The Free Motion Quilting Project: August 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

All Over Quilting - Part 2

Yesterday we learned the basic idea behind All Over Quilting - that by breaking your quilt up into 4 quadrants with rows of a filler design, you can easily quilt any sized quilt on a domestic machine.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis method knocks out at least a 8" channel through the middle of your quilt. I like to say it's like eating your vegetables before desert - you're taking care of the hardest part of your quilt first, and with each new row the process gets easier and easier.

Now it's simply a matter of filling in each quadrant with more rows of a filler design so they fit together seamlessly.

Let's finish off learning how to quilt our Cheerful Shapes Quilt with this Part 2 video:

I received a great question yesterday about All Over Quilting from Janet:

You suggest "desert sand", which I love, as appropriate for an all over design. Even though that is a foundational design, would you still use the quadrant approach that you describe?
This is a great question because Desert Sand really doesn't work like Lollipop Chain or any of the other designs I mentioned in Part 1.
Desert Sand is a Foundational Design which means you start with an initial line (your foundation), and then echo this line on either side to finish the fill.

So how would a design like this work with my All Over Quilting method?

First, start in the center and set a foundational line (in this case a gently curving, irregular line) all the way to the right edge of the quilt.

Once at the edge, start an echo of the foundation all the way back into the center. Once back in the center, branch of with a new foundation working straight down to the bottom edge.

Again use the echoing portion of the design to get back into the center and continue breaking your quilt up into 4 quadrants. Once the quadrants are created, then it's just a matter of filling each one with more foundation lines and then echoing everything until the quilt is completely filled.

So now let's see just how much the Cheerful Shapes Quilt changed when we quilted it:

Before Quilting
free motion quilting | Leah Day
After Quilting!
free motion quilting | Leah DayAnd here's a final summary of this process:

Now that you can see the finished quilt, you can see how much the thread texture stands out on top of the piecing and appliques.

This is partly because I contrasted thread so boldly so you could see what I was doing in the videos. In a typical All Over Quilted quilt, you would probably try to match thread a bit better.

I like how the piecing and applique design - cheerful applique shapes obviously designed for a baby quilt - match with the kid friendly filler design. It makes the whole quilt come together and the intention obvious: this quilt is intended for children.

But All Over Quilting isn't just reserved for kid quilts. If you're making a bed quilt that you know will be washed a million times, this form of quilting is a great choice because it's fast and durable.

How fast to quilt exactly? This Cheerful Shapes took exactly 3 hours to quilt, 30 minutes less than the Stitched in the Ditch Quilt!

Of course, this form of quilting isn't perfect. While we did finish the quilt quickly, it can be argued that on a more complicated quilt, like Vines of Hearts, this type of quilting would be very distracting.

This type of quilting is also not going to win you any awards at a quilt show.

At the last quilt show my local guild held, a member asked me why the judges were so harsh with the quilts that were quilted with All Over Quilting.

The fact is show quilting and bed quilting are two different things. This doesn't mean one is any better than the other, just that these are quilts designed and destined for two very different futures.

All Over Quilting is a great choice for a quilt you want to use, to cuddle up with, to sleep under, to wash, and to wear out.

But if you're craving a ribbon or you want to highlight and enhance the piecing or applique design you've created, then you need to give Section Quilting a try.

So stop by next week as we start to explore this style of quilting as we quilt the Circles of Daisies quilt!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

All Over Quilting - Part 1

We're going to skip More Filler Monday and Totally Filler Tuesday so we can move on to the All Over Quilting section of our How Do I Quilt This?! Video Series.

The first part of this series - Stitching in the Ditch - has already opened up many questions and a healthy debate on how to press seams.

So now let's stitch it up another notch by learning how to take a single free motion filler design, expand it, and cover your whole quilt top with it in free motion.

Of course, in order to be able to cover a quilt with All Over Quilting, we first need to understand the difference between the different Filler Design Types listed on the blog.

Let's learn about 4 different design types that work great for All Over Quilting!

So Independent, Pivoting, Echoing, and some Foundational designs are good choices for covering your quilt with All Over Quilting.

Here are some great examples of these designs: Stippling, Wandering Clover, Circuit Board, Lollipop Chain, Tear Drop Tree, Echo Shell, Trippy Triangles, Echo Hook, Paisley, Pointy Paisley and Desert Sand.

But really when it comes to stitching big designs, covering huge amounts of space with every pass, nearly every design on this project will work just fine.

Now enough waiting! Here is All Over Quilting Part 1:

Basically All Over Quilting works by taking one design (for this quilt I was using Lollipop Chain), and stitching it all over your quilt.

But where do you start and how do you move around the quilt?

This was the big giant question in my mind when I first got started free motion quilting. Everyone said simple to "Quilt from the center to the outside" but how is this actually DONE?!

And even more important, how do we quilt a really large quilt with All Over Quilting? Is there a way to minimize how much we must turn the quilt so it's less of a wrestling match?

After a lot of brainstorming with a quilt I stitched All Over a few years ago, I decided to break my quilts up into 4 quadrants.

So the first step is to pull up thread in the center of your quilt and quilt your filler design in a row from the center to one edge of your quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI find it easiest to quilt from left to right, working from the center to the right edge, but please play with this to see what method works the best for you.

