The Free Motion Quilting Project: July 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Steam-A-Seam 2 Lite

It's Feature Friday today and I'd like to share some photos from a neat little project I'm putting together today:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This is a 4 block sampler quilt I created to showcase many different forms of free motion quilting. I think I'm going to create 4 of these simple quilts and quilt each one a slightly different way. Kind of like the book "Quilting Makes the Quilt" only with very dark fabrics!

I've been needing more samples for classes and guess where the videos will go???

But before I run off spoiling all the surprises I'm planning for the 1 year celebration sale, lets talk about the applique flowers within each block of this sampler quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
These heart flowers look so cute in each block. You might be thinking they took a long time to cut out, but you're wrong! These are all shapes cut from different dies from the Accu Quilt Go! fabric cutter.

All of the shapes are being secured to the blocks with Steam-a-Seam 2 lite. This lightweight fusible web lightly sticks to fabric, allowing me to place each piece and fiddle with the layout even when the quilt is up on my design wall.

Once all the pieces are placed, it's a very easy process of pressing them down with a hot iron, then turning on the steam and giving it a last blast before everything gets fused permanently in place.

I love Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite because it's one of the most lightweight AND easy to use fusible webbing available.

Here are the directions on how to use it:
  1. Trace appliqué design in reverse on one paper side (one side is designed to come away easier than the other. Trace on the side that stays on the fusible.
  2. Stick the sheet of steam-a-seam 2 lite to the wrong side of your material, pressing for 2-5 seconds with a hot, dry iron.
  3. Cut out fabric and fusible together along the traced line.
  4. Peel off the remaining paper and position the applique on your project.
  5. Press for 10-20 seconds with steam on the cotton setting. Increase fusing for lower heat. Reheat if necessary.
It's important to always follow the directions when using a fusible web. In this case steam heat is really necessary to get the proper bond between the glue and the fabric.

When fusing the flowers on my heart flower quilt, I first fused from the top, then flipped the whole quilt over and pressed it again from the back.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis ensures all the shapes will stay perfectly in place while I machine applique them down.

Now I'm off to go add the borders and start appliqueing these pretty flowers! If you'd like to learn more about Steam a Seam 2 Lite, please click here for more information.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Several Updates

I think we're in the need for an update post today! There has been a whole lot going on, both online and offline that I'd love to share with you:

First off, last month I did an interview about Release Your Light for the Alliance for American Quilts. An old friend from the Asheville Quilt Guild came to Shelby and interviewed me about creating this quilt and my quilting history.

Click Here to read the full interview. Remember this transcribed from an conversion, so if it seems to be a big mass of run-on sentences, that's just the way I talk!

This interview is apart of a program called Quilter's Save Our Stories. This program "creates, through recorded interviews, a broadly accessible body of information concerning quiltmaking, both present-day and in living memory, for scholarship and exhibition." (A.A.Q)
This is an ongoing project and you can get involved! Click here to learn more about the Save Our Stories program and see a list of all the new quilts recently added to the archive.

Now lets get an update on the Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers DVD.

I know I had sworn this would be a quick project, finishing up easily in July, but that lets you know just how blindly optimistic I can be!

There have been a few setbacks and I finally bit the bullet and hired a professional to help me produce the master DVD.

The great news is this will speed all my future DVD projects up by quite a margin, but of course the bad news is we had to figure everything out about what file types to use, how to send them, and what looks best all with this project!

So it's taken longer than expected, but I'd rather take a bit longer to produce it and end up with a high quality, long lasting DVD, than a project I'm embarrassed by in 2 years.

Today I'm busy reproducing the files into another, higher quality file type and will send them to my DVD person this evening. I'm hoping to have the master disc sometime next week and to officially launch the DVD by mid-August.

UPDATE: The DVD is now available. Click here to check it out!

So that's it for this update day! I'm off to get back to work on all these projects and hopefully get upstairs to quilt on the new machine by the end of the day.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Cup Runneth Over Finshed!

As you can tell from yesterday's post, this week is going a little crazy on me.

It seems like life runs in waves. Sometimes there's not much to do and it's a great time to chill out, read, catch up on some Dr. Who episodes, and finish a couple quilts.

But other times life just seems to fly by like a freight train running full blast through a chaotic twist of projects, deadlines, play dates, and show quilts.

Trust me, I'm not complaining, but I've never had so much to do or accomplished so much in one month as I have this July.

Maybe July is just my magical month where the perfect combination of sunlight, iced tea, and grilled hamburgers combines to make me one super powered, ultra efficient quilter / business owner.

I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I'd really love to bottle this feeling and pull it out in the depths of January when I'm stuck in the middle of several projects.

This month I have not only have I finished two major quilting projects: Shadow Self and just yesterday My Cup Runneth Over:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis finished quilt looks a lot different from her unquilted self back in March, and I'm extremely pleased with how she has finished

The idea for the extra thread work came in the middle of the night. I was half dreaming when I suddenly thought of Dottie Moore's beautiful satin stitched quilts and realized that what I really needed to do with this quilt was let go.

Let go of all the rules, the need for perfection, and just stitch until I was ready to stop. Of course, I didn't realize that this would mean another 6 hours of quilting!

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe catch was I had no time and the quilt had to be photographed Tuesday morning so I could order prints in time for the Asheville Quilt Show.

I've been wanting to have prints of a few quilts and maybe even greeting cards for awhile, but never got around to it until now. At the last minute!

