Sunday, July 31, 2011

Last Day to Enter the Transformation Challenge!

It's really crazy how fast this year has flown by! It feels like yesterday I was just launching this contest with the hopes of inspiring you all to try designs from this project in a small quilt.

Now here we are on July 31st and it's the last day to enter the contest!

If you need a reminder about the rules and guidelines for this challenge, click here.

Yes, you most certainly do have enough time to stitch an entry, photograph it and submit it by this evening! It's only 9 inches by 12 inches after all!

So if you're wandering around aimlessly this Sunday afternoon with nothing to do (lol yeah right!), grab some fabric and pick 5 designs and have some fun!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers

I was going through the quilt shop the other day and realized I've never made a video about the Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers DVD. So let's fix that right now!


I created this DVD last summer to focus completely on beginner level designs. All of these designs have been stitched out in brand new, high quality videos with a big contrast between the thread and the fabric it's being quilted on.

Just compare the difference in these two videos teaching the design Stomach Lining. This first video was originally published on the project in November 2009:


Now let's see what this design looks like in the Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers DVD:


For this DVD, I really tried to show as much of the block being filled as possible so you get a much longer, much more detailed set of videos.

This video is available as a physical DVD disc that should play on all DVD players and computers, regardless of where you live in the world. It's also available as a digital download so you can download each of the videos onto your computer and watch them any time you like.

So that's it for this Feature Friday! Click here to learn more about the Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers DVD.

This video is also available in the Beginner Combo Kit with its companion book, From Daisy to Paisley which features 50 beginner level designs.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

I will NEVER finish this...

I've written a bit about how bad my studio has gotten lately. A few descriptive words would include: trashed, bombed, a total mess, disorganized, chaotic, and utterly uninspiring.

I haven't quilted much this summer at all because every time I walk into the room, I just turn around and walk back out again. It's time to clean up!

And I keep meaning to get into the studio and get started, but it's kind of like being presented with the biggest cake in the world, you really have no idea where to start, or how to deal with the sheer enormity of the situation.

Part of the overwhelming nature of the room is the number of unfinished projects. Two weeks ago in a fit of anger about my UFOs, I got a pen and paper and made a list of every single one. That list filled two sheets, single space!

Most of these projects were started long before this blog (more than 2 years ago). They are bed quilts I pieced for family or friends, fabrics I purchased with a specific quilt project in mind, and quilt blocks pieced or appliqued, but never finished.

Looking at it all now, I feel a mixture of guilt, resentment, and a weighty feeling that is hard to understand. It's like I'm underwater, I can't move because this complex set of emotions has me stuck in place.

But this is just JUNK! Yes, it is fabric, yes, it is quilt tops I pieced once and had some intention of finishing, but why is it making me feel so terrible? Quilting is what I do! How and WHY am I allowing fabric and quilt tops to make me feel this stuck and crappy?

Exploring the emotion, I find guilt to be the overriding emotion, which is interesting because I really don't feel guilty that often. People rarely can inspire me to feel guilt, but fabric, quilt tops, and quilt blocks, however, seem to have found that guilt trigger and are firing with extreme accuracy.

It's like this: by getting rid of all this stuff I'm admitting I failed.

I failed because at some point I was happy and excited about these projects. The day they were cut and pieced I obviously had to feel some level of happiness about them.

But at some point in the construction process, the love died and along with it, all desire to finish these projects.

By cleaning it out, by pulling these quilt tops off the shelf, sticking them in a bag, and removing them from their lofty places on the shelves, I am declaring to the world "I will NEVER finish this! I can't do it! I bit off more than I can chew!"

And now that I've written this out, processed this whole idea out of my head, I realize that this is not a bad thing. Reaching the end of your rope can be a good place actually because this is often the point where things start to change.

No, I will never quilt this light green throw quilt:

No, I will never piece these circle blocks together into a quilt top:


I will never finish this landscape quilt. Despite this good looking photo, it's actually full of issues and mistakes. Fixing them all would actually take more time than just chucking it and starting over from scratch:

Most of these quilts were intended as bed quilts and the fact is, I just don't make bed quilts anymore!

Isn't it high time I gave myself permission to ONLY work on what I WANT to work on?

It doesn't mean I'm a failure for admitting that I have no desire to finish these quilts. Who I am as a person has nothing to do with these quilt tops! They are just fabric and thread and do not love me and will not care whether it's my hand or someone elses that finishes them.

Yes, I did bite off more than I can chew, but that doesn't mean I can't spit it out and try again.

A large part of this whole process has been looking back at my habit of running headlong into projects with no planning or oversight. As soon as a new project popped into my brain, BANG! I was off to wash and cut fabric, BOOM! I was ready to piece it all together, and FIZZLE.... that's the eventual sound of my energy collapsing when it all got to be too much.

