The Free Motion Quilting Project: January 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 125 - Shoo Fly

Leah Day | snow deckSince this (see photo) is what I woke up to this morning in Shelby, NC where it NEVER snows, let's celebrate all the fluffy white fun with a design that has absolutely nothing to do with it!

I think the very last think I will see today is a fly (except maybe a ladybug - we're kind of overrun with them), but I can always stitch one now on my quilt!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
So I'm feeling better, but this is such a weird cold that I'm hesitant to say "I'm well". It seems like every day since Tuesday I would feel better, start moving around and then suddenly get this monster headache and sore throat that were both indescribably painful.

But the painful part of this cold seems to be past and I'm still taking it very, very easy. Speaking of easy, let's learn how to stitch this super easy Shoo Fly design:

Inspiration - It must have been way back in September or October a guy quilter emailed me and asked for a bug design. Since I had 2 or 3 weeks worth of designs already made up with videos in line, I just drew him a picture and emailed it back to him.

Bugs, just like all shapes, are very simple if you break them down into cartoony versions. This fly is so easy because it's basically just an oval, 2 circles, and 2 tear drop shapes for wings.

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This is a fairly easy design that will be fun to stitch at all skill levels. If you want to take it up a notch, you can always fill the wings or make your bug a bumble bee!

Design Family - Independent. This design is connected with a meandering line so it works independently on your quilt. This means that it will work just about anywhere, but you might want to place the bugs where they can easily be seen and shown off.

Directional Texture - No Direction. This design won't have any particular movement to it because the bugs can be formed in all different directions.

Suggestions for Use - I can think of a fun, beautiful honeycomb quilt with black and yellow strips of fabric. Stitch this design over the black areas for all the bugs and pebbling in the yellow areas for the honeycomb!

Back of Shoo Fly
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and send in a picture to show it off.

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

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Finding the silver lining

You guys are awesome! Really, you're just totally awesome.

Here's a comment from a quilter named Brenda that really helped me start turning my attitude around:
Do not think of this in a bad way!! Real easy to do that, but try to find what is the good part of this whole thing - you wanted to make improvements and do some changes, now you can!!!

This is going to be the best DVD on the market!! What has this taught you??? (I hate that question!!!) But really, this is not the disaster you could think it is - find the good in it.

And, yes, take yourself to bed and rest, rest, and rest some more!!!! Get better!!! That is the most important thing to do right now. so, take the whole weekend and baby yourself and get rid of this flu!!!!
You're totally right! Here I was feeling really sorry for myself, lamenting on the lost data, videos, and photos of James, and suddenly I realized that this might actually work out BETTER to NOT have all that stuff.

Of course, I hate to lose all the photos of my kid, losing the original filler videos might be a good thing.

I can already see an improvement from having lost the edited segments from the DVD. Because I'm starting over from scratch, I'm finding that there is a lot of stuff I could edit out, which means more time for more information.

The only segment that I lost completely was the one on Basting, which I had hated anyway. I had really wanted to re-shoot it, but kept thinking "Nah, it's good enough. Just leave it."

Now that I've lost it, I have no choice but to create this segment again, this time from a new and better perspective.

So there's always a silver lining. It's just a matter of FINDING it!

Losing the videos for Volume 3, 4, and 5 dvds might also be a blessing in disguise.

Do we really even NEED volumes 3, 4, and 5? Maybe instead of focusing on the videos I should instead focus on the workbooks?

As I'm finding with this blog, my business, and life in general, there are a million choices and none of them are wrong.

The trick is not getting stuck in any particular mental box and instead just to always keep moving forward.

So let's look forward to a new day tomorrow with a fresh, positive perspective!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


So far things are not looking good for the drive. Super thank you for all the positive energy. Now I'm just hoping we can save SOMETHING from the disc.

For those that commented yesterday, yes, this WAS the external hard drive I used for backing up my files, but I also used it to hold ALL of my videos because they take up so much space.

Stupid? Yes. Now I'll be backing up on 2 external drives from now on.

If we can't get the information back, I will need to retake all the videos from day 41 to day 100. Yes, I could download them from YouTube, but the quality wouldn't be good enough to make a DVD out of it.

I also like to re-edit the videos for the DVDs, make the longer and more detailed with information. It looks like if I can't get the files back, I'll be quilting long and hard this spring.

Unfortunately this kind of repair isn't cheap so it's looking like Symposium might be out for this year. Josh and I really weren't expecting this kind of expense right now, but hey, that's life right?

The worst part of all of it is I've caught a real monster of a flu right in the middle of all of this. So please, please pardon me for today while I go back to bed.

I promise the project will be back to normal next week, but for today, I just need rest, comfort, and a dark, quiet room.

You go quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Okay, I know I've been asking for loads of help the last couple of days, but this is a huge emergency!

I made a stupid, clumsy, big, giant mistake and dropped my simple drive on the floor.

This simple drive is the hard drive where I keep ALL of my videos, plus backups of everything I write.

At this point, it's looking like I might have lost ALL of my videos from the beginning of this project, plus everything I've edited for the DVD so far.

So if you can, please send up loads of positive energy that the wonderful computer repair wizards will be able to fix the simple drive and get all that information back!!!


Leah Day

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NC Quilt Symposium

In the spirit of being more creative and trying new things, I've decided to attend the NC Quilt Symposium this year for the first time as a full time student!

I'm really excited about this because we really don't get any huge quilting expos or shows here in North Carolina. Sometimes I wished I lived further west, or at least closer to Paducah, Houston, or Denver.

But this NC Symposium is something hosted every year by a different guild in NC. It's really the best place to learn from some really talented quilters, and for the price, it's really cheap as dirt cause most of these guys are really big names!
Registration just opened up yesterday and my friend just reminded me about it so I started checking out all the teachers, workshops, and lectures that are available.
Looking at the list, it makes me wish I could split myself into pieces so I could attend 2 or 3 workshops at once!