Of course Monday I was busy with a number of things which left Monday night. I really thought as I sat down at my desk that I would be quilting only for 2 hours and maybe get to bed my midnight at the latest.

That just lets you know how much more time satin stitching can take! I rolled into bed at 4 am, exhausted, but extremely happy with the new addition to My Cup Runneth Over:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I have added spidery tree roots running through the water section. This was stitched in Yenmet Metallic thread, both in free motion and with an open toe embroidery foot. I really put the new Horizon through its paces and she stood up to the test so far!

I decided on this addition because the water was a symbol of all the abundance flowing forth: specifically the love I feel for my husband and son, the good fortune at being able to work at home, and the joy of being able to express these feelings in thread.

But I also wanted a symbol for how this love and abundance is also my roots to this world. My family keeps me grounded and quilting fuels my soul.

With every stitch, I liked this goddess more and more. Though I still feel like she needs some paint in the background, I'm very pleased with how this turned out.

While Shadow Self taught me the importance of planning ahead, My Cup Runneth Over has taught me the importance of letting go and allowing myself the freedom to just play and stitch and let go of micromanaging every little thing.

This is also the first quilt that I have bound with an artistic facing rather than traditional quilt binding. I also seriously broke the rules by fusing it to the back!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I'll definitely share an article on how to do this soon. I only hand stitched a little in the corners to super secure these areas. The length of the sides, top, and bottom are really secured with Wonder Under fusible web!

This type of binding was perfect for this type of art quilt where you don't want any kind of border, not even a simple binding. By pulling the top slightly to the back, the facing takes care of any raw edges and the fusible web helps to stiffen the quilt a bit, which helps it hang straight.

So that is one more quilt checked off my "to-do" list! I'm extremely happy to be finished with her, but unfortunately she was only one item on a very long list!

For the rest of the week I'm going to be busy trying to work out a problem we're having with the new DVD, writing the book, finishing up a magazine article, and preparing for the Asheville Quilt Show!

I'm really getting excited about the show and spending the weekend in the mountains. Josh and I will be vending at the show, so if you're planning to attend, make sure to check out our booth!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Day 205 - Gyro Circles

It's Totally Filler Tuesday and Leah was up all night finishing My Cup Runneth Over so it's Josh subbing again.

Following Spiral Illusion, we have another Space Odyssey-Kubric inspired psychedelic filler called Gyro Circles.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Difficulty Level - Advanced. As Leah says in the video, first draw a spiral on your quilt area, then stitch overlapping circles all the way around, filling up the whole space.

Design Family - Center Fill. You start working from the center and keep spiraling out, like flattening and spreading out a slinky.

Directional Texture - Center focused. Shocker, right? Another center focused design.

Leah will be back tomorrow!

- Josh

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 204 - Spiral Illusion

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

It's More Fillers Monday and I'm craving a new spiral design! Here's a fun twist on Square Spiral that's so easy to get lost in, it had to be called Spiral Illusion:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Today I'm super busy finishing up several projects and running all over town to get them where they need to go.

First I'm heading upstairs to add more stitching on My Cup Runneth Over. There was a huge mistake with water soluble thread that I will explain in depth on Wednesday, but suffice it to say Dottie Moore's heavily satin stitched quilts are on my mind and definitely serving as inspiration for what I plan to add to this quilt.

Next I'm headed up to Gastonia, NC to pick up the master DVD for Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers! It's finally done!

Now with the master disc, I'm one step closer to having this DVD project finished and ready to launch. These things always take longer than expected, but I'm so happy with the finished results that it was well worth the wait. Update: The DVD is now finished. Click here to learn all about it.

Later today I have to get back home to finish up the stitching on My Cup Runneth Over in time to get her photographed tomorrow morning with Shadow Self, just in time to finish up an article I'm writing on them and get that sent in before leaving town for the Asheville Quilt Show.

Whew! I got a lot on my plate this week, but there's always a little time to quilt! Let's learn how to stitch Spiral Illusion:

Difficulty Level - Beginner. Despite its complexity, this is actually a very easy design. Stitch it into a square and let the edges of the square be your guide for the first Square Spiral. Then rotate and, completely ignoring the first spiral, stitch another square spiral right on top all the way back to the edges.

Design Family - Edge to Center. You're slowly working your way into the space, then back out again, and it really helps to have enough room for this design to show off. Stitch Spiral Illusion into the bigger, more open areas of your quilt for an easy finish.

Directional Texture - Center Focused. The texture of this design is really amazing, so make sure to place it where you want lots of attention!

Suggestions for Use - Has anyone ever made a M.C Escher inspired quilt? I'm thinking black and white fabrics, very graphic piecing designs, and Spiral Illusion would fit perfectly on top!

Back of Spiral Illusion
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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A New Machine

Around 6 months ago, I posted my history of sewing machines going from a hand-me-down Singer when I was a kid to a 2 part system of a Juki for quilting and a Bernina for piecing and applique.

In that post, I shared with you all my personal opinions of what makes a good machine good, and especially what I look for when choosing a free motion quilting machine.

I also hope I impressed upon everyone the fact that I have no biases: I've stitched on almost every brand of machine and they ALL have strengths and weaknesses.

No machine is perfect, just as no computer or video game console is perfect.

Perfect stitches only come from taking the time to learn the nuances of your machine, adapting to them, and making them work for you rather than against you.

