The Free Motion Quilting Project: August 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

FMQ Friday - More Time to Quilt Needed!

Ain't it the truth! I need more hours in the day in general, and at least 4 more to quilt specifically! Still, even with limited time, I have made some progress on many projects which feels really good.

On Duchess Reigns I did get further into the corner, though the thread painted feathers are SLOW SLOW SLOW.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I was struggling with thread breaks quite often and made an important realization - dense thread easily dulls my needles. I've started changing needles every time I change bobbins in this section and instantly the thread breaks cleared up.

I've definitely made a giant leap forward in my pieced Express Your Love quilt by finally finishing the 1/4 inch hexagons for her face:

free motion quilting | Leah Day 

I turned the edge, which are SUPER delicate, and need to get this baby stabilized on the actual quilt top rather than floating around my sewing room. I am NOT going to piece more hexies for her body or arms!

Instead I'm planning to piece some very tiny strips and make a 1/2" pieced patchwork for those areas. I can do it all by machine and it will be a lot faster and less obnoxious than hexies, but still give me a great patchy effect.

After getting her face turned, I finished sewing my new top and even shot a video today wearing it!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm super pleased with the result, but it's still not 100% perfect. Adding extra space in the sides and middle front was fine, but now the shoulders are tending to lift and feel baggy, particularly when I'm sitting down. I'm going to continue to tweak and fiddle with the pattern until I'm absolutely happy with it.

Whew! Looking back on it, I guess I did get a lot done this week! Sometimes just taking photos and writing it all up is enough to give more perspective to my productivity. I definitely feel better about my progress and ready to go tackle some more projects sitting on the table right now.

So what have you been up to this week? Link up and share your progress and celebrate whatever you've made!

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, August 29, 2013

53. Foundation Piece a Scrappy Patchwork Mosaic

It's time to foundation piece another lock of hair for Express Your Love. These scrappy sections are coming together piece by piece and I've had so much fun watching the different colors and textures take shape.

Today I'm working on the green section and decided to pull out some techniques from bargello or trip-around-the-world tubular piecing to create scrappy strips of multiple fabrics:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So the first step to making this is to select your green fabrics and cut three strips all 1.5 inches wide. Seam all the strips together lengthwise, then fold the bottom strip up to the top and seam the last long edge so you form a tube.

After forming the tube, you can then cut 1.5" strips, opening the rings at different places to form random strips of many different fabric arrangements.

Reading this, I know it might sound complicated, but it's really very simple! Let's watch the video so you can see how it works!


When it comes to the actual foundation piecing, you're really just applying strips in a row much like we did for the red hair section. The only difference is now you're starting with pieced strips rather than just plain fabric.

If you like this style of piecing, you should really check out bargello style quilts. I made one wall hanging early in my quilting adventures and found it lots of fun, kind of like putting together an intricate puzzle!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Other Foundation Piecing Posts: 
Prepare Your Foundation 
Red Diagonal Section  
How to Create a Scrappy Mix of Colors 
Orange Triangle Section
Yellow Log Cabin Section  
Green Mosaic Section 
Blue Double Scrappy Section 
Purple Braid Section

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Feeding the Thread Monster

It's Wednesday and I've been busy feeding the thread monster this morning:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm definitely making progress, but it is so excruciatingly SLOW! I never realized in the design process of this quilt that I was making repeated decisions that would add hours and hours of work to the quilt.

Next time I test, I'm going to note time as well and if I run across a super time consuming technique at least I'll know what I'm getting myself into. Still, my goal is to be done with this quilt by the beginning of October. Knocking out 2 hours a day isn't much, but it's definitely doing more than nothing!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I'm hoping I can tackle this beast of a corner this afternoon!

Online I've been busy working on the quilt gallery on LeahDay.com. It's finally finished and I've set permanent redirects from the old site. Now all that's left is moving article pages over and then the site will be officially complete!

Working on computer stuff is never as much fun as quilting, and I have to be careful not to get too sucked into it, otherwise I won't manage to quilt anything all day. I've started setting timers just to keep time in check so I don't get lost in computer work all day.

Yesterday I even got back into the studio to sew up the shirt I cut out last weekend. After adding 1/2 inch of extra space in two different places, it's finally fitting properly!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I made the modification for my first shirt after taking the Craftsy class Sew the Perfect Fit. I didn't make enough of an adjustment, and I wasn't exactly sure where the adjustment should go exactly, so the first shirt I made of this pattern wasn't perfect. It pulled painfully around the armhole and I didn't have enough ease to feel comfortable.

This time around, I had started watching another class - Fast Track Fitting - which is all about taking the proper measurements first and applying them to the pattern. Proper measurements??? That's a novel idea!

Really it's shocking that I've ever made anything that's fit properly because my measurements have always been off like crazy. I'm looking forward to having a much easier time fitting and sewing new shirts from here on out!

All that's left on my shirt is sewing buttons on the front and turning the bottom hem. I'm off to take care of those two little tasks and then plan to feed Duchess Reigns at least 3 bobbins worth of thread this afternoon.

