The Free Motion Quilting Project: September 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to Piece Perfect Quilts

Once upon a time I was a beginning quilter who knew nothing about piecing properly, was intimidated by quilting, and yes, once committed every mistake in the book with my first quilt.

It's not easy to learn all the rules for piecing AND quilting all at the same time, but every day new quilters start this hobby and begin the process of learning how to prewash fabric, cut pieces, and stitch with a 1/4" foot in order to make their first quilt top.

I can remember piecing the 9 patch blocks for my first quilt. It was always a guessing game if my seams would match up or not!

I would stitch the seams with my fingers crossed, hoping against hope that all the seams would match, but they very rarely did.

It took years of practice, and lots of seam ripping, before I learned how to piece blocks perfectly and just like I love sharing about quilting, I'd like to share this information about piecing with you as well.

This week I'm putting my Digital Quilting Guidebook - Stitch it Up a Notch: How to Piece Perfect Quilts on sale for only $9.99. Click here to read more about it.

This ebook can be instantly downloaded to your computer and comes packed with over 200 photos and 2 hours of video that will teach you every aspect of machine piecing.

Here's a sample video on how to piece Half Square Triangles:

Piecing is still the most popular way to create a quilt top. According to all the quilters who responded to my question last week, more than 80% love pieced quilts more than applique, mixed techniques, art quilts, or wholecloth.

If you're struggling to match seams or wish to learn more about piecing triangles or curves, please click here to check out Stitch it Up a Notch: How to Piece Perfect Quilts.

Let's go quilt (or piece)!

Leah Day

Day 48 - Pointy Paisley

This design is also featured in the DVD Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers, as well as the ebook From Daisy to Paisley.

Another variation question for you: what do you get when you quilt Paisley with sharp points? Pointy Paisley!

free motion quilting | Leah DayThanks to my post on Filler Design Theory, the variation ideas are coming out of the woodwork!

Once you decide how you want a design to be formed (i.e: pivot design like paisley or stacking design like pebbling) you can create a million variations just by changing the core shape.

Think of all the shapes this paisley design can be based on: triangles, diamonds, hearts, circles, stars, trees, etc. I bet I could take a whole month to come up with just variations of Paisley alone!

Inspiration - I've been finding the greatest inspiration for new designs not from quilting magazines or books, but from Better Homes and Gardens!

I only subscribed for the home renovation ideas and recipes, but I love the amazing number and variety of stitches I can come up with from looking at home decor and food.

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Really if you can paisley, you can master Pointy Paisley pretty easily.

Design Family - Pivoting. Paisley variations like this Pointy Paisley is created in the same core way: start with an initial design, then echo that design always returning to your original starting point.

This creates a nice amount of thread play where the design starts and adds to the texture of this filler. Because it's a pivot design, this will work just as well in small areas as it will in large ones.

Directional Texture - All directions. You can move anywhere with this stitch and in any direction so it really provides a multi-directional texture.

Suggestions for Use - Definitely try this filler around quilting motifs and see how it will look around feathers. I think the contrast between the sharp angles of Pointy Paisley and the smooth angles of feathers would look really cool.

Back of Pointy Paisley
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Day 47 - Cubing

What do you get when you take Pebbling and replace the circles with squares? Cubing!

This kind of reminds me of mosaic tile floors and back splashes. Can you tell I'm already up to my ears in kitchen construction???

Inspiration - I'm sure it's obvious by now that Pebbling is one of my favorite designs. Today I was looking at the texture again and thought "What would happen if I used squares instead of circles?"

It's amazing how easy it is to create variations of tried and true designs.

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. There's a lot of traveling in this design and it can be tricky to keep your squares random while still filling your space with squared shapes.

Design Family - Stacking. Like Pebbling, Cubing is created by stacking square shapes repeatedly over the space. This will work really well in small, tight areas, as well as over your whole quilt.

Directional Texture - No Directions. This is a flat design that is rich in texture, but your eye will not be pulled in any particular direction.

Suggestions for Use - Like Pebbling, Cubing is time consuming so unless you want to sign yourself up for a 6 month long quilting project, I'd avoid using this is huge areas.

