Thursday, September 30, 2010

Too Much STUFF!!!

Last weekend I started cleaning up my downstairs studio after nearly 4 months of ignoring it completely.

This intense cleaning session soon spawned itself into a Paint-the-Walls Initiative which then mutated into a Remodel-the-Whole-Room insanity spree.

No, I certainly didn't want to spend all weekend painting the walls blue, green, and off white, and definitely didn't plan to be installing a new closet organizer system into the weird alcove space, but now that it's nearly done, I've very happy with the end result:

Unfortunately this cleaning job is only about 1/3 of the way done because now I have to put back all of the things that used to go into this space, plus my fabric stash.

And the thing is, I'm really wanting to downsize.

I know that's a really strange word to hear from a quilter, but I've been hanging onto things, like my stock of knitting needles and yarn, that are just not going to ever be used again.

Josh has been watching a show called Hording: Buried Alive, and while I know my stash has never even come close to this level of accumulation, it has made me stop and question why I'm keeping things when I know for a fact that I will never use them.

Take for instance this set of crocheted snowflake ornaments:

I keep meaning to put them on a beaded chain to sit in the window during the winter, but they've been sitting in a bag in my room for 4 years, and I'm obviously not going to do anything with them. Any takers?

Next up we have a set of doll house furniture from my early days of pregnancy nesting (that was 3.5 years ago!):

I'm SO tempted to keep this because the urge to glue wooden pieces together and make a huge mess over my kitchen table regularly strikes every 2 years.

But what am I going to do with it all when it's all assembled?! I don't have a doll house! I don't even have a little girl to play dollhouse with!

Of course there are a few things I have no question about keeping. This set of crocheted, beaded rings were made by one of my Great Grandmothers:

Yes, they're totally out of fashion and actually quite painful to wear, but how in the world could I throw them away?

And I will never throw out this beaded purse I made 13 years ago. There were just too many hours spent over my bead loom to give it up!

But what should I do about the 50 other necklaces I made back when my neck was 13 inches in circumference?

A few fit, but almost none are my style. I really don't wear that much jewelry anymore, so it's hard to really see the point of hanging onto this stuff.

I could rip it all up and harvest the beads out of it, but that seems like such a waste. Why rip these up when I'm not going to do anything with the beads? And what if I might one day look back and want to see these pieces again?

Uggh! It's almost easier to just chuck it all into the bottom of a drawer than think about another alternative.

And we haven't even started on the fabric stash!

I guess the best default is to keep anything really nice (meaning not totally falling apart) that marked a significant jump in my skill level. That makes the necklaces a bit easier to keep and the smaller, silly junk a lot easier to chuck out.

But where does that leave those darn knitting needles? Any takers on those?

Feel free to share your stash woes and if you're interested in the snowflakes or knitting needles, I'm definitely serious about getting rid of them. "Free to a good home" is going to be my favorite thing to say this weekend.

I'm off to sort through everything a bit longer. Maybe detour up to the kitchen for a root beer float first...all cleaning tasks are easier with a little sugar and ice cream!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Spy Something Blue...


YAY! The new book and DVD are in!

Most of today has been spent making room for the many boxes in our house. It's amazing just how much space the books and DVDs can take up!

But they are officially in stock and shipping out. Everyone that Pre-Ordered a copy will be receiving them first. Depending on where you live in the country, this could be as soon as Friday or Saturday!

We're offering several different options with this new book and DVD:
  • From Daisy to Paisley -This is the physical spiral bound book that will ship directly to your door. It's 5.5" x 8.5" and the perfect little companion to sit on the edge of your quilting table and provide loads of free motion quilting inspiration! Sale Price: $14.99

  • Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers DVD - This is the physical dual layer DVD disc that can be played on either a DVD player or a computer. This DVD has been coded Region 0 so it should work in all countries as well. Sale Price: $29.95

  • Beginner Combo Kit - Get the best deal when you purchase both the book and DVD at the same time! Sale Price: $42.00
There are also downloadable versions of the book, DVD, and Combo Kit as well. These will hopefully be available tomorrow or Friday.

Josh and I have decided to leave the sale up for one more week so if you're hankering for a copy of this new book, DVD, or the special Combo kit, make sure to get them before next Wednesday!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 217 - Sand Dollar

I've been having a lot of fun playing with designs that overlap and cross many line to create complex textures.

Here's a design that overlaps a very simple design called Bright Star on top of another simple design called Peppermint Candy. The combination of these two simple designs really creates one funky Sand Dollar!

Yesterday I went to the hardware store and had the shelves and bars cut down for my new fabric organizer. I then got home and placed said bars into the system and found they were cut 1 1/4 too long. That's what I get for trying to measure in the middle of the night!

Overall I would say that the redo of this room is worth it, but gosh, it's annoying! The whole house is a real chaotic mess because of everything being torn out. I'm just looking forward to putting everything back in place, minus a whole lot of this stuff I've been hanging onto for years.

Now I'm off to get those poles cut back down again and do some grocery shopping. Working on this Sand Dollar design is making me crave seafood!


Inspiration - While writing the book From Daisy to Paisley, I realized I had very few Overlapping Designs. So I set about doodling and dreaming and created many new textures just by playing with the way lines can overlap to create new designs.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. This design didn't make it into the book because it might be a bit tricky for a quilter just starting free motion quilting. There's a lot of thread play and traveling over the center of each spiral and this can really give you fits if your thread is too thick or weak.

