Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dancing Butterfly Rainbow Colorway

It's been 14 days since we launched the new Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern and the major issue that everyone seems to have is picking fabric colors. After a bit of tinkering with EQ7 I came up with this rainbow colorway this morning:

Dancing Butterfly Quilt Rainbow colorway

I'm still sticking with Island Batik fabrics because I can easily design with them in EQ7 and the fabric colors are coming out very accurate to what you could expect in your finished quilt.

For this layout the butterfly background colors are two soft neutrals - Island Batik Copper (light brown) and Butter (cream). After setting these colors I started thinking about more bold contrast like white and black or black and red, so that might be another color way to try next!

For the design blocks and butterflies, I decided to use the entire rainbow to make it super bright and colorful. The colors used above are Island Batik Candy, Nasturtium, Daffodil, Apple, Waterfall, and Wisteria.

The key I find to working with lots of colors is to be generous with yourself - allow yourself to try any color combination you can think of, but try not to debate the merits of one over the other (that can trigger the regret from the Paradox of Choice).

Instead look at this as a fun experiment in creativity - how many possible colorways could you create? Have fun and be adventurous!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, December 12, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

A few weeks ago my friend Patsy Thompson emailed to ask if I wanted to participate in this Around the World Blog Hop which shares about what we're working on and what inspires us. Make sure to check out Patsy's post here to see what she's working on too!

1. What you're working on?
I pretty much always have multiple quilts in progress, both projects for myself and quilts I'm creating for patterns, books, and DVDs. Just yesterday I began cutting into my huge collection of food fabrics to create a cool crazy quilt I've had in mind for years:
 When creating a new pattern, I always spend a few days and a few yards of fabric planning and testing out different ideas. This particular quilt could be made in several different ways, but some methods are more complicated than others. These days I'm all about making life SIMPLE so I often ask my dad and my husband Josh to weigh in with their opinion about the simplest construction method.
Also on the design board are several new quilts designed exclusively from precut fabrics. I've finally caught the precut addiction and I'm enjoying the challenge of designing with specific cuts of fabric. 
Yes, precut fabrics are pretty simple, and for the longest time I didn't want to design with them because I felt my quilts needed to be complicated in order to be valuable. It took working through the Building Blocks Quilt Along to learn that simple is better. If I want to be a good teacher, I need to simplify, be able to explain the steps clearly and streamline the process so it's fun and interesting for the quilters that want to make the pattern.
The quilts I make for myself have also gone through a change and I'm in an interesting spot to be able to see this. On my dining room wall I've hung Duchess Reigns - basically the queen quilt of complication!
She's definitely pretty, but I can't stand the idea of quilting ANOTHER two border corners in this intense, super dense, super time consuming, super BORING way. I've hung her on the wall to determine if I can change the two remaining corner designs, and if I can, how that will effect the rest of the quilt.
Yes, a design change at this stage will be very noticeable, but I'm okay with that. I realized looking at this quilt for the past two days that I cannot finish her if I continue filling the same way. I must change the design, or simply chuck the quilt in the trash and never finish it. I've decided to make a change and use this quilt as a visual example of growth and my changing mentality.

No, I don't mind that she won't be perfect or even symmetrical when finished. I would rather see her finished and ENJOY the process of quilting the rest of this design rather than the alternative.

I also have been working on a new Dream Goddess that really expands on my new ideals - simple, easy construction, bold color, big quilting designs.

This quilt, I can already tell, will be so much easier to quilt and so much more interesting. Right now she's ready to be layered with batting and quilted with water soluble thread for trapunto. I'm hoping to tackle this next week and have her ready to clip while we're on vacation. I LOVE clipping batting! It's one of the weirdest things, but I find it super relaxing and very easy to do. I just wish I had more quilts that needed it!

