Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School

It really is that time again...back to school for another year.

James has been ready to go back to school for several weeks, waking up at 8 am with the pipping question "Can I go to school today Momma?!" If he had it his way, he would have started on August 12th and attended every day, even Saturdays and Sundays!

But this year, I've found myself a little sad to see the summer end and the school year begin. This morning as I saw James off, I gave him an extra big hug and marveled at just how big my baby has gotten.

This photo to the right was taken on his very first day of preschool 4 years ago. At the time, my 18 month old was still unsteady on his feet, had about 6 teeth in his head, and didn't talk at all. How much can change in 4 years? Everything!

It's funny how this summer has both been very short and very long at the same time. Never before have I been slightly caught off by the start of the school year.

While it might sound bad to say that I usually mark the days like a man on death row, I usually look forward to the fall all summer because it means a return of sanity: schedules that keep us organized with a daily routine.

To say it straight: I like a schedule. The summer break time usually grates against my desire to organize things because it's the very definition of unorganized.

But this year I'm a little sad to see the summer go. James will be starting his 4th year in preschool and my mind can't help make the comparison that these 4 years have flown by just as fast as his last 4 years in high school will fly by.

So even though this isn't James's last year in preschool, it's a year that is making me think and take note.

I think this is the first year that James will remember his first day of school, remember the kids he plays with, and remember the experiences that stand out good or bad.

Until now, I've kind of felt like I had a "get out of jail free" card because James was just too little to remember. Why bother with Easter Egg hunt? He won't remember it, anyway. Why bother with the picture with Santa? He'll just cry the whole time and thank goodness he won't remember it anyway.

All of a sudden, that excuse doesn't fly anymore and my big boy is now in the realm of memory and every day is a new and lasting experience. I now need to step up to the plate and start paying more attention to the passage of time and what memories my little boy will grow up to remember.

Do I want him to remember watching TV every day after school, or playing in the yard? Do I want him to remember that momma's sewing room was off limits, or a place he was welcome to play and color beside me? Do I want him to remember me as always working, working, working, or having the ability to play too?

So often when I talk about this kind of thing I get responses along the lines of "Oh, don't be so hard on yourself! You're doing a great job! You're a great mom!"

I might be pretty good, but I could always be better.

From the time James was born, I've managed to do a lot around his schedule, and now I'm going to try to get most of my work done during his preschool hours so after school, at least 2 days a week, we can do something fun together.

Whether it's a simple trip to the park or a longer drive to a kid's museum in Forest City, I know these days will stand out for James, just like the days I spent handing out in my Dad's shop stand out in my memory now.

What I wish I'd seen from the day James was born is that it's never to early to start making memories, but it can be too late.

If I hadn't taken the time to take this photo this morning, I might not have seen and realized just how fast time is passing. In the trenches of parenting, it can be easy to feel like this period of snotty noses and sticky hands will last forever, but it really doesn't.

4 years ago, my little boy couldn't talk more than a few single words. This morning he yelled "Bye bye Momma! I love you! Have a good day!"

We can't stop time passing, or our children growing up, but hopefully we can take a bit more time to notice and appreciate it.

Now if I'm going to make the best use of the 3 hours I have, I'd better get into the sewing room!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 316 - Star Flower Bands

So far we’ve learned Star Flower, which is a center filled flower, Star Flower Flow, an echoing variation, and now let’s see what happens when we quilt this beautiful shape from Edge to Center to create Star Flower Bands:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Occasionally I’ll create a combination of shapes and textures that just seem to work with every design type. Star flower is such a simple design - a straight lined star surrounded with flame-like petals - but there are probably hundreds of ways to use single design element on your quilts.

If you ever feel confused about how to use the designs from this project, why not experiment? Stitch a few designs in different areas of your quilt and record how easy it is to quilt the designs in the different areas. Trial and error really is the name of the game and even I don't know exactly where all designs will work and look the best!


Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This simple design starts with a curvy line of quilting, then you stitch a straight line star, then surround that star with a row of flaming petals, then stitch back to your starting line with a few more curvy lines of quilting. Once you fill one side of your quilt with this texture, travel to the other side and just stitch a series of 4-5 curvy lines up to the Star Flowers, connecting with the texture to create a band effect. 

Design Family - Edge to Center. You could easily quilt this design either from Edge to Center or from Edge to Edge, the choice is entirely yours. As an Edge to Edge design, you would have to stitch across the star one more time, then branch out with the wavy lines from the opposite end.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. Star Flower Bands will always have either a horizontal or vertical texture. You can play with this effect by adding more echoes around the star flower petals, or more lines to the curvy line areas.

Suggestions for Use - All of the star flower designs make me think of the holidays! Try quilting this across a 2” x 6” piece of fabric, then finish the edges and add a snap to create a cute napkin ring for a festive touch to your table setting.

Back of Star Flower Bands
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel 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, August 29, 2011

Day 315 - Jellyfish

Let’s celebrate these last dog days of summer with a variation of Butterfly Feather Flower. Stitch this design in a tight circle and surround it with connecting echoes to create a funky Jellyfish!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This is actually not very difficult if you first mark a circle to fit the initial flower shape into, then quilt each feather up to this line. Always remember - guidelines are your friend!