Most of the filler designs in this blog have been stitched in a row. Even though these designs are stitched on a smaller scale, the design and idea behind how they work remains the same - quilt a row of shapes that interlock together moving gradually from one area to another.

For All Over Quilting, I find the widest row I can really keep track of is around 4" wide, but again play with this to see what you feel comfortable with.

Now that we're on the right edge, what do we do? We could break thread and go back to the center, but what is the point?

The right side is already secured, why not build off this, cover more space, minimize a thread break, and just quilt from the right edge back into the center?

So this is the next step - stitch another row, interlocking it with the first moving from the edge of the quilt back into the center.

You've now created one leg of your quadrant without breaking thread and without needing to rotate the quilt!

Now we're back in the center of the quilt, where do we go next? Let's stitch down from the center to the bottom edge of the quilt. Again stitch a 4 inch row of your filler design down to the edge of the quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhen you get to this bottom edge, you have a choice whether to rotate your quilt and stitch from the right into the center, or to leave the quilt in place and stitch backwards back into the center.

I prefer to rotate my quilt in this situation because it's difficult for me to see what I'm doing when I'm stitching away from myself, but again try it yourself to see what you like best.

When you get back into the center, you will have 2 legs of your quadrants completed!

Now it's just a simple process of repeating these rows to the left side and top side of the quilt until your quilt is broken up into 4 quadrants.

free motion quilting | Leah DayUnless you run out of bobbin thread, you really shouldn't have to break thread at all while stitching the rows to create your quadrants. That's one of the things I like most about this style of quilting - fewer stops + less distraction = faster quilting!

Make sure to check out Part 2 where we learn how to fill our quadrants with All Over Quilting.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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Awesome Interview

It's amazing to me sometimes just how much this blog has changed my life in only one year. One dramatic change is the number of times I'm not being asked for interviews!

So when I was contacted a few weeks ago by AnneMarie about doing a Follower Friday feature on her blog, I was more than happy to join in the fun.

Just in case you're not familiar with AnneMarie, she's the brains behind the new blog for Generation X and Y quilters. While I know there are quilters of all ages following this project, I also know there's a really big chunk of 20 and 30 somethings and you might like checking out this new blog!

Now I'll warn you - this was written for a younger audience, so I had a bit of fun with my language, but I had a lot of fun writing this interview out so definitely check it out when you get a chance!

Let's go quilt,


Pressing Seams

Last week during the Stitching in the Ditch Part of the How Do I Quilt This?! Series, I received two comments about my advice to press seams open:
Kristin - I have always heard that pressing to one side is very important when stitching in the ditch. If the seams are pressed open, you are only quilting down the threads that are holding your seams together. The quilts I make are to be used and washed a lot, so they need to handle a lot of stress. Also, I found that it is not that difficult to hide the threads in the seam when it is pressed to one side. It just takes practice.
Judy M - I, like Kristine, do quilt 1/16" inch from the seam and press seams to the side (usually to the darker side). I don't want to risk stitching right on top of the seam and exposing the batting or opening up the seam, especially on quilts that I use and wash regularly. For that reason I still use my walking foot which gives me a guide to keep me straight and precisely 1/16" away from the seam.
Regardless of whether free motioning or walking foot, planning out those stabilizing seams is so crucial. It causes you to really think through your places where you will need to turn and reposition the quilt, as well as try and avoid as many thread breaks as possible.
Then I received another email about this too!

Karen - When you machine quilt in the ditch along pieced seams, you have your seams pressed open -- thus you are quilting right on the existing seaming where those pieces join. Is there any chance your needle might pierce the threads holding those pieces together and thus weaken the quilt? "In the day", we pressed our seams to 1 side and stitched the quilting line on the side that only had the 1 layer of fabric. But today, so many patterns suggest you press seams open and after seeing your video, I thought it was time to ask someone knowledgeable about stitching on top of the existing seam line.
With this many comments and questions about a single issue, I realized this would be a great topic to cover more clearly in an article. So here goes:

To press open, or not to press open, that is the question!
To start, yes, I always press my seams open where possible on my quilt. There are a few situations, like hexagons or diamonds, that the seams must be pressed together to one side, but for the most part, the seams on my quilt are always pressed open.

But according to the comments above, there is apparently some concern about doing this. A pressed open seam might be impacting the overall lifespan of my quilts!

Of course, you have to weigh in the power of opinion when it comes to an issue like this. In this hobby, there is no absolute, correct, end-all-be-all, never-to-be-questioned way of doing something!

We all do things a little differently, try new things out, take what works, and chuck the rest.

But this doesn't stop me from thinking I'M RIGHT! Ha!

So to weigh in with my opinion on the seam pressing issue, I really think pressing the seam open is the preferable way, and no, I don't believe this is endangering the integrity of the quilt.

For one thing, I use a very short stitch length when piecing which means that there are many stitches going into each seam.

This makes the seam line very stable, so that when pressed open there is no chance that the batting will start coming out through the stitches.

Another thing - I FINGER PRESS my seams open first before hitting it with the iron. If you are trying to use the iron tip to open your seams, then yes, you will most definitely get distortion because that iron is not a good tool to do that with.