I've been doing this for years without really realizing it. I finally made the connection last spring and since then I've carefully stuck to a very simple rule - I have to wait to start a new project for at least 1 week.

1 week of planning. 1 week of oversight. 1 week to cool down from the surge of adrenaline and joy at doing something new. 1 week to THINK and not just REACT.

After making this rule in May my number of new projects has nearly stopped. Knowing I had a book to write and DVD to produce and keeping a more realistic idea of my time and energy level in mind, I've been able to see that now is just not the time to fall head over heels for a new quilt.

It's also allowing me to more time and planning for the projects I want to start this fall or winter. More time planning means less time working out the kinks when things go wrong. More time planning also means the quilt has more potential to be shared on this blog.

Gone are the days when I just walk into the studio and pull fabrics down and start slicing. This worked at one time, but now my focus is on sharing everything I do in the studio online.

This makes it easier to say Good-bye to many of these old quilt tops. No thread color will contrast brightly enough with these light colors and busy fabrics. If I can't film it, I'm not keeping it!

So today when I enter my studio it will be with white garbage bags in hand. Every quilt top, every UFO, every project will be carefully assessed, and then sorted. Everything I will realistically finish by 2012 will stay on the shelves.

Everything I can't or don't want to finish is going in the bags. And the bags are going to my quilt guild tonight. I'm hoping the quilt tops can be quilted and donated to charity, the UFOs can be completed by someone who wants a fun project, and the rest will be picked up by whoever is willing to give this stuff a good home.

Yes, it might be easier to just leave these UFOs on the shelves. It might be easier to let another 5 years go by and pretend I'll get around to them sometime. This emotional deadlock had certainly kept them on the shelves this long, why not a little longer?

But I know it will feel a million times better to have this studio cleaned out and for once, only filled with those items that are actually going to be finished.

I'm just glad that by the end of this post, after writing all of this out, I no longer feel like a failure for admitting I can't do it all. That it's okay to let go of these projects I no longer want.

Because in the end, shouldn't we be spending our time quilting the quilts we WANT to quilt?

Here's to cleaning out the UFOs, finding more space within and without, and lightening the load. Now if I can just apply the 1 week wait rule to buying more fabric...

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 303 - Tropical Flower

What happens when we take Root Pockets and turn it into a flower design? You get a gorgeous Tropical Flower!

This design was inspired by the bright veins and textures within orchid flowers. If you look closely you’ll see layer after layer of design all contained with the flower blooms.

It’s the veins of Tree Roots that really makes this design stand out and gives it that orchid feel. Tree Roots really is an amazing design and I’ve only just now started experimenting with variations of this texture. I’m sure there will be many more designs to come!


Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Tropical Flower is a combination of two designs that you can stitch first and get some practice with before putting them together in one design. First try stitching Tree Roots and then Loopy Flower. Once you feel comfortable with them both, combine the two into one amazing design.

Design Family - Center Fill. This design starts in the center of your quilting space and it’s actually easier to start with the petal shapes of your flower first, then go inside and fill in with Tree Roots.

Directional Texture - Center Focused. Your eyes will definitely be drawn to the center of the flower and the darker Tree Roots veins. Experiment with different numbers of petals to see which arrangement works best for you.

Suggestions for Use - Have you gotten started on your holiday gift quilts yet? While this Tropical Flower may not seem very festive, I think it would make for a perfect ornament stitched in white thread on red fabric. It’s a simple way to try this design and create a nice gift at the same time.

Back of Root Pockets
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, July 25, 2011

Day 302 - Barrier Reef

It’s no secret - foundation designs are some of my most favorite, largely because I think they are some of the most creative, organic, and truly free form designs I’ve created.

This Barrier Reef design is no exception. This time instead of a foundational line, it’s a foundation of pebbles which set the stage for a gorgeous texture:


The wonderful thing about this design is it really can go anywhere so long as you have enough space to wiggle in a line of circles to start. The rest of the design is simply built off this starting line until the entire quilting space is filled.


This video is sponsored by the Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers DVD. Learn how to stitch 30 beginner level designs into blocks, then put them all together to make a fun sampler quilt!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design looks very complex, but it can actually be broken down into two very simple steps - first create a single line of circles throughout your quilting space, then echo this line, bouncing down into the space between the circles.

Design Family - Foundational. The circles really set the stage for the entire design. Don’t worry about all them being perfect, in fact the more organic and free form the circles are, the more interesting the design will be.

Directional Texture - All Directions. The foundation circles are going to stand out boldly against the rows of echo quilting. Make sure this won’t distract from other more delicate design elements in your quilt.

Suggestions for Use - Barrier Reef would look gorgeous stitched through the middle of the sashing or borders of your next quilt. Consider even using multiple colors of thread - one color for the circles and another for the echoes!

