Thursday, June 30, 2011

Quilting Around an Applique or Motif

Every once and awhile, I'll receive basically the same question by 3-4 people in one day. Whenever this happens, I know it's a sign I should write an article answering this question because it's obviously on a lot of people's minds!

So here's the question I've recently received from two awesome quilters today:
I am making my grandson an alphabet quilt and I'm also just learning free motion quilting. I have a problem imagining something beforehand and need your opinion for what stitch to use around the letters in the quilt, and how this will work to quilt it. - Debbie

My question is, and this may sound stupid (sorry) but you never show quilting around an embroidery design or applique. I'm very into those and am unfortunately the type of person who has got to "make pictures" in my mind to be able to do it. I, for instance, like your simple quilting designs, like the straight up and down's or the 'side to side's' and they don't seem to 'fit' in with a block with a embroidered design or applique which mustn't be quilted over. Am I rambling or do you understand what I'm getting at? - Margaret
Oh, I definitely know what you're getting at Margaret! I've actually kind of covered this in the Section Quilting Tutorials, but here's a refresher on just quilting around an Applique or Motif:

For illustration I'm going to use Debbie's idea above and show quilting around an appliqued letter shape in a block:

1. Stitch the block and applique in the ditch. This will secure the edges of the block and the applique shape in the quilt so you can take any pins out that could get in your way.

This will also give you useful Boundary Lines that you can travel along if you get stuck in an area.

It will also look better on the back of your quilt. While many people say they don't care about this, I know EVERY time someone looks at my quilts, they flip them to the back to see what that side looks like. Stitching in the ditch makes the backs look better.

Let's pretend this block has been stitched in the ditch (that's the white lines around the edges and around the letter. I had trouble getting this perfect in my graphics program.)

2. Pick a Design - There are a few design types that work best for this style of quilting: Independent Designs, Pivoting Designs, Echoing Designs, and Stacking Designs.

Pick just 1 design and practice quilting it in a plain, open block. Get some practice quilting it first, then you'll be ready to try it around the applique.

Some good designs to start with are Stippling, Wandering Clover, Paisley, Echo Shell, and Pebbling.

3. Fill the area around the applique - There are no rules for this! Just start somewhere and stitch the design you've practiced, filling the space evenly around the applique.

I find working from the left corner of a block, to the right works best for me. I generally work in rows when I can, or I just try to fill each weird area completely so no pockets of open space are left.

For this block, I started on the red dot and finished on the blue dot.
See how I filled that center area of the A, even though it was really narrow? It might not look great here because I can't draw as well as I can quilt, but you can see how I used the stitching in the ditch line to help be get into and back out of this area easily.

4. Fill the applique with another design (optional) - If the applique shape is big, like a Dresden plate, you might want to go inside and stitch another design within it. It's really up to you and what you think the quilt needs to look beautiful!

I hope these horrible little pictures help. I'm really terrible about drawing on the computer, but maybe you can see what I'm trying to show here.

For more photos and a few videos showing you how to stitch Lollipop Chain around some cute applique blocks, click here.

This is something I do plan to show a lot more of in the future - quilting and using the designs from the project in real quilts that have applique shapes, pieced shapes, or drawn shapes, which I call motifs.

It's really not that hard to master this, but it does take practice knowing the design you're stitching, how it works, and how it can best be manipulated to quilt into and around complex areas of your quilt.

Just start with one design, play with it for awhile over an empty block to get the hang of it, then stitch it in your next quilt around the appliques. It's really a lot easier once you try it!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 295 - Escalator Spiral

It's time to get this show back on the road! Missing Monday and Tuesday makes my whole week feel weird, so let's make up for it with a funky new design. This is Escalator Spiral:

This design was inspired by Deco Planks. After looking at the first design, I realized the triangle shapes reminded me of the moving lines of an escalator. Placed in a spiral , the quilted lines almost look like their moving!


Click Here if the Video Does Not Appear

This design was sponsored by the Ultimate Quilting Kit, a collection of the 3 tools that make free motion quilting much easier to master on your home sewing machine.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. I've been reading a few forums lately and noticing that many quilters feel my designs are too complex and intimidating. Sorry about that!

While yes, many of the designs are complex, you can easily build up to being able to quilt them! To practice this Escalator Spiral, first try Spiral Illusion or Square Spiral and see if that helps you get the hang of the first step of this design.

Design Family - Foundational. This design starts with the sharp angled spiral that acts as the base of the entire design. Once you get this foundation line set, then all you have to do is stitch inside with the funky triangle shapes until the entire space is filled.

Directional Texture - Center Focused. You can't miss the bulls-eye like texture this design creates! Definitely place Escalator Spiral somewhere you want to attract a lot of attention.

Suggestions for Use - There are so many cute, applique quilts that could use a little extra texture in the centers of the flowers or cornerstones of the sashing. Try this design in those spaces for a punch of texture and extra touch of design.

Back of Escalator Spiral
Feel Free to use this free motion filler design 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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Estate Junk Clean Up

You might have been wondering where I've gotten of to this weekend since Josh has been posting for me since Saturday.

On Sunday I took off to Asheboro, NC, where I've been helping my dad clean out a huge house full of junk.

Well...not really junk...most of it is just plain trash.

The house is my grandmother's, who lived in a ram-shackled farm house until she was 87 years old. She's still alive, just moved to Texas to live with family because this house is anything but accessible. For one thing, there was no bathroom on the first floor, and to reach the second, you had to climb an impossible set of steep wooden stairs, which I know for a fact she fell down several times over the 50 years she lived in that house.

Now the house is empty, except if you count a lifetime worth of stuff accumulated in every nook and cranny.

What makes this already huge mess even bigger is the extra load of stuff my Dad brought over from his house, the house I grew up in. There's another lifetime, or at least a 30 year marriage and 3 daughters worth of stuff to add to the pot.

When I'd spoken to Dad on the phone about it all, I thought I knew how much stuff it was. In truth, I had absolutely no idea.

