The Free Motion Quilting Project: Around the World Blog Hop

Friday, December 12, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

A few weeks ago my friend Patsy Thompson emailed to ask if I wanted to participate in this Around the World Blog Hop which shares about what we're working on and what inspires us. Make sure to check out Patsy's post here to see what she's working on too!

1. What you're working on?
I pretty much always have multiple quilts in progress, both projects for myself and quilts I'm creating for patterns, books, and DVDs. Just yesterday I began cutting into my huge collection of food fabrics to create a cool crazy quilt I've had in mind for years:
 When creating a new pattern, I always spend a few days and a few yards of fabric planning and testing out different ideas. This particular quilt could be made in several different ways, but some methods are more complicated than others. These days I'm all about making life SIMPLE so I often ask my dad and my husband Josh to weigh in with their opinion about the simplest construction method.
Also on the design board are several new quilts designed exclusively from precut fabrics. I've finally caught the precut addiction and I'm enjoying the challenge of designing with specific cuts of fabric. 
Yes, precut fabrics are pretty simple, and for the longest time I didn't want to design with them because I felt my quilts needed to be complicated in order to be valuable. It took working through the Building Blocks Quilt Along to learn that simple is better. If I want to be a good teacher, I need to simplify, be able to explain the steps clearly and streamline the process so it's fun and interesting for the quilters that want to make the pattern.
The quilts I make for myself have also gone through a change and I'm in an interesting spot to be able to see this. On my dining room wall I've hung Duchess Reigns - basically the queen quilt of complication!
She's definitely pretty, but I can't stand the idea of quilting ANOTHER two border corners in this intense, super dense, super time consuming, super BORING way. I've hung her on the wall to determine if I can change the two remaining corner designs, and if I can, how that will effect the rest of the quilt.
Yes, a design change at this stage will be very noticeable, but I'm okay with that. I realized looking at this quilt for the past two days that I cannot finish her if I continue filling the same way. I must change the design, or simply chuck the quilt in the trash and never finish it. I've decided to make a change and use this quilt as a visual example of growth and my changing mentality.

No, I don't mind that she won't be perfect or even symmetrical when finished. I would rather see her finished and ENJOY the process of quilting the rest of this design rather than the alternative.

I also have been working on a new Dream Goddess that really expands on my new ideals - simple, easy construction, bold color, big quilting designs.

This quilt, I can already tell, will be so much easier to quilt and so much more interesting. Right now she's ready to be layered with batting and quilted with water soluble thread for trapunto. I'm hoping to tackle this next week and have her ready to clip while we're on vacation. I LOVE clipping batting! It's one of the weirdest things, but I find it super relaxing and very easy to do. I just wish I had more quilts that needed it!

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre? 
I'm not really sure how to answer this one. I believe all quilters have a distinctive mark / style that comes through no matter what type of quilt they are making. I know I can recognize one of Patsy's quilts a mile away because of her use of beautiful dyed fabrics and intense quilting.
I make quilts that feature loads of filler designs because designing new fillers is what I do! I love picking designs that accent the overall design, but also add their own unique texture to the quilt. You can easily spice up a border, or transform a boring background just by using the right design and the right thread color.
But that's another thing - I don't think there's ever a single right answer. Multiple designs can work in any given space, and this sometimes makes it hard to choose which designs to use. After reading the Paradox of Choice, I'm much more willing to go with my first choice, whatever first pops into my head, rather than debating and testing multiple designs.
If I pick wrong - if I'm not happy with the fabric color or the thread color or the quilting design I've learned to just accept it and move on. Why agonize about it? So what - I made a bad choice! There are so many more quilts I want to make and so much more experience just waiting around the corner.
This little 7 inch quilt is a little experiment I'm calling You Can Do A Lot With 7 Inches. I'm giving myself permission to play and experiment with small squares. You can actually learn a lot with a small amount of fabric, and it's not so time or fabric consuming that it feels wasteful.
So maybe that is one way I'm different - I make all kinds of quilts: traditional, modern, art, elaborate, simple, bed quilts, and wall hangings. I refuse to be pigeon-holed into one set style. I will try ANYTHING once.
3. Why do you write/create what you do? 
I write patterns and shoot videos because I'm an online quilting teacher. Yes, I do occasionally teach in person, but for the most part, I teach online to reach the greatest number of people with the least amount of effort.
Does that sound bad - least amount of effort? I don't think so. I can sit down this morning and shoot a video in 15 minutes. Josh will edit that video and upload it to YouTube and most will reach 1,000 views in just a few days.
Contrast that with teaching in person - I can teach 25 people comfortably in a 6 hour workshop. I'd have to teach 40 workshops to reach 1,000 quilters. That is 40 days away from my son and my sewing room, with the whole day focused on teaching. It's definitely fun, but also exhausting!

