The Free Motion Quilting Project: January 2017

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Podcast: Track Your Income with Stephanie Soebbing.

Hello My Quilting Friends! I have an excellent episode for you today with Stephanie Soebbing. She's a blogger, runs an awesome website, and also hosts a podcast - Sit and Sew Radio! Click Here to check out Stephanie's website.

Today we're talking about tracking your income and Stephanie shares lots of details and the tools she uses to track her income so she knows what projects and products are the most successful.

This is super important because it can often feel like there are millions of possibilities for how to build your business. Should I write a pattern next or a book? Should I turn this project into a workshop or pitch it to a magazine? Tracking your income and traffic on your website can shed light on the best things to focus on at any time.

Now this is something I really haven't done up to this point. Thankfully when we switched to Shopify a year ago we suddenly had lots more information and data about our site, but I've never gotten into seriously tracking traffic so Stephanie's information is definitely going to change the way I do business...if I can ever find the time to learn how to use Google Analytics!

Stephanie and I are also collaborating next week to teach you how to make a super cute mini quilt. Stephanie will be teaching you how to piece a million pieces together to create a super scrappy mini quilt on Wednesday.

Then I'll be sharing a video on how to quilt this little quilt with rulers on Wednesday as well so we're going to link up those posts really nicely so you can learn from both of us on one day!

Just a quick reminder about the Machine Quilting Block Party - if you want to see the entire quilt, you can find images of the whole quilt in the new Sashing and Cornerstones Pattern available here.

This coming week we will be releasing the new Dresden Plate Template Set, a 10 piece set of templates that will cut dozens of Dresden Plate quilt blocks, tumbler / wedge shapes, circles, and you can use them for ruler work quilting on your home machine. I'm thrilled with how many things these templates can do and the hundreds of potential quilts you could make with them.

Now here's a few links to the things we talk about in this podcast episode:

Stephanie's 2014 Block of the Month project and free patterns.

Stephanie learned how to track her income from listening to the Perpetual Traffic Podcast and watching tutorials on 

 She tracks her website using Google Analytics integrated into her Wordpress website.

She uses a free plugin from Woo Commerce that works with her Wordpress site and Google Analytics to see how customers arrive and what they click on.

In 2016, 80% of Stephanie's sales came from email and she knows this because of tracking the traffic on her website. There is a difference between broadcast emails and followup emails and both can be used to generate income on an automated system.

Stephanie recommends looking at your data once a month just to see trends and check up on how things are going.

She has found launching a kit along with a pattern is very successful, but you do need to be careful not to over-order and have too many kits on the shelf. This can tie up your income over months and get you into a serious cash flow issue.

Her podcast, Sit and Sew Radio, has been super helpful for building her newsletter list. By interviewing other quilters, she's getting shared to new audience each week. She uses an email popup box on her website and the podcast website to greet quilters and encourage sign ups.

Stephanie's advice is to test everything with simple tests so you know what is happening on your website. She has found Facebook to be the most successful for driving buying traffic to her website.

She uses the Facebook Business Manager App and sets the ad minimum at $10 per day for the campaign and she looks at overall revenue from the ad and clicks from the ad. She recommends just breaking even on the ad (spending as much as you make) because the new customers you've gained will now be in your conversion funnel.

A conversion funnel is a series of steps like signing up for an email newsletter that connects with the customer and encourages them to take another step like buying a kit or a pattern.

Stephanie is going to do a lot more testing on ads in 2017. When you test an ad, just change one thing to know what is successful. Don't assume an ad is unsuccessful the first time you try it. Change the image or change the text and try it again.

Stephanie is looking forward to raising her daughter and building her business so her husband can maybe quit his job too and be able to buy a bigger house so they can grow their family.

Let me know if you have any questions about this podcast! I'm always open to new quilting interviews so please contact me if you'd like to be on the show!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Quilting Basics 9: How to Tie off Loose Quilting Threads

We're finally on the last part of our Quilting Basics Series! It's been really fun to share all the basics to quilting from preparing your fabric to piecing to machine quilting over the last two weeks. Click Here to find the complete playlist of all the Quilting Basics video tutorials.

For Part 9 in our Quilting Basics series, we're learning how to securely tie off your thread tails and then perfectly hide it in the fabric.

 Hide quilting thread
Click Here to find the Cheater Needles I use for this technique.

Now I know tying off and burying your thread tails might seem like a lot of work. It takes extra time that you could be quilting.

However, I encourage you to give this a try because it looks so amazing on the front and back of your quilt and it's 100% secure. If you bother to tie  your thread tails together this way, they will NOT come out of your quilt.

Many times quilters will build up threads to start and stop quilting, which creates a noticeable knot on the surface of the quilt. This knot both looks and feels unsightly and, even worse, it's not really secure. This type of knot can easily unravel, allowing your quilting stitches to come apart.