Every single room of the sprawling two story farmhouse was filled with bags and boxes of china, silverware, pots, pans, pyrex dishes, stuffed animals, coat hangers, keys, light bulbs, and lamp shades.

Going through all of this today, I'm struck by so many different things.

The first - is this really all that is left behind?! Seriously, I'm struck by just how much volume and space this stuff takes up, but just how little all of it means.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about my grandmother over the last two days, how many days I spent hanging out at her house in the summer because even though both our houses were not air conditioned, Grandma's house was partially underground and always 10 degrees cooler.

She also always had the best peanut butter cookies in a bin next to the refrigerator, and when I got older ice cream sandwiches and Pepsi Colas, all treats we never had at home, or if we did they were inhaled so quickly it didn't count.

But none of this is left behind in the stuff of Grandma's house.

All I'm learning from cleaning this out is the fact that Grandma never threw ANYTHING away.

Judging from the number of keys she changed her locks once a week, but never threw away the older keys, she bought every gimmicky TV kitchen unitasker (veg-o-matic, eggstractor, citrus fresh), and apparently loved to vacuum, considering the number of vacuum cleaners (some that look like they date from the 70's) that are left behind.

It was amazing just how many multiples of things I found like 10 identical 9 x 12 pyrex baking dishes, 5 Tupperware dome cake bins, and a countless number of mixing bowls.

From the kitchen alone, you'd expect my grandmother was feeding at least a ten member family for every meal, when in fact the last 15 years, she rarely cooked for more than two - herself and my ailing grandfather, and for the last 5 years, just herself after he passed away.

I just found it shocking that the kitchen was never downsized. That she never took a look at all of it and picked her favorite items, and laid the rest out to get rid of.

Keep in mind that it was during this time that she stopped cooking much, my two sisters and I all moved out and started families of our own, a time when we could have really USED a solid 9 x 12 Pyrex baking dish!

I hope I don't sound selfish with this rant. I'm not begrudging the fact that my grandmother didn't hand her kitchen items over when I went to college, I'm instead marveling at why a woman with a 5,000 piece kitchen set would buy me NEW silverware and a new pyrex set for my wedding, when she had great pieces she wasn't using and could have given me for free!

So that comes to the point of this whole ramble - are we so obsessed with new things that we don't even think about the old? We don't even remember we have it?

This actually happened to me the other day. I was in Mary Jo's Cloth Store and saw this gorgeous print fabric. I HAD to have it! I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but I knew I would regret it if I walked out without it.

And what did I find when I got home? 2 yards of that exact same fabric. I didn't even remember I'd bought it earlier this spring. Oops!

The other thing I'm wondering about is space. My grandmother's kitchen was unusually large, taking up more than 300 square feet, possibly more. She had huge cabinets and long counter tops to fill to the brim with every possible kitchen item in existence.

Had her kitchen been smaller, had her cabinets been narrower and better organized, would she have stocked away so much?

The reason this bothers me is that if you lump together the two rooms I have devoted to quilting, I have a really huge space, and just like my grandmother's kitchen, it is filled to the brim with stuff.

If, god forbid, something happened to me, it would be left to Josh and James to try to figure out what in the world to do with 5 years worth of accumulated quilting supplies.

While my excess is easy for me to explain, how can I expect them to possibly understand? Will they be shaking their heads at my multiple machines just as I shook my head about the pyrex baking dishes?

I now know the reality of dealing with a left over estate. I was sad to see my Grandmother's house so very different from the last time I'd been in town, but this emotion easily turned bitter as I began to see all that she left behind for my Dad to deal with.

It was simply overwhelming, and it has been overwhelming him since she left a year ago. When I finally realized how bad it was, I decided to make a special trip and organize help to make a dent in the mess.

First I found a local consignment store in Asheboro, Consigns & Finds, whose owner Cindy was willing to look at the estate and make an offer for the items she could take in her store. Together we agreed on prices while her helpers hauled each piece to the truck.

As far as the cash went, yes, we could have probably made more if we'd held a yard sale, but yard sales are really time consuming, a pain in the neck to prepare for, and with this volume of stuff, absolutely impossible to consider. Selling directly to the consignment shop was far easier, and it worked well for both of us.

After a long day of work, we'd made a 16 ft trailer sized dent in the mess, but what to do with the rest of it?

There were still some decent items - nice china, indestructible metal baking dishes, my grandfather's hand turned wooden bowls - all these will be donated to the Salvation Army.

But for the most part, the house was still filled with bags and bags and bags of garbage. The house was still very full and very overwhelming. I decided to stay an extra day to see if I could put a bigger dent in the mess.

The trick was finding a garbage service that would do what's called a One Time Haul. This is where the guys come with an empty truck one time to take everything they can in one go.

Before yesterday, I didn't know this service even existed! After this experience, I know a company could easily be employed full time just doing this type of work. After a lot of calls and some negotiating, I managed to get an awesome company called M&M Garbage Disposal to come over after their usual run.

The owner Mark and his son came out and hauled away everything - over 60 bags of garbage, four full sized mattresses, several pieces of small furniture, a washing machine, and a couch!

This photo was taken before Mark arrived and this is only 1/4 of the stuff he hauled away!

After the dump truck pulled out, we went back in the house and I could really see the difference this time. Two solid days of work, and the house is now manageable. It's cleaned out to the point that very soon my dad will be able to close the door, lock it, and hopefully pass the keys on to a buyer.

While we don't like to think about these things, chances are you will either have to deal with a left behind estate at some point, or you may leave an estate behind yourself. Having a plan is essential for dealing with this situation.

When she lectured for my quilt guild back in February 2010, Pepper Cory advised everyone to bequeath their quilting stashes to someone in their will.

Having just watched two sewing machines go into the back of that garbage truck, I can definitely see her point.

Note - I know I just admitted to committing what is probably a grievous quilting sin, but I just couldn't take on these two sewing machines - they were in terrible shape and I was hot and super tired by that point and didn't stop my dad when he threw them down the front steps. By then, it was WAY too late.