And no, I have absolutely no idea how many spools of thread she's eaten so far. My estimation is around 15 - 20 spools so far!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

52. Learn how to quilt Bellybuttons, Design #402

It's quilting time and I've stitched out a silly design for us to play with this week:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is Bellybuttons! It's a pretty simple pivoting design that stacks together easily and fills your quilt with this cool circular texture. I definitely think this would be an interesting design to use on a bed quilt!


Just in case you've missed the new links, you can download a free copy of the Express Your Love quilt pattern right here.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

 I've split the pages now so you will have 16 separate PDF pages to print and tape together using the handy diagram provided with the download. It's entirely up to you how to construct the top. We've so far quilted on a wholecloth and Spoonflower printed version, and we're in the process of piecing a completely pieced / appliqued version right now!

Speaking of piecing, my hexies are done so I'm off to turn the edge and get that goddess's face on!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I'll NEVER Do This Again...

Yeah, yeah, I know I say that a lot, but this time I really mean it!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I've finally finished piecing 165 super tiny hexagons to form the face for the pieced version of Express Your Love. These are 1/4" hexies, which means they are smaller than my big thumb nail.

I feel two sides on this project. On the one hand, I love this texture from so many tiny pieces fused together in such a beautiful mosaic arrangement. I wanted something beautiful and unique, and I certainly got it!

But I also got a super time consuming hand work project that spanned 2 solid months and distracted me from other projects I was wanting to play with in my spare time. Like my beaded / embroidered version of Express:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

She's been collecting dust all summer, despite the fact that I love the way the beads are looking on the surface of this piece.

I've also had to shelve my rebel cardi from the Craftsy class Beyond Basics Broomstick Lace:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is the first knitted garment I've gotten to this point and it's so cool because it's actually going to FIT properly! I'm really looking forward to getting back to it and hopefully finish it in September.

I certainly don't regret taking the time to piece 165 quarter inch hexies, I just wish I had more time to work on it and everything else too without feeling like one project was taking precedence over another.

This summer has been all about figuring out schedule and routines. I realize that the absolute worst thing I can do is start the day with a long to-do list because that inevitably means I'm overwhelmed before I even sit down at my sewing machine.

Instead, I break my day down into hours, and no, there are not enough hours in a day. I'm not risking burnout by staying up late and working all night, but trying to use the time I have each day most efficiently.

So yes, I probably WILL piece ridiculously tiny hexagons again, but I'll never again jump into hand piecing unless I have no other handwork projects in progress!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, August 23, 2013

FMQ Friday - 2 Hours to Quilt

It's Friday and time to show off what we've free motion quilted this week!This week I've had 2 days with a dedicated 2 hours to quilt on Duchess Reigns and this is how much I've gotten done:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is 1/2 of a corner section, so another 3.5 sections to go!

While the progress on this quilt has been extremely slow this summer, I've decided to make this a priority over the coming weeks and hope to have her completed by my 30th birthday in October. I think it would be a wonderful birthday present to have this quilt done and to move on with some other UFOs on the shelf.

I had a bit of time in the afternoon yesterday to cut out a new shirt:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This time I've adjusted the pattern again to increase space in the front and around the arm hole. It's been fun fiddling with the pattern and figuring out exactly what is wrong with the fit. My goal is to get the pattern perfectly fitting, then cut out several new tops for the fall.

So what have you been up to this week? I sure hope you had a chance to quilt something cool!

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, August 22, 2013

51. Foundation Piecing Log Cabin Blocks

It's time to tackle another hair section for Express Your Love with more foundation piecing! For the yellow section I decided to give log cabin blocks a try again, but this time with foundation piecing.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Of course working off a block pattern presented some challenges. For one thing, a log cabin is pieced from the center to the outside edges. Of course you could just piece one block in the middle of the wides section on the hair piece and then just keep adding strips until the space is filled.

But I didn't want to do it that way. I wanted to have several log cabins pieced along the lock of hair. Hmm...

The solution to this ended up being simple - piece the blocks first, then fill in the gaps between the blocks with more strips of yellow fabric. For the last 2 strips to seal the two blocks together, I folded over the raw edge and top stitched it down.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I couldn't figure out a way around the top stitching, and after completing the section, I had trouble seeing exactly where those lines were. A lot of times I'll agonize about a technique like this and get really nit picky about finding another solution. In this case, the simplest solution was also the easiest - just fold it over and stitch it down!

And if this totally doesn't make any sense, I'm sure it will make a lot more sense with this video:


In the end, this was one of the fussier foundation piecing designs I created, but I still think the end result was worth it! The yellow fabric also created some issues by being so light everything was showing through. By folding over the strip, the show through was eliminated, but it did result in a bit more time consuming piecing.

Have fun trying out this design and share your progress on Friday!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Other Foundation Piecing Posts: 
Prepare Your Foundation 
Red Diagonal Section  
How to Create a Scrappy Mix of Colors 
Orange Triangle Section
Yellow Log Cabin Section  
Green Mosaic Section 
Blue Double Scrappy Section 
Purple Braid Section

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back on a Schedule and Getting Organized

It's Wednesday and this is what's on my table today:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I've been dedicating all my morning time to quilting as much as I can fill on Duchess Reigns. She's finally coming along and I do feel good about the progress I've made in two days.