The best way to deal with loose thread tails is to tie them off and bury them in the middle layer of the quilt. This technique comes from hand quilting and it's very secure, completely unnoticeable, and with a little practice it will become a quick habit to grab a cheater needle, hide your thread tails, and get back to quilting.

The trick with making anything a habit is to make it easy and accessible. You're never going to want to bother with it if you always have to hunt down your cheater needle every time you need to bury your threads.

Keep your cheater needle always accessible by placing it on a Pin Place, the smallest magnetic pincushion so it's always handy and won't get lost in a massive pile of needles.

When you start quilting, get a few inches away from your starting point and tie off and bury the thread tails. This way you're not building a large supply of threads you have to tie off all at once.

By incorporating this technique into your routine and keeping your cheater needle close by your machine, this step will be easy and quick to accomplish, and your quilting stitches will be more secure as well!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 16, 2017

Let's Quilt Sashing and Cornerstones!

This year I decided to supersize the Flower Festival quilt with an extra pattern that will increase the size to 65 x 85 inches and give you a lot more space to practice free motion quilting. Click Here to find this new pattern!

To create the bigger version of the quilt, you're going to free motion quilt lots of sashing rectangles and cornerstone squares. Let's learn how to quilt the beautiful feather sashing design together:

The nice thing about this design is how much practice you're going to get quilting feathers! As you quilt pay attention to the direction, angle, and style of feathers that feel most natural for you to quilt.

Once you quilt your sashing rectangles, it will be time to tackle the cornerstone squares which are cute flower designs. Let's learn how to free motion quilt this easy design together:

In addition to the sashing and cornerstone designs, you'll also learn how to Quilt-As-You-Go or connect the quilted pieces together to make your Flower Festival Quilt. This easy technique will securely lock together with binding strips that look as good on the back as they do on the front.

Click Here to find Quilt As You Go Part 1 Video

Click Here to find Quilt As You Go Part 2 Video

You may want to watch the Part 2 video all the way to the end. I got the worst case of the giggles ever and could barely film the intro. I decided to include it because it still makes me laugh out loud!

This Mystery is a Little Less Mysterious

Is the mystery part of the Machine Quilting Block Party irritating you? Do you wish you could see the entire Flower Festival Quilt right now?

Now you can! I've also included pictures of the whole Flower Festival Quilt in this new Sashing and Cornerstones pattern.

Just please don't post the pictures online. Many quilters like the mystery aspect so we don't want to ruin the surprise for them!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Podcast #10: Finish Your Quilts with Patty Dudek

Hello My Quilting Friends! I have a great episode for you today with Patty Dudek from Elm Street Quilts. Patty runs many fun quilt alongs throughout the year and this year she's sharing a really cool quilt along called OMG - One Monthly Goal. Learn how it's going to help you finish your quilts in this new quilting podcast episode:

Click here to find all of the podcast episodes so you can listen while you quilt!

Click Here to check out Patty's site and the new OMG (One Monthly Goal) quilt along. I'm super excited to be the featured designer in March!

Now for a few links to the things mentioned in the podcast.

Click Here to find the Machine Quilting Block Party and learn more about this new monthly quilt along. This is a mystery quilt along, but if you'd like to see the entire quilt a few pictures will be included in the new Sashing and Cornerstones Pattern that will be launching on Monday.

Click Here to find the Quilting Basics Tutorials and learn all the basics to quilting from preparing your fabric to free motion quilting. This is a playlist with all the videos shared so far

A huge surprise that I've been bursting at the seams to share has been my new Dresden Plate Template Set! I've been working on this set for months and I can't wait to teach you how to use them. They can cut dozens of different Dresden Plate designs, circle shapes, tumblers, AND they can be used for quilting with rulers on your home machine. These will be ready for you to check out just as soon as I've finished the first batch of tutorials so you know how to use them!

On the quilt gallery I haven't made any progress on fixing this part of my site this week, but I have been designing new goddesses in fabric. I'm forcing myself to design faster and with less perfection as I enter the Spoonflower Fabric challenges each week. Here's the super cheerful Home Sweet Home Needlepoint Rainbow fabric I designed this week:

Home Sweet Home Needlepoint Rainbow Goddess

Click Here to find the Needlepoint Spoonflower Challenge and vote for your favorite fabric. The deadlines for Spoonflower Fabric is actually Tuesday each week so if you're interested in designing fabric and need a push to get started consider challenging yourself to join in the fun!

The South Park movie I mentioned is actually 6 Days to Air and I highly recommend it if you also struggle with perfectionism and getting things done verses perfect.

The sponsor for the show this week is my website and I'm running a sale on the Stitch n' Paint Love machine embroidery design. So use the discount code E10 from the podcast to save $3 on this design.

Now Patty Dudek mentioned a lot of things in her interview. Click Here to check out her patterns on Craftsy.

Click Here to find Patty's Bargello Quilt Along from last year.

