The Free Motion Quilting Project: November 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 233 - ZAP! Flower

It's a wet, windy day here in NC and I'm already starting to miss the pretty flowers and bright sunshine of the summer.

But we can still enjoy those fun flower shapes with a new free motion quilting design! Here is ZAP! Flower:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI've started playing with a new quilt design to combine all of my free motion flower designs with applique. I'm planning to hand applique the quilt blocks because I love having small handwork projects to take with me around the house and when we travel during the holidays.

This has given me an excuse to play with even more Center Fill Designs! Expect to see a lot more flower shapes coming up in the next few weeks.

Now let's learn how to quilt Zap! Flower:

Inspiration - I've been looking back at certain shapes or lines that I don't use very often. Jagged, zig zaggy lines have been used a bit in Jagged Cosmos, Jagged Plain, Matrix Maze and Lightning Bolt, but I don't think I've really pushed the full limits of what they can do!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. For some reason when I got started free motion quilting I really didn't like straight lines and sharp angles. I found them really distracting and therefor difficult to get into a good quilt flow with.

With time and more practice, I can now quilt these types of designs easily. So definitely try this out and even if it doesn't work easily the first time around, make sure to come back to it after you've quilted a few quilts and see how it feels then.

Design Family - Center Fill. Most flower designs are center fill, which mean they start in the center and work out. Now in my stitched example, I filled the entire 4" block with Zap! Flower, but you don't have to do this.

If you'd like the design to have a more obvious flower shape with the petals very clearly showing off, then don't continue to fill in all the extra lines around the flower. Instead pick another design to fill in the background and the flower will show up much better!

Directional Texture - Center Focused. The weird thing about straight lines and sharp angles is they really flatten out the texture of whatever they are stitched on. That makes this particular flower design a little less showy than Loopy Flower or Layered Flower.

Suggestions for Use - I'm planning on using this flower in the place of a flower applique, but you could also use it in the cornerstones or whole blocks of a quilt. If you want your flower to take up a lot of space, start with a large, quarter sized circle, and then branch out with 10" zigzag petals. That's going to be one space filling flower, no doubt about it!

Back of Zap! Flower
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, November 29, 2010

Day 232 - Poseidon's Eye

Whew! It's been a terrific weekend, a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and awesome sale, but now I'm ready for life to turn back to normal.

So let's get back to filler designs! This design was inspired by Swirling Water - one of my absolute favorites. I started wondering what it would look like if the water was to swirl around a particular shape, in this case circles, and had to stitch it out just to see what it would look like.

Looking at the finished texture, I can already say this is going to be another favorite design!

free motion quilting | Leah DayI'm already starting to play with variations of Poseidon's Eye because there are so many possibilities. What if you filled the circle with another design? What if you used a heart instead of a circle? I can't wait to try stitching out all the different ideas!

Before I get too excited, let's learn how to quilt this version first:

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design involves both echoing, a bit of travel stitching, and estimation as you swirl around to create the circle. If you find yourself struggling to stitch the circle smoothly and evenly, feel free to mark it the first couple of times so it's easier.

Design Family - Branching. Branching designs are all inspired by the awesome filler design called McTavishing created by Karen McTavish. The nice thing about these designs is they all have a gorgeous, graphic texture and generally work in all areas of a quilt.

Directional Texture - All Directions. The cool thing about this design is you get a neat combination of flowing lines around the circles, which stand out a bit from the crowd. I'd love to see what would happen if I trapuntoed the circles so they stand out even more!

Suggestions for Use - This design has a million possibilities: water in a sea landscape quilt, a moving border texture for a traditionally pieced quilt, and even a feasible background design for an applique quilt. I love this design so much, I might just take up a piece of plain black fabric and quilt Poseidon's Eye all over it in blue thread just for fun. I think that would make one funky baby quilt!

Back of Poseidon's Eye
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday to Cyber Monday Sale

Like most online stores this weekend, we're running a huge sale!

This is the first time I've been allowed to lower the prices of the Arrow Sewing tables! The Gidget 1 Sewing Table is an excellent table for smaller machines because the opening is limited to 17 1/2" x 7 3/8".

The Gidget 2 Sewing Table is the same sized table, but with a much bigger opening of 24" x 12 1/2". This holds all machines, even my giant Janome Horizon! Best of all, you can get a custom cut insert for the Gidget 2 which will take care of all the gaps between the machine and the table top.

Also on sale is the Ultimate Quilting Kit which contains the 3 best tools for free motion quilting: Supreme Slider, Machingers Gloves, and Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers.

And last but not least is the Beginner Combo Kit which contains the new book From Daisy to Paisley and the new DVD Beginner Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs. This is a wonderful gift for any quilt friend or spouse!

We've also put most books, DVDs, and tools on sale as well! Check out all the great deals and save tons of money when you order in the next 2 days.

By the way, if you're not comfortable ordering online through Paypal, you can call in your order and still receive the sale discounts. I'll be home all day either in the office or the studio and can quickly help you over the phone.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is a cool coincidence - today is Thanksgiving AND my 450th post!

It's hard to believe that I've written on this blog almost-daily for more than a year and posted 231 designs so far. I really couldn't believe it myself until I spread all of the designs over two big tables yesterday.

Here's what 230 designs look like!

free motion quilting | Leah DayI hope you all have a very tasty, safe, and happy Thanksgiving afternoon. I'm thankful for so much this year: my loving family, a new-found strength and peace of mind, our growing business, and most definitely sharing this project with all of you.

So here's to another 135 designs left to go!

By the way, Josh and I have added a few items to our Quilt Shop, which you can check out when you have a few free moments.

Let's go quilt (or eat!)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 231 - Feathered Hearts

Thank you all so much for your great comments and a reminders that I'm taking myself a bit too seriously. I need to hear that sometimes!

After a nicely restive day, I woke up this morning and found that I don't sound too croaky so let's learn a new design called Feathered Hearts!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

After looking at it again this morning, I think this actually looks kinda festive. Maybe that's just what feathers do to any shape? They add that touch of elegance and movement that just makes you want to reach out and touch them.

Maybe this would be a good design to try in a Christmas ornament or quilted project? I think it would look terrific! Let's learn how to quilt it:

Inspiration - I've been playing with feathers a lot lately trying to find ways to make them easier to explain and maybe easier to stitch. I'll also admit that I sometimes like complicating feathers: adding swirls, arches, and echoes to make them even more complex!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. As I say in the video, to start this design try marking a cross shape in the center of your quilting space as a guide for the hearts. Once the hearts are formed, the feathers just build off them so really it's the hearts that are most important to get right.