Your family may have absolutely no idea or desire to deal with $1000 worth of cotton fabric. If they don't know anyone that sews, they might make the mistake of donating fabric to Goodwill. This is a mistake because all items that don't have an immediate use get thrown away. Fabric doesn't have an immediate use, and it's hard to price it properly. When in doubt, most places just throw it out.

Also consider the confusion and heartache created by UFOs. I remember a chapter in Mason & Dixon Knitting where a photo of a half finished Aran sweater was shown, along with a lament about what to DO with this project, which had been left behind when the original knitter died. Finish it? Throw it away? What? The daughter was left with questions her mother certainly couldn't answer anymore.

Your machines may stay in the family for sentimental reasons, stuck away in the attic or the closet (unless you really luck out and get a kid or kid-in-law that actually sews), but aren't machines meant to be used and enjoyed by people who know how to take care of them?

So consider making a plan for your stash. I know I'm not only going to start making a plan, I'm also going to do some serious downsizing on my own home.

I have unfortunately large closets in my house. It's unfortunate they're big because they just get filled with lots of junk that really only sticks around because I have the space to store it.

There's so much stuff that I keep because "I may need this someday..."

Well, someday has come and gone, and if I haven't used it in a year, it's obviously not needed!

So that's it for this random experience post about cleaning up my grandmother's estate. It was sad and exhausting, but in the end I feel like I made a huge difference for my dad, and that's what matters. Hopefully I've lightened his load.

Let's go SLEEP!

Leah

Potato Boats

This is Josh in for Leah as she's out of town helping her dad with a major yard sale. She hopes to be back by the end of the day.

I know she had planned on blogging but she's had computer problems and asked me to fill in.

There are some great designs coming up so keep an eye on the blog this week!

I was going to take some pictures of Leah's design room and studio but unfortunately she has the camera so that will have to wait.

Instead here's a picture of the recent additions to our family. These chicks hatched on Saturday and Sunday--a cross between a blue Ameraucana hen and a Saipan jungle roo.


Let's wrap up with a quick little recipe, shall we?
Spicy Potato Boats

Russet or baking potatoes, 1 per person
1 head cauliflower
1 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic, minced
Cajun seasoning, to taste
Sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
Mrs. Dash seasoning, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Olive oil

Pierce your potatoes all over with a fork--at least ten times per potato. Then rub all over with olive oil, coating every surface. Next rub on sea salt. The secret to this recipe is to create a perfect baked potato.

Preheat oven to 400. Place potatoes on baking pan. DO NOT use foil. Cook for 40-50 minutes. Check for doneness by giving the potatoes a squeeze with a pot holder. Done potatoes will give way easily when pressed.

As you put the potatoes in the oven, steam your cauliflower in a little pot in an inch or so of water. Cut off steam and leaves of cauliflower, put in pot, add salt and pepper, Tabasco sauce, and Mrs. Dash (liberal amount of Mrs. Dash). Cover pot and cook until cauliflower is tender.

Remove potatoes, and, while wearing an oven mitt, cut each potato in half, as you would to serve a baked potato. Carefully scoop out the potato meat, leaving a little along the edge. Be careful with the skins and set aside. Place in mixing bowl.

Spoon out cauliflower, everything but the core. Put in mixing bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and enough Cajun seasoning to turn the whole mixture slightly orange or tan.

Add mixture to each potato skin, overfilling considerably. Place on baking pan and set oven to broil. When heated, add to the top of the oven and cook for a few minutes, until the top of the potato mixture gets crispy.

You can also add some cheese to either the mixture or the top of the potatoes.

Garnish with dried parsley and chives.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Perfect Recipe for a Saturday

This is Josh today for a quick and fun recipe. I hope you're having a great weekend!

Today's recipe may not be for everyone, but it's a great summertime drink and ideal for barbecues or around the pool.
Bloody Beer

1 frosty, tall pilsner glass
1 bottle or can of beer of your choice (cheap beer is perfect as the next ingredient will overwhelm most of the natural, malty beer flavor)
2-3 Tbs high quality tomato juice (or Clamato or V8)
Dash of Louisiana hot sauce
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of celery salt
Dash of finely ground, fresh black pepper
1 lemon or lime wedge
1 stiff green onion stalk
Handful of ice cubes

In pilsner glass add hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and ice cubes. Stir or shake to coat ice. Pour beer, preserving head. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato juice. Garnish with lime wedge and sprinkle black pepper and celery salt. Give a quick stir with green onion stalk.
In case you're not a beer fan, here's my favorite sweet cocktail. I made a lot of these for Leah when we first started dating in college. It's still her favorite mixed drink.
White Russian

1 part vodka
1/2 part Kahlua or coffee liqueur
Ice to fill cocktail glass
Cream or Half and Half to fill glass

Add liquor, cream, and ice. Stir well until incorporated. Milk can also be used but the drink will ultimately be inferior to one made with real cream or half and half.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 294 - Spiral Curtain

I don't know about you, but it's really weird seeing this redesign of the site! It might take a bit to get used to all the new colors and navigation, even for me.

So let's get on with a new design to the project. This is a fun variation of Wind Stitch, a design I created for the Quilting Arts Online Magazine last year. This version of the design is stitched with straight lines and sharp angles to create an interesting Spiral Curtain:

Now let's learn how to quilt this design over a small block. On a real quilt, this design will work great in the sashing or borders:


Difficulty Level - Advanced. Spiral Curtain isn't super difficult, but it does require a lot of travel stitching to get to each area of the design. If you need to, try marking some of the spirals first, and this will make estimating your space and traveling much easier.

Design Family - Edge to Edge. This design is stitched from one edge of your quilting space to the other. This will work great across a narrow area, like your quilt sashing or borders.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. You really can't miss the horizontal or vertical texture this design creates on your quilt. Because of the funky texture, this would work great on the outer border to add a beautiful frame to any quilt.