Patty's word for the year is Brave and she's working on new patterns, building traffic on her blog, and writing a quilting book. Click Here to find Podcast #1 about publishing books.

Patty also runs the Bag It quilt along each year. You can make any bag from any tutorial and link up to show off your progress. I love Patty's goal with this - to give you something easy to make for gifts for the holidays!

Next week Patty's going to launch an Improv Quilt Along which sounds terrific. This is piecing with prompts rather than a pattern. So no precise piecing. No rules. 100% fun!

Patty is the best at finishing quilts so she's the perfect role model for the One Monthly Goal project. If you need a push to get projects done this year definitely start linking up with Patty each month.

Make sure to listen for Patty's tips on storing quilts and keeping track of them. Hint: never fall off the wagon when it comes to labeling your quilts!

Click Here to find Patty's Eat, Quilt, Sleep, Repeat quilt pattern.

Click Here to find Patty's Chunky Alphabet quilt pattern.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, January 13, 2017

Quilting Basics 8: How to Pick Quilting Thread Colors

Welcome to Part 8 in our Quilting Basics series! This week we've learned so much about machine quilting with a tutorial on stitching in the ditch and free motion quilting basics.

Today we're talking about color choice when it comes to thread for machine quilting. Thread color is critical for free motion because they show up in different ways depending on how you machine quilt. We're going to learn about "auditioning" colors to find the right match of color for your fabric and free motion quilting. See what I mean in this new Quilting Basics video tutorial:

Which thread color did you like the best? Do you plan to use multiple thread colors in your quilt?

The reason why I usually stick with one thread color is because of time. The more times you change thread color, the more time it takes to finish your block because you'll have more thread breaks and bobbin changes with each thread color change.

So I'm a big lazy and I'm always short on time so sticking with one thread color simplifies the process and gives me one less thing to think about or obsess over. Remember the Paradox of Choice - sometimes too many choices can actually make it harder to decide!

If you decide to test different thread colors, I'd limit it to 3 different colors just so you don't get overwhelmed with different options. I don't think there is ever a WRONG choice when it comes to thread color, but I do encourage you to contrast your thread color at least slightly so you can see what you're doing as you quilt.

If you match thread color completely, it will be like quilting in the dark. How can you improve your quilting or skill making that design if you can't see what you're doing?

One other tip - always match your bobbin thread color with your top thread color. This will save you many hours of headaches and frustration as you try to balance the tension with the top and bobbin thread perfectly.

Been there. Wasted time on that!

No matter how much you fiddle, the top and bobbin thread are never going to be in 100% perfect tension all the time, especially while free motion quilting. Save yourself the time and headache and just wind your bobbins from the thread you're using on the top of the quilt.

Have you picked your thread color yet? What color are you planning to use? Share your choice in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Quilting Basics 7: Free Motion Quilting Tips

Yesterday we learned how to stitch in the ditch with our walking foot and I mentioned you could do this with free motion quilting too. Today let's learn some tips on free motion quilting and how this cool quilting technique works on your home machine.

Click here to find the Stippling worksheet in the Block #1 pattern.

I can't emphasize enough how weird free motion quilting is. This quilting technique uses your machine in a totally different way so that most of the things you can usually depend on like consistent stitch length and the fabric feeding evenly through the machine no longer happen.

So that is what makes free motion quilting feel so odd when you first get started - the machine is no longer doing the work for you. This means that the stitches you produce in free motion are entirely up to you and created by balancing the speed of your hands moving with the speed of your needle bouncing up and down.

In conclusion, your stitches aren't going to look perfect when you first start free motion quilting. They're not going to look consistently sized and evenly spaced the way they look for walking foot quilting. You may have a spot of itsy bitsy stitches, then a massive chunky stitch.

Until you learn how to maintain a steady speed between your hands and your foot pedal, your quilting isn't going to look very pretty. I call this the ugly stitching phase and it's something you just have to plow through in order to become a skilled free motion quilter. Quilt a whole lot of ugly stitches and eventually your hands and feet will figure out how to work together to make pretty stitches.

You can see what I mean in this video with Josh from the Building Blocks Quilt Along:

A few tools can definitely make free motion quilting easier. I always wear Machingers Quilting Gloves because they help me grip the quilt surface and move it smoothly over the machine.

However, Dad has found the Quilt Grips to work better for him because they put less pressure on his fingertips and don't aggravate his arthritis. It's good to try a few different grippy tools to see which works best for you so you get a better grip on the quilt and have more control over where it's going.

I use a Queen Supreme Slider on my machine to make the quilt easier to slide smoothly under the needle. This is a Teflon sheet that has a pink grippy side that clings to the machine surface and a smooth, slipper top side that helps reduce the friction between your block and your machine.