Try small details like the bottom of a landscape quilt, the centers of flowers, or the cornerstones within the sashing. Small touches of this rich texture will look very anywhere on the quilt.

Back of Cubing

Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 46 - Basic Chevron

This design is also featured in the DVD Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers, as well as the ebook From Daisy to Paisley.

I've got another awesome variation for you today! This beginner design is stitched very similarly to Cartoon Tree and Mud Flats, but with straight lines and angles to create Basic Chevron:

Inspiration - My mom has had a crocheted chevron blanket about as long as I can remember. I love this funky, 1970's looking pattern and thought that quilters should get in on the action too! 

Difficulty Level - Beginner. Just keep your lines straight and even and you can't go wrong with Basic Chevron. 

Design Family - Edge to Edge. This design is stitched from edge to edge, but in a zig zaggy pattern. This means that it will be very easy to use in open areas, but probably not the best choice for tight areas. 

Directional Texture - All Directions. Technically this is a 2 direction design because it's stitched from edge to edge, but because there is so much movement with the zigzags, your eye picks up much more than just horizontal or vertical texture.

Suggestions for Use - I think this would look terrific expanded over the surface of a patchy patchwork quilt. This fall weather is definitely putting me in the mood to piece small squares together, how about you?

Back of Basic Chevronfree motion quilting | Leah Day
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Upcoming Treats for Quiltsters

Isn't it amazing that we're almost into October?!

October is always my favorite month of the year because of my birthday (yes, I will be officially 26 years old), fall weather, and Halloween.

So in light of our upcoming festivities I've decided to let you in on some treats coming everyone by the end of the month!

Today is day 46 of this project and I've been overwhelmed by the positive response from quilters all over the world. Thank you to everyone who has supported the project by passing word along to your friends, forum members, yahoo groups, and blog readers!

I appreciate it more than you could ever know and you guys are really keeping me going with the project. Any time I get down in the dumps I just think about everyone waiting for the next design and I can't help but get excited myself!

Originally I was planning on waiting until the end of the project to publish books and DVDs of the designs. Now I'm starting to realize just how many 365 really is - IT'S HUGE!

So yesterday I started going back through the videos and designs and began editing to create a downloadble design workbook.

This will be a digital book you can download instantly onto your computer and print out. I like to make patterns and books available this way to help everyone save on shipping costs.

The first book will be a volume of designs 1 - 20 with 4 inch hand drawn graphs that will allow you to practice drawing the designs before you quilt them. These graphs will also be very helpful for picking just the right filler design for any place on your quilt.

Of course a design workbook would not be complete without a DVD to go with it!

I'm going back through all of the videos (thank god I saved them all!) and editing them again to create longer, more detailed instructions to help you master each design.

Just like the design workbook, the DVD will hold 20 designs as well.

I'll keep you posted about how the process is going and if you haven't already, please sign up for the weekly newsletter in the upper right corner of this blog.

It's free to sign up and allows you to get the latest news happening with the project as well as any special treats (or tricks) I have hidden up my sleeves.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day 45 - Pug Eyes

Today's filler is a hopeless disaster. Seriously, stop reading. Go check your email or watch the new New Moon Trailer.

What are you still doing here?

Okay, fine! Horribly ugly filler design coming right up!

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhile you may not agree that Pug Eyes is a hideous disaster, I beg to differ. Okay, I'll concede that it may not be a total disaster, but it's still not what I was envisioning at all.

That happens sometimes with filler designs just the same as it can happen with quilts. Haven't you ever created a quilt that sounded great on paper and finished not so great in reality?

Inspiration - The inspiration for this design was this a cute picture of a pug I glimpsed at my Mother-in-Law's house. His shiny black eyes just cried out for a free motion design and I had to try it.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. Don't let your thread painting areas build up too much or you will get thread breaks and nests on the back of your quilt.

Design Family - Echoing. The big difference between this design and Echo Shell is filling in the center half circle with thread painting.

Because this is created by stacking the shapes, it could work in a tight area, but only with lots of maneuvering. You might want to keep this design in open areas like sashing or borders.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. Because these shapes are stacked so neatly, your eye will very easily pick up a horizontal or vertical direction with this fill. If you want it to have more movement, simply make the echos very random and more like Echo Shell.