All summer I've been pretty stuck with this quilt because one project after another got pushed in front and I felt like I'd never have the time to work on this quilt.

This week I decided to set aside just 2 hours a day - from 8 am to 10 am to quilting only on this quilt and initially I though this would be way too little time to see any progress. I'm happy to say I was wrong and I knocked out 3 ray sections this morning:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Yesterday I also started a board on Pinterest to organize all the photos from this quilt in one place. I had to do some searching to go back and find the very first blog posts from last year. I'm still in the process of digging up the newer posts and listing them all in this page on Duchess Reigns in the new quilt gallery.

Getting everything linked and photos posted really makes me feel productive and organized. While it's just links and photos, it's still tying together all the loose ends of this quilt story and it's nice to go back and be able to read everything I've written about this quilt from the very beginning.

Later today I'm hoping to finish up this painting job:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I ended up changing the hair color to metallic gold and burnt orange and decided on bronze for the letter color. Jacquard Lumiere textile paints are really easy to use and can be easily painted over if you end up not liking the original color.

With this background quilt finished, my tables will be open and I'm looking forward to cutting out a new button down shirt. If you remember this picture:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

That was my first try at an adjusted Simplicity pattern. I learned how to make the changes in the Craftsy class Sew the Perfect Fit which is a great resource for altering a pattern to fit yourself properly, even if it requires drastic changes to the original.

I was pretty happy with this first try in cheap brown fabric, though the fit in the front still needs a bit more adjustment, so I'm planning to cut out a new version in blue and green.

I know I probably shouldn't be cutting out a new garment when I'm neck deep in other projects, but this shirt only takes about 2 days to sew and it's fun to make something that I don't have to quilt the snot out of in order to call it finished!

So that's what I'm up to today! I'm off to grab a bite to eat and then hit the paints this afternoon!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, August 19, 2013

50. Learn how to Quilt Missing Piece, Design #401

It's time to quilt! Today I'm jumping back on the Spoonflower version of Express Your Love and quilting out a super cool design called Missing Piece:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is very boxy and blocky, which makes it a bit tricky to fit within curvy, free form areas. If you're struggling to place it, try drawing straight lines across your quilt with a ruler to give you a reference for where to line up your starting squares.

Stitching this into a square or rectangle shape is a bit easier:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I also stitched this design on a larger, softer scale in the Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers Volume 1:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Hopefully you can see that no matter where you stitch this design, and no matter how big or how small, it's always going to have a distinctive effect for your quilts! I really think this would be a great design to use for a man's quilt when you're looking for something with a more masculine effect.

Now let's learn how to quilt it:


Yep, you're going to deal with weird areas in this design and you'll just have to decide how best to fill those spaces as you hit them. Just remember this isn't one of those things that is either correct or incorrect - no grading allowed!

Now just in case you've been missing this info, let's set up some categories for this design! Click the links below to find more designs that are similar or easier to quilt than Missing Piece:

Difficulty Level - Intermediate

Design Family - Stacking 

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Friday, August 16, 2013

FMQ Friday - Tales of Patience and Insanity

It's finally Friday! Working from home, I hardly ever celebrate Fridays because they're just like any other day to me, but this week I am because NEXT week is the start of school and the return of normal routines to our household. Quite simply: I love routine. Summer is great, but I have to admit I like my day a lot better when I have a logical reason to wake up at 5 am!

This week I've been mostly working on the video background quilt. Should I give this thing a real name?!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I only have 4 more sections to fill with Basic Chevron and then I need to paint the letters so they stand out better. For some reason every time I look at the letters I have to stop and spell to double check that they are right. I don't know why, but they just look funny to me...

It's taken a lot of patience to stick with this background because I know 90% of the quilting is absolutely not going to show in the video. It's mostly quilted to stabilize the background so it doesn't get wrinkled and hang weird.

Of course, another project I've been playing with is requiring a whole different level of patience. I'd go so far as to call this insanity:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Yes, this is 161 hexagons that are being pieced together to make the face for Express Your Love. The jury is still out on whether I'll do this for the body and arm...I know I WON'T be using the 1/4 inch size again!

Just in case this isn't clear how these guys come together:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Yep, that's over 100 hexies with the seam allowance turned and basted to the precut paper, then whip stitched together. At least the whip stitching is relatively quick!

So what insanity are you getting up to today? Remember, it's not truly insane if you're having fun and you're excited about the finished 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, August 15, 2013

49. Foundation Piecing Triangles

It's time to jump back on Express Your Love and foundation piece another section of hair! This time I'm working with orange fabric and attempting to piece triangle shapes.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I say "attempting" because this entire hair section was really a situation of cross-your-fingers-and-hope-your-idea-actually-works! In the end it worked out great, but this is one of those situations I should remind you of three simple rules I'm using for this version of Express Your Love:

1. This will not be perfect. I'm not even trying for an exact shape
2. So long as it's pieced and nothing is falling apart, it's just fine.
3. Ultimately I just want to make some cool orange fabric for the hair.

