Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Books of 2009

Okay, I know this isn't quilting related, but I read some really, REALLY good books this year and want to share them with you.

Some are hokey, feel good self help books, some fiction, some non-fiction. I don't really stick to any one genre and pretty much read anything and everything I can get my hands on.

I don't typically "read" a book. Instead I download and listen to it. I find that for some reason, listening to a book will disengage the chattering, bored part of my mind that is constantly distracting me.

This is actually backed up by a yoga friend who said "If you are listening, you are not thinking."

Of course, everyone is different, but I find that when I have an awesome audiobook to listen to, all I want to do is quilt, quilt, quilt without stopping until the book is finished!

Whether you like audiobooks or you prefer the print editions, all of these books are definitely worth trying out:

#1 - The Host by Stephanie Meyer - Yeah, I'll admit it, I'm a Twilight fan, but teenage vampires don't hold a candle to love sick aliens!

I read the physical book and then immediately got the audiobook version at audible.com. It's an amazing read and I find that when I turn this book on I can easily get into my "zone" without even trying.

#2 - The Help by Kathryn Stockett - This is an amazing book about life in Mississippi during the civil rights movement. It's moving, powerful, and sometimes so painful and sad it's hard to listen to, but from start to finish, it's one of the best books I've ever read.

#3 - The Secret by Rhonda Byrne - The movie for this book came out a few years ago and while I've seen it on the shelf many times, it wasn't until this summer that I actually downloaded the audiobook and listened to it.

Amazing doesn't even begin to describe this book. It's definitely changed my life and helped me to focus on my goals and turn them into reality.

#4 - Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell - This is a very interesting book that is really a great one to read before The Secret.

Basically the author explores the lives of famous, highly successful people and explains WHY they are so successful. The truth is that it's not innate talent, but practice and an ability to seize opportunities as they come along.

I admit that this book miffed me a bit and made me think a whole lot. After thinking about it, I listened to it again and again, picking up new ideas and understanding. This is also a life changing book!

#5 - A Good Year by Peter Mayle - I happened across this audiobook at my public library and thankfully I read it before watching the movie, which was terrible.

The book is awesome though. It's all about quirky french people, wine, and good food. It's definitely the perfect read for sitting in the sunshine in the summer, which is something we can all look forward to in a few months!

#6 - The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky - I actually just started reading this book just last night, but I think it still counts for 2009.

I've read a lot of self help books since my son was born. All of them made lofty declarations like "Love yourself!" and "Live in the present!" but none of them really gave instructions for doing these things.

This book, however, is very different. Sonja is what's called a "positive psychologist" and has studied happiness and the differences between people who claim to be "very happy" and those who claim to be "very unhappy".

While this may seem like a whole bunch of warm and fuzzy nonsense, it's really not! Based on many different studies, the author has found that only 10% of our happiness is actually caused by life circumstance (i.e. how much much money we make, what car we drive).

The most comforting thing about this book is the finding that over 40% of our happiness feeling is not only under our control, but able to be increased by doing simple activities.

Of course, some of the activities work better for some people than others. There are 12 possible activities and a survey is provided to help you pick the four that best suit your personality.

I took the survey last night, and guess which activity ranked at the top for me? Quilting! Well, not quilting specifically, but an activity I can easily "lose" myself in.

I thought about it and realized that the happiest times I can look back on during the previous year are those times when I was actively involved in working on a quilt I loved.

And the other activities that will increase my happiness?

Actively working to improve relationships, engaging in more spiritual activities, and working to avoid overthinking and obsessing about the past or the future.

What I love about this book is the idea that my happiness is absolutely under my control.

While some of these activities may take work and effort to do weekly until they become routine, overall I know I will enjoy doing them because they fit with my personality and are not hard or make me feel ridiculous.

So there you have it! 6 terrific books perfect for the new year!

Let's go quilt (or read)!

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Back and Letting Go

Today I had a wonderful yoga class that was all about letting go and preparing for the new year.

I believe that part of letting go is also looking back, seeing what went on during the previous year and learning from and then letting go the successes and failures that happened.

What's amazing to me is just how much happened in 2009. Chances are, you didn't know me back in January, but here we are!

Last year I started the year with the intention to be more creative, to share that creativity, and to start taking my quilting business seriously.

It wasn't always easy, but this year has been a time of growth and strength, pain and forgiveness. I'd like to share the past 12 months with you and then my intentions for next year.

Just a warning, this post is long and personal, so you might want to read it in chunks if you're short on time!

Back in January 2009, I was neck deep in The Duchess, my very first wholecloth and first show quilt.

At this time I had a really firm theoretical knowledge of advanced quilting, but not very much experience. As with many things in my life, I didn't want to wait, to take my time and gain skills slowly. I wanted to do everything right NOW!

If I've learned anything this past year, it's to take my time. Thinking, planing, and taking extra time with design will always save time in the end.

But I was pretty impatient to finish The Duchess and that impatience lead to big mistakes. Once the quilting was finished, I decided the top needed more decoration and sparkle.

I decided, on impulse, to try the iron-on rhinestones without ever trying or testing them before. The result?

