The Free Motion Quilting Project: January 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

Walking Foot Quilting: How to Quilt Bright Star

It's time to quilt our third design for the Machine Quilting Party. Yep, we're still stitching straight lines, but this time quilting from the center to create a beautiful Bright Star!

Learn how to quilt this design with easy walking foot quilting in this new quilting tutorial:


Click Here to find the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting where you can find the Marvelous Mosaic Quilt Pattern and quilt along with us this year!


I had a great time quilting this using masking tape as a guide. As I mentioned in the video, I was avoiding putting marks on my blocks for these videos because I was also shooting photos of the squares too. I found it sped up the marking process too because I didn't have to worry about erasing the marks after I was finished quilting.

But I received a great question today about quilt marking and what pens / pencils I like to use. Click Here to find the fabric marking pens I recommend.

I do NOT recommend using the heat-erase pens because they can ghost (remove pigment from your fabric) and show back up again after the quilt is finished, haunting you like the ghost of Christmas past.

I prefer marking pens and pencils that erase, brush off, or wash out completely so no extra chemicals are left in the quilt. Click Here to find a video on marking quilting designs from last year's Machine Quilting Block Party.

Quilt Bright Star Two Ways

Bright Star is a super easy quilting design, but I want you to understand that there's more than one way to quilt all of the designs we're quilting this year. You can use your walking foot and walking foot quilting, or you can use your darning foot and free motion quilting.

Learn how to quilt Bright Star in a much smaller block in this free motion quilting tutorial:


Yep, this is an oldie goldie design from the first year of this blog project. I shared the original tutorial (in it's wonderful low res glory) back on Dec 7th, 2009. Click Here to find the original post. Oh, how times have changed!

But I want you to see that quilting this design can change. You can quilt straight from edge to edge across your quilt - provided it's a small space you're quilting.

So if you're looking at your quilt and want to quilt 20 inches across a space with Bright Star, it will be a good idea to start in the center and stitch outwards. It will likely feel a lot easier to quilt this way too, even with all the thread tails you'll have to tie off and bury inside your quilt.

If you're quilting a really tiny space - 6 inches or smaller - then it should be find to quilt straight across from edge to edge as I quilted in the second video.

I also want you to know that there is no right or wrong way to quilt any design.

No matter which way you stitch it, it's still Bright Star and it will still look great on your quilt!

Dealing with Thread Breaks

In the walking foot quilting tutorial I tied off and buried a lot of thread breaks. I don't like to have too many loose threads on the quilt at any given time, mostly because it's messy, but it can also get confusing which threads should be tied together when you end up with lots of breaks in one space.

Learn how to tie off and bury your thread tails in this quilting tutorial:


Click Here to find the Hide Your Threads Kit which includes cheater needles and the Pin Place so you can keep a single needle handy at all times.

Important note: Only tie 2 threads together into a knot at a time.

If you have 4 thread tails all in one place it's really tempting to tie them all together and try to bury it in the quilt. But it's really not a good idea. 4 threads create a huge knot that rarely pulls into the middle layer cleanly.

If you want your stops and starts to be 100% undetectable from the quilt surface or back, only tie 2 threads together at a time.

Yes, there is an alternative method that I call the Glob of Thread which I don't teach because it almost always results in the quilting stitches unraveling after the quilt is complete. It's unsightly and leaves noticeable lumpy knots on the front and back of your quilt so it's not a method I recommend.

Practice Makes Perfect

I do hope you'll quilt Bright Star this week because in 2 weeks we'll be quilting this design on a real quilt! This is the center and corner design we're quilting on the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt.


Take some time to practice this design and look forward to seeing how to quilt it on an 80 inch quilt on a small home sewing machine! Yes, it is possible to quilt large quilts on your home machine and I plan to show you how starting next Monday.


Remember, all the quilt patterns for the Machine Quilting Party can be found in the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day. Click Here to check it out!

I hope you're enjoying these walking foot quilting tutorials and the Machine Quilting Party. Remember you can find all the videos shared so far right here. 

We also have a playlist with just the videos right here so you can watch all of the videos in order. It's a great way to binge watch and listen to the process as you're piecing and quilting.

We've shared 3 walking foot quilting designs so far so you can learn the basics of this style of quilting, how to quilt Crazy Lines, and how to quilt Bright Star. I love how these simple straight-line designs look together. Yes, the designs are easy and simple, but the textures they can create on your quilt can be spectacular!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Piece and Quilt Precut Fabrics with Christa Watson, Episode #43

Hello My Quilting Friends! Today I'm chatting with my awesome quilting friend Christa Watson about piecing and quilting with precut fabrics. This just happens to also be the topic of Christa's new quilting book! Listen or download the episode here:


Or you can watch the episode and see me stitching away at this forever cross stitch project in my living room:


Ad: Click Here to find Christa's newest book Piece and Quilt with Precuts. 