Back of Barrier Reef
Feel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Friday, July 22, 2011

Make Free Motion Quilting Easier with the Supreme Slider

One of the #1 questions I’m asked about quilting is “Don’t you use a longarm? HOW are you able to quilt on a home machine?”

I always answer this question the same way:

With the right tools to make it easier,
you can quilt ANY quilt on your home machine.

Think about it this way: would you consider piecing a New York Beauty block without a ¼” piecing foot? Would you cut out the pieces with an old yardstick and pair of scissors?

Yes, this may have been the way things were done once upon a time, but these days we have rotary cutters, accurate rulers, and an amazing array of specialized feet to make cutting and piecing easier.

So why not invest in tools that will make free motion quilting easier too?

Of course the hardest thing is trying to figure out if a tool will actually work for you or not. In classes, I always have many tools available to play with so everyone can try anything they like and see what works.

Online it’s trickier because you don’t have that personal experience. I know I’ve shelled out lots of money on hoops, grippers, slippery spray stuff, and other tools. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t.

This is why I only carry just those items in the quilt shop that I’ve found really work for free motion quilting and make it easier and aren’t just gimmicky junk.

So when it comes to specifically moving the quilt around there’s one tool that I absolutely can’t live without and that is the Supreme Slider.

This is a slick Teflon sheet that goes on the surface of your machine bed. It covers your feed dogs (a nice bonus if you don’t drop them like me), and turns the surface of your machine bed into a super slick surface that your quilt can glide over easily.

When it comes to quilting on a home sewing machine the biggest thing you’re fighting is gravity and drag. Quilts are heavy and pushing and pulling them through the machine can be very difficult.

Just the idea of fighting to put a big quilt under a machine is enough to make many quilters give up and stop quilting their tops.

But quilting doesn’t have to be this hard! First off, stop using those super thick battings! Try a thinner, high quality polyester batting and see how much this will reduce the bulk of the quilt in your machine.

Then slap on a Supreme Slider and see how much easier it can be to move and position the quilt while free motion quilting. It’s a difference like night and day - without the slider the quilt wants to stick to the table, with the slider on, the quilt moves smoothly and evenly over the surface.

Of course with all new tools, it takes awhile to get used to them. My advice to everyone with a new Supreme Slider is to TAPE IT DOWN.

Use masking tape to secure each corner to the machine or table top. This way the slider will not pull up underneath and get stitched to the back of your quilt.

Trust me, it is VERY easy to stitch through this thing. If you’re not used to using it you may not recognize the slight resistance that means the slider has shifted. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and just tape it down until you get used to how the slider feels underneath your quilt.

So that’s it for this Feature Friday! If you’re interested in learning more about the Supreme Slider you can check it out right here.

We also have an Ultimate Quilting Kit that combines the Supreme Slider with Machingers Quilting Gloves and Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers - really the 3 best tools for free motion quilting for only $48.00.

Let’s go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 301 - Root Pockets

What happens when you combine Paisley and Tree Roots? You end up with something like this Root Pockets!

I love the flowing, organic nature of this design. The center sections of Tree Roots are going to stand out more than the rest of the design because of the travel stitching involved in these areas..

This is going to create a very interesting combination of darker and lighter sections of thread. It’s definitely one I’m looking forward to playing with on a nature inspired quilt.


This design is being sponsored by the Queen Sized Supreme Slider. This supersized slider helps your quilts glide more smoothly over the surface of your machine, making them easier to quilt and faster to finish! Click here to learn more about the Queen Supreme Slider.


Difficulty Level - Intermediate. It seems we’re running through a phase of designs that involve a lot of traveling. Make sure to check out the article on 5 tips for Travel Stitching if you’re struggling to stay on the line while free motion quilting.

Design Family - Pivoting. Root Pockets starts with a single branch of Tree Roots, then you stitch around this cluster multiple times with a pivoting leaf shape. Experiment with making your starting root shape many different sizes to see what this can do to the resulting leave shapes around it.

Directional Texture - All Directions. This is going to look amazing on the surface of your quilts! Make sure to place this in an area that has more than enough space for it to spread out so the leaves can really ‘grow’!

Suggestions for Use - How about a nature themed quilt that combines Bamboo Forest, Tree Bark, Tree Roots, Pebbles in a Stream, and Root Pockets all together? Imagine the combination of all these textures in one quilt!

Back of Root Pockets

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cover Art Drama

It's that time again! I've finally reached the point in the new book From Feathers to Flames to design the cover art for the book.

This one has been particularly challenging because I wanted to do something very different from the other book. I wanted this design on the cover with a dark red background:
There's only one problem with this - I couldn't color in the white feathers or flames without it messing everything up! So rather than continue to tear my hair out and scream at the computer, I decided to quilt the design on fabric instead:

This STILL didn't work because I didn't cut the fabric big enough and it needs more space at the top for the words to fit, and the thread really isn't showing up enough. Grr Grr Grrr!

