Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dyeing Experiments!

I've got a craving for color that only dyeing fabric can satisfy! Here's a few of my "before" shots. I'll definitely update this post tomorrow after these have been rinsed out:

UPDATE - Now it's time to see the "after" shots:

When dyeing fabric, I always find myself slightly disappointed when the dyes are washed out and the fabric is dried. This came out pretty good, but my red and purple piece really faded which let me know I didn't have enough soda ash mixed in my pre-soak before dyeing.

I added a bit more soda ash and a cup of salt and all my later pieces finished brighter:

For some reason this green fabric is really calling to me. I think I'll die one more green fabric and quilt these as a 3 part series. I've already got the perfect Halloween themed name: Poison Study.

I've also been dyeing samples for Dream Goddess:
By hanging up the fabric on the wall I can get a better idea if it's actually going to work and be the right color. It think the green is good, but I need to keep working on the hair colors. I want to transition the colors from bright, fire red near her face to deep purple and then black. 

I've never made a quilt out of completely hand dyed fabrics, unless you count Duchess Reigns, which was a dyed wholecloth. I don't count that quilt because I only used one color...and I haven't finished it yet. I'm mostly just trying to forget it exists! 

For Dream Goddess, I'm using the entire rainbow and planning to applique the pieces together using No Sewing Until You Quilt It to create the top quickly. All around, it's a fun challenge and I love the different fabrics I'm creating!

Let's go dye!


Friday, October 17, 2014

#437 - Free Motion Quilt Unloaded Boxes

It's new free motion design time! What happens when you combine Lightning Bolt with Cubing? These two quilting designs are very masculine with lots of straight lines and sharp angles. Put them together and you will have a free motion quilting design worthy of any Sci-fi themed quilt.

I've decided to call this free motion quilting design Unloaded Boxes because of the empty cube shapes that stand out against the rows of echo quilting.

Does this look super intense and complicated? It's actually pretty simple when you break the design down in the most basic steps: stitch a zigzag, stitch a box, echo quilt repeatedly around it. See what I mean by watching the free video below:

Yep, this design was featured in the Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers Volume 1. In this cool class you can learn how to quilt all of the designs on a larger scale in a throw sized quilt.
This beautiful version of the quilt was created by my Craftsy student Smiles_alot. She had this to say about the class:
Thoroughly enjoyed this class. This was an eye-hand & mental challenge. It was very helpful to watch the videos of the individual designs & how to stitch them. It surprised me that some designs I felt I wouldn't like before I stitched them became my favorites. I learned a lot with this class. Thanks Leah Day!
Would you like to learn how to quilt 50 designs on a larger scale? Click Here to get 50% off Free Motion Fillers Volume 1.

So now that you know how to free motion quilt Unloaded Boxes, where will you use this design? On a small scale or a large scale?

Personally this is making me think of all things science fiction - space ships, time machines, and aliens. Hmm...sounds like a good enough excuse to turn on some Dr. Who!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, October 16, 2014

51. Free Motion Quilt Super Star in a Slash Star

Earlier this week we learned how to piece an improvisational slash star block and today it's time to quilt it! The official pattern design calls for a Super Star, but again Josh has decided to break the rules completely and fill his with Super Spiral. Which do you like best?

 Let's watch Josh's video first to see how he quilted this Super Spiral:

So why did Josh completely change the rules again? With the Spoonflower fabric, he was able to see the lines marked on the fabric and felt that a spiral stitched on top would look better. He was super proud of this block after quilting it and I have to admit it looks pretty cool in the finished quilt.

Of course, you might be partial to the Super Star design instead, so here's my video on how to mark and quilt it, even if the design worksheet doesn't quite fit with your star block.

I'm sure you're wondering when we will learn how to connect all the blocks together Quilt-As-You-Go style to make the finished quilt.

We'll be learning how to connect the blocks in 2 weeks so you'll definitely have your Building Blocks quilt finished in time for the holidays!

And don't worry, we're definitely planning to quilt along again next year with this beautiful Dancing Butterfly Quilt. Keep your ears peeled for news of the launch of this new pattern coming in December!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Challenging Core Beliefs with Abstract Art

This week I've been reading a great book about writing called Everybody Writes and it got me thinking. A big chunk of the beginning of the book was all about doing the work - carving out the time to write for 30 minutes every day.

Hmm...Could this apply to quilting? What if I set a timer and just quilted...whatever...for 30 minutes every day? This quilt would not be preplanned or prepared for so I couldn't make it complicated.