But if you're using a thin, strong thread (like my favorite Isacord!), then this design really shouldn't been too difficult. Just keep the simple shapes in your mind as you fill your quilting space evenly.

Design Family - Stacking. While I was attempting to create more Overlapping Designs like Broken Glass, this design really ended up working more like Stacking Designs like Pebbling because of the ways the spirals butt up against one another.

Directional Texture - No Direction. This design doesn't have a huge amount of movement to it, but it's very eye catching! Notice how the bigger Sand Dollars stand out from the others. Maybe this design would be best stitched with bigger spirals so they really get a chance to show off.

Suggestions for Use - I think this design would look awesome Section Quilted into the sashing of a quilt. It's easy enough to fill the area, building from the center to the outside and because of the dense texture it creates it would certainly draw a lot of attention into an area that is usually left empty.

Back of Sand Dollar
Feel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 216 - Atomic Flower

I don't know about you, but I'm really craving some funky filler designs this week!

This funky flower design was inspired by the graphs and symbols for spinning atoms:

Today I'm hoping to put the finishing touches on my sewing studio and then be able to start moving everything back into place. There's something about reorganizing and sorting through all this stuff that just feels good!

So while I run off to cut my shelves down to size, ya'll hang out and watch how to quilt Atomic Flower:


Inspiration - I was thinking back to my days in college and remembered a few of the diagrams we would draw to illustrate atoms. Of course, this atom is much cooler than anything I learned in those boring chemistry classes because it's art instead of science!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This isn't a super difficult design, but it does require a good bit of traveling through the center area to create all the petals for the flower. Just take your time and stitch carefully through these areas so you stay right on the line.

Design Family - Center Fill. This type of design is started in the center of your quilting space and worked out to the edges. This means that this design will work great in open blocks, but is probably not the best choice for a tight or complex area.

Directional Texture - Center focused. This design really draws your eye right into the center. The overlapping lines create a lot of texture as well, so definitely use this design where you want a lot of attention.

Suggestions for Use - For some reason Atomic Flower is making me think of very abstract quilts. Something about all of the curves is making me want to put this design on a quilt with lots of straight lines and sharp angles!

Back of Atomic Flower
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Section Quilting Part 3

I know, I know, I've been terrible this weekend! I got sucked into a quilting room clean up and reorganize which spawned into a full studio renovation. Uggh! Of all the things I hate to do on a weekend, priming and painting is on the top of my list!

But last week I promised to post Part 3 of videos from the Section Quilting part from the How Do I Quilt This?! video series, so let's learn how to section quilt the Sashing of a quilt.

I talk a lot about sashing because this is a common blank area in most quilts. Usually a quilt with sashing has some Stitching in the Ditch, but no actual fillers used in the sashing areas.

This is a real shame because there are many, many designs that will work wonderfully in these areas. Edge to Center and Edge to Edge designs work particularly good because the are easy to line up across the skinny lines of sashing.

So let's learn a little about the Filler Design Theory of you sashing sections:


I choose to use Spiral Chain in the inner sashing of my Circles of Daisies Quilt:


I also used Modern Art to fill the outer sashing section:


Watch how to fill your sashing with Spiral Chain and Modern Art and how to estimate your space so the spirals work out perfectly each time!

After two solid days of cleaning, organizing fabric and painting the walls of my sewing room, I'm beat! I'll add a few more tips on section quilting your sashing later this week!

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Friday, September 24, 2010

Healing and Moving On

Thank you all so much for the positive comments from yesterday's post. It's been a hard week, but it's wonderful to know that I'm not the only one in the world with these issues.

I love the comment from Lisa yesterday:
Repeat after me, I didn't cause it and I can't fix it. It is great that you are working out these issues but be careful about dwelling on them too much. Don't rob yourself of the joy of now. The present is the best present.
This is absolutely true! What keeps running through my head is the search for joy. This morning I got James up and we had a terrific morning just making breakfast, playing, and talking silliness.

I believe the joy of life is in these small things - smiles, laughter, silly phrases of our own "language" that no one else will understand, and hugs - lots and lots of hugs!

Yesterday after posting, I went to visit my massage therapist, M, and I left her house nearly buzzing with positive energy. She is an amazing healer and is teaching me new methods to relax and let loose.

M allowed me to see that the hardest part of this quilt and everything that has come out of it is already done. The choices have been made so let it go already!

I'm planning on putting Sinkhole away for awhile before I quilt it. For one thing I really need to get into my fabric room, go through everything, clean up the place and get rid of a lot of junk. I plan to paint the walls a cool green color, upgrade the lighting, and install new hangers for my fabric.

I had always planned to wait until the spring to quilt Sinkhole simply because I need time to come up with the words and thread that will be used over the top. And who knows, I may even hand quilt it!

So I'm finally getting back to some of the projects I was working on before this quilt. I'm really looking forward to getting back to the Hawaiian Quilt:

And of course, the Over the Top Quilt from the How Do I Quilt This?! Series:

This winter I've been planning something really fun. I tend to quilt very nontraditional quilts through the whole year, but then during November and December all I want to do is work on something super traditional.

So this year I'm going to finally make a sequel to The Duchess, my first white show quilt that got ruined. The new quilt will be called The Duchess Reigns with a redesigned border on dark red fabric with white thread!

I'm really excited and looking forward to working on this quilt because it will be like coming full circle. 2 years ago I created The Duchess when I was just learning how to show quilt, just learning how to McTavish, and just figuring out all the right things to do and use for easy free motion quilting.