So you can see, from my rules, agonizing over perfection is not the point!

But a question cropped up this week about the red hair section where we foundation pieced diagonal strips and it's probably something several quilters are wondering:
I was wanting to get some clarification on your foundation piecing "red hair" video. My issue is that first of all I'm a beginner and I've only seen piecing done when you stitch on the paper side. This way it ensures that I'm stitching a straight line but you stitch on top of the fabric so I was just wondering why you do it this way? What's the difference / purpose? ~ Tanya
This is a great question and it's one I'm often asked and find myself asking of different teachers - WHY did you do that? Why did you choose THAT method?

The simplest answer is: because that's the way I felt like doing it!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I know how maddening that answer is, but it is the most truthful. That section of red hair and this orange section we are learning today could probably be pieced in 100 different ways. Which way is the "right" way?

The truth is this is not something that can be broken down in to right and wrong methods. Think of tying your shoelaces - there's the rabbit-ear method and the loop-over-and-pull-through method. Which way is right? Well, both will get you a tied shoe in the end, so is there a right or wrong method to use? No!

Use what method you like, what works for you, what makes you happy!

Here's an analogy for new techniques that might be helpful - every technique is like a tool in your tool box. When you're first starting out, you only have a few tools. You learn one way to piece and that's like a hammer.

A hammer can do a lot, but wouldn't it also be nice to have a screw driver? How about a saw? Think of how many tools you could possibly have in a tool box, and that is how many techniques you might one day have to pick from when working on a quilt. Some techniques will be faster, some will stretch your abilities, and some will be time consuming and difficult, but the ending effect is worth it.

Now there's two downsides to this technique / tool analogy - rigid thinking and excessive tools.

Rigid thinking is probably more common, and I like to think I'm helping to combat this by throwing so many different ideas your way. Basically it's the idea that once you know one technique, that's all you need to know, it will work for everything, so no thank you, I don't want to learn fusing, painting, thread sketching, or any of those weirdo art techniques. MY quilts are made the RIGHT way with THIS technique.

This can also lead to rigid thinking about materials, which I've ranted about on more than one occasion. The Quilt Police would love for everyone to use the same 3 techniques and with all cotton materials all the time because everything else is WRONG WRONG WRONG!

Man, that would be a boring world to live in if they got their way! All I can say is I disagree with the Quilt Police and anyone trying to apply a right or wrong to quilting. There is no right or wrong because we are all arriving at the same place in the end - a finished quilt.

Having access to excessive tools - 10 different ways to piece the same block, 5 different ways to applique shapes, etc etc etc, is the opposite problem and it's one I suffer from. When you have 10 choices for how to construct any particular area of a quilt, how do you make a decision?

Still, I'd rather have way more tools in my toolbox than have only a handful that bore me to tears!

So ultimately to answer Tanya's question - I'm foundation piecing this way because it's allowing me to piece a simple series of triangle shapes without excessive planning or prep work. If I did this with paper piecing, I'd have to design the template, scan it into the computer, fiddle with it, print it back out, tape it together, and then start piecing, be super accurate about placing the shapes and lining up the lines, and then have to fuss with tearing the paper out at the end.

I didn't want to mess with any of that so I'm instead foundation piecing with the fabric face up so I can see what I'm doing and plan the design from the front. Really my choice to piece this way is more out of laziness and a desire for free-form piecing than anything else!

So understand if you like paper piecing, you can absolutely design templates and approach this from a precise paper piecing technique. That is perfectly fine. You could also cut out pieces and piece them together with accurate 1/4" seams from traditional piecing and get the same result that way too.

Right here I've outlined 3 different ways you can achieve the exact same result. Which way is the right way? I hope you know the answer!

Now enough ranting about techniques and toolboxes! Let's watch the video and learn how to foundation piece triangles:


Yeah, I did a little ranting in the video too. I'm just really wanting to make this point clear - any technique is RIGHT if it's the one you want to use and it will give you the desired effect you're looking for.

More than anything else I hope you will at least try this idea out to see what happens. It might become your next favorite technique and lead to multiple uniquely pieced quilts, but the only way to know is to try something a little different and cross your fingers that it all works out right.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Other Foundation Piecing Posts: 
Prepare Your Foundation 
Red Diagonal Section  
How to Create a Scrappy Mix of Colors 
Orange Triangle Section
Yellow Log Cabin Section  
Green Mosaic Section 
Blue Double Scrappy Section 
Purple Braid Section

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happy 4th Anniversary!

Whoo hoo! It's the 4th Anniversary of this Free Motion Quilting Project!

It's crazy to think we've been stitching and learning together for 4 years! Sometimes it feels like I've been doing this much longer, and sometimes it feels like I've just gotten started. Either way, I'm so unbelievably happy that I started this project back in 2009 and began sharing filler designs with all of you.

And YOU! You guys are so awesome! I don't think I would be blogging today if it wasn't for the amazing support of so many wonderful quilters.