Suggestions for Use - Do you realize just how many spiral designs we have on the project? Spirals are one of my favorite designs, so I've created quite a few of these designs over the last two years. Yesterday I made a list of them all and will soon organize a page for all of them so they're easy to find.

Back of Spiral Chain

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

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Project has Changed!

Alright! I'm pretty much done fiddling with the project and switching everything over to the new template. I know it's hard to deal with change, especially when the project has looked the same way for so long, but this new system really will work much better.

Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the new layout by clicking all the different buttons across the top.

The first button - START HERE! - has LOADS of information about this project, why I started it, and what I'm showing you in each video.

I've created three new videos just for this area, so definitely take some time to watch them all. The last two videos come straight out of my workshops and teach you exactly how to get started and explains how to start using the designs.

I'm still working a bit on the About Leah page. More photos will be eventually be added as well as more information. Any questions you have, feel free to add them to the comments of this post and I'll add them to this page.

I've had a free newsletter for a long time, but now it's much better explained and you get 2 free patterns when you join.

The quilt shop button lists our top products as well as a handy link straight to the quilt shop.

Find a Design is a list of the different ways to sort the designs, exactly the way it was listed across the top before. I will be adding more organization soon so you can easily find designs by shape as well.

Recent Posts is a new area where I list the articles and designs mentioned in the most recent newsletter. Many subscribers have had trouble finding past posts, especially when we move into a new month so this should help list all the posts in one place so you can find them easier.

The Contact page is pretty self explanatory, but you might not have known that I really do read every email I'm sent. I might not respond to every single email, but I definitely try to answer if you're asking a question.

This is still a work in progress, and yes, it may take some time to get used to, but if you just click around and watch the new videos, I think you'll like it!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 293 - Pointy Maze

Let's try a new variation of Pointy Paisley today! This time, let's start with a sharp angled closed spiral to create a really Pointy Maze:

It really pays to read instructions thoroughly. I've learned this lesson repeatedly, but I'm still a "fly by the seat of her pants" kind of girl.

Which is why I happened to glance at the instructions for a quilt show two quilts are in next month and realized they need to be sent TODAY! For some reason I was thinking it was next week!

So while I go build long narrow boxes for them to be shipped in (rolling is better than folding), you can enjoy this video on Pointy Maze.



This video was sponsored by From Daisy to Paisley, a book of beginner free motion quilting designs. Have the best 50 designs at your fingertips and next to your machine with this spiral bound mini book!

Difficulty Level - Advanced. Like many of the designs I've been sharing lately, there are a couple other designs it is based on that you can stitch first for practice. Start by stitching Pointy Paisley and Sharp Angled Maze.

Once you get the hang of those two designs, you'll be ready to stitch Pointy Maze because it's really a combination of the two.

Design Family - Pivoting. This design starts with a spiral, but then you return to your starting point, pivot and echo that spiral repeatedly. To continue the design all you have to do is travel stitch along the outer edge of the last echo and stitch off in a new direction with a new spiral.

Directional Texture - All Directions. With all the straight lines and sharp angles, this design will really catch your eye!

Suggestions for Use - How about combining Pointy Maze and some smooth flowing designs to create an interesting table runner? Just take a long piece of black fabric and mark simple lines to separate the spaces where different fillers will go. Then have fun filling in this quilt with your favorite designs!

Back of Pointy Maze
Feel Free to use this free motion filler design 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

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 292 - Deco Planks

Last weeks Monster Teeth design was very simple and a great example of a design that can be changed, or filled, to create an entirely new design. Here's a fun variation filled with simple triangles to become Deco Planks:

Art Deco art really intrigues me and I wanted to know if any other quilters felt the same way. Turns out there are a couple books that combine quilting and art deco!

Beautiful Quilts: Art Deco: Making Classic Quilts & Modern Variations - This looks like a good book to get both traditional quilting designs AND Art Deco inspiration. I really love the Dresden Plate quilt on the cover!

Design Art Deco Quilts: Mix & Match Simple Geometric Shapes - This book was recently published by C&T and I've seen it in a lot of advertisements later. On Amazon, a lot more pages of this book were shared and you can get an idea of the design process the author is teaching. It's definitely different and should produce some really interesting quilts!


This design was sponsored by the Isacord Thread Set. Get 12 beautiful colors of Isacord and see the difference this beautiful thread can make on your quilts!

Difficulty Level - Advanced. Quilting Deco Planks is a great way to practice stitching straight lines and sharp angles! Start by quilting Monster Teeth, then go inside and fill each rectangle with triangle points. Keep the triangles short and simple so the design stays under control and you're lines are easy to keep straight.

Design Family - Edge to Center. Working from the edges of your quilt into the center can create some really interesting textures on your quilts. Generally these designs will work best in areas like Sashing and Borders, but you could easily use them to fill whole quilt blocks. Experiment and have fun!

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. Deco Planks is going to stand out boldly on the surface of your quilt because of the darker thread texture the triangles create. Definitely put it somewhere it can show off and won't compete with your other design or fabric elements.

Suggestions for Use - How about an Art Deco tablerunner? Simple shapes, beautiful fabrics, and amazing free motion quilting can combine to make one knock out table decoration!

Back of Deco Planks
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, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

I hope all fathers have a great day today! Here's a shot of my Daddy with James when he was just a few weeks old:

I've always loved this picture because they're wearing the exact same expression, complete with head tilt!

Father's Day always makes me remember a quote from a movie called Smoke Signals about forgiving our fathers. One of these days I'm going to make a quilt and these words will go on the back:

How do we forgive our fathers?

...maybe in a dream...

Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often,

or forever when we were little?

Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage...

or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all?

Do we forgive our fathers for marrying or not marrying our mothers...

or divorcing or not divorcing our mothers?

And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?

Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning...

for shutting doors...for speaking through walls...

or never speaking or never being silent?

Do we forgive our fathers in our age or in theirs?

Or in their deaths saying it to them or not saying it.

If we forgive our fathers what is left?

If we forgive our fathers what else is there?
Have a great day guys!