Design Family - Center Fill. Starting in the center of your quilting space, the jellyfish fills just a small section, but the rest of the space can easily be filled with rows and rows of bouncy, connecting echoes. This section will end up much flatter than the rest, and make the central jellyfish stand out much better.

Directional Texture - Center Focused. How many ways can you stitch the center of this flower? You can start with a single circle as you see in the photos, or you can start with a spiral, a cluster of pebbles, even a ring of hearts. Play with starting this design in different ways to see what this will do to the overall texture.

Suggestions for Use - Have you ever used hot fix crystals on your quilts? This would be a neat design to try this with! Attach crystals in the center of each circle to add a bit of bling to this funky jellyfish!
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

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Wonderful Message

Today I received this terrific email from a quilter named Mary:
As I am sitting down to my first baby size "practice" quilt, I felt compelled to send you this email.

You blog site is incredibly wonderful.

Before my sister shared this blog with me, I was tired of stippling and meandering. I hated the quilting part of constructing a quilt. BORING!

But, your blog opened new doors for me. It has been such a great experience for me. Your teaching skills are tops! I enjoy your honesty. Key word in your blog: PRACTICE. I understand that clearly now.

Next week, I am going to help an older lady (cripes, I'm 50-lol) with her quilting techniques. And, I am excited to share with her everything that I have learned from you. She is going to be amazed at what she can do--what she could always do-with the right tools, attitude and practice.

And, really with just a little practice there is improvement, which in turns lends itself to the desire to continue on.

I have frequented your shop because I think it's important to support what you do and what you give to me for free. Your time is worth my loyalty as a shopper.

Great job with your blog. You have inspired me to move in different directions. BTW--I love the paisley design(s). OMGosh--so fun!

I am close to being ready to quilt my "monkey" quilt and I am actually excited about quilting it! That's never happened. Quilting was always such a droning chore. Not anymore...

enjoy your day - mary
Mary really hit the nail on the hammer - the more you practice, the more you play with these designs, the more you will like the quilting process.

Look at it this way - if right now you're dreading the quilting process, either because you're afraid of bad looking stitches or a time consuming, labor intensive process, try to find one way to make it more fun.

You can listen to your favorite music, or find a good audio book to listen too, pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine, or turn on a good movie in the background. Doing these things will make you more comfortable and make free motion quilting seem less like torture.

Then as you relax into quilting, you'll soon start finding your rhythm, and, just like Mary, you'll start enjoying the process instead of dreading it.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Friday, August 26, 2011

Nancy Zieman's Sewing A to Z

A few weeks ago I was asked if I wanted to review Nancy Zieman's new book Sewing A to Z. Ummm...let me think on that for a minute...YES! Of course I'd love to browse through the pages of Nancy's new book and share my honest thoughts on it with all of you!

I've been a big fan of Nancy Zieman since I really got serious about sewing and quilting in 2004. While I rarely watch television, I would faithfully tune in every Friday afternoon for Sewing with Nancy.

I can even remember an episode that aired when I was in middle school on pineapple paper-pieced purses (say that three times fast) and actually trying it out with hand stitching since I still didn't really know how to use my sewing machine yet.

Recently I've been noticing Nancy's name cropping up a lot more in new tools, gadgets, and gizmos being released by Clover and now she's just come out with a new book - Sewing A to Z.

As she states in the beginning of the book:

"Many of these methods have been published in other books of mine, but they've never been gathered together in an A-to-Z reference. My hope is that you'll enjoy this quick reference and that these techniques will fine-tune your sewing and quilting skills."
Now I received a digital version of the book, so I can't say much about how it feels or works as a physical book, however Bonnie over at Quiltville share photos of her copy and it is spiral bound which should make it easy to use near the machine. Because there is a digital edition, you can also get a copy on Amazon for your Kindle!

Paging through the book, quickly noticed the clean, professional graphic design and illustrations. Rather than photos of real hands, fabric, needles, machines, etc, all the photos have been digitized to appear more like cartoon illustrations.

While this may not sound good, it's actually excellent! The drawings are simplified down to exactly what you're supposed to be seeing and understanding, and it's much easier to understand than typical photo illustrations.

I found it interesting that many sewing tools and notions were illustrated being used in the book, from Yo yo makers to Dritz Ezy Hem. It was nice to see these tools and to understand how they are used, and I'll admit the illustrations definitely made me want to buy a few new tools.

While I remember Nancy mostly for garment sewing instructions, this book definitely balances sewing and quilting very nicely. While there's not enough space to elaborate on certain topics (free motion quilting for one) it's clear to me that this isn't a book for a deep exploration of every topic. It's a quick, handy reference guide.

I realized thumbing through it just how useful it would have been for me a month ago when I was ordering some knit fabrics online. I couldn't find a decent explanation of what a single knit, double knit, or interlock fabric was and didn't know what would work for my patterns.

Nancy's book clearly lists these different types of knits (plus 3 more I didn't know about) and what the difference is between them. No wonder the dress I made in college with a heavy double knit never fit right - the pattern was supposed to be made with a single knit!

Overall, I'd say this is a very helpful book if you just need a quick reminder, or a simple lesson on the topics you're interested in.