While quilting your feathers, try many different angles and directions for quilting. This is one of those shapes that is stitched differently by just about everybody, so play with it and find what works best for you.

Design Family - Center Fill. This design starts in the center and works out, so you do want to place this in an open area where it has room to branch out. You could keep it small for a flower shape or you can continue to expand the feathers to take up more and more space.

Directional Texture - Center Focused. I love starting in the center of the block and working towards the edges with feathers because as you get more space you can start expanding your feathers and making them bigger and more eye catching with every pass.

Suggestions for Use - I keep thinking about beautiful wholecloth quilts that go over the top with feathers of all shapes and sizes! If you already have all your quilted presents done for the year, why not try challenging yourself with a small wholecloth project? I promise it will be both challenging and fun in equal measure!

Back of Feathered Hearts
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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Mentality for Happiness

Sorry guys for missing my Monday post! Yesterday I traveled to Morganton, NC to lecture for the Burke County Quilters Guild, a wonderful bunch of extremely active quilters.

Of course as luck would have it, James had brought home a cold on Friday and was running a fever by Sunday night. I managed to stave it off until after my lecture, but then the headache hit as I was driving back to Shelby. I woke up this morning to find a totally stuffed up nose and scratchy, froggy sounding voice.

So I can't record my voice over the videos I'd edited for this week. I'm hoping I will sound better and maybe post a new design tomorrow.

Instead, today I want to talk about a new book I've been reading and a wonderful new insight into my life that it has allowed. Yep, this is a personal post so if you'd rather stay out of my personal musings, feel free to stop reading here!

The book is called "What Your Childhood Memories Say About You - And What You Can Do About It" by Kevin Leman. Talk about a loaded title!

First I must say that I don't agree with about 50% of what the author says. He doesn't have as good a handle on birth order dynamics as he could, and certainly doesn't have any idea what he's talking about when it comes to dysfunctional or abusive families.

But that being said, there is some valuable information in this book that has helped me identify with myself a bit better.

For one thing, Leman identifies several different personalities from Drivers - people who jump out of bed in the morning ready to get things done, to Controllers - people who take that drive and use it to control and manipulate others.

He also listed two that really hit a button with me: Pleasers - people whose self worth is entirely dependent on pleasing everyone else, and Marytrs - people who please others at the total expense of themselves.

Reading through that section of the book, I suddenly knew exactly who I have been since around the age of 3 years old: a big, giant Pleaser with occasional forays into Martyrdom.

Yes, there are times that I'm a driver - working extremely hard to get things done, but usually the work is being done to please someone else, not myself.

My self worth while growing up was entirely dependent upon how happy I could make everyone else. Whether it was being the cute and funny baby of the family or simply making myself nonexistent by playing for hours behind a chair, I constantly sought peace and contentment by trying to make everyone else happy.

But peace in a dysfunctional, hostile family is impossible. Essentially I grew up banging my head into a wall of family dynamics I was entirely powerless to evenly slightly affect.

This was unfortunately the way I grew up, and I can't do anything to change the dynamics or my memories of the past. Now that I'm an adult, however, I do have a choice about how I live and what aspects of my personality I allow to dominate.

Unfortunately I've already set myself up for a bad pattern. While this project certainly started with a terrific goal and challenge for myself, as it has grown I've found myself slowly pulling away from my original desire to create 365 designs and into the realms of creating books and dvds.

Don't get me wrong - I really like creating products that help to support my family!

But what I don't like is feeling like I have to slaughter myself in order to do it. I don't really even remember what August or September looked like - I was simply too busy working endless hours on the computer to get the book and DVD completed.

It was soul sucking endless hours of constant stress, and after it was all done and finished, I swore I would never, ever martyr myself for another book or DVD again.

I also saw a bad tendency of doing the exact same thing with my big quilts. As soon as I start the quilting process, I start rushing, rushing, rushing through it to get it done. There's no stopping to smell the roses! I'm hell bent on finishing that project just as fast as I can.

So after finishing From Daisy to Paisley, I decided to put on the brakes on all projects - books, DVDs, and new big quilts - until I could figure out a healthy, positive way to do them.

Because I know for a fact that if I continue working this way, I will give myself a heart attack one day. Or cancer, or something equally bad. There HAS to be a way to work moderately!

For that last 2 months, I've just focused on the project and finishing up small UFOs and what happened? My horrible inner negative voice (INV) cranked up into full gear saying terrible things like:
  • Why are you wasting time??? You've got to get on that next book. Everyone will HATE you if you don't get it written by Christmas!
  • Aren't you pathetic - can't even design a new version of The Duchess. Why do you even call yourself a professional quilter? You obviously suck.
  • So when are you going to start the next DVD huh? huh? What? You're too BUSY? What a joke, you could easily stay up for 3 more hours and finish that stupid project you're working on.
And the list goes on and on.

I was pretty discouraged when my mind started to do this because much of the INV had been worked through during Shadow Self. Why was it so active now, chewing on my lack of activity?

And I realized the reason last night - that I think by over-working myself on a new book or DVD, or rushing through a quilt, I will make everyone happy.

It really comes as no surprise. I made everyone in my original family happy when I was busy and occupied and essentially nonexistent, why shouldn't it work now?

But here's the thing - it doesn't make ME happy and I'm tired of trying to fool myself into thinking that with the next big quilt or the next big book, I'll finally have the magic bullet to happiness and contentment.

If you've been following along with the blog for awhile, you'll know that I pieced a quilt called Sinkhole in September, but that I decided to wait to quilt it until 2011.

I'm so very happy I decided to wait to quilt this quilt because if I hadn't I might be continuing that cycle of rushing through it. And if I had done that I might not have realized one incredible truth: that all of my feelings about worth and self esteem are a lie.

Allow me to explain: I have many memories from between the ages of 3 and 7 years old, which is when most personality is being formed. Almost all of those memories involve some form of shame: getting in trouble, being yelled at, or being shamed by another family member.

This collective shame has led me to believe that I am intrinsically wrong, bad, and ugly for most of my life. When I would look into the mirror, I would expect to see something horrible and disfigured, like a zombie, because that's how I felt on the inside.

But all those memories were lies.