I can't wait to see what happens when I attempt this quilt again with all the filler designs and skills I've learned in the last 2 years.

But today I need a day of rest and relaxation. A day to breathe deep before tackling the huge job of ripping out my fabric room. So I'm off to Gastonia for a wonderful day of shopping, lunch, and pedicures with my best friend.

To seeking and finding joy,

Leah Day

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Turning Point

I have to apologize again for the weird week. This is not a usual occurrence for me to get sucked into a quilt so completely I leave the world behind. But this needed to happen, so please bear with me as I share the experience and the revelations that have come to me over the last two days.

Of course, I need to start with another warning that I will discuss things in this post you may not want to know, particularly issues with my mother, verbal abuse, and finally finding the turning point to my life.

On Tuesday I spent most of the day preparing the pattern pieces for Sinkhole. This quilt really is a two step process - first prepare a double layered, thick piece of freezer paper, mark the individual pieces on top and cut it out.

The second step is to iron the freezer paper onto the fabric, turn the raw, outer edge using spray starch against the edge of the freezer paper, then layer the new piece with the others.

This is a highly modified version of Sharon Shamber's Piecelique technique, but instead of popping open the pieces and seaming them together, I've just been removing the freezer paper and machine appliqueing over the top to secure the layers together.

So Tuesday was largely spent drawing and cutting, and of course thinking.

It's easy to think while doing rather mindless tasks like tracing shapes and cutting them out carefully. I didn't try to distract my brain with an audiobook or even music and simply allowed my mind to wander freely, dealing with the thoughts and issues that surfaced.

Since my son was born in 2007, I have made enormous leaps in understanding, not just about myself, but also the people around me. I guess you could say I've become a student of psychology because the books that fascinate me the most are the ones that explain WHY we act the way we do in certain situations.

For years I've sought understanding of not just why my parents were bad parents (the endless cycles of abuse and dysfunction, depression, and alcoholism were probably the most significant reasons), but also why I would sometimes take their behavior (anger and verbal abuse) to the playground with me.

Even into my early 20s, I didn't understand why I would be fine 90% of the time, but then, very rarely, I would lash out at another child or friend in the exact same manner my mother or sisters would at me. I could never fully understand my actions as a child, and often assumed that I was intrinsically very bad, selfish, and even evil.

Even as an adult, certain episodes stick out in my mind like flashing lights because my behavior was so completely different from who I was. I could never make sense of how I could suddenly mutate in to that terrible person, and for most of my life this colored my self image of being intrinsically bad, defective, potentially dangerous, and absolutely unworthy of love.

What I've come to realize now is that this was an absolutely normal reaction to be the lowest member of a dysfunctional family. In "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence Cohen I learned families have a hierarchical system where abuse, feelings of powerlessness, and isolation trickles down.

Basically this explains why my mom would get home from a long day at work, tired and irritated, and take out her frustration by criticizing my dad. My dad would in turn retreat into silence, only speaking to yell at my oldest sister to shut up, even though she wasn't being that loud.

My oldest sister would then roll that hurt down to my middle sister by hitting or verbally abusing her and then my middle sister would roll it down to me with a similar action.

So as the youngest of three girls, I had no one to take my aggression out on, so I would take it with me to school. That I was able to bottle up this hurt for years between periods of lashing out now makes me see that I was the very opposite of a bad person. Instead of releasing all that pent up negative energy daily, I would store it inside until it reached the absolute boiling point.

Stored up, this negativity slowly ate away at my self esteem and sense of self worth, until by the time I was 12, I truly believed I was an ugly, terrible person, totally unworthy of love or compassion.

So extreme was this conviction that I felt a near splitting of my identity. I was divided into my mental self - the person inside my body which was intrinsically bad and ugly and my physical body which was obviously pretty, talented, and smart.

When designing Shadow Self, the Yin Yang over the goddess symbolizes both the darker side of my mind and this duality of self. By creating that quilt, I began to chip away at my personal divide and find the answers that would explain my childhood behavior in a different light.

But there were still large issues left to work through after Shadow Self. I knew, even halfway through that quilt, that I would need to create another, specifically on the issues I've had my entire life with my mother.

For years I've tried to understand my mother, to put her words and actions into a context that would make them make sense or even sane. Coming from a background of abuse, neglect, and alcoholism, I now believe my mother has been a closet alcoholic and severely depressed for most of my childhood.

This knowledge helps in a very small way to explain how verbally abusive and destructive she was. The house I grew up in was tainted with her negative, angry energy. She was critical of everything and everyone, but did nothing, absolutely nothing, to change the situations she didn't like.

At an early age I found that the easiest place to be was out of sight, out from under her radar, so I wouldn't be a target for her endless complaints and criticisms. From the age of three, I can remember playing for hours each day behind a chair because that was the only place in our small house that I could have all to myself.

What is awful to realize now is that my love for all things creative: knitting, crochet, beadwork, sewing, and, of course, quilting, came to me as a reaction to her abuse. I found ways to "go away" in my mind through these activities so I would not have to listen to my mother complain. It was the only way I could relax and find peace in that house.

When I realized this on Tuesday, that my talent - the way my hands work, how well I can cut following a line, how small my hand stitches are - these are all abilities I have because my mother was abusive, I literally screamed in rage at her.

In the book "Outliers", Malcolm Gladwell explores the true source of talent. We all like to think people are born particularly talented, that world famous musicians like the Beatles became world famous because they were intrinsically different from everyone else. Like there is a special gene just for talented people.