Suggestions for Use - Okay, by now I'm starting to like this design only because it's pretty interesting on plain fabric. It'd be really cool to see quilted on a pillow in contrasting thread to create an overall dense texture. Play with it and see for yourself!

Back of Pug Eyesfree motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Filler Design Theory

I've been bursting to write about this since I finished The Scarlet Letter and I just can't hold back anymore. quilt has helped me form what I now call my Filler Design Theory (think music theory only for quilting).

I touched on the basis for this theory in the last post on Cracked Eggs, but I know it needs to be explained further.

So here's the deal: Choosing a filler design can be tricky. Even working with fillers as much as I do, sometimes I catch myself mindlessly flipping through the designs trying to figure out which will work the best for my latest quilt.

Sometimes your choice is largely controlled by what texture you want in your quilt. You may want loads of movement in one area and no movement in another.

You can easily select a design based on the directional movement I've determined for each filler.

But this can cause problems. Not all designs are created equally and as I learned in The Scarlet Letter, some fillers absolutely won't work in small tight areas.

The determining factor for this is not dependent upon directional movement, but the way the designs are formed.

free motion quilting | Leah DayTake Matrix for example. This is a filler design that has both all direction texture and is flat enough it could also work as a background filler.

But it absolutely won't work in small tight areas like a true background fill should.

Well, I shouldn't say absolutely won't work, it will work with a giant headache, loads of seam ripping, and a general desire to chuck your quilt in the trash.

The reason it's so difficult is not due to the texture, but the way the stitch is formed.

This is stitched from edge to edge. That means when you're trying to stitch around a tiny quilting motif, you've got to do loads of traveling and visual lining up in order for the lines to stay consistent and even.

So it's safe to say that all of the designs created in this project can be used expanded over the whole surface of a quilt, but that only certain ones can be used in small, tight background areas.

The whole point of this project is to start using new filler designs on our quilts. I'm realizing that a big step to using these designs is in answering the very important question:

Why have we all been using stippling for so long and in so many quilts?

I believe the reason is because stippling is a very unique filler that is perfectly suited to fill all areas of a quilt: large surfaces and tiny nooks and crannies.

Stippling is what I call an Independent Filler because the line is truly independent as it draws the wiggly lines and tunnels, traces back along itself, and fills the area evenly.

free motion quilting | Leah DayWithout even knowing this, I realized recently that I have designed a filler just as versatile and Independent as Stippling. Guess which one? Tree Roots!

While quilting Tree Roots in the very tight background areas around the central "A" I realized just how easily this filler works in small areas.

It can be expanded to cover a whole quilt or shrunk to fill just these tiny areas and the determining factor that creates this ability is not the shape or texture, but the way it is formed with a single line working in a continuous, ever changing direction.

Let's learn about some other fillers and how they are formed:

free motion quilting | Leah DayStacking Designs- Pebbling falls into this filler type. These types of fillers are created by repeatedly stacking a shape over and over to fill the space.

In the case of pebbling, you're always returning to the starting point of the circle which makes for starting the next circle in the stack very easy.

Echo Designs - Echo Shell and Echo Rainbow are both easy to fill in small areas because again they are formed in a stacking manner, but it's even easier because after stacking the shape, it's simply echoed several times until you're ready to move on to the next shape.

Pivot Designs - Paisley and Flame Stitch are formed by pivoting off a central starting point. You're stacking an initial shape like a teardrop and echoing it several times, but unlike echo designs, your stitches are always working back to that initial starting point.

These also work great in small areas because they can be easily pivoted in any direction.

Branching Designs - McTavishing and Lightning Bolt are created slightly differently from all of the above designs, but they still work equally well in small areas.

In this situation branches flow out, are echoed, and then more branches flow from them. It may take more practice to fill in the weird tiny areas evenly with this filler, but the rich texture is worth it.

Even In Stitches would count as a Branching Design and could be used in small ares, but not very easily.