I really do believe that you can free motion quilt on any machine so long as you're willing to put in time playing and practicing in order to learn the basic skills of moving the quilt and controlling your speed at the same time.

I thought about proving this back in the spring when I ended up with a king sized bed by accident. What if I made a king sized quilt on a Featherweight? Would you all believe me then?! Ha!

Many quilters have had a hard time believing that I quilt all my quilts on a domestic machine. Jaws drop at lectures, and I usually have to answer the question more than once:

"Yes, a domestic machine."
"Yes, a machine set up on a table, not on rails"

"Yes, a SEWING machine!"

There is an overriding belief that you can't quilt anything big on a domestic, and even worse, that you can't quilt a show winning quilt on a domestic machine.

This is just plain silly because the type of machine does not determine the design, quilting skill, or execution - that's all up to the quilter!

But then again, if a quilter has convinced herself that she will never be able to quilt like this, there's not much I can say to dissuade her of the notion. Maybe I should just stop trying to convince everyone and buy a new machine...

Obviously from this rant, you know I'm building up to something big here....

Yep, I have indeed just purchased a new machine and yes, it is bigger than the average domestic. This is the Janome Horizon 7700.

While I know there's a whole crowd of people ready to scream "Hypocrite!" at me, please allow me to explain:

First off, as I explained in the post Quilting Machine Conundrum, I've been looking for a very specific machine for a very long time.

What I wanted seemed simple enough: 11" harp space (distance from the needle to the back of the machine), knee lifter, and an automatic needle down.

Over the last year or so I've also started wanting the ability to make zig zag stitches, a feature my lockstitch Juki did not have, and more decorative stitches for applique, features my Bernina did not have.

But finding this simple combination of features has seemed impossible.

If I found a machine that seemed to fit the bill, the problem would always inevitably be the bill. Everywhere I looked the jump from a 6.5 inch harp to anything beyond 10 inches was a difference of several thousand dollars.

Good machines are an investment, but some of the prices I've seen are just ridiculous. Should a quilting machine really ever be more expensive than a CAR?! I'm a professional quilter, but even I balk at spending more on a machine that on my Nissan Versa!

So I've been looking, talking, and sometimes begging several different longarm manufacturers, domestic machine dealers, and even repairmen to show me the light and either build or find my dream machine.

For more than a year, the only response I'd get was either laughter or a shaking head. It just seemed silly for me to keep asking and looking when the machine I wanted obviously didn't exist.

So when I traveled to Greensboro, NC way back in April and held a workshop at Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shoppe, I mentioned my dream machine to Kelley Jones, part owner and dealer of Janome sewing machines.

To my surprise, Kelley didn't laugh or shake his head at me. Instead he thought for a minute and said "You know, I think we'll be getting a machine just like that in a few months."

My heart skipped a beat, and I had to do a double take when he told me the price.

This new machines price was much, much lower than the new-car-expensive machines I'd been looking at. It wasn't cheap, mind you, but it was an investment I could consider, especially if I could sell my other machines to balance out the cost.

And really with the Horizon 7700, there is no reason to have any other machine.

Well, except maybe a smaller machine for traveling to workshops because this girl is HUGE! She's not exactly portable, but that's really not the point.

The point of the Horizon is space - 11" of it from the needle to the right side of the machine - exactly what I was looking for in a new machine.

Stretching a whooping 20 inches, this new girl will only fit in the new bigger Gidget 2 tables. I don't even need an insert for her because extension table the machine comes with fits perfectly over the gaps in the gidget table.

Of course, there were a few features I didn't exactly need. Needle threaders are a waste of space in my opinion and if I can unscrew and detach it without messing anything else up, believe me I will.

The machine also comes with about 50 million stitches - decorate, utility, and FINALLY Applique! I have literally hundreds of applique projects on the brain, just waiting for a machine with decent applique stitches to do the job.

While I know I probably won't use all the decorative stitches every day, I'd rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them.

Here's a long list of the many things I'm already learning to love about this machine:
  • Huge number of feet - Unlike every other machine I've ever purchased, this was the first time I didn't have to shell out another $300 in more feet.
  • Perfect open toe free motion foot - I didn't have to modify the free motion foot - it came with a perfect open toe foot that has already proved excellent at free motion quilting.
  • 2 bright lights - This has been big thing for me since every sewing machine I've ever had has only had a light to the left side of the needle. The horizon has another light to the right side to illuminate the entire quilting bed.
  • Compartments for everything - It's pretty annoying to have tons of accessories and no where to put them. This machine came with plenty of storage on the top and in the slide off case in the bottom.
I also feel like for the first time I really have found a machine that will do everything really well: piecing, applique, and free motion quilting.

While I've had a split setup for a long time now (one machine for quilting, one machine for everything else), it was starting to get annoying with how much space 2 sets of tables can take up.

So now that I have the Horizon, I'm planning to drop to just one machine setup downstairs in my main studio. Of course, this will take a lot of reorganizing in order to get everything in the right place and get rid of the machines, tables, and accessories I no longer need.

I definitely see some ebay auctions in my future when I get back from the Asheville Quilt Show!

Now I'm off to go quilt on my new Horizon!

Leah Day

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fine Line Pens

It's Feature Friday and we're trying something new: Leah is taking a break and her husband Josh (that's me) is subbing in for her today.

Today's feature is the marking pen that made both The Duchess and Release Your Light possible.