This is a terrific book for slicing into those precut packs you've stashed away so you can turn those nice fabrics into beautiful quilts. Best of all, piecing with precuts can be a lot faster and save you time in the cutting process.

The one downside is you can't prewash precuts and Christa and I talk through how to manage that at the end of the project. Christa doesn't like washing fabrics cut smaller than a fat quarter because they can distort and get weird on the edges. She does wash fat quarters in lingerie bags and that helps contain their tendency to fray on the edges.

Click Here to check out ChristaQuilts.com, her website where she shares lots of informative posts, plus has a terrific quilt shop where you can buy her books and fabrics.

Speaking of fabric, Christa recently designed a new fabric line called Modern Marks. She sent me a mini quilt and I got to quilt it!




Christa and I share a lot of quilting habits, but one place we differ is on quilt basting. She prefers to spray baste her quilts together and has shared an excellent tutorial on how she sprays the quilt top and backing fabric, then layers everything together on her design wall.


What I love the most about Christa is how energetic and enthusiastic she is about quilting, teaching, and running her business. She really fires me up and inspires me to keep trying new things. You never know if you'll like something until you try it!

Podcast Sponsor

This week's podcast is sponsored by our new Basting Basics Workshop. Come learn all the basics of basting a big quilt, plus lots of tips on picking the best quilt batting for your project in this online quilting class.

This workshop will come in very handy this week as we've pieced the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt and now it's time to baste and quilt it together.


Update Time!

This week I've been continuing my mission of finishing older projects. In the evening, I've been working on this little painted needlepoint gingerbread house and making very SLOW progress. Who would have thought cross stitch could take so long?


I've also pulled out the Winter Wonderland Quilt Pattern. This was a quilt pattern I created back in 2010 and really needed an update. James and I had a photo shoot together this weekend before it got really cold again. He mostly shot pictures of the chickens and cats, but shot a few of the quilt too.


Working on this has felt a bit like traveling back in time. It also reminded me how much I love this quilt and the unique technique Reverse Shadow Trapunto that's used to create the beautiful blocks.

I'm going to double and triple check my math and hand this off to Josh for the editing and layout. Be looking forward to these snowflakes falling back on the quilt shop by the end of the month!


This week I also shared a video on how to piece your Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt together into one big quilt top. It's so nice to go to the Facebook Group and see all the bright rainbow quilts filling up the feed! Click Here to find the latest tutorial.

As for walking foot designs, last week we learned how to quilt Crazy Lines. I love how easily everyone is jumping into walking foot quilting. I've been teaching free motion quilting for years and it's always such a struggle for beginners to get started and overcome the starting ugly stitches.

Walking foot quilting doesn't seem to have that barrier to entry and that is wonderful to see. Just in case you miss any videos or posts, remember you can always find them right here on our website.

Now I'm off to play in the snow!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 15, 2018

Piecing the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt Top

Welcome back to the third week of the Machine Quilting Party! We're chugging right along with our Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt and today we're piecing the quilt blocks together to create the finished quilt top. Learn how to arrange and piece your blocks in long rows in this new quilting video:


Are you looking for the quilt pattern? Click Here to find it in the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting!

When piecing any quilt fabrics, remember I always lower my stitch length to 1.5 mm to produce a tight, secure stitch. This locks the pieces together securely so I can press the seam allowances open.


Have you heard this is a bad idea? Click Here to find a Great Quilting Debate about pressing seams!

There are a lot of nuances to quilt piecing that I hope I illustrated well in this video. My hands are constantly tweeking the quilt, lifting it up to check the seam allowances are staying open, brushing the fabrics so they stay in good alignment, and pressing hard to maintain that alignment as the rows are fed into the machine.

My #1 tip is to take your time. Be patient as you stitch the blocks and rows together.

My #2 tip is to be forgiving and loving to yourself if your quilt top doesn't turn out perfect.

My new Rainbow Log Cabin quilt was far from perfect! Dad and I pieced the log cabin blocks together and our seam allowances aren't quite the same, which is noticeable in a few spots on this quilt. Should I rip it out and obsess about perfection? Will you think less of me if I leave that in?

A few years ago, I would have ripped and fussed and fiddled and fought with the quilt to get it perfect. I would have worried my pants off about what everyone would think if those blocks didn't match perfectly.