But so far I've decided to focus on 2 areas that I really don't experiment with much: thread painting and applique.

I already know a little about thread painting, but nothing like the project being taught by Ellen Anne Eddy.

Her DragonFly Sky project (scroll down to see it) just looks really interesting and while I'm not a big dragonfly person, I have a sister who would love this little quilt.

I was really wanting to attend both of Ellen Anne Eddy's workshops, then I realized that I could only sign up for 4 sessions or I really WOULD have to split myself into pieces!

The other workshop that really peaked my interest was "Let's Make Waves" taught by Karen Eckmeier. I've seen this book dozens of times, but never flipped through it even though it's intrigued me time and time again.

But unfortuntately this workshop was at the exact same time as "Free Expression Buffet" taught by Robbi Joy Eklow which I absolutely MUST attend.

Of course, when I'm going through a registration like this I always do it sitting at my computer so I can Google the names of every teacher and check out her books and website.

When I found Robbi Eklow's book Free Expression: The Art and Confessions of a Contemporary Quilter and flipped through it at amazon, I just knew I needed to be in her class.

It's always a tough call about what classes to take. Almost every class listed in the lineup sounds excellent!

But workshops can be a bit tricky for me. I've found that often times I learn better from a workshop if I don't have my machine with me. I can just set back and take notes and ask the teacher all of my questions as they come up.

I've found this to be a good method for me because no matter how much quilting junk I bring, I can never get quite comfortable at my machine outside of my studio. I'm constantly dropping my scissors or losing bobbins and end up leaving without learning much at all.

I've also found that I learn more from the teacher if I'm less focused on an end product.

So that's my plan for this June! If you live close enough to NC to consider it, you really should look into attending. It's going to be a super fun time!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Day 124 - Mario Vine

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

So let's get back on track today with a new free motion quilting design!

Here's a design based on the good old original Mario Brothers video game:

free motion quilting | Leah DayOn Monday, believe it or not, I managed to film almost the whole DVD in one single day. Josh helped me shoot the harder sections and so far it's looking awesome!

Thanks again to everyone who helped kick my butt back into gear! Now I'm just ready to get this thing done and let ya'll see it!

But it'll probably be another week at least so in the meantime, we can all chill out and learn how to stitch Mario Vine:

Inspiration - Yeah, I'll freely admit it - Hello, my name is Leah and I am a video game addict.

Well, really that's not very true now because I have very little time for video games (I'd rather be quilting!), but I can still sit down occasionally and kill some very pleasant hours with Mario, Luigi, Link, and Zelda.

This free motion design is inspired by the wonderful sprouting vine you can sometimes find in the original Mario brothers video game that takes you up to a magical world where pennies hang in the air and your ride on a bed of white fluffy clouds.

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design is fairly easy and requires only a little traveling. It's definitely a good design for learning how to form the same consistent shape over and over again.

Design Family - Edge to Edge. This design is worked from one edge of your quilting space to another so make sure to put it in the open, uncomplicated areas of your quilt.

Directional Texture - Two directions. This design looks great set vertically, but could also work horizontally over any quilting space.

Suggestions for Use - I think this would be a lovely design to use in the sashing of your quilt. You can set it either horizontal or vertical, depending on the look you're going for and it will easily fill this area with a simple, yet interesting shape.

Back of Mario Vine
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

Monday, January 25, 2010

Super Thank You!

Imagine I'm giving you all the biggest, warmest, friendliest hug! Super thank you to everyone who read and commented or emailed me yesterday.

I'd already laughed at my own silliness, picked myself up, and resolved to start fresh, but the wonderful advice, commiseration, and general butt kicking really helped me get my act together!

Honestly, after posting yesterday morning I was really considering throwing in the towel on the whole beginner project, but instead I cleaned up my act, created a much better outline for the DVD to follow, and restarted this morning with a fresh perspective.

I appreciate what everyone said - how it doesn't matter if I don't look super professional and how it might even be better that way!

This helped me to think outside of the perfect frames and angles I'd been using and I found 3 new places to shoot that really look awesome. Best of all, I didn't have to move my tables again, much to Josh's relief.

I slammed through the whole first part of the dvd this morning and will hopefully film the rest this afternoon. At this rate this DVD will be done by the end of the week and definitely launched by the end of January.

It just goes to show that sometimes problems are only in our minds, not really based in reality at all. I'm (hopefully) never going to forget this lesson again.

By the way, I think I've finally settled on a title: Free Motion Basics with Leah Day. Whatcha think?

I'm not going to post a design today, but instead get back to shooting my next segment. Who knew I had so much to say about batting?

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Messy Rooms & Limiting Thoughts

It's weird, but I can always judge out out of control and on the edge my life is becoming by walking into my son's bedroom.

When I have things "together" I can reasonably find a pair of pants, shirt, and diaper that will all fit him in about 5 seconds.

When things have gotten crazy and I'm scrambling through the day just trying to keep my head above the water, I know it because it will take 3 times as long to do everything.

Every piece of clothing I pick up is 3 sizes too small or 2 sizes too big. Every toy I pick up looks like it might have been entertaining for him before he started teething. His closet is a disaster zone. His room looks like a recently bombed Toys r' Us.

So that's my personal marker for how out of sorts I've let things get. And judging by the chaos I walked into last night, I'd say I was clinging to the edge of the "keeping it together" cliff by one finger.

Needless to say, I decided it was time to stop everything and get back on track. When I see James's room is out of whack, I know it's not just him, it's all of us.

Of course, keep in mind that I'm not a clean person. Yes, you will find all manner of cobwebs and dust in my house. I'm not clean but I am organized.

Knowing where things ARE is half the battle. Worrying about whether everything is also germ free is someone else's problem.

So I declared the house a disaster free zone and started organizing.

Last night I bagged up toys, folded clothes, installed shelves, and threw all manner of broken, useless, and questionable stuff out.