Leah

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Learning this business...one mistake at a time

Well, I shouldn't say "mistake." That implies that I've actually messed something up permanently, and as I'm learning every day, nothing is ever totally broken. Maybe I should title this post "learning this business...one experiment at a time"

The fact of the matter is, and I'm being totally honest here, I really didn't know what I was doing when I started this project.

While I thought it might be popular and interesting for some quilters, I never anticipated so much interest or response so quickly. And I never expected anyone to want books or DVDs because all the designs are posted for free.

So it's no exaggeration to say that I've been clinging to the back of this freight train as it took off way too fast for me to find my seat. I've been struggling to keep up and stay focused, and that has been very difficult in the midst of so much family and personal turmoil.

I've been thinking back to the start of the project, where Josh and I were then, how old James was, and what was going on in my head at the time.

I know that so many of my decisions then were governed by just the sheer stupid joy of being liked. People like me??? Really??? I must do everything they want!

It's only now, after two years of intensely working through my low self esteem that I can see why I felt this way. I'd been raised to think I was so worthless, I should be paying YOU to be interested in me. The fact that someone liked me and wanted me enough to pay me to do something, how dare I turn that offer down?

Had I had the ability to say "no" then, I might have made better choices, but I think that is something you can learn only when you really need to, when you feel confident enough to take a stand for yourself. I just couldn't do that then.

So if you want an explanation for why I created two DVDs and two books (volume 1 and volume 2) at the beginning of this project, only to discontinue them in less than a year, you have your answer. It was a great idea on paper, to have every single design from the project available on DVD, but practically, it was never going to work. It would have been 18 DVDs and books! That's just excessive.

It took nearly a full year for me to come to my senses and stop agreeing to do everything, every idea that was emailed to me, every offer for travel, every teaching or lecturing gig.

I can remember the first time I turned someone down, I agonized over the decision. It made me feel awful to say "no" and for a few weeks after, I lived in terror of my business collapsing because of it.

I truly believed at the time that if I turned down anything, it was tantamount to shutting down my site for a day. It was the same as turning my back on the project, even if that thing being offered had nothing to do with the site or project directly.

Eventually I came to realize that I could, and had to say "no." For the sake of my sanity and my health, I had to slow down, and I had to stop beating myself up for not being able to do everything.

But even this year I struggled with too many projects, too many focuses, and an overwhelming feeling that I couldn't finish anything.

Recently I've realized my problem is still agreeing to do too much, only now it's not someone else asking me to do something, it's all the ideas in my brain I've got to say "no" to!

Basically every time I think of a good idea, I drop everything and run to go start working on it. I don't stop and think. I don't give myself time to cool down. The urge to start something new is so electric, so wonderful feeling, it's very hard to turn down.

But starting so many different projects eventually wears me out. I get tired and stretched too thin and then feel terrible. My self worth plummets and I end up falling into a deep hole that takes weeks to dig out of.

The last time this happened just a few weeks ago, I finally put my foot down with myself. No more new projects!

And then I found myself in my studio cutting out a new quilt that evening! What is wrong with me!? Don't I know better!?

Case in point of this cycle of starting projects is the "How Do I Quilt This?!" series which I started last August, but never finished. I've been so extremely embarrassed by this failure, I haven't wanted to talk about it at all.

But looking at it now, I know it's nothing to be ashamed of. It was a good idea, but executed at the wrong time, right as I was launching a new book and DVD. I also didn't plan that project well and didn't account for just how much time and energy it would take.

Going back to this project today, I'm working through all these emotions. I'm going to get these videos set up permanently on the website with better links so you can easily find them. I might never finish the videos on making a show quilt because, well, I never finished the show quilt.

But that doesn't mean the whole project should be scrapped just because I never finished the final set of videos. It's still a very good series on using the designs in real quilts, and it should be better linked so you can actually find it!

As embarrassing as it is to admit all this, I'd rather just be honest. I'm not Superwoman!

To help me balance my work load, maintain mental sanity, and stop starting projects I can't finish, Josh has been stepping up to the plate. We've started having a business lunch every Friday. I type up a page (or pages) of all the stuff running through my head, and we go through it line by line.

It's so nice to see everything clearly typed out, to go through it all line by line, and then make a plan for the next week that won't end with me feeling worthless and ineffective because I couldn't muscle my way through three months worth of work in one week.

It's amazing how much this has helped in the four weeks since we started doing them, and already Fridays are my favorite day of the week. Written out and clearly listed, it's easier to see and account for ALL the projects that are in progress and how long they will take to finish.

I'm not saying that I'm not starting anything new anymore, but I am being a lot more careful about what I take on. One thing is for sure - I'll never want for a new project or idea to try!

Now speaking of projects, I happen to have 5 quilts in progress downstairs, and two could easily be finished today. It's time to go quilt!

Leah

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Thread Story

One of the number one questions I get both online via email and in person is "What thread do you use?"

It's an important question that a lot of quilters put stock in, particularly when you're doing stuff like this with your quilting:

But the thread you use is even more important if you're making bed and baby quilts because these will be washed so many times, drug around, and generally abused.

So here's the deal: for free motion quilting, I only use Isacord Polyester Thread. For piecing and applique, I use Gutterman Cotton or Mettler Metrosene.

I've come to use these threads after experimenting and finding what worked the best, not only for my machine, but also my budget.

Here's the full story about how I came to use Isacord on my quilts, and so far at least, I haven't been struck my lightning, seen a quilt get shredded, or experienced anything to show that this was a bad choice.

When I started quilting, I believed in the Cotton on Cotton on Cotton propaganda. You know - the idea that quilters can only use cotton fabric, with a cotton batting, stitched with cotton thread?

I don't know where I learned this from, but I know I believed in it religiously when I first got started quilting.

I happily pieced my quilts, then basted them with a cheap cotton batting from Walmart. At first, I quilted with cotton Coats and Clarks thread, but soon found spools of serger thread to be cheaper.

