The Free Motion Quilting Project

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Caught in a Renovation Snowball

Today I'm starting Day 3 of our living room remodel and the honeymoon phase is officially over. I just didn't realize what a big change this would be, nor how much of the house would be affected. I'm so tired!

Yet again with this remodel we ran into issues with finding good help (you can read about the last remodel adventure here). This time I asked Dad to help me find a licensed contractor to work with us and do the job with a crew.

Unfortunately all the professional guys in my area either already had way too much work to do or didn't want to bother with my small job.

We tried to use personal contacts to find a licensed contractor and came up with a guy that does small jobs in addition to driving a dump truck. Unfortunately this guy shows up with only a massive ego in tow, no interest in listening to direction, and copped a bad attitude when he was called out for painting the walls without priming.

Dude, Painting lesson #1 - prime BEFORE you paint!

I came in and immediately found big gaps in the ceiling paint and long drips of primer running down the walls. The guy was clearly irritated at having to prime and took it out on us by doing a terrible job.

When I saw this mess, I was angry. Mostly at myself for not expressing exactly what I wanted and exactly how I wanted it done on paper and making the guy sign it acknowledging he understood.

While I think saying "Here's two gallons of primer for the walls and trim." should be enough to clarify that I wanted the walls primed, the better thing would have been to write a list and make sure we agreed to the terms of the project from the beginning.

The good news is, I was prepared. I'd worked ahead enough in the last few weeks that I have the time to work on this project all week. That's the good news. The bad news is I think I bit off a bit more than I expected.

The Snowball Effect

The initial goal of this job was to remove the back deck which was rotting off the back of the house and replace the back door with a big window. Because I knew this project would tear into the walls in the living room, I figured we'd also repaint the walls in the living room. Because there are only two walls to finish in this room, I thought this was going to be small and easy.

But then the project got a bit bigger.

The ceilings in the living room have had water damage because the roof was in terrible shape when we bought the house. This seemed like the perfect time to paint the ceilings and finally cover these ugly spots.

Except the living room ceiling doesn't end in the living room. It seamlessly connects to the ceiling in the kitchen and hall. So now we're painting the ceilings in two more spaces. That's more floor to cover and more stuff to move and clear.

And the hall walls were in terrible shape...why not paint them too? And the ego guy claimed he couldn't paint the ceiling in the kitchen without painting the walls so there's another room to paint as well.

See what's happened? This whole thing has snowballed and now it feels like the whole house is being repainted. While yes, this is going to be super nice when it's over, right now it just feels like overwhelming chaos.

I'm not a stranger to this type of chaos because I grew up with it. From first grade to seventh grade, my house was in some state of renovation, sometimes sealing off an entire room of the house for years. I grew up with my house like this so it feels weirdly comfortable to have everything jumbled up and tools all over the place.

But it also feels exhausting. Let's face it - I'm a quilter! I sit down most of the day at a sewing machine. I don't haul heavy stuff around, pound nails, rip off walls, or roll paint for hours every day.

This project has made it very clear just how soft my body has become from sitting and quilting every day. I've lost a lot of my upper body strength because I don't often lift or haul heavy things around. That must change. Whether I do physical work outside more often or work out harder at the gym, I've got to rebuild my strength and stamina.

But for now I'm just looking to get through this project. When confronted with his sloppy work and the option to continue under our direction, the contractor quit on the spot. His ego couldn't handle having to actually listen and follow directions.

That left us with a tricky situation - we needed extra hands to get the heavy window upstairs and installed in the window casing. I honestly didn't think we could do this ourselves.

But I guess I didn't give my family enough credit. We called my Father-in-law who lives just down the road and between Dad, Josh, and Chet, we managed to get the heavy window installed on the first try:

Gotta love strength in numbers! Now that the hardest, messiest part of the job is over, the rest should proceed quickly. Today we're going to finish the walls inside and I'll get back to painting today.

My goal is to be finished inside completely by Friday so life can get back to normal. James keeps walking into the living room saying "I just don't know if I can get used to this Mom." and my response is "I don't WANT you to get used to this kid!" I want our house back to normal too.

One thing I've learned with this renovation is to tackle things in smaller bites and not get caught in a renovation snowball. I could have painted only the living room ceiling. I could have refused to paint kitchen. I could have painted the living room years ago and not left it looking so ratty for so long.

When you wait to fix something, it just gets bigger and the job gets harder, more expensive, and more time consuming. Now that I'm caught in the snowball, I just have to ride it out and fix and finish everything at once. It's going to be a lot of work, but definitely feel great when it's finished.

Let's go quilt (I wish I was!),

Leah Day

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dresden Plate Party!

We've been having a party making Dresden Plates with the new Dresden Plate Template Set!

Dad has been piecing dozens of Dresden Plates together since January and I love seeing the variety of quilt blocks you can create using the templates. You can mix and match the templates in many ways to create a huge variety of Dresden Plate Quilt Blocks.

The easiest way to make a creative Dresden Plate is by changing the way the petal edges are finished. Let's learn how to finish the edges of the petals four different ways in this new quilting tutorial:

Click Here to find the Dresden Plate Template Set.