Get one of those wooden seam pressing tools to help you open the seam gently first, then hit it with an iron carefully to press it open permanently.

As for the question about stitching in the ditch - to stitch right in the ditch or off slightly to one side - most quilt judges will tell you that stitches in the ditch should be IN THE DITCH. Not to one side, not 1/8" away, and this is far easier if the seams are pressed open.

If you think about it, a hand quilter can stitch right into the ditch absolutely perfectly because she is has ultimate control over the placement of each stitch. Since machine quilting has evolved from hand quilting, the rules remain the same.

This will also come into play greatly when we move on to the Section Quilting Part of the video series because in order to section quilt some areas, like sashing, you have to travel along the stitched in the ditch line. By stitching off, you're going to be building up thread noticeably off the ditch and it just won't look pretty.

And what about the concern of stitching in the ditch potentially breaking threads in the seam? My opinion is this is a big load of BS (sorry, no nice way of saying it!)

If you're using a short stitch length while piecing, even if your needle did pierce a stitch dead on perfectly (the chances of which have to be minimal), then that one broken thread is not going to suddenly destroy the integrity of your quilt!

In fact, by stitching right in the ditch, you're adding more threads through this area, so if anything you're going to end up with more stability and a better wearing seam.

This whole issue really reminds me a lot of the questions I get very often about my use of Isacord Polyester thread on all of my quilts.

Apparently there is a general opinion that polyester threads are EVIL!

They are out to destroy your quilt because if you quilt polyester on a cotton quilt top, the poly will eventually (maybe 100 years???) shred through the cotton, destroying all your hard work!

Sorry for the sarcasm, but really? Has anyone actually witnessed this happening or is this just a quilter's version of an urban legend designed to keep us all so fearful we don't dare consider quilting with anything other than ugly cotton thread???

The fact is, I can't free motion quilt with cotton threads. The high speeds required for quilting like this require a thread that is very strong. Typical cotton thread is great for piecing, but just not up strong enough when it comes to quilting.

Cotton thread is also thick. Even the thinnest cotton thread I could find looks like a chunky toddler on the surface of my quilts. Travel stitching is a nightmare, the lint build up can potentially destroy a machine, and the numerous thread breaks will send any normal quilter to the mad house.

But again - this is my opinion! How I make my quilts and the materials I use in them is based on my experience, my opinions, and my time and budget constraints.

A quilter with more money to sink into her quilts might swear by silk thread, while I think it's an expensive rip off!

A quilter with more time might hand applique everything in sight because she has infinite time to finish her quilt tops. I have neither the time nor patience despite the fact that I really enjoy hand applique!

So here is the ultimate point of this long, ranting post - do not listen to ANYONE!

We all have personal biases so don't listen to me, don't listen to your neighbor, or your mom, or your quilt guild president when it comes to learning about a new technique or trying a new material.

The only person who can tell you whether one material or technique is good enough or will work properly for your quilts is YOU!

You must try it out, play with it, experiment, break some threads, finish a few quilts, and by the end of it all - you will have a very clear, personal opinion of what works and what doesn't.

Whew! Can we go quilt now?

Leah Day

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Sample!

Yay! Last week I put together a 25 page sample of the new book From Daisy to Paisley, sent it off to my printer, and here's what I got back!

I'm so extremely pleased and excited about this little book. It's been a long time coming and I've had to explore many new things like graphic design software, ISBN numbers, etc, in order to turn it into a reality.

But I've learned from experience that persistence pays off. Getting this little book together has been a challenge, but it's also taught me that I really CAN do this myself, and that I don't need a publisher or a team of experts to create a physical book.

I'm so happy with the size of the book and the quality of the printing. This is a standard 5.5" x 8.5" full color book, so yes, it did finish much bigger than the original photo book I'd planned back in July.

This size is much better because it's a standard for a full color book, so this could be sold in regular book stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders.

I like the bigger size because it's given me the opportunity to really delve into the different filler designs, explain how to stitch them, and tips on where the each type of design will work best.

And thanks to all the comments I got back in July, I decided to go the extra mile and get spiral binding! I can't believe the difference it's made in being able to see and read about the designs.

I decided to go with full color printing so each photo stands out really nicely. After getting the sample book on Wednesday, I've been so excited, I basically grabbed my laptop on Thursday and haven't stopped writing since!

The book is going to finish at 75 pages with 50 designs from the project, plus stippling, pebbling, and paisley. Since getting the sample book, I also decided to color code each section so it will be easy to flip through the book to find the type of designs you want.

Last night I finished up all the remaining graphics and the writing for each design. All that's left now is to polish it up, get the table of contents fixed, and create an index for the whole book.

So that's what I will be up to today! The Beginner DVD is FINALLY finished and I will be sending it off to my replicator next week, so I hope to get this book sent off to the publisher too so both can launch at the same time.

Whew! It's a lot of work, but I'm so extremely excited about it I practically can't sleep!

Let's go quilt (or write)!

Leah Day

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cards and Prints

Before the Asheville Quilt Show earlier this month, I finally sat down and did something I'd been meaning to do for months - find a high quality source for prints of my quilts.

Creating prints has always been a goal simply because I don't sell my quilts and it's nice to have something to offer someone who's interested in my work.

I'm extremely please with out these prints came out and so excited to now offer them in the shop.