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre? 
I'm not really sure how to answer this one. I believe all quilters have a distinctive mark / style that comes through no matter what type of quilt they are making. I know I can recognize one of Patsy's quilts a mile away because of her use of beautiful dyed fabrics and intense quilting.
I make quilts that feature loads of filler designs because designing new fillers is what I do! I love picking designs that accent the overall design, but also add their own unique texture to the quilt. You can easily spice up a border, or transform a boring background just by using the right design and the right thread color.
But that's another thing - I don't think there's ever a single right answer. Multiple designs can work in any given space, and this sometimes makes it hard to choose which designs to use. After reading the Paradox of Choice, I'm much more willing to go with my first choice, whatever first pops into my head, rather than debating and testing multiple designs.
If I pick wrong - if I'm not happy with the fabric color or the thread color or the quilting design I've learned to just accept it and move on. Why agonize about it? So what - I made a bad choice! There are so many more quilts I want to make and so much more experience just waiting around the corner.
This little 7 inch quilt is a little experiment I'm calling You Can Do A Lot With 7 Inches. I'm giving myself permission to play and experiment with small squares. You can actually learn a lot with a small amount of fabric, and it's not so time or fabric consuming that it feels wasteful.
So maybe that is one way I'm different - I make all kinds of quilts: traditional, modern, art, elaborate, simple, bed quilts, and wall hangings. I refuse to be pigeon-holed into one set style. I will try ANYTHING once.
3. Why do you write/create what you do? 
I write patterns and shoot videos because I'm an online quilting teacher. Yes, I do occasionally teach in person, but for the most part, I teach online to reach the greatest number of people with the least amount of effort.
Does that sound bad - least amount of effort? I don't think so. I can sit down this morning and shoot a video in 15 minutes. Josh will edit that video and upload it to YouTube and most will reach 1,000 views in just a few days.
Contrast that with teaching in person - I can teach 25 people comfortably in a 6 hour workshop. I'd have to teach 40 workshops to reach 1,000 quilters. That is 40 days away from my son and my sewing room, with the whole day focused on teaching. It's definitely fun, but also exhausting!

So that's why I teach online - it's the most efficient use of my time. I can teach and share what I'm doing, but it doesn't disrupt my whole day.
4. How does your writing/creating process work?
All of my quilts start with an idea or inspiration. My goddess quilts all start with a theme or image in my head. Even my simple precut quilts start with some weird thought like - how many 2.5 inch squares can I cut from a jelly roll?
I've learned to follow these ideas, even if it means wasting fabric or drawing a design in the middle of the night. When I ignore them they keep popping into my head again and distracting me. The rest of the process of designing is kind of like putting a puzzle together. I begin working on the design and fitting the pieces together. When something doesn't work, I remove it and try again.
I've been working on this goddess design for several months and it's still not right. That's a sign that either I'm not ready to make the quilt or it just needs more time. I used to try to rush this process and learned the hard way that rushing is absolutely pointless and usually results in a disappointing quilt.
Frequently a quilt will get stuck or snagged on one issue or another. It's a sign to put it away for awhile and focus on what is in progress. I don't mind putting a design away for several months or years and returning to it with a new perspective and more ability later. 
As for the mechanics of design - I first sketch on paper, then scan the drawing into my computer and use Serif Draw Plus to draw the lines and add more elements. If any part of the design will be symmetrical it's far easier to have the computer program copy, paste, and align the elements rather than try to do it all on paper.
Designing in a computer program also allows me to pick the size of the finished quilt. I resize the drawing the the finished quilt size and print it out to create a master pattern. That method has worked great for all my goddess / show quilts for the past few years.
For more traditional quilts I've started using EQ7, which I learned this summer from Barb Vlack at AQS Charlotte. This program is far more complicated and not super intuitive, but once you get the hang of it, it's really awesome!
Most of the simple quilts I create for patterns and books are very basic, but I often get snagged if small details begin to cascade into greater and greater complication. When I feel undecided, I ask Josh for advice. Josh has two wonderful default answers ready for me at all times - "It looks great!" and "Go with the simpler / easier choice."
Don't get me wrong, he's not yes-manning me. When Josh doesn't like what I'm making, he tells me straight up - Those are not my colors, I can't help you. I believe those were his exact words with the Dancing Butterfly Quilt!
We're a good team because I'm usually focused on the appearance and design, while Josh is always focused on how many pages this fiddly technique will add to the pattern and how complicated it will be to describe. He's far more practical and less emotional about design. If there isn't enough fabric to add a border - don't add a border! Keep it simple!
Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don't. Josh enjoys reminding me of the times I got stubborn and didn't listen to his sage advice. The most complicated 8th block in Building Blocks? Yep, Josh advised against it. That block just about gave me an ulcer, so yes, again, he was right!
Working with my family is one of the most unexpected and wonderful things about my business. Many people give me all the credit for the videos, blog posts, and quilts. Apart from show quilts that I create entirely myself, all of my projects are created from a team effort.
I really love working with my dad and Josh every day. We make a great team and I honestly couldn't have published a book, and mega quilt along pattern, and blogged steadily through the last three months without them.