I'm not saying that the memories didn't happen - they certainly did! What I'm saying is that the emotion I took from them was never true.

I was made to feel stupid and ugly, both of which are very obviously not true. While those memories and emotions still exist, I can look back on them now and see them for what they were.

The truth is perception is everything.

I could write "I got some nasty emails today." and some people might perceive that I got a mean email and some people might assume I received porn!

As a child, I took every memory and experience and added it as another notch in the totem pole of Leah Sucks.

Had I had any ability to see and judge experiences through another lens, I might have been able to see things differently: that slap wasn't because of something intrinsically wrong with ME, but something wrong with my parents, maybe they had a bad day, or maybe I was being annoying, but they didn't know a positive way to tell me to shut up.

Whether this level of rationalization works for you or not, the fact of the matter is, I've finally found a lasting, positive solution for a problem that has crippled my life for far too long.

I've been asking for a lot of opinions lately simply because I haven't been able to make up my mind about what to do next. Write another book? Quilt another quilt? Create the printer friendly PDFs?

So finally I've decided to not decide to do anything. I'm going to stop making huge statements like LEAH IS WRITING A NEW BOOK! because these statements usually serve as the green light to go kill myself until the book is done.

I'm going to take things day by day. If I feel like working on a book, I'll work on a book. If I feel like working on a quilt, I'll work on a quilt.

I'm going to continue the project, no doubt about that, but what I do beyond that is going to be left wide open for the time being.

I'm going to work towards a common goal to find balance in my life which has never been balanced. To learn how to work and be productive in moderation.

I might get less done, but really I don't think so. Just like seeing how I speed up when I slow down, with less stress and pressure new books and DVDs and quilts may still be made each year, but without the gut wrenching slaughter fest that usually accompanies them.

So what I'm I off to do with my slight fever and head cold? Take a nap and play some video games!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Joy of Small Projects

Whoo Hooo! I just finished my quilted jacket!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This went together SO quickly, it's really hard to believe. I had the top already cut, so most of the 2 weeks this took to create was spent hammering out the design.

The quilting really only took about 2 days. That let's you know how fast something can get done when the quilting is big and open like these huge Swirling Feathers!

free motion quilting | Leah Dayfree motion quilting | Leah DayIt is challenging for me to quilt this way because so much of what I do is very tiny and dense. I almost had to relearn how to quilt really big shapes, but I'm so glad I did because this jacket is soft and comfy.

The most obvious plus to quilting large scale is the speed! It's definitely nice to finish something this fast!

The handwork on this project also went quickly because I was always doing something I enjoyed.

I've been listening to a very interested, but slightly scary book called The Master Switch about how open sources of information, like the radio and telephone, were once free for all to use and share (just like the internet now), but they were closed down by monopolies seeking to control them.

When I wasn't getting freaked out about the future of the internet, I was watching more episodes of Top Gear, Torchwood, and Dr. Who. Well, I should say listening to these programs was I was really watching my stitches!

Once the handwork of the jacket was complete, I put it back on the machine for a little extra detail stitching. I almost quilted the front black section with more Jagged Plain, but it was so closed to the edge that I couldn't get a good hold on it. Oh well, maybe for my next jacket I'll figure out a way of doing that better.

I love how the jacket is completely reversible. On red days I can wear red and on blue days I can wear blue!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It was really nice to go from start to finish in just 2 weeks. I haven't been feeling like getting bogged down with something huge. Really I just want to finish up all the small stuff I have on my UFO shelf and have fun with it.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Homemade Chicken Broth

Josh here for Thursday's recipe.

I whipped up a batch of chicken broth the other day and last night made a simple soup of onion, chicken, and our last tomato from the garden. Yes, we were low on vegetables, but with a broth as rich and hearty as this one, you want to keep it simple. Sliced mushrooms, onions, and minced chicken would be my ideal choice of soup additives.
Chicken Broth

2 whole chicken remains (bones, skin, carcass, leftover meat--anything but gizzards as they'll dissolve and give the stock a funny taste) OR a large family pack of chicken wings/legs
1 large onion, quartered
2 carrots, chopped roughly
3 stalks celery, chopped roughly
1 large tomato, chopped
1 whole bulb garlic, bisected horizontally
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced (note: this is the secret ingredient)
1 bunch parsley
Fresh thyme, 5-6 branches
Fresh rosemary, 2-3 small branches
12-24 black peppercorns or mixed peppercorns
4 bay leaves

Add all ingredients to large stock pot and cover with cool water, ensuring an inch or two of water above your stock ordinance. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer so the surface is broken by only the lightest movement; you do want bubbles but just enough so you minimize evaporation. Every half an hour skim the foam and scum off the top. Add more hot water as needed so everything remains covered.

Cook for a minimal of 3 hours, or all day. You'll be where you need to be when you can snap a bone with your fingers.

Strain through a colander with cheesecloth and discard all solids--all of their flavors and nutrients have transferred to the broth, rendering the meat and veggies soft and tasteless. Return broth to a washed and sanitized stockpot and bring back to a boil. Once boil is reached turn off heat, remove pot from burner, and let cool until it's warm and you can refrigerate.

You can also freeze several 12 or 20 oz water bottles and this will cool the broth a lot faster.

The following day your broth will likely have gelatinized (note: if it's still pure liquid that's okay. You can simmer it until you've reduced the volume by an inch or two, or, for richer broth, add more meat and repeat the cooking process). Remove white layer from top and reheat for soups, gravy bases, stews, or as a replacement liquid for recipes that call for water.

Holds only two days in the fridge but can be frozen and lasts for months.
As you can see, soup is not complicated. The most basic form of broth requires only two things: water and something that goes in the water (onion, bouquet of herbs, piece of meat, even a bone). Nutrients and flavors are leached from the object being boiled, transmuting the water into broth, or stock. This transformed liquid makes up the foundation of all soups.

The discovery of soups stands as a major hallmark in the evolution of cooked food, going all the way back to prehistory. First came roasted meats and vegetables, pierced on a stick and turned over a fire. Then came fire pits and heated stones which could be placed in tough animal stomachs to cook foods and hold in the moisture. But it was the discovery of pottery that led to a fireproof cooking vessel which enabled the boiling of water, which of course is the key component and means of genesis for soups.

When you make a round of chicken soup, it's fun to know you're partaking in one of the oldest forms of cooking.