When I'm not free motion quilting, I move my slider to the front of the machine off the feed dogs for quilt piecing to help the pieces slide over the table surface. When walking foot quilting I usually position it to the left of the machine to help the quilt move evenly as the walking foot chugs along.

To improve my stitches many years ago I found Magic Bobbin Washers which help to reduce thread breaks and backlash. These washers work for both top loading and side loading bobbin cases and are really nice in older machines that don't have the new springs that stop the bobbin from rattling around.

When you free motion quilt, you're really managing three things at the same time:

1. Moving the quilt under your needle with your hands.
2. Controlling the speed of the machine with your foot.
3. Thinking of the design and how to quilt it on your quilt.

This is quite a lot to do all at the same time! This is why I strongly advise you to quilt on marked lines. When you have marked lines, you don't have to think at all about the design and you can focus entirely on moving your hands to form the design and balancing that speed and movement to make pretty stitches.

Now a lot of quilters ask me about quilting on marked lines and if this is cheating - it's definitely not!

In the world of free motion quilting we have two types - free hand quilting and marked quilting. Both are equally important skills to build because you will use both techniques to create amazing quilts.

Marking a design ensures it will be placed where you want it on your quilt and will look exactly the way you want it to look. Marking is the only way to guarantee a symmetrical or evenly spaced design.

If I didn't mark this goddess quilt, how in the world would she have finished so symmetrically?

In short - marking your quilting design is NOT cheating. It's another tool in your toolbox and one I strongly advise you pull out and use from the very beginning.

The other type of quilting - free hand quilting - doesn't include marking your quilt because you memorize the design. This is exactly like memorizing how to sign your name in cursive - you don't think about that anymore, right?

This type of quilting requires memorization and practice and a basic understanding of the rules for each design. All of the free motion filler designs I've created for the Free Motion Quilting Project are free hand designs that are quilted without marking.

So I hope you can see that we have lots of different techniques to learn with free motion quilting and there isn't a wrong way, or a cheating way, to learn. It's all good if you're learning how to quilt your own quilts!

What do you think of free motion quilting so far? Have you created a lot of ugly stitches yet? Make sure to share your pics in the Block Party Facebook Group. Don't worry - this is a super supportive group and members are always cheering one another along. It's definitely the best part of the Machine Quilting Block Party!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Quilting Basics 6: Stitching in the Ditch

We can't run through the basics of quilting without a tutorial on stitching in the ditch! This is an important step in the quilting process that secures the layers of the quilt together and adds a nice outline between designs.

There are many ways to stitch in the ditch, but by far the easiest is with your walking foot. The walking foot uses the feed dogs on your machine to feed the quilt smoothly into the machine so you can take one stitch at a time and stay right in the ditch.

See what I mean in this new Quilting Basics Tutorial video:

Click Here to find all the Quilting Basics Tutorials linked together in one handy playlist.

I set my stitch length to 1.6 mm when walking foot quilting because it produces a nice, tight stitch that looks great on the front and back of the quilt.

I use ditching primarily as an outline between designs. I don't want the Gentle Flames in the vase to look like they're floating in midair. By stitching in the ditch around the vase, the wiggly lines of the design have a nice outline to contain them. The ditching lines also give me a line to travel stitch along so the block looks as good on the back as it does on the front.

Stitching in the ditch is also a very easy way to quilt your quilts. Don't ever feel like ditching is a cheap way out. When you're first getting started quilting sometimes it's the only design you can "see" on the surface. By following the quilt piecing lines, you're enhancing the overall design of the quilt, securing the layers together, and moving one step closer to finishing your project. None of those things are cheating!

As you get more experience with quilting, your mind will naturally start poking you with inspiration and ideas to innovate. You may create a quilt like a log cabin that would be a total beast to stitch in the ditch so you naturally look for new designs to avoid that headache.

Regardless of how your quilting skills develop, stitching in the ditch is like learning how to properly mix cement to a brick layer. It's a foundation step that must be mastered to move on to the next step. In short, everything builds from here.

Now if you're looking for more challenge, you can always stitch in the ditch in free motion. Yep, that's right - you don't have to ditch with your walking foot. You can ditch AND fill in free motion.

This is a bit more challenging because the machine is doing less work for you. You have to push the quilt under the needle, and work to stay in the ditch, AND produce nice even stitches.

Whew! I did say challenging right? This is a tricky technique and I admit even I hop out of the ditch when quilting this way, but it's a very useful technique to master.

Have I inspired you to try stitching in the ditch? Are you ready to tackle Block #1 with gusto? Share any questions you have in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Quilting Basics 5: How to Baste Your Quilt

How to baste a quilt block tutorialI know I'm posting a bit out of order this week because we've already learned how to free motion quilt our Blooming Nine Patch quilt block, but I still had a few tips to share about quilt basting so our Quilting Basics tutorial series will continue this week too!

With quilt basting, the most important thing is making sure the layers of the quilt are layered flat together without any extra fabric puddling up in the middle. The second challenge is securing the layers together temporarily so they don't shift as you machine quilt.