Scorch marks in the dead center of my all white quilt! I tried every trick in the book to wash out, bleach out, cover up, paint, or ink my way out of those scorch marks, but they kept coming back like a nasty little reminder of my mistake.

But I also learned while finishing this quilt the wonderful joy of handwork. Since the iron-on rhinestones had been banned from my studio, I decided to hand sew thousands of Swarovski crystals, seed beads, and delicas over the quilt along with 40 yards of lace.

Maybe it was the intense cold we all got during this time (high fever has been known to make me do ridiculous things), but it was a wonderful experience to sit and stitch and watch the cold weather swirl around my house.

Once all the hand work was done, The Duchess was officially ready to show and I was filled with both anticipation and dread. What if the quilt was rejected? What if the judges see every mistake and flaw?

The "what if's" really got to me for a few months, but finally I entered the quilt into the Denver National Quilt Festival and lined up 2 more shows for the following months.

The most agonizing thing about sending a quilt to a far away show is not knowing what's happening while it's away. I really wish there was some watchdog organization who's job is was to report show winners the day they are announced. Hint. Hint.

So I had no idea what happened at the show and 2 weeks later I'm mowing the yard and the UPS lady comes up with a box I definitely recognize. I jump off the lawnmower and take the box right in to open it.

As I'm opening the box, I'm lecuring myself "Don't be disappointed. They probably saw the scorch marks. The quilt wasn't perfect"

But amid the solid white of my wholecloth is a glimmer of blue. I had won my first ribbon!

I can't explain what winning a ribbon feels like other than it's the most amazing feeling in the world. For me, it was golden validation.

It was like the world was finally saying to me: You are good at what you do. Keep doing it.

While I was sending The Duchess to show, I started working on 2 projects at the same time. I'd been asked to quilt my guild's donation quilt, Baskets in Bloom and I was starting work on the hand applique for Release Your Light.

While the ribbon for The Duchess helped me build much needed confidence, Baskets in Bloom tested all of it.

I'd cheerfully agreed to quilt this quilt, excited at the challenge, and ready to take it easy and be patient with my skill level. But I hadn't really expected to feel the huge amount of pressure and worry that this quilt came with it.

What if all the quilt members hated it? What if they asked one another why I'd been allowed to ruin their quilt?

I had a plan for quilting the quilt, and I thought it looked good, but by this point I was questioning everything and doubting my every move.

I called a quilt friend and had her take a look at the quilt. That helped to boost my confidence tremendously and I was able to silence the nasty fears that were limiting my abilities.

And do you know what's funny? My guild loved the quilt. No one said a single bad thing about it. It just goes to show that most fears, most negativity, are not even remotely real.

With Baskets in Blooms finished, I took a few weeks off to play with some quick quilt projects and to travel to the NC Quilt Symposium where The Duchess was showing a second time.

The trip to Raleigh didn't start well. I'd planned to attend the show, take a class, and pick up my quilt all in the same day. To add icing on the cake, I also invited my mother to come with me, and she invited a friend to come too.

With all the chaos of leaving and trying to get everywhere on time, I ended up getting a speeding ticket on the way to the show. Super Uggh! The ticket, combined with the stress of the day totally took the fun of the show right out of my hands.

This experience was my first real wake up call that I needed to change now only how I dealt with stress, but also my family. It's easy to assume that people know what you need from them, like in this case, I needed my mother to be "on" and a working partner during the show.

But because I hadn't communicated that with her, she had no clue! It wasn't anyone's fault that the trip went badly, but it made me realize that in order to attend an important show, I really needed to have the time and money to take it easy, to stay the night, and to make the trip fun.

I did ribbon again at the NC Quilt Symposium, but when I picked up The Duchess, I was starting to notice some stains and dirt on my quilt.

This wasn't the first time. After the Denver show, I'd unwrapped my quilt to find a few dirty spots on the top and back.

Of course, any white quilt is going to show dirt faster than a dark quilt and this was my first lesson for show quilting: don't use light colors if you want the quilt to show often.

Unfortunately, I had very little experience as to what to do with a quilt when it got dirty. Most bed quilts I'd just throw in the washer. With all the beads and lace on The Duchess, the washing machine absolutely wasn't an option.

So instead I stretched the quilt out on my big tables and soaked the top with hydrogen peroxide.

Big mistake. Astronomical mistake. Horrible, horrible, huge mistake.

I didn't know it, but hydrogen peroxide can weaken cotton fiber. I'd soaked the whole quilt in an undiluted solution of Hydrogen peroxide, not once, but twice after the second show.

I had one more show lined up for the summer, the 40th Annual National Quilting Association show in Columbus, OH.

Before I sent the quilt out, I looked it over carefully. It looked fine, but I could see signs of wear starting in certain areas. The lighting wasn't that great down in my basement studio at the time and I missed the greater issues: discoloration, loose beads, and thinning fabric.

I sent the quilt off, and received it back after the show, this time with no ribbon and a judges critique that made me cringe. The discoloration I'd missed had darkened into coffee colored stains over more than half of the quilt. Beads were falling off left and right and part of the sleeve had ripped.

Please don't get me wrong as I describe this. I don't think anyone damaged my quilt at any of the 3 shows it attended.

I think white quilts naturally attract and show dirt. I also know that I DIDN'T know what I was doing when I started this quilt.