That would be the Fine Line Pen, a water soluble pen that's ideal for white or lighter quilts. But this is no ordinary water soluble pen... Unlike all other water erasable marking pens, this pinpoint tip marker produces a very fine, thin line that's easy to follow whether you're free motion quilting or using a walking foot.

free motion quilting | Leah DayAs James says, "Try it you'll like it IT'S GOOD!"

You can see how excited Jame is about today's feature! He knows how important The Fine Line is for mama's quilting.

And speaking of Release Your Light, I'll let you in on a little secret that may not have made it to the blog. Release Your Light was not always the name and to this day I still call the quilt its original, and in my opinion, cooler name: Light in Me.

So please join me in calling Release Your Light its real name, Light in Me!

free motion quilting | Leah DayOne more thing to share today: as I'm sure Leah has mentioned I'm a home aquarium hobbyist.

I have seven tanks, including two saltwater systems. Some of my stranger lifeforms have inspired a few filler designs such as Open Brain Coral.

Here's a picture of my ten gallon reef tank under LED "moon" light. This blue color spectrum light simulates nighttime coral feeding behavior and really changes the color and texture of nearly everything in the reef.

In the picture there's a clam (bottom left), the open brain coral (bottom center), a piece of live rock covered in mushroom soft corals (right and above brain coral), and a feather duster worm (upper left).

Remember the pit of the Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi? Jabba the Hut was going to feed Han Solo and his friends to this worm-like creature. A feather duster is essentially the same thing, only a lot smaller, has a mantle of feather tendrils in order to filter feed, and is real.

Leah will be back on Monday and will hopefully let me sub in for her again. Maybe next time I'll take a video of my feather duster worm and it will inspire a new filler design!

- J

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm Ready

I hinted yesterday that I've finally taken a quilt down off the design wall and returned to working on it. Yes, this is indeed My Cup Runneth Over:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

A bit of back story about this quilt for any newcomers to the blog:

My Cup Runneth Over was started in February as the 6th quilt in my goddess series.

The inspiration for this quilt came in the middle of working on Release Your Light, when I really wasn't very happy because the painting was taking forever.

Finally I took a break for a few days on that quilt and decided not to go back until I really WANTED to be working on it. Within 2 days I was back with an entirely different attitude and perspective.

This perspective made me start thinking about my family: my awesome husband and chill son who bend their lives around my quilting, and how extremely fortunate I am to have them.

free motion quilting | Leah DayMeditating on these thoughts as I painted the surface of Release Your Light, I saw a new goddess, this one holding a cup that was literally overflowing with abundance. That image exactly mirrored what I was feeling during that reflective day.

But turning the image of My Cup Runneth Over into reality hasn't been an easy process.

I started this quilt in February, and I immediately wanted to rush through the whole project. If you go back and read the different parts of the quilt story, you may pick up on how frantic I was to push through the quilt. All I wanted to do was blast past that quilt and get on to the next one.

Here are the parts for easy reading:

As I learned the hard way though, speedy and quick is not how these goddesses run.

They are more than just a chick stitched on a quilt. My Cup Runneth Over represented a certain feeling, but instead of focusing on this feeling, of trying to understand it better and wrap my brain around it, I instead shut it out, shut it down, and just tried to grit my teeth and rush through the quilt.

But that method just really doesn't work. Very quickly I began to see issues with the quilting process.

I think most issues start to be seen in the quilting process because we're right there, nose to nose with the quilt for so long while free motion quilting it. Quilting on a domestic really makes you slow down and see every detail.

And the closer I got to the details, the more flaws I saw. In the nature of my mind at the time, the more flaws I saw, the more I beat myself up about it.
Have you ever done this to yourself? Used every mistake, every missed stitch, every frayed thread as an excuse to beat yourself up, cut yourself down, and generally ruin the quilting process completely?

Well, I certainly did, and this was really indicative of what my mind used to do on a daily basis. My horrible inner negative voice was just a bad habit, continually cycling my thoughts through all the bad things it could pick on.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYes, at one time I convinced myself
that this stitching looked terrible!

Eventually I couldn't take it anymore. In my mind My Cup Runneth Over was a horrible wasteland of mistakes, now terribly public because I'd blogged about it.

I was extremely tempted to chuck the whole project and all the time, money, and energy that went into it in the fireplace and watch it burn.

Thankfully I blogged about the burning idea and several quilters stepped in with better advice: wait, put it away, and come back to it when you're ready.

So that's exactly what I did. I hung My Cup Runneth Over on the wall of my quilting room where I could easily ignore her and pretend she never existed.

But the failure of this quilt really never went away. When I began designing Shadow Self, I spent twice as long in the design process, careful not to repeat the same mistakes by rushing each step.

free motion quilting | Leah DayAnd then the process of creating Shadow Self and the transformations that have happened, both mentally and physically from creating that quilt. It cannot be put into words.

My habitual negative voice? Gone. The feelings of powerlessness, fear, and depression? Gone.

It is as though I've taken a shower, but this time the water washed away all the bad feeling in my mind and replaced it with a cool, clean understanding.

I noticed recently that towards the end of working on Shadow Self, I'd stopped listening to music or audiobooks while quilting. Before creating that quilt, I would do anything to blot out the noise in my head, to drown out that cacophony with nicer sounds.

But the last half of Shadow Self was completed in utter silence. Through most of that second half, I sat in my own mind, listening to my thoughts peacefully for the first time in a very long time.