It's taken years to let go of this anxiety and fear and accept the simple truth: I'm not a perfect person. I will not make perfect quilts. I can love myself and love my quilt exactly the way I pieced it the first time.


So if you are feeling upset about your blocks, please take a minute to look at the colors you've chosen, the pretty fabrics you pulled from your stash, and lovingly accept exactly who you are and where you are right now with your quilting skills.

You can always improve, and you do that by piecing and quilting more quilts. Keep your quilting experience light, easy, and joyful and there will always be more quilts to create and more skills to build.

A Quick Quilting Catch Up

Now a little recap just in case you're just joining in the fun of this Rainbow Log Cabin quilt project. At the beginning of the month we started this project by washing, starching, pressing, squaring, and cutting the fabrics accurately. Click Here to find this tutorial.

Last week I shared a video on piecing the log cabin quilt blocks. Many quilters on the Facebook group mentioned having issues with their blocks measuring the correct size. Make sure to watch the video to learn how Dad and I worked around the same issue. Click Here to find that tutorial.

This week the goal is to take the dozens of Log Cabin quilt blocks we've pieced and sew them together to form one big quilt top.


Wait! What?! One big quilt top? I thought we were quilting this on a home machine?

Yes we are! I want to teach you how to quilt a big quilts on your home machine. Don't worry it won't break your arms off, or kill you, or ruin the quilt. I'll share more tips on managing the weight and size of the quilt in each new video.

Remember, more videos for the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt come out every Monday, but you can follow along and make this quilt anytime and work at your own pace. You can find the pattern in the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day.

You'll also want to layer and baste the quilt top with batting and backing fabric to create the quilt sandwich. Next week we will begin quilting the layers together as we stitch in the ditch between the quilt blocks.


Do you need help basting a big quilt? Click Here to learn about basting in the Basting Basics Workshop.

In this online quilting class, you'll learn all the steps to basting a quilt and a wealth of information about the different quilt battings you have to choose from and the big impact this middle layer can have for your quilts. I share my favorite pin basting methods as well as new techniques for machine basting as well!

Click Here to learn more about quilt basting.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

P.S Are you looking for all the videos shared so far? Click Here to find a page where they're all linked up.

Would you like to binge watch all the videos as well? That's a great idea! Click Here to find the playlist.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Walking Foot Quilting: Let's Quilt Crazy Lines

Welcome to a new walking foot quilting tutorial! I'm really enjoying this Machine Quilting Party and making two different quilts with you at the same time. Are you enjoying the process? Is two quilts one too many?

Today we're quilting a super funky easy walking foot quilting design called Crazy Lines. Learn how to quilt it in this new video quilting tutorial:


Click Here to find Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day and start quilting along with us!


Each Friday we're quilting a quilt new design with walking foot quilting, and at the end of this quilt along in June we'll take 20 of the squares and connect them together to make the Marvelous Mosaic quilt! Click Here to find the first post with Walking Foot Basics to get you started.

Quilting Crazy Lines is a free-form version of straight lines we learned last week. For this design, I marked each line one at a time using 1/4-inch painters tape. I wanted the lines to be completely irregular and angled in all different directions so I didn't use the edges of my walking foot as a guide.


Instead at the end of each line, I'd pull up the tape and reposition it to create a new line at a new angle. I like the thinner tape for this job and I found I could reposition the tape a few times before it stopped sticking to the fabric.


Fiddling with the tape at the end of each line did take more time to quilt this block. If you'd prefer to move faster through your quilt block, you could mark the lines with a fabric marking pencil and long ruler instead.

What do you think of Crazy Lines? Do you like this texture or prefer the effect of evenly spaced straight lines instead? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Is Basting Spray Bad for Quilts? Podcast Episode #42

Hello My Quilting Friends! This week I'm taking on another Great Quilting Debate - is basting spray bad for our quilts? Listen to my take on this topic using the player below:


Or you can watch the episode and see what I'm working on with this video:


Basting spray is an aerosol glue you can use to spray the layers of your quilt so they stick together. It's a faster basting method in comparison to pin basting or hand basting, and I know many quilters that prefer to use spray basting because it's easier on their hands.

As with all my Great Quilting Debate episodes, I 100% believe you should use what you want and what works for you! I use polyester thread for quilting, I like to prewash and starch all my fabric before cutting, and I press my seams open - all of these are topics that quilters argue about.

But I rarely hear anyone arguing about basting spray and this worries me. I get questions weekly about whether starch will make their quilts more susceptible to bugs (a ridiculous quilting rumor in my opinion), but I never get questions about the effects of basting spray - a far more detrimental chemical.