Center Fill Designs - These designs like Poinsettia are a wild card. Yes, they could probably work in small tight areas, but because they're formed from the center out, they require breaking your thread to start in the center.

I can admit honestly that I haven't even scratched the surface with center fill designs and plan to devote many more days to playing with these fillers.

Edge to Edge Designs - Examples of these designs are Matrix, Sea Algae, Sea Oats, and Television Ariel just to name a few.

There's been a lot more of these than the other types of fillers and you can easily find them by looking for designs with two directions.

Stitching from edge to edge gives the design a definite horizontal or vertical look, but it also makes it very difficult to stitch in small places, unless you like banging your head against a wall!

Designs like these should be used in open areas like sashing or borders, or expanded to cover large areas very quickly.

This list of filler design types is by no means complete. I will never suggest that there are only 7 ways to form a design, but will continue to add to this list as I discover more.

What I hope you will take from this book long lecture is that choosing a design should be less about the shape and more about how that shape is stitched: where it starts, where it stops, and how much trouble it takes to get to the beginning of the next shape.

From now on all the posts will have a short explanation of the filler design type and how this will effect how the design is stitched. Hopefully this will make picking your designs and using them in your quilts much easier!

Let's Go Quilt!

Leah Day

Day 44 - Cracked Eggs

I guess I should call this week Variation Week because that's all I seem to be doing! I'm starting to realize that ALL free motion designs are variations of one another.

If you keep the way a stitch is formed, like the circles in Pebbling, but change a small piece of the stitch such as the shape or angle it is formed, you end up with a completely different stitch like today's design Cracked Eggs.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Lately I've been working on a small wholecloth quilt called The Scarlet Letter that I plan to donate to the American Heart Association Auction Ball. This quilt has several quilting motifs with small areas of background needing to be filled.

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhile quilting this quilt with several new fillers created in this project I began to notice that some filler designs work better in small, tight areas than others.

The interesting thing about this realization is that it doesn't matter what the shape of the filler is, but how it is formed.

For example, Pebbling is a stacking filler, meaning that it's formed by stacking circular shapes repeatedly.

Because you continuously return to the same starting point and can very easily travel, this filler works great in small, tight areas.

So I believe I have to start exploring a new section with each design that will be titled "Filler Design Type" to explore how each design is formed and how that effects where you place it inside a quilt.

Okay, off my musing detour! Let's get back to Cracked Eggs:

Inspiration - With the success of Double Pebble and Escargot, I had to try another variation. It just goes to show that a little wiggly line can do a lot even for already awesome design!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Travel lightly and carry a big stick. Just kidding! Just keep your lines of stitching consistently on top of one another and try using a thinner thread so your thread play doesn't turn your quilt into the consistency of cardboard.

Design Family - Stacking. This design is created by stitching stacking circles of various shapes and sizes. When forming this stitch you will continually be returning to the same starting point, then stitching across the circle to form the wavy line.

Because of the way it's created, this stitch will work really well in small, tight areas and around quilting motifs.

Directional Texture - No Direction. This is a heavy texture background design, no doubt about that! Your eye may not pick up movement with this fill, but your hands will be itching to touch the heavy texture.

Suggestions for Use - This fill looks terrific around applique and quilting motifs. Combine it with feathers for a really interesting effect!

Back of Cracked Eggs
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 43 - Television Ariel

Today is one of those super busy days where I'm trying to do a million things all at once. I'm preparing to remodel my kitchen, build a light box, clean the carport, quilt, and design new quilting designs all at the same time!

While this is a little ridiculous to try to do so many things at once, I always find the time to blog each day and share the latest design like today's Television Ariel. Ariel is a simple variation of Pine Needles. The only difference is exchanging wavy lines for straight lines!

Inspiration - This design wasn't really inspired by anything in particular. I was just thumbing through my 4" squares, saw Pine Needles, and immediately noticed the number of variations I could easily make with this design.

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Just like Pine Needles, this design does require a lot of traveling along your previous lines of stitching. Practice makes perfect so take your time and your stitches will gradually improve.

Directional Texture - Two directions. This filler is going to work great placed on a horizontal or vertical open area of a quilt.