Of course, this is just my opinion, so why not check out the other bloggers who have shared reviews this week? Here's the full list of blogs that have shared reviews so far:

15-Aug - Nancy Zieman's blog
16-Aug - Whipstitch
17-Aug - Sew Mama Sew
18-Aug - Diary of a Quilter
20-Aug - Amy's Creative Side
22-Aug - Quiltville
23-Aug - Crap I’ve Made
24-Aug - Eileen Roche's blog
25-Aug - I'm Just a Guy Who Quilts

And of course, blog tours like this usually come with something for free! Make sure to hop over to Nancy's blog and leave a comment on her post about the blog tour. Winner will take home over $450 worth of tools and notions so don't miss out!

Now I'm off to jump into the studio for a long weekend of quilting. I have a new quilt on the table I'm absolutely in love with. I promise I'll post photos or a video about it soon!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 314 - Cubic Ripples

Last week’s Pebble Ripples was such a hit, let’s see if we can play with that texture again, only this time stitched with squares:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Here’s another great example of what awesome textures you can get simply by swapping out the curvy lines for straight lines.

free motion quilting | Leah DayDesigns like these can be used to evoke a flat, rigid texture on your quilts. Always remember that you can contrast more than just colors on the surface of your quilts. You can also contrast with the textures you stitch over the quilt and this can lead to many interesting effects.

I still feel, a full year later, that Shadow Self is my best quilt simply because of the quilting design. Over the dark side of the yin yang in the center, I only used designs with straight lines and sharp angles. The lighter side and borders are filled with flowing, curvy lined designs.

This contrast isn't apparent from a great distance, but as soon as you get within 10 feet of the quilt, you can see that the darker sections simply feel different. I only wish I'd designed this Cubic Ripples design last year so it could have been in this section of the quilt too!


Difficulty Level - Intermediate. I’ve rated this design as a bit more difficult than Pebble Ripples simply because it might be a bit harder to stack pockets of Cubing together. Try stitching the original design a few times, then try Cubic Ripples. How many more designs can we create with this simple formula?

Design Family - Echoing. If you’re not quite ready to jump into the dynamic texture of Cubic Ripples, try Echo Maze or Echo Crosses instead. Both designs have a similar boxy texture and will be a good place to start when trying out this design.

Directional Texture - No Direction. While my first reaction to this design was to put it in the multidirectional category, after looking at it a bit more I realized it’s actually a lot flatter and recessive than I first thought. Try using it in the spaces of your quilts that need to recede and flatten out so other textures can show off more.

Suggestions for Use - This design is extremely graphic and full of only straight lines and sharp angles. What would happen if it was stitched around flowing, fluid lines? The contrast in textures would be really interesting to see, so definitely play with this design surrounding organic quilting motifs.

Back of Cubic Ripples
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Awesome Article

Have you heard of Generation Q Magazine yet? Basically the editors of Quilter's Home, plus the awesome humorist, Megan (the Bitchy Stitcher) have teamed up to create a great online magazine right here.

BWS tips button

I've always kept an eye on what Megan is doing since reading her first funny article in Quilter's Home more than 2 years ago and literally busting a gut with laughter. Somehow she manages to make quilting not only funny, but also occasionally raunchy, which is kinda wrong and right all at the same time.

Anyway, it was around this time last year Megan asked to write an article about me and this project and we swapped many emailed interviews until she had enough material. When I read the finished article, I was thrilled and couldn't wait to see it published.

But now as you might know, Quilter's Home Magazine is no more, but instead we have Generation Q Magazine online and this article has finally been published right here online.

What I love is this article perfectly explains why I started this project and why I'm still at it, 2 years later. I love quilting and I love to share it! It really is as simple as that.

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Day 313 - Feather Snail

What would happen if you stitched Butterfly Feather Flower as a giant spiral? Let’s try it and see!

free motion quilting | Leah DayI found this to be a bit tricky to line up the circles properly on the first try, but after marking the spiral guideline it got much, much easier. Just mark the spiral, then stitch up to that line with your feather and everything should work out beautifully.


Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This is a great way to practice quilting feathers, spirals, circles, and travel stitch all at once! Focus on making the circles and the feathers will work out perfectly. Allow the spiral to take the shape of your marked guideline and that will be taken care of as well so all you really need to worry about is travel stitching carefully between each feather.

Design Family - Center Fill. Feather Snail starts in the center and radiates out to fill your quilting space. Experiment with this design to discover which direction works best for you. Do you quilt better working clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Directional Texture - Center Focused. You can’t miss this blast of swirling texture! The nice thing about this design is you can easily take the circular shape out to the edges to fill the block completely or you can leave it as a circular spiral.

Suggestions for Use - Who says quilt borders must be boring? Pick a point, draw a guideline spiral, and fill that space with a huge Feather Snail, stretching out and filling up the border, sashing, blocks - whatever the snail wants to cover!

Back of Feather Snail
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel 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, August 22, 2011

Transformation Challenge Finalists!

It's amazing how fast this year has flown by! Way back in January, I came up with this fun idea to see how ya'll would use the designs from this project in a small 9 inch by 12 inch quilt.