Maybe this is because I don't use basting spray so quilters are taking their questions about it elsewhere. Or maybe quilters don't know about the possible side effects of using this chemical in their quilts.

A few years ago I ran across a research paper put out by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on the effects of lots of different glues commonly used in quilts including basting spray, fusible webs, and fusible batting. The conclusion was very clear from this study - if you want to create a quilt that will last beyond your lifetime (100 years +) or be considered a good candidate for museum curation, none of these materials should be used in the quilt.

Click Here to find the article I wrote in 2011 about chemicals in quilts.

Of course, I know a lot of quilters don't care about their quilt going in a museum or outliving them! I know this matters very little if you want to make a quilt for all 18 of your grandchildren by Christmas and pin basting makes your hands hurt.

Again, use what works and helps you make your quilts.

But please make sure you are using this chemical safely. Our sewing rooms are NOT well ventilated and I don't think it's safe to spray basting glue in the house and especially near a sewing machine. Not all brands of basting spray are smelly, but glue is glue, and glue isn't good for our lungs to breathe or land near our machines either!

If you do use basting spray, please use it outside. 

My quilting friend Christa Watson has a great tutorial on spray basting. She sprays her quilts outside, then brings the layers back inside to squish them together. Click Here to find Christa's spray basting tutorial.

Photo from ChristaQuilts.com
Christa recently updated this tutorial to show you how to spray baste vertically using a design wall as well. Click Here to find this new tutorial.

Whew! That was quite a bit of a basting rant, but these Great Quilting Debates are debates for a reason. We all have different opinions about these materials and what is best for our quilts. Ultimately you just have to decide what works for you and helps you create the quilts you want to make.

Get the Basics of Basting under your Belt (and say that three times fast!)

I know I'm feeling particularly opinionated about basting because I've just finished a new online quilting workshop on this topic. If you'd like to learn more about quilt basting and dig into this subject more, please join me for the Basting Basics Workshop!

This online quilting class covers all the topics of basting, and we pin baste a baby quilt, a king sized quilt, and teach machine basting as well.

I prefer to either pin or stitch the layers of my quilts together because it doesn't add any extra chemicals or glues to the quilt that I have to worry about later.

I also include a lot of information on picking your batting - one of the most crucial choices when it comes to basting your quilts. I had a lot to share about batting because this layer ultimately determines how long it will take to quilt your quilt.

So if this podcast episode has peaked your interest in quilt basting, please join me for a quilting class to learn more. Click here to find the Basting Basics Workshop!

Stitching and Quilting Updates...

Now I've mostly been working on this workshop this week, but in my evening hand stitching time, I've been finishing up my Express Your Love mini embroidery. I just put the last stitches in the binding last night so it's finally finished!


It feels awesome to be done with this little quilt, which has been in progress since 2013. I got serious about finishing it this fall and began working on it for 30 - 60 minutes every evening. When I started in September, it looked like this:


This is the power of a little work every day! Just a few minutes on a project, every single day, is so much better than just spending one day on a project once a month.

This is also how I'm writing a book. So long as I get a little done every day, I know I'm moving forward steadily. Even if it's just a few hundred words, even if it's just polishing what I've written before, that's still forward movement.

What was the challenge this week?

My word for the year is challenge and, yes, it was a very big challenge to film all the videos and create the new basting workshop all in just two weeks! I'm delighted with how this class turned out and thrilled Josh and I could work together to make it all come together so quickly.

But a personal challenge was also put in my path over the weekend. I had a very personal reminder that life is short and none of us know how much time we have on this Earth. We can lose the ones we love in a second and then they are gone.

On Sunday I was planning to stay home and work while the guys went on a hike. But did that work really need to be done right then? Nope.


I put work aside, pulled on my boots and two layers of clothing and we climbed a mountain together. This was a wonderful day and we all had a great time!

I also went through all my photos from 2017 this week so I could make a calendar with photos from the previous year. I realized we need more days like this - more memories, more fun times together. My son is 10 and this time of him being a kid is fleeting and I want to make the most of it.

I don't want my son only remembering me working or stitching or designing something and never being present with him, just happily walking through the woods. Because I know my son will likely mirror my habits. If I show him life is all work and no play, he will grow up to live that same life.

So that's it for this week! Just in case I don't say it enough, please know that I love that you're here, reading and watching and learning with us! I feel so thankful for this life and business and I appreciate being able to share it with you.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 8, 2018

How to Piece Log Cabin Blocks

Welcome back to the second week of the Machine Quilting Party! Today we're piecing the log cabin quilt blocks for the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt. This is one of my favorite traditional quilt blocks because it's so easy to piece, but creates such a pretty effect on your quilt.