Whether you've watched videos, commented, shared the project with your friends, picked up something from the Quilt Shop, bought a class from Craftsy - no matter how you have done it, you all have supported this project in some way!

So I have a lot of announcements to make today! Many things have been in the works for several months and it's finally time to share all the juicy details. Let's get started with this special video:


Yes, it's time to officially announce the launch of our new website: www.LeahDay.com!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This website has been in the works for several months. We've built a site that is now much easier to find what you're looking for and get what you need.

To celebrate the 4th Anniversary of the project and the grand opening of this new quilt shop, we have a special Coupon Code: HAPPY4TH that will take 15% off your order. This offer is only good until 8/18/2013 so make sure to give it a try today!


Also launching today is our latest DVD Free Motion Quilting from Flames to Feathers. This two hour DVD features 33 designs stitched out in a real quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The Squares and Sashing Quilt Pattern is included with the DVD so you can piece your quilt top easily, but you can also find a printed Spoonflower Panel if you're looking for a speedier way to get started.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Another thing we've recently changed is the book Free Motion Quilting From Feathers to Flames. We needed to re-print this book earlier this spring and decided to make some changes to the layout and pictures so the book can be an even better resource for free motion quilting.

Fundamentally this is still the same book as the original with the same designs, but we've switched to red coil binding, a professionally designed cover, and updated color-coded pages so you can find the chapter you're interested in much faster.

Both the book and DVD are designed for any skill level beyond super beginner. If you are just starting out and unsure of even how to put a darning foot on your machine, Free Motion Basics for Beginners might be a better fit. Once you're through that basic setup phase, however, branching out with new designs and quilting real quilts is the way you're going to gain serious skill in a short space of time.

And one last announcement: both this book and new DVD have been combined in the Fun Combo Kit! Save money when you get both the inspirational book and how-to DVD in one set.


Whew! This has certainly been a lot to get together, but it feels good to release it all today. Again, I sincerely thank you for being here, for reading, for watching videos, posting comments, participating in the weekly Quilt Along, and for sharing this project with your friends.

Here's to the four years we've shared, and here's to many, many more to come!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I am not enough

It's an obvious thing to say that every action has a consequence, but recently I'm realizing another truth: focus on a specific task might bring unintended clarity to an entirely different task.

That's a clunky way of saying - if you choose to go down a road, don't be surprised when you pass crap along the way.

This year I set out with the intention of to express my love to my family, and by that extension, to the entire world. As I set out on this goal, I had only the happy open minded intention to be more peaceful, to smile more, to play with James more freely, to take life more lightly.

But somewhere along the way I began to realize that expressing my love to my family has more to do with expressing it to myself. In order to say "I love you." and smile with an open heart, I have to first be able to say those words to myself and smile at myself too.

Of course, I know all this already! Wasn't "I am enough." the very first words I wrote on the quilt? Haven't I spent 3 years sorting out self love and digging through the various sinkholes that prevented me from feeling this freely?

It seems that this road, this focus, has gotten a bit twisty. In my attempt to express love to my family, I ran across The Happiness Project, which has solidly taught me what actions make me happy, which make my soul punishingly miserable, and how much all of this has to do with how I feel about myself. I love this quote:

In order to forget yourself, you must focus on yourself.

So focus I have and in reading the books Focus and Quiet, I came to even further realizations and revelations about my quiet, extremely introverted nature. I find myself over and over asking "Why have I denied this part of me for so long? Why do I make decisions that are not in my interest or fit my personality? Why can't I say no when someone wants me to do something?"

It seems the current question of the day is - why can I just be who I am?

And the instantaneous answer that arises is I am not enough.

I thought I was through all this crap! I thought I had myself all figured out. I thought my cutting out my abusive mother and sisters 3 years ago I would have found peace and tranquility by now!

Why can't I kick this?! What further hurdles do I have to jump? What mountains of effort must I climb until I find the simple ability to accept me exactly as me?!

The problem is, in all this digging, I'm finding that finding the real "me" is a hell of a lot harder than it should be. I have worn a mask of survival for so very long I can appear very extroverted in almost any situation. I can deny my need for quiet for weeks and months on end. I can force myself through events and jobs that will never, ever be fun or enjoyable or even pleasant for me, all for the simple reason that I said I would do it.

Why do I keep agreeing to do shit I don't really want to do? Why can't I say no? Why can't I know myself well enough to anticipate how unhappy, overwhelmed, and under appreciated I will feel?

The simple answer: I do not believe I am enough on my own. My soul is unsatisfied and seeks more, more, more, but what I know I eventually will get is burned out, sick, and perpetually angry.

Yesterday I told Josh all I want to do right now is go downstairs to work on Duchess Reigns, shut the door, and quilt like there's no tomorrow. He asked me why I didn't. I explained that Duchess Reigns has no point. I'm not planning on showing her now. She means too much to me and I can't risk anything happening to her in transit to a show.

So logically Josh asked why I can't make her for me, make her for my wall simply to enjoy. My instant reaction, which brought tears of shame and anger straight to my face was this: I'm not enough for her.