I declared that since my son is nearing 3 years old, it's time to get rid of all the 18 month old clothing we STILL have in his drawers.

I sorted, drilled, and nailed my way to a better organized, infinitely more sane reality and while I was working I realized that this organization stretches beyond my son's room.

I realized that taking the steps to have clothes that fit him within easy reach is not just good organization, but it simply makes my life easier.

So what else could I do that would simplify my life?

One big thing would be to finally fess up about the fact that I'm having a big problem with this beginner dvd.

Even though this is not as evident as a messy kids room, it's just as time consuming. Almost like having a big, giant tree blocking my path, slowing me down.

I realized just how big of a problem I'm having when I told Josh today "yeah, I want to move my tables again..."

So far, I've moved my tables 3 times and rearranged huge areas of our house for days at time to shoot this video. Talk about chaos!

Our house has been in a state of flux since November with the kitchen remodel and as soon as that has finished, I've been tearing the place up insisting on needing a better place to shoot videos.

Josh, ever patient, looked at me and said "Why do you need to move them AGAIN?"

And I started listing the reasons: I would get a better angle, better lighting, the background would look prettier...

And my wonderful husband looked back at me and said "What is the real issue here, Leah? It's not your tables or your camera angles, is it?"

Gotta love the guy. He always knows it when I'm totally driving myself crazy and exactly what to say to make me realize it.

So I started listing the reasons "If I shoot the dvd in here then it will look good and people will like it better and won't email me screaming that they can't believe they wasted $30 on this crap information from this no-talent, 26 year old wannabe quilter."

Josh paused for a minute to let me fully listen to what I'd just said and started laughing. After a minute or two I joined in. We had a great laugh, just sitting there at the table realizing just how silly I can be when left to my own devices.

This whole exchange might sound really insane to you, but I wanted to share it with you anyway.

Sometimes you just have to say out loud what is bothering you.

For me, I've been feeling unqualified to make a beginner dvd because I've only quilted for 5 years, but instead of acknowledging that and moving on, I let it twist and grow inside me, stalling my progress.

But by talking and laughing about these feelings, I feel a lot better now.

The fact is, the dvd won't be perfect. You will probably see shots of my messy living room, and no, the lighting won't always be perfect. The point, I'm realizing, is not perfection.

The point is teaching beginners free motion quilting: sharing my methods for getting started and helping build confidence for trying something new.

Build confidence...I guess I need to go do some of that myself.

So I'm off to get more of my life back firmly rooted back on the ground. My plan: get organized, get a weeks worth of filler designs edited and produced, and get my head back on straight.

Let's go quilt!


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 123 - Angles and Circles

I'm feeling much better today and ready to finally quilt my Super Quick Wholecloth quilt. I basted this big guy and I really want to quilt it just for fun to see if my new quilting setup really works.

But before I run off to start quilting, let's learn this cool variation of Lollipop Chain called Angles and Circles:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So what have I changed about my quilting setup? I'm still sewing on my Arrow flatbed sewing table and have positioned a 4 ft x 2 ft table to the back.

free motion quilting | Leah DayOn the side I have 2 - 2ft x 18" tables to the left. These tables are extremely necessary to expand the size of the table so the weight of the big quilt can rest either to the back or to the side of the machine.

The problem I've been having is the Arrow table is just ever so slightly shorter than my regular folding tables and on small projects the difference in height can snag my quilt.

So I was at Office Max the other day and saw their office chair mats. These are big sheets of thick plastic that typically rest on the floor under your office chair to make your wheels roll better.

But I saw a different use! What if this chair mat could instead be used to even out the surfaces of all my different tables?

I took my chair mat home, flipped it over to the smooth side, cut it to fit with utility scissors, and taped it onto my tables. So far it looks like it's a perfect addition to my quilting setup, but I haven't tried it out yet on a really big quilt.

I'll definitely let you know how it goes tomorrow, but for now let's learn how to stitch Angles and Circles:

Inspiration - I've been playing with angles a lot lately. When I first started quilting, I really hated all angles and sharp points because it was jarring and distracting to stop and change direction constantly.

The flow if designs like stippling felt a lot more natural and I could easily get into the "flow" of the design.

Now I'm finding that changing direction and forming sharp points isn't as distracting as it used to be. It's opening up a whole new avenue of designs now that I feel comfortable with this.

It just goes to show that you'll always be learning something new with free motion quilting!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design is really very easy - it's just angles and circles!

Design Family - Edge to Edge. This design is stitched from one edge of your quilting space to the other, but you can easily free-form with this design as well, so it can really go in any area of your quilt.

Directional Texture - No Direction. The lines and circles really seem to be coming from all directions and it gives your quilt a very geometric feel, but from a distance this filler will read as very flat and directionless.

Suggestions for Use - For some reason this design keeps reminding me of the very early video games like mind trap, puzzle pipes, and pong.

I think this design will work great stitched over a funky, cheerful kids quilt! The big bold shapes of the circles and angles add a lot of fun interest and any kid is sure to find this texture fun.

Back of Angles and Circles
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

Friday, January 22, 2010

Upscaling Filler Designs

Today was supposed to be the day that I edited and produced a whole new block of videos, but I woke up sounding too froggy and stuffed up.

Somehow I don't think "quilt verby carebly around dees areas." makes for very good quilting instructions.

So instead of a new design, let's instead learn how to upscale these 122 filler designs to make BIGGER designs that can easily fill a whole quilt!

I've said from the beginning that these designs can be used really dense the way that I've stitched them, or they can be expanded to cover large areas of you quilt very quickly.

But how does this work exactly?

First, let's learn about the small scale filler designs.

Think of these like small scale train sets. Usually with these train sets they have a specific measurement equivalent like 6 feet = 1 inch.

This is a ratio that serves to keep the train set to scale with the trees, people, and other decorative objects train hobbiest use to make a really fantastic train layout.

Can you tell I've been watching a lot of Thomas the Tank engine with James?