Learn how to piece a log cabin block in this quilting tutorial:


Are you looking for the Rainbow Log Cabin quilt pattern? Click Here to find it in the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting.

Just in case you missed the video from last week, click here to learn how to prepare and cut your fabricsI do advise prewashing your fabric, starching and pressing to make the pieces nice and stiff so they are easy to cut and also easy to piece together too.

Yes, if you prewash fat quarters, they are going to get a bit messy. Here's a photo of what you can expect from washing fat quarters in the washing machine:


It will take a bit of time to clip these apart and clean up all these stray threads, but this isn't a deal breaker for me. Personally I'd rather deal with tangle of threads now than deal with bleeding dyes in my finished quilt later.

If this does happen to you, clip apart all the fabrics and shake them out flat before throwing them in the dryer. If you dry the fabrics wadded and tied up like this, it will take a lot more time to pull them apart and press them flat later.

Seams Open, Seams Closed?

Now that we're getting into piecing, I know you're probably wondering about those seam allowances. I lower my stitch length when piecing to 1.5 mm to produce a very tiny, secure stitch. Because my stitch length is so small, I feel confident pressing my seams open.

I like seams pressed open on my quilts because I find this makes my blocks more accurately pieced and my quilt tops are flatter and easier to quilt over. This is one of those things quilters like to debate and many quilters strongly disagree with seams pressed open.

This fall I started taking on a lot of quilting debates on my podcast Hello My Quilting Friends! Click Here to find podcast episode all about pressing seams to learn more.

Trimming vs. Force Fitting

As I mentioned in the video, Dad and I had a piecing adventure as we created the Rainbow Log Cabin together. Dad's the best fabric cutter I could ever have because he was a machinist before working with fabric and he definitely knows how to cut accurately.

But his seam allowance is sometimes, well, a bit big.

Honestly it's not off by very much. I guesstimated Dad's seams are probably only 1 or 2 threads too wide.

I know, 1 - 2 THREADS?! Yes, that is enough to throw off a log cabin block because these blocks build exponentially from the center to the outer edges. By the time you get to the outer strips of the block, the pieced square could be as much as 1/8 inch off.


The best solution for this problem is to trim excess strip off. Force fitting the longer strip to the smaller block is going to create distortion and a ripply effect that will go on to haunt you in the quilting process. Just follow the steps I share in the video for trimming off the excess strip if you start to notice that show up in your log cabin blocks.

Yes, your blocks may end up smaller than the size listed in the book. That's fine! The key is consistency. Dad consistently pieces with a slightly big seam allowance, so all of his blocks ended up slightly smaller than they should have.

Quilting Homework 

This week our goal is to piece the log cabin blocks. Follow the instructions in the book to piece the blocks using the correct dominate / recessive color combinations.

Next week we will piece the blocks together to create our Rainbow Log Cabin quilt top!


I hope you're having a blast with the Machine Quilting Party. Remember you can always join in the fun and begin quilting along with us. You can find all the videos shared so far right here.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, please share it with your friends, and feel free to post the images and video here to Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram - where ever you like to hang out and share online! That really helps me out a lot and helps other quilters learn more about quilting.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, January 5, 2018

Walking Foot Quilting Basics


It's finally Friday and time to jump on our machine and start walking foot quilting! I'm going to be machine quilting all of the designs from my book Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day into squares to teach you how to quilt each design.

So you can find new walking foot quilting videos here every Friday. At the end, you'll have lots of blocks quilted and you can connect together your favorite 20 to create the Marvelous Mosaic Quilt. Click Here to learn more and find the materials list!

Let's get started on the right foot and learn how to prepare your fabrics and baste your blocks for Marvelous Mosaic in this quilting tutorial:


Click Here to find the flower head pins and pinmoors in the Baste Your Quilt Kit!

If you decide to use Minky fabric for the backing of your quilt, click here to find French Fuse to stabilize it.


Yes, I do think prewashing, starching and pressing fabric is an important step in the quilting process. Click Here to learn how to prepare you fabric.

Marvelous Mosaic is a very fat quarter friendly quilt and yes, you can prewash fat quarters of fabric too. Separate the fabrics by color and wash them in a laundry bag or pillowcase to minimize the fraying from the edges of the blocks.

It's so nice to start with washed fabric so you never have to worry about bleeding dyes when the quilt is complete. I would hate to see the bright colors of Marvelous Mosaic bleeding into one another. It would turn in to a big mess!