It was in this peaceful, quiet state that I looked at My Cup Runneth Over and really saw the quilt for what it was.

It was not a wasteland of mistakes as I had previously thought. It's certainly not perfect and I will probably never compete with this quilt, but it is worthy of being finished.

So on Sunday I returned to this quilt, not out of duty because it needed to be finished, but because I genuinely want to see her finished and because I need to celebrate the amazing changes to my life over the last 3 months.

More importantly, I finally feel ready to feel the feelings that this quilt was designed to evoke: love, abundance, and compassion. There's a wonderful song called "I'm Ready" by Tracy Chapman that describes this feeling almost perfectly.

I have decided to make some changes to the background section and spent most of the ride to Asheville yesterday ripping out stitches.

Thankfully it wasn't a huge amount of quilting that needed to be torn out and this morning I created a new background to surround this goddess:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I've always felt she needed a landscape behind her and so I created a new design called Landscape Fill to fill in the background. I may paint over the thread with green paint, or I might let the stitching do all the work.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI also completed her hair section last night with a combination of metallic and polyester threads. I like how some sections are lighter than others and this effect is one I will definitely play with again.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI'm still trying to decide which filler to use in the sky. I want to create subtle movement, but again I will probably paint over the thread.

Now it's time to go back upstairs and finish her off. I'm ready...

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 203 - Flowing Lines

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

So today is Totally Filler Tuesday and I need to share a design that really should have been posted about 10 months ago.

This Flowing Lines design is actually the base of Pebbled in a Stream, Goldilocks, and Matrix Flow. After creating the last design, I realized that the base could be a design all on its own!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Today I'm kicking back and relaxing after my trip to Rock Hill, SC yesterday. It was a terrific group of very interested quilters and we all had loads of fun!

But today I really need to get everything back in order because tomorrow we're running up to Asheville, NC to drop off Release Your Light and Winter Wonderland to the Asheville Quilt Show. Cross your fingers they do well!

It's only going to be a quick trip though because I really want to get home to finish up a quilt that has been on my wall too long. More details on that tomorrow!

Now let's learn how to stitch Flowing Lines:

Click Here if the Videos do not Appear

Difficulty Level - Beginner. This is a very easy design created by stitching flowing lines, echoing, and occasionally leaving gaps. It's very fun and can easily become very fluid and organic so don't be afraid to experiment with this one!

Design Family - Edge to Edge. Flowing Lines is stitched from one edge of your quilting space to another which means this design will work best in the open areas of your quilt.

Directional Texture - Two directions. Of course, the more wiggly and flowing your lines are, the more multi-directional texture they will have.

Suggestions for Use - This design would work terrific on a landscape quilt. The flowing lines could be used to texture water, the sky, or the land. You could even use this design to create the texture and movement of a lava flow!

Back of Flowing Lines
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, July 19, 2010

Day 202 - Bed of Roses

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

It's Monday again which means more fillers!

I've recently realized that I've been really shortchanging the number of flower inspired designs here on the project and decided to do something about it.

Since roses are my favorite flowers, I think we need to learn how to stitch a bed of roses on our quilts!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Today I'm pulling everything together to head to Rock Hill, SC to see the York County Quilter's Guild!

Tonight I get to present my favorite lecture on the 3 Dimensions of Design (color, shape, and texture). I have a few more quilts to show this time around and I think it will make for a much better presentation.

But before the lecture, I'm heading into town early to tour the YLI thread headquarters! I'm really excited to see how thread is made. So often I take the millions of colors and thread types for granted so it will be great to see all the work that goes behind one spool of thread.

So while I run upstairs to pull Shadow Self and Winter Wonderland off the walls, you sit tight and learn how to quilt Bed of Roses:

Inspiration - There are a few flowers I've really tried to capture in threads, but this time I really wanted a very cartoony version of the rose.

Cartoons and comic books are great inspirations for filler designs because they often take complex shapes and break them down into very simple lines. Roses can be very complex, but when simplified down to the cartoon version, they are fairly easy to stitch in free motion.

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design is basically a simplified version of Oil Slick and the hardest part I found was forming the initial rose shape. It's so wiggly and wobbly it can sometimes wiggle out of your control!

Design Family - Stacking. This design is formed by stacking the wiggle rose shapes together. Because you can control the size and shape of each rose, this design should work well in all areas of your quilts.

Directional Texture - All Directions. The spirals within each rose really adds a nice flowing movement within this design.

Suggestions for Use - A quilter emailed me this weekend asking for the perfect filler design to go on her daughters rose quilt. Apparently the quilt was made with rose fabrics and I think it also had rose appliques. It looks to me like this design is made for such a quilt!

Back of Bed of Roses
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Feel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Friday, July 16, 2010

Machingers Quilting Gloves

It's Feature Friday today and I think it's time to feature the very first tool I started using when free motion quilting:

Machingers Quilting Gloves!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I learned about these awesome gloves during the first workshop I took on machine quilting.

The instructor had helpfully provided many different tools like halos, sponges, hoops, and gloves to make gripping the quilt top easier.

I played with all of the items on her table, but it wasn't until I slipped on the Machingers that I could immediately see a change in my free motion quilting skill.

Keep in mind that I'd never stippled before in my life! So I was pretty amazed when the gloves went on and I could suddenly create better lines and curves.

My shapes still weren't perfect, but they were worlds better because I had better control over the quilt sandwich.