The same is true for small scale, dense filler designs.

The scale is set by the distance between on line of quilting and another.

So my default filler distance is set at around 1/8". This means that the maximum amount of open space within my fillers is between 1/8" to 1/4", which is pretty tight, and usually results in the quilt feeling like it's cardboard's flimsy second cousin.

Quilting this dense also LOOKS very complex because your eye are not drawn to the quilting stitches but the SPACES BETWEEN the quilting stitches.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo often I've looked closely at a quilt, marveling at the quilting, only to find that I'm not amazed at the actual stitches, but the consistent spacing and perfect distances kept between the lines.

The texture of the quilt is in the spacing, not the stitches themselves. Can you see individual stitches from 10 feet away? Heck no, unless you're Super Woman!

So the quilting texture is entirely created by the consistent SPACING of your lines from one another.

But just like small scale trains, just because it's small that doesn't mean we can't make it BIG!

You can easily take ANY and ALL of the designs from this project and UPSCALE them to be full sized fillers for your quilt top.

In order to do this you must first calculate an extremely complex mathematical formula, stand on your head, count backwards from 87, and recite my son's version of Jingle Bells all at the same time.

HA! No, really all you have to do is EXPAND the distance between your stitching lines.

Here's a super quick example using one of my favorite designs: Mussel Shell.

First off, here's the photo of the densely quilted mussel shell for reference. This was a 4" square.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow let's stitch a 10" version of exactly the same design, but on a 1/2" scale. This means that we will leave roughly 1/2" of space between the stitching lines.

Of course, you start off just the same with a tear drop shape, only this time your tear drop is the size of an elephant's tear drop (around 2" long and 3/4" wide)

free motion quilting | Leah DayWith the first echo we leave 1/2" between our needle and the first tear drop.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySee how much space the motif is taking up? That's filled almost 3 inches! Filling the whole 10" square took me around 10 minutes, verses around 30 minutes with the dense version of the same filler!

In order to stitch this big shape in one fluid pass, make sure to widen the space between your hands and the needle just a bit and increase your speed.

My hands are usually around 4" apart while stitching dense fillers. For this big block, they were around 8" apart.

I also significantly increased my speed when flowing through these big curves. You'll want to watch out if you start getting huge stitches because your hands are moving so faster than your machine speed can keep up with.

Instead of letting your stitches go out of control, increase the speed of your foot pedal while trying to keep your hand movement steady.

Keep echoing your stitches at a 1/2" scale, then move on to your next mussel shell shape. Here's my completed 10" block:

free motion quilting | Leah DayHere's something cool! If I shrink both pictures down to roughly the same size, you can't tell which block was originally the small one!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah DaySo there you have it! Upscaling designs is extremely easy and ALL of the designs on this project can easily be expanded to be used to quickly fill and finish a big quilt.

Just because I demonstrate the designs on a small scale doesn't mean that they're limited to only this use.

Here are some more tips for larger scale free motion quilting:

1. Experiment with your hand positions - Generally I keep my hands close together on a quilt to keep good control over the quilt top.

When stitching big motifs like this, play with where you position your hands to see what gives you the best angle to stitch the shapes. Sometimes stitching from the right or top might make a prettier tear drop shape than stitching from another angle.

2. Increase and Decrease your speed - Think of driving your machine like driving your car. You don't drive 55 mph through all curves, stop lights, and school zones, do you?

So why drive your machine like this? Foot pedals actually have many speeds, it's our feet that get used to pressing to one angle.

Try lifting your heel up on a telephone book so more of your foot is squarely positioned on top of the foot pedal for better control over your speed.

3. When in doubt MARK IT! - There's nothing wrong with marking a quilt top when you're having trouble stitching a filler design from memory.

It's easy to get stuck in corners and panic wondering "where do I go next?" Instead of getting frustrated, stop and mark the top and give yourself a good roap map for where to go next.

I think that just about covers it. I think I might have to plan on doing 10" squares for my next 365 days. It definitely quilted up a lot quicker!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 122 - Heart Vine

With Christmas over and winter definitely in full swing, we can all turn our attention to the next big holiday of the year: VALENTINE'S DAY!

This heart shaped day happens to be my Mother's favorite holiday. So to celebrate early and maybe get our red and white quilts quilted in time, let's learn Heart Vine.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Josh took one look at this design and proclaimed "It looks like hot peppers!" So an alternative name for this funky design could be Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Click Here if the Video Does Not Appear

Inspiration - Elephant ear plants are some of my favorites and while flipping through a book of plants, I realized how easily these big leaves could be used with a vine to make one awesome free motion design.

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design is really very simple if your break it down into 2 parts: first lay your foundation with the stem, then fill the stem with heart shaped leaves.

Design Family - Stem Centered. Stem designs can work just about anywhere on your quilt, but really look the best in open, uncomplicated areas where they don't compete with any other motifs.

Directional Texture - All Directions. Your eyes will definitely pick up the the center, stem shape, but because the heart shapes are all radiating out in all directions, it really gives your quilt an all over texture.

Suggestions for Use - I've been thinking lately about quilted tablecloths.

Now, to most quilters this might seem like absolute heresy. Eating and spilling food all over a nice quilt is just plain wrong in too many ways to contemplate.

But I just can't get the idea out of my head of how nice it would be to have a red and white quilted tablecloth for a special Valentine's day brunch. And of course, the perfect design for this festive quilt would have to be Heart Vine.

Back of Heart Vine
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, January 20, 2010

Day 121 - River Path

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

It seems to me that we've been having a lot of complex designs lately. Let's simplify with this basic, but beautiful design - River Path:

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt's official! Runny nose, watery eyes, and body aches equals another cold! I guess my weekend spent basting 5 huge quilts finally caught up with me. Ugh!

The good news is I watched the first disc of the beginner dvd and it looks really good so far. Once I sound normal again I'll shoot the introduction and finish off the first disc completely.