It does save time to prepare all your blocks ahead of time so each week you can grab one and stitch a new design. Yes, quilting individual blocks will teach you quite a lot about quilting, even though it's not a big quilt. You'll get the feel for moving and manipulating your quilt, how to work with the walking foot and get used to how it feeds the fabric forward.

If you're looking for tips on quilting bigger quilts, make sure to check out our videos posted every Monday as we piece and quilt the large Rainbow Log Cabin and quilt it all in one piece!


Now let's dive into walking foot quilting with our first, very simple quilting design and some basic tips to get you started in this quilting tutorial:


It can be a bit tricky to put a walking foot on your machine so I hope the beginning of this video is helpful. You may need to wiggle your handwheel a bit to adjust your needle bar so you can slip the little arm of the walking foot in place.

Many machines have new integrated dual feed systems that are built into the machine so your foot may be very different to attach. Check your machine manual to double check how to attach it if you have an accu feed or dual feed system.

Gear Up!

I love quilting on my home machine, but moving and manipulating the quilt can be challenging. Quilts are heavy and the fabric on the surface is very soft so I always find my hands slipping and sliding over the surface. That's why I wear quilting gloves to get a grip on the quilt so it moves exactly where it I want it to.

I also use a Queen Supreme Slider to help the quilt slide more easily over the table. For walking foot quilting, you need to position the slider to the left side of the machine.


Do not place it on the machine with the hole over the feed dogs - that position is for free motion quilting, a totally different technique.

For walking foot quilting we need the feed dogs to feed the quilt from the back as the walking foot feeds the quilt from the top. If you're not used to using the slider, please tape it down. It's a very delicate tool so if you stitch through it, it will not live to quilt another day!

I also use bobbin washers in the bobbin case of my machine to help the thread glide evenly through the bobbin case. This is really helpful for older machines like the one I'm using in the video.

Click Here to find these three tools in the Queen Surpreme Kit.

Set Your Stitch Length



This is something you get to play with! When you change your stitch length setting on your machine, you will change the length of your stitches. Please make a test sandwich and play around with lots of different stitch lengths to see the effect on your quilt.

Pretend you are Goldilocks only instead of testing oatmeal and the softness of chairs, you're testing stitch length - you have to find the one that feels just right.

My favorite, most used stitch length is 1.5 mm for walking foot quilting. This is the setting I use for piecing too, so it's become a routine to sit down at my machine and immediately adjust the stitch length down to this setting.

But my blocks are a bit different for this quilt because I'm using minky fabric on the back. The minky loves to grip the table top and the machine so I found I needed to increase the stitch length to 2.5 mm.

Anytime I mention stitch length, I'm always asked about stitch width. Unless you want to stitch a zigzag, you don't need to mess with your stitch width setting. Leave it at center position or 0 or whatever the default is on your machine.

Marking Straight Lines

You can mark your block with a ruler and a fabric marking pencil, or you could just tape it! I used 1-inch wide masking tape to create a nice straight line to begin stitching my lines. I positioned my foot on top of the tape so my needle was running right along the edge of the tape like this:


I like quilting like this and you'll see me do it a lot this year. I can see the tape clearly and see my needle and I don't find it hard to stitch right against the tape. I almost never stitch over the edge of it, but even if you do, just tug on the tape gently and you should be able to rip it out from your stitches.

Dealing with Thread Tails 

One very issue is going to crop up a lot and that is thread breaks. Every line of quilting you begin and end is going to result in two loose thread tails on your quilt. It's important to secure these loose threads so your quilting stitches don't unravel from your quilt. Learn how to tie off and bury your thread tails in this video from last year:


Yes, I tie off and bury every thread tail using this method, every time! I've incorporated this into a habit so I don't even have to think about it. I tie a knot, grab a cheater needle, pop the thread tails in and hide them in the quilt.

I keep the needle handy on a small magnet pincushion. The last thing I want to do is go hunting for a special needle when I'm in the middle of a quilt so I keep this right next to my machine and that single needle is the only thing on it.

Click Here to find both tools in the Hide Your Threads Kit.


Quilting Scale and Density

I stitched Straight Lines, one of the easiest and simplest walking foot quilting designs on a 1/2-inch scale for my quilt block. Your quilting scale refers to the distance between your lines of quilting.

If you want to quilt the block faster and for it to feel softer and squishier, leave more space between the lines. You don't have to quilt the lines so closely together.

I like to quilt on a 1/2-inch scale because it makes the texture really stand out on the quilt and it's easy for me to stitch on that scale using the edge of my walking foot as a guide. But yes, it would take half the time if you quilted this block on a 1-inch scale, and even less time if the lines were spaced 1 1/2 inches apart.

