The Free Motion Quilting Project: January 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 250 - Sunflower

Yay! We've reached Day 250! We now have 250 free motion quilting designs to choose from and use on our quilts!

To celebrate this very special day, let's learn an awesome new flower design called Sunflower:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Inspiration - I love to play with flower designs, especially finding easier ways to create them without as much precise travel stitching.

One morning I was doodling and created a very simple flower, but all the petals were different sizes and it didn't look good. In frustration, I just kept adding more and more petals on top until the first set no longer looked bad. That's a great way to hide mistakes: cover them in a sea of flower petals! 

Difficulty Level - Beginner. Sunflower is a super simple design and what's great is it will help you master creating a smooth petal shape. If you're struggling to make smooth shapes without wobbly lines, try quilting this design in some small blocks to practice

By the time you get finished, you'll have gotten a better handle on making these shapes, and created a nice stack of drink coasters as well!

free motion quilting | Leah DayDesign Family - Center Fill. This design starts in the center of your quilting space and radiates out. Don't worry about the flower petals completely filling every corner of your blocks. It actually looks better if you keep the flower shape circular rather than trying to stretch the petals into a square.

Directional Texture - Center Focused. You really can't miss this eye catching design! If you watched the video, you'll have seen me go around the center one more time before I finished the design. I like building up my threads to really draw attention to the center of the design.

Suggestions for Use - I have a large quantity of small blue and white quilts left over from writing about How to Piece Perfect Quilts two years ago. All they need are some simple designs to finish them off to make many nice baby quilts. Sunflower would be a perfect design to use in the blocks and cornerstones!

Back of Sunflower
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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Unpacking from Myrtle Beach

Yes, it has taken me a full week to unpack from our trip to Myrtle Beach Quilt Party last weekend. I'm finally getting around to unpacking all the goodies I picked up in the vendor mall. Check out this new addition to my stash!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I picked these beauties up from Quiltmakers Workshop from Alabama. I've never collected Kaffe Fassett prints before simply because I didn't know what the heck to do with them.

Now with the Australian Shadows quilt under my belt, I know exactly what to do with bold, busy prints - make them the showcase using shadows and simple shapes!

So I picked up a good collection of colors and textures. And another vendor decided to discount her fat quarters to $1.00 each on the last day and of course, I couldn't resist a deal like that!

And here's the real motherload:
free motion quilting | Leah DayThese are packs of embellishments and hand painted faces from Karen Pharr Studios. I've been wanting to experiment with more embellishment on the surface of my quilts, especially adding unique fibers and beads. I'm planning to play with these new goodies on Hot Cast once she's been completely quilted, painted, and bound.

Karen's painted faces really caught my eye because I've had a continual idea to make a few small goddess dolls lately, but felt troubled by the face and head section. I kept visualizing stitching a face on with beads and now I can!

Best of all was Karen herself who is an awesome quilter, teacher, and business owner. As soon as I saw her booth, I knew I wanted to hang out for awhile, but didn't have much time.

I explained exactly what I was looking for - bright red, orange, and gold threads and embellishments - and Karen looked around while I was in class. I came back at lunch when I had more time to shop and Karen had a selection ready for me. I really loved her booth and all the samples she had and snapped this photo of her in the middle of it all:

So that's the main haul from the Myrtle Beach Quilt Party! Now I just need to get all this fabric into the wash for a good prewash and then hung up with the stash in the quilting room. I hope I have enough hangers!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, January 28, 2011

Free Motion Quilting Tools

It's been such an incredibly long time since I've written a Feature Friday that you might have forgotten that that's what I'd originally planned for this day way back in June! This was supposed to be a day that I share about the tools I'm using in the studio or next to my machine to explain what works and what doesn't work for me.

free motion quilting | Leah DayRecently a friend asked me about these posts and said she missed seeing them, so I'm going to make a real effort from now on to always post on Fridays too.

This week let's review the three best quilting tools for free motion quilting: Supreme Sliders, Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers, and Machingers Quilting Gloves.

You can click here to find all three items in the Ultimate Quilting Kit from the quilt shop.

free motion quilting | Leah DayAfter teaching at Myrtle Beach Quilt Party, I was reminded of just how little quilters know about these tools or how much they help with free motion quilting.