In this video I share my favorite method for basting a small quilt block. If you would like to learn how to baste a much larger quilt, the method is a bit different. You can learn my method for basting larger quilts in the workshop Quilting a King on Your Home Machine.

Now let's learn how to baste a flower quilt block together:

I only recently began machine basting my quilts and this is one of those things about quilting - it's okay to change. It's okay to adjust and adopt new methods when you find something that works better.

How to baste a quilt block tutorial
I found while working on several quilts for our new walking foot quilting book that pin basting alone just wasn't cutting it. It wasn't a huge problem, but I noticed small pleats on the back of my quilt and had some issues with shifting fabric on the front as well.

Then I began machine basting with water soluble thread and found this extra step 100% solved those issues. It also removed all the pins from the quilt so it felt easier and faster to machine quilt.

Is it absolutely necessary? Nope. I've basted quilts for years and not taken this extra step and they turned out just fine too. Yes, it's definitely a slower process with a walking foot, but these blocks are so small it really doesn't add tons of time to the project.

I have discovered a way to speed it up machine basting for bigger quilts. I've been spending time at a local quilt shop that rents time on a longarm quilting machine. I can rent a few hours on the longarm machine and baste several quilts at once. The rail system ensures the backing fabric is flat and straight and the layers of the quilt will be basted tight together.

This is faster because many longarm machines have a basting preset stitch which stitches automatically every 1/2 inch.

Ultimately machine basting is just like prewashing your fabric and pressing seams open. Give it a try and see if it works for you. Keep what works. Scrap what doesn't.

What do you think of this basting method? Have you ever worked with water soluble thread before? Share your experience in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 9, 2017

How to Quilt a Blooming Nine Patch Block

Are you ready to free motion quilt your Blooming Nine Patch quilt block? This block features many fun free motion quilting designs that will really stitch your skills up a notch. We're going to quilt a feather wreath in the flower, some simple curving lines in the stem, Gentle Flames in the vase, Stippling in the background, and Echo Rainbow in the border.

Click Here to find the quilt pattern for Block 1 including the printable diagrams and templates used to mark this quilting design.

My favorite part of the Machine Quilting Block Party is seeing your version of the Blooming Nine Patch Block. Many quilters have already finished piecing and shared a pretty picture in our Block Party Facebook Group. Here's block pictures shared from Patti S, Gabriele T, and Michele B:

Isn't it cool how much the block changes depending on your fabric choice? There are going to be lots of cheerful flowers blooming throughout the year!

Now the next step after piecing is to mark your quilt blocks with the quilting design. Designs like the feather wreaths in particular can be challenging to quilt so be sure to mark the design on your quilt block. I absolutely cannot quilt a feather wreath free hand (without marks) because of the way the feathers nest together as they swing around the circle. I decided to try marking with freezer paper for this space just to see how it would feel and I really liked it.

The last step before quilting is to layer your quilt block with batting and backing fabric and secure the layers together. Click Here to find a tip video on basting your quilt block.

Now for the machine quilting! I began by stitching in the ditch with my walking foot. This secured the block and created a pretty outline between the designs on the front and back of the quilt.

I decided to ditch with my walking foot simply because it's easier and faster. It's also possible to stitch in the ditch with free motion quilting, but it takes a lot of practice and it's super easy to wobble out of the ditch. So keep it simple and get some experience with walking foot quilting at the same time.

After stitching it the ditch, it's time to free motion quilt our Blooming Nine Patch Block! Follow along with the video as you quilt each design over your flower block:

I've received a lot of questions this week about the Sashing and Cornerstones pattern and how it works with the blocks. This extra, optional pattern will be released hopefully this week.

Yes, you should quilt all your quilt blocks normally. We will quilt all the sashing and cornerstone pieces separately and then connect them together so adding the sashing and cornerstones will not change the process of piecing or quilting your flower blocks.

Do you have any questions about free motion quilting your first block? Please share your questions in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Podcast: How to Start Quilting

Hello My Quilting Friends! It's the first podcast episode of the year and since this entire week has been about Quilting Basics and learning how to make a quilt from the ground up, that would make a perfect topic for this podcast as well.

Click Here to find all the podcast episodes so you can binge listen while you quilt!

Now for a few links of the things I mentioned in the post. Click here to check out the Machine Quilting Block Party and pick up the pattern for quilt Block 1.

To begin this new project, I've shared a big batch of Quilting Basics Tutorials which will guide you through the process of creating a quilt step by step. Click Here to find this playlist of all the video tutorials shared so far.

As I was uploading this new series I realized we reached the 1000th video! So much has changed since my first videos went online and I know I've become a better teacher and quilter thanks to YouTube.

Yes, I will be revealing the finished quilt in the new Sashing and Cornerstones Pattern that will be out on Wednesday. If the mystery aspect of this Block Party annoys you then you can pick up that pattern and see the overall design for all 12 blocks.