Of course, this was back when I quilted only with my walking foot, so the thread didn't need to be super strong since the walking foot was doing all the work.

I can remember the huge balls of lint I was pulling out of my machines during this time. I could quilt for a few hours and by the evening, I was pulling out tablespoons of lint from my bobbin case.

I thought this was normal at the time, and just got into the habit of brushing out my machine every single day. Unfortunately I couldn't remove the covers to a Viking machine I was using at the time, and I ended up breaking a part in the bobbin case after it clogged with so much lint.

The man that fixed it warned me then to start looking for threads that wouldn't produce so much lint.

So I began trying new things. As I progressed through the beginning stages of quilting, I began to play with many different threads from rayon to invisible. While I like the idea of invisible thread, I've never liked it on my quilts. It kind of gives me a weird feeling, like I'm quilting with plastic.

It wasn't until I started quilting The Duchess that I began to see that cotton thread might not be all it's cracked up to be. By this time I was using a higher quality Gutterman 100% cotton, but the lint buildup in the machine was still ridiculous. I was also struggling to quilt designs like Pebbling and Paisley because I couldn't travel stitch much at all before the thread would break.

The stitches on the quilt didn't look that great to my eyes. From reading Karen McTavish's books I'd learned about Bottom Line bobbin thread. Trying it out and seeing that super fine, super thin thread on the surface of my quilt made the cotton look like a child's crayon drawing in comparison.

Suddenly I saw no lint building up, and no longer had to obsess about brushing my machine out every night to remove those hair balls. Unfortunately, my machine didn't like Bottom Line thread very much. I loved it, but my machine ate it more than it stitched with it!

There's nothing I hate more than sitting down to my machine, starting to stitch, and breaking thread. Something about it sets my teeth on edge, and I just never could get the hang of using that thread.

By this time I'd finished quilting The Duchess and had been asked to quilt the raffle quilt, Baskets in Bloom, for my local quilt guild. I went to a local quilt shop and began looking around. There HAD to be more threads available that could handle the speed of free motion quilting the way I wanted to quilt.

I brought home a couple different spools of cotton blends, Mettler Metrosene, and Isacord. After stitching samples and breaking thread a few times on the other threads, I tried the spool of Isacord.

What a difference! Finally a thread that fed smoothly and evenly, didn't skip stitches, didn't built up massive amounts of lint, and my machine didn't want to eat it for lunch!

Isacord wasn't as thin as Bottom Line Thread, but it also isn't as thick as cotton. It's much stronger too and doesn't break or shred, even when I stitch over my stitching lines multiple times.

Of course, I did try mismatching threads for awhile too and even tried using Isacord in the top of the machine and Bottom Line in the bobbin. While it's a nice combination, I could never get my tension just right, which is why I now religiously match my threads.

Whatever thread I'm using in the top of the machine, that exact same thread is going in the bobbin.

In the end, I was ready to settle down with one thread. After going through so many headaches, after trying so many different brands and types, I was ready to settle down with one thread that I knew would always work, and could always be relied upon.

And this is what I think you should do too! Don't just take my word for it that Isacord is awesome - go try other things! Pull out your thread stash and try everything you have before you settle on a thread just for free motion quilting.

Now as for the great debate about polyester shredding through the cotton fabric of a quilt, Superior Threads has written an excellent article on this right here.

Of course, everyone is going to have a different experience and opinion. My opinion is that polyester thread allows me to quilt in the way I want. If I didn't use Isacord, I couldn't quilt this way. The thread breaks and lint build up would drive me bananas first!

For piecing, I find that my collection of Gutterman Cotton and Mettler Metrosene can still be put to good use. I like to use a thread for piecing that is very thin, but also rough so the fibers kind of stick to the cotton fabric.

I just find Isacord too slick for piecing or applique. Again, this is all down to personal experience! You've got to give yourself permission to try a lot of different things before settling on what works for you.

Don't stick with the All Cotton, Only Cotton, Always Cotton propaganda just because it's what you've heard and accepted. If it's not working for you, chances are there's something that will work better.

So many quilters email me asking what could help their free motion quilting ability. Almost everyone wants to blame their machine, but more often the real culprit for breaking threads and skipped stitches is the thread you're using.

Whatever you decide to use, make sure to match it. Use the same thing in the top as you're using in the bobbin and you'll have a lot less headaches and tension issues when you try free motion quilting.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 291 - Monster Teeth

I've been sharing a lot of complex looking designs lately, so let's go back to the basics with a simple design using rectangles and squares. When stitched off the edges of your quilting space, they kind of look like Monster Teeth!

This simple design is best suited for narrow areas of your quilt, like the sashing or borders. If you find yourself struggling with stitching the straight lines, try a wiggly version of this called Flowing Glass and see if it works easier for you.


Today's video is sponsored by the Queen Supreme Quilting Kit.
Difficulty Level - Beginner. This is super simple! Just stitch rectangles of different sizes off one side of your quilting space, varying the length of the rectangles so they look like jagged teeth. For a similar design try Modern Art, which uses triangle to a beautiful effect.

Design Family - Edge to Center. All of the designs in this section are stitched from the edge of your quilting space into the center, making them great designs for the sashing or borders of your quilts.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. This design has a very obvious horizontal or vertical texture, which works great when you're needing a simple design to fill your quilt quickly.

Suggestions for Use - This design is making me think of Halloween! Jagged Monster Teeth combined with Spider Web, Eyeballs, and Cobwebs in the Corners should make for one fun, spooky quilt!

Back of Monster Teeth

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day Off in the Garden

I took the day off and Josh and I went to get the plants we needed to finish our garden patio project. I got a few plants in the ground and pulled a wheelbarrow full of weeds, and I think it's all looking pretty good now:


James is now my resident picture and video helper. He always wants to have his picture taken and insisted in being in these shots of the patio!

I happily admit to being a rather haphazard gardener. When I feel like it, my gardens look good, when I don't feel like it, it's up to them to do the job! I'm just not all that fussed about it looking perfect all the time, so there's always a lot of weeds mixed in the good stuff.