I literally can't quilt without them - if I take my gloves off, if my bobbin washer goes missing, or if I wash off my slider and forget to put it back, my stitches just don't look as good, and it's also not as fun or easy to free motion quilt.

So let's learn about these tools in this new video:

Just in case you can't watch the video, first I shared a bit about the Supreme Slider.

This is a Teflon sheet that goes over your machine bed and reduces the friction between your quilt and the surface of your machine and table. It makes your quilt easier to move around and create beautiful designs with less strain on your body.

One side of the slider is pink and grippy and will stick to your machine bed without being an actual sticker. You can peel it off and move it all you won't and it doesn't leave any sticky residue.

The slick side of the slider is positioned face up, and you'll want to line up the hole in the center with the hole in your machine. The slider will cover your feed dogs, so if you're like me and you don't drop your feed dogs, the slider will cover those little teeth so your quilt will not come in contact with them.

Now the Supreme Slider is an awesome tool, but it is delicate. If you're not used to using it, it's easy to accidentally stitch through it (which is awful), so I do advise taping down the corners with masking tape the first couple times you use it until you get used to the feel of it under your quilt.

Note: I have been getting many emails about the new Queen Supreme Slider, which is going to be almost double the size of the regular sized slider. I do plan to start carrying these in February and will likely launch them next week with the Day 250 Sale!

The second thing I mention in the video is Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers. These are little teflon washers that go into your bobbin case and help your bobbin thread glide smoother and more evenly.

For drop down (or top loading) bobbins, just place the washer in the machine, then your bobbin on top and thread your bobbin just like normal. If you have a side loading bobbin, simply place the washer inside, then your bobbin on top, then wind the case just like normal.

I use the washers in ALL my machines and for more than just free motion quilting. I never take them out as I find that they also help with piecing, applique, and general sewing. There's just a lot less annoying thread breaks and tension issues with the washers in, particularly if you're working with some fun or funky threads.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow the last tool I absolutely love are my Machingers Quilting Gloves. If you've seen even one of the almost 250 filler design videos on this project, you will have noticed that every single one was stitched out wearing gloves.

I had some odd emails at the very beginning of the project - "Is something wrong with your hands? Why are you wearing gloves?!"

Trust me, it's not because I have a strange skin fungus, it's because the gloves really work to help me grip the quilt and move it around precisely. The easier you can move the quilt, the more control you have of it, the better your stitches will look.

I also find that wearing the gloves drastically reduces the amount of strain my hands and shoulders take while quilting. Without them, I would find myself gripping my hands into a fist around the quilt to move it around, which started hurting pretty quickly.

With the gloves on, I can keep my hands flat while moving the quilt and be able to keep quilting much longer because I've reduced the strain on my body.

So that's it! These are the three tools I recommend for free motion quilting because I can't quilt without them.

While I can't say that all three will work for absolutely everyone (some people hate to wear gloves for example), I do believe in trying a variety of tools and methods before finding the ones that work for you.

As James likes to say "Try it, you'll like it, it's GOOD!"

Now I've put the three tools together into an Ultimate Quilting Kit which is available right here in the Leah Day Quilt Shop.

Let's go Quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ultimate Greens

Josh here today for our recipe, which is boiled mixed greens!

No, I'm not joking. This is today's recipe. And I know when one thinks of boiled greens like collards, kale, etc., the taste that comes to mind is only a grade above rice gruel or Oliver Twist porridge.

Well, this recipe is different. It will convert the most ardent of greens haters into a devotee. Maybe not, but it's good and packs a lot of nutrients.

I got the recipe from the following youtube video by Divas Can Cook and modified it accordingly.

Ultimate Greens

1 Tbs favorite hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbs dried minced onions
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white table wine
1-2 cups chicken stock
Choice of bunch of collard, turnip, mustard greens, or kale (or a combination of any)*
1 smoked turkey leg
1 Tbs olive oil

* You only want the leaves of the greens. So rip off the leafy part from the stem and julienne into strips.