So many beautiful quilts were entered and it was very difficult to pick between them. Finally after much deliberation, Josh and I picked the following 14 beautiful quilts.

Make sure to click on each image to see a larger photo and the detailed stitching of each piece. Also click on the linked names or titles of the pieces to find these quilter's blogs or websites!

Monica Spicker - Seasonal Transformations
Helen Pedersen - Changes Teri Baker Gnaedinger - VanGogh Almond Blossom Transformed Annette Lanoux - Ahhh! Pleasure from Earth Trudy Rhoads - Diana's Transformation Carol Kolf - Transformation, From Bud to Flower Erilyn McMillan - A Chance Find and Entomologists' Delight Kristin Hoog - A Moment of Time Christine Moon - Whimsical Leaves Catherine Helen Parkinson - Cocooned Ellen K Brower Gately - Promise Annie Tokarz - Feeding Frenzy Amber Lippold - Circle of Ideas Rona Keith - Kowhaiwhai Transformations

Rona has posted a 4 part series on creating this quilt! Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

These images are just a sample of what is to come! Each finalist is now going to send in her quilt and I will have them all professionally photographed and share them with you, along with some more details about the quilt and the designs used in each.

Then will come the really hard part - picking just 8 winners that will combine together into a beautiful show quilt. It's going to be tough because I really love every single one of these already.

Now I don't know about you, but I'm feeling extremely inspired by all these gorgeous little quilts. Let's get into the sewing room and go quilt!

Leah Day

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 312 - Channel Weave

Thank you all for your wonderful supportive, loving comments on Wednesday's post. I'm already finding that focusing on the act of stitching or designing, and not the end result (finished quilt) has been very helpful and yesterday I got back to work on a quilt I really want to work on, but haven't felt I had time for.

It's also helped to remind myself exactly why I started this project - not to write books or make DVDs, but simply TO BLOG and share new designs!

So let's move on with this project with a simple less on texture. How different are straight lines and sharp angles from curvy lines? Is there any way to measure the difference in visual impact or contrast as you look at designs like this?

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhile it may sound boring, those are the questions that actually do run through my head when I play with new designs. Texture is something we easily take for granted because there is so much of it in our lives. Bricks, tree bark, gravel in your driveway, the grass in your yard - all of this is rich texture that our eyes pick up just as easily as colors or shapes.

Yet we often don’t SEE this texture like we see the green color or distinctive shape of the leaves on the trees. Texture takes a little bit more attention to see and appreciate.

I love to watch quilters looking at quilts because they will often glance first, and see a color they like. Then they will look again and put those colors together in shapes. Ah! It’s a Double Wedding Ring pattern!

And finally, only as you get around 5 feet from the quilt do the textures start to appear. Feathers and swirls and patterns stitched over the surface adding just as much visual impact to the overall piece.

You know what’s funny? It’s the texture that makes you want to reach out and touch the quilt. To run your fingers over those stitches and make sure they’re really there, they’re real.

Is there any way to measure this visual impact? I have no idea, but I do know combining straight lines and curving lines together looks awesome!


Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Channel Weave really is a 2 for the price of 1 deal. You get two awesome textures stitched side by side in these narrow edge to edge triangles. The first texture is a simple weave created by first stitching in one direction for 3-5 lines, then in the opposite direction for 3-5 lines.

The second texture is a simple arch shape, or bouncy echo, that is repeated back and forth until the entire triangle is filled.

Design Family - Edge to Edge. This design starts very similarly to Woven Lines and Wiggly Woven Lines. You stitch a series of triangles from one edge of your quilting space to the other, then once these guidelines are set, you can stitch back into the space to fill with the Channel Weave texture.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. This design is always going to show off with a horizontal or vertical texture on your quilts, but which of the two designs stands out more? Which texture does your eye get drawn to first?

Suggestions for Use - Would you like to make a quilt that studies texture and contrast? Pick 6 designs with straight lines and sharp angles, and 6 more designs with curvy lines. Stitch them together and fill the sashing and borders with Channel Weave to tie it all together.

Back of Channel Weave
free motion quilting | Leah Day
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, August 17, 2011

Money and the joy of Quilting

Here's a simple question: Why do you quilt?
I can think of so many simple answers to this question:
  • Because it is fun.
  • Because it is relaxing.
  • Because I love to combine fabrics together to make something beautiful.
But for how many of you is the answer: to make money?

This is a tricky question and I hope you don't mind the direction I'm going in today because I really need to start talking about this more. Talking about money, profit, and wealth makes many people uncomfortable, and if you aren't really into this idea, please feel free to check out designs today instead.

First off, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making money with your love of quilting.

Recently I posted my very strong feelings about this on The Bitchy Stitcher's site when she asked what she should do with the profits from a calendar she's producing. I practically shouted at her that making money is not a sin - not feeding your children or paying your mortgage, however, could get you thrown in jail!

Many, many quilters are in this hobby to make money. Longarmers, designers, and pretty much any professional quilter you meet has crossed from that place of quilting only for fun.

How do you think quilting has become a multi-billion dollar industry? Numbers of that kind get generated by people that are equally passionate about quilting as they are about bringing home the bacon.

