The Free Motion Quilting Project: December 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

Pick Your Fabrics for the Machine Quilting Party

It's that time of the year again - time to buy fabric! The new Machine Quilting Party will begin on January 1st and we're going to start the year with a bang making two quilts: Rainbow Log Cabin and Marvelous Mosaic. Check out these two quilts and find tips on picking your fabrics in this new video:


Click Here to find the schedule and materials list for the quilts we're making together.

Remember, to follow along with this Machine Quilting Party, all you need is a copy of the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day. 

Yes, we have a ebook version of this book too!

I've been getting a lot of questions about extra fees and charges, but just like all of my quilt alongs in the past, all you need to do is purchase the book of patterns and the videos will be shared for free.

Selecting fabrics for the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt

The Rainbow Log Cabin is the oldest quilt in the book. I designed it in 2008 and struggled to decide on the quilting design. This quilt remained simply stitched in the ditch between the quilt blocks until last year when we finally decided to quilt it for this book.


When selecting the fabrics for this quilt, I went to a local fabric store and picked the brightest, most cheerful prints I could find. To create the widest variety, I selected multiple fat quarters for each fabric color.

What is a fat quarter? Fat quarters are 1/4 yard cuts of fabric, but instead of 9 x 42 inches, the usual way fabric is cut across the selvages, it's cut differently. Quilt shops will cut a 1/2 yard of fabric first, then slice it in half to create an 18 x 21 inch rectangle. It's also a quarter yard of fabric, but cut "fat" so there's more usable fabric for quilting.

So if you're looking for a great way to use up lots of fat quarters and you like this mosaic effect of lots of different fabric prints and blenders, this will be a great choice for you!

If you're looking for a faster and simpler way to buy fabric, consider buying yardage in the seven colors needed for this quilt. This is the option I took for making my new Rainbow Log Cabin quilt for 2018. I tend to get obsessive about the same fabrics being next to one another. Rather than spend a day arguing with the fabric arrangement, I just went with seven colors of beautiful Island Batik blenders:


I also used a giant piece of 108" wide backing fabric for the back so I wouldn't have to piece the backing together. Call me lazy! I just didn't feel like messing with it on this project.

Picking Colors for Marvelous Mosaic

The fabrics in the Marvelous Mosaic Quilt can also be a scrappy mix of fat quarters or cut from yardage. For the quilt version in the book, I used cheerful fat quarters for the front and several yards of Kona Cotton Ocean for the back. This creates an awesome two-sided quilt effect!


But you could mix it up even more and use fat quarters for the front and back, you could use one color for both sides, really it's entirely up to you.

I decided to change things up for the Marvelous Mosaic Quilt I'm making in 2018. I'm using solid fat quarters for the right side of the quilt, but minky squares in red and black for the back to create a dynamic checkerboard effect.

Minky is a very different fabric to work with and I shared some tips on quilting with it here.

Before cutting the minky fabric, I stabilized it with French Fuse, then cut it into squares. It feels very different to quilt with this fabric on the back of the quilt. It likes to really STICK to the sewing machine and table so I increase my stitch length from 1.5 mm (my usual walking foot quilting stitch length) to 2.5 mm.

So please only take a minky backing fabric on if you're wanting a bit of a challenge. I handed Dad two squares to quilt when I was in a hurry this summer and...well...we had to cut more fabric later that day!

I love it because it's so soft and cuddly, but I can't deny just how much it can change the feel of quilting even a medium sized square on your home machine.

So I hope you'll pull from your fabric stash for these quilts. All of the quilts for 2018 are fat quarter friendly so you'll be able to use up dozens of fat quarters with these quilts!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Is Polyester Thread Evil? Podcast Episode #38

Hello My Quilting Friends! Today I'm taking on a new Great Quilting Debate: is polyester thread evil? Is it bad for your quilts or is it the most awesome thread in the world? Listen to the episode and hear my side of this debate with a bit of quilting history sprinkled in for fun:


Or you can watch the episode and see me spinning black wool on my mini spinner here:


Click Here to find all the episodes of this podcast!