I choose backing fabric for the quilt top and back, not knowing that this cotton is thinner and lesser quality than regular muslin. This cotton was already thin, and it just got thinner and thinner every time I treated it with Hydrogen Peroxide.

The beads were stitched on with cotton thread too, and apparently it can only take so much.

When I got The Duchess back from the final show, I stretched it out on my styrofoam boards and tried to fix it. After 2 days of playing with it, I could see that my efforts were just making things worse.

The top fabric is now so thin that a heavy touch will rip holes in the fabric. Every time I move it I find 10-20 beads on the floor. The white fabric has now darkened, I think due to the chemicals still reacting in the fabric to sunlight, to a blotchy milk chocolate color.
As wonderful as it is to make a show quilt and ribbon,
it's heartbreaking to see it get ruined.

I hung The Duchess in my guest bedroom for awhile, but then took it down and put it into storage. I still think it's a beautiful quilt, but it's too delicate to leave up and depressing to look at.

It took awhile, but eventually I was able to move past the mistakes I'd made. I vowed to never make a white quilt again. I also declared that all of my show quilts would need to be washable. I definitely vowed never to spend a whole month stitching beads on anything ever again!

It's good to get to a place where you can see your mistakes, see what you need to do to improve, and take the steps to get past the hurt and dissapointment.

To help me move beyond this experience, I really wanted to start work on Release Your Light. This was going to be one of the biggest quilts I'd ever done and I was designing it to hang on a wall in my home.

More than anything else, I wanted a quilt that would signify my intention for the year: to be more creative and to share that creativity with the world.

The image for Release Your Light had come to me in a dream and I knew that this goddess quilt was definitely the quilt I wanted, and needed, to see daily on my wall.

But I got ahead of myself. I finished the hand applique in a rush, excited and ready to be quilting again. Part of this was a desire to forget about what happened to The Duchess, and part of it was just my usual impatience at the beginning of any project.

I looked at the quilt top and saw the 96 rays and decided, which no previous experience or testing the technique, that instead of appliqueing, I was going to paint all those shapes in after quilting.

So I jumped right into the project and started quilting away. Because I wanted the quilt top to be very flat, I choose not to use trapunto or design any special motifs within the quilt top.

This mean that almost all 77" of the quilt had to be quilted. And not just any quilting - filler quilting!

To say that this took forever is an understatement. Any quilt top seems small and quick when you're working in the center, but as soon as you get to the borders, and in this case the 96 rays, you start to realize just how big it really is!

During this time, I started to think about fillers a lot. I was spending whole days stippling or mctavishing, so it was pretty understandable!

More than anything else, I was horribly bored as I stitched the same designs over and over again. I knew there had to be more designs and while talking to a friend one day, she mentioned Paisley, which I had seen previously but didn't like very much.

She then said something that really changed my life "Well if you change the shape a bit you can make a whole different design."

Eureka! What an amazing revealation!

I changed Paisley into Flame Stitch and used it to fill 28 of the rays. It's amazing how the smallest thing and make such a big deal and that one single comment was the first step to starting this blog. Amazing, isn't it?

With a full month and a half of solid quilting, Release Your Light got finished right at the beginning of July. I had a quilt show I wanted to enter by the middle of July and was still planning on trying for that goal.

But the one thing I hadn't counted on, or planned well, or even really thought about was the painting I was going to do after the quilt was quilted.

I had read Quilts of a Different Color and was planning on using a combination of colored pencils and shiva painstiks to color the entire surface of the quilt, except the previously appliqued areas.

To seal my fate into painting the quilt top, I'd soaked and blocked the quilt and found that the red batik backing fabric had bled into the quilt top and turned the white fabric an ugly shade of pinkish red.

So now I had absolutely no choice but to paint it.

You have no idea how much I wanted to be done with this quilt. I wanted to work on something else, anything else!

But I stuck with it because I'd already put so much time into it and I knew that it was going to be awesome if I could just get it done.

Quickly I realized that my goal if finishing the quilt by the show date was impossible. It just wouldn't be done in time. Instead I took it easy and decided that this was a lesson I really needed to experience and learn: ALWAYS TEST TECHNIQUES!

When I (finally!) finished the quilt top, it was amazing. Here was a quilt that I'd first seen in a dream and was now a reality almost exactly the way I'd invisioned it.

This was also the first double sided quilt I'd ever made. Most people when they see it comment that they like the back better than the front!

Having this quilt hang on my dining room wall to greet me each morning was wonderful. She is a daily reminder of just how powerfully creative I can be - explosive!

I realized just how attached to this quilt I was when I started thinking about showing it. With The Duchess, I'd jumped right in, needing those ribbons, needing that validation.

With Release Your Light completed, I realized that I really didn't need a ribbon to know that the quilt was a winner. I honestly didn't care. Having the quilt, seeing it on my wall daily, that was all I really needed.

I'm still not sure if I will show Release Your Light nationally or not. I did enter it into my local quilt guild show and it did extremely well, but I'm hesitant and a little fearful of mailing this quilt out.

While I know that my experience with The Duchess will never be repeated, it's hard to let go of that fear. I also know that even if I don't show Release Your Light, there will be many more show quilts in the years to come that I can show.