So that is me and this is how I work! I've really enjoyed sharing my process today and please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments below.

I was invited to join in the Around the World Blog Hop from the amazing and inspirational Patsy Thompson, but unfortunately I couldn't find anyone to pass the blog hop to next. Next week is the week before Christmas after all, so I think it's just a super busy time of the year. If you'd like to pick up the thread of this blog hop, just answer the same questions on your blog in a post next week!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

Leah's Casual Cam - Selling Sewing Machines on Ebay

I've had it! I've reached the breaking point with my studio where I am officially OUT OF SPACE something has to go! I've decided on a double attack - sewing machines and fabric stash - both are going to be seriously downsized.

So this week I'm selling all of my extra machines on Ebay. You can check out the listings here, and watch this casual cam video we shot as I was getting them ready for shipping:

A few tips for selling machines on Ebay:

1. Thoroughly brush out the machine and check for any defects - Make note of scratches, discoloration, cracks, chips - anything that signals the machine is not brand new needs to be included in the listing.

2. Collect all the feet and supplies - It's easy to odds and ends like the machine cover and manual if you've owned it for a few years. Try to find every piece, and if you've added to the machine with extra feet or tools, make sure to find them all, including the original boxes if you have them. Extra feet and bobbins can really make a big difference when Ebaying an older machine.
3. Take good photos. Get several close up shots of the machines and all the hardware that's coming with them. I've purchased many machines just based on the number of extra feet and special supplies that came with it.

4. Calculate shipping and decide on your policies - Shipping can be really expensive, especially on a heavy item like a sewing machine. Offering free shipping can certainly stimulate bids, but it can also eat into the profit of selling the machine. You'll also need to mention which method you prefer to be paid and how quickly - within 3 days of auction end is fairly standard.

5. Determine your starting price - This is tricky and I've messed up more than once. It's a good idea to make the starting bid a bit low for the machine value so you're sure to sell the item. However, you don't want to start so low you're not comfortable selling the machine at that price.

Just ask yourself what is the minimum you'd like to get for the machine and that's usually a good place to start. If the machine doesn't sell, that's a sign that the price is a bit too high and you should come down a bit.

So that's it for my Ebay selling tips! If you're in the market for a new machine or serger, definitely check out my listings here.

Tomorrow I'm going to bust out my stash and begin boxing up auctions of fabric and scraps. I can't wait to send all this stuff off and be able to SEE my studio again instead of all this clutter!

Let's go quilt,


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Why Snow Globes Make Me Sad

Yep, it's that snow globe time of the year when every mantle has a snow-filled wonderland of glass and water. For years I've avoided snow globes, ignored them when I saw them in stores, looked the other way when I spotted one at a friend's house, or feigned nonchalance when someone handed me one to shake and enjoy.

Snow globes make me sad because of a particularly painful childhood memory that I'd like to share today. This is a shameful memory where I behaved badly, probably my worst, and paid the price in more than one way.

So I understand if you don't want your holiday spirit diminished and would rather read about designs or check out the latest posts to our new Facebook group.

Ultimately, I do have a positive spin on this memory, but first I have to reveal something very ugly about myself - I have a terrible temper.

When I get angry, I lose it, and not in a pretty way. My ears ring and my hands shake and my big mouth opens and all sorts of ugly things fly out of it and I have absolutely no control over what I say. It's shameful to admit, but my temper has lost me more than one friendship, and ruined many otherwise fun experiences.

The one redeeming feature is I very rarely lose my temper. I'm not a rage-aholic and I hate to fight, though I'm not afraid of confrontation. I'm not a super angry person who picks fights. I live very peacefully and happily, but when my buttons are pushed beyond limit - watch out!