So that's it for this tutorial! Be looking forward to more walking foot design videos every Friday through June as we Explore Walking Foot Quilting together.

If one day a week isn't enough, also check out our videos every Monday as we piece and quilt the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt with walking foot quilting too. You can find all the videos linked up together right here.

Would you like to hang out with other quilters learning about walking foot quilting too? Join the Machine Quilting Party Facebook Group.

One last thing - I would LOVE for you to share the photos and videos shared in this tutorial! Please share on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or any other social site you like. It helps me out a lot and helps new quilters find us and join in the fun!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Longarm Quilting and Yoga with Amy Helton

Hello My Quilting Friends! Today I'm chatting with Amy Helton, or LongarmYogiGal, a longarm quilter and yogi from Kentucky! Listen or download the episode using the player here:


Or watch the episode with a live intro with me in bright orange here:


Click Here to check out Amy Helton's Facebook Page. This is where you can connect with Amy to talk about longarm quilting your quilts. Her goal is to have a quilt in all 50 states so help her reach her goal this year!

I found Amy on Instagram where I ran across her handle LongarmYogiGal and instantly wanted to know more about her. LOL! It really can be that simple!

I loved this chat with Amy because she has such a fun take on longarm quilting. She didn't start out being a quilter. In fact, she bought her longarm sight unseen without ever having made a quilt before! It takes a lot of courage to jump into a new career like this and Amy was obviously up to the challenge.

Amy is also a yogi, a person that practices yoga. She went through teacher training and incorporates yoga into her daily life. Maybe Amy will write the book Yoga for Quilters so we can all incorporate yoga poses while we quilt! Hint Hint!


This is the beautiful wholecloth quilt Amy and I talked about in the podcast. This is such a gorgeous example of Amy's longarm quilting skills and her ability as a designer as well.

Remember you can always find more episodes of the Hello My Quilting Friends Podcast here at LeahDay.com.

You can also Click Here to find a playlist of all the videos we've shared as well!

Now for the updates around the house, I'm going to start keeping this a lot shorter and sweeter because, well, time is short, and I have a lot of projects going these days!

Click Here to check out the Machine Quilting Party and get started on your Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt. We're going to piece the quilt top together, then quilt it with walking foot style quilting. New videos for the log cabin will be shared every Monday.

You can also watch new videos every Friday to learn more walking foot quilting designs - yep, that's two days of walking foot quilting awesomeness a week!

To join in the fun, all you need is a copy of my book Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day. Click Here to check it out.

I've been cleaning like a madwoman all this week and the basement studio looks amazing. It feels so wonderful to have the space cleaned up and all my materials and supplies organized into labeled bins, boxes, and drawers.

The space is feeling extra clean thanks to Dusty, our new robot vacuum cleaner! Ad - We picked up a Deebot and I swear I'm in love with this little guy. If only he could wash the dishes and windows too!

This week I'm working on a new quilting workshop to help you out with quilt basting. I recently realized just how many questions I receive every week just about picking batting and the basting process so I'm filming new videos to help answer your questions and guide you step-by-step through the process

Be looking forward to the Basting Basics online workshop coming out on January 11th!

What is your word for the year?

Last week I shared my word for the year in the podcast as well as a look back at 2017. Thank you so much for all the supportive comments and emails we've received over the last week!

Many quilters wrote in to thank me for being so open and personal and many people used the word Courage, which I think is a wonderful addition to my word Challenge. I find having a word or two serve as a guide works far better than having a specific single goal, like write a book. It's great to have goals like that too, but I find using a word helps me grow and change in a much more dramatic way throughout the year.


And just in case you didn't watch the video, here's a picture of me with Release Your Light, the goddess quilt I always pull out during this time of the year. Click Here to read more about this quilt.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 1, 2018

Log Cabin Quilt - Prepare Fabric and Cut Pieces

It's finally time to kick off the Machine Quilting Party and create the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt! In this quilting tutorial, I want to teach you how to prepare your fabric and square it accurately so it's easy to cut long, straight strips.

Learn how to prepare your fabric and cut the pieces for your Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt in this video quilting tutorial:


Are you looking for the pattern for the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt? You can find it in my new book Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day, along with six other quilt patterns and thirty beautiful walking foot designs to quilt on your home machine.

Click Here to find the Ebook Version you can download today!

Click Here to find the print version on Amazon.com. (Sorry! We're currently out of print copies!)