I mentioned before about how I started thinking about fillers while quilting Release Your Light.

I thought about them even more as I painted the quilt top. I thought about Paisley and how easy it was to create Flame Stitch by just changing one little thing about the design.

One day the idea for this blog just popped into my head. What if I created a new filler design every day? What if I did this for a whole year?

Once I got the idea, I couldn't shake it! I couldn't get rid of it. I HAD to try and see if it was even possible.

Of course my family was mostly lukewarm on the idea. My quilting business at this time wasn't extremely successful and everyone really wanted me to focus my attention on my skin care business which was making more money.

I'm so glad I didn't listen to that advice.

Sometimes you have to make the harder choice and give up peace of mind and sanity for awhile and just see where it will take you.

I had no idea if anyone would like the blog and in truth, I really didn't care. Creating the designs and writing about them was just for me in the beginning.

It was something I wanted to see, a resource I wished had existed and finally decided needed to be created.

But by Day 14 when I started posting videos to the blog, I started realizing just how many quilters there are out there in the world!

The comments and emails started pouring in. If you've been with me since the beginning, you probably know that I had absolutely no intention of starting a book or DVD until the very end of the project.

With all the encouragement, and sometimes blatant begging for workbooks and DVDs, I started compiling the designs. Free Motion Fillers Volume 1 came out in October and was an immediate success!

Volume 2 followed soon after and due to the tremendous amount of support from everyone, I've taken my formerly small website and expanded it to have a full online quilt shop.

This was an amazing transformation. I've dreamed of opening a crafting store of my own since I was about 15, but never thought it would be online!

Of course, working on DVDs and books has taken my focus away from the blog as times. Josh and I also started a remodel of our kitchen this fall and the combination of so many things led me to stop posting new designs every single day.

Sometimes I post a different technique or a video on the latest quilt I'm working on instead.

Occasionally, I question if this makes the blog a failure: not posting a new design every day.

But I know that even after the 365 days are over, I'll probably continue to post new designs. I really don't see this project ever ending because it's too much fun!

I really look at the last 3 months with wonder. I couldn't have predicted, nor expected, that this project would be so successful. It would have scared me silly if I'd known!

More than anything else, I feel enormously blessed and grateful to everyone who reads this, who comments, who's shared the blog with a friend. You all mean the world to me.

Looking back at 2009, I couldn't have asked for a better year. I set the intention to be more creative, and to share that creativity. I know I've absolutely fulfilled that intention and it feels wonderful!

So now that I've shared the last 12 months of my life with you, here's what I'm going to let go in order to start this new year:

In 2010, I want to laugh more than I've ever laughed. In order to do that, I need to let go of a lot of negativity and past hurts that can keep that laughter inside.

Some of those hurts run deep and letting them go feels very hard. What I realized today during yoga is that it only feels hard because it's different. Suffering is easy because it's familiar.

I want to continue to quilt daily and to continue to share that with everyone, maybe even in person, not just in videos!

In order to do that, I need to get over my stage fright of being in front of real people. That sounds crazy, doesn't it? Yep, I'm really pretty terrified of getting in front of a group!

I'm also setting the intention to be good to myself: to do yoga weekly, eat better, sleep more, and spend more time with my son and husband.

In order to do these things I will have to let go of my work-a-holic, type-a mindset and loosen up!

I really feel like 2009 was my year to evolve and 2010 will be the year to bloom. Right now I plan to create 2 show quilts, already tenatively named "My Cup Runneth Over" and "Emergence".

I'm looking forward to this year with excitement and hope and I hope you are too.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Curvy Quilt as You Go Technique

So we've all learned how to attach quilted blocks together using straight binding strips.

Now let me share how I'm attaching the block of the Winter Wonderland Quilt together for a curvy twist on this technique!

Step 1 - Secure the backs

This technique is all done by machine, so first we need to connect the blocks together from the back using 1" strips.

Attach one side of the strip to the back side of one block using a perfect 1/4" seam allowance.

Press the strip away from the block and attach the other side to the back of the next block so that both blocks are joined perfectly together with no overlapping or gaps.

Remember, if you find your blocks overlapping, you can cut your strips a little wider.

Now let's finish the top so that these blocks can be connected to the next part of the quilt!

Step 2 - Make your bias binding

Bias binding is absolutely essential for this technique. If you don't know how to make bias binding, or you would like a better technique, try Sharon Schamber's instructions right here.

I learned how to make bias binding from this video and have used it ever since. Sharon's folding method is easy and makes cutting the strips straight much, much easier than any other instructions I've ever found.

If you follow Sharon's instructions, stop when your fabric is fully folded and ready to cut.

Now square off one end and cut 2 1/2 inch strips.

Make a pile of the long strips and a pile of the short strips. Some may be too short to use for this technique. If the strip is shorter than your blocks, you can either discard it or save it for another project.

Now take your shorter strips, fold them in half, wrong sides together, and stitch a 1/4" seam down the length of the strip. Don't press the fold in, just fold it and stitch it.

Now take the strip to your ironing board and finger press the seam open, then press again with your iron.

You want to press the seam allowance open and the whole bias strip flat, creating a 1" piece of stitched binding with the seam allowances on one side.