So finally after all this fighting the cover, I just decided to go back to the cover I used for From Daisy to Paisley and change out the designs and fiddle with the background to make the pretty red color:

The big difference is this time the designs are graphed rather than quilted for this book. For a simple comparison, here's the cover of From Daisy to Paisley:

So whatcha think? I think the white graphs show up much better and on the cover and look very nice. My original graphic design will still be used on the first page of the book so it's not going to waste either.

One thing I know after designing and self publishing two books, cover art is a tricky business. Big publishers probably have a whole team of people fiddling with things here and there to get it perfect. For this book it's just been me playing with different ideas and seeing what works.

I'm pretty pleased with this, though I wish it hadn't taken 3 months to realize my original idea wasn't going to work. Chuck it up to another lesson learned and a reminder to never forget to KISS - keep it simple stupid!

Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below!

Leah

Added note - I realized only after the comments started coming in that I forgot some important details:

This new book is going to launch next month! The digital version will be available on August 14th.

The physical, spiral bound version will first prelaunch on September 1st, then probably start shipping towards the middle to end of September. It always takes longer to get the print version just right so that date is still flexible.

Yes, there will be a new Intermediate Level DVD that will launch at the same time! You can see the quilt featuring all 33 designs taught in the DVD right here.

And finally, yes, there will be a 3rd mini book and the three will make up a set of beginner, intermediate, and advanced designs. This last book will be a golden yellow color so the three will tie nicely together.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 300 - Edge of Reality

Whoo Hoo! We’ve finally hit 300 Designs! It’s hard to believe we’re in the home stretch of the original goal of 365 designs.

All I know is, the more designs we have, the more connections and ideas I come up with. Yes, the designs will be getting more complex from here on out, as you can tell from this design called Edge of Reality:

Maybe this is pushing me to the edge of MY reality! This is a combination of Matrix and simple echo quilting found in Desert Sand. Put the two designs together and you get an amazing combination of thread texture and drama.


This design is sponsored by From Daisy to Paisley,
a book of 50 beginner level free motion quilting designs.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. This is a pretty hard core design, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. This is actually a combination of two beginner level designs so you can practice the easier versions first, then put them together to see what happens!

First try stitching Desert Sand which is a simple Foundational Design that involves echo quilting simple curving shapes. Then try Matrix, a wiggly grid design. Finally put the two together and you hopefully you won’t be driven to the real edge of reality.

Design Family - Foundational. This design starts with the wiggly center line that bisects the design. Whatever you set up with this first line of quilting, that is what is going to really show up the most in the design so make sure it looks good!

Directional Texture - No Direction. It’s hard to say what directional texture this will really take on in a real quilt. The more wiggly and wobbly your foundational line, the more crazy the texture will be.

Suggestions for Use - I’ve experimented a bit with foundational designs in borders and found them to not only look gorgeous, they’re actually really easy to quilt in these areas! I’m definitely planning to try Edge of Reality in the border of my next quilt, and maybe even use one color of thread for the Matrix side and another color for the echoing side.

Back of Edge of Reality
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, July 18, 2011

Day 299 - Delicate Petal Flower

Whew! We’re finally back from Knoxville and getting everything sorted out. Let’s get back on track with a new flower design:

I created this design after looking at Granddaddy Longlegs and wondered what would happen if the legs were surrounded with long, thin petal shapes. Fortunately this experimented ended up looking more like a pretty flower than another creepy bug!


Click here if the video does not appear

This video was sponsored by the Ultimate Quilting Kit, a collection of the three best tools for free motion quilting on a home sewing machine. Click here to learn more about this kit!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design is challenging only because of the large amount of travel stitching it involves. The nice thing about it is even if you stitch off the line, this flower will still look very good!

If you find your thread breaking a lot as you stitch into the center sections, try switching to a thinner, stronger thread. This can make a big difference and allow you to travel stitch many times over the same area.

Design Family - Center Fill. This family of designs starts very differently than most free motion fillers - from the center, then radiating out. Because of the way it’s stitched this design is going to work best in an open area, like a block or a circular applique where it has more than enough space to spread out.

Directional Texture - Center Focused. You can’t miss this center focused texture! Experiment with different designs in the center to see how this will change the texture of the flower. Play with spirals, clusters of circles, or even fill the space with dense stippling for a nice contrast in textures.

Suggestions for Use - I love using quilted flowers in place of fabric appliqu├ęs.

Next time you’re making an appliqued quilt, leave out several flowers and replace them with this Delicate Petal Flower.

The added touch of texture and thread is sure to be a big hit!

