The Free Motion Quilting Project

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Redesigning the Studio...Again!

It's been about six months since I realized the house was no longer big enough and built the Crafty Cottage in the back yard. Installing and renovating this little barn has made such an enormous difference for filming videos easily without interruption.

But my space issues haven't gone away inside the house. Dad and I still work together a huge amount in the basement sewing rooms and lately they've been feeling overwhelmingly cluttered and chaotic.

We've also been focusing more on machine embroidery, but both embroidery machines were set up in Josh's office. Between the embroidery machines running, Josh trying to pack orders, and Dad and I trying to talk over design edits, these rooms are feeling positively claustrophobic.

One of the first steps I take in a remodel is Identify the Problem.

What is the main problem with the basement rooms? Why does it feel like it's not working, and how can it be better arranged for everyone to work easier and more efficiently?

Running through this question, I came up with three things that needed to change:

1. Embroidery machines need to move - They're badly positioned in Josh's packing office and we're constantly in Josh's way. We also can't run the machines while Josh is editing videos because they're too loud to hear over.

2. Less clutter, more peace of mind - I went overboard a few years ago with shelves. It seems like every flat wall that would stand still long enough got a shelf screwed to it and piled with boxes and bins of quilting stuff. How much do I use this stuff? Hardly ever! The things I'm not using daily need to be put away in another room. Less shelves and clutter on the walls automatically make the rooms feel larger and more peaceful.

3. Repurpose unused spaces - When analyzing my space I found two areas that were relatively unused - the table mounted longarm and a large desk in my upstairs office. Why weren't these spaces being used? Could they be repurposed or combined and become more useful again?

Quilty Table specifically designed for sit down longarms
With the longarm, I finally admitted that I hated the table it came in. No matter how many modifications I made to it, the table never felt right and quilting always felt awkward with the head of the machine facing me.

So I did some research and found a new table! Arrow Sewing Cabinets has just created a new Quilty table that's designed for table mounted longarms like my Juki 2200, but it sets the machine up like a domestic, which feels much more comfortable to me. Yes, we will be carrying this new table in our store soon because I absolutely LOVE it!

I also decided to move the longarm to my upstairs office. The large desk that was not being used (except to hold piles of clutter) was dismantled and the new Quilty table fit perfectly into this space.

What I love most about having the longarm upstairs is it's so easy to jump on the machine and stitch a bit at any odd time of the day. Last night while James got ready for bed, I quilted another hexagon star panel with rulers.

One move leads to another

So now with the longarm table out of the basement sewing room, I have the space to move both embroidery machines! Moving that one big machine out of the room, and removing the cluttered shelves has made a huge difference for how the sewing room looks and feels.

Of course, all the random shelves, lights, and camera mounts I've screwed to the walls have left their mark. I've decided to patch and paint these walls before the machines move so the room really will feel brand new.

While I wish I could say there is a one time fix for studio space, I've come to realize that there isn't. This is always going to be an evolving process.

If you've been struggling with space issues too, try identifying the problem. What is the area that bugs you the most? Do you have a guest room that's not really being used for guests? What is the #1 thing taking up your space? Is it worth that space or can it be moved or repositioned so your quilting area is more efficient?

Yes, it may take some work and planning, but taking control over your space and building the quilting area of your dreams doesn't have to be expensive or outrageous. It starts with identifying what you want, and taking one step at a time to make it happen!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, February 8, 2016

How to Machine Quilt Block #2

It's quilting time! Last week we learned how to piece a beautiful Blazing Sawtooth block and this week let's learn how to machine quilt it together with straight lines, Zippling, Fuse Fire, and more wiggly flames in the borders.

Machine quilting patchwork block

Click Here to find the quilt pattern for this block. The pattern includes a printable template so you can mark this quilting design on the surface of your block!

Now let's learn how to machine quilt this Blazing Sawtooth working from the center:

Did you catch my machine running loud at the beginning of this video? It was really grinding and grumbling because I hadn't cleaned it out in awhile. Click Here to find tips on cleaning and oiling your machine if this is happening to you!

Machine Quilting Patchwork Block

This month we're going to focus on two filler designs: Zippling and Fuse Fire. Zippling is a variation of Sharp Stippling, the design we focused on last month. It's a bit more masculine with straight lines and sharp angles and looks great on quilts for the guys in your life.

Fuse Fire is a new design we learned last week that will add a beautiful flame-like texture to your block. Click Here to find a video on machine quilting Fuse Fire so you can get more practice with this cool design.

I've been seeing so many awesome blocks posted to the Machine Quilting Block Party Facebook Group! Make sure to join in the fun on Facebook and share your pictures and questions with a group of supportive quilters from around the world.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, February 5, 2016

Machine Quilt Fuse Fire #460

Each month we're going to focus on a specific machine quilting design to build new skills and get more comfortable free motion quilting. We'll also use the design within the month's block for the Machine Quilting Block Party.

This month let's learn a new machine quilting design called Fuse Fire:

machine quilting Fuse Fire
This beautiful pivoting design will help you build skills for two essential quilting techniques: travel stitching and echoing. Learn how to quilt this design in this new video:

machine quilting Fuse Fire
We're going to use this design in Block #2 for the Machine Quilting Block Party. Click Here to pick up your block pattern today

The best way to learn a new design like this is to quilt it as much as  you can. Your first try at a design probably won't look very good, but the more you quilt it, the better you'll get to know it.

So pull out some fabric and scrap batting and try quilting this design on a small practice sandwich this weekend.