While I usually get really upset when I get sick, this time I'm just going with the flow. I'm not feeling too bad and hopefully this cold will be kicked in one day if I take it easy.

But before I run back to bed, let's learn how to quilt River Path:

Inspiration - I was looking at the sashing area of one of my freshly basted quilts and realized that this area was in sore need of a funky, flowing design.

The problem is, I very rarely have the patience to stitch anything complicated in the sashing areas. I think River Path will work great because it's simple, fast to stitch, and comes with a super funky texture to boot!

Difficulty Level - Beginner. This is a pretty simple design that will help you learn how to echo your previous line of quilting.

Design Family - Edge to Edge. With this design you first lay a foundation with your flowing line, then fill in the area with echos. This design will work great in open, uncomplicated areas like sashing and borders where you have more than enough room to spread out.
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Directional Texture - All directions - This design is so curvy and flowing it really seems like texture is coming from all directions rather than just horizontal or vertical.

Suggestions for Use - Remember this Batik Beauty quilt I pieced up for my sister? Well it's officially basted and ready to quilt!

I'm planning on using River Path on a wide scale to add beautiful, ripply texture in the sashing areas and border. Not only will it quilt up quickly, it will also feel terrific once the quilt has been washed.

Back of River Path
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, January 19, 2010

Goddess Journey

Last night I saw (experienced?) a new goddess quilt.

I've never really described how this happens, but it's pretty interesting so I figure I'd share it today.

It sounds really hokey, but here's how this works: I'll be thinking about something, quilting, or designing a new design, and suddenly I get a vision for a new quilt almost completely formed in my mind.

Have you ever seen a quilt design that you just HAD to make? It's like a punch to the guts! It's just an overwhelming desire to create exactly that image in fabric and thread.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI saw my first goddess when I was around 14. I did beadwork instead of quilting and designed this little figure to be stitched in beads.

Until, of course, I decided that stitching beads on fabric wasn't beadwork, it was cheating (I was a little limited by my own mind back then!)

So instead I stitched this little goddess in cross stitch, which doesn't really do her justice. The name of this goddess is Mother Earth Weeping.

I don't really remember what was going on in my life to make me design this particular figure, but I do remember that I'd been reading a book "The Darkangel Trilogy" by Meridith Ann Pierce that had gotten me thinking a lot about our world and the polluting effects of a modern society.

I've actually redesigned her for a quilt, but went a bit crazy with the scale and she ended up being about 9 feet long! I don't know about you, but I don't have any walls that tall in my house, so she will have to be redesigned to a smaller scale in order to become a quilt.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering why I call these female figures "goddesses".

In truth, there's no better way to describe them. These figures are most definitely women, powerful, and not limited to any one race, religion, or cultural theme.

I fought for a long time for a good word to describe my women until I finally settled on goddess as the most appropriate term.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe next goddess I saw was years and years later. I was 23 and around 8 months pregnant with my son. For a long time my husband just called her "Pregnant Chick Quilt", but her actual name is "Life and Fire".

I was going through a pretty nasty bought of insomnia and feeling pretty sorry for myself and she just popped into my head - the embodiment of power and life flaming into my mind.

I'm not going to go into all the reasons why I needed to see this figure right now, but suffice it to say seeing this image helped me tremendously through the next couple months of my life.

Working on the quilt and focusing on something other than my insomnia was a wonderful distraction as well.

Seeing how easy it was to translate an image in my mind into a physical quilt, I did some brainstorming and immediately saw another goddess.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis one was also in the process of creation, but more balanced with it. I ended up creating a quilt with this figure for one of my best friends and yoga instructor.

Looking back, I see my early 20's as being all about the search for balance and yoga allowed me to find my feet so to speak.

Even now I still practice yoga once a week and see many goddess figures in the different poses we stand in.

The next goddess is the biggest one I've created so far, the most powerful, and also the most life changing.

Release Your Light was originally named Light in Me and she didn't just appear in my head one day, she whacked me upside the head and then consumed my mind with a desire to create her!

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis goddess came to me while I was in the middle of the most boring part of The Duchess - quilting the borders. I REALLY hated my life through those borders and was wishing for any distraction.

Feeling sorry for myself I was lying in bed wishing I could be more creative, like it was some limited resource!

The image that appeared in my mind was overwhelming. It wasn't just an image this time either, a big feeling came with it. This time I saw the goddess and knew that the amount of creativity within my body, all bodies, is overpowering, limitless, and eternal.

At first I called the quilt Light in Me because it had appeared that way originally as the light (creativity) within me that I must release to the world and share.

After getting halfway through making the actual quilt, I changed the name to Release Your Light, so that it would be more than just about me, but speak to everyone.

The fact is, creativity really is limitless and we are ALL creative beings. No matter if you've never drawn a straight line in your life, no matter if you've never quilted a single stitch!

This was the first time that I really saw how powerful these goddesses could be. While working on her I learned loads and was inspired to start this blog, almost like creating the quilt also helped me to achieve my goal of sharing creativity with the world.

Before I'd even finished this quilt, I saw 3 more goddesses. I think I have my work cut out for me!

So far I have 2 roughly sketched out on graph paper, but some design issues are stalling the project. Sometimes it just takes putting a design on the wall and staring at if for a few months.

The next goddess I will probably make is a small piece called "My Cup Runneth Over"

This is a very simple figure holding a cup of flowing water. I'm having trouble getting just the right look to the cup and flowing water for the design to work.

The feeling or meaning of this quilt is a reminder to appreciate what I have. Sometimes it's easy to get blindsided by all the "stuff" of life and lose track of what is really important.

Sometimes I need a little reminder to stop, go play with my son, go on a date with my husband, and realize that these are the things that make life sweet and fulfilling.

After this small quilt, which should only take 2-3 weeks to create, I'll start my next big show quilt "Emergence"

This goddess came to me about a year ago and she's clamoring to be made! This quilt has also been hard to design. It's a goddess quilt splitting a traditional wholecloth quilt literally in half.