Back of Delicate Petal 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, July 17, 2011

Back home with a haul

We're back home again after a long drive through the mountains. Unfortunately we had to take a bit of a detour through Asheville due to traffic, but managed to get home all in one piece. Why is it the drive home always seems to take longer than the trip to somewhere?

Now that we're back home I've cleaned out all my bags and to sort the goodies I bought at the show. I met so many wonderful quilters at the show and spoke to so many people it's hard to keep track of it all!

The first is Cheri's Tool and some hot fix Swarovski crystals. After seeing Claudia Pfeil's Ice and Fire, I may jump into the crystal craze. I met THE Cheri at the show and really enjoyed her demonstration of applying the crystals, which made me realize just how wrong I'd been doing it before!

Right next to the crystals is a wooden stamp for fabric painting. I picked this up from the Colouricious booth and had a great time hitting it off with owner Jamie Malden. The stamps are all cut in India and stamp beautifully on fabric.

Looking at all of the different stamp designs, I could easily see how some of the project's free motion patterns could be cut into a stamp! It's yet another way these designs could be used to add texture and movement to fabric.

One thing I noticed right off the bat was how many sewing machine and longarm manufacturers attended the show. Remember this is the first big, national show I've attended so I'm still getting used to the sheer scale and size of the event.

I decided to try out two machines I've wanted to test drive for awhile. No, I'm not in the market for a new machine (still very much in love with the Horizon!), but I've wanted to see the difference between the APQS George sit down model and the Handi Quilter Sweet 16.

Sitting down at both, it's immediately obvious that you're in a totally different world. These may be table mounted, but they are miles away from typical domestic sewing machines!

Of the two I played with, I honestly liked the Handi Quilter better. The bobbin was bigger, the machine seemed more under control, and even though both feet were annoyingly hoppy on the surface of the quilt, I could see what I was doing better on the HQ 16.

What was really nice was meeting Debbie, a fellow machine quilter who makes free motion videos for YouTube too! She hosts the Quilty Pleasures blog and creates videos on both a longarm and domestic sewing machine. It was SO nice meeting her in person and chatting it up about free motion quilting!

As for fabric, I was really shopping for two specific quilts: Forged & Welded and a new wholecloth to feature quilting designs.

I picked up several yards of the most gorgeous, high quality silk fabric from Color by Hand. I managed to find fabric that looked silver for the sword section of the goddess and some purple to have fun with.

I also picked up a bolt load of blue fabric for the background of F&W from Joy's Fabric & Quilts. She had a huge supply of Caryl Bryer Fallert's fabrics, which I've recently fallen absolutely in love with. The blue will go in the background and the orange is perfect for the flames.

Last but not least was the awesome jackets and patterns being sold by RF Textiles. I picked up a rolled collar jacket from Fran and fell so in love with it at the show I knew I would want more, so I got the pattern too. It's the most comfortable, light weight, best fitting jacket and I can't wait to make a dressier version out of some fabric in my stash.

And I finally got a photo in front of my quilt with my guys:

Here's one last funny story to finish off the weekend:

I got up early on Saturday morning and had my clipboard in hand to work on the design for Forged & Welded. Getting into the elevator, an older man asked "Working on your homework?"

I smiled and said no, I was actually working on a quilt design, and if they'd been to the quilt show, mine was actually the one that won best machine quilting.

A bit surprised the man then introduced me to the woman next to him, Meredith Schroeder, the president of AQS! It just goes to show you'll never know who you'll end up in the elevator with!

So that's it for the Knoxville quilt show!

Cheers,

Leah

Friday, July 15, 2011

Enjoying the Show

We're finally here in Knoxville, TN after having set out early this morning. James was the first person in the car, ready to ride with his favorite Ohio Tigers.

The trip was uneventful and we stopped to eat on the way into town at Litton's, a restaurant we'd found through Google searches as a great place for a burger (eh, kind of) and an even better place for a slice of pie (definitely agree with that).

Then it was just a short drive down the road to the show. This really is the biggest show I've ever attended and walking through all the quilts was so much fun. James and Josh were with me today which means I didn't get to spend as much time looking at each quilt as I will tomorrow.

Three quilts really caught our eye. I don't have photographs simply because it's against the rules to shoot photos of the quilts and share them online. Just click the links below to see photos from the websites of the quilters that made these fabulous quilts.

Saffron Spring: OCD Meets SAD by Barbara E. Lies (Photo found on the Quilter Heritage Website).

Fire and Ice and Cordoba by Claudia Pfeil (photos found on APQS Quilt Gallery).

I absolutely fell in love with these quilts. They are simply AMAZING!

I'm sure many more will catch my eye when I tour the show again tomorrow and have more time to concentrate on the quilts and less on James who decided to spontaneously mutate into Robot James from the Blue Planet (yes, that's the stage we're in).