But this is not actually true. The Beatles became the Beatles because they had the opportunity to preform more than any other band at the time, amassing more than 10,000 hours of performance time before they even became popular.

The same is true for world class soloists. What sets one music student apart from another is not intrinsic skill, it's the number of hours they spend practicing each day from the time they start playing the instrument at 7 years old until they're 20.

There's a big difference between the kid that practices 5 hours a week verses the kid that practices 15 hours, and that difference compounds until, at the age of 20, the professional musicians are always the kids who amassed 10,000 hours of practice time through their childhood.

I'm the kid with 10,000 hours of crafty play under her belt.

While I certainly wasn't free motion quilting at 5 years old, I believe the general skills I developed, and mostly especially the fine tuned control I have over my hands and fingers, most definitely affect how quickly I was able to pick up quilting at 21.

It just really sucks that my skill is largely a product of my rotten childhood and abusive mother.

This realization has hit me like a ton of bricks in the face. It makes me angry and it also makes me feel that my talent is somehow tainted, somehow twisted because of its origin.

But the more I think about it, and through yesterday I did almost nothing but think about it, the more I realize that this is the one, single positive thing I have from my childhood.

When I was cutting paper, stitching, or sewing, I was able to find peace in house full of negative energy. I was able to find a place of quiet and solitude even when people were yelling.

I was even able to produce beautiful things - origami boxes, knitted socks, crocheted sweaters, beaded jewelry and tailored garments. While impossible to counteract the blows to my self esteem and image that I received on a daily basis, I now believe that these small items, produced by my hands, gave me hope.

Hope that one day those beautiful things would carry me away from all that ugliness. Hope that I would one day have a home full of positive energy, smiles, and laughter.

Hope that I would have the strength to overcome the limitations of my childhood, put the past where the past belongs, and raise my child outside of the endless cycle of dysfunction and abuse.

Before piecing Sinkhole, I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff. To jump off the cliff and dive into Sinkhole was to stir everything up, to rip through years of politeness, to explore and finally make decisions about my life and who was invited to be a part of it.

I stood at the edge of this cliff and avoided thinking about it through August and September until it just couldn't wait anymore. I had to jump off and just hope that I would land on two feet.

And I have.

I have landed on two feet with a better understanding of myself: of who I am, who I was, and now a complete acceptance of both.

It's not that I'm no longer the little girl behind the chair because she will always be a part of me. Instead I'm the adult that has forgiven her for her weakness, surrounded her with love, and brought her out into the light of day.

Looking into the depths of Sinkhole, I see where I have been in my life, the rings of dysfunction and abuse I have overcome. I feel strong enough to move mountains, smart enough to have confidence in myself and my abilities, and courageous enough to confront any and all obstacles head on.

One such obstacle is still my mother. Over the last year her anger and depression have escalated until even my dad could no longer take it. She left him only after he made it clear he was no longer willing to endure her endless complaints.

I really wish there was a way to help her and I have tried for many years at the expense of myself and my family to make her happy.

But now I know with absolute certainty that people will not change unless they want to. I cannot make her happy, any more than I can go back and change her childhood or mine. She has made the decision to be mean, spiteful, and selfish, and I refuse to continue this cycle of abuse.

I have made the decision to cut off my mother completely. It may be hard to see what a positive decision this is. Many people have very positive relationships with their mothers, or are able to find it eventually as an adult.

For me, though, I now know that 90% of my negative voice was her voice, insidiously cutting me down and destroying my self esteem. In our last telephone conversation, my mother openly questioned my ability as a business owner, fueling my anxiety about Josh and me working together full time.

I simply do not want or need this type of person in my life. Being a mother does not grant a person a lifelong "get out of jail free" card.

She would say over and over during my childhood that "It will all even out" as an excuse for her behavior. As if at some golden moment in time every unfair, unjustified action would be suddenly made right.

I realize now that life will not "even out" on its own. We must choose, and choose, and choose to right the wrongs that have been done to us, to say "no!" to the labels that have been applied to us, and to find the different paths, out of the cycle of abuse and dysfunction, even if this is harder and more painful than simply maintaining the status quo.

The status quo would tell me that I'm being horrible and selfish to make this decision, that it is an unthinkable choice to cut off one's mother, even if she is a hurtful person who sucks the very joy out of life.

But this is MY choice and just like I'm free to choose what I eat for dinner tonight, what clothes I wear in the morning, and what quilt I work on this afternoon, I am also absolutely free to decide who is allowed in my life, who is allowed to know me, to be close to me, and ultimately who I will be willing to allow to hurt me.

People hurt one another; it's as simple and uncomplicated as that, but I've decided that my mother's brand of hurt is no longer something I will endure for even a moment longer.

This is me evening my life out. This is my turning point.

That I am still sad and angry is no surprise to me. These feelings are strong emotions and I'm finally allowing myself to feel them fully and allow them to pass naturally. I've stopped constantly yelling at myself to "Get over it already! Just grow up!" because that obviously doesn't work.

Feelings are strong because they need to be FELT, and I'm allowing myself to feel fully until the feeling passes. Even this morning I woke up feeling more content and stable than I had in years because I'd finally made the decision I'd been avoiding for so long.

And this is not the end of Sinkhole. To finish this quilt, it must be layered and quilted.

I've already decided how I will quilt this quilt using a design I will share in a few weeks. To describe it simply, I'm going to fill every dark ring with the darkest, most hateful words that have ever hurt me. By quilting them in, I believe I will be quilting them out of my body and mind.

