Thursday, February 28, 2013

13. Learn to Quilt a Tiny, Stacked Version of Flame Stitch

It's time to play with designs and today I'm playing with a very old friend. Flame Stitch was actually the first design I ever created by slightly changing a design I knew, and it can easily be credited with giving me the original idea for the Free Motion Quilting Project. From small seeds, massive things can grow and bear fruit!

But today's version of the design is very specific - I wanted to use this design to form the "feather" body of Duchess Reigns:

In order to create a layered, regimented texture like this, the design can't be random or freeform. Here's another version of the same design, stitched slightly differently to form this texture:

The difference is short, stacked shapes verses long, wiggly flowing shapes working in all directions. Two different styles, two different textures. Never underestimate the power of a wiggly line!

So for Duchess Reigns I know I need to keep things short, stacked, and under control. Here's a video on how this design was filled through one of her arms:


As you can see, filling flame stitch through this section will be a very different experience than if I stitched long wiggly lines very randomly through her body. It's really down to finding the texture you want and figuring out the best way to make it happen.

So definitely give both the short, stacked version and long wiggly versions of Flame Stitch a try and link up with us tomorrow to share where you've quilted them in Express Your Love!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Question / Answer Design Process

It's Wednesday and time to check in with what's on the machine right this second. No surprises here - Duchess Reigns is here to stay for a bit:

She's both big and heavy, and the trapunto I added makes many areas very puffy, which is making this a slow quilt to quilt. It's easy to stitch off the lines and make other simple mistakes simply because the quilt is fighting against me.

But I wouldn't want to work on anything else in the world right now!

I did have a few questions about dyeing yesterday that I'll answer here because this entire project was such a long process of sampling and experimenting. I literally spent 3 months stitching small samples of the quilt, dyeing at different stages and working to figure out what colors I wanted, what fills needed to be where, and what the overall impact of the quilt would be.

Most of this is guess work. The only way to know how she will truly look is when she will be finished, but it is possible to answer tons of questions within the design process very early in the game.

So why is the thread showing up? Karen at Fireball quilts noticed this and asked about it yesterday.
Here's the deal: Dharma Procion dyes are designed to dye cotton fiber, especially when used with soda ash. If I was dyeing another natural fiber, like wool or silk, I wouldn't use soda ash, but citric acid crystals to make the dye more acidic to bond with those materials.

But polyester is a man-made material and I have no idea what bonding agent I'd need to get it to accept dye. I ran some tests and found the if I used polyester thread to outline, it would not accept the dye and would remain white on the surface of the quilt:
Test Sample of various filler designs stitched in Isacord thread, then dyed two different colors.
This sample above helped me make many decisions in the process of planning Duchess Reigns. I could barely see where I was stitching to quilt the fillers in the corner and instantly knew waiting to dye to the very end (outlined and filled quilt) would be very challenging. Half the sample was left unquilted just to test if that would still be an okay stage to dye. Luckily it worked great and this is exactly how I planned to dye Duchess Reigns from then on.

But what if I didn't want this thread white? What other options do you have in this process?

If I'd wanted the thread to dye right along with the fabric, I could have always used 100% cotton thread. I even ran some tests with Aurifil 50 wt mako cotton, which turned out quite nice, though just not what I was going for with this quilt:

Same designs and dyes tested, only difference is this is quilted with Aurifil 100% cotton thread
 You can also see by these samples that at one time I was trying to work with 2 colors at once. Each time I tried this, it just ended up making a mess, so that idea was scrapped. Without a sample, you can never be sure of your results!
 I also received a few different questions from quilters about my chosen dyeing method. Why didn't I just dye the quilt in a big bathtub or in the washing machine?

The most simple reason is I tested this and couldn't get the desired results. I attempted many times to dye large panels of fabric - 80 inches square - and each time the colors came out unsatisfactory. When I tested the method of applying directly over a soda ash soaked quilt, things finally worked properly.

You need to understand the process of trial and error with this quilt. I started out with a wide open rule - I LOVE EVERYTHING! - and slowly narrowed down designs, motifs, color, thread, and the dyeing process.