This quilt signifies for me the love of traditional quilting, but the need to evolve beyond and embrace where this art form can go.

I still hear people say "If it isn't made by hand, it isn't a real quilt." This seems a little limiting, don't you think?

In truth, I LOVE traditional quilts and consider myself a traditional quilter. Hard to believe, right?

But the fact is, trapunto and densely quilted motifs ARE very traditional for areas of France where wholecloth quilting was once a huge industry. If you're interested in learning about this definitely check out the book "Quilts of Provence" by Kathryn Berenson and you'll learn all you need to know!

Again, the issue with designing Emergence has been balance. How do you mix a bright, in-your-face goddess with a traditional off white wholecloth?

After playing with many wholecloth ideas I suddenly realized that the wholecloth design I needed to be using was The Duchess. This is my most traditional design, therefore the one most meaningful for me.

I am planning on making some changes to the design to make the borders quilt up faster and with much less fuss.

Finally, the goddess I saw last night is very much a product of what books I've been reading lately.

It seems like every book I've listened to lately has been about a woman fed up with life, leaving her family, traveling far and wide, and then fixing all her problems.

It's not that there's anything wrong with this type of book, in fact I've thoroughly enjoyed listening to "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, but it concerns me that every book I turn on has the same chuck-your-husband theme to it.

Personally I believe that I can change and become a totally different, healthier person, and still remain happily married and faithful to my husband. I know this because I've done it once before after my son was born.

In the 6 months after James was born I went through one of the hardest times of my life, but emerged a totally different, motivated person. Seriously, if you had met me back when I was 21, you wouldn't recognize me!

But listening to all these books has made me think about those things that I've given up to be a wife and mother. Some things are small, like not being able to sleep late on the weekends.

But some things are big. I recently decided to turn down several offers for lectures and workshops in far away places.

When my friend scolded me for turning down an offer to go to Florida and California, I had to explain that there's no possible way I can travel that far right now in my life.

It's not just that I don't want to leave my family, I also don't want to stop quilting or make commitments before I know if I'm truly capable of fulfilling them.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo this goddess came to me while I was thinking of these things, of what we give up, but also gain from love.

What I love about this goddess already is how very plant like she looks. For some reason she reminds flower bud right before it blooms.

Keep in mind this is just a sketch of the starting point of the design, but it will give you a basic idea of what I'm taking about.

Her name will be "Bound by Love" and I think it will probably be one of the most beautiful goddesses so far. As for size, I really have no idea!

It'd be nice if I could design these girls to be small wall hangings, but as soon as I get started drawing the design gets bigger and bigger until they're around 80" square.

I guess that's just my natural pallet size. Maybe in a past life I was a muralist!

So that's the journey of my goddesses so far. They're definitely a vibrant, interesting bunch!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 120 - Bubble Wand

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

I was looking at my husband's fish tanks yesterday and realized yet again that there is a wondrous amount of inspiration to be found there.

Today's design is inspired by the bubble wands he sometimes uses to aerate his tanks:

free motion quilting | Leah DayLast night I burned the first disc of the beginner dvd and will check it out this afternoon. This is the thing that usually takes a lot of time because I start getting obsessive-compulsive about every little thing.

But with this, I'm really trying to disengage my inner perfectionist and not take so much time changing tiny things that no one will notice anyway.

James is out of school today for the holiday and tomorrow for a teacher workday. I've been promising to make muffins and cookies with him, so I'm off to the store to pick up the essentials for Banana Crunch Muffins and Monster Cookies. YUM!

But before I go, let's learn how to quilt Bubble Wand!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design is really not that hard so please don't be intimidated. I rated it at intermediate because there is such a large amount of traveling in this design.

Traveling is a challenging technique to learn for a beginner because you not only need a good balance between your machine speed and your hands, you also need good control over the quilt and the movements that you make.

To practice traveling, try making up a practice square and stitching long, straight lines, stop, then stitch right along your stitching line all the way back. After filling a 12" square with these traveled lines you'll either be really good at it or ready to strangle me!

Design Family - Edge to Edge. This design first starts with a stem that is then filled with the circular bubbles.

Stem designs can typically be wiggled in anywhere on your quilt, but because they're so attention getting, you probably want to put them in the open, uncomplicated areas of your quilt.

Directional Texture - Two Directions. Because this design is stitched along a stem, your eye will always be attracted to that shape and give your area a definite horizontal or vertical texture.

Suggestions for Use - This design just feels really fun and cheerful to me! I think it would make the perfect design for a big kid quilt.

Combine Bubble Wand with Sunshine and Creepy Bug for a really cool kid quilt. As James likes to say now "AWESOME!"

Back of Bubble Wand
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, January 17, 2010

Work in Progress...

I took the day off to shoot and edit more of the beginner DVD. I'm already shocked by how much I have to say about such simple things like basting, tools, thread, and tension.

I'm surprised because for the last 2 months I've worried that I wouldn't have ENOUGH to say to fill up one DVD.

Now it's looking like this will definitely have to be a 2 disc set. There's just no way around it!

Here's what I've filmed so far:

Machine setup / Tools - This covers what tools to use specifically for free motion quilting and how to set up your machine so that you're not fighting your quilt. 11 minutes.

Adjusting Tension - I really talked a lot in this video about where most tension issue really exist (in the top of the machine) and how to feel confident about adjusting your tension dial. 9 minutes.

Choosing Needles and Thread - I don't claim to be an expert on needles or thread, so I really didn't do a full dissertation on them. I spent a lot of time encouraging beginners to try different threads and needles to see what works best for you. I don't think I've ever heard better advice than that! 10 minutes.

Mark your quilt using stencils - I've thought a lot about it and I really think stencils are the best, beginner level source for quilting designs. I also plan to shoot a video tomorrow on upscaling fillers for bed quilts so that marking isn't necessary. After marking 2 quilts this weekend, I'd rather never mark another one again! 4.5 minutes.