Getting my act together to actually order the prints has been tricky. I seem to have a rather big mental block about considering myself an Artist, as opposed to just a Quilter.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI don't even really consider myself an "Art Quilter" even though most of my goddesses usually end up in that category.

Maybe the truth of the matter is I don't really like labels! I don't want to run the risk of potentially labeling myself one thing and suddenly finding that I don't really fit under that definition.

So despite the fact that I now have prints and greeting cards of my art, I've resolved to keep my personal definitions the same. I'm a quilter. I'm a quilter. I'm a quilter.

That's it for this Feature Friday!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Elaine Zinn and Lyric Kinard

I've mentioned before that this year I've been the program chairman for my local guild. This means that my job for the guild is to find awesome quilters to come and present lectures and workshops for us once a month.

This is a really fun job because not only do I get the chance to pick the presenters, I also get to take them out to dinner and get to know them!

free motion quilting | Leah DayBack in July we hosted Elaine Zinn, a quilter I actually already knew quite well from back when we lived in Asheville, NC.

Elaine lived in Hawaii for many, many years and presented a wonderful, extremely informative lecture on Hawaiian quilting. If you remember a PBS series that came out several years ago on Hawaiian quilting - Elaine was the quilter behind that wonderful program!

The quilt above is Elaine's mother's traditional Hawaiian quilt. I absolutely fell in love with it - both the symmetry and complexity of the design and the bright, hot pink fabric!

I'm very interested in creating a Hawaiian quilt myself, but I asked Elaine if it was a terrible idea to try to fuse and machine applique something that has such a rich history in needle turn applique.

She was all for me giving a Hawaiian quilt a try in whatever format I wanted. Quilts and quilters are continuously evolving, so there's absolutely nothing wrong with trying this style in a faster way.

At the lecture, Elaine gave us all a free pattern to take home and try to create a small block or pillow cover. I decided to use this pattern as a base, but to play with it a bit and make it more my style:

Hawaiian quilting | Leah DayWhile the pattern was done and I was excited to try Hawaiian quilting, I didn't really have a plan for how I was going to do this. Fuse? Machine applique? There were a lot of different options, and life caught up with me at the end of July and with one thing and another, I put the small project on hold.

But then last week we had another guild meeting and I met Lyric Kinard, a fiber artist from Cary, NC.

Lyric brought many beautiful quilts with her to show, but the main event was her wearables. These amazing garments were made using fabrics not typical for quilting - silks and rayons that have a beautiful drape and flow.

I modeled two garments and here is the purple skirt and jacket I absolutely fell in love with.

free motion quilting | Leah DayDuring the lecture, Lyric mentioned many different and unique techniques she uses in her quilts and garments. She actually created a DVD of several techniques and written a book about exploring creativity with Interweave Press.

One technique she mentioned that you can see a bit of on the back of this jacket is a reverse fusible applique technique.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis sounded really interesting and immediately I remembered my Hawaiian quilting project. So I pulled it out today, marked my fabric, fused some Wonder Under, and viola! I have a reverse fused Hawaiian quilt block ready to machine applique and quilt!

free motion quilting | Leah DayBecause I spent a little time thinking ahead on this block, I was able to save the negative space too so this made 2 blocks at the same time!

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt just goes to show that guilds are truly amazing places where you can meet wonderful quilters, learn innovative techniques, and get the inspiration to run home and try it out!

I don't think I would have stuck with quilting 5 years ago if I hadn't joined the Asheville Quilt Guild. Some things you really need to learn in person and even just attending a lecture can open your mind to many new possibilities!

So if you're not involved in a guild, consider trying one out this month! You never know who you might meet or the techniques you could learn from having more access to inspiration and information.

Now I'm off to watch Lyric's DVD on mixed techniques. Who knows - I might be applying gold foil to my next quilt!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 210 - Sharp Angled Maze

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

Let's move on with the Filler Design Project with a new spiraling design!

This design is a variation of Angle Spiral, only this time you're using a closed spiral instead of an open spiral to move around your quilting space. The end result is a really interesting texture and beautiful thread buildup throughout the design.

free motion quilting | Leah DayToday I'm finishing up the section quilted part of the video series and finally putting my Horizon through its paces on video!

I've struggled to find a good angle to film quilting on the new machine, but I think I've finally figured out all the kinks and the new Horizon videos will start rolling with the Section Quilting part of the How Do I Quilt This?! video series.

While I can't film as closely to the block as I could on the Juki, I think the lighting is much, much better.

Now enough about camera angles! Let's get back to Sharp Angled Maze:

Inspiration - I've actually created several designs specifically for the new book "From Daisy to Paisley". When going through the contents, I realized I needed some more beginner level, interlocking designs, so I set myself the challenge to come up with some new ones.

Difficulty Level - Beginner. This design isn't super difficult, but it does involve a bit of traveling, so just take your time and stay right on top of your stitching and it's sure to look great.

Design Family - Independent. This is a pretty interesting design type because the design is created by interlocking similar shapes together - in this case sharp angled triangles and squares.

This design will go in just about any area of your quilting space because you can easily control how big the spirals are and can fit them together in even the tightest spaces.