The sponsor for the show this week is my website I mentioned in the podcast that we're low on stock, but our boxes came in yesterday evening so we're back in stock again! Yay! Click Here to check out the quilt shop.

We are open to other quilting sponsor for the podcast. Please contact us if you're interested in learning more about sponsoring the show.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, January 6, 2017

Quilting Basics 4: How to Mark Your Quilt Three Ways

How to Mark Your Quilt Top Tutorial
Whew! We've made it through all the basics of quilt piecing with a Quilting Basics tutorial on 1. preparing your fabric and cutting, 2. Quilt Piecing Tips, and 3. How to Piece Half Square Triangles

We've also learned how to piece a Blooming Nine Patch quilt block so you've been able to put these new quilting skills to the test. 

Today let's learn how to mark our quilt block so it's easy to machine quilt. This will help you machine quilt each design easier so you can focus on balancing the speed of your machine with the movement of your hands.

When it comes to marking the most important first step is to find some marking pens or pencils that mark thin lines you can see and follow while machine quilting. Equally important is that these marks wash out of your quilt after you're finished quilting. Always test your fabric marking pens on scrap fabric to be sure they wash out completely. Click Here to find my favorite fabric marking pens.

For this quilting basics tutorial I've shared three different ways to mark your blocks so try all three to see which works the best for you:

Click here to find the quilting design in the video in the Block #1 pattern.

Note: I've included some affiliate links below to help you mark your quilt blocks successfully.

I found an interesting question on the Block Party Facebook Group last week about marking our blocks. Here's a paraphrase of the question:
If you mark the design, is that still free motion quilting?
The answer is yes! Free motion quilting only refers to quilting with a darning foot and moving the quilt in all directions. Whether the quilt is marked or not marked doesn't matter. If you're quilting with a darning foot you are free motion quilting.

Free hand quilting refers to quilting without marks. In this case you're quilting without marks to guide you so your quilting designs are based on memorization rather than marking. This is a bit more challenging, especially for beginning quilters so that's why I always emphasize marking the design for the Machine Quilting Block Party.

Which method of quilt marking did you like best? My favorite by far is lightbox marking because it's fast and easy. Turn on the lightbox, tape down the pattern and quilt block and start marking.

One downside to lightbox marking is they are expensive and can be big and clunky. My favorite lightbox is a Light Master LED lightbox that's super thin and comes in a box with a handle. I pull it out, plug it in, mark my block and then put it away. It's thin enough I can stash it between two desks in my office so it's out of the way when I'm not using it.

Another downside of lightbox marking is when you're working with particularly dark fabrics that even a lightbox can't shine through. Areas of seam allowance are always tricky to mark through and it's not always possible to see your lines through multiple layers of fabric.

How to Mark Your Quilt Top Tutorial
In cases like these, template or stencil marking from the surface is usually a better option. This way you're marking from the surface and it doesn't matter what color the fabric is. You can see and mark your design right on top.

The last method that I shared in this video is freezer paper marking which is something I haven't used a lot, but plan to try more this year. Basically you print the design full size onto the paper side of freezer paper, then pin it or press it to your quilt top. Stitch on the lines through the paper and the quilt, then carefully tear the paper away.

The one challenge with this form of marking is removing the paper after the design has been stitched. The first time I tried this, I pulled too hard on the paper and it tugged my stitches a bit so I had some long loops left on the surface of the quilt. This balanced back out again after I soaked the block, but it still wasn't nice to see.

So make sure when you mark with paper on the surface to stitch with really tiny stitches and tear the paper away very carefully. You may still end up with little bits of paper between your stitches which will likely wash out after your quilt is complete.

As you can see, none of these methods is 100% perfect, so by using them together you're bound to find something that will work well for you. Do you have questions about quilt marking? Feel free to ask in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Quilting Basics 3: How to Piece Half Square Triangles

This week is all about Quilting Basics and starting the year with a solid foundation as we begin a new Machine Quilting Block Party. Earlier this week we learned how to prepare our fabric properly and cut the pieces accurately.

Yesterday I shared a video of piecing tips to help you match seams just right and today let's learn how to piece half square triangles in this new Quilting Basics tutorial:

Half Square Triangles are going to be a big part of this year's Machine Quilting Block Party. Click Here to find the pattern for Block #1 and get started making some half square triangles right now!

Today I decided to challenge myself to explain half square triangles in the simplest way possible with an info graphic. An info graphic is an image that contains all the steps to a process in one place.

Obviously you have to keep the pictures and steps simple because there isn't a lot of space. This is part of my goal to simplify this year. How do I streamline a process and take out all the clutter and fluff to leave just what you need to know?

It's not easy for me to condense information because I want to share ALL of it with you at once. That's a bit overwhelming and sometimes not helpful. Sometimes it's nice just to see the steps in the simplest format and go from there.