I decided to try it and pulled out fabric I'd dyed a few years ago, grabbed a scrap of batting and fat quarter for the back, and sat down to quilt.

And that's where the trouble started. Here's the problem with quilting verses writing: it's far more time consuming! I can type up a fairly nice blog post in 30 minutes. But I cannot quilt anything in such a short space of time.

So I readjusted my goal, turned off the timer and challenged myself to quilt without planning. Here's what happened:

After quilting this section in blue I had to walk away. James had come home from hanging out with his grandparents and I needed to make a grocery list. The honest truth is I was also so completely uncomfortable by this quilting process that I wanted to chuck the whole thing in the trash.

Where did all this negativity come from? Was I really so dependent on planning and designing that I couldn't stitch some random fillers over some fabric for fun? I posted this photo to Instagram and immediately got positive feedback. Clearly this looked good to a few people, but why did I feel so uncomfortable about it?

I returned to quilt more on this piece and attempted multiple times to clear my mind and stop trying to judge what I was doing. Because it's an abstract piece, that means there really isn't a right or wrong choice or a good or bad design. I knew this, but I kept wanting to pick it apart and judge it.

It has taken a few days of space and reflection to figure out why this process was so difficult - it tripped up against a contradictory core belief that I am not an artist and not allowed to make things like this.

Core beliefs are things we believe deep down about ourselves. Most start in childhood thanks to the things we see and hear repeatedly at home.

My issues with art come from my sister who decided around the age of 6 that she was the family artist and there wasn't space for more than one. Anytime I drew or painted, she would jump down my throat with criticism. I realize this was much more to do about her - her jealousy and inadequacy and need to control others - but it still formed an indelible barrier in my mind. I'm allowed to be a quilter, but never an artist.

This core belief is completely illogical - every person in the world has the ability to speak, and that is a form of expression. Drawing, painting, quilting - these are all just different forms of expression that we all have a right to as sentient human beings. We all make art every day!

While this experience was painful and challenging, it's something I definitely need to do weekly. I need to quilt without thinking and judging myself constantly. I need to learn how to use the word ART without cringing. This illogical core belief will not last if it is continually challenged on a regular basis.

I know from reading many books on art, writing, business, and quilting that skill is not gained by obsessive planning, but by doing the work. Sheer volume is the key because the more you create, the easier everything becomes.

So here's to embracing uncertainty and challenging negative core beliefs. The process might not pretty or fun, but someone has to do it!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Announcing Our Cook Book

Josh here, and today I have an exciting announcement about a new book both Leah and I have been working on.

If you've been following our blog for any length of time, you'll know we are fond of home cooking and love to share our recipes with you. Currently, our recipes are not organized at all--there is a messy stack in a kitchen drawer, with no rhyme or reason to the order.

The recipes range from handwritten pages, to computer printouts, to index cards we scribbled on nearly ten years ago, to ancient onionskin family recipes that date back centuries preserved in museum-grade laminate (kidding). The recipes clearly show use with rough edges, tears, and food and oil stains.

Some time ago we decided we needed to get organized. It just wasn't efficient digging through a hundred or more pages to find the recipe we needed. Ultimately, this need to declutter and organize our recipe system led to the idea of writing a cook book.

This Sunday Leah and I sat down at our dining room table and went through nearly two hundred recipes. We had a great time digging through everything as we culled recipes we hadn't made in years, found lost treasures, and recalled old memories.

Ultimately, we pounded out the foundation for our upcoming cookbook: ten chapters, nearly 150 unique and individual recipes, and, the best part... ten fun quilting and sewing projects which accompany each chapter. These range from napkins to table runners to hot pads.

We'll also be including recipes for spices, sauces, and marinades, as well as tips on outdoor grilling, how to use salt and pepper properly, and something which gives people the most trouble... how to cook rice perfectly every time!

We hope to announce the publication date of our cook book by the end of the year.

This project started out as something we needed to make just for our household but evolved into a full-scale cook book we hope everyone can enjoy. We love cooking and appreciate a recipe that's been fine tuned for years and years, so there will be no "filler" recipes in our book. Every recipe is something we have frequently made and are confident in sharing.

Our book will also not be pretentious, with the recipes split among "seasons." No, we're doing our best to keep things simple, with recipes divided among headings like Breakfast, Sides, Sauces & Marinades & Spices, Soups, Mains, Desserts, Beverages, and Comfort & Colds--a chapter where we share some passed-down home remedies for colds.

