about half of them offer some kind of second post. Perhaps they ask a question, make a remark or even put forward a photo of a project begun. Only 25% of the students actually DO anything at all with their class materials!
  • Of this group of 25% of the class students, less than half work seriously with the class instructions and information, post photos of what they do and engage the teacher in dialog about the work. Only about 10% of the total number of quilters enrolled in an online class actually give their teacher a chance to teach!
  • Of the 10% who permit the teacher to teach—by doing the work, sharing photos, asking questions and engaging in constructive discussion with the teacher—only about 3% actually finish a project.

Now, where lies the rip-off? Why are quilters so eager to sign up for an online quilt design class when they have no sense of commitment–to their teacher, classmates or even, indeed, to themselves–to do the work and make an effort to learn from their experience?

Goodbye to the Grid art quilt by Mary Kelly of Canada, a QuiltEd Online student
Goodbye to the Grid art quilt by Mary Kelly of Canada, a QuiltEd Online student

The most usual excuse we hear is “Oh, well—life got in the way!” Does life get in the way of shopping for food, cooking meals and eating? Does life get in the way of attending the new Star Wars film opening or having a cruise holiday to Barbados? I doubt it!

So, if you want to take an online quilt design class because you seriously want to design quilts for yourself, and you believe a particular teacher can help you learn how to do that, how do you make that commitment to do the work and hold “life” at bay?

Here are a few useful tips:


Read the full article at QuiltEd Online!

Walking Dead Version of Victoria

This is just in from Judy Chaffee of Ventura, California, who shares her Walking Dead fabrics version of the Crystal Quilt pattern, Victoria:

Thought you might want to see what I did with the Victoria Crystal Quilt pattern.  My son-in-law was the camera person on the show called the Walking Dead and when I saw the Walking Dead fabric I thought of your pattern and that it would work great with the fabric.

However,  I wish that I had turned the center square diagonally.  It took me several tries until I figured how to make the mitered corners and how to attach the background fabric but I learned a new technique  so it was worth it.

Judy used my quilt pattern Victoria, but in a way very different from the ways in which I have used it. Here’s the original, in two versions:

Victoria I, a Crystal Quilt by Dena Dale Crain

In this first version, I used Inset Angle Piecing, a simple technique that takes about 15 minutes to master. Inset Angle Piecing made every point perfect. The quilt has no unnecessary seam lines. Every seam involves a fabric change.

There is a fine line of white Perfect Piping around the quilt top, just inside the yellow strip that fames the patchwork so nicely. (Click on the photo to open the image in another tab to see it enlarged.) That little line of white punches out the design by echoing the center white patch. A little hand beading finished the work well, giving it a definite focal point.

Victoria II, a Crystal Quilt by Dena Dale Crain

The second version of Victoria was cut as one piece of pink silk dupioni, made in one piece with the borders. Reverse appliqué was the principal technique used to make this quilt. Notice that there are no unnecessary seam lines in this quilt, either. There are tiny Swarovski crystals in the centre.

Judy did a great job with her Walking Dead quilt, made with my Victoria quilt pattern but working without instruction from me. She used machine appliqué with a decorative stitch, and added a few seams to make piecing easier. The Walking Dead fabrics make her quilt distinctive, one sure to catch and hold anyone’s eye!

Download the quilt pattern for Victoria, a Crystal Quilt pattern and make your own Victoria version. Take the online art quilt class Crystal Quilts if you need more help with the piecing or if you want to design your own, original Crystal Quilts.

Then, send in a photo of your finished quilt and I will publish it here on my blog for you!

African Tribal Print Upholstery Fabrics in Nairobi

This morning’s email turned up the following request for African tribal print upholstery fabrics in Kenya:

Soon, I will be visiting Kenya and would like to purchase some heavy duty upholstery fabric with African tribal patterns. I only have one day spare to do this so was wondering if you could narrow it down for me on places to go. I have looked at your recommendations from your site, however I won’t have time to visit them all.

This query about African tribal print upholstery fabrics for home decorating brings with it an opportunity to talk about a new development. According to Standard Digital News, the Kenya government is determined to revive the ailing Rivatex textile manufacturing plant in Eldoret.

I believe Kenyans already benefit from this long-overdue initiative to revitalize textile and apparel industries within the country. Far too long, Kenyans have been subjected to recycling the rest of the world’s seconds and second-hand products. This is true not only for textiles and apparel, but for far too many other products as well.

Shopping recently for upholstery and window treatment fabrics, I thought to make the safari from Karen to the Tile and Carpet Center (TACC) on the Mombasa Road. TACC stocks a lot of “cheap Chinese” fabrics. I was less than enthusiastic to go there after a recent bad experience with their outlet on James Gichuru Road in Lavington. Nevertheless, the Mombasa TACC shop houses one of the largest collections of upholstery and window treatment fabrics in the country.