At no point in time did I ever say "I'm not allowed to do that." That is a dangerous road to take with design, and I once did that with beadwork and know the path it leads to - frustration and disappointment. All doors were open to me. All possibilities were there, and with over 400 designs to choose from, that can be a bit overwhelming to try to pick just a handful to use!

So I constantly narrowed my focus with the question - What fits this quilt perfectly?

This isn't an easy question, but coming from The Duchess, I knew certain things had to remain - she needs to be both simple and complex (a paradox), the focus needs to be on the center medallion, then the borders need an equal design to complement the center, the background needs to be filled in a way that is both engaging, but not so flashy it's distracting, and so on.

This was a simple process of asking questions and seeking answers. Taking out all the question marks early in the process has made my life now just a joy of quilting. I'm not asking any questions, I'm trusting that I've made the right decisions and all I need to do is quilt and be happy:

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

12. How To Dye a Wholecloth Quilt

Hold onto your hats! It's time to change gears a bit on our project this year. I warned you from the beginning that I was not going to work in a linear fashion with Express Your Love. I have no desire to make this quilt along a dedicated step-by-step boring tutorial. Instead I'm going to throw a wrech in the whole mix and focus for the next few weeks on an entirely different quilt: Duchess Reigns:

But don't worry! You can easily apply all the information you're learning here to Express Your Love. You'll just have to be creative, stop and think and plan and make some decisions on what you want to try on your quilt.

Remember you don't have to try everything and some of these techniques might be something you'd like to come back to some other time. There are no rules here, so just have fun!

For today, I'd like to share with you a long video about the entire process of dyeing this wholecloth quilt. She's 65 inches square, plus another 12 inches of extra fabric on all sides, which makes her pretty monstrous to be dyeing at this stage.

I'd always planned to dye this quilt so you could actually see her complex motifs and designs
 But dyeing is exactly what I'd planned to do from the very beginning. After running a few tests, I found the best spot to dye her was right in the middle of the quilting process. So here's what has happened up to the beginning of this video:

1. Quilt Designed
2. Fabric marked using Fine Line Water Soluble Blue Pens
3. Fabric basted with 1 layer of Quilters Dream Polyester Batting in the Deluxe loft
4. All the marked lines were quilted with YLI Water Soluble Thread
5. Batting was clipped away from the background sections, leaving extra batting only in areas I want puffy.
6. Quilt was basted again, this time with Quilter's Dream Poly in the Select loft.
7. Quilt was outline quilted again, this time with Isacord Polyester thread in Silky White.

So it's at this point that the video starts. Enjoy!


So here's the list of steps in the video:

1. Quilt was soaked in warm water bath to remove all water soluble products (pen marks and thread).
2. Quilt was spun twice in the washer to remove extra water.
3. Quilt was soaked in a soda ash and water mix then spun again in the washer.
4. Tons of dye was mixed while the quilt soaked - 10 g of Dharma Trading Maroon dye to 250 ml of water - I believe I ended up mixing up this ratio 11 times.
5. Quilt was spread out over tarp covered tables and dye was squirted over the front and left overnight.
6. The quilt was spritzed with water the next morning when it looked like it might dry out.
7. After 24 hours soaked in dye, I squished the quilt in to the washer and ran it through a super wash cycle 3 times until a fat quarter of fabric came out white.
8. The quilt was soaked again in soda ash and dyed again with the back facing up.
9. After 24 hours the quilt was washed again 3 times until the fabric scrap came out white.
10. The quilt was dried and hung on the wall for the final video, looking like this:

 I've already taken it off the wall and begun filling! This is a slow process, but already her face is starting to take shape:

So you can see, this isn't a super quick, instantaneous process, but it certainly produces results!

Duchess Reigns is now in the filling stage and I plan to use many beautiful filler designs over the surface. For the next few weeks, we'll be learning how to use designs on this quilt rather than Express Your Love, but remember - it all works the exact same way, so watch, practice, and apply these new designs and techniques wherever you like best!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Sunday, February 24, 2013

UFO Sunday - Always Unfinished Project

It's UFO Sunday and time to link up our progress on unfinished projects. This week I'm working on a continuous, work in progress project that is always unfinished - the cleanliness of my studio!

This mess is largely due to being gone for so long, needing to move everything rapidly in order to dye Duchess Reigns, and basically it means a ton of fabric has become a big jumbled mess all over the place.