On the lighter rings I'm going to quilt every positive, truthful phrase I can think of to counteract the dark. I want to heal all that darkness with positive, loving words.

I believe words are an extremely powerful thing. They have the power to hurt, to humble, to crush, and destroy. But words can also heal, empower, uplift, and enlighten.

Now the hardest part will just be picking the right thread colors!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Physics of the Quest

I'm really sorry, but this week is just going to have to be a weird non-filler design week because I'm feeling such a push to get Sinkhole pieced today.

Yesterday I completed the 7 smaller rings, and already the 3 dimensional effects are very apparent:



Of course, creating this quilt is not a static, sitting around and glueing fabric kind of thing.

I'm actively thinking about my past, processing the feelings, and trying to decide how I want my future to take shape.

This reminds me of a quote from the movie "Eat, Love, Pray" starring Julia Roberts that came out this summer:
The Physics of the Quest

If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter old resentments...and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally...

And you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher.

And if you are prepared - most of all - to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself...

Then the truth will not be withheld from you.
This word - truth - is having a powerful weight for me this week. To speak the truth, to think the truth, to admit with honesty who I am, and where I am going - this is a very powerful thing.

It is most definitely a quest, complete with dragons of pain to slay, rivers of sadness to ford, and mountains of lies to climb.

I can definitely say that there are no coincidences when on a quest like this. Yesterday I went to the library and sitting on the shelf was a book titled "Truth Heals" by Deborah King.

I picked it up and started reading it today. It is EXACTLY the book that I need right now. Basically a how-to manual to reconnecting with the truth, healing, and hopefully by the end, finding some measure of forgiveness.

My quest is now to speak and live my truth, and it starts with being honest with all of you: I really need to finish piecing this quilt today.

I promise we'll be back to more filler designs next week!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pat Sloan's Radio Show Today!

Woooohooo! I'm going to be on the radio today!

Pat Sloan is an awesome quilter who runs a very popular quilting radio show called Creative Talk Radio!


Actually, the radio show is about more than just quilting. Pat has had scrapbookers, mixed media artists, and designers on the show, as well as many amazing quilters.

I've known about the radio show since my quilting friend, Susan Brubaker Knapp, was on a few months ago. It seems like such a wonderful idea to learn about different crafts, get inspired, and hear about how professionally creative people become professionally creative people!

We'll be talking about the project, free motion quilting, and my new book and DVD!

You can even enter a chance to win a copy of the new book, From Daisy to Paisley, and DVD Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers by commenting on Pat's blog (click here).

Make sure to comment on Pat's blog by this Friday (September 24th) to a chance to win!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, September 17, 2010

Prelaunch Beginner Book and DVD!

It's official! I've gotten absolute, rock solid confirmation of shipment of both the new book, From Daisy to Paisley, and the new DVD, Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers!

So now that they're on their way, we can start the Prelaunch Sale!

This is the Prelaunch Sale, so from now until September 30th, you can get a terrific deal on the new book and DVD, plus be one of the first to receive them when the shipment arrives.

Just in case you have totally missed out on hearing about this new book and DVD, here's the skinny on these two items:

Way back in June, I decided it was time to retire Free Motion Fillers Volume 1 and Volume 2. I did this for many reasons, mostly because I'd noticed that the quality of these DVDs just really wasn't as good as some of the new videos I was producing.

I had also made the decision back in January not to continue the Volume series simply because I never had any intention of creating 18 separate DVDs of all 365 designs (only 20 designs fit on a regular disc, so that could get really expensive really quick!)

I also realized that it would be better if the designs were organized according to difficulty level so beginners could have a DVD of just beginner level designs.

So this became Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers and this DVD features 30 designs from the project, restitched in clear, high quality videos on black fabric with white thread.

Each video is around 2-4 minutes long and features detailed instructions, including tips on holding your fabric and marking registration lines to make some designs easier.

This was the first time I created a quilt with all the quilting squares from the DVD, and I even share how to put one together at the end of the video so you can create a sampler quilt too!

If you've been following along with the blog, then you probably remember back in July the DVD project hit a snag because my video editing software just could not cut it when it came to creating the master discs.

Finally I decided to enlist the help of a video professional, and while time consuming, the DVD has been put together so it should work perfectly on both DVD players and computers, in every country, all over the world!

Of course, this was a very time consuming process. There were long periods where there was really nothing I could do, so I started clicking around one day and came across some small photo books created at lulu.com.

If you remember back to this post, I really started to think about writing a physical book and featuring just photos of each design back at the beginning of July. Everyone was so supportive, I realized this would be a big hit, so I began playing around to see exactly what I could come up with and what it would cost.

Unfortunately all the automatic photo book generators like Lulu and Mixbook are actually very expensive and not really set up for people wanting to print large quantities. It became apparent that I needed to find a book printer if I wanted to keep the costs down and make the book affordable.

More searches online, days of research, and new questions kept popping up all over the place like "What size should this be?" "Could this be sold in stores?" "Should I get an ISBN?"

I've gotta say that there were times that I got so frustrated with all the millions of questions self publishing a book created, all I wanted to do was chuck the idea out the window!

But eventually things started to make sense, and I found that it's actually not that difficult or intimidating to get an ISBN number or a Library of Congress Control Number. It just takes patience and determination to find the right answers and the right way to do it.