I realized after walking through the show that there are actually multiple food courts which makes it hard to meet at just one!

I'll be at the food court inside the show area at 10 am tomorrow morning and walking through the show most of the day. I've already seen so many quilters I know from different lectures and workshops from last year, my local Shelby guild, and just people that follow the project and recognize me.

It's been very fun so far and I'm really looking forward to another great day tomorrow. Hopefully by then this photo issue will be sorted out and I can get a shot of me in front of Winter Wonderland.

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Whoo Hoo for Winter Wonderland

It's official! Winter Wonderland won Best Machine Workmanship at AQS Knoxville, TN!

I've got to thank the quilter who called me this morning at 10 am to tell me about the win and then listened as I yelled "Kick A**!" into the phone. I was really surprised and thrilled by this award!

And just in case you're not able to get to Knoxville, TN, here's some photos of Winter Wonderland so you can enjoy her too:

This quilt was constructed as separate blocks, each snowflake first being created with Reverse Shadow Trapunto, a fun technique I invented to make clipping the batting much easier.

The blocks are then layered with silk organza, batting, and backing fabric and quilted. This was really the very first quilt that I used multiple designs from the project and experimented with the way different fillers create different effects and textures on the surface.

When it came to putting all the blocks together, I used 1 inch strips to connect all the blocks together on the back.

On the front, I used a technique I'd learned from Sharon Schambers Bias Binding Videos. I made yards and yards of white bias binding, starched the snot out of it, then pressed and bent the strips into curves.

The curvy strips were then machine appliqued over the surface of the quilt, covering the raw seam allowances and spaces between all the blocks.

It was definitely a fun quilt to make because I could just sit down and stitch one block each evening and by the end of 2 weeks the quilt was completely quilted. Putting it all together actually took more work and effort, but it was definitely worth it in the end.

If you're interested in learning the Reverse Shadow Trapunto technique, check out the Winter Wonderland Quilt Pattern. This 25 page pattern will not only teach you how to make this beautiful quilt, but also how to use this neat technique on other quilts as well.

Now I'm really excited to get to Knoxville and see all the other beautiful quilts! I've received several emails from quilters attending the show wanting to get together.

So to make things easy here's where I will be - on Saturday morning at 10 am I'm planning to be in the food court wearing a red t-shirt. I'll see you there!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

5 Tips for Echo Stitching

Last week we learned 5 Tips for Travel Stitching. I hope that has helped you master this first fundamental step to free motion quilting.

The good thing is if you haven't mastered traveling, that certainly doesn't mean you will never be able to free motion quilt.

In fact, there are many designs that don't use any traveling at all.

Instead of traveling, many designs use Echo Quilting or Echoing to maintain a set distance between the lines of quilting.

Echoing creates a very different texture and effect than travel stitching. Rather than building up thread and intentionally making an area darker, echoing simply outlines a shape a set distance away. It adds ripples of stitching that enhance the angles and curves of the shape without actually making it stand out more on the surface of the quilt.

The best way to see the effect Echo Quilting can have is to look at a Hawaiian Quilt. This is Elaine Zinn's beautiful Hawaiian Quilt I fell in love with last year. The quilting simply echoes the central shape repeatedly until the entire space is filled.

So how do you master Echoing? How can this fundamental technique of free motion quilting become easier for you to stitch?

Here's a few tips to get you started:

1. Visibility is #1 - Just like with Travel Stitching, visibility is absolutely essential for Echoing. If you can't see where your first line of stitches is, how in the world are you going to be able to echo quilt it accurately?

For Echoing, I find it harder to estimate the quilting space if the quilt isn't positioned properly. If the angle feels weird, chances are your echo is going to look weird.

Rotate the quilt, squish the bulk around, and get it into another position so you can see what you're doing and move the quilt smoothly and naturally.

2. Use those edges - The edges of your free motion foot can be helpful guides for echoing. Try stitching a straight line, then use the left side of your foot as a guide and echo that straight line down a practice square.

Then stitch another straight line and use the right side of your foot as a guide. This helps to keep the lines a consistent distance apart, and will start training your body and eyes to see and estimate the space more easily.

Note - Once you get used to echo quilting, you may find that using the edges of your quilting foot can actually create more mistakes. This is a sign to stop focusing on the edge of your foot and instead simply eyeball the space you're quilting into and the distance between your needle and the last line of quilting.

3. Draw it until you can see it - Using the edges of your foot works great when you're echoing, but when you need to echo all the way around an object, the back and front of the foot won't work as guides anymore. In these cases, it helps to simply mark the echoes on your fabric and stitch on the line.

Most of echoing is about training your eyes to see the space, and your hands to know how and where to move to maintain it. Until you can visualize the echo easily, marking a line will work great to not only make the echo perfect, but also help you see where that line goes and how to move at all times.