I think my favorite way to finish the Dresden Plate petal edges is by making them pointy because it's super easy to stitch and turn to make perfect points every time. This Dresden Plate quilt block was created by stitching pointy petals with Template #1 and #5:

You can use the same templates to cut petals and turn a straight edge to make an octagon, dodecagon, and a hexadecagon Dresden Plate:

This is probably the fastest way to finish the edges because you just fold over the edge and stitch them together! You can also fold over the inside edge too to create a finished edge to the inside as well.

If you're craving a curved edge petal, you can create two types of curves using templates #2, #4, and #6. There are two ways to create the curve - by turning the outer edge under using a turning template or by attaching fusible web to the outer edge before cutting.

Because the fusible web curve doesn't have to be turned, these petals will end up a bit longer than the rest and create 12 inch Dresden Plates.

I also shared yet another way to create a Dresden Plate last week with the Color Wheel Quilt Block tutorial. For this wheel style block you just attach fusible web to the edges of the fabric before cutting tumbler shapes, then cut the edges of the finished Dresden Plate using a circle cutter.

There are so many creative ways you can make Dresden Plate Quilt blocks! What is your favorite finish? Would you like to see more tutorials on creating Dresden Plate Quilts? Let me know in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Maintain Your Longarm Machine! Sit Down Quilting #9

I've had a lot of requests this week for a video on how to change a bobbin, oil, and change needles on the Grace Qnique 14+ so here it goes!

Click Here to learn more about this Grace Qnique machine.

One extra place I like to place 1 drop of oil is about 1/2 inch above the needle so that bar doesn't go too dry. That's just my personal preference.

Of course the best place to check for details about your machine is the machine manual. Always double check where your company recommends oiling the machine just in case your machine has different oil spots than the Grace Qnique.

For changing the bobbin, yes, it's a bit of an ordeal when the machine is dropped down into a table like this. I have to move the quilt, the Queen Supreme Slider, and the acrylic insert to change the bobbin. This is one good reason the quilt with one single color of thread - you only have to change when the bobbin runs out!

If you're changing thread colors a lot on a quilt, try quilting as much as you can through one color, switch, then quilt as much as you can with the next color and so on. It's certainly not a deal breaker for me because I like quilting with white Isacord thread for pretty much everything.

It is tough to keep track of how often you're changing the needles and oiling the machine. Another idea for keeping track might be to mark an X on your calendar. That way you'd know when the machine was last cleaned and maintained. Sometimes that's all it takes to guilt trip me into changing needles when I know I've been running the same one for a solid month!

It is a bit tricky to change needles as you can probably tell from the video. Just be sure to insert the needle so it faces the right way and make sure it's fully seated in the needle bar.

Please check your manual for better instructions! It's really hard to make videos like this because the angles are so weird and it's also hard to describe directions on the machine because technically the "front" of the machine is the side facing the needle (the side handle bars would be attached to if this was set up on a frame). *Sigh* I hope it made sense!

Let me know if you have more questions and as always, I love hearing your suggestions for future videos!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I'm Blooming!

I finished up my flower mask and dropped her off at the Arts Council this morning. What a fun finish! I'm literally blooming!

Thank you all so much for your comments on yesterday's post. It was wonderful to receive your feedback on my decision to write more often and to hear your own struggles with self doubt and negative inner voices.

I think we all go through periods of comparing ourselves to others or holding too high of expectations for a project. For this flower mask I had to remind myself that this was supposed to be fun! I took it down a notch and kicked back as I painted the face. Once I took the pressure off, I really enjoyed myself as I glued on the last flowers.

Now for the event details:

If you live in my area and would like to support the arts, plus healthy kidneys please buy tickets for the Wearable Art Fashion Show which will be held next Friday, March 31st at 6 pm. The tickets are $30 and the fashion show sounds like it's going to be a blast! Click Here to find tickets.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Flower Mask and Death to the Deck

It's Wednesday and I've been thinking lately that I should be writing more. I love to write, but I often don't take the time unless I have a video to go with a post and that's just silly. We can do photos too!

I'm in a strange mood today as I'm under a deadline (due tomorrow) to get this flower mask finished and ready to drop off at my local art's council. I have a lot more little flowers to glue on between now and then:

I admit I let my negative voices get a hold of this project and start a nasty chat in my head about how it's not good enough. I keep imagining some snooty art person looking at it and saying "That's just plastic craft junk. That's not art." 

I think everyone struggles with feeling like an impostor sometimes (that's why it's called Impostor Syndrome) and I think the trick is just saying it out loud. That's the stuff I'm hearing in my head and now I have to deal with it!

Despite the junk my brain is saying about it, I've loved building this mask. I saw these jumbo flowers at Hobby Lobby and my first thought was "I want that on my head" and so I've built a mask to have three massive flowers on my head, plus lots of pretty ferns and silk flowers. It's mostly being held together with hot glue and staples, but I've screwed the largest flowers in place with 3 inch long drywall screws so they are not going anywhere.

What is this for you ask? A wearable art fashion show! My local arts council is putting on the show as a fundraiser for the council and a local kidney foundation. It will be fun to see how this stacks up against other more traditional wearable art. 