So today is a folding and organizing day! I'm hoping by the end, I'll not only be able to see my tables, I might even be able to use them!


By the way, this is going to be the last UFO Sunday link up. While I love linking up and seeing what everyone is doing, it just seems excessive to be linking up two times in three days. From now on I'm going to post and write about UFO progress, but no more link ups on this specific topic.

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Friday, February 22, 2013

FMQ Friday - Quilt the Town Red

It's Friday and I can happily admit I've been quilting up a storm!

This is Duchess Reigns hanging on my wall last night, fully outlined and ready for the next step. I basically sat down with her on Monday and began to steadily work through the corner feather areas and blazed through the remaining 3 corners in 2 days:

This is a LOT of quilting. 15 bobbins worth, if not more, but of course, you can barely see it because it's all white white thread on white fabric. I'm kind of done with this arrangement. It's time to quilt this town red, baby!

Why change color? Mostly because I can barely see where I'm stitching. I honestly have pity for anyone that makes white wholecloths a lot and enjoys it. I feel like I'm going blind just trying to see and stitch the outlines!

So rather than try to fill in the dark (or should I say the blinding white?) it's high time this quilt changed colors.

White and me are just not friends. Growing up, I never wore white t-shirts because didn't matter if I wore the stupid shirt for 5 minutes, I would always manage to spill something on it. White fabric never stays white for long with me around, and I'd never planned for this quilt to remain this color.

So how is this going to work? You'll just have to wait and see next week! Josh is helping to film this process so we'll share all the juicy details soon!

Now let's link up with what you have free motion quilted this week!  Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect!


Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fun on a New Machine!

Last Friday headed to Greensboro, NC to visit Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shop for a tune up on my Janome Horizon 7700 and..well...rather than get it tuned up, I just ended up trading it in for a new Janome Horizon 8900!
janome horizon 8900 red
The funny thing about this trade in is my new machine looks almost identical to my old machine! When we pulled the machine out of the box, the first thing I commented on was the red face. Kelley, my dealer, was just as surprised as I was to see it.

Apparently Janome has produced a limited quantity of 8900 machines with a red front (they usually come in gray). I just happened to be lucky enough to nab this one, which is great because my favorite color is this exact color of bright red.

As far as the machine itself goes, it's really very similar to the 7700. A few things I like a lot is the detachable even feed system. While I like how easy it was to use the even feed, the little teeth poking out the back of the machine would often catch on my quilts, especially if it was large and bulky. It was a minor annoyance, nothing more, but it's nice to see the improvement with the new fully detachable even feed foot.

janome horizon 8900
The 8900 does not have the little teeth for the even feed system hanging on the back.
On other differences - there's a minor change to the controls on the front of the machine and a few more decorative stitches.
janome horizon 8900 red
 I'm sure there are other differences, but I have only had the machine 4 days so I'm still not super familiar with it yet.

But boy does it stitch beautifully!

Because I was stitching from basically an older to a newer version of a very similar machine, the adjustment to the 8900 was very easy. This machine has a quieter motor and bigger foot pedal, so I've just had to remember that difference whenever I sit down to quilt. Other than a few big accidental stitches, it's been a wonderful transition.

As for WHY I traded and got this newer machine, really there's a whole host of reasons, but probably the biggest is that I like to stay with the current model these days. The 7700 is still a great machine, but the 8900 did fix a few small annoying issues and is an improved model overall.

I should also say that I did get a fantastic deal on this red beauty and it worked out perfectly to pick up a new machine rather than wait for the 7700 to get tuned up. Because this machine looks so similar to my older one, Josh couldn't even tell the difference! Had the machine been out of the box, I could probably have slipped it into the truck without him being the wiser!

Now if you live in NC or the surrounding area, I would highly recommend swinging by Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shop in Greensboro, NC if you're wanting to test drive any Janome sewing machine. Right now if you purchase a Janome Horizon 8900 from Kelley and Joanne Jones, you'll also get a free copy of my book 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

11. New Flock of Geese and Assisted Marking

Yay! I'm finally back on track! It's taken a few days to get life back to normal, but now it seems like everything should calm down...at least for a few weeks!