4. Mistakes can be beautiful - For this heart, I intentionally made my echo weave in and out, coming closer to and farther away from the shape. Because I stitched it consistently bad, it actually ended up looking pretty good!

Stopping to rip out every single mistake really is a waste of time and energy. Spend a bit of time practicing on squares so if you mess up you can just throw it in the trash rather than taking the time to rip it all out.

5. Start with some simple Echoing Designs - We have two design types that are entirely dependent on echo stitching - Echoing Designs and Foundational Designs.

Pick any of these following designs and stitch it over a large quilt. Even if it's just a baby quilt, any amount of stitching is good practice and will help you build this skill quickly.

Keep in mind that Traveling and Echoing are simply skills, just like brushing your teeth, tying your shoes, and piecing a quilt block.

Chances are you weren't perfect at any of those things the first couple times you tried it. But the more you do it, the better you get! Here's a good practice idea for learning how to Echo Stitch:

Take a 10" square of fabric and fuse a simple applique shape into the center.

Sandwich this block and then start quilting around the heart, echoing the shape around and around until the entire block is filled:

Now do it again! And again and again until you an echo quilt in your sleep. Notice how my echoes are really wide this time - about 1/2" apart throughout. This keeps the block soft and cuddly because the quilting isn't dense. The closer your lines of quilting, the more dense and stiff your quilt will be.

Put all the blocks together and turn this into a simple baby quilt for charity or a new baby in your family.

Once you get bored just echo quilting around a shape, try Echo Shell, Brain Coral, Trippy Triangles, Desert Sand, Ocean Current, or Jagged Plain. All of these designs require loads of echoing and are a great way to practice and get the hang of this technique.

Now I don't know about you, but I'm ready to jump on the machine and stitch the day away!

Let's go quilt!

Leah

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Forged & Welded - Part 1

Yes, it's time I officially started a new goddess quilt. This one has been on my mind so much I think it's eaten a hole in my brain! Why else would I be starting this while I'm working on a new book, dvd, designing 150 new designs, and writing the big book all at the same time?!

Either I must be a glutton for punishment or I've finally given into my greatest desire through the summer - to quilt, quilt, quilt through the heat.

And just a disclaimer before I get going - this will be a personal post so if you'd rather not read it, click here to check out new designs on the project.

But it's more than just the urge to be quilting right now. This design has been working on me since the middle of Hot Cast. The two were really dreamed up around the same time and both embody the same theme: finding the ability to love myself.

Hot Cast was all about the transition and learning process. How to find that compassionate, loving voice and how to listen to it, rather than all the negative monsters in my head.

Through Hot Cast I've been working to believe the words "I Am Enough" and to live them. Maybe that quilt was too small, maybe the design was just not quite right, but I find myself still struggling to fully accept the fact that I am Enough, and more importantly - that I Am DOING Enough - that I don't have to work like a mad woman every day just to feel good about myself.

Forged & Welded takes on this second step with a study of strength, power, stability and endurance.

While I'd originally planned to make this quilt small, around the same size as Hot Cast, this week I've changed my mind. Yes, I know I'll regret designing this so large. Yes, I know I'll hate my life when I'm half way through, but I think this is necessary.

Sometimes it takes 80 inches of dense stitching to work something out. While I'd love to say that all my issues with my inner negative voice (INV) were worked out with Shadow Self, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I still occasionally struggle with short bouts of depression and utter misery.

Maybe it's how my brain is wired. Maybe it is simply something I'm doomed to deal with for the rest of my life. Maybe I should stop bitching and go get a therapist to drug me up with Prozac. The thing is - I REFUSE to believe any of these "maybes."

I believe that it is possible to live a healthy, balanced life. I don't think this is something special or rare, only given to a chosen few. I HAVE to believe in my ability to resolve, heal, and grow beyond these issues.

So I refuse to believe that my brain chemistry or my dysfunctional childhood are marks on my soul that I will never recover from.

I also refuse to drug myself up, dope myself out, and ease away into a state of pharmaceutical oblivion. That is NOT my idea of a solution - that's simply a medicated band-aid that will cover and conceal these issues, but never make them permanently go away.

You can probably tell by now the emotion I'm mostly channeling right now - anger.

Red hot and fiery. I'm taking all my sad and I'm turning it into mad.

For once though, I'm not turning this anger outside to lash on the people around me, or turning it inside to burn my self esteem into ash once again.

Instead I'm turning this rage into pure fuel - hot and strong - with enough power to blast out this INV (inner negative voice) once and for all.

What I've found over the last year is that my INV hates it when I'm strong. It really can't stand it when I feel good, confident, and relaxed. It hates me to feel comfortable.

So what better way to totally and completely irradiate my inner negative voice than a quilt that channels all my strength, all my stability, all my emotion into one place?