So that's why I teach online - it's the most efficient use of my time. I can teach and share what I'm doing, but it doesn't disrupt my whole day.
4. How does your writing/creating process work?
All of my quilts start with an idea or inspiration. My goddess quilts all start with a theme or image in my head. Even my simple precut quilts start with some weird thought like - how many 2.5 inch squares can I cut from a jelly roll?
I've learned to follow these ideas, even if it means wasting fabric or drawing a design in the middle of the night. When I ignore them they keep popping into my head again and distracting me. The rest of the process of designing is kind of like putting a puzzle together. I begin working on the design and fitting the pieces together. When something doesn't work, I remove it and try again.
I've been working on this goddess design for several months and it's still not right. That's a sign that either I'm not ready to make the quilt or it just needs more time. I used to try to rush this process and learned the hard way that rushing is absolutely pointless and usually results in a disappointing quilt.
Frequently a quilt will get stuck or snagged on one issue or another. It's a sign to put it away for awhile and focus on what is in progress. I don't mind putting a design away for several months or years and returning to it with a new perspective and more ability later. 
As for the mechanics of design - I first sketch on paper, then scan the drawing into my computer and use Serif Draw Plus to draw the lines and add more elements. If any part of the design will be symmetrical it's far easier to have the computer program copy, paste, and align the elements rather than try to do it all on paper.
Designing in a computer program also allows me to pick the size of the finished quilt. I resize the drawing the the finished quilt size and print it out to create a master pattern. That method has worked great for all my goddess / show quilts for the past few years.
For more traditional quilts I've started using EQ7, which I learned this summer from Barb Vlack at AQS Charlotte. This program is far more complicated and not super intuitive, but once you get the hang of it, it's really awesome!
Most of the simple quilts I create for patterns and books are very basic, but I often get snagged if small details begin to cascade into greater and greater complication. When I feel undecided, I ask Josh for advice. Josh has two wonderful default answers ready for me at all times - "It looks great!" and "Go with the simpler / easier choice."
Don't get me wrong, he's not yes-manning me. When Josh doesn't like what I'm making, he tells me straight up - Those are not my colors, I can't help you. I believe those were his exact words with the Dancing Butterfly Quilt!
We're a good team because I'm usually focused on the appearance and design, while Josh is always focused on how many pages this fiddly technique will add to the pattern and how complicated it will be to describe. He's far more practical and less emotional about design. If there isn't enough fabric to add a border - don't add a border! Keep it simple!
Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don't. Josh enjoys reminding me of the times I got stubborn and didn't listen to his sage advice. The most complicated 8th block in Building Blocks? Yep, Josh advised against it. That block just about gave me an ulcer, so yes, again, he was right!
Working with my family is one of the most unexpected and wonderful things about my business. Many people give me all the credit for the videos, blog posts, and quilts. Apart from show quilts that I create entirely myself, all of my projects are created from a team effort.
I really love working with my dad and Josh every day. We make a great team and I honestly couldn't have published a book, and mega quilt along pattern, and blogged steadily through the last three months without them.

So that is me and this is how I work! I've really enjoyed sharing my process today and please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments below.

I was invited to join in the Around the World Blog Hop from the amazing and inspirational Patsy Thompson, but unfortunately I couldn't find anyone to pass the blog hop to next. Next week is the week before Christmas after all, so I think it's just a super busy time of the year. If you'd like to pick up the thread of this blog hop, just answer the same questions on your blog in a post next week!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. I love seeing your work and reading your thoughts! Have you thought about cutting Duchess Reigns off at the center medallion? It might make a gorgeous sunflower shaped quilt with a beautiful spiky edge and all your pretty trees. The thought of losing all the detailed border work you've already done is probably hard to stomach, but all that quilting might be able to be incorporated into a new future quilt. Obviously so many options, but just a thought!! Thanks so much for sharing your process!

  2. Would it be possible to bind/face Duchess Reigns as is? I think the odd shape could be very cool.

  3. Just do it. Bite the bullet. It's gorgeous and needs the symmetry.

  4. The Duchess is beautiful. She needs to be finished the way you planned. I now that it is hard to finish something when you are bored out of your skull. But you will feel much better if you finish her. (Ask me how I know.)

    p.s. if you do decide to throw her in the trash, email me first and I'll send you postage to mail her to me. :-)


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