Let's get started today by tackling an old / new design. Flock of Geese was originally inspired by Caryl Bryer Fallert's quilt New Dawn. In this quilt paper pieced flying geese swirl into the center and along flowing lines. Basically seeing the triangles flow through curvy line spaces made me think of Chain of Pearls and how easy it is to stitch circles within 2 parallel lines.

So that was my inspiration when I sat down to stitch in 2009. But...I couldn't quilt it! I could not capture either the look or feel of what I was going for and after 3 failed attempts, I just decided this would have to do:

When it came time to re-stitch hundreds of these originals for the book 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs, I knew Flock of Geese had to change. I decided to return to the original inspiration and see if there was any way to quilt it the way I wanted it to look. With a little assisted marking, this is what I could quilt:

That's much more like it!

So what is Assisted Marking? Basically it's using marking to work out a specific element of the design, but not marking the entire design.

With free motion, I find that there's a lot of confusion about marking based on the questions I get every day. Yes, I do believe a true "filler" design should be able to be quilted with NO MARKING at all.

But there's a whole giant bucket of designs that can be helped and "assisted" with a tiny bit of marking. In this case, marking the bases of each triangle shape allowed me to visualize the triangles better so I could fill the remaining 2 sides of each shape freehand. Without the little marked line, my flock of geese becomes a jumbled mess. With marking, I'm guaranteed a perfect fit and gorgeous design:

Flock of Geese stitched in Isacord Pumpkin Thread
 Now for the question I know you're about to ask - how time consuming is it?

In all, it took around 3 minutes to mark all my wiggly lines and all the triangle bases within the space. That is not bad considering the hours of ripping that could have resulted if I had not marked this little bit of the design.

But as always, you don't have to do this! I'm just honestly admitting that I cannot quilt this design as well, as perfectly, as prettily without a tiny bit of marking to set the path in motion.

So you can see what I'm ranting on about, here's a video that teaches both the assisted marking and how to quilt over it with the complete design:


Have fun giving this design a try and make sure to link up with us on Friday!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Sunday, February 17, 2013

UFO Sunday - Still Getting Back on Track

It's UFO Sunday and I'm still in the process of getting back home, getting myself back in gear, and on track to finish many unfinished projects I had to set aside through January and now most of February.

It seems the train analogy of getting back on track is running through my head a lot. I was literally derailed on Duchess Reigns and had to roll her up and stuff her in a corner for 6 weeks, promising myself I'd find the time to finish outlining the lion / feather section later.

Can you tell what has been quilted with regular thread and what hasn't? I sure can't!
Returning to this project feels a bit like a train wreck. Where am I? Where do I start? I had developed a good flow through this complicated area, but now I feel lost in a jumble of stitched and unstitched spaces.

I can't count the number of times I've had to flip her over to the back to check the stitches. What is secured? What spaces aren't secured? Argh!

I guess it's just generally good advice to not stop in the smack middle of a section. If you have to stop a project, complete an entire step before rolling it up and putting it away. Don't leave it half stitched in a confusing mess of water soluble thread and pen marks.

But returning to this project is exactly what I want right now. 4 years ago I was finishing up on the original Duchess, stitching on miles of lace and thousands of beads by hand. This quilt will likely take much longer to complete. I have many miles of thread yet to quilt over surface. I haven't even reached the filling stage yet!

So here's to long projects in the depth of winter, with snow actually on the ground (amazing for my area of NC). While I've definitely gotten off track and will suffer a slow restart, ultimately there's nothing I'd rather be quilting right now.

Now what have you picked up to work on / finish this week?



Let's go quilt,

Leah

P.S - I spy with my little eye....a new machine! Details coming soon!

Friday, February 15, 2013

FMQ Friday - Getting back on Track

It's finally Friday! I'm home again after shooting new classes for Craftsy for more than a week in Denver. Being gone for so long really feels weird. It's like I've lost the whole beginning of February and now - whoa! - it's the middle of the month!

While it's absolutely wonderful to be home, we're actually jumping back on the road to head up to Greensboro, NC to visit Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shop. My Janome Horizon 7700 is sounding a bit loud and it's been more than a year since she was really cleaned and oiled so and I think it's time for a check up.

While I'm there...who knows...Kelley did mention something about new machines being in stock!