On the way down Langata Road, I remembered the big Nakumatt Mega shop which was between me and TACC. That Nakumatt shop also has a fabrics department. It has been many years since I last shopped there, so I decided to go there instead.

An hour later I found myself at the Wilson Airport round-about. I knew in my heart that whatever I expected to find on Mombasa Road was something I could, and would, live without. Nairobi traffic makes  shopping for whatever you need within a radius of about 5 kilometers of your own neighborhood the only sane way to live!

I turned at the round-about and headed for Hurlingham. From there, I continued out the Ngong Road, taking care of other errands instead of shopping for fabric, disappointed but not yet defeated.

The next morning I made the 15-minute drive to the Galleria shopping mall. The Nakumatt Galleria shop there has a small home decorating fabrics section.

As I approached that area of the shop, one bolt of fabric seemed to light up in anticipation of my approach. You know how that feels? It was perfect for what I needed!

Within another 15 minutes, I had 17 meters of cloth for new slipcovers, at a VERY reasonable price, and was headed out the door. That experience left me with plenty of time to relax and enjoy the rest of the day without fighting traffic!

What has this to do with Kenya’s national policies regarding the textile industries here? Well, taking the chance that I am mistaken, I believe the fabrics carried by Nakumatt come from the Rivatex factory!

I have not seen these African tribal print upholstery fabrics for many years, but they are distinctive and easily recognizable. Indeed, there’s at least one room in our home that has curtains made from Rivatex fabrics in the old days–faded but still strong and durable after at least 30 years!

This government initiative to revive Rivatex signals a growing awareness that there is BIG money to be generated and made here at home. The textiles and apparel industry is, I believe, one of the largest industries in the world. Just think of all the people employed in fiber growth and production, spinning, dyeing, weaving, sewing, distribution, marketing and sales!

It’s about time Kenya had a first-hand share of that market!!

By the way, African tribal print upholstery fabrics from Rivatex fabrics make great wholecloth bed cover quilts!

Now, let’s encourage growing cotton, hemp, jute, silk and linen, and make our own fabrics . . .



Too Busy for Words!

In recent weeks, I’ve been too busy doing things to tell anyone about what I’ve been doing!

Bind Quilts by Machine, the ebook, is now available at Amazon.com! It was out at Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, Apple and elsewhere, but I finally got it published on Amazon. Shop around, because prices vary (not my fault!). Oh, it’s available in all formats, and if I update the ebook, you get a notice that I’ve done so and you can download a fresh copy for free!

There’s a new free online quilt class on QuiltEd Online. It’s a three-lesson mini-class on Sudoku Quilts. It’s great fun and it has a companion free quilt pattern, Whirligig, which you can get from the Patterns page of QuiltEd Online, even if you don’t take the class. Why wouldn’t you take the class?! Learn something new about Sudoku, symmetry and color–for FREE!!

All the entries for the Quilt Visions Interpretations: Celebrating 30 exhibition are in. Teammates Noriko Endo, Alicia Merrett and I are working hard to narrow down the selection to an excellent collection well-suited for the occasion. Many of the pieces are absolutely fabulous, so it’s tough to decide which works will be included in the show. I’m starting to wonder if I might squeeze in a trip to the US to be there for the opening . . .

Designer Pinwheels, Art Quilts with a Twist, is available for preorder from all the booksellers I listed above, including Amazon. Release date is September 13, and you can reserve your copy with a 15% discount if you pre-order it NOW!

Bind Quilts by Machine e-Book Release

Let Bind Quilts by Machine take the hand-work out of finishing a quilt!

In Bind Quilts by Machine, learn how to sew three core quilt binding methods entirely by machine:

  • Fuss-Free Single-Fold Binding by Machine
  • Seamless Single-Fold Binding by Machine
  • Double-Fold Binding by Machine

Learn how to apply Perfect Piping before you bind a quilt, and why and how you can bind a quilt before quilting it! Then, discover four more methods of finishing a quilt by machine, all with no hand-sewing required!

Save time, frustration and hassle binding quilts by machine, and give your quilts that professional finish you seek! Bind Quilts by Machine, the e-book, is just about to be released to the public, and this is your chance to get in on the savings while the e-book is available for pre-order.

24 Hour countdown to release!

Bind Quilts by Machine, the new e-book that has been on pre-order status for the last few weeks, is about to be released. The release date is July 18, and that day will be here–tomorrow!

Pre-order discounted price is still in effect!

The pre-order price of only $9.99 for Bind Quilts by Machine is still in effect–if you act now!

A pre-order is like a reservation. You tell your selected bookseller that you want a copy of Bind Quilts by Machine, and they place a reservation on it for you. They record your credit card details, if they do not already have them, and when the e-book is released, they charge your account and notify you that the e-book is yours, ready for download.