Suggestions for Use - Try placing Television Ariel in your sashing your expanded over the whole surface of a bright, pieced quilt. This design will look great in these places!

Back of Television Arielfree motion quilting | Leah Day
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 42 - Sea Oats

I must be on a sea kick this week! Yesterday we had Sea Algae and today we have the slight variation to create Sea Oats:'m an NC native and when I was in 3rd grade, my family went to the Outer Banks, specifically Cape Hatteras and Kitty Hawk.

I can still remember the wanting to pick the pretty sea oats in the sand dunes. What I would do with them is anyone's guess, but my mother wisely discouraged me.

Sea Oats are actually protected grasses all along the East Coast and you can get fined for picking them!

Inspiration - I honestly wasn't thinking about Sea Oats when creating this design. The tips of all of the lines in Sea Algae were just screaming for SOMETHING so by adding the tear drop shape, that design became this one.

Variations really are wonderful!

Difficulty Level -Intermediate . This is a fairly easy design. If you struggle with making your tear drops small and consistent, draw them a few times to get the hang of it. It won't take long before you can stitch it perfectly.

Design Family - Edge to Edge.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. Place this on the horizontal or vertical spaces of a quilt for a gorgeous effect.

Suggestions for Use - This fill looks really beautiful small, so I might use it as the trim around a quilted jacket.

It's fun to show off in small areas like right around a cuff or the collar of a garment.

Back of Sea Oats
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 41 - Sea Algae

I know yesterday's Trilobite design might have been a bit over the top, so today I'm taking it down a notch with a very easy doodle-inspired design called Sea Algae:

Inspiration - This basic design began it's life as a doodle, but this morning I was passing Josh's reef tank and noticed the large amounts of stringy green hair algae.

While I coexist in a house with no less than 7 fish tanks, I very rarely actually look inside them. Fish are my husband's domain and as foreign to me as a 1/4" seam allowance is to him.

It turns out that this stringy hair algae is actually a pest and can take over his tank if Josh isn't careful. Of course prolific weeds are often the very best makers for a continuous line free motion design!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Can you draw a question mark? Yes, you can quilt this design!

Just keep your lines consistent and try not to pause in the middle of a smooth curve. This can often create noticeable bumps in your curve where you stop and start again.

Design Family - Edge to Edge.

Directional Texture - 2 directions. The way I've quilted this, it's a definite edge to edge design, causing it to have definite horizontal and vertical texture.

Of course, this would look entirely different stitched as a meandering line, so feel free to create millions of variations as you see fit.

Suggestions for Use - I think this design would look really beautiful expanded to a bigger scale and used to fill up the whole surface of a quilt.

It could also work wonderfully to fill in the background areas of traditional quilt blocks.

Back of Sea Algae
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 40 - Trilobite

Today is day 40, only 325 days to go! I'm feeling much better and thanks to everyone for all the well wishing - it really helped a bunch!

Today's filler is an exceptionally complicated wiggly little bugger that can be entirely blamed on my husband. Josh saw Fossil Snail and immediately thought of a Trilobite:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah DayIt turns out that Trilobites were around 540 million years ago and lived EVERYWHERE (kind of like a modern day version of a cockroach).

They left loads of fossils behind which make for beautiful textures with loads of variations!

Inspiration - To be honest, while designing Fossil Snail, I was actually thinking of a Trilobite, but couldn't think of the name to search for a picture in Google.

It internet really is wonderful, but not very useful when you don't know the name of what you're looking for!

Josh saw Fossil Snail and of course with his head full of fishy knowledge (the guy knows more about biology than I do and I majored in it!) he remembered the name of this prehistoric creature immediately.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. This is a tricky one, no doubt about that! You'll want to have a good grip on your quilt and a solid idea of what you're "drawing" as you go.

Design Family - Edge to Edge.

Directional Texture - Two Directions and Attention Getting. This is one of those fills that will take over your quilt design become a major element if you're not careful.

You'll notice that the second Trilobite got a bit fatter at the end. You can change this design quite a bit simply by changing up the body or the wiggly legs however you like.