When I get home I plan to rest and relax and spend a good bit of time cleaning up my sewing room. I'm ready to spend a few days not smiling or talking or staring into any bright lights or camera lenses.

That sounds like a good recipe for jumping back on Duchess Reigns and knocking out her outlines so she can finally move on to the next stage - dyeing!

So what have you done this week? It's time to link up!

 Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect!



Let's go quilt,

Leah

Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Craftsy Classes Coming Soon!

It's finally time to spill the beans! Yes, I have been working on two very secret projects over the last 4 weeks and I can finally tell you that they are for Craftsy!

The quilt on the wall in the background will be taught in a new Craftsy class coming soon!
Just in case you've never taken a Craftsy class, you're in good luck because our Valentine's Day Sale has just started this morning. You can click here to get awesome deals on classes for all sorts of crafts - spinning, knitting, crochet, cooking, sewing, and of course, quilting!

 Craftsy Valentine's Sale: All online classes up to 75% off. Sale ends Fri Feb. 17th, at midnight!
Now this week I've been super busy filming two classes for Craftsy that will be coming out sometime this spring. Last week we shot from Wednesday until Friday and this week we shot from Monday until Wednesday.

For the record, that is a HUGE amount of filming, a ton of hard work, and a lot of time away from my family. But in terms of being able to teach and share two awesome projects, Craftsy can't be beat!

Here's a few teaser shots. Of course these classes are not available yet, so I'll be sharing more details closer to their launch:



But do remember I already have one Craftsy class available - Free Motion Quilting a Sampler - a super fun class that focuses on the basics of free motion quilting over a beautiful sampler quilt. No matter what sales Craftsy is running, you can always find my class available for 50% off right here:


Whew! I'm super beat, and I need to catch my flight back to NC, but before I do, I have to say a giant, super THANK YOU to Alissa, Andrew, and Carolyn who worked with me for 6 days straight and helped so much in capturing these lessons clearly and accurately. Another giant hug for Danica and Tiffany who worked magic with makeup and made me look beautiful no matter how bad I looked in the morning! I absolutely couldn't have done this without this wonderful team of people!

Let's go quilt!

Leah

Sunday, February 10, 2013

UFO Sunday - Have Fun!

It's UFO Sunday and I'm still away from home and all my many unfinished projects. Being gone for so long (I'll be returning home this Thursday), I've been taking some time to review the projects I have in progress and decide what I want to focus on when I get back home.

I'm definitely going to jump back on Duchess Reigns. That quilt literally had to be folded up and placed in a corner to make time for other projects and it will be very nice to pull her out and finish up the outlining.

Also on my plate is the 365 quilt, which is nearly done, but still lacking a border. It's going to be a big job to get the border attached at this stage, but definitely necessary to finish off the full set of 365 squares.
My biggest goal when I get home is to start working on these big projects a little big daily, rather than in fits and spurts. The key I think is to just make it fun, and as soon as a project feels overwhelming to set it aside and pick up another. Between Duchess Reigns, 365, and Express Your Love, I have a lot to play with when I get home!

Now what about you? What are you having fun with today?



Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, February 9, 2013

You Know You're a Crazy Crafter When...

You know you're completely crazy for your craft when you...

Manage to find materials, even when you told yourself you weren't going to start a new project on trip, end up spinning 5 ounces of wool in your hotel room, and finishing the skein in your bathtub:
Take a shuttle to an awesome yarn store, happen across a bead store, and an art store, then walk 15 blocks in freezing cold weather to get to ANOTHER super awesome fabric and yarn store (because 1 is never enough):

In the end, I have blisters on all my toes, my legs hurt, I'm tired, but blissfully happy watching the snow fall as I knit and spin up a storm:

Here's to the insanity of crafting!

Leah Day

Friday, February 8, 2013

FMQ Friday Link Up

It's time to link up with Free Motion Quilting Friday!