Finally, I hope you had a chance to try last week's lemonade recipe. If you can't find fresh basil in your area, hold onto it and give a try in the late spring. I can say with a straight face that it's the best lemonade I've ever had.

Enjoy the soup!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Slowing Down to Speed Up

Today is Wednesday which gives me a terrific excuse to jump into my studio and share the photos of my jacket which is ALMOST done!

Monday night I finished quilting all the pieces of my jacket, two sleeves, two front pieces, and one back.

free motion quilting | Leah DayTuesday was largely spent online catching up on many different projects, but I managed to get off the computer and back into the studio in time to get all the pieces together. Here is the front trimmed down to the exact pattern size:

free motion quilting | Leah DayBut with a double sided garment, getting the pieces together is only part of the process. Finishing the seams smoothly and, for lack of a better word, seamlessly, is the real challenge.

There's just no way to get around it. In order to create a truly double sided garment (at least with this pattern), you have to do a lot of hand work.

Have I ever mentioned that I positively love hand work?

Of course, I do very little hand work these days, but once upon a time hand work is all I did back when I stitched individual beads together to create jewelry and art. There is a certain peace and slowness to handwork that is both relaxing and restorative at the same time.

Here's the process I'm following in order to finish this jacket:

- First, in order to quilt this jacket I marked the piecing and cutting lines on the front of the fabric. I then marked a 3rd line 1/2" inside the seam allowance line.

I did not quilt beyond the 3rd line so I would have plenty of room to turn the seams and reduce the bulk of the quilted material.

free motion quilting | Leah DayFrom here on out, the blue side will be referred to as the lining and the red side will be the outside of the jacket.

- So to piece the back to the front, I first pinned down the blue fabric to get it out of my way. I didn't want to stitch through it because it would be used to cover and bind the seam later.

free motion quilting | Leah Day- Next I stitched the seam stitching through both the red fabric and the middle layer (I used lightweight flannel as my middle layer).

free motion quilting | Leah Dayfree motion quilting | Leah Day- Finger press the seam open using a pressing tool or your fingers. It's not really necessary to go to the iron to press this open so long as you get the seam nice and open at your sewing machine.

free motion quilting | Leah Day- Trim the middle layer down right to the seam line. Trim the red fabric down by half. Finger press open again to ensure the seam is totally flat and no wrinkles, lumps, or wiggles in it.

free motion quilting | Leah Day- Unpin the blue fabric on one side of the seam and lay it over the seam. Trim slightly if needed and pin in place carefully, again making sure to keep the seam totally flat and wrinkle-free.

free motion quilting | Leah Day- Flip the whole thing over and stitch in the seam in the ditch from the red side. You might want to use a walking foot for this because it involves so many layers. I stitched over my pins very carefully so I wouldn't have to take them out and potentially shift all the layers

free motion quilting | Leah Day- Flip the garment back to the blue side. Now you have a stitched line marking where the seam is and the blue fabric is encasing one half of the seam, keeping all the raw edges inside. Now take the blue side that's left and fold it under and pin it in place to rest right over that stitched line. This will be the part you hand stitch in place to secure it completely.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow, reading through this, yes, you could machine stitch this last line, but those stitches will show up on both sides of the garment. Experience has taught me that I can never make these stitches look good enough on both sides at the same time, particularly in very hard to stitch areas like the arms and arm hole seams.

So I hand stitch it all down. The shoulder seams are the shortest, the long neck seam is the longest, the arm pit area is always a real pain, but if you take your time, pin and pin and pin obsessively, this can be a really fun hand stitching project.

Now to explain the weird title of this post! Today I got back to yoga after missing it for more than 5 months straight.

During the summer, I kept beating myself up for not going to class. I felt lazy and guilty and just plain bad about skipping out, but every time I considered going, I made a long list of excuses: too busy, too tired, too stressed, etc. Every time I thought about getting back to my old routine, I kept feeling the same thing: dread.

To say the very least, that's a really weird feeling to have about yoga. Well, that's a really weird feeling for ME to have about it because I love tying myself into pretzel shapes and standing on my head. I love to stretch and pull and feel my body grow softer, longer, and stretchier than it was before.

At least I used to. I did before this summer, before creating Shadow Self, before I dug out my negative inner voice and replaced it with something gentle, kinder, and far more peaceful.

Before, I would attend yoga classes like a junkie in need of a fix. Get me out of this life. Get me out of my head. Let me escape. Let me escape. Please let me escape!

By August I'd had enough. I firmly declared that I would not be attending yoga again OR beating myself up about not attending until I could get my brain around this issue.

Because yoga is not about escape. It's not about disconnection, it's the complete opposite!

Being present and an active participant in every cell and muscle twitch of my body. Being HERE, not digging up a memory from last week or projecting an idea for next year.

My yoga practice up until this time has been all about escape and disconnection. I started attending when I first moved to Shelby, NC. I was 23, a new wife, home owner, pregnant, and extremely stressed out, lonely, and unhappy. Those yoga sessions were more about getting away from everything that made me upset and they did help me muscle through that difficult time.

But my life is very different now in every single respect, so it was long overdue for my yoga practice to also change. No more escape, no more disconnection. I now want to attend yoga to get further into my life, further into my body and mind, not farther away.

So I stopped attending and stopped beating myself up about it, firmly declaring that I would attend again only when I really wanted to go and when I wanted to go for the right reasons.

What a surprise it was last night to sit up in bed and declare suddenly that I wanted to go back!

And it was wonderful to return with this new awareness and dedication to be present. My yoga teacher rewarded me with teaching a new practice called Tai Chi Chih, which is a simpler and easier form of traditional Tai Chi.

I must say, this is the practice for me! It is a series of simple, slow, repetitive movements that charge the body with energy.

What struck me more than anything else was the slowness.

I don't do anything slow. I don't eat slow. I don't really walk slow, and I definitely don't quilt slow. It seems as soon as I start a project I'm hankering for it to be done right NOW this instant!

Because I'm always concentrating on speed, I very rarely actually enjoy the journey, or the taste my food, or see the beautiful landscape, and what is the point of that?

But standing and moving in these simple, slow positions reminded me that I CAN slow down. I can move slowly. I can flow instead of force.

And what did I find once I'd slowed myself down? That it actually makes me faster!

After class I returned home and got to work with more focus and attention than I've had in many days. I moved slowly from task to task, but with more energy and therefore more dedication to getting each task done.