When it comes to preparing fabric, my rules are the same for every single quilt, every time - wash it, starch it, press it, square it, cut it. Let's dig into each step a bit to discuss them further:

Wash Your Fabric

Fabrics are either dyed or printed and sometimes excess dyes and pigments are left on the surface. Fabrics are also coated with several chemicals to make them feel and look better on the bolt so they're more likely to sell in the store.

I don't like the idea of working with fabric with these excess chemicals and dyes on the surface. The dyes especially can come back to haunt you after the quilt is finished as they migrate and bleed from one color to another. This happened on my very first quilt which was blue and white. The blue fabrics began to bleed and the white turned a weird blue / gray. Definitely not what I was going for!


To wash your fabric, sort it into piles of similar colors and wash each in their own load. Throw a 10-inch square of white fabric into the washer to test for color fastness. If the white fabric square comes out discolored in any way, wash that load again so the excess dyes are completely removed.

You can also use Dye Grabbers, special sheets designed to pull excess dye from the water. If you're working with batik fabrics, you may need to wash it out several times before it stops bleeding.

I use a mild detergent with my fabrics, but please don't use fabric softener. We don't want the fabric to be soft because that will make it harder to cut accurately.

Yes, there are precuts of fabric available that are too small / thin to be washed. I have washed fat quarters and fat eighths successfully, but you will loose some fabric around the edges due to fraying. I don't wash fabrics smaller than a fat eighth. For those fabrics you just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best!

Click Here to listen to a podcast episode all about washing fabric!

Starch and Press

After your fabric has been washed, it's going to feel very soft. Much too soft to set a ruler on top and be able to cut it accurately.

The next step is to apply starch and press the fabric to return it to a stiff, flat shape. Yes, I know many quilters have been told starch is evil and will doom your quilt for eternity. Click Here to find a podcast episode about that silly quilting rumor.

I love starch and find it's an essential step to making fabric stiff and easy to work with. Spray it on the right side of the fabric, then flip over and give the fabric a massage to encourage it to soak in. Then press from the wrong side. If you're going for gold, spray starch again from the wrong side, massage, and press from the right side.

This extra layer of starch will make the fabric almost paper stiff, with no stretch at all. I like taking my fabric to this stage because it's so much easier to cut and piece accurately. This is also essential for cutting binding fabric into long straight strips that are easier to handle.

When it comes to pressing, it's really nice to use a firm pressing board. They're not hard to build and can make a huge difference when it comes to pressing fabric without distorting it. Click Here to learn how to build a hard pressing board.

I also only press with a hot, dry iron. I don't use steam because it keeps the fabric wet rather than drying the starch quickly on the surface.

Square the Edges

Once the fabric is flat and stiff, it's time to cut. But wait - how do we cut straight strips out of a big piece of fabric? The key is doing the fabric dance and folding the fabric just right so the fibers are aligned square and straight together. Make sure to watch the video above to see this step. It's essential for cutting nice straight strips!

Cut Straight and Square

With the fabric stiff, stable, and square, you're ready to cut. Follow the video to align your ruler and square off the end of the fabric, then flip it over so you can continue cutting with your dominant hand.

Ad: I use Fiskars 60 mm rotary cutter and titanium blades. I love the bigger cutter because it stays sharper for a longer period of time and the titanium blades really do make a difference.

Give yourself the gift of a nice sharp blade this year! You're never going to make an accurate cut if you have to roll across the edge three times in order to cut through the fabrics completely!

It is important to double check your strips. Cut two and unfold one. If you notice a "V" shape or peak lining up with the folds in the fabric, that's a sign the fabric wasn't properly squared. Unfold the fabric, hold it up and do the square dance again, then cut off the edge and begin cutting strips again.

How do you know how big to cut the strips and how many pieces? Just follow the quilt pattern in my book Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day!


Are all these steps required to make a quilt?

Please keep in mind, this is the method that works best for me! This is the way I work with all fabric, whether it's prepared for a quilt along like this or being sliced up for a baby quilt for a friend.

It's up to you if you want to use this method or not, but I encourage you to at least try it. If you've ever felt frustrated by your pieces not lining up, or your blocks not turning out the right size, these methods will make a big difference.

Quilt-making is a building process so how you prepare the fabric effects the cutting and the cutting effects the piecing. If you start out on the right foot with your fabrics properly prepared, the entire process will come together so much easier!

Are you excited about creating the Rainbow Log Cabin quilt with me? Join in the fun of the Machine Quilting Party Facebook Group so you can ask questions, post photos, and meet new quilting friends from around the world.

Are you wondering about the second quilt we're creating together this month? Marvelous Mosaic posts will be shared on Friday and yes, please prepare your fabric and cut your pieces the exact same way as I've shown for the Rainbow Log Cabin.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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