The truth is, cotton fabric is very slick. It's hard to get a good grip on the quilt top without clenching the sandwich in your fist, and this can put loads of strain on your fingers, wrists, and arms.

You can quilt for much longer stretches if your hands and fingers stay spread out on the quilt top, but with how slick the cotton fabric is, your hands will just slide over the surface unless you use something grippy to maintain control.

The gloves are the perfect grippy tool to help you move the quilt easily and smoothly over the surface of the table without clenching your hands around the top.

Machingers themselves are nylon gloves with rubber coated tips. The only areas that are coated are just the finger tip areas, so your hands can still breathe and won't get sweaty even after hours of quilting.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySorry! It's a bad hair day so no video on the gloves!

As you can see from the photo, the gloves are meant to fit very snuggly and are available in 4 sizes. Click here to check out the different sizes available.

I mentioned before that I've tried hoops and halos and many quilters really like these tools for establishing that control. I find that they get in my way and impede my visibility.

I also hate having to worry about when to reposition the hoop when I want to be concentrating on my filler design instead. That's just my personal bias though, so always try something out for yourself to see if it works better for you!

So that's it for this Feature Friday! The gloves are available from my Quilt Shop and are also available in the Ultimate Quilting Kit as well.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 201 - Web Fill

Today is Anything Goes Thursday and I'm craving a new stacking design!

One thing I've been wondering is if it's possible to take a center focused design and turn it into a stacking design, so it would work in more areas of a quilt.

So far, I'd say say this definitely works turning Spider Web into Web Fill:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Yesterday I hand bound 3 sides and the hanging sleeve of Shadow Self while listening to an excellent book called "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence Cohen.

When James was born I read all kinds of parenting books, but after he was about 6 months old, they all got shelved. Recently I've been feeling the need to find another book and this one just happened to pop into my suggested books in

This is an absolutely excellent book that has really helped me see how many opportunities there are to connect and play with James every day, even if it's just for 5 minutes at a time.

So while I run off to play a short game of pillow fight, enjoy learning how to quilt Web Fill:

Inspiration - I've always liked the Spider Web design, but I really wanted a smaller, easier to use version that could go in the borders or sashing of a quilt.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. This design is created by first stitching your spider web spokes, then spiraling out from the center with the web. The biggest challenge will probably be the traveling and keeping your spirals looking like a curvy spider web.

Design Family - Stacking. The point of creating this variation was to form a design that was more versatile and could go in more places of a quilt than just a large open block. Web fill can go pretty much anywhere in a quilt, so definitely enjoy playing with this fun design!

Directional Texture - No Direction. This texture is really interesting because it's very eye catching (particularly when stitched with contrasting thread), but it's also very flat and directionless.

Suggestions for Use - I like the idea of making a Halloween inspired quilt and quilting Web Fill in the borders and sashing. You could also use this design to surround a witch or ghost applique block for a very spooky effect!

Back of Web Fill
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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Listing Priorities

Today is What's Leah Working on Wednesday so let's take a trip into the sewing room to see what's going on.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

As you can tell, my studio is a wreck right now. A combination of too little time and way too many projects has combined to form a big mess over my sewing tables.

If you think this isn't that bad, you should know that this photo was taken after cleaning the table off for 2 hours. The fabric up front in the photo is actually folded! I'm still uncovering yardage, tools, and the odd pair of scissors out from under all this stuff.

I think I'm just a naturally messy person. I was never very good about putting my toys away and it looks like my son James is the same.

I have to laugh when I walk into his room and find his floor looking exactly like my studio tables. You can't teach what you can't do yourself, so that is one battle I'm not even going to try to win.

But my giant messes are usually indicative of my general state. If the room is a wreak, generally I've been having a pretty good time, such a good time I haven't wanted to stop and clean.

And things really are great right now!

I started thinking about it the other day how often I will talk and write about being busy, stressed, or dealing with some personal issue from my past.

It's easy to ignore the bigger picture: that I am, on a daily basis, extremely happy and feel overwhelmingly lucky to be building something so awesome.

I jump out of bed in the morning hours before Josh and James not because I have to get work done, but because I can't wait to get back to work!

I love this business, I love quilting, and I absolutely positively love sharing it all with you!

Of course, sometimes I bite off more than I can chew and it doesn't feel good to have a million ideas and goals in my head and only so many hours in the day to work on them.

That just feels overwhelming - all the options, all the possibilities, swirling around my head clamoring for attention.

It's especially difficult when it's a choice between two important things for the business. I'm trying to build the business big enough to support my family in a very short amount of time and the feeling of time running out is a constant presence in the back of my mind.

So when this happens, rather than running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I instead go out to lunch.

Yes, getting out of the house definitely helps and there is an excellent Indian place in town perfect for eating, talking, and planning out a priority list.

So what is on my plate right now? Here's the ever growing list:
  • Launch the new Beginner DVD - both physical and download version.
  • Launch a download version of the Basics DVD.
  • Design the DVD covers, disc art, etc.
  • Design the beginner book cover.
  • WRITE the beginner book.
  • Quilt and film the extra quilt square photos that will be needed to finish the book.
  • Add new items to the quilt shop.
  • Design and quilt new designs.
  • Bind Shadow Self and get it photographed.
  • Make some Christmas projects (ornaments, etc)
  • Design and quilt some beginner quilts.
  • Clean the quilt studio.
While you may not have a list like this, you might have a list of quilts and quilt projects swirling around your head. It really helps to pull them all out and get them on paper so you can see what is the most important to finish right this second.