Is this not the dream of so many creative people? To be able to do what you love, AND get paid for it as well? How could it be a bad thing when so many people dream and wish of exactly this life?

So no, it's not bad or uncouth or ugly or mean or any negative thing to want to do what you love and make money with it.

But...there is always a "but"....can you love your creative hobby as much when money gets involved?

Here's my personal experience: when I went to college, I started sewing a lot. I'd sewed a bit before, but mostly it was hand work. Now all of a sudden, I couldn't get enough of my sewing machine.

I started sewing so much, I dropped out of college (kind of inevitable when you stop attending class to make a skirt instead). I figured if I loved sewing so much, I could absolutely support myself with it.

But here's the catch - as soon as I started making things to sell, my joy at sewing started to diminish. I would page through patterns no longer with the intent to find a fun project, but to find something that someone else, some imaginary person, would like to buy.

How many times have you been told to design something like x, y, z because that is what is selling right now? How many times have you fiddled with a complicated pattern to make it more appealing to the masses?

I know it's a problem, and I'm ranting about it today because I'm currently pulling myself, fist by fist out of a huge, deep, black pit of Quilters Block. I haven't quilted ALL SUMMER. I haven't been ABLE to quilt.

I'm not lying. The last thing was binding on Hot Cast back in June. Until last week, I hadn't quilted in 9 weeks.

For someone who is as passionate, over-the-moon in love with quilting as I am, this is a catastrophic problem. Every time I walked into my studio, I walked back out again. Every time I started a project, I threw it in the trash. I simply could not work on anything. I couldn't find my usual happiness with it.

I found a lot of things to blame it on: a messy studio, lots of UFOs, lack of inspiration, etc, etc, etc. The truth is, I was overwhelmed with inspiration. Every day I would wake up with a new awesome project or idea bouncing around in my head.

But then I would sit down at the kitchen table and write down that idea, and then a thought would pop into my head "How does this pertain to the free motion quilting project? Will this go in a book? Will I make a video of it? Will I share it on the blog? Will I make a DVD of it? WHAT IS THE POINT?!!! WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT??? DON'T YOU KNOW??? MAKE A PLAN!!!"

As you can probably tell, by the time I got downstairs I had a fully diagrammed, completely outlined plan for that project and all the possible ways we could make money with it or share it on this blog.

I also had utterly no desire to make that project now because I'd thoroughly ruined it.

I'm being this honest and sharing this experience because I really hope, if you are in a similar situation, you can avoid making this same mistake. This sucks.

I now believe that every time you dumb yourself down, every time you make something just to sell, every time you design something just for the sole intent of selling, not for the joy or creativity of it, you lose a bit of your magic.

I like to think of it like a magic meter from Zelda. We have a bar that stretches from our heart to our hands, and we need to be respectful of this bar.

No, I'm not saying to never mix your passion with your need to pay the bills. No, I'm certainly not saying to not try to make a living doing what you love. I'm also not saying that you can't regain your magic after messing it all up on commissioned pieces and the like.

What I am saying is this - finding a balance is tricky.

If you lean too far into the money pond, away from the living tree of crafting passion, you are very likely to fall straight out of that tree and splat face first into that pond. You'll have a lot of money, but you won't love, or find as much joy, in your craft.

Many people are perfectly fine with this trade off. I'm not.

I feel like I've just lost my best friend. I feel like I've been abandoned by the love of my life. I feel like I've divorced my hands from my heart and I have no magic meter. I can't stand this anymore, and something must be done.

Very luckily, I happen to have downloaded the right book to help me deal with this. I've been listening to Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink.

Basically this book digs into different ways we are motivated. For simplicity's sake I'm just going to talk about Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivation. The book goes into much more detail and into FLOW, which I think is super, super important, but for now, let's just talk about these:

Extrinsic motivation is the drive to make money and achievements. A great example of an extrinsicly minded person would be to make quilts only to compete with and win the big prizes at quilt shows.

Intrinsic motivation is the drive to simply do what you love. Not for the money, not for the end result, not for the finished quilt, or the used up fabric. Not for ANY END RESULT. Intrinsic is internal. Quilting for the love and joy of stitching. Nothing more.

When I started this project back in 2009, the night I started it, I remember being filled with Intrinsic Motivation. That humming, thrumming energy of passion and excitement and edge-of-your-seat anticipation.

I was started this project without any knowledge of what would happen monetarily. I didn't know it would turn into a business. I didn't know I'd eventually be a self publisher. I didn't CARE about any of that stuff.

I just wanted to quilt every day for a year.

But the reality was, 2009 saw some pretty big shifts in our family and the stability of Josh's job. Even as early as a month after starting this intrinsically motivated project, it became apparent that we needed another source of income, and FAST!

And so the tide turned from intrinsic to extrinsic. The designs were still created and posted with the same intrinsic mindset, but other byproducts - the books, dvds, etc, began to dominate with an extrinsic motivation.

I'm trying to explain this clearly and I really hope it doesn't come off wrong. I had to build my business quickly to support my family. As my motivation shifted, so too did the focus and speed of this project.

Things change, sometimes extremely quickly, and motivations must shift, but I do regret losing that initial thrumming excitement I used to feel with every new design.