What have I been working on? Well...I'm ALMOST about to tell you...next week I'll finally be able to spill all the beans on these big projects. For now, I'll leave you with pick of the back to my latest quilt:

Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect!
Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, February 7, 2013

10. Learn to Quilt a New Version of Concentric Circles

Yay! I managed to wake up early enough to day to share this video and neat redesign of a cool design called Concentric Circles.
So here's the deal with this design - I never liked it. As you can see from the photo above, it looks a lot like Paisley, but it's quilted from the outside-in, which gives the internal echoes a bit of a weird look.
This is the redesigned version that I absolutely love. Basically it's two circles connected with a spiral. It's fun, it's beautiful, and it's an absolute knockout in the background of Express Your Love:

Concentric Circles stitched in Buttercup Isacord Thread
So why the redesign? When it came time to prepare the 4 inch squares for their photo shoot to create the book 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs, I took one look at this design and decided it had to be changed.

In the literary world, this is called a Retcon - changing something already established into something new, and you've probably noticed it in a book, but never had a name for it.

For me, changing some of the original designs just HAD to happen. First off, I had to re-stitch out over 100 of those 4 inch squares just to get them on darker fabric so the stitching could show. I figured if I was already having to stitch them out again, I might as well change the ones that made me cringe.

So here's the video for this new version! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:



By the way, have you checked out the Express Your Love Page? I'm linking up all the posts right here so you can always go back and check out the videos and try techniques anytime you like.

Remember, there's no rules on this quilt other than to have fun, so try what you like and forget the rest!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crafting on the Road

As you can probably tell, this is going to be a weird week! I'm actually traveling away from home this week and had high hopes for blogging as usual, but that isn't perfectly working out.

At times like this, I have to remind myself to keep life in perspective. I love blogging and sharing, but when I'm not actually at home with my machine and fabric, I should honor my reality share about whatever I'm really working on while traveling.

Of course, it's impossible to travel and quilt at the same time. If you know of a quilter that carries her sewing machine along into her motel rooms and is able to produce anything other than a balled up mess, that person is most definitely worthy of the Most Dedicated Quilter Award!

I've tried this many, many times and it's always resulted in utter failure. Probably the most frustrating trip was to Oak Island, NC, where I had brought an entire suitcase of projects along with me, sewing machine, feet, and what did I forget? The power cord to the sewing machine!

So on the road this week I've come armed with knitting needles and a crochet hook. How much trouble can I get into with such simple tools? At least these don't need to be plugged in!

I did have a small spindle in my carry-on bag, but ditched it in the truck in a last minute fear that my green hand-dyed wool would be mistaken for a nefarious substance and my spindle considered a weapon. My brain wasn't working too well anyway and I couldn't deal with those illogical fears on top of all the normal ones about planes crashing, so I stuck both under the front seat and booked it to my shuttle bus.

No, I'm not the best traveler. Or really the calmest. It's why I don't travel much. It just doesn't agree with me.

Back to the project, I just so happened to have stopped by a truly wonderful little yarn shop in Charlotte, NC called The Fibre Studio a few weeks before my trip. This was one of those terrific little shops where you browse through once and see wonderful things, then go back around and see even MORE wonderful things, and then a third time and you eventually realize the store has layers and layers of awesomeness all stacked together and even if you spent a week there, you wouldn't be able to take it all in.

 While there, I found these excellent kits of art and novelty yarns created by Stephanie Quattrini (Hanzon Creativity). While the kits are for everything from bags to collars, I can definitely see using a few of these as embellishment on the surface of Express Your Love!

So that's what I'm up to today. In my down time I plan to knit and crochet a free form collar of various black and white yarns. Free form isn't really my strong suite because I love symmetry so much, so this will also be a step out of my comfort zone.

That's it for today! Tomorrow I do have a video ready for Express Your Love so make sure to stop by the check it out!

Let's go quilt (or travel, or knit),

Leah

Sunday, February 3, 2013

UFO Sunday - Catching Up

It's UFO Sunday and my project for this week was getting all the Express Your Love goddess posts organized and linked up in one place. I managed to get it all done and you can check it out right here!

When it comes to working on unfinished projects, lately I've been looking beyond my sewing room and into other areas like my websites, my house, my yard, and finding things I've been meaning to do for years and taking them on.

The next goal is taming this back yard, a UFO that's been on the list for far too long. Since we moved here in fact!

Just remember that if you don't have a mess of UFOs in your sewing room, chances are there are other unfinished projects lurking around your house!  Find em' tackle em' and link up here!



Let's go quilt,

Leah

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Be Careful What You Stitch For...