My most over the top example of my temper in action - I flew back from Denver to Charlotte after shooting two Craftsy classes back to back. I'd been gone nine days, which to me is an eternity. I just wanted to get home, get back to my family, and rest. I was utterly exhausted.

But my truck was parked in long term lot 4 which was rarely used by the airport and no buses were signaling they were taking people to that lot. There wasn't an attendant on duty and no one to ask what to do. I began asking the bus drivers as they stopped and they kept telling me different things - lot 2 buses were also doing 4. No, Lot 1 buses were also going to 4. And so on. This went on for more than 30 minutes and I was beginning to wonder if ANYONE would EVER take me to my truck!

I should add that my largest, heaviest suitcase had broken so I couldn't move without banging my legs on the suitcase or knocking into the second suitcase or laptop case. It was a nightmare of unmanageably and frustration.

Finally, a bus picked me up. Finally, I got to the lot. I could SEE my truck! I was so close! I stepped off the bus and tripped over my broken suitcase. The bus pulled away and I tripped again as my laptop case swung and threw me off balance and I crashed into my other suitcase.

I felt like I smashed every bone in my body and that was IT! I'd had ENOUGH! I SCREAMED many terrible, very, very bad words right in the middle of the lot. I pounded my fists on the bag and just lost it in a tantrum that would have looked perfectly normal... if I were three years old.

It would have been so nice to have been all alone for that moment, it wouldn't have mattered that I screamed a string of profanity that would make my grandma faint. No such luck. Two middle aged guys in a big truck had been on the bus too and gotten off a stop ahead of me and watched as I flew into an almighty rage. As they pulled out around me, they just stared and stared. Yep, there's the crazy girl loosing her shit all over long term lot 4.

So that's how I lose it. Completely. Absolutely. No-holds-barred crazy.

Now you know how completely I can mutate from a normal blonde to the Incredible Hulk, this story might make more sense. We have a bit of perspective.

Now for why snow globes make me sad:

I was around ten years old when my mom bought a snow globe. It was Rudolph the reindeer and probably played that song too, I don't remember. I do remember absolutely, positively loving this thing.

I'd seen snow globes before in movies, but I'd never seen one in a store and certainly never dreamed of owning one. They were so amazing! A little world trapped in a glass ball that played music and snowed. What's not to love?

I adored this snow globe. I remember hopping off the bus and running inside to give it a shake and wind the music box. I remember staring at it forever just watching the snow fall. I wasn't really into Rudolph or Santa, but I loved that globe and found watching the snow very relaxing.

I'm a sucker for special Christmas ornaments. Growing up we had a cool metal lantern that would spin quickly if you lit four candles. I loved to put it together and watch it move. My great aunt had an even bigger version made of wood, but she never lit the candles while I visited. I loved the magical nature of these ornaments and decorations, and because they only came out once a year, that made them all the more special.

Side note - I've actually kept electric, moving Christmas ornaments since 4th grade and this was the first year I figured out how to get them to work with newer light strands! To celebrate, I found another on Ebay and have decided to start collecting them - one per year from here on out.

Yes, I know the holidays are more than pretty decorations and ornaments, but to me, these things make this time very special. There is a magic of wonder and beauty that I find in moving ornaments, and it helps me tap into my childhood feelings of excitement and gratitude.

Of course, there's a bad side to this story. You can't love an object as much as I loved that snow globe and not risk your heart (and your terrible temper) every time someone touches it. The downside to snow globes - they are very breakable.

Rudolph only survived a few weeks in our house. My mom's friend, let's call her Diana, came over with her two daughters, Ashley and Jessica (also false names), who were probably eight and six at the time. We often played together while our mothers binge-drank cheap boxes of wine and complained on long evenings together.

Looking back, I think Diana was a large source of my mother's alcoholism, and I blame her for stirring up much of my mother's anger and resentment. Even at ten, I knew my mother wasn't the same person after a day or evening hanging out with Diana.

So Mom and Diana decided to leave four kids in the house, my older sister who was twelve, me, Ashley and Jessica. They took off and left us alone for more than four hours. To this day I don't know where they went or what they were doing. What I do know - leaving four children (and yes, I consider even a twelve year old still a CHILD) is an extremely irresponsible, stupid thing to do.

