Quilting Academy: Wrap-up

20 03 2011

Over the past three days, I’ve attended the Eleanor Burns Quilting Academy in southern California. My blog posts for specific days and activities are listed below. This post is about my general impressions of the 3 days. These notes are MY opinion only and do not represent anyone else’s opinion. They are in no particular order.

Venue and food

  • The Hilton Del Mar near San Diego was a perfect location. It was far enough away from the usual tourist spots that there was no temptation to venture further afield. It was also super easy to find (right off the I-5), had plenty of parking (which was free for attendees), and we seemed to have the hotel pretty much to ourselves — at least, the main function areas were ours alone.
  • Breakfast and lunch were part of the deal. There was plenty to eat and it was all very fresh. My only complaint about the food was that neither meal varied much in its selections from day to day — e.g. lunch was the same every day. Breakfast was ‘continental’ but there were plenty of options, including warmish hard boiled eggs, cheeses, masses of fresh fruit and yoghurts as well as several varieties of bagels and spreads, and several varieties of muffins and other sweet goodies. Lunch was light but plentiful — beef and salad sandwich, a turkey croissant, or a vegetarian roll, plus potato crisps, fresh fruit, sodas, water etc. On the first afternoon, we were served icecream, though on the other afternoons the offerings were more pedestrian — a variety of cookies, mostly.
  • The rooms were good, but if you had a room on the I-5 side of the hotel, you had a really long hike between the lobby/restaurant/bar and function areas to the room. There was no traffic noise from the I-5 as the windows were double glazed. I only found one (tiny) elevator and it was an awfully long way from my room. The hotel only has three floors, so instead of a narrow high-rise hotel, this is a low-rise LONG hotel that wraps around the central pool and terrace. I had a couple of issues with my room — I reported them on Day 1 and they were fixed by the time I returned to the room that evening.
  • Internet connection was $9.95 per day or 44.95 for a week. It was promoted as ‘high speed broadband’ but that was a lie. After monitoring the speeds (using www.speedtest.net), and trying both a wired and wireless connection, I called the front desk to find out if the approximately 1 Mbps download speed was normal. After they put me through to someone else ‘in IT’, I was told it was normal! That is NOT ‘high speed broadband’ in my book!
  • Option for no daily service of the room, with a $5 food and beverage voucher for each day that you don’t require daily service. I’ve blogged about this separately.

Quilt Academy

  • Quality of the presenters and helpers: Except for the long-arm quilting session on Day 1, the quality of the teachers was exceptional. They all knew their stuff and they all knew how to teach. They were all really helpful with the newbies, as well as the old hands. Having helpers in the room really helped the teachers get through their content. Even after three days of teaching the same stuff, the presenters were still fresh and passionate.
  • Sessions: The sessions were pretty much the right length. We could have done with an extra 30 mins in the embroidery machine session, but that was the only one where it was a rush to get finished. I’ve already blogged about the long-arm session that was almost all talk and little practical hands-on stuff, so I won’t mention that here. Every other session was very practical and very productive. And we learnt LOTS.
  • Market place: One function room was set aside as a store where you could buy notions needed in the classes (in case you forgot to bring the required items), as well as other goodies from the Quilt in a Day and the Sewing Machines Plus stores. Each person had a number and a bag was kept behind the counter with your number. If you wanted to buy something, you either got it put in your bag for payment and collection on the last day, or, if you needed it right now, they tore off the price tag and stuck that on the bag instead. A great system.
  • Plenary sessions: To me this was the biggest disappointment of the whole three days. There was no general get together at the beginning of Day 1, even just to go over housekeeping details and how we were divided up (and to let us know that there was a room change!), and nothing to say goodbye at the end of Day 3. Also, in the first sessions on Day 1, the teacher didn’t quickly go around the room to at least get people to say their names and where they were from. As we were divided into groups that we stayed with the whole 3 days, I think this would’ve been valuable and would only have taken a couple of minutes. Likewise, there were no general announcements at lunchtimes, and no ‘door prizes’ or similar. Many people didn’t know each other and while we did get to know others by the end of the three days purely by sitting with strangers at lunch tables etc., there was no opportunity to develop a shared camaraderie as a group.
  • Trunk Shows: The Trunk Shows and the opportunity to check out the Quilt in a Day and the Sewing Machines Plus stores were great. I’m sure the stores did well out of our visits, but that’s fine — that’s what these after hours visits were for, as well as hosting Eleanor’s Trunk Shows where she exhibited some absolutely wonderful quilts. The only disappointment was that it wasn’t clear as to how car pooling and shared rides would be done — when we registered, we were asked if we wanted a ride or could offer a ride, but there was no announcement as to how that would occur or if there was a meet-up in the lobby at a certain time etc. I know of at least one lady who missed out on the first night — she went to the lobby hoping for a ride but there was no-one there. That needed better organisation.

So, would I do it again? Yes! Not this curriculum (been there, done that), but another one for sure.

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