It was only after making my list, for example, that I realized that of all the things I feel like I SHOULD be doing, the one thing I HAVE to do is finish Shadow Self and get it photographed for a deadline at the end of July.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo that is what I'm busy with today! Had I not made the list, I'd probably be running off on another tangent and it feels really good to have a solid focus.

Once the quilt is bound, I'll return to my list and figure out what is the next most important thing to finish.

So that's it for my Working Wednesday! I'm off to download a new book to listen to as I hand bind this quilt. My goal is to finish by this evening so I better get going with it!

Let's go quilt (or hand bind),

Leah Day

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 200 - Microscopic World

WooHoo! We just hit Day 200 baby!

You now have 200 designs to choose from to add loads of texture and wonderful movement to your quilts.

And speaking of texture, I think we need a variation of Pebble Maze. That design was just too cool not to play with again!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It's official! I've finally found a book printing company that won't charge us an arm, a leg, and my first born child to print my little books.

So off I'm running to start writing the first book! I've even got the title picked out already: "From Daisy to Paisley - 50 Beginner Level Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs." UPDATE: The book is now available as a download in my Quilt Shop. Click here to learn all about it. :)

Whoo Hoo!

Inspiration - Right after I stitched Pebble Maze, I looked at the design and thought "this could be easier".

Whenever I have a thought like that, I try to figure out what is making the design so difficult. In that case it was the huge amounts of traveling to get back out of the wiggly spirals.

So in this design you just simply fill the open areas with microstippling. It's much easier and has a very similar texture when viewed from far away.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. I got a little email criticism this week about both being too personal on the blog and for saying advanced fillers are easy.

So yeah, this is a tough design, but I stand by the opinion that if you really want to, you can quilt anything from this project. It's patience and practice that is the key!

Design Family - Foundational. This design is formed by first laying out your foundation of pebbles, then filling the little gap areas with microstippling.

You can change the texture of this design by changing what is inside it. What if we tried filling the pebbled areas with Paisley? I think I'm going to have to try it!

Directional Texture - No Direction. Because Pebbling and Stippling are both flat, directionless designs, this Microscopic world will be directionless as well.

Suggestions for Use - This is a highly textured design so definitely use it where you can stitch it tight and show off your threads. I think an artistic wall hanging would be perfect. Maybe a landscape???

Back of Microscopic World
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts
and send in a picture to show it off!
Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 199 - Abstract Leaf

Whoa! Is it day 199 already??? It seems like just yesterday I was launching this project and now we have almost 200 designs to choose from.

So let's celebrate with one of my favorite pivoting type designs. It's a combination of a line, a triangle, and a tear drop which can only be called Abstract Leaf.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Let's learn how to quilt Abstract Leaf:

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. After Saturday's class, I've seen with my own eyes how easy it is for a beginner to pick up pivoting designs. They really are easy once you get the hang of how the design works.

If you need to make it easier you can eliminate the first single line and instead stitch the triangle first and then pivot with your tear drop shape around it.

Design Family - Pivoting. These designs are created by starting on a point, stitching a shape, pivoting, and echoing that shape. Because you're always returning to the same starting point, this seems to be a good design for beginners to play with.

Directional Texture - All Directions. I love the multi-directional texture that you can get from pivoting designs. This one in particular is a little more graphic because of the straight lines of the triangles.

Suggestions for Use - This design will work big, covering your whole quilt really quickly, but it can also work really small in tight areas. That's why I love these pivoting designs so much - they're so versatile!

I think this one would look the best stitched over a guy quilt because the triangles add a nice bit of graphic texture that isn't flowery or girly. Maybe not all guys are worried about that kind of thing, but it's nice to have a design that doesn't scream "flower power!"

Back of Abstract Leaf
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, July 8, 2010

Teaching a Workshop

So today is Anything Goes Thursday and since I'm in the middle of preparing for a workshop in Greensboro, I thought I'd take a day and talk about the way this works for me.

free motion quilting | Leah DayOf course, I've only been teaching for 6 months so I'm not the most super qualified quilting teacher in the world by any means, but I do really enjoy teaching and, so far, my students have seemed to enjoy learning from me.

Typically when planning workshops and lectures, I think about the quilting things I could talk about easily for hours. Free motion quilting? Yes! Design? Yes! Needle turn applique? Not really.

The next step is figuring out a small, feasibly finish-able project for students to work on.

This has been a big problem for me so far as free motion quilting is not something most students grasp in 3 or even 6 hours unless they're already are pretty comfortable with it.

So instead I've started teaching my classes to focus on the technique, not necessarily a finished quilt by the end of the day.

Let's face it, I know I sure couldn't sit down in class and quilt a whole quilt in free motion, so why put the pressure on students to do the same?

By focusing on the techniques instead, students gain a better grasp of an idea and then can take that idea and run with it at home, creating all sorts of creative projects.

For example, in my Fantastic Filler Stitches workshop, I teach filler designs. I've learned from experience that many of the quilters attending are still very stuck in the mindset of "Don't cross your lines!"

I bust that mindset bubble completely with some basic free motion designs like Tree Roots and Brain Coral, where it's necessary to not only cross, but travel stitch right on top of the quilting lines.