I think I need a bit of work on the lettering sizes because I had to super size the image to be huge in order for you to be able to read the text. So if this blog post looks a bit weird - that's why!

I had a lot of fun creating this little image and I'd love for you to share it on Pinterest if you like it too.

Now back to creating half square triangles - I prefer this method because you never have to fuss with cutting and piecing actual triangle shapes. That's really nice because it seems like every time I cut a triangle it ends up going wonky.

So this method just uses squares and you stitch to both sides of the center, then cut them apart and viola! you have two half square triangles. It's like magic!

I know this isn't the only method to make half square triangles though. Do you have another method you like better? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Quilting Basics 2: Quilt Piecing Tips

Yesterday we learned how to prepare our fabric for quilting by prewashing, squaring, and cutting it into strips in the Quilting Basics #1 post. Today I want to share some tips for piecing your quilt blocks accurately and with perfectly matched seams.

There really isn't a single, universal trick or tip to quilt piecing. They key is consistent improvement with each seam you stitch. Here's the list of techniques or steps I consider most important to quilt piecing:
  • Developing a system for pinning fabrics so you know what seam to stitch when you get to your machine.
  • Piecing with a short stitch length (1.5 mm) so your pieces are locked together.
  • Press seams open 
  • Always start and end with a scrap charger so your machine doesn't gag on the back of your actual quilt pieces.
It's a short list, but can make a world of difference! See what I mean in this Quilting Basics #2 video on quilt piecing tips:

Would you like to improve your quilting skills each month this year? Click Here to learn more about the Machine Quilting Block Party.

One thing I receive questions about a lot is pressing seams open when making a quilt block.

I believe pressing seams open is very important because it makes the block flatter and easier to quilt over. It also makes joining seams more consistent and faster because you don't have to constantly plan ahead to know which direction both seams should press towards.

The main concern with this technique seems to be from seam strength. How can we press seams open, then stitch right in the ditch? Won't this make everything weaker?

This is why I piece with a very tight stitch length of 1.5 mm as mentioned above. With that tight stitch length, the patchwork pieces are locked together securely and will not come unraveled or allow batting to poke out after the quilt has been finished.

I also find that pressing seams open creates a more accurate quilt block. All quilts build on simple units and math. If you create small units and they are all 1/8 inch off and you require 8 units to make a block, your block will measure 1 inch off by the time it's pieced together. See how much that can add up over time and space?

What do you think about these piecing tips? Do you like pressing seams open or to one side? Why? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Quilting Basics 1: How to Prewash and Cut Fabric

To get our new Machine Quilting Block Party started on the right foot I've created a new series of Quilting Basics video tutorials. This series of videos will guide you through all the basics of quilting and answer a lot of your questions as you're just getting started.

To begin, let's learn more about fabric preparation and cutting. This is one of the most important steps to creating a quilt because it set the foundation for everything to come and every step will be easier if your fabric is prepared properly.

Watch the video to learn how I prewash, starch, square and cut fabric for quilting:

Do you want to test your fabric cutting skills? Click Here to find the pattern for Block #1 and learn how to cut and piece a Blooming Nine Patch quilt block!

Click Here to subscribe to my YouTube Channel.

I know prewashing and starching fabric is not everyone's favorite first step to quilting. It's a bit of a hassle, especially when you're in a hurry to get started cutting out the pieces for your quilt.

But it's also the only way you can guarantee your fabric colors won't bleed into one another after creating your quilt. Trust me, it's absolutely crushing to see fabrics bleeding into one another after taking all the time to make a quilt.

Now for cutting - I've received a lot of questions about this from quilters starting on Block 1. Make sure to watch the video to see how to cut your block from strips. I created a mock up cutting diagram so you can see how I read it and use it to cut the strips and then sub-cut other units.

Cutting from strips is always easier to manage and it will keep your fabric nice and tidy throughout the quilting process.

What do you think of fabric preparation? Have you ever prewashed your fabric before or is it a new thing for you? Do you like to starch fabric? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 2, 2017

How to Piece a Blooming Nine Patch Block

Yesterday we kicked off the new Machine Quilting Block Party and I'm thrilled by the response! Hundreds of quilters have joined in the fun and will be making the Flower Festival quilt month by month with me this year. Click Here to find the first pattern!

Blooming Nine Patch Quilt Block Tutorial with Leah Day

Today is the first Monday of the month so we're going to jump right in to piecing this Blooming Nine Patch quilt block together. However, it's always good to start on a solid foundation so please take a minute to watch the Quilting Basics video on fabric preparation and cutting.

Blooming Nine Patch Quilt Block Tutorial with Leah Day
I've received a lot of questions about cutting and how to work with the fabric yardage. When calculating fabric I have added enough extra for you to cut your long fabric pieces into 1 yard sections. So the 2 yards of Fabric D Cream can be cut into 1 yard sections so they are easier to work with.