Basting - I got the most request for this video so it is going to be the longest. It's topping out at almost 18 minutes, which is quite a lecture on basting!

Unfortunately I'm not able to share ALL the many ways to baste. I think I could do a single DVD just on this alone. Instead I share my method for basting with bent safety pins. Of course, there are many other methods and I really encourage you to try them if you like them better. The only way to know what you like is to try it!

Staying focused, stretching, and building confidence - This is a short video that I hope will fit on the end of the first DVD. I think it rounds out the beginning section nicely, then we can start the beginning of the second DVD with actual quilting footage and information. 3 minutes.

I admit I'm getting worried that I'm talking too much in this DVD. So far there has been very little actual hands-on stitching.

The thing is, most of the topics requested REQUIRE a lot of talking. I can't really show adjusting your tension by stitching on camera. I have to talk about it.

But so far I'm feeling really good about it. I'm not sure that I'm going to be able to address EVERY little thing I wanted to address, but I'm definitely trying my best. Whatever I miss, I'll do more videos and post them on You Tube.

On the lighter side, James has been "helping" me baste quilts when I'm not filming.

Here he is happy as can be in the middle of the Super Quick Quilt refusing to get down cause it's just so funny to see mom run around the table trying to catch hold of him in the middle!

free motion quilting | Leah DayBy the way, I realized this weekend that this fabric is WAY to complicated to try to mark. The blue markings show up great in the lighter areas, but nothing is showing up over the green.

Looks like it's going to need a filler design upscaled and stitched over the surface with no marking.

I realized also while trying to mark it that marking really is time consuming and if the goal is to quilt it in a day, it better be a non-marked method. There's always something new to learn!

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Quilting Meditations

Today I woke up extremely early to start stitching a new set of designs. I know it appears like I'm Wonder Woman on this blog: able to quilt, film, edit, upload, and write about 1 design each day.

The truth is that that would be really insane!

Instead I stitch 10 - 12 designs in one sitting, usually while listening to audio books or music early in the morning or very late at night when the house is quiet and no one will disturb me.

Making these 4" squares has started to turn into a sort of meditation. Quilting in general can be very relaxing, to the point that I looked out the window and suddenly realized that several hours had passed without even realizing it.

I decided that I really wanted to share this experience with you today.

Sometimes I look at my show quilts and I worry that what quilters see is the tiny dense stitches, but not the process: the peace and calming that comes from making those stitches.

In this process there is no judgment. I don't stare down at my 4" squares and nit pick every mistake, every mis-traveled stitch, or every wobbly circle.

I would be really insane by now if I did!

Of course, I would be lying to say that I've never judged my own work harshly, but I've learned over the last 4 years that usually it doesn't help.

Also knowing that I need to have 365 of these little squares by the end of it all, I know for a fact that a few missed stitches are the least of my worries.

And I hope that you will try out this line of thinking yourself as well. No judgment, no criticism, just STITCH!

It sounds really simple and it actually is! Throw on some music you like and stitch to enjoy the process.

Quilt just to quilt for yourself.

I've heard from many quilters over the last six months who are intimidated by free motion quilting. Some are even so intimidated they won't even TRY it.

So to try to encourage you to just quilt and play and have fun, let me share with you this story from when I first started quilting:

When I started quilting guess what I was intimidated by?


I really thought about it and came to my own conclusion that basting could never work. The backs of my quilts would get all pleated up and be a bit mess and I would just have to seam rip all of those stitches out.

The more I thought about it, the bigger and nastier the problem got.

So for my first quilt, I quilted each block separately, so convinced that if I put them together I would be in big trouble when it came to basting.

The only problem was: I didn't know how to put the quilted blocks together either!

So you see, fear of trying something can often times lead you down a path of more frustration and heartache than if you just suck up your gut and TRY IT!

And what happened to my first quilt? I ended up zigzag stitching the blocks together. It worked, sort of, but taught me an important lesson about quilting:

Whenever you're afraid of something,
stop thinking and do it anyway.

Chances are it's not nearly as scary as you thought!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 119 - Trippy Triangles

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

Super thank you to everyone who commented yesterday! I'm definitely fired up to start filming the DVD and if I don't manage to talk about EVERYTHING in the beginner dvd, I will elaborate more in the next one.

So I'm off to start filming, but before I go, let's learn this awesome new filler stitch: Trippy Triangles!

free motion quilting | Leah DayI really couldn't think of a better name for this design. Maybe I was running low on creative juice that day or something, but Trippy Triangle just jumped into my head and I couldn't dislodge it.

Inspiration - I was looking back at Triangle Mosaic and really wanted another, more free form triangle design.

Difficulty Level - Beginner. We all know what a triangle is shaped like, right? That makes this super easy to quilt no matter if you're just getting started!

Design Family - Echoing.

Filler Design Type - Echo. This design is similar to Echo Shell, but instead of a random number of echos, I choose to echo the triangle shape 1 time consistently throughout the design.

This design will work pretty easily over any area of your quilt, even around complicated motifs. 

Directional Texture - No direction. This design is very dense and doesn't encourage your eyes to move in any particular direction. Trippy Triangles will be a terrific background design.

Suggestions for Use - I definitely think Trippy Triangles can be used ANYWHERE on a quilt. You can make it big to cover large areas of the quilt or you can make it small to act more like a filler.

I really wish I'd tried this design in the Winter Wonderland Quilt! It would have been perfect with the snowflake blocks.

Back of Trippy Triangles
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and send in a picture to show it off.

Leah Day

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Beginner DVD HELP!

I started filming the beginner DVD today, but I realized as I was working on it that I needed to just double check one last time that I'm covering everything I need to cover in this video.