Looking back on the first sample books I got way back in July, I'm so glad I decided to venture down this bumpy self publishing road! The final book looks SO much better than the original!

Because this book is so much bigger, I was able to go into detail on the different filler design types and where each type of design works best in a quilt.

I'm very proud of all the photos and illustrations, which clearly show each design. It really has turned into the perfect little reference guide for free motion quilting inspiration right next to your sewing machine.

So that's the story behind the book and DVD. While it's been a long summer working on the two of them at the same time, it feels great to see them together now!

The book, From Daisy to Paisley, is 79 pages long and features 50 beginner level designs, plus stippling, paisley, and pebbling.

The DVD, Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers, is a 2 hour, dual layer DVD that features 30 beginner level designs, plus information on how to put all your quilted blocks together to create a Sampler Quilt.

And of course, I've put the two together to create the Beginner Combo Kit for an extra special price.

So that's it for this Feature Friday! Today really got away from me so I've decided to wait to post Section Quilting Part 3 and 4 until next Sunday. Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the beautiful changing weather!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Creating 3D Effects

Yesterday I posted the story of Sinkhole and why I need to create this quilt. Thank you all so much for your very supportive comments and emails. It really helped me work through the fear of posting something so very personal.

As for the quilt itself, I've been struggling with the design, particularly creating the right effect of a deep, endless hole sinking into the Earth.

It just goes to show that declaring an intention to create or do something is a powerful thing.

Right after posting, I finally hit a breakthrough with the design process! Here is the new version of Sinkhole:

Even in drawn lines, the dimension of this design is much more apparent. Of course, there are extreme limitations with the graphic design program I'm using, so this is by no means the finished design. Many of the inner rings will be covered up by the outer rings, creating the correct effect that you're looking into a deep hole.

Last night I printed this design out onto 35 sheets of paper and taped them all together. This quilt will finish around 50 inches square, but hanging it on my wall, it feels much, much bigger.


So what was the breakthrough in creating this 3 dimensional image onto a 2 dimensional surface?

Well, from the start, I knew this was one quilt I would have to design on the computer. There are just too many very specific circle sizes involved to properly sketch this the way I normally do.

But even with my graphic program (Serif Draw Plus 4X), I was struggling to create the right effect. My images kept having the appearance of flat circles, not a true sinkhole.

Finally I decided I need to visualize the design in 3D. After a few Google searches I found a wonderful free program called Google Sketchup, which allows you to very easily draw and pull shapes into 3 dimensional images.

After playing with it for awhile, I finally created a series of circles, and sunk them into one another to create the effect of looking into a deep hole.

Looking at this image, I realized the problem was my perspective angle. Having never taken a class on design or drawing before, I don't always understand how to create the effects I'm after.

In this situation, I thought I needed to be looking straight down into the Sinkhole in order to create the effect. Unfortunately this is all wrong because if you look down into any hole, you lose the dimension and it just becomes a series of flat circles.


The circle has to be angled slightly to give your eyes a chance to see the dimension. There are also subtle shadows involved, but really color plays a much smaller role to shape in this situation. I'm a lot less worried about having a perfect selection of gray to dark gray to black fabrics after playing with this program.


Just in case you don't believe me on the color thing, check out this colored image of Sinkhole. Every light ring is the same light gray color and every dark ring is the same dark gray color.

Of course, this illusion is working the opposite way because the circles are not layering properly. See how small changes turn a Sinkhole effect into a circular pyramid moving out rather than sinking in!

Optical illusions are very fun and, while challenging, I've really had a great time trying to figure out how to create the effects I wanted. I will definitely be playing with more 3D effects on my quilts.

Now I'm off to sketch the paper design onto large graph paper sheets and get the circles layering correctly so the correct illusion is created. The next step is figuring out how I'm actually going to put this thing together!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Designing Sinkhole

Yesterday I mentioned that a new quilt was coming. This is the quilt that has been on my mind almost constantly for the last 2 months:

Of course, before I explain this quilt, what it symbolizes and what I hope to accomplish by creating it, I need to start with a warning: the information below contains details of my personal history, details of which can be difficult for some to read.

If you are particularly sensitive to stories of alcoholism, abuse, dysfunction, anger, sadness, and depression, simply stop reading right now.

In essence, I'm warning you that this quilt is dark for a reason. It's called Sinkhole now, but more than likely the final name will be The Circumference of Dysfunction because that is what this quilt symbolizes: dysfunction and depression, and the endless cycle this can create in a family.

Of course you may be wondering why in the world I would want to create a quilt about something so horrible. Isn't life depressing enough? Why do I have to go and make a quilt on it too?

Well, if you were around for Shadow Self, then you will remember that I use the quilting process to help me process emotions and challenges that are simply too big, too complex, or too entrenched to work out on their own.

In the case of Shadow Self, I created a quilting design about my terrible inner negative voice (INV). I showed how it felt to live with a shadow over half of my head and heart, and I followed every nudge my intuition sent me while working on that quilt.

One nudge led me to the bookstore where a particular book "I Know I'm In There Somewhere" by Helene Brenner jumped out at me. This is about finding your true inner self, allowing yourself to want the things you REALLY want, and trusting your instincts to lead you down the right paths.

This book also helped me identify what was my REAL inner voice, and by the time I finished Shadow Self, it's like my mind had gotten a good solid scrubbing and all the darkness there was washed away.

But... there is always a "but" isn't there? Shadow Self helped me work through one specific issue: my inner negative voice. The core reason why I had my negative voice, why I was delegated with such a terribly low self esteem, and raised to doubt every move I made... that is still a very big problem.