So today as I sit and hand stitch all the binding down on my jacket, I will not push to finish, rushing with big stitches and distracted mistakes. Yes, I could try to machine stitch down all the blue fabric lining, but I know that this need for speed will just end up slowing me down in the end.

Instead I will take my time, moving slowly to complete each seam and enjoying the process every step of the way.

To slowing down!

Leah Day

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 230 - Drop Art

It's finally starting to feel like winter here in NC - Finally! This has been the longest, warmest fall in my memory, but now things have finally turned back to normal and I'm watching a cool rain drizzle outside.

All those dripping raindrops off the side of my window made me start thinking about a new sashing design. Here we have Drop Art!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Yay! My jacket pieces are quilted! Jacket construction can now begin! I'll post photos and a walkthrough tomorrow on how I attach all the pieces and create a double sided, seamless jacket.

For now, let's learn how to quilt Drop Art:

Difficulty Level - Beginner. Now that I think about it, this design reminds me of the song Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. Kinda silly, but fun!

Design Family - Edge to Center. This is the perfect sashing filler design! You don't have to keep it this simple either. Feel free to go inside each tear drop shape with pebbles or internal echoes for a slightly more complex version.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. This design has a very clear horizontal or vertical texture. If you want something a bit more open and less dense, you can always quilt only one side of the Drop Art and leave the second half off. Either way, it's a very fun design.

Suggestions for Use - This design makes me think babies and simple shapes for some reason. Maybe combine Drop Art with some big, bold shapes like hearts, circles, triangles, and squares and quilt it all into a cute baby quilt for someone special this holiday!

Back of Drop Art
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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 229 - Loose Weave

Way back in July while I was writing From Daisy to Paisley, I took a good look at all the designs and decided we needed more Overlapping Designs. The tough thing is, these designs aren't easy to create!

Some shapes just end up turning into a mess on fabric when you overlap them randomly (see Cat Hairball Filler). Eventually I found that if you take out some of the randomness overlapping starts to look good. Case in point is this Loose Weave:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

free motion quilting | Leah DayHave you ever had a weekend or whole week (or even worse a whole month) were you pick out more stitches than you quilt?

I had one of those weekends.

Lots and lots of seam ripping as my inner nit picky seamstress criticized every wobbly line or demented feather on my quilted jacket.

But I prevailed and finished more than half the back! Let's hope the rest goes a bit faster and with less ripping!

Difficulty Level - Beginner. This design is really a lot of fun to quilt because all it involves is long, slightly curving lines stitched horizontally and vertically across your quilting space.

There is a bit of travel stitching involved to get from one "thread" of the loose weave to another so just take your time and mark a few lines to get the hang of it.

Design Family - Overlapping. I don't have a lot of these designs, but what we do have is very interesting. All of these designs will work great to cover large surfaces, but probably not the best for the small, complex areas of a quilt.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. Loose Weave has a neat horizontal and vertical texture. If you quilted this densely it would have a texture a lot like Matrix - very flat and directionless. On a bigger scale though, it will always add a nice soft line to your quilts.

Suggestions for Use - There are so many pieced blocks out there with sharp lines and angles. Why not try to soften them up a bit and cover your quilt with this large scale, gently flowing weave? It will add a beautiful texture to the surface and quickly finish a bed quilt with the perfect amount of quilting.

Back of Loose Weave
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Too late in the year for lemonade?

Josh here for our weekly recipe!

It's early November, but the tomatoes are still on the vine and ripening here in southwestern North Carolina. Our sweet basil is also still thriving.

So I say no, it's never too late for lemonade!

I love this recipe. It doesn't call for a diabetes-causing amount of sugar and it comes out sweeter than regular old fashioned lemonade.

Basil Nectarine Lemonade

3 1/2 cups filtered or spring water (note: quality, refreshing H2O is the key to delicious lemonade. Who wants lemonade that tastes like your swimming pool?)
1 cup fresh sweet basil leaves, plus additional for garnish
2 nectarines, 1 coarse chopped and 1 sliced thin
1/4 cup sugar or 1/2 cup honey
1 cup fresh squeeze lemon juice

In a small saucepan stir together 2 cups of water, 1 cup basil, 1 nectarine that's been coarsely chopped, and the sugar or honey. Bring mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar or honey is uniformly incorporated. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Let the mixture cool and strain through a fine sieve set over a pitcher, pressing hard on the solids. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cup water, the remaining nectarine, sliced thinly, and the lemon juice. Fill tall glasses with ice cubes and garnish with fresh mint or basil leaves.

Makes about 6 cups, serving 4-6.

Let's sip some lemonade and then go quilt!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A New Jacket and Overcoming Design Block

free motion quilting | Leah DayToday is What's Leah Working on Wednesday and I'm extremely happy to report that I've finished the design and have roughly cut out all the pieces for my new quilted jacket!

This is pretty exciting because creating this new coat hasn't been an easy process. Isn't it funny how some projects go really easily while other projects get stalled out for years on end? Well, this has been one of those projects.

If you'll remember back to last year, I created a beautiful quilted jacket out of grayish blue and off white fabrics. That's a photo of me from last year modeling it in the front yard. Click here for an article on the full process of creating this jacket.

It was perfect in every way, but as I finished it up, I realized that I wasn't very satisfied with the quilting design.

I wanted a jacket that was "my style," but actually defining what this is or coming up with another concrete quilting design has been a challenge. The original coat was the perfect style of a friend so I gave it to her and set out to create a new jacket just for me.

Last January I cut out the pieces of a beautiful red fabric and set out to create a red coat, but as soon as I started the design process, I hit the Brick Wall of Design Block.

If you've experienced Design Block the usual symptoms are feelings ranging from dejection to rage over the offending project design. Something is wrong with it, it doesn't feel RIGHT, but you can't quite put your finger on what exactly is WRONG.

If you've ever gotten angry at a fully finished quilt or a quilt that hasn't been started yet, chances are Design Block was the culprit. It's the biggest cause of UFOs in my studio!

I often make the mistake of taking Design Block personally. As soon as I hit a snag in a design, I start doubting my abilities across the board. Disillusionment quickly follows which is why the project is eventually folded up and put back on the UFO shelf.

But this time, I was determined! I pulled out the pattern sheets and set to work creating a new design for the back of the jacket.

Very quickly, I hit another brick wall. I wanted a sun shape on the back of the jacket, but I didn't want it to be huge and ostentatious. How to balance these two ideas together in a garment that is going to be dark red?