So the Great Polyester Thread Debate can be summed up pretty simply: I think this is a myth, a rumor, and just like using starch, a potential great product being demonized for no reason.

Pretty strong words? I'm just getting started!

Sure, there may be a basis for polyester thread having a bad reputation in the 1970's when there wasn't a lot of great quilting materials on the market. The American bicentennial created a resurgence of interest in traditional hand crafts and many people were jumping in, but manufacturers and stores just weren't prepared for the demand.

So could there have been a situation where the cotton fabric of a quilt was shredded by strong, brittle polyester threads? Sure. I'm not denying this situation could have happened. I wasn't alive back then so I can't (and wouldn't want to) defend the polyester threads of the past.

Which brings me to my second point - that was over 40 years ago! 

Manufacturing has changed, new products have been invented and the polyester threads we have to work with today are just plain awesome. My favorite polyester thread is Isacord which is available in over 300 colors, comes in 1000 meter spools for around $6 and is strong, thin, and stitches beautifully.

But it really doesn't matter what thread I like or what works best for me. The most important thing is to try it yourself.


When I stumbled across Isacord thread, I was in the middle of quilting Release Your Light, an 80-inch densely quilted art quilt that was driving me crazy because the thicker cotton threads I was using kept breaking.

I remember buying almost every type of thread my local quilt shop carried in orange and yellow. Isacord just happened to be one of the spools I grabbed that day. I didn't ask for permission, I didn't ask anyone's opinion. I was desperate for a thread that could quilt more than 2 inches without breaking so I could stop tearing my hair out in frustration. Isacord worked and that was enough for me.

So I don't believe in listening to the rumor mill or what Betty Sue at quilt guild says about using polyester thread being evil. Had I listened to that kind of thing, I might have been convinced what I was doing was wrong, even though it worked.

Ultimately all we have in any craft is personal experience and personal opinion, and the only way you can build this is by making quilts with lots of different materials and deciding what YOU like best.

This summer I learned photography on a DSLR camera so I could take the pictures for the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting. I found this very intimidating and kept searching online for the correct F-stop, shutter speed, and ISO to shoot pictures on a home sewing machine. I wanted to know the RIGHT way to do it. I didn't want to make any mistakes or do something wrong.


Needless to say, I never found a blog post or video with that exact information. I had to figure it out myself, play with settings, play with the single kit lens I had, shoot a lot of photos and develop my own opinion about what looked good. To a different photographer, they might have picked entirely different settings and achieved a very different look.

Developing your own opinion and being willing to experiment is hard and risky. It takes a lot of patience to make an entire quilt and ultimately decide you don't really like the effect of that batting, or you wish you'd stitched in a different color of thread. That's frustrating, but so long as you keep some record of your progress, you'll never have to do that again. Your opinion is strengthened and you can move forward with at least one material, one thread, one color, one fabric type scratched off your list.

And eventually you'll find the happy place where you know exactly what works for you.

For me, that's solid fabric or solid reading batiks, Isacord thread, and a strong contrast between my fabric and thread color. It's also using polyester or wool batting, prewashing and starching my fabric too. That's what works for me.

Now the question is - what works for you?

Go out and try lots of things to answer this question and try to ignore the rumor mill. Most rumors are based on some story someone heard years ago from someone else. There's no actual, hands-on experience in rumors, and just like ghost stories, they're probably not true.

Now a few quick updates from around the house:

Make sure to check out my video on piecing a total crazy quilt, which includes a Y-Seam piecing tutorial. Yep, I'll probably write a post on this at some point, but for now this is just on YouTube.

I'm also gearing up for our 2018 Machine Quilting Party! Are you ready to piece and quilt three quilts with me next year? Make sure to check out the materials list and schedule right here.

That's it for this week! Make sure to check back on Friday for a video on picking your fabrics for the two quilts we'll be starting the first week of January!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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