I believe that all of this happened because of my family's history. Because of the abuse that one generation bestowed onto the next carried down, passing from one person to another like falling dominoes. The core design of sinkhole is circular rings that symbolize the echoing effects of abuse, always rippling out to effect a bigger area, a bigger ring of people.

To say it straight: all 4 of my grandparents were abusive alcoholics. They never hit me personally, but they hit my parents, and my parents, in turn, hit me.

Physical abuse is an extremely damaging thing, and to be hit by a parent, the person you absolutely love best of all in the whole world... well, words can't rightly describe it.

But physical abuse is actually easier to bear than some forms of verbal abuse. At least after getting slapped, the sting doesn't last for longer than a few minutes. Verbal abuse, however, is like poison ivy. Words spoken in anger like "selfish," "stupid," "worthless," "pathetic," and "ugly" snake into the mind and stay there, poisoning all your thoughts with negativity.

Growing up, I experienced both forms of abuse, but it was the verbal abuse that has left the deepest scars. Even now, even after completely eradicating my INV, I can still get set back by a painful memory full of particularly barbed words.

In fact, after working through an exercise within I Know I'm In There Somewhere, I realized that 90% of the horrible, nasty things my INV said was not my thoughts, but things I'd heard my mother say over and over to me throughout my childhood and adolescence.

Of course, I completely understand now how difficult it is to be a parent. It's not an easy job and I will never claim to be perfect at it. But looking into my son's face, I have to wonder how it would ever be possible to hit him or verbally cut him down the way I was on a nearly daily basis. The idea is simply unfathomable to me.

For years I felt an inability to hold my parents accountable for their actions. My childhood was a cakewalk in comparison to what they got, so it seemed selfish and immature to complain about it.

Now, however, I believe that personal experiences should never be discounted or disrespected. Just because Jake or Bob or Sue had it worse doesn't make my pain any less.

I was hurt, and I have every right to be angry about it, to feel that anger fully, and then to let it go.

So Sinkhole is also a way for me to work out my anger, my bitterness, and my judgment of my parents' actions. The pain they inflicted on me will end in this quilt. It will not be passed down to my son to continue this cycle of dysfunction. It will end here.

Understandably, designing Sinkhole has been extremely difficult. It is hard to work through these issues, to allow the memories to come, and to feel all the feelings that come with them. It makes me very sad, and a little fearful that there is no limit to this sadness.

So for the last two months I've avoided this quilt. I stacked my plates up high with everything I could possibly do EXCEPT work on this quilt.

But now the nudges from my inner voice have turned into full body push. I simply have to get the top designed and together. I need to see this quilt and have a visual representation of the feelings in my heart.

I need to get all this darkness out of my mind, and then at the end, maybe I'll be able to find that space of forgiveness and acceptance on the other side of all this anger.

I'm still struggling with a final layout for the piecing design. I keep fluctuating between fusing the pieces together perfectly using Robbi Joy Eklow's fusing techniques with Wonder Under, or simply painting a white bedsheet like I did with Release Your Light.

I've also fluctuated with many different variations of the circular quilt theme:

Creating the visual 3D effect that you're looking down a deep hole is quite difficult. The idea for the quilt was inspired by images of the Guatemalan sink hole, so I'm really trying to create the illusion that you're looking down into a dark tunnel.

This is the first time I'm using a computer graphics program to help me design a quilt, so that may be the problem. Maybe if I get off the computer for a few days and sit at the kitchen table, the designs will start flowing and the quilt will take shape.

So I'm off to clean up the studio a bit, put away every fabric that isn't black or gray, and settle down with my Sadness, pull out a chair for my Dysfunction, and start designing all the Abuse and Anger out of my body and into this quilt.

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 215 - Sharp Stippling

This design is featured in From Feathers to Flames, a spiral bound book with instructions on quilting 60 free motion quilting designs.  

Why has it taken me THIS LONG to come up with this variation of stippling? It's so easy and obvious, it's been staring me in the face for months

This variation is as simple as stitching occasional points within the wiggly randomness of Stippling.  The little points make this design look a bit like a mass of swirling flames.  It's definitely a texture I want to play with on many quilts!

Now let's get back to quilting and learn how to quilt Sharp Stippling:


Inspiration - I quilted a new square of stippling for the book From Daisy to Paisley and while I was stitching it out, I began thinking about the many variation possibilities of this design. Adding a sharp point might even make this design easier for some quilters to quilt!

Difficulty Level - Beginner. This design is very simple, but it does require estimation. Constantly estimate the space you have and the scale of the filler design you're working with so the quilting space is filled evenly with no large gaps open and noticeable.

Design Family - Independent. This design is just as flowing and freeform as Stippling, so it will work in all areas of your quilt, both big and small.

Directional Texture - No Direction. Sharp Stippling and regular stippling have a very flat, directionless texture when quilted densely on your quilt.

Suggestions for Use - This design will work terrifically anywhere on your quilt, but stippling type designs specifically work great in areas you want to flatten out, or recede into the background.

Back of Sharp Stippling
Feel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 214 - Ocean Current

This design is also featured in the book From Daisy to Paisley along with many other free motion designs from this project! Click here to learn more about this beginner level book and DVD.

You know, some people on the internet are really crazy.

Sometimes I forget just how insane some people can be, but an occasional random comment is all it takes to remind me just how far out in left field some people are.