So what now? 2 years later, we have built a successful online quilt shop. Thanks to all of you, my wonderful readers, this project continues to grow and spread and reach new quilters.

I've had to be extrinsically motivated all this time because, well, we needed to be able to eat! If I couldn't pay my mortgage, I don't think this project would have lasted very long anyway...

But does this need to continue?

I almost feel like a little kid again asking "Can quilting be fun for me again, please?"

Can I just quilt? Can I just create and not worry if it looks good? Can I just experiment? Does everything have to look amazing and spectacular, or can I be real and show you my ugly stitches, my failed projects, my mistakes?

I want to return to intrinsic motivation and simply quilt for the joy of quilting. Not for any specific goal. Not even for the finished, bound, and beautiful quilt. Just to stitch for the joy of it.

Maybe this is high minded and silly and you're right now rolling your eyes at my naivety. Maybe there isn't a way to balance this kind of passion and business.

All I know is, I've got to try to get my groove back, otherwise it will be pretty silly to call myself a quilter who doesn't make quilts.

So the first step I'm taking is to make a quilt for a friend. This is a quilt that I have to finish in just 1 week, so I can't over think it. I can't obsess about it or turn it into a huge multifaceted project. I am taking photos as I work on it, and shooting videos where I can, but I'm not going out of my way to turn this into something it's not.

It is a gift. A gift I'm giving to myself to return my focus to what I love and a gift for this friend to show her how much I appreciate her. A gift, nothing less, and nothing more.

Here's to seeking and hopefully finding this balance between the need for money (gotta pay the bills) and the joy of quilting.

Leah

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 311 - Pebble Ripples

Two textures I absolutely love are Pebbling and curvy lines of echoing. Let’s combine these too textures together to make this beautiful Pebble Ripples design:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Looking at this design now, I realize the name should be Soap Bubbles! It reminds me of the little bubbles and swirling lines of water in a sink of dirty dishes.


Difficulty Level - Intermediate.
While this design might appear intense, it’s really a simple combination of Pebbling and Echo Shell. First start with a little cluster of circles. I aimed to always have around 5-10 circles in each cluster of varying sizes.

All you have to do then is simply echo around this organic shape. The more rings of echo quilting, the more interesting this texture will become.

Design Family - Echoing. This family of designs are all created by first stitching a shape, then travel stitching a short distance and echoing multiple times. Some good designs to get started with are Echo Shell, Echo Arches, and Brain Coral.

Directional Texture - All Directions. I believe this design is so attention-grabbing because it’s a combination of a very flat texture (pebbling) and a very fluid, moving texture (the echoes). Keep in mind that the circles are always going to show up much darker on your quilt’s surface, particularly if you quilt them in contrasting thread.

Suggestions for Use - Of all the designs we’ve learned so far, the flowing, organic designs like this one are my most favorite. I’ll definitely be trying to figure out a way Pebble Ripples, Tree Bark, Flowing Lines, and Swirling Water can all go together in one fantastic quilt.

Back of Pebble Ripples
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel 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, August 15, 2011

Day 310 - Flaming Sun

We’ve been having a lot of wet, rainy weather here, which is really unusual for August in NC, typically the hottest, driest month of the year here. Let’s see if we can soak up a little sunshine with this Flaming Sun design:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis Flaming Sun is a nice variation of Sun Medallion, and it’s actually easier to stitch because, after the first row of triangle points, all the lines are wiggly and flame-like.

This organic, free flowing texture is much easier to achieve because there are no rules! Make the flames just as big, as long, as short, or as fat as you like and see how this can effect this simple texture.


If you enjoyed this video please share it with someone you know!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. While this design might look tricky, it’s can easily be broken down into simple steps: 1) Stitch a circle and fill it with a spiral. 2) Surround that circle with 5-8 evenly spaced points. 3) Stitch around these points, branching up with a wiggly flame shape. Bounce around the sun, branching out the flames until the sun is the correct size for your quilt.

Design Family - Center Fill. This design is stitched from the center of your quilt to the outside so it will work best in the open, uncomplicated areas of your quilts.

Directional Texture - Center Focused. You really can't ignore the center focused texture of this design. It acts like a bull’s-eye for your eyes so definitely use it where you want lots of attention!

Suggestions for Use - With autumn just around the corner, let’s think of some simple quilted gifts we can make with this design. Flaming Sun would look wonderful stitched into the center of a Christmas ornament or quilted into the center of a table placemat. You could even use this design on a large scale to finish a gift quilt quickly and easily.

I’m sure there are many more ideas of how to use this design. Make sure to share your ideas in the comments below!

Back of Flaming Sun
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel 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

Friday, August 12, 2011

Happy Anniversary!


It was 2 years and 2 days ago that I finally sat down, collected all my thoughts and dreams, and began this Free Motion Quilting Project.

The original goal, as you may know, was to create 365 free motion quilting designs in one year. I ended up slowing things down and now a project that was supposed to take only one year has stretched into 2.

But I have absolutely no regrets about this! Had I not slowed things down, I may not be posting right now. I easily could be in a padded cell because, quite frankly, that was a pretty insane goal on top of starting a business, raising a toddler, and dealing with all the family junk that's blown by the last few years.