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe answer is to play. Play and play and play and don't take anything personally or too seriously. Just keep playing with shapes and angles, drawing, erasing, and drawing until the design begins to take shape.

Even if you don't draw designs for your quilts, the same rule holds for quilting your quilts. As soon as I start taking everything too seriously and personally is the instant I start hating the project and wish I'd never started it.

So this quilted jacket has become a lesson in patience and overcoming Design Block. It's taken the better part of 3 days, hours of playing with shapes and angles until I've finally settled on the following design:

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhile it doesn't look like much now, the long spirals are actually going to be the base for Tongue of Flames filler which will fill the entire front and background areas of the quilt. I wanted the spines to be symmetrical which is why they are marked, but the leaves will be quilted free hand so they organically fill the space and take much less time to complete.

Way back in January I'd marked the sleeves with one of my Swirling Flames stencils and rather than cut out new fabric or try to erase all the lines, I'm just going to leave it and quilt along all of the marked design:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI'm really pleased with the simple design and excited to get started with it. Cozy quilted jacket here I come!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 228 - Echo Crosses

Flipping back through my books of designs, I've noticed many shapes and symbols I've used a lot during the project. Hearts, tear drops, triangles, circles, stars, and spirals have all been used to create several designs.

But one shape I haven't played with is a cross or + sign shape. At least until now!

free motion quilting | Leah DayAs soon as I can hop off the computer today I'm heading into the studio to work some more on my new quilted jacket. I've finally managed to create a sun pattern that I really like and now the hardest part will just be picking designs to quilt in the background.

But I'd rather have too many designs to choose from than too few! Let's get back to Echo Crosses and add another design to the project:

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design is really not that hard. First concentrate on creating your cross shape, then focus on echoing it with straight lines and sharp angles.

Design Family - Echoing. Echo Crosses is created by first stitching the starting shape, then travel stitching and echoing the shape multiple times. The scale of the design is completely determined by the size of your echoes so if you want this to take up lots of space, keep your echos big and wide.

Directional Texture - All Directions. What's really interesting about this design is the texture. It has a nice, multi-directional movement, but it's also created with straight lines and sharp angles, which tends to go flat on a quilt. This is definitely a texture worth playing with!

Suggestions for Use - I think Echo Crosses would look terrific on a wholecloth quilt, stitched along flowing floral shapes. I really like contrasting shapes and textures and this graphic design will look really good stitched next to curving, fluid shapes.

Back of Echo Crosses
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 227 - Tangled Snakes

Let's get back to the project today with a funky new design called Tangled Snakes!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
What a wonderful weekend! Not only did I get back in the studio to create several new designs, I also started working on a new quilted jacket to wear this winter!

While designing the jacket, I've been thinking a lot about my favorite designs and trying to decide which to use in the background. It's funny, my favorite designs are flames, pebbling, and McTavishing and this design contains a bit of all of them!

Inspiration - James recently came home with a plastic toy snake that was connected together with circles and pegs down the back. As soon as I saw it, I saw the potential for a new free motion design. Inspiration truly is everywhere!

Difficulty Level - Advanced. What makes this design tricky is the amount of traveling and space-gauging you need to be able to do in order to fit the snake shapes together and the pebbles within the snake shapes.

Just take your time and practice drawing this design a few times first. The overall texture and thread play it creates is really spectacular and absolutely worth the extra effort it requires!

Design Family - Branching.

Filler Design Type - Branching. This design works a lot like McTavishing, but you can also work it more like an echoing design like Flame stitch, so it can work in most areas of your quilt. The most challenging thing will be controlling the amount the thread builds up around the circles.

Directional Texture - All Directions. I think this design is going to rank in my top favorites because it creates gorgeous texture, dark thread play, and lots of movement all at the same time!

Suggestions for Use - This would be a good design to use in the medium sized areas of your quilts. If you place it somewhere too tight and complex, you might lose the interesting texture Tangled Snakes creates.

Likewise if you place this design in a huge area, it will be very time consuming to fill, so try to find the open medium sized areas of your quilts, like around applique blocks where this design can really shine!

Back of Tangled Snakes
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Saturday, November 6, 2010

First Published Article!

Well, technically my videos in the Quilting Arts E Magazine was the first time I was published, but this is the first ever article I've written for a magazine!

This is an article on designing trapunto motifst and is published in the November 2010 issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited.

Just in case you've never heard of MQU, this is an awesome magazine full of beautiful photos of machine stitching. Both longarm and domestic machine articles are featured, giving the magazine a very inclusive feel.

For such a beautiful magazine, it's odd that I have a lot of trouble finding it in stores. I first heard about it while surfing the internet, but so far I have never seen it on a news stand in my area, so this may be a publication you just have to order online.

The article itself features Shadow Self and details the process of designing the complex trapunto design, incorporating it into the quilt, and finishing the quilt with various filler designs.

I had a lot of fun writing the article, though the looming deadline did drive me a bit batty at the end, I'm extremely pleased to see how it came out.

Definitely check it out if you're interested in learning more about the design process behind creating Shadow Self!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thank you!

Thank you all so much for commenting, offering your advice, thanks, and suggestions for what I should do with all 365 designs.

I actually waited to post any of the comments until today to see just how many opinions could be shared all in one post and we hit an all time record - 63!

Reading through all of the comments, you can start to see a general agreement of what to publish:
  • Publish all 5 mini books with dvds.

  • Publish the BIG book as a book.

  • Publish the BIG book as an ebook.

  • Create printer friendly versions of each design.
Of course, I also had several suggestions to just do whatever I wanted (YAY!) and many suggestions to approach a big publisher.

Since many people are curious as to why I've chosen to self publish my books, there are actually many solid reasons why this is a better option for me and my family.

For one, there will really be no difference between the amount of work involved. Instead of working to my own deadlines, I will be working to deadlines dictated by the publisher.

This is not a problem for most people, but it turns me into a crazy person. I work a million times harder, instantly get an attack of low self-esteem, and usually stop eating and sleeping because it's always more work than I can do in the time allotted.

Yes, it will be easier in a graphic design perspective, but I can just hire a graphic designer as was suggested by many. I'm definitely going to take that advice and start looking for someone who can see and understand my quilting designs.

But really the core reason I'm self publishing is money.

Money is something icky that most people don't like to talk about. Many of you probably unconsciously felt your heart rate go up or your hand suddenly go sweaty as you read that word. We just don't TALK about money publicly.