But then again, is there such thing as traditional wearable art? Maybe I'm overthinking this whole ART thing. It's not like someone is going to be wearing a watercolor canvas and turn their nose up at my hot glued flowers. Bleh.

Death to the Rotted Deck

In other news, we have a renovation starting next week to finally remove this horrible deck. This was built in the 1970's when code enforcement in this area clearly wasn't up to snuff.

See the extra support beams on the front? Dad and Josh added those a few years ago just to stop the deck from falling off the back of the house!

I've priced out replacing this masterpiece of craftsmanship and came up with a ball park figure of $20,000. For a DECK? Ridiculous!

The reason it would be so expensive to replace is because there's an upstairs and downstairs door stacked right on top of one another with very little space between. In order to span the distance and to actually be built properly (ahem, actually to code), it would need to be built either with steel or a lot of extra support beams.

Rather than shell out all that cash, we've decided instead to remove the deck entirely and replace the upstairs back door with a big picture window. 

It will be one less door to our door-happy house and one less thing to keep me up at night imaging someone falling off this deck, the stairs crashing to the ground, or the whole thing collapsing under a heavy wind. 

So today I'm going to clean up the living room and clear out as much furniture as I can. I love renovating because things change and look prettier than they did the day before. Progress!

What are you up to today? Any big projects in the works? Any nasty voices in your head giving you problems? Give em' a one-two punch from me!

Let's go quilt (or hot glue more flowers),

Leah Day

Monday, March 20, 2017

Quilty Box! Color Wheel Quilt Blocks

It's Quilty Box time! Yep, this is a post with affiliate links to support our business. I received an awesome box of gear this month filled with beautiful fabrics and supplies selected by Allison Glass and I challenged myself to make this pretty Color Wheel Block with the fabrics:

I've made many Dresden Plates over the last few weeks, but this is the first plate I cut into a circle to create a wheel block. It's not hard, but I do recommend having a good circle cutter to make it easier. I like the True Cut 360 as you can select circle sizes up to 12 1/2 inches and cut them really accurately.

Now learn how to make this pretty Color Wheel Quilt Block in this new quilting tutorial:

Click Here to find this free quilt pattern.

To make this block, you will need the Dresden Plate Template Set because we use Templates #3 and #7 to quickly and easily cut the shapes for the color wheel. You'll also need some fusible web and my favorite is Lite Steam a Seam 2 because it's lightweight and fuses to fabric easily.

I decided to make my Color Wheel Dresden Plates fusible because I'm interested in learning more about fusible applique and I'm trying to play with it at any opportunity. You could also turn the circle edges by making a turning template instead. Click Here to watch another video on using a turning template.

Once you fuse your Color Wheel onto your background fabric, you should stitch it down along the edges to secure it completely. I like to use a blanket stitch because it's fast, easy to line up with the edges of the fused fabric, and doesn't show up much from a distance.

Now that our Color Wheel Quilt Block is created, how will we quilt it? My favorite way to quilt blocks like this is to stitch straight lines radiating out from the Color Wheel and fill each segment with a different color of thread and a different design.

Would you like to see more videos on quilting this block with many designs? Let me know in the comments below and I'll make more videos for this series!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Large Scale Quilting on the Grace Qnique 14+

Last week I shared a video on how to quilt tiny designs on the Grace Qnique machine while working on my unfinished hand dyed wholecloth quilt. This week I decided to do the exact opposite and share a video on quilting BIG! See what I mean in this new video tutorial:

The most frequent question I still receive about the Grace Qnique is a stitch regulator. I covered this in the video on speed control – the sit down model of the Grace Qnique 14+ does not have a stitch regulator.

Quilting big circles on Grace Qnique
What you see in the videos is my ability to balance speed and movement precisely to create consistent stitches. It’s a skill, not a computer program, and it does take time to develop.

The good news is the more you quilt, the better you will get, and the more you quilt, the faster you will get better. It might not look either perfect or pretty in the beginning, but if you stick with it, it will get better!

For this week’s project, I decided to take the first step in creating a quilted book cover – actually quilting something that could be sliced up. In this case it’s a simple fat quarter of Studio E fabric and I decided it would be perfect to quilt and follow the water ring design in the print fabric with quilted rings.

I’ll probably go back over this with more quilting designs, but it definitely made me more aware of just how fast this machine can go, which means my hands can move much faster too. 

quilting big circles on the Grace Qnique
This works great on a small sandwich like this which can so nicely fit into the 15 inches of space I have on this machine. I felt really comfortable quilting it even at the fastest speeds, but as you saw in the video, I couldn’t sustain that hectic pace too long. It was just too stressful.

So how will this work on a larger quilt? I’m planning to test that in a future video. I have some ideas for making the test even more interesting with fleece and minky fabrics, but more on that later! 

Next week I’ll be back with a video on machine maintenance. I ran into an issue this week with inserting the needle and it really drove home the importance of getting all the simple things right in order for the machine to run it’s best.

Feel free to post any questions you have about this machine or suggestions for future videos in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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