What I meant to say was this: she is beautiful and amazing and even though I designed every motif and stitch that is on the surface, it seems like far too big a project to make for just me. I'm not worth it. I don't deserve this.

And then I stopped and realized how insanely stupid that sounded. I gained the skill, I have the knowledge, I designed the damn thing, so why can't I make her only for me?

That's when I hear my mother's voice, "It sounds to me like you're being selfish."

Is this selfish? To make something just for you, just because you can, just because it's beautiful? Does everything I do have to have to be some great step in a grand plan of my life and business? Does everything have to be about making money or expanding my brand or name recognition? Can I just make her for me?

I'm so tired of weighing everything. I'm so tired of questioning. I just want to point myself in a direction and go and trust that it will support me. I'm terrified so often now that my world will come crashing down. I realize more and more that this lack of confidence has more to do with my lack of self love than anything else. I do not trust myself.

What is the solution? I must make her for me, and only for me. She will be a testament to exactly what I can do only for me, as selfishly as possible. I believe by being selfish, I will become even more giving because my needs will be met and giving from a place of fulfilled contentment is always going to be more open and free than from a place of resentful uncertainty.

I'm giving you a gift, Leah. Please accept this gift and go quilt.

Monday, August 12, 2013

48. Learn how to Quilt Pearled Feather, Design #400

We've just hit design #400! And this is the week of our 4th anniversary! It's been a busy day finishing up lots of different things for our anniversary sale and a few surprises coming your way on Wednesday.

But before I announce anything, let's learn how to quilt Pearled Feathers!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is a pretty straight laced feather with the addition of simple pearls down the center stem. The key to this design is spacing your center stem wide enough for nice sized circles to fit within. To space the circles themselves, watch the video to learn my trick for visualizing the circle shape without marking:


No, freehand circles are never perfect. As you can see from this close up of the quilted square, many of my circles are closer to ovals, but when you step back from it, they still appear like a row of circles. As always, don't sweat the small stuff! 

If a circle is particularly weird shaped, swirl inside it with a spiral and fill it until it looks right. The only person that knows it's hiding a mistake is you!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Make sure to stop by Wednesday to celebrate the 4th anniversary of this Free Motion Quilting Project!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why Are You Doing That That Way?

Ever since I started quilting I heard this question at almost every guild meeting, asked it myself to every instructor, and today hear it nearly daily - Why are you doing it that way?!

The simplest answer: because I want to!

Because that's what feels right, right now. Because I have those materials or those steps don't seem too difficult. Whatever the reason, underlying it all is the simple desire to work THAT way.

But today I received a question from a student specifically about Foundation Piecing Diagonal Strips and Curves and I could easily see why she was confused:

I would like to get some clarification on your foundation piecing "red hair" video. My issue is that first
of all I'm a beginner and I've only seen piecing done when you stitch on the paper side. This way it ensures that I'm stitching a straight line but you stitch on top of the fabric so I was just wondering why you do it this way? What's the difference/purpose?  ~ Tanya

For this particular situation, there's probably 100 different ways to piece this section! It's very understandable that Tanya, or any other beginning quilter, is confused.

But the answer is the same as above - I pieced it that way because I felt like it!

To clarify further: deciding to foundation piece the hair sections mostly came from a desire to try a form of piecing I haven't used very much. I could have easily pieced this in a more traditional method, by cutting strips and carefully piecing them together to make a fabric big enough to fit that hair section.

But I also needed more stabilization to make those particular pieces and I needed them to be at least 2 layers because that dark log cabin background really shows through. So foundation piecing was an easy choice to make.

So why didn't I paper piece it with marked lines and very accurate diagrams? Because that wasn't what I was going for. I didn't want to mess with that kind of precision, and it's totally unnecessary for this particular project. I also didn't want to have to fiddle with tearing the paper out after piecing.

The trick to understand with this particular project is we are making the rules up as we go! While yes, there are many other more common methods to make this lock of hair, this just felt right at the time.

The key to this post is understanding that every technique you learn is just another tool in your toolbox. 

Tanya, you have learned ONE method for paper piecing and that is super cool, but think of it like a hammer. You can't build a house with just a hammer, can you? You really need more tools to play with.

And the decision to use one technique over another? Well, it's exactly the same as deciding to saw a board with a hand saw or a circular saw -  in the end, the board will be cut, the only difference is in the time and method it takes to get there.

I'm not saying that every technique will work for every quilt. Part of the fun of working through so many versions of Express Your Love has been to finally test and try out some techniques I've been too scared to use in a goddess quilt before.

Yes, I have actually been too afraid to try different piecing and applique techniques! Sometimes when you get good at a particular technique it becomes a routine to use it because you can easily predict the results and it feels easier each time.

But sometimes those techniques get boring and stale, but changing to something new...that can be scary!

My goal with this quilt is to break out, break free, learn new things, and hopefully share this freedom with everyone else. Is it kind of scary and overwhelming? YES! But is it also fun and exciting? YES!

Also one last point - if you absolutely don't agree with the way I do something - DO IT YOUR WAY! I'm not the Quilt Police and I will not arrest you for using methods you like better. It's YOUR QUILT after all!