We also try to minimize processed and mass-produced ingredients, like seasoning packages, soup "mixes," bottled sauces, and unhealthy items. Fresh, locally grown meats and produce are what we strive to use in our cooking because flavor and health-wise, these make all the difference in the world.

In conclusion, I hope you're as excited about this project as we are!


Monday, October 13, 2014

50. How to Piece a Slash Star Quilt Block

Are you ready? It's time to piece the very last block of the Building Blocks Quilt! It's been 10 months since we started this project, we've pieced and quilted so many beautiful blocks together and now we're on the final block - a super simple, ultra funky Slash Star!

Warning: If you are allergic to mismatched seams, break out in hives when piecing with an inaccurate seam allowance, or want to throw up whenever you hear the words "improvisational piecing" this Slash Star might be hazardous to your health.

Or maybe you just need to lighten up a bit!

By now we've learned all the rules of piecing and it's time to break them all as we slash a stack of fabric, piece it back together, and accept our seams wherever they end up. This type of piecing is fun and free form, much like free motion quilting, but no, it will not be perfect, no matter how hard you try.

So please don't beat your head against a wall when the seams don't match - they aren't meant to!

Yes, you can still find the cutting diagram shown in the video, right here in the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern.

Now that we've pieced these stars - how to quilt them? Chances are your stars are going to look a bit different from mine. The quilting design templates included in the pattern are not going to fit perfectly, so you'll have to get creative and do some improvisational free motion quilting on top of your improvisational piecing.

Oops. I didn't just make you throw up twice did I?

Lol! I hope you enjoy piecing this funky block and swing back here later this week when we learn how to quilt our first star with Super Star.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Designing the Dream Goddess

Last week I decided it was time to pick a new goddess design and start working. I took a drawing with me to meditation and during one session, stared at the picture and studied the lines. A few were still irritating me, so I made some adjustments when I got home and ended up with this:

I still don't have a solid name for this girl other than Dream Goddess. The basic idea she represents is this: dreams and desires can create reality - the landscape. For years in high school and college I dwelled on the idea of owning a creative business, of supporting myself and my family with what I could create. I also continually sought out a stable relationship with an emotionally mature man, but that took YEARS to find (high school is not a great place to be looking!)

I now believe that all that time thinking and dreaming and wanting was absolutely essential to my journey, even if it felt a bit frustrating at the time. There is a power in dreams and desire, if you're able to let yourself WANT without judgement.

This is hard to do because there are so many messages constantly shooting from every direction to Be thin! Be smart! Be successful! Be very blonde! Be very brunette! Get a college degree! Date lots of guys! Don't date lots of guys! Have a big circle of friends! Have only one BEST friend!

All these messages, often conflicting and confusing, are coming from all directions at all times. So often I felt pulled apart by what I wanted and what I was being told I SHOULD be wanting.

I wish I could say that I always returned to the peaceful mindset of this goddess and trusted myself and my goals. Unfortunately I set my wants on a questioning stand and berated them with doubts. Soon it was hard to really know what I wanted and was seeking because I was so filled with confusion and doubt I couldn't make a decision anymore.

Designing this goddess has been fun and easy because she's so simple and peaceful. The message is - Stop. Go within. Listen. Just be still.

And I'm pulling this theme into how I make this quilt. Rather than rush off in a mad hurry to piece and quilt her, I've blown up the drawing to full size and taped her to my wall.

Now every day I take a little time to look closely at the quilt, to let my eyes travel over the entire piece. I find that often my eye snags on something - a line that doesn't look quite right, a hill that needs to be a slightly different shape and I'm able to fix it on the wall. This quilt is hanging in my dining room so I can stare at her as I eat any meal.

What I haven't preplanned is the quilting design, so as I'm looking at this paper drawing, I'm also searching for the quilting design. What designs go where? This can be simple like feathers in her hair, or more complex - what to quilt in her face?

This is how I designed Life and Fire, but I stopped hanging up the designs and staring at them so long because it felt too time consuming and I was always in a rush. I'm slowing down with this quilt and returning to what worked before.

Ultimately I know all this time, drawing and planning is going to pay off. With no questions left unanswered it will be a much faster process because I won't get snagged on essential questions like - what thread color to use in the sun?

So often I'm asked how do I plan a quilting design. The answer is pretty simple - stare at it long enough and eventually you will be able to see what it wants.

Let's go quilt,

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