To make a long story short - Ashley was holding the Rudolph snow globe and dropped it against a table. The glass shattered and water and snow bits went everywhere. The mess was nothing to my smashed heart. My absolute favorite decoration, full of wonder and beauty was now in a million pieces.

I think I could probably have held myself together if Ashley hadn't laughed. She let out a giggle - seriously a GIGGLE - that just... undid me.

Looking back, I don't think she meant to laugh, and I don't think she meant to smash our family snow globe. I think the laugh was some weird reflex of nervousness or her way of trying to make light of the situation. My ten year old mind didn't have any of that experience - I heard a laugh and I interpreted that she thought it was funny and cute to have smashed our snow globe.

You already know how I can lose it. This day, however, made my screaming tantrum in long term lot 4 look like a sonar ping in comparison. This was the worst, ugliest and destructive demonstration of my temper I can recall. 

But this time I didn't scream or yell or cry. I didn't learn how to show my anger in more healthy ways until much later. Instead I tore that little girl apart with words, verbally flayed her piece by piece. I explained to Ashley in exacting detail how much I absolutely hated her and wished her extreme pain. With no adults to referee the situation I had nowhere to go and no experience to guide me.

My anger stayed constant all day. I lashed out continually with passive aggressive comments designed to make Ashley feel small, ugly, and unwanted. Eventually she gave up trying to make it up to me and ran to hide in her mother's car and cried. For hours.

I can remember feeling bad about this even as it was happening. I can remember being sad that Ashley was crying, but feeling so gripped by anger that I couldn't control. A pit of shame and guilt was already blooming in my chest, but I couldn't turn it off. It was like I had no control over my mouth after hearing Ashley's giggle.

So this is the storm my mom and Diana returned to. Mom was instantly on my case - How DARE you treat Ashley like that?! Diana doesn't NEED this right now!

Diana took it in a totally different way. She collected her daughters and left, but returned later that evening with a new snow globe, including the receipt, and left it on our back porch because we weren't home. I remember pulling it out of the bag and feeling that deep, black pit of shame and guilt grow deeper and deeper.

I was called out repeatedly, wrote a letter of apology to Ashley, and shamed beyond belief for my display of temper. For the entire rest of the season I was repeatedly reminded that I'd behaved terribly and that Diana didn't have the money for that replacement snow globe.

My parents paid her back, but they wouldn't drop it. Even years later my mom would bring it up and remind me again how terrible I was. It didn't matter how many times I tried to explain or apologize, my actions that day were never to be forgiven or forgotten.

In short - this experience ruined my Christmas that year, and every time I've ever laid eyes on a snow globe, I feel again that wave of guilt and shame. I can't look at the swirling snow without remembering how badly I lost my temper, the mean things I said, and the little girl I hurt.

Of course, I have a very different perspective on this whole situation as an adult. At thirty-one, I have two decades more experience with my temper, my mother, and women in general. I also have a lot more perspective on the whole ordeal, and that makes the greatest difference in the world.

I know that I would never leave four children alone like that, not for any length of time. I think my mother and Diana were incredibly irresponsible, and I now question what they were doing and why they were gone so long - two questions I didn't think to ask as a child.

My best guess is they went to lunch and drank and complained together for four hours. This holds with their usual pattern of behavior and would explain why mom came home and immediately jumped down my throat - she felt guilty for her behavior and needed someone to blame.

Had there been adults home, the whole situation would have been different. Heck, the snow globe might not have even broken if an intelligent adult had realized it wasn't a good item to have out with smaller children in the house.

Even if it had been smashed, if a responsible adult had been home, I would have asked to play alone and been able to get away from Ashley and calm down without hurting her. Without any authority present, I felt like I had to keep a show of playing with the two other children, even though I really just wanted to escape the situation and cry.

Finally, when my son misbehaves, I punish him, but when it's over I remind him that I love him and he's an inherently good boy. I do not rehash all the ways he's disappointed or embarrassed me. I don't remind him of how bad he was or how terribly he acted. Shame and guilt are disgusting weapons to use on a child.

Really this whole post has been about James. James and I were at Lowes last week and he caught sight of a snow globe for the first time. The wonder and majesty of it caught him at seven just like it bewitched me at ten. I saw him light up completely and remembered how that felt too.