And yes, to answer those lingering trolls who like to occasionally point out my failure, I will be publishing all 365 designs by Christmas THIS YEAR!

free motion quilting | Leah DaySitting here 2 years from the beginning, I can see how far we've come, but it's only just now starting to sink in just how big this project has become. I checked my stats on YouTube the other day. We've had over 2 MILLION views of the videos I've posted. I can't even fathom how many people that is!

Of course, not every video is perfect, and some of the early ones are downright terrible. Just yesterday I posted a video for 5 hours with no sound (it's fixed now by the way)!

I have to thank you all for being so very patient with me. Sometimes I run off on lofty tangents like my still uncompleted How Do I Quilt This Series and the popular Sewing Machine Reviews - both will be continued...sometime...

What can I say? I'm human! To a large degree I'm making this up as I go along!

free motion quilting | Leah DayBut even though I'm sometimes disorganized and flighty about random side projects, the one thing that has tied this project together from the beginning has been the free motion quilting designs.

So many of you have written in, emailed, commented, spoken to me over the phone, met me at guild meetings or quilt shows (thinking of you Ben H!) letting me know how much you love the new designs.

And so the designs shall continue! I'm not stopping at 365. Now that we're nearly at the original goal, this just doesn't seem like enough. How about 500? 750? 1000? Why put a number on it?

As we round out this anniversary and head into the fall, rest assured that the Free Motion Quilting Project is here to stay. It's only going to get bigger and better from here, baby!

free motion quilting | Leah Dayfree motion quilting | Leah DayTo celebrate this 2nd anniversary we've just launched a huge sale in our Quilt Shop.

Lots of great tools for free motion quilting are on sale, plus the new DOWNLOADABLE version of From Feathers to Flames has just launched.

For this week only, you can get the Australian Shadows Quilt Pattern for free when you order this new book!

Let's go quilt!

Leah

P.S - If you love the project, please share this post with as many quilting friends as you can!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 309 - Creative Flames

I’m in a super funky mood today so let’s try to come up with a super funky design! This is a terrific mixture of Flaming Paisley and a simple spiral. The two come together to make Creative Flames:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Looking back I realize we have several mixtures of Paisley and spirals! If you like this combination make sure to check out Spiral Petals, Spiral Paisley, Sixes Swirl, and Pointy Maze.

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Focus on first stitching your spiral with this design and make it as bit or as small as you like. Then pivot and swirl around with an organic flame shape. Pivot and echo the flame and spiral base as many times as you like.

When you get bored, just swirl into a new spiral in a slightly different direction.

Design Family - Pivoting. Have you checked out all the different pivoting designs we have lately? This is one of my favorite filler design types so there are more than 30 designs to choose from in this area. Make sure to check it out and try a pivoting design on your next quilt!

Directional Texture - All Directions. You can’t beat this swirling, spiral texture! Experiment with stitching the starting spiral as a closed spiral or open spiral to see how this can change the texture of the entire design.

Suggestions for Use - Swirling flames like this one look really neat when combined with graphic, straight lined designs. Maybe try mixing Creative Flames with Circuit Board or Left Turn, Right Turn for a really neat combination on the surface of your quilts!

Back of Creative Flames
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel 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, August 10, 2011

Self Publishing Process

Yes, I'm a Self Publisher, which could easily be a synonym for Obsessive Compulsive Workaholic or simply Really Insane Person.

free motion quilting | Leah DayOn days like yesterday and today, I find myself questioning my reasons for self publishing. T minus three days to launching the ebook version of From Feathers to Flames, I realized I'd made an error in producing almost every single graph in the book. There are over 100 illustrating graphs, so this isn't a small issue.

So for the last two days I've been glued to my computer, obsessively clicking away to fix these graphs. While not everyone can see the difference or even the reason why I felt the need to change them, the ONLY thing that mattered to me was that they get fixed right NOW.

This is one of the major differences between self publishing and going the traditional route with a big publisher.

If my book were in the hands of someone else, the design and quality of the illustrations wouldn't even be my problem. I'm a quilter, not a graphic designer! Why do I do this to myself?!

Trust me, I'm asking myself this very question even as I type it out.

The only answer I can come up with is this: self publishing just fits me right now.

At this stage in the game, I can take a couple months to focus on writing a book and producing a new DVD. I like the control self publishing gives me over the design, layout, and creation of my products.

I also like being able to produce these small, mini books which might have been passed over by a publisher who only wants to create big book of all 365 designs.

Does it take me more time, more energy, that could be spent doing other things I enjoy more? Yes, but that would be true of ANY book, or ANY project other than a new quilt. Even with a big publisher behind me, I might have to devote months of time to organize all this content into a reasonable format.

What I'm realizing now as I put the finishing touches on my second book is this - why does it always have to be so black and white - self publish vs. traditional publish? Why can't we do a bit of both?

My first three books, From Daisy to Paisley (published last year), From Feathers to Flames (being published right now), and From Square to Spiral (set for 2012) will all be self published because they are smaller, mini collections of designs based on difficulty level.

These books are small enough that we can print small amounts of these books at a time, wholesale them in limited quantities, and not go crazy with the organization and management of it all.