Directional Texture - All Directions. For some reason sharp angles and straight lines really like to blend into the background, but this design will still stand out nicely with a simple texture anywhere on your quilt.

Suggestions for Use - This would be a fun design to use to play with contrasting textures. Maybe I should use it in one of the blocks for the Circles of Daisies Quilt!

Back of Sharp Angled Maze
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stitching in the Ditch - Part 2

I don't know about you, but I'm dying to get back to more filler designs! Let's finish up Stitching in the Ditch with these two videos and get back to new fillers tomorrow!

In this video I mainly focus on how to stitch in the ditch around the applique shapes. Again I was aiming to minimize my thread breaks so that there would be a lot less work to do once the quilt was finished.

One easy way you can minimize your thread breaks is to combine shapes together with a straight line.

Here I've connected the leaf shapes to the stem with a simple straight line rather than having to break thread to quilt around both leaves:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
If you start on the white dot on the stem, you'll be able to go around the whole flower motif without having to break thread once!

Even though this isn't strictly "in a ditch", it still works well and is hardly noticeable in the finished quilt.

I also minimized my thread breaks around these border motifs as well:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now overall it took 2 1/2 hours to quilt this 36" square quilt in the ditch in free motion. It then took another hour to tie off and hide all my threads - so 3 1/2 hours total!

So even with minimizing thread breaks as much as I could, I still ended up with a lot of work to deal with after the quilt was finished.

This is one of the reasons I love Section Quilting because it combines Stitching in the Ditch with free motion fillers so there are far fewer thread breaks over the surface of the quilt.

Of course, that's only if you're not changing thread colors all the time! In all 4 quilts, I worked hard to create a sharp contrast between the black and blue quilt backgrounds and the white thread so that way you could see what I'm doing in the videos.

Now let's catch the final video summary of Stitching in the Ditch:

Of course, the finished Morning Glory quilt looks almost exactly the same as it did before I quilted it because all of the thread is hidden in the ditch.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
But this isn't a bad thing! If you're wanting a really simple finish to a quilt, and you don't want to distract from the pieced or appliqued elements of your quilt, then Stitching in the Ditch is probably the best option.

While this method doesn't really ADD anything to your quilt top or the overall design of your quilt, it also doesn't take anything away.

Now for my personal opinion: I would have to say overall Stitching in the Ditch is my least favorite way of quilting a quilt.

Of course, this is my personal opinion, but I caught myself really quickly getting obsessed with perfect stitches and far more picky over my stitch quality than I normally am.

But it's still a very important, fundamental technique for quilting.

By learning how to stitch your quilts in the ditch in free motion, you will learn not only loads about speed control, but also how to stay on a line and maintain better control over your quilt all at the same time.

Now I don't know about you, but I'm going through filler design withdrawal! Let's get back to the project tomorrow for Day 210!

Let's go Quilt,

Leah Day

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Stitching in the Ditch - Part 1

Now it's time to kick off this new How Do I Quilt This?! series with Stitching in the Ditch!

Learn how to create a plan of attack when it comes to stitching your quilt in the ditch in this first part video:

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Keep in mind as you watch the videos from this How Do I Quilt This?! Series, that I'm using white thread so you can see what I'm doing on video. I would normally never stitch in the ditch with such a highly contrasting thread!

Now to get started Stitching in the Ditch, you first need to take a good look at your quilt and create a game plan for quilting the quilt from the center to the outside edges.

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhen quilting on a domestic sewing machine, I always start in the center of the quilt and work my way out. This really helps to deal with any shifting of the quilt top, and it also makes quilting the quilt gradually get easier with every stitch.

So the first step for quilting Morning Glory was to stitch in the ditch inside all of the piecing lines around the blocks and sashing.

Here's a diagram of how I quilted the around the blocks and sashing:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
You can follow along with the arrowed lines by starting on the white dot near the center and following it around the blocks. To finish up the sashing, start on the outside white dot and follow the arrow lines around the outside sashing area as well.

Now I'm always try to minimize my thread breaks because all loose threads must be hidden in the middle layer of the quilt.

For a quick review of hiding your threads, here's the video I created on this a few months ago:

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So by stitching through the sashing area, even though it's not strictly 'in the ditch', I managed to save myself several thread breaks.

Tips on stitching in a pieced ditch line:
  • Keep your hands closer to the needle and use the index finger of your right hand to rub against the side of the foot as a guide when stitching straight lines.
  • Never hesitate to rotate or reposition your quilt for better movement. If you can't move your quilt, you definitely can't free motion quilt it!
  • When stitching straight lines, try stitching toward your body for better vision over the line you're stitching in.
  • Slow down! Staying in the ditch is tricky, so definitely slow down your machine for more control and better looking stitches.
  • During the piecing process, press your seams open so it's easier to stay right in the ditch rather than to one side.
So that just about covers stitching within pieced lines. Stop by tomorrow for the videos on stitching around applique shapes!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

How Do I Quilt This?! Intro

Yay! I'm finally ready to start “How Do I Quilt This?!” a video series devoted to explaining all the different ways you can quilt your quilt with the free motion fillers from this project.