Step 3 - Create a Curvy Jig

In woodworking, carpenters use a "jig" to make cutting or drilling several pieces of wood easier.

We're going to take this same idea and use it for quilting.

First you need to take 2 pieces of freezer paper and iron them both. This shrinks the freezer paper and makes it more stable for this project.

Now press one piece of freezer paper, wax side down to your ironing board. Press the second piece of freezer paper on top of the first so that they stick together making a thicker, sturdy piece of freezer paper with one paper side and one wax side.

Now take a wave edge ruler or a wavy design that you like and create your curving template. All you have to do is draw it on the freezer paper and cut it out carefully with sharp scissors.

This is now your curvy jig and can be used repeatedly until it loses its stickiness. Press this jig firmly to your ironing board.

Note: These techniques - the bias binding and the jig - will be hard to do with a regular ironing board. Check out another one of Sharon's terrific videos on creating the perfect pressing surface. Trust me - it's worth it to make your own!

Step 4 - Curve Your Strips

Take one strip and spray the side with the seam allowances lightly with starch. Flip it over and spray the other side lightly with starch as well.

Now starting on one side of the jig, lay the strip along the curve and press it into the curve with your iron.

In the photo, the top curve is the jig and the bottom is the strip. You're not going to be able to make a perfectly curving line, but you can get close if you take your time and are patient.

You will want to work about 2" at a time, very slowly down the strip, pressing and gently manipulating your strip into the curvy shape.

1" binding is pretty thick and you can't curve it sharply. Just be gentle and allow the curve to take shape. Don't force your fabric or it will form unsightly pleats or ripples.

One the binding is pressed into shape, take it off the jig and press again from the front and the back.

Step 5 - Attaching the curvy binding to your quilt top

Now take your curvy binding strip and lay it over the top of your connected quilt blocks.

I aimed to have the valleys of the curves hit right at the seam allowance line of my blocks. This helped to keep the curvy strips "straight" along the block.

Pin the strips securely to your quilt top and take the whole thing to your machine. I set my machine to a slightly fancy zig zag stitch. Play with the different stitches on your machine and decide which you like the best.

Stitch right along the edge of the curvy binding along both sides, removing the pins as you go. If you like, you can also stitch a decorative stitch through the center or add more free motion designs within this area.

Because you're stitching from the top, you will see this stitching from the back. If you match thread color with the back of your quilt, this will show only very slightly.

You can see a hint of the curve from the back on this block, but it really doesn't take away from the look of the quilt at all. Certainly not enough for me to want to stitch all that curved binding down by hand!

So there you have it. Curved binding definitely is more involved and complex than the regular binding strips, but it's also a beautiful finish that you just can't get any other way.

I was really hoping to have the whole quilt bound and finished by today, but it just didn't happen. I'll definitely post a final picture when it's all together!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quilt As You Go Connections

Okay, drumroll please....

I know you're all waiting to hear how I'm going to connect all the finished snowflake blocks together to form one big quilt.

Since they're all already quilted, this could pose a pretty big problem. How do you connect the blocks together without it either a) showing somewhere what you did or b) the quilt not looking good.

This method, quilting blocks in pieces, is known as a "quilt as you go" method.

Well, in truth, this is very easy. It's looks complicated, but really this technique is as easy as binding your quilt.

Let's start with how to
Connect Quilted Quilt Blocks with straight binding.

First let's think about this for a minute. If your blocks are cut 12.5 inches, you have 1/4" seam allowance all around it.

If your block has been trimmed very accurately and it's perfectly square, you can arrange it with other 12.5" blocks so that they all butt up against one another with no gaps or space between.

This first diagram is 4 blocks butting up against one another perfectly.

Now the goal will be to somehow connect the blocks together across the front and back smoothly

Notice I said smoothly, not seamlessly.

No matter which way you do this, you're going to have a 1/2" strip on the front and back of the blocks. Here you see what the blocks will look like with red and blue binding.

You can't get around the 1/2" strip, so the best thing to do is match your strip colors to the fabric so it blends in nicely or becomes a part of the design of the overall quilt top.

Now let's connect the quilt blocks from the top:

1. Cut 1 - 1" strip the length of your block.

2. Using a very accurate seam allowance, stitch this strip to the front side of one block.

3. Press strip away from the block.

4. Take the next block in the row and attach it to the other side of your 1" strip, making sure that the blocks will be facing the same way once you finish the seam.

5. Press the seam allowance within the strip. The 2 seam allowances should butt up nicely together with no big gaps or overlapping.

If you try this and find you don't have enough space (your seam allowances of the blocks are overlapping each other) you should either rip out the seam and stitch it again or cut your strips slightly wider.

Personally I would encourage you to rip out the seam and stitch it again because you really CAN get this perfectly accurate if you play with it for a bit.

Whatever you do: DON'T TRIM YOUR BLOCKS!

Your blocks are perfectly square and straight. The instant you start trimming them to make them fit within the encasing strip, you start getting out of square.

So now the tops of the blocks are together with only a single 1/2" strip connecting them all together. Very nice!

Now let's connect the backs of the blocks so that your seam allowance is fully encased.