It is a simple enough procedure to place a pre-order, so if you want a copy of the e-book Bind Quilts by Machine, act now! If you delay past July 18, the e-book will cost you $12.99, almost 25% more.

So, take advantage of this last-minute opportunity while you still can. Go to Apple iBooksBarnes & Noble or Kobo and pre-order Bind Quilts by Machine today!

After July 18, find Bind Quilts by Machine for $12.99 in all major e-book retail shops including Amazon and on Smashwords.

City Sidewalks

City Sidewalks has done it again!

Redefinitions VI: City Sidewalks, featured recently in Studio Art Quilt Associations’ online gallery Summer in the City, is now included as well in the newly opened Graphic Colour online exhibition, curated by quilt artist Alicia Merrett!

The works and artists included in Graphic Colour are:

Go have a look at the show on Studio Art Quilt Associates. Click on the little X icon to blow it up to full size, then sit back and enjoy the show!

City Sidewalks is only one of about a dozen Redefinitions art quilts I have made. Find some of the others in my online portfolio on YouTube.

Jurying Visions

I am truly honored to have been asked to serve as a juror for the upcoming Visions Art Museum exhibition: Interpretations: Celebrating 30 Years!

Interpretations: Celebrating 30 Years is an international juried exhibition presented by Visions Art Museum: Contemporary Quilts + Textiles (VAM). Visions Art Museum is a program of Quilt San Diego, a non-profit organization, established in 1985 to promote contemporary quilts and quilt artists. The jurors will select work that exemplifies innovation in quilting and surface design techniques as well as excellence in composition and craftsmanship. Cash awards will be presented at the Opening Reception, October 17, 2015. A full color publication will accompany the exhibition.

My co-jurors are Alicia Merrett and Noriko Endo, and I am most sincerely flattered to be among them. I do not know Alicia personally, but I have met Noriko on a couple of occasions. I’m sure we’re all going to work hard and have a great time jurying this most prestigious event in the art quilt world.

You all know me, of course, but here’s what Visions had to say about the three of us:

Dena Dale Crain is a contemporary quilter known for her artistic skill, surface design techniques and generous nature, making her a popular teacher at venues such as the International Quilt Festival, Houston, Texas; the Festival of Quilts, Birmingham, England; and the European Patchwork Festival, Val d’Argent, France. She is also the founder of QuiltEd Online.

Raised and educated in the United States, Dena has lived in rural Kenya for the past 25 years. She is a South African Quilt Guild certified quilt judge and has judged both quilt and fine art competitions. She holds advanced degrees in design and textiles and is a Juried Artist Member of Studio Art Quilt Associates.

Noriko Endo has devoted herself to creating quilts for the past 30 years both at her studio in Tokyo and at her home in Chiba, Japan. She has taught classes worldwide in South Africa, Australia, Europe, England, United States, Taiwan, Korea and Japan.

Noriko’s quilts resemble pointillist oil paintings with tiny pieces of fabric caught under a layer of tulle, a technique she calls Confetti Naturescapes. These landscape quilts allow her to capture the play of light and color she sees during walks in the woods. Her quilts have been shown in many national and international exhibitions including Quilt Visions, Quilt National and Quilt Nihon.

Alicia Merrett is best known for award-winning quilts that combine color with line and texture. Her current quilts are about maps and aerial views. She recently completed a commission for a quilted map of the city of York, England, as it was in 1611. Alicia’s quilts have been exhibited internationally and featured in numerous books and magazines. She teaches throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

A native of Argentina, Alicia originally trained as a photographer. After moving to England, she enjoyed a 30 year career in the arts and craft field as a doll maker and toy maker. She discovered art quilts in 1993, an obsession that continues today.

The Call for Entry is open now, as of July 1, and will continue until July 31. Read all the details in the Visions Art Museum’s site: http://visionsinterpretations.com.

This is a fabulous opportunity, my friends, to submit your art quilts for consideration and possible sale. Don’t miss it! Check out the Call for Entry and pull your photos and information together NOW!

We hope to see YOUR work on exhibition at the Visions Art Museum for its 30th anniversary celebrations!

Smashwords Author Interview

Yesterday, I submitted to an in-depth Q&A session for a Smashwords Author Interview. You can read the interview at


It was fun to do, took me down a bit of Memory Lane and gave me a few interesting things to think about. I hope you enjoy reading the interview!

We can engage in a similar interview right here on my blog!

Simply ask me questions about my work and my writing, and I’ll be happy to answer. Ask me about publishing through Smashwords. Perhaps you think to write and publish independently too–we have a lot in common, then!

Come on–challenge me! Ask whatever you want to know about Dena Crain: Artist/Teacher in Kenya.

All comments are moderated, so if there’s something that comes up I feel is inappropriate for this venue, I can always reply to you privately.

Otherwise, I’m pretty open about my life’s work, and will be pleased to chat with you about it!