But I always try to remind myself to bend and flow around them. Don't let the occasional troll or evil stitcher distract me from my day. Let their crazy be crazy while I'm as smooth and flowing as this Ocean Current design:

It's only noon and today is stacking up to be a very busy day! Josh and I got up early this morning to take James to school, hit the bank, recycle, and clean out the car. It's so nice to get everything knocked out one morning, except by the time we got home, we both needed a nap!

This afternoon, we'll be driving to Rutherfordton, NC for a lecture with the new Rutherfordton Quilt Guild.

I'm pretty excited about this lecture because it's the first time I'll be able to show off the 4 applique quilts created for the How Do I Quilt This?! Series. I think they're going to be a big hit!

So while I run off to check my quilts and finish packing the car, you enjoy learning how to quilt Ocean Current:


Inspiration - These very basic foundational designs are quickly becoming my favorite designs to create and quilt. Other similar designs include Desert Sand and Jagged Plain, but there are a million more variations just waiting to be made.

Difficulty Level - Beginner. This is a very simple design based entirely off a swirling foundational line. Make sure to leave plenty of space within your swirls so it's easy to fill with echoes through the background.

Design Family - Foundational. To quilt this design start with a foundational line through your whole quilting space, then travel stitch and echo this line, filling the entire background and enhancing the swirling texture. This design will work best in the open, uncomplicated areas of your quilt.

Directional Texture - All directions. I love how much movement this design creates with only one single spiraling line and then rows and rows of echoes.

Suggestions for Use - Need a design to fill the water area of a landscape quilt? This would be perfect!

Honestly this would look great no matter where you put it! I'm personally thinking about quilting up some new blue fabric with white thread to create a very interesting, non-traditional baby quilt.

Back of Ocean Current

Feel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Section Quilting Part 2

Now that we've learned what designs work well in a quilt block from Part 1, let's watch the other three blocks being filled in free motion!

Here is a video of a Circle of Daisies block being filled with Wandering Clover:


This is the finished block with Wandering Clover:

And let's finish up the last two blocks with Pointy Paisley and Trippy Triangles:


Here's what the Pointy Paisley block looks like when it's finished:

And here is the Trippy Triangle Block:

Overall the blocks took about 1 hour to quilt each, for a total of 4 hours just to quilt the blocks.

That let's you know just how time consuming this level of quilting can be, but I really think the level of texture and design added to the block is absolutely worth it.

Compare the filled blocks to this is a photo of a plain block, essentially what the blocks look like if you just stitch them in the ditch:

Of course, you may not wish to fill the blocks of every single quilt you make and that's perfectly fine! I've made many quilts where the best possible way to quilt them was to stitch in the ditch or to cover them with all over quilting!

But now that you've seen these videos, I really hope you'll look at your quilts in a slightly different way and see the possibilities for adding more textures for filler designs within the blocks.

As I said at the end of the wandering clover video - There is always room to play!

Of course, there are many more places to add texture within the Circles of Daisies quilt. Definitely tune in next weekend as we work through the Sashing in Part 3 and the borders in Part 4!

Let's Go Quilt,

Leah Day

Are you enjoying this new video series? Click Here to support the project to keep these videos online and always free!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Section Quilting Part 1

Since the middle of August, we've been gradually working our way through a new video series designed to teach you how to use free motion quilting filler designs in your actual quilts.

So far we've learned how to Stitch in the Ditch with this Morning Glory Quilt:


And we learned how to use one filler design to cover a quilt with All Over Quilting with this Cheerful Shapes Quilt:


Now it's time to learn how to use many different filler designs within one quilt. This is called Section Quilting because each section: the blocks, sashing, and borders, can all be quilted with different filler designs.

To learn Section Quilting, we're going to take this quilt called Circles of Daisies and select many different filler designs to work in each block, the inner sashing, outer sashing, and borders.


So let's get started first learning about the filler designs that will work great stitched on a small scale within the blocks:


When quilting blocks like the ones in the Circles of Daisies Quilt, we need designs that can fit into small, complex areas of the applique shapes pretty easily.

Independent Designs like Stippling, Wandering Clover, and Lollipop Chain, Pivoting Designs like Paisley, Pointy Paisley, and Echoing Designs like Echo Shell and Trippy Triangles will all work great in these blocks.

When Section Quilting a quilt, I always Stitch in the Ditch first. Stitching in the ditch around the block and around the applique shapes gives me a boundary line within the block that I can travel along and build designs off of.

If I didn't stitch in the ditch, I wouldn't be able to travel along the edges to fill the tight areas of the quilt, or if I did it just wouldn't look very good.

So this is a core reason of why I quilt exactly in the ditch: because these lines are necessary when filling a quilt with a variety of filler designs!

If you remember back to All Over Quilting Part 1, we covered the whole surface of that quilt with Lollipop Chain.

Now let's see what happens when we shrink that design down and stitch it on a very small scale within this quilt:


So here is the finished quilt block after being filled with Lollipop Chain!

Other filler design types that will easily fill a quilt block are Stacking Designs like Pebbling, Coffee Beans, and Bed of Roses.

Don't miss Part 2 of Section Quilting when we see how to fill a block with Wandering Clover, Trippy Triangles, and Pointy Paisley.

By the way - this is the first videos shot on the Janome Horizon 7700! Let me know what you think of this new style of filming and if it's clear enough for you to see what I'm doing while free motion quilting.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Are you enjoying this new video series? Click Here to support the project to keep these videos online and always free!
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