1. Cut 1 - 1 3/4" strip, fold it in half and press.

2. Stitch both rough edges of this strip to the back side of one of the blocks.

3. Press the folded strip away from the block and towards the seam allowance of the next block.

The folded edge should just reach the stitched line of your top seam allowance, allowing you to have an easy reference point to secure this edge by hand.

Unfortunately, there's really no way to connect these blocks without doing some handwork or having your stitches show on one side or the other.

Quilt as You Go All By Machine

If you'd rather do this technique completely by machine with no handwork, reverse the directions and stitch the 1" strip to the backs of the blocks and the 1 3/4" strip to the top.

This way you can stitch the folded strip down with a decorative stitch on your sewing machine from the top of your quilt. The top will still look very nice, and your stitches will only show on the back.

This is an incredibly useful technique and will allow you to quilt your quilts in pieces, rather than in one giant piece.

You may be wondering if you need to use a walking foot for this technique. Technically, yes, a walking foot will make this process easier.

If however, your blocks are as stiff as mine are (roughly the consistency of cardboard) you can get away with your regular foot.

Just make sure that no matter what you do, you use a perfect, extremely accurate seam allowance.

This technique is very particular on having your seam allowance perfect because otherwise the strips won't stretch and encase the seam allowances perfectly.

Connecting a whole quilt together

If you had 12 blocks to connect together to make one big quilt, you will first want to connect all the blocks in rows.

First stitch your 1" strips on then the folded strips. You will want to secure the folded strips before connecting the rows together to complete your quilt top.

As for the Winter Wonderland Quilt, I've decided to do a slightly different technique that is definitely more time consuming, but will add a beautiful wavy design element to the quilt top.

I'll detail this Curvy Quilt As You Go Connection tomorrow!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Winter Wonderland Part 2

Thank you to everyone who commented yesterday! I really appreciate hearing your advice and getting input from everyone all around the world.

I'm pretty much decided on the Style A orientation and the wavy binding, even though it will take a little more time.

I'm a sucker for curved edge bindings and I was already planning on scalloping the edges of the quilt.

If I do that, I will be needing to cut bias strips anyway, so it's really not too much of a pain to also connect the blocks with the curving binding.

So let's check out the second set of 6 blocks and the big central block!

This block had so many tight corners and crevases that Brain Coral was one of the best choices for filling the background.

This snowflake was probably the most complex of all the designs. Cucumber Vine was used in the center, then Leaf Veins was used in the middle sections.

The background was filled with Bleeding Heart.

This was one of the fastest snowflakes to finish because it was quilted much lighter than the rest. The filler I used here is Mussel Shell.

This snowflake was filled with Matrix in the center, then Drunk Pointy Paisley in the background.

Notice how this snowflake stands out quite a bit? The inside was filled with Microstippling and the background was filled with Tree Roots.

Both are flat, directionless designs that put the focus on the motif, not the quilting.

This was the first block I quilted for this quilt. The center and leaf shapes were filled with Microstippling and the background was filled with Diane Gaudynski's Banana's Design.

You might be wondering why I still use Microstippling.

The reason is that for tight, complicated areas that I want to flatten and recede into the background, Microstippling is still the #1 choice.

Now drumroll please! Let's check out the center block!

Here are some closeups so you can really see the stitching:


I stitched plain lines in the center star, similar to Bright Star, then Pebbling in the second area.

I wanted the middle star to stand out so I used Microstippling again in the 3rd area.


I ended up with 2 sets of little tight areas to fill. In the square shaped areas I stitched a square shaped spiral.

In the small diamond shaped areas I filled using dense Microstippling.

The whole background was filled using McTavishing, which set off the outside of the block and added loads of movement to the quilt.

I really like being about to connect different designs or fillers within the quilt. I used Pebbling and McTavishing in several areas, but not so much that it overwhelmed the whole quilt.

Now I'm just ready to get the blocks together and the quilt totally finished and off my design wall!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter Wonderland Part 1

After 2 months of work, these blocks are starting to look like a quilt!

In case you're just joining us, this is Winter Wonderland, a quilt I started working on in November.

This quilt was started for many different reasons. Firstly, I wanted to produce one more show quilt this year, but I knew I didn't have the time to start a really big, monster project.

I also wanted to test out my new technique, Reverse Shadow Trapunto, and see if it would work for another show quilt, Emerging from Tradition I plan to start in February or March.

While it might seem really silly to take a whole quilt to experiment with a technique, this is really the best way to know if it's something you like doing and want to do more of.

I also created this quilt because I suddenly fell in love with snowflakes and wanted a truly winter themed quilt to hang during the holidays.

After completing the quilting, I can definitely say that this is a quick, fun project! I don't think I've ever said that about a show quilt, but working block by block with this quilt has definitely kept it light and moving quickly.

As for the technique I was experimenting with, I'm not so sure that I will be using it on Emerging from Tradition.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Reverse Shadow Trapunto, but I don't like how the colors of the quilt are muted, even slightly by the silk organza.

Emerging will be another goddess quilt, and like Release Your Light, it's going to be bright, bold, and dramatic. I just can't see muting any of the colors I want to use, even slightly.

But even with this limitation, I was still considering it until I realized that silk organza is only made up to 55" wide. Emerging from Tradition has been designed to finish at 67" wide, so it's just not going to work.

