January Issue 11: 2001
Editor: Sharla R. Hicks
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From the Keyboard of Carol Miller, a co-founder of Quilt University

How Did Quilt University Get Its Start and Where is it going?

There was something about having my 50th birthday and knowing we were entering a new millennium that made me look at my life and take stock. Did I want to spend the next 50 years doing the same things?

I wouldn't call it a mid-life crisis. There was no urge to buy a sportscar. But I did begin to think that maybe I was stuck in a rut, needed to think new thoughts and do new things. I joined several online lists and signed up for a life drawing class. I tried to stop thinking "WHY would you do THAT?" and started thinking "Why WOULD you do that?"

And the funniest thing happened. I began seeing the same old things from a different angle. I have taught for years and lusted after seeing my name on the spine of a book. Chatting with Lily Kerns, another quilter in Missouri, it occurred to both of us that we wanted to write a book on creativity but weren't likely to find a publisher. Why couldn't we teach it online?!

We began to plot and plan, kicking ideas from Virginia to the Ozarks and back again. If you want your mind opened to new possibilities, there is no one better than Lily. I was try to think outside the box and Lily didn't know there was a box!

At the end of February, I went to Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, down the road from me in Williamsburg, VA. It is my annual rite of almost-spring and never fails to stir the creative juices. As I looked around at over 10,000 quilters, it occurred to me that they were all there because there were so many teachers. Not one or two, but dozens. I came home and told my husband I wanted to start Quilt University! It would be a fun thing to do in my spare time.

The idea was to provide classes with a broader scope than those offered by local shops and to give quilters the opportunity to study with teachers outside their area. We decided right at the start that our teachers would never be using someone else's book as an instruction manual. If you took Stack 'n' Whack (tm) from Quilt University, it would be because Bethany Reynolds was teaching it.

Roger is a self-employed programmer and his schedule was light. He pitched right in to help me set up the site. I figured we would start slow, launching our enterprise in June, giving us a chance to practice over the summer and really hit the ground running in September. He had different ideas. We were online by mid-March!

With some help from other online friends, the word got out and in less than a week, over 200 people a day were visiting the site. Karen Combs and Patricia Hammond agreed to join the faculty. Students were signing up for classes and sending in their money! This was really happening!

In less than a year, we have gone from 4 teachers and 4 classes a month to a faculty of over 25 offering as many as 5 classes a week. Our student body is twice as large as the college I attended. Our students come from all over the world, and so does our faculty. My husband is now my full-time partner.

I knew quilters would enjoy the convenience of studying from home, but it has been gratifying to hear from those who wouldn't be able to take conventional classes: people who cannot carry or sit for long periods; those who can't hear; those whose first language is not English; people hundreds of miles from the nearest shop.

Quilt University not only filled my spare time, it filled all my time, quite literally from dawn to bedtime. And I love every minute of it.

Patti R. Anderson, the author for our new Hints and Tips series for Electric Quilt in Computer Quilitng BYTES is also teaching classes at Quilt University

For additional information about Quilt University, visit the website at: http://www.quiltuniversity.com

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