Yeah, that title might also read "Be careful what you wish for..." but when it comes to quilting, I have a feeling words written in thread are a bit more powerful than words wished into thin air.

So what am I getting at?

Well, all I can share is my personal journey over the last month and how the last words I stitched - My Cup Runneth Over - ended up echoing through my life, my family, my quilts, in more ways than I can even fully wrap my head around right this second.

When I stitched out those words, I was meaning to remind myself of the full well-spring of love and energy I have for my family. It's also a way to express my gratitude, something I should do far more often, for the people that mean so much to me.

But what ended up happening is my cup literally overflowed...with work.

I believe I've quilted more in the month of January than in the entire year of 2012 put together. The 25 bobbins I wound at the end of December ran out by January 17th, were re-wound and ran out again on January 23rd. I have used up TWO 5000 meter spools of Isacord thread in ONE month!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining or griping about needing to quilt so much, but I can't deny that this month has been an overwhelming and difficult start to my year.

There are many times that I have felt pulled in one million directions by all the different projects for business, for this blog, and somewhere lost at the bottom, quilts for me.

When I first stitched "My Cup Runneth Over," I didn't really understand the full repercussions of those words or the ripple they would send through my life. I will say that the other words - "I Am Enough" and "I have an open and willing heart." definitely helped me get through the month.

They helped remind me of my strength and WHY I do everything I do. I have an open heart. I want to share and teach. This very simple desire can easily get lost in stress and pressure and fatigue. When your horizon is only storm clouds, it's easy to forget the light and warmth of the sun.

Seeing these words kept my purpose clear, and now that I've stitched myself out from that tight period, I'm able to dust myself off and realize that everything is okay. It was difficult, but I got through it and I'm ready to move on.

So what words for this month?

Well, my experience this month definitely taught me to consider ALL the meanings behind my words. I think I'll be safe with this phrase:

I am here. I love you. I will never leave you.

If this looks familiar, it's probably because you've read Eat, Pray, Love, the amazing book by Elizabeth Gilbert (I've linked to the Audible version which is perfect listen to while quilting). Her words of comfort often play across my journals as well, and these feel particularly important right now.

I need these words right now to help ground me back into reality. I am here. My mind needs to be centered and balanced and focused on the task at hand. I do not need to be falling into the sinkholes of the past or jogging up the gravel roads of the future. I need to be RIGHT HERE in the present.

I love you. I will never leave you. - These words are of course a mantra to my family, but they are also a dedication to myself. In stressful times, I often become my own worst enemy. I stop eating well, I sleep terribly, I bully and punish myself for any sign of weakness. I can be a brutal task master to the slave that is my own soul. This MUST end.

Being kind starts from within - how I treat myself - before it can reflect outwards to anyone else. I must learn to cultivate compassion for myself.

I know from experience the power of quilting to mold, shape, and force change into my life, and I do not doubt that quilting these words today will be like throwing a large rock into a lake, where echoes and ripples flow long after the stone has hit the ground under the water.

So what words will you quilt this month? Have the words you've stitched began rippling through other areas of your life? 

We will be learning other ways to quilt words through the entire year, so if you don't like the thread painting / echo quilting method, don't worry, we'll have a new method coming up very soon!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Friday, February 1, 2013

FMQ Friday - Distortion Delimmas

It's FMQ Friday and time to answer a great question that came in from Sue via email about our Express Your Love project:

How do I stop the quilt from distorting when quilting densely?

This is a great question because distortion definitely happens when quilting on a small scale. I think I should put that on a t-shirt - distortion happens - because it's just that unavoidable. Even a bed quilt, quilted very openly can potentially distort. Why?

Notice how the unquilted fabric around the words section is rippling.
Well the most simplistic reason is a quilt is made from fabric and fiber which bend, shift, twist and distort depending on how you treat them. Fabric is not cardboard! It's alive and moving and shifting, and when you disrespect it or mistreat it, it will definitely let you know!

So when you see distortion or sqewing when it comes to a quilt, there's a couple different things going on:

1. Basting security - When you baste a quilt, the layers need to be evenly layered and smooth. Ripples in one layer will effect the entire quilt, so basting carefully is very important.