But a big book? That is a different story all together.

The more pages, the more expensive and complicated the book will be to publish. For right now, 98 pages is about all I can handle!

Comparing this year to last year's launch of From Daisy to Paisley, I can see I've come a long way. Last year issues that would hang up the book and DVD launch for weeks don't even factor into the equation of this book.

Deciding to launch the book and DVD separately, rather than together, has been a huge relief. Launching the ebook version first coming up this Friday is also a smarter move. Physical books must be printed (obviously) and if there's a mistake it would be impossible to fix it until the next print run.

So overall I'm feeling great! After two hard days of work, the book is solid, the graphs are absolutely perfect, and I'm extremely satisfied with my efforts.

No book is written alone and I have to thank Beverly Roberts of Fine Line Artwork for her awesome work on many of the graphic illustrations in the book. Super thank you also to Josh and my father-in-law, Chet, who are both far better at English than I am and willingly edited it.

I think self publishing is a lot like sky diving. Most people have absolutely no desire to go near it. The first time you do it, you'll likely hate it and swear you will never, ever do it again. Then you find yourself in a plane again and, what the heck! the second time is actually not so bad.

Hopefully the third time is the charm because I've got one more to go!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 308 - Pom Pom Parade

I warned you on Day 300 that the designs might start getting more complex. The nice thing is complexity isn’t always difficult!

Here’s a fun design that basically takes Layered Flower and cuts it in half so it can be quilted in a line. The resulting design is the perfect choice for the sashing of your next quilt!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It is hard to visualize how this design will work in your quilt sashing, so here's a graph fresh from the new book From Feathers to Flames coming out this week!

free motion quilting | Leah DayStitch one side from edge to center, filling in a half circle type shape, then travel stitch or break thread and move to the other side to fill it as well. If you find it hard to keep the Pom Poms the same size and shape, try marking just the half circles on your quilt like this:

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhile this may look complex, it’s actually just triangles layered together and overlapping in a half circle pattern. There’s really no right or wrong way of doing this so just have fun stitching the pom poms as big or as small, as crazy or as controlled as you like!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. For this design just focus on stitching along one line of your quilting space (so if this is in the sashing, stitch down the length of the sashing) and branch out with the triangles stitching them into the center of the space.

Try to estimate the space between and around each Pom Pom so you have plenty of room to travel along the other side and fill it as well.

Design Family - Edge to Center. Working this way is really interesting because you’re just concentrating on working from the edges into the center of the space. This method really lends itself well to sashing and borders because it’s so easy to just stitch down the length, filling these narrow spaces quickly as you go.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. Because this is worked in a line, it’s going to have a horizontal or vertical texture depending on where you put it in your quilts. Watch out for your thread building up around the base of the Pom Poms! If it gets too heavy your thread might break.

Suggestions for Use - This strikes me as a fun design to use for a bright, super cheerful little girl quilt. Maybe try filling the blocks of the quilt with Super Daisy, Layered Flower, and Delilah, and then fill the sashing with this Pom Pom Parade. It’s sure to make someone you know very happy!

Back of Pom Pom Parade
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel 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, August 8, 2011

Day 307 - Jagged Lines

Do you remember Flowing Lines? I started thinking about this design the other day and just how many variations I’ve created with it. Pebbles in a Stream, Goldilocks, and Matrix Flow were all created by stitching other designs within the gap spaces of Flowing Lines.

But what happens when those simple curvy lines turn jagged and sharp? How much can this change the texture and what could it do to all the variations? Let’s try it and see!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Creating new variations, or simple changes to the designs to create new designs, has been the key to this project. My favorite way to create a different texture is to simply change curvy lines into straight lines and sharp angles.

free motion quilting | Leah DayBut that doesn't mean this change in texture is subtle or simple! Changing from Flowing Lines to Jagged Lines will definitely change the texture and effect of the design on the surface of your quilt.

I’d use Flowing Lines for a quilt I wanted to appear very organic and free flowing. This texture softens and reduces the sharp angles of geometric pieced blocks.

Jagged Lines is going to stand out more on your quilt because the sharp angles catch your eye. Straight lines are rarely seen in nature and the effect will attract your attention.

I’d use this design over areas of curvy piecing for a fun contrast in textures, or in a particularly masculine quilt. These Jagged Lines remind me a lot of lightning bolts and they will add a powerful surge wherever you place them.


Difficulty Level - Beginner. This design is a great way to practice stitching straight lines and sharp angles. It’s also an excellent skill builder for travel and echo quilting and will make the perfect design to stitch into the sashing or borders of your next quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah DayDesign Family - Edge to Edge. Flowing Lines starts with a simple zigzaggy line stitched from one edge of your quilting space to the other. This can work great over wide areas (like within a block) or over a narrow space like sashing.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. You can’t miss the obvious horizontal or vertical texture of this design, but the more random and jagged the lines, the more multi-directional the texture will appear.

Suggestions for Use - I used Pebbles in a Stream in the center of this appliqu├ęd vase to enhance the organic, free form nature of the design.

But what would this look like with Jagged Lines stitched in this space instead? Definitely give this one a try and see what effects it will make in your quilts!

Back of Jagged Lines
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel 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
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