Push Yourself to Learn Something New

As quilters, we often get  stuck doing the same things with the same fabrics and colors, using the same methods we have always used.  We have our own preferences for colors, and can’t possibly imagine creating a quilt out of THAT color!  I’m amazed whenever I hear someone say, “I don’t applique!!!”  When I ask them why, they’ll tell me something like, “Oh, I tried it once, and it was hard.”  We are afraid to step out of our comfort zone!  It’s scary!  It makes our head hurt!


wrongPerforming brain surgery is hard, but somehow we have surgeons in the world who have put in the time and effort to master the skill.  And that’s what it’s all about: putting in the time and effort.  You know, the whole




But there’s a flaw in that logic.  It’s not really Practice Makes Perfect.  It’s more


Practice makes permanent, but not necessarily perfect.




I’m going to dust off my Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degree for a minute and give you a mini lesson in learning theory.

In 1967, two educators named Fitts and Posner wrote about their theory of  three progressive phases in learning a new skill. Their three progressive phases suggested that the learning process is sequential and orderly, and that we move through these phases as we learn. Here are their three stages to learning a new skill in black font.  Along with each stage, I have inserted a translation of the skill into language quilters understand (red font). Stick with me here… you’ll get this.

  • Cognitive phase – Identification and development of the component parts of the skill – involves formation of a mental picture of the skill.  (Take the quilt class even if it scares you.  Pay attention to the teacher, don’t argue with his or her methods, just soak them up. Do what you’re told and take good notes.)

  • Associative phase – Linking the component parts into a smooth action – involves practicing the skill and using feedback to perfect the skill.  (Take the quilt project that you started in the class home with you.  Do not stick it in the back of the closet! You have too many other things back there anyway! Finish the darn project exactly the way you were shown.  Do not put it aside to work on another project. Do not let it become a UFO (UnFinished Object).  Show it to your quilt friends or guild.  Put it on your blog if you have one.  Let people know you completed the project!


  • Autonomous phase – Developing the learned skill so that it becomes automatic – involves little or no conscious thought or attention while performing the skill.  (Plan and begin your next quilting project using your newly learned skill.   Yes, actually USE the new skill, understanding that practice makes permanent.  The more time you spend on it, the easier it will become.  Your goal here is to get to the point where you don’t have to think about it anymore, it just comes naturally. Think about it… at one time in your life, you were potty trained.  When was the last time you had to be reminded HOW to go to the bathroom?)



Ok now, what skill haven’t you learned? 

     Crawl out of that deep rut you’re in. 

          Push yourself to learn something new! 

              Take a class. 


Get going…Go… NOW!

3 thoughts on “Push Yourself to Learn Something New

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