Well I do. I'm 27 years old and, in less than 1 year, I've built a business that is now the sole means of support for my family. I like talking about money and I don't see it as taboo. In fact, I think people should talk about money a lot more and it might make everyone a lot less likely to spend more than they make, deal with the debt they have, and enjoy the amount of money they make.

But that's a tangent for another day.

The fact is, my royalties on an officially published book will be around $1 per book.

There is also no guarantee of how long my book will be printed, when the publisher will decide to take it out of print, or what will happen to it when that happens.

Because this business is the sole means of support for my family and it's extremely important for the books and DVDs to be profitable and a good return on my time investment. $1 per book just doesn't cut it.

By the way, if anyone has had a different experience with a publisher, please feel free to comment below.

Of course, there is always the argument that what a big publisher lacks with royalties they will make up for with sales and distribution of the book or DVD. What does it matter if we make only $1 per book if they can sell 10,000 books?

20 years ago, this argument was probably valid. Today with the power of the internet, with no distributors picking us up yet, and with no retail stores carrying the books, Josh and I are still doing pretty well because I'm doing all the marketing from this blog and my site.

But it's really not all about money. I like freedom to do my own thing. I don't like signing contracts. I refuse to agree to anything that will require shutting down or deleting most of this project, and I really don't like working to official, arbitrary deadlines.

So, no, I have no plans to approach a publisher.

It is difficult, but I'm learning that the best thing I can do is be more flexible and open minded when considering what to do next.

I might end up doing it all: all 5 mini books and the BIG book simply because that's what I want to see at the end of this project.

Right now more than anything else, I just want to quilt and design.

So that's what I'm going to do! I have several fun quilting ideas on the brain and rather than letting them sit on a shelf, I'm jumping in with both feet.

Looking at the list of books, I know which ones I feel excited about, so I'll probably start on them first, but I have no plans to publish again until at least the spring, if not the fall.

What I love the most about all of your comments is the overwhelming positive support I feel from all of you.

When it gets overwhelming, I just have to step back and remember what the point of all of this is: to provide free motion quilting information and inspiration, to share it with all of you, and to make time for quilting every single day.

No matter what I decide to do publishing-wise, this blog is here to stay!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Brief History and Call for Advice

Alright guys, I need some help!

As you all know, creating this project of 365 designs has been a very big project, taking my twice as much time (2 years rather than 1) than I expect, and expanding in so many different ways that even I've started to feel overwhelmed by it.

Well, the project itself - this blog and videos - that's not overwhelming.

It's how to take the designs and videos and turn them into books or DVDs. It is both overwhelming and, well, straight up difficult, to try to figure out what I should do with everything.

It might sound crazy, but when I started the project last August, I was really surprised when readers began asking for books. I figured it was all online and free, why would anyone want to pay for it!?

But the requests turned into demands and by September I was working on my first book and DVD. Since I was only starting out, had limited time and resources, I produced the book as an ebook and burned the DVD using my home video editing software.

I ended up producing two sets: Volume 1 and Volume 2 last fall and these featured the first 40 designs from the project in chronological order (these sets were discontinued in June). At the time, chronological order was the best thing to organize by because I didn't have huge quantities of different skill levels to choose from.

Over time, as the project grew, I started to see the wisdom in organizing the designs by difficulty level instead so that we could easily search through and find designs that were possible to master at any skill level.

This spawned Free Motion Quilting Basics for Beginners, the dvd focused, not on filler designs, but on all the little details on creating a quilt like setting up your machine, choosing thread, basting, etc.

But the request for books and DVDs of more filler designs continued to come in. I knew we really should come out with a new DVD to replace Volume 1 and 2 when I watched the DVDs in the spring and realized how much my writing and filming quality had improved over the last 8 months.

I also knew from listening to readers that we really needed a set focused just on beginner level filler designs. Thus, From Daisy to Paisley, the mini book of 50 beginner level designs, and Beginner Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs was created this past summer and launched in September.

I went to great lengths to ensure high quality for both the book and DVD and went to great lengths to ensure that they could be carried in regular bookstores. Not that they are being carried yet. As I have quickly found, publishing and printing is one thing, distributing is something entirely different.

But as you can tell, understanding how to share these designs in a format other than this blog has not been easy. The truth is:

I don't have some grand design or master plan!

I'm just making this up as I go along!

I planned to create a total of 4 more mini books and / or DVDs which would focus on Intermediate designs, Advanced Designs, Pivoting Designs, and Center Fill designs specifically.

I still like the idea of creating a collection of books, each featuring 50 designs exclusively, but here's the thing:

Everyone keeps asking for 1 book featuring ALL the designs.

And here's the other thing:

Creating the books and DVDs are an EXTREME amount work, they drive me completely insane, and I can't continue to do it this way.

I LOVE this project. I LOVE posting the designs for free. I LOVE designing. I LOVE sharing it with all of you.

But I really, really hate the hours of tedious computer work needed to create the books and DVDs. Whatever I decide to do from here on out will have to involve more help, maybe in the form of hired assistants, because this is just too much for one person to handle.

So what should I do?

Still produce 4 more sets books and DVDs featuring 50 designs?

This would probably be more economical since I can keep the book cost under $20 that way and still go into nice detail on each design.

But this would involve writing 5 books and creating 5 DVDs, something so time consuming and stressful, I would probably have to stop posting and stop quilting for 6 months in order to do it (something I really don't want to do).

Wait to publish the book of all 365 designs?

This makes more sense on a time and work scale, but the final book will be both big and expensive. I had planned to create a full sized book (8.5 x 11) with one to two whole pages devoted to each individual design, totally up to over 700 pages. This will probably end up costing between $79 - $99.

Such a book would be very expensive to print and thus, be very expensive to resell and ship. It would also end up looking a lot more like a college textbook, but it would cover absolutely EVERYTHING on free motion quilting I've learned over the last 2 years.

Even this creates issues and I start "what if-ing" myself to death. What if I just do one page per design? What if I put two designs per page? What if it wasn't that big?

What if I just do a book of photos, like From Daisy to Paisley, more as a reference guide?

This would be cheaper to publish and print, which means it could possibly retail for under $50.

Argh! The questions and options are positively ENDLESS!

And the problem is, I really can't make up my mind about what to do. Sorry, I know that sounds really wishy-washy and pathetic, but I honestly don't know what to do.