Let's go quilt!

Leah

Friday, August 9, 2013

FMQ Friday - Feathers and Pleats

It's Friday and time to link up and share whatever we've quilted this week! Today I'm still getting lost in Swirling Feathers in the new video background quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

While this is certainly a lot of eye candy, I've decided to also shoot some photos of the many mistakes I've made in this quilt. Here's a few pleats in the feathers in the left and right corners, probably created because I didn't follow my own advice and stay within 1 inch of the edge:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Here's a great example of imprecise travel stitching. There's something about lighter fabric with darker thread that just shines a light right on every single tiny travel stitching mistake:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So why this showcase of mistakes?

The #1 purpose is to highlight the fact that I make mistakes every single day.

I'm quilting, therefore I'm making mistakes. This background isn't perfect. If you came over right now and put your nose right up on it, you would see all sorts of interesting thread issues. I'm not perfect and I don't quilt perfectly, especially when I'm in a hurry.

I'm not going to rip any of this stuff out. For one thing, none of these mistakes matter. They are insignificant and will not hurt the quilt in any way. If I had used a cotton batting with lots of shrink, these issues would be completely hidden in the folds of the shriveled quilt after it was washed.

Looking back at this quilt, I see how much I magnified these mistakes in my mind to make them seem bigger and more ugly and noticeable than they really were. Stepping back 5 feet, I can't see a single one.

Ultimately this post has one point: go quilt. Don't worry about the little mistakes. You can agonize over the little stuff, get all upset and pick every little thing out, and where will you get? You certainly won't be able to get much quilting done with a seam ripper in your hand!

So what have you been up to this week? Let's see your beautiful quilting, and yes! share mistakes or issues too if you have a photo!

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, August 8, 2013

47. How to Create a Scrappy Mix of Colors

Let's jump back to our pieced version of Express Your Love today. Last week we learned how to make the simple diagonal red sections of hair and it will soon be time to move onto each color in turn as we foundation piece each hair section.

But before we piece another section, let's learn how to mix colors together to create this effect for your quilts!
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Creating a color mix like this is really simple, but I didn't learn it from playing with fabric. I actually learned how to create solid color mixes from beadwork.

I didn't have a huge collection of beads when I first got started, and I loved creating large necklaces that required lots of beads of the same shade. Instead of waiting to be able to buy all one shade, I instead mixed several different colors together to create a mix of enough beads of similar colors in order to make the necklace.

That lesson in color mixing - mix equal parts of similar colors until you get a nice collection of that solid color. The effect is rather scrappy, but it often adds more texture to the quilt than just using one solid shade.

So to illustrate how this works I first show you mixing beads and then show you how to pull from scraps and build a collection with fabric as well:


The one thing to remember is color isn't scary, it's fun! Pull some fabrics, hang them up on the wall, step back and look at them. What do you like? What do you not like?

This is 100% down to personal opinion, so there are no wrong answers. I might pull a color out of a collection that you would leave in. If you gave 5 quilters the same stack of fabrics, they'd probably each come up with something different.

So PLAY with color and have fun!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Other Foundation Piecing Posts: 
Prepare Your Foundation 
Red Diagonal Section  
How to Create a Scrappy Mix of Colors 
Orange Triangle Section
Yellow Log Cabin Section  
Green Mosaic Section 
Blue Double Scrappy Section 
Purple Braid Section

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tales from the Background Quilt

It's Wednesday and time to see what's really being quilted on my sewing machine! Today I'm getting lost in Swirling Feathers, a fun design I love to use when needing to cover loads of space in a short amount of time:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

What is needing to be quilted so quickly? A new quilted background for videos!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This was where the background was at last week. Over the weekend I pulled out my Jacquard paints and went to town with metallic colors on the face of the goddess. It took a bit of fiddling as I started with this set of colors that...well...didn't work so well together...


After a good bit of fiddling, I decided the blue and green had to go and luckily was able to paint over those colors with more metallic bronze and burnt orange. This combination works well and is quite similar to my new goddess logo too.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

After the painting was finished, it was time to layout the letters above and below the goddess design. After a lot of back and forth, I decided against fusing fabric for the letters. Instead I cut out the letters in paper, trimmed them up to make a new font, then laid them out on the quilt and marked the outlines for quilting:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So right now the letters are just quilted with parallel lines, but I plan to fill in these areas with more paint...if I could only pick the right color!

In the meantime, it was time to pick quilting designs and thread color. In situations like this, I don't guess, I TEST! I stitched out small samples on leftover purple fabric to gauge thread color and design and pinned it up to the left of the goddess face before shooting the photo.

It's always easier to get an idea of what a design will look like if you've actually stitched it out and have a sample close by. I ended up deciding to use Paisley quilted with a light purple color and Swirling Feathers with a medium blue color. The subtle contrast is quite nice!


free motion quilting | Leah Day

After quilting the feathers, I still need to pick one last design for the remaining rays. I'm thinking some straight lines and sharp angles and a darker color of purple thread. As before, I'll probably test the design and thread color on a small scrap first, just to make sure it's not conflicting badly with the other colors in the background.