Another great idea would be to quilt it All Over Style over a small baby quilt. That will definitely give you tons of practice machine quilting this new design.

What do you think of Fuse Fire? Does this design look easy or hard to quilt? Are you excited about quilting it in our next block?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Top Tips for Quilting for Show

I received an interesting message on Facebook this week about quilting for show - how to enter, what judges are looking for, and how to make a quilt that competes well. So I've shot a quick tip video for you today with my top tips for quilting for show:

If you're really interested in competing successfully I highly recommend Karen McTavish's book Quilting for Show. I believe this book is out of print now, but I found a few copies here on Amazon.

Top Tips for Show Quilting

1. Create a New Design - How many times have you seen a Dear Jane quilt at a show? I've seen at least five, which means a quilt show judge has likely seen hundreds. Creating something new and original is one of the best ways to get more attention at a show because it will be something different that the judges haven't seen before.

Express Your Love Goddess Quilt
2. Compete in a Smaller Category - If you throw a rock in an average quilt show you're going to hit at least 100 pieced or appliqued quilts. How do you stand out from the crowd? Make something different!

Duchess Reigns  - Hand dyed wholecloth quilt in progress
Wholecloth quilts are far more unusual because they specifically focus on machine quilting. Most quilters get into patchwork first and machine quilting second so it makes sense that there will always be fewer wholecloth quilts in a show. Because wholecloth quilts are so fascinating, they also get a lot of attention, which is never a bad thing.

3. Construct Carefully - Even if you don't want to create an original design or make a wholecloth quilt, focusing on your construction is essential. If there's a glaring mistake in the middle of your quilt, the judge is probably not going to miss it.

When I first got into show quilting, I honestly felt like I was learning how to create quilts from scratch. All of my previous "good enough" methods had to go so I had 100% control over the fabric and could make it do exactly what I wanted.

If your quilt is pieced, the seams need to match. If it's hand appliqued, your stitches need to be tiny to the point of invisible. You want to make sure to tie off and hide your threads properly as this is something judges can easily see and feel on the surface of the quilt.

This focus on perfection may feel tedious and frustrating at times. Remember to take breaks with easier, simpler projects so you don't get burnt out obsessing about every stitch on a big, time consuming project.

Will My Quilt Ribbon?

You may follow these steps and win tons of ribbons. Or you may not win anything at all. One of my most successful quilts won an Honorable Mention at one show, then Best Machine Quilting at the next show.

Judges are all looking for different things and have different opinions for what makes a great quilt. So you may not get very consistent results. Rather than try to read the judges mind, remember to make your quilts for YOU. Who cares if your quilt is a winner if you loved the process of making it?

Enjoy the process, take your time, design something amazing, and most importantly - have fun!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, February 1, 2016

How to Piece a Blazing Sawtooth Block

Are you ready to piece our next block in the Machine Quilting Block Party? Click Here to pick up the pattern for Block #2 and get ready to piece a beautiful Blazing Sawtooth block!

Patchwork Blazing Sawtooth Quilt Block
I really love this block because a Sawtooth Star was one of the very first blocks I mastered piecing precisely. Flying Geese have remained one of my favorite shapes to piece and I think combining them with Half Square Triangles really makes for a fantastic patchwork block.

Let's learn how to piece this block together in this video:

Remember to find the exact cutting sizes you will need a copy of the quilt pattern available here.

Patchwork Blazing Sawtooth Quilt BlockNext Monday we will be quilting this block with a variety of beautiful designs. The center of the sawtooth is filled with Zippling, which is a straight line variation of Sharp Stippling we focused on last month.

We'll also be learning a new design called Fuse Fire. Be looking for an extra tip video on quilting this new pivoting design on Friday! It's a beautiful design that will fill your quilt with flowing, fiery texture, which is just perfect for another Sunshine Surprise patchwork block.

Don't forget to share your photos on the Block Party Facebook Group. We love seeing your progress and the beautiful blocks you're creating.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sneak Peek of Block #2

Are you ready for the second block in the Machine Quilting Block Party? Many quilters have joined this week and are posting beautiful photos of their first block to the Facebook group.

Our next block will be coming out tomorrow and since it's also the first Monday of the month, you'll find the video on how to piece the block on the same day! Here's a sneak peek of block #2:

Please don't feel like you have to rush through your first block in order to be ready for block #2. We're only working on one block per month this year so it won't be hard to keep up. The block patterns will be available beyond 2016 so you can easily catch up even if you fall behind.

Are you excited about the new skills you are learning? Did you try quilting more Sharp Stippling over a bigger quilt project? I used this design to quilt a small precut baby quilt super quickly and I love the results!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Quick and Easy Baby Quilt
This past week I was sent a pack of Tonga Treats from Timeless Treasures to play with. These precut packs of batik fabrics are awesome treats for beginning quilters because each pack comes with a super easy quilt pattern. Just grab a treat and you're ready to create a new quilt!

The pattern includes instructions for piecing a beautiful quilt top, but the quilting instructions say "quilt as desired." What are we going to do?!

Click Here to find the quilting video.

Not all quilts need to be quilted to death! I could tell just by looking at this quilt top that the fabrics were too busy for a quilting design to be very visible.

I also wanted to quilt this project quickly so it would be ready to give as a gift for my cousin who is expecting a new baby next month. The best choice in both situations is an All Over Style design. I choose our design for the month Sharp Stippling and I couldn't be happier with the results. Click Here to find the tutorial.

I really enjoyed working with Timeless Treasures to create this tutorial. This particular pack of 5-inch Tonga Treat precut squares should be arriving in quilt shops soon.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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