I know I would like to see a book of just pivoting designs and just center fill designs because they are my favorites. I love playing with them and I'd really enjoy designing and creating quilts that specifically highlight their coolness.

I also would like to see two versions of the Big book, as I call it. One that would serve as a desk reference and be small with just photos, and one that would be huge and thick and filled with absolutely every scrap of knowledge and inspiration I can cram into it.

But does anyone else feel this way? Should I ultimately write the books I want to write, or the books that will sell?

And should pure profit be the only consideration? Since it's my time, shouldn't I focus on the books I actually want to write, and the designs that truly want to play with!?

I think I just answered that question myself. I refuse to shackle myself to tasks I find intolerable just for the possibility of making a living with it. I'd rather be a bit broke and be doing something I really enjoy and love.

So please, if you have a minute to spare, take a bit of time to consider this problem, and offer your advice.

Scroll through the design pages and take a minute to try to visualize just how many 365 is. I know I didn't have a full perspective on it when I started.

If published in one single book, that book will have to be AT LEAST 365 pages, if not closer to 400. Keep in mind time and print costs.

But also consider alternatives. I'm extremely open to publishing the big book as an Ebook, where print costs will not effect the cost of the book, and shipping will not be a factor.

Looking at this list of different possibilities I know that there is no single path to take. More than anything else, I simply want to here your opinions, based on what you really want and need in your studio for free motion quilting.

Thank you!


Mexican Restaurant Style Salsa

Josh here today. It's Thursday again so that means it's recipe time!

I want to share one of my favorites, something I've been fine tuning for years. Who doesn't love a bowl of salsa from your local Mexican restaurant? The stuff that comes out of a bottle is never the same.

You'll notice I only use a few fresh ingredients. Of course, you can substitute the prepared stuff for on the vine tomatoes, fresh jalapenos, and garlic cloves. However, the majority of Mexican restaurants scrimp on the fresh to save money. Also I consider the little bit of vinegar from the jarred jalapenos add to the finished product.

Mexican Restaurant Salsa

2 10 or 14 oz. cans diced fancy tomatoes, petite (open can and empty out as much water/juice as possible)
2 Tbs bottled HOT jalapenos, finely minced
1 Tbs pickle juice from jalapeno jar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely minced
1/4 cup red onion, finely minced
2-3 dried chili peppers, finely minced (optional for more heat)

Roughly chop onion and de-stem cilantro. If using, soak dried peppers in warm water on the counter for an hour then prepare.

Note: Remember, the seeds are what really add the heat, so use as many or as little as you'd like.

Put all ingredients into a blender and fold in and then blend to desired consistency, or blend half of everything and mince to break up the saucy puree. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

This is what I'd consider a mild-medium salsa. If you like your salsa mild, only use 1 Tbs of jalapenos at first. You can always heat it up later. And the longer this refrigerates, the hotter the salsa gets.

Finally, I'd like to point you to a cool new feature Leah's added to the blog. She's organized all of her designs by type, difficulty level, texture, and the order in which they were posted on the blog. You probably noticed it already, directly underneath the blog's header at the top.

Hopefully this will make things a lot easier to find!

See you next week,


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Textured Sunflowers

Today is "What's Leah Working on Wednesday" and today I'm playing with several different projects and materials.

The first is a sunflower wall hanging courtesy of the Overall Quilter!

I met Aimee Griffen, the owner of Overall Quilter, at the Albemarle Quilt Expo and we've continued to run into one another at the North Carolina Quilt Symposium and most recently at Barnful of Quilts.

This past spring Aimee created a line of simple wall hanging quilt patterns called Floral Fling. These wall hangings all finish out at 18" x 21" and are raw edge fusible applique, so they're VERY easy to put together.

When I saw Aimee most recently at Barnful of Quilts, she gave me the Floral Fling Sunflower pattern to try. More than anything else, she wanted to see what I would do in free motion on a quilt like this and I was more than happy to give it a go.

But before quilting my wall hanging, I first have to put it together!

I love trying out new patterns and playing with new techniques. When I'm working from a pattern, my quilt never ends up coming out like the picture because I always have to change it up a bit. Whether it's different fabrics, materials, piecing, or even additional appliqued shapes, I enjoy adding my own special touches to the design.

Today I really wanted to experiment with something new, to play, maybe mess up some fabric, but more than anything else, to have fun in my studio.

So this week I pulled out the pattern, Wonder Under, fabric, and a new material called Texture Magic to play with.

I used Texture Magic on the back of the green leaf fabric, stitched some vein lines, and watched in amazement as the magical fabric shrunk right up! It's a really neat way to add texture to a quilt, though I'm still testing the limits of this material with my iron.

Texture Magic works by first quilting the material to the back of your fabric. For one leaf I included a piece of batting for a more subtle, trapuntoed look:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Of course, the batting is hanging out from the edges because I haven't machine appliqued it yet, but you can see how this leaf is quite plump and full of ridgie texture (yeah, I know I'm making up words today).

The texture created with batting is much more subtle than the texture created with just fabric and Texture Magic:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I like the second leaf better and the more I play with the stuff, the more I like it. To shrink the material down, you steam the surface lightly with your iron or a steamer.

While the directions say to never touch your iron to the material itself, I found that I could fuse Wonder Under to the back and make it fusible.

Trying to turn the edges after they've been wrinkled up so much is something I'll try another day, and so far I'm really pleased with the effect of using both Texture Magic and Wonder Under in the same quilt.

When I haven't been playing with the Sunflower Quilt, I've been adding a few new links and gadgets to this blog!

We now have pages where the designs are listed by Difficulty Level, Filler Design Type, Alphabetical Order, and Chronological Order!

These new pages are really exciting because they will allow you to find designs specifically for certain areas of your quilt. For instance, if I want a Center Focused design for the center of my Sunflower Quilt, I can simply click on that selection and see all the different designs that have that texture!

I plan to keep these pages updated on a weekly basis, so remember to click "refresh" on your pages if you've been away for awhile. This will refresh your browser so it reads the new updates to the site.

Whew! I feel like I've gotten a lot accomplished today, but I'm still going strong! I'm heading upstairs to get back to my Over the Top Quilt from the "How to I Quilt This?!" series. I'm still not sure of when these videos will actually roll out, but it'll be fun to play with some dense free motion quilting and maybe experiment with a few new designs.

Let's go quilt,


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