So here's the chapter list so far:

Machine setup / Tools
- Dealing with loops on the back of the quilt
- Breaking needles and breaking thread
Stitch Regulator - Do you need one or not
Needle Size
Thread color choice and type
Confidence building and how to stay focused while machine quilting

Fillers for bed quilts (how to upscale a design)
Using stencils and continuous designs
How to mark a quilt top

- How much space to quilt on the quilt top
- How to avoid bearding and pleats in the backing

How to quilt a big quilt on a small machine
How to get consistent stitches
Hand movement vs. machine speed
Where to start quilting and how?
Thinking ahead with a design
Traveling from one design to another

I've thought about it a lot and I don't think I'll have time to really discuss design in great detail. I'll have to leave that for the Intermediate level DVD.

More than anything else, I just want to help beginners learn how to feel comfortable behind your machines.

It seems like most quilters are fine for piecing or even machine applique, but as soon as the feed dogs are turned off or covered, all confidence goes out the window!

So I need your help! If there's anything I've missed that you think is huge and MUST be in the DVD, please comment about it below!

Thanks a bunch!

Leah Day

Day 118 - Mitosis

Have you heard of the Scientific Quilter yet?

Darla emailed be way back in November and we immediately hit it off. I'm a former biology major and can definitely appreciate looking at quilting from a scientific angle.

Darla inspired me to create a design using my biology background! Here's Mitosis:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Guess what!? I started filming the beginner DVD today! YAY!

Okay, enough great news, let's learn how to stitch Mitosis:

Inspiration - The Scientific Quilter is actually a podcaster, which means Darla records an audio MP3 of herself talking about scientificy quilty things.

You can download these podcasts directly to your Ipod or to your computer and listen anytime you want!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Mitosis is a fairly simple design based on free form feathers. If feathering has been difficult for you to master, give this design a try and practice until you get the hang of it!

Design Family - Edge to Edge. This design is worked from one edge of your quilting space to another. It probably won't work very easily in tight, complicated areas for this reason.

Directional Texture - Two directions. You can definitely see a horizontal or vertical texture with this design, so make sure to put it in borders or sashing where the feathers can really show off!

Suggestions for Use - I think Mitosis has a lot of potential to quickly fill large areas of your quilt. Look at the blocks of my Super Quick Quilt. Just stitch one big mitosis in the center and each block would be finished in no time!

Back of Mitosis
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, January 13, 2010

Day 117 - Butterfly Wings

Way back in December when I showcased the blocks of the Winter Wonderland Quilt, I mentioned creating this design while working on that quilt.

I wanted a pivot design, which are fast to stitch, but more random movement and flow. Thus Butterfly Wings was born!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Wow! I do one lecture and suddenly I'm being emailed and called for more workshops and lectures all over NC!

Today I'm trying to get it all organized, get my desk cleared back off again, and hopefully will get back behind the camera by the end of the day.

The kitchen is officially finished. I know because no one showed up at my house today and started banging on anything!

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt's an enormous relief and I hope to do a video showcasing the new room this evening.

It was so wonderful to hang Release Your Light in her special place on the wall, though Josh kept hinting that she doesn't match anymore with the new colors of the room.

I guess I'm just going to have to create a new goddess for my dining room wall, but in the meantime, I think she looks just fine where she is.

Okay, let's get back to business with Butterfly Wings!

Inspiration - I think it was way back while working on Flower Ball that I realized how versatile the leaf shapes were. You can do loads with these shapes - stack, pivot, echo, you name it - it all looks great!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This is really not a difficult design at all, but I rate it Intermediate because if you're not used to traveling over your previous stitching it could be challenging. Just make sure you're using a really thin, but strong thread!

free motion quilting | Leah DayDesign Family - Pivoting. This is a design that is formed very similar to Paisley. You can pretty much place this design in any area of your quilt. Check this out:

This is one of the Winter Wonderland Blocks. It just goes to show that you can definitely wiggle this filler design around complicated areas.

Directional Texture - All Directions. Pivot designs really have a nice all over texture than looks great as the background texture of a quilt.

Suggestions for Use - This flowing, free form design will pretty much work anywhere, but I can definitely see using it in a landscape quilt. Need a stitch that will look like random foliage? Butterfly wings is a great choice!

Back of Butterfly Wings
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and send in a picture to show it off.

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

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, January 11, 2010

Awesome Lecture!

I've just gotten back from the most awesome experience ever!

Tonight I traveled with a friend to Concord, NC, where I presented my very first lecture to the Cabarrus Quilter's Guild.

First off, I must say that this is one awesome guild. It's a huge group of awesome, inspiring quilters who obviously love what they do!

I had an amazing time! After it was over I kept asking my friend: "Why haven't I been doing this before?"

It just felt so natural to get up and share stories and experiences about my quilts. I love sharing and I felt great the whole time.

Second, I have to thank my friend, who does read this blog, and who was an amazing resource, kind ear, friendly supporter, and excellent sales woman the whole evening. She was better than Vanna White!

To everyone who commented last week, YES! You were absolutely right - Quilters are amazing people who loved me before I ever opened my mouth.

A few funny things happened that I thought I'd share with you:

The Duchess was hanging up on display and quilters started coming up to look at it. One of the quilters asked:

"That's so neat! What do you call that kind of fabric?"

I replied: "Stained."

Ha! The Duchess is now so evenly blotchy and stained that it practically looks like it was intentional. Maybe I shouldn't tell them it's damaged beyond repair???

Naw. I've gotta make sure no one ever treats dirty wholecloths with straight hydrogen peroxide. It's too big of a mistake to not share.

The best thing happened at the end of the program:

As I was saying my goodbyes I included the following:

"By the way, this is my very first lecture ever,
so thank you for being such a wonderful audience!"

Their jaws dropped. Seriously. Too the floor. They had trouble believing me.

That was all I needed to see to know that I did a really good job tonight.

So super thank you to all the encouragement and the 2 quilters who came to the meeting because of this blog. It's such a wonderful experience to meet ya'll in person!

I'm gonna walk on air for the rest of the week!

Leah Day

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