This is a key reason why I don't prefer basting spray. I know many who swear by it, but I have just never found it capable of securing the layers of my quilts securely enough. I use straight pins and Pinmoors these days, but for years I used bent safety pins. The reason I switched is the pinmoors are easier to take out while quilting and softer on my hands.

2. Initial stitching - For quilts like Express Your Love and my other goddess and show quilts, simple basting might not be enough. It really helps to start getting the layers of your quilt even more secure with actual quilting stitches that run along the outlines of each piece.

Now for the wholecloth version I've been working on, I started by stitching along all the marked lines in Silky White Isacord. Lately I've been adding more colors to the quilt and this white color is showing up and looking a bit odd:

I have no regrets about that initial stitching because the quilt needed that security, but how could I have avoided those awkward white lines when I wasn't sure about my thread colors?

Simple - Stitch with a thread that isn't permanent. 

Water soluble thread is an awesome tool to have in your corner. I call this a tool and I mean it! It has an amazing ability to hold the layers of your quilt securely together for as long as you like, and then it disappears when you don't want it anymore. What an amazing tool!

So had I planned ahead and known that I was going to play with multiple colors on this quilt, instead of using regular thread, I would have done that initial stitching with water soluble thread instead. It would still look exactly the same right now with white lines peeking out between the different filler designs and colors, but in the end those lines would disappear leaving no trace after the quilt was soaked in water.

We will be working with this technique later this year and many others because water soluble thread is such a useful tool. When it comes to securing your quilt together, there's really no alternative to actual lines of quilting, so the first step should always be to outline just to get everything stable and ready to go.

3. Work evenly, work carefully - As you can see from the picture above, I'm knocking out the center sections of the quilt first and trying to work as evenly as possible through this quilt.

To be perfectly honest, there has been some distortion in my quilt already. Here's a shot of the words section and you can see the fabric rippling along the edges:

Notice how "bubbly" the quilted sections are.
The dense quilting will cause the surface to ripple, but blocking can usually smooth this out.
This happened because one section is quilted densely while the other is not quilted at all. The fabric with loads of thread in it is being squished and flattened, while the unquilted section is still loose and free.

To smooth out this section, I decided to knock out a big section of background before moving on with more word / breath sections. Had I continued to work dense fills across all those flowing sections, I might have created a lot more distortion within the quilt as the fabric was pulled repeatedly in that horizontal direction.

Also consider the direction you're moving in and the pressure and pull you're giving to the quilt. The meaning behind "work carefully" is this - never work too long in one direction. If you stitch through a word section running from left to right (logically this makes sense because it's the way we write words), make sure to work through the sections around it in a different direction, or at least rotate the quilt so it's not continuing to "pull" from that direction.

When you are moving your quilt around and shifting positions, make sure to do a lot more gentle pushing forward and around than pulling towards yourself. The reason is pushing will usually puddle the quilt up into itself. There's usually no resistance and the fiber appreciates that.

When you pull and tug towards yourself, that action is a distortion in itself, and there's always the chance the quilt could get hung up on something and distort further.

I see this happen the most often in the edges of a quilt. As you quilt through the borders, be VERY mindful of how you are moving and treating the quilt, and your attitude about it.

If you are in a hurry or irritated, you are probably pulling the borders totally out of whack and don't even know it. Slow down, calm down, and come back to the project when you are ready to take your time through these areas.

Now if this is totally confusing and has you feeling very intimidated, please don't worry! Picking up on nuances like this come with time and experience. 

And yes, I have distorted and skewed my fair share of quilts! Some of them were so badly stretched, they couldn't hang properly on the wall. I had one memorable wall hanging that literally looked like the borders were molded around a corner, I had been in such a hurry to get the quilting done I'd stretched deep waves into the edges.

This HAPPENS. 

Don't be afraid of it. 

Work with it, learn from it, and allow the experience to teach you something.

Just the experience of stitching small, on a tiny scale will blast your skill level through the roof! It's absolutely worth it to work through this project, even if it ends up with slight imperfections.

And I should also note that most small distortions can be sorted out with blocking. Most of my quilts won't hang on the wall straight, but after a solid soak and overnight pin, they are ready to behave.

Now with distortion covered, it's time to see what you've gotten up to this week with free motion quilting!

Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect!



Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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