Giving students this knowledge, then showing them that filler stitched on a 1/8" scale (super tiny), a 1/4" scale (still ridiculous), 1/2" scale (more normal), and 1" scale (bed quiltable) shows all the different things you can do with the filler, depending on HOW you stitch it.

I can see this same idea being used with needle turn applique, even if it's not my most favorite thing in the world. Teach your needle turn technique on both small, itsy bitsy pieces, AND on huge pieces so students won't feel like the technique is only used for one certain type of quilts.

Now on actually teaching a workshop, I like a handout. When I'm a student I like to get a handout and as a teacher I always provide one.

I just think it makes the class flow a little better, gives students something to take notes on, and the refer back to after the class is over.

I've kept the handouts I've received from workshops in a binder where I can go back and look at the information sometimes years later.

Of course, not everyone will value the handout and that can be a bit frustrating. If you find students leaving them sitting around, not valuing them enough to really even care what happens to them, consider charging a $3 supply fee for the paper and time cost of printing them out.

It's surprising how much more people will value something even after paying only $1 - $3 for it!

For the workshop, I also type up an outline for myself to follow that runs along with the handout, but includes extra tips and reminders for myself.

I don't like to get too specific, but I do like to have a general idea for how the meeting will flow: What will we learn before lunch? Will we cover tools and materials before or after everyone starts quilting? What will the workshop finish with?

All those little questions need to be answered, and the clearer you are on it, the better the class will flow.

I also like to end with a nice finish to the day. Some teachers leave the end very open so some students start packing up 2 or 3 hours early because the end of the class just feels like "free time".

I prefer to pack in as much info into the time we have as possible, so the end of the class is always demo. I stitch through as many filler designs as I can in the last hour, showing how the design is created, some tips for using it, and where it will work best in a quilt.

I think that just about covers my workshop tips. If you have any tips from teaching or from being a student, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below!

Let's go Quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shadow Self Completed

Whooo hooo! This morning I finally put the finishing touches on Shadow Self!

If you'd like to read more about this quilt, check out all the parts:

To be perfectly honest, this quilt is not truly finished because it still lacks binding, a tag, and a hanging sleeve. I also need to go through and hide about 300 loose threads over the surface of the quilt and then block the quilt too. Hopefully I'll be able to get to that this afternoon!

Getting the quilting done was my goal for this week but I'm really very surprised I was able to quilt as much as I did in only 4 days.

Here's BEFORE shot of Shadow Self unquilted:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
And here she is quilted:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
In 4 days I quilted 14 of the 16 rays. It's no surprise that my hands are hurting a bit today, but that might be more from going back to yoga this morning than the quilting.

For fillers, I really had a lot of fun with this quilt. I stuck with some oldie goldies, but I also threw in some new favorites as well.

The coolest thing about this quilt is the contrast in texture as well as color. For a long time I've contrasted bold colors with black fabric to create drama in my quilts.

But with this quilt, I wanted to contrast with more than just color. I also contrasted with shapes: straight lines and sharp angles over the dark section and curving, flowing lines over the light section.

My one regret is my choice of dark thread. The thread on the body especially was black and all the textures I created with it are basically lost unless you're standing 10 feet away.

The gray section was a bit better, but next time I will definitely take more time (and fabric samples!) with choosing threads over the darker sections.

Overwhelmingly though, I love her. This is the first show quilt I've created that I haven't absolutely despised by this point in the process.

You've got to understand that these types of quilts are just so time consuming and so intense that by the time I get halfway through the quilting I'm ready to scream with frustration at the sheer insanity of the project.

But that's also the fun part of it too.

I like to equate creating a quilt like this to having a new baby:

The whole process is long, tiresome, and downright uncomfortable at times, and yes, by the end of it I totally hate my life, but after it's all said and done the quilt gets finished and 3 months later I'm ready to do it all over again!

So that's it for this What's Leah Working On Wednesday! I'm off to start packing and planning for the workshop I'm teaching in Greensboro, NC this weekend, and if I have the chance I'll definitely take the afternoon to soak and block Shadow Self as well.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Day 198 - Snake Spine

Remember WAY back to almost a year ago when I shared the Fern & Stem design?

I decided to stitch it up a notch this week and exchange the wiggly stem for a line of pebbles. It makes for a pretty neat variation that I'm calling Snake Spine:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Yesterday I wasn't as productive on Shadow Self as I expected. Something about waking up at 5 am to start quilting just makes me really tired for the whole rest of the day.

So today I slept in and took my time finishing another big ray so there are only 2 more to go! Unfortunately they're both mostly filled with pebbling, one of the most time consuming designs in existence.

Grrrr! This quilt will be finished this week! We're heading to Greensboro, NC this weekend and I will NOT return to this quilt on my quilting table.

So while I run off to quilt like a mad woman, you can sit back and enjoy learning how to quilt Snake Spine:

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Don't be intimidated by this difficulty level. The main reason it's tricky is because you're trying to do two things at once: circles and wiggly lines. Just take your time and mark the circles if you need to.

Design Family - Stem Centered. While I didn't quilt the whole stem first in the video, looking back on it, I think that's the way I should have stitched it. If you lay out your stem well, this design should work in any area of your quilt.

Directional Texture - All directions. The more wiggly your stem and leaves, the more wild and crazy the texture will be!

Suggestions for Use - Are you needing a slightly unusual border design? Consider filling your borders not with feathers or cross hatching, but with Snake Spine instead!

Back of Snake Spine
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

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