Suggestions for Use - Because this design can easily dominate other designs, I'd hesitate to use it as a background filler. It would simply out compete everything around it!

Make sure to place it in small areas, like sashing, where it can run free on a limited range (kind of like cage free chicken).

Back of Trilobite
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 39 - Peppermint Candy

I'm writing this post this evening (one day early) because I can't breed do by dose and plan to spend most of tomorrow in bed.

But on the brighter side, today's filler design really is funky cool and as soon as I've kicked this nasty cold I plan to quilt quite a bit with it.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Click Here if the Video Does Not Appear

Inspiration - As you can probably tell, Peppermint Candy was invented the same day as Flame Flower. When I saw the large swirl in the flower center, peppermint candy just sprung to mind!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. There's a lot of traveling in this design as well as flowing from circle to circle evenly. If you can't seem to "see" the circle shapes a you're quilting them, feel free to mark them with a circle template.

Design Family - Edge to Edge.

Directional Texture - No Direction. This design isn't moving really. Your eye isn't drawn to one side or another. It's also odd that it's not a very good background design (most none directional designs are).

Suggestions for Use - Because this design is so bold and attention getting, you will want to place it in your quilt where a little bit of attention is needed. Skinny 1" sashing would be a nice place to start.

You could also expand this so that the circles were 4" - 6" each and use it as an overall fill for your whole quilt. It's got a bit of Christmas-y cheer to it, so definitely use it on stockings, tree skirts, and with holiday fabrics.

Back of Peppermint Candy
Feel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Day 38 - Flame Stitch

This design is also featured in the ebook From Daisy to Paisley along with many other free motion designs from this project! Click here to learn more about our Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers DVD.

Ugh, today is day 38 and I have a wretched snotty nose thanks to my germ ridden 2 year old.

I knew from the beginning that a rainy day like this might come after the honeymoon phase was over. That's why I saved an easy, tried and true stitch just for today: Flame Stitch:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah Day

Click Here if the Video Does Not Appear

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis was actually the very first filler variation I ever created way back when I was quilting Release Your Light. It could be argued that this design is responsible for this project of insanity.

Inspiration - Release Your Light is 77 inches square and by the time I got to the sun ray border I was so sick of MicroStippling and McTavishing I was ready to sell my soul to stitch anything else.

A friend mentioned the possibility of a variation of Paisley and drew it for me. I looked at the drawing and at first thought "Is this allowed?" Like I was somehow breaking the rules by creating variations of existing stitches!

free motion quilting | Leah DayAfter my initial shock wore off (and 50 hours stitching those rays) I began to see that the slightest change in a stitch can create a whole new texture. Here's a close up photo of one ray before Shiva Painstiks threw up on it:

So when I'm in the mood to blame the launch of this project on anything or anyone, I can always look to Flame Stitch to take the brunt of my anger.

(Note: this is all my snotty nose talking. I love this project. I love this project. I love this project...)

Difficulty Level - Beginner. If you can Paisley, you can flame stitch. The only difference is changing the curves for nice long pointy flames.

Design Family - Echoing.

Directional Texture - 2 directions. This is one of those designs that you will start along one edge and then work your way in rows to the opposite edge.

Suggestions for Use - Got a sunshine, sunflower, or fire quilt needing a good free motion design? Here's your perfect stitch!

Back of Flame Stitchfree motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 37 - In Stitches

Today is a beautiful rainy day here in NC, so I'm taking the day off to bind my quilts for the upcoming local Foothills Quilters Guild Quilt Show.

I mention the show because our theme this year is "In Stitches" and I realized I could easily create a filler design that was not only cool, it also allowed me to shamelessly plug the show!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah DaySo here's my shameless plug: if you or anyone you know live in North Carolina, get them on the phone and tell them about our upcoming show! 

The Foothills Quilt Show will be on October 9th, 10th, and 11th at the Cleveland County Arts Council in uptown Shelby, NC.

This really is a gorgeous show and you won't want to miss it!

Check out our donation quilt, Baskets in Bloom.

Get a chance to win this quilt for just $1.

Now that I've finished my shameless plug, we'll get back to our filler design.

And today that design is called In Stitches!

