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Crafting with the Katies: Professional quilting (for beginners)

As a crafter and maker I’ve always wanted to make a quilt. A project this big is very time consuming and complex so I decided to go to an expert. Dawn Paulin is practically a professional. She started sewing when she was 6 or 7-years-old. She has been quilting for the last 25 to 30 years.

This is her fist time teaching the beginner class at Cardinal Creations but over the last decade she’s helped plenty of students. Over the last 10 years she’s taught about 100 students how to quilt.

I wouldn’t say that I started off as a strong sewer. I’ve used a sewing machine to hem pants and create some DIY Halloween costumes.

One of my favorite parts of the class was being able to see rapid improvement over a short periods of time. Dawn says she loves teaching the beginning class. Stating that “when you have the beginner quilter who is just starting out and has never don’t this before, you know ‘Oh! Look what I made.’”

The first week of class I sat down with three other classmates. Right away we started using our machines. We practiced cutting, sewing and pressing our seams. Then the fun part began. SHOPPING! We all got to walk around and pick out what supplies we needed and what fabric we wanted to use. I decided to go with a Halloween theme. I picked out ghosts, spider webs, bats and stars, eight different fabrics with grey, purple, black and white.

My sewing machine and a tackle box of supplies were a hand-me-down from my Aunt Karla. She’s a quilt maker too. Everything else I need I got from Cardinal Creations.

We met every other week for six weeks tackling different quilt blocks each with different designs.

Measuring and cutting your fabric takes a lot of time and concentration. Always measuring twice and cutting once. We usually had enough time in our two and half hour class to get a good handle on at least one block. Everyone left with homework to complete before out next class.

Dawn says that most blocks usually take somewhere between three to five hours to complete but it really depends on the person.

The class usually isn’t very big. The smaller classes let me get more one on one time with Dawn. I had all my questions answered before tackling my homework. Dawn was even available to answer any questions we had outside of class. I sent her a couple of texts over the weekends. Now that Dawn is retired she spends a lot of time in her sewing room. She was always helpful and able to answer all my questions putting me back on the right track.

Meeting back up after a week off was fun. We got to show off our progress.

“You just got so excited when you would finish a block.” Dawn says.

If you had any mistakes Dawn nicely pointed them out. Sometimes you have to tear it all apart in order to put it back together. Dawn called the seam ripper Jack the Ripper. I had a couple of occasions where I had to use Jack to undo my mistakes.

As the weeks went on I was able to learn more and more quilting techniques, 12 in total.

  • Saw Tooth Star
  • Cups & Saucers
  • Four X
  • Churn Dash
  • Eight-Point Star
  • Crows Foot
  • Log Cabin
  • Split Rail
  • Nine Patch
  • Breaking Out
  • Ohio Hourglass
  • Yankee Puzzle

At the end of the class I had the skills, supplies and blocks to finish my quilt top.

I brought my completed quilt top back to Cardinal Creations and had them put on the finishing touches. A long armed sewing machine was then used to sandwich the top, batting and back together.

I got to pick out the design. I decided to continue with the Halloween theme. We’ve got witches hats, ghosts, and bats. Watching the machine go was mesmerizing,

My favorite quilt blocks are the Eight-Point Star, Breaking Out and Four X.

It took a whole 24 hours on the machine. They completed the quilt by sewing the binding all around the edge.

This class obviously made me a better sewer and quilter but I learned a lot of skill that will help with other crafts. Dawn said the class can help with patience and “the desire to create and to want to make something but want to be careful about how they’re making it so that it looks good.”

I am a much more confident sewer. The skills learned in this class have opened doors for more sewing projects in the future.

Dawn noticed that “People who like to make things tend to gravitate towards other craft items.”

Crafting is a way to express yourself creatively but also a way to join a community.

“Quilters do retreats where we spend a weekend or a few days together just sewing. We get stuck on something or you can’t figure out how to do something, there’s other people there.” Dawn is a member of the North Star Quilt Guild.

If you’re interested in seeing some of Dawns work in person you can check out Horizon Books in Cadillac. They are changed every three months. If you’re interested about joining the guild or have any questions you can email them at

Cardinal Creations are currently hosting quilting classes but if you’re interested in taking classes in the future check out their website or Facebook.