But now with this castle wall and patio, most of the weeds won't show!

My favorite part is the planter we've set in this weird area where the patio met up with the sidewalk. Here I've planted coleus and sweet potato vines that should grow beautifully and fill in by the end of the summer, then we'll switch out to a rosemary tree and pansies through the winter.

Can you believe that I managed to lay this entire patio without cutting a single brick?! I didn't want to mess with cutting anything and it worked out perfectly.

It's been a great day off working in the garden and getting this project done. That's one thing off my list at least, so now it's time to tackle the quilts in the studio next!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 290 - Zigzag Fern

Yesterday I finally tackled my front garden and weeded the whole thing out in one evening. While I'm not the best gardener, I've learned my lesson not to let my garden get this out of whack before doing something about it.

This Zigzag Fern design reminds me of many of the weeds I pulled out. At least if you put this your quilt, it won't continue to grow and take over!

I love designs that combine straight and curvy lines. I think it makes for an interesting contrast in textures that catches your eye.

I think it's so noticeable because we have so few things that naturally curve and grow perfectly straight at the same time. Try looking around your garden this week and see if you can find natural objects that contain both straight lines and curves, then look for man made objects with this combination too. It's a fun challenge to keep your eyes open!


This design is sponsored by my book From Daisy to Paisley. 

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design is a great way to practice stitching straight lines and sharp angles in free motion. If you're struggling to stitch designs like Pointy Paisley and Circuit Board, this design would be a great way to practice!

Design Family - Stem Centered. The stem starts everything with this design, so take your time stitching it and filling your quilt. Then all you have to do is travel along the line, branching out with the zigzag leaves, filling the rest of your quilting space until the entire area is filled.

Directional Texture - All Directions. This combination of textures really draws the eye. It will make for a gorgeous design to stitch all over your quilt, or just in the borders if you're needing a fun frame for a pretty quilt.

Suggestions for Use - I used Fern & Stem over the border blocks of the Australian Shadows Quilt, but after looking at this design, I think Zigzag Fern would have looked even better! The funky zigzag line would look great combined with busy fabrics for a really neat effect. The only problem will be being able to see what you're doing!

Back of Zigzag Fern
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

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 289 - Lightning Pizza

Whew! We're almost into the middle of June and it is HOT! I'm not really complaining though because we've been getting thunderstorms and a short cooling rain shower.

And speaking of thunderstorms, remember Lightning Bolt? Let's try this design again, this time with a funky twist:

This works a lot like Poseidon's Eye, only with triangles filled with Pebbling. After stitching it out, I looked at it and said "This makes me want to eat pizza!" It's fun, funky, and think how good it will look over a food inspired quilt!


Our design today is sponsored by one of my most important tools for free motion quilting, Machingers Quilting Gloves.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. This design is much easier when you learn it in stages.

So first stitch Lightning Bolt and get the hang of that design. Next try Heart Flow and get the hang of forming a shape to stitch around.

Now stitch Lightning Bolt again, but this time stitch an empty triangle at the end. Once that variation is no problem, then you're ready to fill each triangle with Pebbling to make pizza!


Design Family - Branching. These designs are formed by stitching a line, then echoing to build it up a few times. These designs can bend and twist around any obstacle, so they're a good choice for all areas of your quilt.

Directional Texture - All Directions. You really can't beat this funky texture! The pizzas are going to stand out more than the Lightning Bolt lines because of the denser stitching in these areas. Just keep that in mind when placing this in your quilts.

Suggestions for Use - I once saw an awesome crazy quilt using large scale food fabrics. I loved that quilt and always wanted to make a version of it. If I pieced it up now, I'd definitely quilt it with Lightning Pizza!

Back of Lightning Pizza
Feel Free to use this free motion filler design 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, June 12, 2011

A Few Fun Places to Check Out

I follow a lot of different blogs and check in on most of them daily. Reading about other quilters or crafters brings such a joy to my life!

I feel less alone as a twenty something quilter when I read Generation X or check out a project from Freshly Pieced. These girls make me feel a bit less like a freak for wanting to spend more time quilting than bar hopping (which is what girls my age are typically doing I think).

For most of my life I've been told I was boring or weird for wanting to knit in class, or buy jeans from Goodwill I could alter to make more interesting. Finding so many like minded women just makes me happy!

I also stumble across blogs that are written by women on a journey and willing to share their journey as I do occasionally. Today I found a wonderful article on Beadlust that perfectly describes my struggles with spirituality and religion, addiction, and self love.

Of course, I do get emailed pretty often with sites to check out and blogs to read.

I was recently pointed to Jelly Roll Quilters, a site for quilters who just like to make quilts from jelly rolls! I really enjoyed the video created by Missouri Star Quilt Co. to make the Summer in the Park quilt. It's easy, fast and creates a gorgeous quilt!

I was also introduced to Betterfly.com which is a site where teachers can list themselves and their local classes or services.

Already so many quilting teachers have listed themselves, they've created a widget just for us! If you're looking for a quilting teacher in your area, or if you are a quilting teacher looking to get more traffic, check out this site and get yourself listed!

I also read blogs that aren't about quilting, or really anything to do with crafting. Advanced Riskology is a blog about taking more risks to live a happier life.

While this might sound weird (more risk equals happiness), the author, Tyler, explains that the biggest risk he ever took with his life is going down a normal, safe path, and then getting laid off. He risked his happiness by following the crowd, and when he lost his job decided to make a big change for the better.

I'm pretty familiar with this sort of risk. I took a leap when I dropped out of college because I knew a degree wasn't going to fit with my goals for the future. If anything the student loans I was amassing would have held me back.

I took another risk when I decided to focus entirely on quilting in 2009. At the time, it was a scary proposition with a 2 year old, a big mortgage, and a shaky economy.

Looking back now, I truly believe that following your passion is the LEAST risky thing you can do. Even if it doesn't work perfectly, at least you'll be happier and living the way you want.