Inspiration - I've known about the theme for our show for awhile, but it didn't click until the other day. We all use stitches to make our quilts but what about Frankenstein-like stitches?

I realized immediately that this would make for a terrific filler design! Level - Intermediate. Yes, this fill requires a lot of traveling over your previous stitching, but it's pretty forgiving.

Design Family - Independent.

Dr. Victor wasn't a very good quilter when he put Frankenstein together so you're not really going for perfection here.

Directional Texture - All directions. There's really no rhyme or reason with this fill so just make sure it stays consistent and fills your space evenly.

Suggestions for Use - Of course this stitch is going to come in very handy whenever you want to seam together the pieces of dead people to reanimate a new living monster. Duh!

If that doesn't float your boat, you could also use this as a terrific background fill, especially for your Halloween quilts.

A design like this will work even in tight areas of your quilt so feel free to put it around floral applique for a funky contradiction in texture verses shape.

Back of In Stitchesfree motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

 Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 36 - Flame Flower

Today's free motion quilting filler design is really a lesson in filler combination. You can take several designs and by combining them in a creative way, come up with a totally new design!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah DayThis design is a combination of Fiery Comet, Swirling Flames, and Peppermint Candy: a design I thought of while creating this flower and will showcase in the next few days.

As complicated as it looks, this flower is actually very easy to stitch!

Inspiration - I started stitching this design once I noticed how big the circles were in Fiery Comet. I wanted to fill those circles with something and decided a swirl was the best choice.

After completing the first "petal" I saw the flower shape and just kept running with it. This really reminds me of a bright orange lily.

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This is really pretty easy, you just need to focus on keeping your lines consistent distances apart and traveling evenly over your previous quilting. 

Design Family - Center Fill. This is a filler that draws your eyes inward to the center spiral. Depending on how wavy and wild your petals are will really change the look and feel of the texture around the center.

Suggestions for Use - This is one of those designs that could be used to create a quilt on its own. I'm thinking a wholecloth quilt with flame flowers and maybe Pebbling in the background to add contrast.

You could also use this design inside a circle quilts like this one from Guildcrafters Quilt Shop in Berkley, MI (Photo published with permission).

I found this while searching the internet for just the right example and love this quilt and the Gelato fabrics used to make it.

Not only are the fabrics and the quilt showcased, but here you can learn how to prepare the circles for applique. I've never seen a this technique using heat resistant plastic before, so definitely check it out!

This quilt would look terrific with a Flame flower stitched in the center of each circle in matching thread. Looks like I have to add this quilt to my growing list of quilts I must make soon!

Back of Flame Flower
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 35 - Poinsettia

Am I in the Christmas spirit or what?! Today is a wonderful day: I doodled 20 new designs during breakfast and thought of 7 variations as I walked downstairs. I'm in a great mood!

While I know that Poinsettias in the middle of September might seem a little odd, I figure we should have designs a couple months early so that way we have time to actually do something with them.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah DayWhat's the point of waiting until winter to start your gift making anyway? I ALWAYS wait until the last minute for gift quilts, which is why for the last 2 years running my family has all received IOUaQ (I Owe U a Quilt) for Christmas.

Even worse, I never get around making the quilts during the year either! I've owed my sister the same quilt for the last 2 years straight. Ugh. Maybe she'll be happy with a new pair of socks!

- For this design I wasn't humming Deck The Halls under my breath or finishing off the last of the spiked egg nog. Honest!

Really it was inspired by the hankering to start a design in a different place. Every other design has been stitched from the edge of the quilting space. I get tired of doing the same old thing, so I broke thread and started in the center.

Of course, seeing how awesome this finished, I will definitely be designing more center fills!

Difficulty Level - Advanced. You'll notice in the video how slowly I stitch this fill. Partly that's due to wanting it to look very consistent with evenly spaced lines, and part of that is the amount of traveling and spacing necessary to make it look right.

Just take your time! It's not a race to the finish to see who can come up with the most deranged looking poinsettia first. Slow and steady wins the race.

Design Family - Center Fill.