Here is a video introduction where I show all four quilt tops and explain the different ways each one will be free motion quilted:

I know not everyone can watch the videos, so here’s the basic rundown of what I shared in the video:

Have you ever pieced or appliquéd a beautiful quilt top only to look at it later and ask yourself:

How Do I Quilt This?!
free motion quilting | Leah DayIn this video series we’re going to learn about four different methods for quilting any quilt.

You’re probably already familiar with two of the methods:
  • Stitching In the Ditch
  • All-Over Quilting
These two methods are very popular, so popular in fact that I call them our quilting default settings.

So what do I mean by that?

Just like our printer has a default setting to only print in black and white we have default settings too.

After taking the time to piece a quilt, sometimes we are so focused on the shapes and angles we’ve created in the quilt that we can’t see a new design to add with quilting stitches.

So in these situations we stitch in the ditch - hiding all our quilting thread in the ditch of all the piecing and applique lines.

Of course, this method preserves all of the piecing design, but it does not add anything to the quilt top itself.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo another default method of quilting is All-Over quilting, and this is exactly what it sounds like - a quilting design that covers the whole quilt, ignoring all the piecing and applique lines completely.

We use this method when our quilt is either too complex, or there are too many pieces and angles so Stitching in the Ditch is just not realistic.

We also usually use all over quilting when we need to quickly finish a quilt intended to be cuddled with. Bed, lap, and crib quilts really shouldn't be quilted very densely or they will become stiff and uncomfortable, so All Over quilting works great for these situations.

But these are just two methods for quilting a quilt and I want to make it clear that these methods are not bad ways to quilt your quilt.

I've quilted quilts by Stitching in the Ditch and by covering them with All Over quilting, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them.

But I want you to also understand that these are not the only two ways you can quilt your quilts. I call them our default settings because we often will choose to Stitch in the ditch or All Over Quilting without really considering any other options.

There is also Section Quilting were we pick different filler designs for each section of the quilt: each block, each flower, the sashing areas, and the borders.
This type of quilting is not any more difficult than All Over Quilting, it just requires a bit more planning and time to accomplish.

On the plus side Section Quilting adds loads of texture and design to your quilt tops, especially if you take the time to pick filler designs that accent the section they are being quilted into.

Finally there is Over The Top Quilting where you literally add a new dimension to the quilt with the quilting design!

You could also call this Show Quilting, but don't let that intimidate you. It simply requires a bit more planning, preparation, and time, but the extra input is absolutely worth it in the finished quilt.

So the first part of this series is going to cover Stitching in the Ditch with the Morning Glory quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe second part of will cover All Over Quilting on the Cheerful Shapes quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThen the third part of this series will cover Section Quilting in the Circles of Daisies quilt.
free motion quilting | Leah DayFinally we will finish off with Over the Top Quilting on the Vine of Hearts quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow all of the filler designs I will be using over these quilts will be beginner level designs, so please feel free to grab a quilt, baste it up, and follow along with the project!

If you don't have a similar quilt in your closet, or if you really want to create one of these simple quilts, the instructions for piecing and appliqueing them are right here.

Of course, before I run off to start quilting these quilts, I really need to take a minute to talk about batting!

Check out this video where I discuss the different battings you can use and what makes a terrific batting for beginning quilters:

Lately I've been using a lot of Polyester Felt as a batting within my quilts. I really like how felt stays perfectly flat with no shrinkage at all, and it's slightly stiff so my quilts hang a bit better.

But for a beginner, you might want to consider a cotton or a cotton blended batting. Cotton battings have just a little bit of shrink to them - sometimes as little as 3% and this is enough to slightly shrink the whole quilt.

What happens is the quilt top ends up looking very slightly shriveled up, almost like a California Raisin, and your quilting lines will be hidden within the wrinkles of the quilt top.

For a beginner, having your thread hide slightly might help you deal with some of the imperfections of your quilting lines.

If you feel like you must stop every 5 minutes to pick stitches out, it might be comforting to know that after you wash your quilt, those slight imperfections won't be visible after the batting shrinks the quilt.

Another think to keep in mind when choosing a batting is the rating of the batting. Look on the package - somewhere it will say "stitching up to -- inches apart.

This means you could take this quilt top and leave this many inches (for example 8 inches) apart and that would be plenty of quilting for your quilt.

This also means that you wouldn't want to leave any spaces of your quilt open bigger than 8 inches. If you left space bigger than that open, chances are the batting might shift inside the quilt, causing it to become lumpy and uncomfortable.

Finally, I really encourage you to shop around for battings and try out a couple before settling on your favorite brand. We have all kinds of new battings now available blending cotton and bamboo, soy, polyester, wool, silk, and even polyester battings made from recycled drink bottles!

It's important to try out many different options to see what looks the best on your quilts and, please, whatever you do - Don't cheap out on your batting! Always invest in a good quality batting and never go with the cheapest option.

From my personal experience, I've experimented with a lot of different threads, fabrics, and battings in my quilts, and the only thing to ever ruin a quilt completely was a bad batting.

If you buy a cheap batting and it starts to beard - that means the fibers start pulling through the top or back of the quilt - once it starts, there's no way to stop it and there's nothing you can do.

So invest in a good quality batting and make sure it will match the amount of space you want to leave open on the quilt.

Now I hope ya'll are enjoying this series as much as I am! We'll get back to the project in a few weeks, but with over 200 designs to choose from, I really think the most important thing now is to teach you how to use them.