So a lot of quilting remains and no, this isn't a project I can finish in 1 hour or less. *Sign* I'll likely feel better about all my various overwhelming projects after baking some cookies. At least cookies can be finished in 30 minutes, make the house smell wonderful, and...oh yeah...I can EAT THEM!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

WANTED: A project I can finish in 1 hour or less

I love quilting, but I'm getting really sick of huge projects that take up multiple months, or now YEARS, of my life. I need more speed!

Lately I've been waking up at six, quilting solidly until 10, and when I look down at what I'm working on, I don't see much progress, or at least not as much as I'd expect for four hours of work.

And because I have so many huge projects in progress, all I have to do is glance around my sewing room and find another monster on the floor, or on the shelf, or under the table, all waiting for me to work on them too. Progress on one project never feels like progress because there's so many other projects competing for my attention.

Finally this morning I slept in. Those projects can all go hang themselves. I need to reduce my stress, calm down, and refocus.

When I finally got up, I decided to make our favorite breakfast: Toad in the Hole. This is how you do it:
  • Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a flat skillet on medium heat.
  • Place a piece of bread on top and let it get toasted and buttery on one side.
  • When perfectly toasted and crisp, flip the bread over and cut out a circle on one side with a cookie cutter.
  • Put more butter in the hole in the bread, then crack an egg into the hole as well.
  • Let the egg cook on one side until you mostly see white all around the yolk.
  • Flip the bread and egg over and cook from the other side. It's done when all the white is cooked, but the yolk is still runny.
  • Serve with salt and pepper and use a knife to cut up your bread and dip it in the egg yolk. YUM!
All told, this takes around 5 minutes to make and while I'm making it I usually make a cup of tea, think about my day, drink some orange juice, and clean up the kitchen.

Today I realized halfway through cooking Josh's egg that this is the perfect project: it's fast, simple, constructive, and delicious. Of course cooking is the one thing I usually stop doing whenever I'm stressed out.

But on further reflection, maybe cooking should be the one thing I always do when stressed and overwhelmed. It gives an instant gratification I can't get any other way because it's a project I can start, work on for 1 hour or less, finish easily, and then sit down and EAT.

I still don't have a solution for feeling better about my monster projects. They are as big and overwhelming as ever, but at least today I'm heading into the studio well rested and well fed.

Let's go cook!

Leah

Monday, August 5, 2013

46. Learn How to Quilt Happy Stitch, Design #399

It's time to get Happy! Here's a cheerful design that's sure to make you smile:

free motion quilting | Leah Day 

I think this one is particularly well suited to a kid's quilt. Baby quilts are excellent practice for quilting because you get to experience manipulating the quilt through your machine, but with less bulk and weight to fuss with.

Because babies really like to focus on high contrast, consider stitching this design either in dark thread on a light colored quilt top or light thread on a darker colored top. Not only is quilting contrasting thread easier because you can see what you're doing, it's also something that will make your baby very happy to see!


This is one of those designs that proves that you can absolutely stitch anything in thread. I came up with it during a conversation with my Father-in-law about designing after he asked if a smiley face could be a new design.

I sketched a bit on a napkin and showed that so long as all the lines within the face - the eyes and smile - connect in some way to the outer circle, then yes, you can absolutely stitch that design continuously.

So now that we can make Happy Stitch, think of all the other expressions you can quilt! Angry stitch, confused stitch, silly stitch - there's probably another dozen designs to create just of funny expressions on fabric!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, August 2, 2013

FMQ Friday - Quilting a New Background

Yes, I'm still alive! It's Friday and I've not posted since Monday, which is nearly an eternity, but I've been almost completely consumed with constant work online.

So I haven't been quilting, but mostly slugging away at the new website and just today I realized I was in real danger of going through the entire week without quilting. It was putting me in a real irritated mood so this morning I unlocked my hands from the keyboard and forced my feet to carry me downstairs to get something done.

What I'm working on is a new background for the videos on my main machine. For the last several months I've used a large piece of muslin with a printed goddess panel pinned to the front. Now I know I can do better than this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Pretty picture, horrible background
This background area is actually quite large - around the size of a full sized quilt, and it was high time I made something nicer for this area. I've fiddled around with enough backgrounds to know that I need to actually quilt this panel so it hangs properly behind me.

I started with hand dyed purple fabric and drew on the goddess face to one side so it would show in the right placement on the video camera. After quilting the rays and goddess motif in white thread, I'm now placing some fusible letters around the logo that I'll fuse in place before quilting the remainder of the background around them.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I was concentrating on hitting the "photo" button on the camera remote rather than smiling for the shot!
Mostly this is a balance of finding the right colors that will not be too busy, but also not blend in so much they don't show. At least by now I've learned the most important lesson to quilting - TEST!

I'm off to test some more colors and ideas for this background. Since I have to look at it for hours while editing videos, I'd really like it to be something I like rather than cringe at!

So what are you up to today? Have you been busy quilting or stuck on the computer too?

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
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