Directional Texture - I think this design calls for a new directional texture name. Maybe Center Focused? Your eye is definitely drawn to the middle of the shape.

Suggestions for Use - Since we're thinking Christmas, this fill would look great on a set of coasters or ornaments. You could also use it in small areas in your quilts, like the large centers of flowers, where you want a nice center focused texture.

Feel free to share your suggestions for this design in the comments below!

Back of Poinsettia
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

Click here to support the project by visiting our online quilt shop.

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Skipping Stitches

Last night I received a really good question by email:

My name is C. and I am having trouble with the stitches in free motion quilting.

I have been trying to do the free motion for quite awhile now and I can start it off great but sometimes I will have a "missed stitch". Just a couple here and there.

When I put my regular presser foot for general sewing I will not
have that problem, only during free motion. I was wanting to know if you knew how I could fix this, what I am doing wrong etc. Any kind of help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You

I decided to share this email and my response with everyone because this is such a common problem.

In fact, back in the spring 2009 I was ready to chuck my Juki out the window because it continually skipped stitches and was about to drive me crazy!

It took me 3 months to figure out the problem, but I've never forgotten how annoying or frustrating this problems can be. Skipped stitches look bad, they're noticeable, and oftentimes the thread will build up so much it will break.

So to figure out why my machine was skipping, I started testing many different possible culprits against one another until I figured out what was going wrong.

Eventually I realized that there are 3 reasons you could be skipping stitches:

1. Bad needle

2. Bad thread

3. Tension Issues

Let's go through these and I'll explain how you can tell if they're causing the proble
m or not.

skipped stitches free motion quiltingBad needle - If you haven't changed your needle out in awhile, try that first.

When I was a kid I don't think the needle in our singer was changed once in 7 years! Now I change
needles about once a week, depending on how much quilting I'm doing.

I quilt with a Universal 80/12 needle. A lot of quilters swear by embroidery needles or microtex needles in smaller sizes like 70/12.

When I use these needles I get
skipped stitches, so I guess it really just depends on your machine! Buy several different types of needles and play with them to see which your
machine likes to free motion with the best.

Bad thread
- Certain thread seem to skip far more than others. I've had to
give away 3 spools of Mettler Silk finish because my machine hates that thread! Try changing thread colors and see if it's the thread spool itself. Yes, thread can go bad!

Next, try changing brands. I love Isacord polyester thread
because it never, and I mean never, skips on me.

Tension Issues - Now if neither changing the needle or changing the thread works, then it may be a tension issue with your machine.

Since most quilters only get the skipped stitches when free
motion quilting, I assume
that the only thing that's changing when you free motion is your feed dogs position.

Manufacturer's concentrate on making machines very balanced with even
tension while the feed dogs are engaged, but when the feed dogs are off this balance can go out the wazoo.

You may need to play with your tension quite a bit. Yes, those dials were made for a reason, and they can be turned when needed!

Pin up a chart to the wall and write down your tension for regular sewing, walking foot quilting, and then free motion quilting so you'll feel comfortable adjusting your tension as needed.

skipped stitches free motion quiltingNext, look at your bobbin casing. If you have a Bernina, you will have an extra hole you can thread to increase the tension on your bobbin.

If you don't have the extra hole, try using Little Genie
Magic Bobbin washers. These really helped my bobbins feed much more smoothly.

If nothing seems to work, stop lowering your feed dogs.

Yep, I did just say that. Stop lowering your feed dogs and instead just cover
them with either an index card or a Supreme Slider.

I often free motion quilt with the f
eed dogs up and really it's no problem so long as your tables are flush and you're not fighting your quilt.

There's a very rooted idea in the quilting world that you can only free motion with the feed dogs down. In truth, it really doesn't matter.

So long as you have a good grip on your quilt, you're not even going to feel those little moving teeth under your quilt. In fact, I often forget to turn my feed dogs off until I'm halfway through a quilt!

The only time having your feed dogs up will matter is if you're using a foot that squishes your quilt onto the machine bed, but most darning feet don't do that.

So long as your darning foot is just hovering over the top of your quilt, you should be able to free motion to your hearts content with raised feed dogs. Give it a try and see how it works for you!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

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