I guess I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and get over my dislike for applique. Regardless, it's still a few months off, so I have plenty of time to think about it some more.

I know you've all been wanting to see these blocks up close and even I was surprised by how well some of them turned out! Here's the first 6 blocks up close:

With this one I just did some very simple lines, like Bright Star, in the center, and then Pebbling in the background.

This background was filled with Basic Spiral.

The center of this block was filled with a spiral like Peppermint Candy, then the background was filled with Escargot.

This block was filled with a pivot design I've been playing with, but haven't posted a video on yet. It's called Butterfly Wings.

I used the same Peppermint Candy spiral in the center of this block and then used Cucumber Vine to fill in the background.

This block was one of my absolute favorites, so I used my 2 favorite fillers: Pebbling in the center and McTavishing in the background.

Of course, I realize now that it's hard to tell Escargot, Basic Spiral, and Cucumber Vine apart when they're in blocks like this and the pictures aren't very good.

Hopefully you can tell the subtle differences between the designs. In any case, there's a big difference in how quickly they cover the block!

Escargot was the most time consuming and Cucumber Vine the easiest to noticeably mess up with. As far as all of the spiral designs go, Basic Spiral has my vote as the easiest to use and the fastest to fill.

Pebbling, of course, is the most time consuming of all of them, but it's also one of the most beautiful, so it was worth it.

We'll definitely see the next 6 blocks tomorrow with Part 2.

By the way, I'm still working out how I should put all these blocks together in the finished quilt.

I have 2 options for connecting the blocks: I could use this straight binding that will look like a 1/2" line or I can make 1" bais binding and do this wavy design.

What do you think? Of course the straight line binding will be easier, but the wavy line looks so pretty.

Also, should the center block be point up (style A) or point to the side (style B)? Pick the ones you like best and let me know in the comments below!

Style A

Style B

Share your opinions in the comments below!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Cleaning and Reorganizing

I realized yesterday after writing my post that I really love this "in between" time of the year. It's the perfect time to rest and relax and it's also the perfect time to clean and reorganize and prepare for the coming year.

Yesterday I did a bit of both and finished quilting the for the Winter Wonderland quilt! Yahoo!

After quilting, I took a few hours off for some awesome, mindless video game playing and then started cleaning up my downstairs studio so I could block the Winter Wonderland blocks.

I don't think my studio has been in this bad of shape since I moved everything down there. It looks like a train ran through it, and then a plane crash landed!

I didn't even have space to take the my design wall (styrofoam insulation) off the wall for blocking. I managed to find some space eventually and here's all 13 blocks stretched out to dry.

It's even messier than usual because we've been using the sewing room for a kitchen for the past 6 weeks.

The good news is, I'm finally able to put all my dishes and food back into the cabinets upstairs (yay!), but the bad news is we still don't have a sink or stovetop upstairs (uggh).

Josh and I are really getting sick of fast food and I'm getting really sick of having so much non-sewing stuff in my sewing room.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to share my space (for maybe 5 minutes!), but I really need my big tables clear so I can be free to baste all the quilt tops I'm going to work on in the beginner DVD.

I've decided that the best way to make this DVD is to think like a beginner and to work on simple quilting designs for a few days or weeks before I start filming.

And gosh, the number of quilt tops and projects I've unearthed during cleaning is staggering!

I thought I was pretty good about finishing projects once I started them, but oh no, I've got a closet chock full of quilt top monsters that I really need to quilt and finish.

Here's a top I started, basted, but never quilted. I had trouble with the enormous amount of empty space at the top of this quilt.

I always felt like there should be something (maybe flowers?) coming out of the vases.

I also hated the purple border, so maybe some seam ripping is in order with this quilt.

One of my few unfinished landscapes:

The sun didn't work out the way I was planning and it stopped the whole project in its tracks.

Maybe if I paint the white sky I will like this top better. I definitely need to get the pins out of it, they're starting to rust!

Here are some fun, cheerful quilts I pieced awhile back and forgot about (there are 3 more, but I got lazy with photographing them all):

Here's the little quilt I made this fall with the new Moda Eva fabric:

With all these quilt tops to quilt, it makes me wonder if I really should ever buy fabric again!

I'm already starting to realize that one of my New Year's intentions will be to finish my UFOs (un-finished objects) and purge a lot of the quilting / crafting junk I've accumulated over the years.

I'm still holding onto crafting junk I bought when I was 12, which is a bit ridiculous. I keep it because I tell myself that "I will use this SOMEDAY!" but I never do, so it probably just needs to be given to a new home.

You know something cool? I found this on one of my dusty shelves:


This was one of my very first pieced quilts. I made it way back when I believed that the only way to piece accurate triangles was to paper piece.

I know the photo washed it out completely, but the fabric is actually a very light pink and white. It's also super thin, which means it would have never made a very good quilt. Like I said, I didn't know what I was doing at the time!

Here's a quilt top I didn't piece. I believe my dad bought it from a local quilter, but I'm not really sure on the story. It's huge and definitely in need of some TLC.

And we can't forget the Super Quick Quilt which was just recently pieced up in a day!