So make sure to tune in tomorrow for the first part of this series on Stitching in the Ditch!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pardon the Delay

Well, I guess it's pretty obvious by now that I've been playing for time on the new video series "How Do I Quilt This?!"

I really thought I would be launching it this week and the introduction would run today, but you know what they say about the best laid plans - sometimes they just don't work out.

So I apologize for the delay,
but this series will launch officially on Monday morning.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI think the main reason is this project was a lot more complicated and time consuming than I'd anticipated. Almost like preparing for four different 6 hour workshops all in one week!

Yes, I could just launch it now and with a lick and a promise, but that's just not my style. I really like to do things right the first time.

It also doesn't help that this morning I go to pre-wash fabric and a batting and end up with a flooded basement floor. My washing machine drain, always temperamental, has decided to yet again clog up and kick back gallons of water into the laundry room.

So with one thing and another, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Now I'm off to start mopping my floor and hopefully get back to finishing up this video series!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, August 16, 2010

Machine Applique

I was ready to jump off running with this new series today, but yesterday evening I got an email from a slightly confused quilter:
Leah, When you make your appliqué quilts like the one you demonstrate with, prior to quilting, do you satin stitch the raw edges, turn them under or just leave them raw? (I'm also thinking about the quilt with the Ying/Yang symbol)

Thanks again, Suzanne from Concord, Massachusetts
This is a great question and one that reminded me that this video series and all its information is WAY overdue so I've probably confused a large number of people.

So here's the deal about machine applique:

First off, as I stated in the video I am fusing this applique using Steam-a-Seam 2 lite. Because this is FUSIBLE applique, I'm not turning any edges under at all.

Once the paper gets torn off the back side of the piece, I place it, then fuse it down with a hot, steamy iron.

Now just because I'm fusing these projects doesn't mean that this is the technique I use for EVERY project. I also really like the effect of a turned edge applique, and I used this technique around the circle of Shadow Self:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
The edges were turned with the help of a ton of freezer paper and secured to the top with Elmer's Glue. In this situation, I did stitch over the turned under edge with invisible nylon thread to secure it in place.

But again, this isn't the only method! I've also hand appliqued a considerable amount and the whole body, hair, and heart of Release Your Light was first turned using more freezer paper, glued in place, then hand stitched to secure.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
So really there are a million ways to applique and I don't consider myself an expert at any of them since I don't seem to ever do the same technique twice!

In this situation with these 4 quick applique quilts, I was going for speed more than anything else.

Speed dictates fusing because turned edges can be very time consuming.

Of course you can kill any speed and time you've saved from fusing by satin stitching each piece, which I learned with the heart applique quilt. 24 hearts took forever to machine applique!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
But it's still nice to see how the machine work was done. Let's watch how to machine applique a leaf shape using a blanket stitch:

Click Here if the Video Does Not Appear

Of course, all machines are different, but I like to blanket stitch on these settings: width - 2.2mm, length - 2.3 mm.

Now let's learn how to machine applique using a satin stitch around a heart:

For satin stitching, I like the stitch width to be around 2.2 mm and the length to be 0.35.

On the rest of the quilts, I will probably stitch a much more open zig zag, blanket stitch, or simply straight stitch 1/8" inside the raw edge.

free motion quilting | Leah DayRaw edges aren't the worst thing in the world and sometimes that's just what the doctor... er ...quilter ordered!

If you need a super quick finish to a quilt that will be well used and well loved as a bed quilt, there's no need to spend a huge amount of time securing every single lose thread or raw edge. There's bound to be a bit of fraying over the long haul!

So now I'm off to finish up all the machine applique and start getting these bad girls basted!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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Basic Applique Quilt

I interrupt our usual program to bring you:

"How Do I Quilt This?!"

This is a new video series on all the different ways you can use the free motion quilting filler designs from this blog on your quilts!

free motion quilting | Leah DayI decided this would be a terrific way of teaching you all how to use the 209 filler designs we've learned so far, and the many ways quilting can impact your overall quilt design.

Now before we start actually quilting, I'd like to bring you up to speed about the quilt tops I'm putting together for this series.

In the videos, I will feature 4 relatively simple applique quilts that I've put together using the AccuQuilt Go! fabric cutter.

Here's the first video on how to prepare your fabric, fuse, and cut your shapes:

Just in case you can't watch the video, the first step was to create the background of the quilt. I actually pieced the blocks, sashing, and borders before fusing any appliques to the surface.

I did this because it's actually much easier to get exact placement of each shape on a completed quilt rather than on individual blocks.

So here are the directions on piecing this simple quilt top:


1/4 yard black fabric for blocks
1/3 yard blue fabric for sashing
1 yard black fabric for border


- 4 - 9.5" squares from Black Fabric for Blocks

- 4 - 6" strips from Black Fabric for border

Sashing - 2 - 2.5" x 9.5" strips, 3 - 2.5" x 22" strips, 4 - 2.5" full length strips


Piece blocks, sashing, and borders according to the diagram below:
free motion quilting | Leah DayFirst piece blocks to short sashing strips. Press seams open.

Next piece blocks to medium length sashing strips. Press seams open.