I hope you enjoy these websites and blogs as much as I do!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Friday, June 10, 2011

How to Fit Your Free Motion Foot

Over the last two years, I've championed breaking your free motion quilting feet (also called darning feet) so they work better and fit your machine perfectly.

I started modifying feet with my Juki TL 98 QE, when I had to break the base open in order to see what I was doing. With a solid base and the foot hopping up and down on the surface of the quilt, it was impossible to travel or echo stitch properly and I found I was picking out more stitches than I put into the quilt.

Whenever I teach a class in person, I usually end up breaking and fitting 10 feet for students. Several students have said that having her foot modified made the entire class worth it because it makes such a huge difference for being able to see and form designs.

So here's a video on breaking your foot, then fitting it perfectly to your machine so it works best for free motion quilting:


This generic free motion quilting foot is
available right here in the quilt shop.


I truly think it's the foot that gives quilters more problems than anything else in free motion. Straight out of the package this foot is no different.

The bar across the top is designed to go over your needle bar. When the needle is up, the foot is pulled up with it. When the needle drops, the foot drops too - way too low on your quilt and squishes it.

This means the foot will hop up and down on the surface of your quilt, making it quite difficult to see what you're doing. It also means your quilt is going to be hard to move, except when you're going really fast.

So the best solution is to get rid of that bar, which I do by bending that top bar back with a pair of needle nosed pliers.











But once the top bar is bent back, on the machine, the foot is going to rest in the low position. Remember that's the position that is squishing your quilt badly.

To fix this we now have to insert a rubber band on the top of the foot between the spring and the bent metal bar so the foot is lifted slightly. I find 4 loops of a rubber band in this area does the trick:

Once you get the loops in place around the bar, just twist the excess rubber band around on top so it's out of your way.

Now here's the important part - every machine is slightly different. You need to fit this foot to your machine and make sure it is setting at the right height. Put the foot on the machine, then place a quilt sandwich underneath. Lower the foot and slide the quilt around.

The foot should move smoothly over the surface of the quilt. You should be able to move the quilt freely and without it getting hung up or squished by the foot.

But it should also not be so high that you can see space between the foot and the surface of your quilt. You know the foot is too high if you start quilting and suddenly your thread starts breaking constantly. This means the foot is allowing the quilt too much play and it's bouncing up and down and breaking your thread.

It's a happy balance and can be adjusted using that rubber band. If you need the foot to be slightly higher, add another loop to the top. If you need the foot to be lower, take a loop away.

While this might seem silly and rather pointless, it's absolutely necessary for getting your foot to fit properly. Once fit, you'll never have to mess with the rubber band again. You'll leave it in place and just forget about it.

Now there's one other problem with this foot and that is the base. I personally find that an open toe foot is much better for free motion quilting because you can see what you're doing. Traveling and echo quilting is always easier if you can see your needle.

So take a pair of jewelry clippers and clip on either side of the red marks of this base.

Sand down any rough edges with a nail file or sandpaper so they don't hang up on your quilt or thread.

Viola! You have a perfect foot, fitted to your machine specifically, and ready to do beautiful free motion quilting!

Try this out today and I promise you will see a huge difference in your quilting ability. Being able to SEE and MOVE the quilt properly is so important for this skill, so don't hesitate - go break your foot!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chickens, free range and grilled

Leah is in Charlotte, NC for the day for a fiber artist meeting so this is Josh subbing in for her.

It's been a while since our last recipe so I'd like to share a simple one today. I'd also like to share some pictures and stories about our backyard chicken flock.

First, here's the recipe...
Herbed Grilled Chicken

A pound or two of chicken breasts, tenderloins, legs and thighs, or wings (every part of the chicken works well with this! My favorite are legs and thighs.)
Olive oil to coat chicken
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs garlic, minced
Fresh rosemary *
Fresh thyme *

Lay chicken pieces in a mixing bowl or container. Cover in olive oil. Add a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Press garlic cloves in a garlic mincer and cover the surface of the chicken. Now sprinkle with fresh herbs, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces.

Flip over chicken and repeat for opposite side.

Marinate for at least 3 hours, preferably all day.

Chicken be grilled on an outdoor grill or rotisseried.

* Can also use Cajun ScRuNcH instead of fresh herbs. This makes it spicy instead of savory.

For those of you subscribed to Leah's newsletters (you can sign up by entering your name and email address at the top of the sidebar to the right), you know I keep a flock of 12 birds in the backyard, along with 2 week-old chicks living with their brood mother. The chicks are sired from a Saipan Jungle Fowl and their mother is a blue Ameraucana. (Go to 2:30 in the video for the chickens--Flammie is the blue Ameraucana.)What's intriguing is the male and female appear completely different at birth, like sex-links.

I recently expanded my chicken coop to make room for five juvenile pullets and one young rooster. You can see the end result below.

The coop is made out of chicken wire, shipping pallets, a rider mower trailer, a metal dog crate, an old squirrel trap, and James' retired crib.


It may not look pretty, but it gets the job done. It was fun to think up everything that could be used as building materials and I absolutely loved how all the parts came together to form a solid coop, especially seeing how well it stands up to heavy winds and storms.

A modest prefabricated coop for a mere two or three hens costs a whopping $400 plus. It's outrageous and highway robbery--almost like more of a status symbol than a functioning structure. No way was I going to pay even half that for something so small and one-dimensional.

The view above is from inside the chicken run, looking into the main part of the coop. This coop has now stood for almost a year. Amazingly it got through winter without a hitch. What's holding just about everything together is plastic zipties. When spring I arrived I replaced many of the ties with fresh ones as the plastic degrades in the UV light.

I hope you've enjoyed today's detour into our backyard chicken shanytown. Keeping a hen or two in the backyard is becoming one of the fastest growing hobbies in America. Everything you need to know and more can be found for free on the Internet.

Chickens are fun to watch and as a bonus you get an egg every day in the spring and summer. You can't beat that.

- Josh
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