The sad thing about this whole list of quilts is that this isn't even all of them! I think I have at least 10 more tops, but I WAS trying to clean, not dig all my skeletons out of the closets!

But it was super fun to look back at these old quilt tops. My style has definitely changed and I can see how my quilting and ability has transformed as well.

I think the biggest issue with many of these quilts is that one thing, one tiny little thing, made me go from excited about the project to ready to hang it up and forget about it.

Sometimes it was a bad fabric choice, color, or even simply an inability to "see" the quilting design.

Looking back at everything was really nice and the photos give me a perspective over the overall look of the quilt top that I can sometimes miss when I just sit and look at it.

So if you're anything like me and have a closet full of quilt junk you will never use and a truck load of quilt tops that MUST be quilted before you die, pull em' all out and start making a plan to finish them ALL in 2010.

Yes, we will have more than enough time! After all, we have 4 more days of 2009 to get started!

Let's go quilt (or clean)!

Leah Day

Saturday, December 26, 2009

In Between Times

So it's the day after Christmas! I hope you had a wonderful day with family and friends.

We had a very chill day. Josh played a new video game, James played with his new cars, and I quilted for 6 hours straight.

While that might make me a terrible mom for not playing with my son on Christmas day, James seemed to be having the best time in the world and I definitely needed the quilting down time.

I don't think I'm the only quilter who has to put quilting on a back burner during the holidays, but it feels so nice to get back to the machine and obsessed with a new (or old) project.

Yesterday I slammed through the Winter Wonderland quilt. This quilt is starting to be a monkey on my back and I need to get it done and on the wall so my focus is free for the new DVD.

I really wanted to finish this quilt by Christmas day and made a very good stab at it! All that's left to finish now is the big central block and it's half finished already.

It struck me yesterday while quilting that this is one of the weirdest times of the year.

After Christmas we have only 7 days until the new year. These seven days are kind of an "in between" time between the holidays and the start of a brand new year.

For most of my childhood, I didn't pay much attention to the new year or set any intentions. My family didn't celebrate the holiday really so it was never a big deal.

But now the mark of a new year is a very big deal to me. The choices and intentions that I set for 2009 made a very big impact on my life for the past year.

Over the next 7 days I'm going to share several posts both looking back on the previous year and looking ahead to what is coming for 2010.

I'm also planning on posting very detailed photos of the Winter Wonderland quilt and how I plan to put all the blocks together to finish the quilt off.

I see this "in between" time as a time of rest, relaxation, and renewal. A time to both reflect and look forward.

I hope you can take some time during the coming days to get back to your sewing machine, dust off your latest project, or start planning a new project for the new year.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jingle Bells!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope you are enjoying a wonderful day full of love, peace, and fellowship with your friends and family.

I shot this video last week with James and it was just too cute not to share with everyone.


Merry Christmas!

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Super Quick Wholecloth???

After an afternoon and evening of totally chill relaxing in which I read a whole silly book and drank half a bottle of champagne, I'm feeling much, much better!

The Christmas Crazies really can get you down, so today I'm planning to chill out again and get back to finishing my Winter Wonderland quilt.

But before I sneak off to the machine, I wanted to share this new project with you:

The SUPER QUICK WHOLECLOTH!

Don't shrink away in fear and terror. "Wholecloth" is actually NOT synonymous with "super hard, psycho quilt" and even though most quilters never attempt a wholecloth in their whole quilting lifetime, I'm on a mission to change that.

You see, while working on my first Super Quick Quilt, I realized that I could have saved a huge amount of time on the piecing part of that quilt.

The piecing and cutting really did take the best part of a whole day. If you were really on a time crunch, you might not have a whole day to devote just to getting the top together.

So that's where a wholecloth is so wonderful!

Instead of piecing 50+ different seams to get the top together, what if you could instead piece just 1 super long seam???


Or even better, NO SEAMS AT ALL. What if you could literally wash, square your fabric, then baste your quilt?

Sound too good to be true?

I'm feeling a bit like the little devil on your shoulder whispering evil thoughts into your mind.
"Wholecloth is fun...wholecloth is easy...."

Ha! But I know the next biggest reservation most quilters will come up with:

What about the quilting design?!

Wholecloths are typically a white monstrosity of elaborate quilting designs and puffy trapunto motifs. How in the world could quilting something like that be Super Quick?

Here's where the fun begins!

Instead of picking a plain, boring, WHITE wholecloth fabric (*yawn*), instead pick the biggest, boldest, wildest fabric print you've ever seen!

Here's what I picked up yesterday while fabric shopping:

To quilt this, I'm going to quilt the outline of each flower shape. It's super simple, super easy, and this wholecloth will easily be finished in 1 day.

The best part about this quilting method is that the focus is on the fabric.

I really love this big Michael Miller print. If I cut it all up, chances are I'd lose a lot of the impact of the fabric design.

By leaving it all in one piece, the focus is kept on the fabric!

If you have fabric in your sash that's just too pretty to cut, consider making a wholecloth out of it.

Here are some more photos of fabrics from my stash I've been resistent to cut. Some of them have literally been in my stash for 3 years or longer!

































I hope this inspires you to look at wholecloth quilts in a slightly different way, and maybe even try one in 2010!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

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