When cutting the pieces for your Blooming Nine Patch quilt block, the best way to cut is from strips. I've set up the cutting chart to have the biggest units to cut listed first. So if the first unit is 4 - 2 1/2-inch squares, then first cut a 2 1/2 inch strip of that color, then cut your squares, then sub-cut any other pieces you need from that one strip.

After you're done cutting, make sure to keep your fabrics organized in a bin or box so you can pull out the leftover strips and cut more pieces later.

When it comes time to piece your quilt block, be sure to watch the Quilting Basics Tutorial on piecing to get the basics under your belt with piecing. The most important tip from this video is to develop a system for pinning so when you get to the machine you know which edge you're piecing. It's really easy to get things flipped around, even when moving the short distance from your pressing board to your sewing machine.

Blooming Nine Patch Quilt Block Tutorial with Leah Day
The last video you really need to watch before watching today's video is our Quilting Basics Tutorial on piecing Half Square Triangles. We need several half square triangles for this quilt block so make sure to watch this video so you know how to create them.

Whew! That's a lot of basics to get under your belt all in one go, but I wanted you to get started on the right foot. Quilt piecing can be intimidating and it's sometimes hard to know where to get started. I know when I first started quilting I would have cut my fabric all wrong, notching out little squares from the corners rather than cutting full length strips!

We all have to start somewhere and I hope all of these Quilting Basics tutorials will help answer a lot of the questions you have before you get started. Click Here to watch the entire playlist of quilting tutorials.

Now let's talk about our Blooming Nine Patch quilt block. This block has very simple shapes, but a LOT of pieces. To simplify the piecing, we're going to tackle this in three units - the vase, the stem, and the flower. Let's learn how to piece this Blooming Nine Patch quilt block together in this quilting tutorial video:

Click Here to find the pattern for this block!

Blooming Nine Patch Quilt Block Tutorial with Leah Day
As you can see from the video, this block could be a bit complicated, but by piecing it together in three sections, it comes together easily and quickly.

What's next? We call this the Machine Quilting Block Party for a reason! We're not just piecing blocks together, we're also going to machine quilt this Blooming Nine Patch quilt block with a variety of designs, including free motion feathers!

I'll share a video on how to quilt this Blooming Nine Patch quilt block next Monday, January 9th. Between now and then, make sure to check back here each day because I'm sharing new tip videos and posts to get you started machine quilting on the right foot.

Do you have questions about this block? How did it work out for you? Make sure to share your experience in the comments below or on our Block Party Facebook Group.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome to the Machine Quilting Block Party 2017!

Are you ready to make a beautiful quilt this year while building amazing skills for quilt piecing, applique, and free motion quilting? It's time to join the Machine Quilting Block Party!

Click Here to find the pattern for Block #1.

Machine Quilting Block Party | Learn to Quilt in 2017
Each month in 2017 we're going to piece and machine quilt a new quilt block together to create the Flower Festival quilt. On the first day of the month, a new block pattern will be released.

On the first Monday of the month, I'll share a video tutorial on how to piece the block. Follow along as we piece the block together step-by-step.

On the second Monday of the month, I'll share another video tutorial on how to machine quilt the block. This year we're going to learn more about walking foot quilting, free motion quilting, and even ruler foot quilting!

To get us started on the right foot, I'll be sharing a series of Quilting Basics videos starting today to guide you through all the steps to preparing your fabric, piecing accurately, marking, and basting your blocks. If you're new to quilting, this series of tutorials will help you get started on the right foot.

But what does the quilt look like?

This is a mystery quilt along, which means you won't see the finished quilt until December 2017! Each month the blocks will be released and the quilt will slowly be revealed throughout the year.

Are you worried the quilt will be ugly? LOL! I don't blame you! Here's the Sunshine Surprise mystery quilt we created last year. As you can see, each block can stand on it's own, but the finished quilt is bright, cheerful, and beautifully quilted.

How will the blocks be connected together?

Machine Quilting Block Party | Flower Festival Quilt
Each block in the Machine Quilting Block Party is pieced and quilted separately. This technique is called Quilt-as-You-Go because you're quilting each block individually. This will make the Flower Festival quilt very easy to create even on the smallest home sewing machines!

To connect the blocks together into your finished quilt, we use binding strips on the front and back of the quilt to secure the blocks together. Click Here to find a video on connecting your quilted blocks.

No, you're not alone!

The key to the Machine Quilting Block Party is quilting together and we've created a special Block Party Facebook Group filled with quilters from around the world that are following along with this project too! 

If you have a question, post it to the group and you'll likely get immediate help because someone, somewhere is always online. We hope you'll share your pictures and experiences too to make this group a friendly, supportive place.

So what are you waiting for? Join in the fun and let's learn how to piece and quilt together this year!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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