A quilt that will not just symbolize power, but will also scream down in every stitch - I AM ENOUGH!

I'm done being a wimp about it. I'm done showing the dark and light sides of my mind together in some sick cohesive body. I'm done showing my body full of darkness with only a glimmer of light from my heart. I'm done allowing my INV even a toe hold in my brain. I won't give it an inch.

And it's high time I stop saying MY inner negative voices - the truth is these words were never, ever mine. They were the words of every abusive person I've allowed in my life. They were words designed to make me feel small, ugly, unwanted, stupid, and unworthy.

These words aren't true, were never true, so it's high time they stopped sounding off in my head!

There's a saying in business "Fake it until you make it."

While I don't really like this saying and it's potential implications, I do believe there's an element of truth - if you believe and act like something is going to happen, chances are it will.

I may not have all my issues sorted out, but I'm designing this quilt as though I do. I'm designing this goddess not as a symbol of how I feel right now (that is Hot Cast), but of how I WANT to feel right now.

I want to feel strong, stable, powerful, and beautiful. I want feel confident in my ability to provide for my family and to no longer stress and fret that I am not doing enough.

Quite simply - I want to be free from the INV for good.

So that is why this quilt is being made. Now let's talk about design, my favorite part of every quilt.

For this quilt, I had the flash of inspiration back in January to combine a goddess figure with a sword. I sketched this very rough drawing several months ago to nail down the general idea:


It's an interesting coincidence that both Hot Cast and Forged & Welded are largely inspired by my dad, someone I've become much closer to over the last several months.

My dad made me a small sword when I was pregnant with James. I've been into fantasy and science fiction since high school and always wanted a sword to wear to Renaissance Festival. I used a photo of this sword to serve as a template for the design:

Then I shot a picture of myself standing on a box to get the general shape of the goddess. I knew I wanted her hands to be outstretched with large circles in each, and one of James's kick balls worked out just the perfect size as a prop!

So that is how the core goddess body was designed. I work with pencil and paper simply drawing the outline of the photograph, then simplifying it. I've come to respect my own need for simplicity - it is my style.

I probably will never include fingers or toes, eyes, mouth, nose, or ears to my goddesses. I tried incorporating a face with this one and I just couldn't get it right.

I find it difficult to not judge the face, and then loose connection with the goddess herself and what she represents. Better to leave those elements blank rather than put them in and struggle with them.

Now the goddess is nearly complete, but there's a few elements missing.

I've learned from past quilts that I get bored easily when I have to stitch the same design over 60 inches of open space. I simply hate it. I always finish and look at it and wish something more was there.

So learning from this experience, I know that something needs to go into the bottom of the quilt, something to frame the goddess/sword, maybe even tie in with the theme of elemental power and stability.

I've began researching different signs and symbols - what could go in this area and maybe even be a harness for the sword that will add to the overall design?

On Sunday I posted that question and had loads of fun reading through all the comments. Most people had the same thought I did straight off - a big rock.

But how do you quilt a rock? How do you get it to look right on a quilt without looking like a big, black blob?

I considered the issue for awhile, and knowing how the columns gave me fits in Hot Cast, I also ruled out any plinth, stone columns, or similar ideas. They're just too challenging to get perfect.

After ruling out the rock, I began thinking of the design more - what signs to I personally associate with strength and stability?

It didn't take me long to think of the sun. This is a symbol I've used before and will continue to use in my quilts. I love the sun and how light makes me feel more creative and awake.

So I started playing with sun designs at the bottom of the quilt design:

I also saw the sun needed something to make the flames look connected, so I created a swirling surface. The hair of the goddess also changed. She is rising from the surface of the sun after all, she's bound to have some pretty wild hair:

This worked okay, but it still wasn't perfect. While I like how the flames come up around the goddess, I still found the large amounts of open background space frustrating. There would need to be another layer or layers added to the design for it to be complete.

For the first time I decided to work on the computer to create this layer. Using a simple drawing program I created a sun and rays. This is just a placeholder that will allow me to design rays and flames to hit certain points:

I created another layer to place behind the first set of flames. I haven't sketched it all out together yet, but here's how things look lined up on the light box:

No, it's still not quite right, and I'm enjoying fiddling with it so much I'll probably continue to work on it for the rest of the month.

A lot of planning and thinking still needs to happen in terms of how this quilt will be constructed and then quilted. If I decide to piece or quilt sections of the quilt top, it will take longer and be more time consuming.

Personally I'm leaning towards a simple wholecloth with no pieced or appliqued elements, but my mind tends to change whenever I wander into the studio and see all the beautiful fabrics hanging up begging to be cut up for this quilt. The jury is still out on that regard.

Overall it feels like this quilt is moving in the right direction, at the right time and I can't wait to get started!

Let's go quilt,

Leah
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