Next piece 2 full length strips to top and bottom. Press seams open and trim to square. Then attach 2 remaining full length sashing strips to both sides. Press seams open.

Attach border strip to top and bottom. Press seams open and trip to square. Piece remaining border strip to sides, press seams open and trim to square.

With your quilt top together, you can then start playing with your arrangement of applique shapes.

To fuse these shapes, I'm using Seam-A-Seam 2 Lite. I also use Wash Away Sheets as a stabilizer on the backs of the shapes I plan to satin stitch.

Now watch this video to see how I've laid out one of the applique quilts using very simple techniques and symmetry:

I think that just about covers the basics of the applique quilts I've created for this series. If you have any questions, please feel free to post in the comments below!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

It's August 14th and exactly 1 year ago I started this project to create new free motion designs!

free motion quilting | Leah DayI honestly can't believe how fast this year has flown by. It must be true that time flies when you're having fun!

So lets recap on all that has happened in the last 365 days!

First you can read this post about why I started this project a year ago.

My goal was to create the site on free motion quilting that I had been searching for. A place where designs, photos, and videos were shared freely so we could all benefit from new free motion quilting inspiration.

When I launched the project I really had no idea it was going to take off like it has. Within 14 days, quilters from all over the world were commenting on the designs and emailing me with suggestions for the project and site!

Of course, back when I launched the project, I had no idea what would show up the best on video or photos! You can see from the very first design: Shadow Waves, that the project has definitely come a long way in just 1 year.

It's not just the designs that have changed. Many of you may not know this, but when I launched the blog, I only offered 2 quilt patterns in my quilt shop.

It has grown astronomically over the last 12 months due to quilters emailed suggestions (and demands!) for tools, supplies, DVDs, and workbooks devoted to free motion quilting.

Of course, working on DVDs and books on top of blogging, designing, and running and online store isn't easy.

My original goal for the project was to finish it in 365 days, but by November last year, I realized that it wasn't possible to keep the project running at such a fast pace.

It was also obvious that most quilters couldn't keep up with me either! Many of you wrote in encouraging me to take time off, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Does this mean the project was a failure?

Was reaching only Day 209 a total bust?

I don't think so. While the goal was not reached in 1 calendar year, that doesn't mean we can't continue working towards the goal of 365 designs!

So for the record, this project will absolutely continue until we reach Day 365, and who knows? If I keep dreaming up new designs, it may even continue after that!

When I haven't posted new designs, I've really enjoyed having the chance to share myself, my life, and my quilts with all of you.

From creating Winter Wonderland over a crazy Christmas season (during a remodel no less!) to stumbling over My Cup Runneth Over, and finally quilting out some of my "stuff" into Shadow Self, you have all been here cheering me on.

I love that this project has given me the opportunity to share with all of you, to meet so many wonderful people online, and to form a business that is very soon going to support my family entirely.

A year ago, I would never have dreamed that my fledgling site and online quilt shop at would ever be able to support us. Now I'm looking forward to January when my husband Josh will lose his job and being working with me full time!

It's amazing the number of changes that can happen in one year. I can't wait to see where we're at and the quilts I'll create in 2011!

Now to celebrate the anniversary of this project, Josh and I are planning many fun activities for the whole month of August.

I've decided to really clean house and almost every item in the store will be on sale. Some tools and supplies will be closed out for good to make room for new items to take their place.

I'll also be launching a new video series called "How Do I Quilt This?!" that will run in multiple parts throughout the month.

In this video series, I'm going to show you how to quilt 4 actual quilts in a variety of different ways. We're going to learn how to use filler designs in something other than a 4" block!

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe first video on putting the quilts together will be launched on Monday, so make sure to stop by to check it out.

And finally, I just want to say a HUGE THANK YOU!

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you for passing word along to your friends.

And Thank you for letting me know you appreciate what I'm doing!

It's only going to get bigger and better every day, so here's to another terrific year!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sewing Table for Larger Machines

Yesterday in my update on the Janome Horizon I mentioned that I've had to use a new sewing table because this machine is so large.

So today I've decided to feature it in our Feature Friday!

Here's a short video on the Gidget 2 Affordable Sewing Table:

This table is exactly the same size and height as the Gidget 1 table I've been offering for several months. The main difference between the two tables is the size of the cut opening for your machine to fit into.

The Gidget 2 table has a much larger cut opening, able to accommodate machines that are up to 24 inches long and 12.5 inches wide.

Of course, with an opening that big, even the Horizon had huge gaps all around the machine. These gaps can really defeat the purpose of having a flatbed sewing machine because your fabric or quilt can still get caught in the open spaces.

But the gaps really aren't a problem because you have the option of also purchasing a specially cut Acrylic Insert for your machine!

This clear plastic insert will fit over the table hole and around your machine, filling all the open spaces so there are no gaps anywhere on the table.

So really this table is not just for huge machines. It can fit machines of any size and with the acrylic insert, level out all the gaps so the whole table is perfect for piecing, applique or quilting.

Now both the Gidget 1 and Gidget 2 sewing tables ship for free within the lower 48 states.

If you live in AK or HI or in another country, feel free to email me and I can check on the exact shipping cost.

Now I'm off to get some machine applique finished! Make sure to stop by tomorrow when the 1 year Anniversary of this project kicks off!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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