So this year I'm releasing this story, all the guilt and shame of it, and finally forgiving myself for what happened. Really, that's all that's left now. The only reason I can't enjoy a snow globe as an adult is I haven't let myself let it go.

Yes, I regret how I acted, but it's time to stop regretting and feeling guilty. This happened twenty-one years ago! I need to let this go and forgive myself.

Thankfully my sweet little boy is helping me. James earned some money helping with yard work and yesterday we went back to Lowes and looked at all the holiday decorations. We looked at lights and ornaments, wreathes and stuffed animals, and finally ran across the snow globes again. He picked one out and we brought it home.

Our new snow globe is a simple car with a Christmas tree on top and it plays Oh Christmas Tree when the music box is wound. It's sweet and small and fits into my seven year old's hands just perfectly.

Seeing James love this snow globe is so helpful to me. I see his joy and I'm reminded how that felt and slowly I'm allowing myself to tap back into it. What I'm trying to undo is my mother's deep-coded message in my psyche that I don't deserve another snow globe, that I should never, ever enjoy that again because of how I acted that one day so long ago.

When I hold this new snow globe and give it a shake, I remind myself again that mistakes happen and it's okay to hold this beautiful ornament and enjoy playing with it. This snow globe might get smashed to bits, but I know for sure I will handle it far better now.

Everyone deserves beautiful, special things. It's okay to have a temper and be imperfect. It's okay. It's okay to forgive the darkest, most shameful experiences because no one else can do it for you. We all deserve forgiveness, especially from ourselves.

Release and forgiveness can happen whenever you choose, and I think our culture lacks rituals for releasing guilt and shame. So what if I combine my desire for forgiveness and my love for beautiful, magical snow globes?

From now on when I see a snow globe and give it a shake, I'm going to close my eyes and think about something I've been holding on to - some memory that I hold regret - and I'm going to whisper "I forgive you" and open my eyes and watch the snow swirl around.

I think we need more rituals like this worked into every day life that encourage forgiveness and release. I wonder - if I whisper this every day for an entire year, what kind of change will I create in my life?

Give yourself a hug today, forgiveness is a blessing.

Leah Day

Friday, December 5, 2014

You Can Do a Lot With 7 Inches

I've been busy quilting the last few days, experimenting with new ideas and techniques and having lots of fun with feathers!

I'm teaching a new class - Fill With Feathers: Blocks, Sashing, Borders at MQX East (yes, there is still space available!) this spring and I'm digging in and finally allowing myself to fully and completely explore this very fun design.

I've also been playing with some different ideas in a 7 inch square. I'm aiming to create mini art pieces, with the idea that success or failure really doesn't matter. It's not enough fabric to get worked up about if I mess up, and it's small enough I can conceivably quilt one square in a few hours.

I like to call this little project - You Can Do a Lot With 7 Inches. LOL! I love that title. Josh thinks it's a bit inappropriate, but I need to keep this light and silly. This series is a way for me to warm up, experiment, try new things, find what works, and find what flops.

This first one was a fun experiment with trapunto, playing with different types of batting, and different filler designs around the heart shape. I sketched this out with a marking pencil really roughly, trapuntoed the heart and background shapes, then layered with more batting and backing and went to town with different filler designs.

At the moment, I consider this a flop because it finished so dark. I think it needs paint or beads or something to add some bling and make the heart stand out better. The other nice thing about this little series is they're so small I can actually try out ideas like this and it not be some mega month long commitment.

 Another thing I need to work out - how to bind these little quilts. I want the binding to form a rolled edge so only the right side of the quilt shows with no border around the edges. For this piece I did a pillowcase bind, but the back fabric wasn't tight enough and some of it shows around the edges.

Yes, this is me being nit picky, but I'm not satisfied. It's tough to bind a block so small, but I'm determined to find an easy way to do this that produces a really nice finish. I'm off to experiment some more!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Leah's Casual Cam - Feather Blocks and Quilting Experiments

Today I'm designing feather blocks, experimenting with new ideas, and hanging out with Filbert my filter. Yep, you did just read that right. See it all in this video:

I'm off to stitch more feathers!

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