Heat oil in medium size pot. Add red pepper flakes, stir for 5 minutes. Add garlic, cooking for no more than 1 minute. Pour in wine, broth, and add greens. Add turkey leg. Season with minced onion flakes, ground black pepper, and hot sauce (peri peri hot sauce is incredible in this).

Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 10 minutes. When greens have darkened, remove cover and simmer until greens are dark green and turkey meat is done. Strip meat from turkey, mix into greens.

Serve with crumbled bacon and a bottle of hot sauce for the table.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

One of THOSE Days

We all have them and there's no way to get around it.

Some days just suck. Nothing works, everything you try to do blows up in your face, every stitch you try to stitch needs to be seam ripped, etc, etc, etc.

I'm having one of those days. It doesn't help that Josh is having one of those days at the same time, and when you work 10 feet from your husband, negative vibes can turn into a maelstrom of crazy stress.

So what exactly is Leah working on this Wednesday?

I'm taking the day off to catch up on all the little things that require minimum brain power or fine tuned detail like laundry, cleaning out my bathroom closet, and hanging a new curtain rod.

After all, on a day like today, if I did try to actually accomplish something it would probably end up looking like that large black cloud above my head!

Here's to a day off,


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 249 - Pipe Maze

Remember Mario Vine? This was a cool design posted awhile ago and inspired by the cartoony vines in Super Mario Brothers.

Here's another video game inspired design! In Super Mario Brothers 3, world 7-1 is just a huge maze of pipes that you have to jump and dodge your way through in order to get out. It's a challenging level to play, but it's not to tricky to stitch!

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhoa! Is it really Day 249 already? This project has certainly grown leaps and bounds and it's so nice to have so many designs to choose from.

To celebrate hitting the milestone of Day 250, we're planning a huge sale in the quilt shop starting next week! This is going to be one sale you don't want to miss!

Difficulty Level - Super Beginner. This is really a super easy design! It's a great design to practice straight lines and sharp angles, which can sometimes be tricky to keep straight and even.

Design Family - Overlapping. The really nice thing about these designs is their simple, no fuss quality. Cross your lines all you want, overlap your rectangles all over the place, and you still get an amazing texture.

Directional Texture - No Direction. This design doesn't have a lot of flashy movement, but it does fill your quilting space quickly and easily, which is very nice if you're in a hurry and need a design to work in a large scale that covers acres of space with every pass.

Suggestions for Use - Because this is such a simple, graphic design, I really think it'd be a great choice for a baby quilt. Piece up a quilt with bright colors and shapes and quilt it together with Pipe Maze for a fun, cuddly quilt that won't take forever to finish.

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

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 248 - Electric Paisley

It is so good to be home! I wandered around yesterday putting everything back in place and I almost felt like hugging my Horizon. After 3 days of free motion quilting on my Bernina Activa (the machine I use for traveling), I'm very happy to be back to my studio, stitching on my regular machine.

So let's get back to the project! Nothing makes life feel like it's back to normal like creating some new designs. Here's what happens when Paisley sticks his finger in a socket - it becomes Electric Paisley!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah DayToday I'm back to work on my Australian Shadows Quilt. I've been quilting this on a 1/2" scale so it'll be the perfect throw for the couch, very soft and cuddly.

This also means the quilting has gone by very quickly and now I only have a bit in the borders left and then it's binding time!

I haven't decided what stitch to use in the long border areas. Of course, the fabric in this area is interesting enough I could just stitch along the edges of the print. That would make for a neat design and a quick finish!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. Stitching the first line, then travel stitching all the way back to the beginning is really the biggest challenge with this design. As I said in class last week, if you stitch off a few times, don't worry about it! No one is going to see a few mistakes and it might even add to the design.

Design Family - Pivoting. This still remains one of my favorite design types because it fills your space quickly, but you can easily bend and twist the designs around odd areas. I'd love to see this design stitched on a larger scale. Maybe this is what I'll use in the borders of my quilt!

Directional Texture - All Directions. Straight lines and sharp angles always create a slightly different, more graphic texture than flowing, curving lines. Something about all those straight lines gives the design multi-directional texture, but also flattens it out at the same time.

Suggestions for Use - The neat thing about this design is it can really be used as either the background area (an area you want to recede or flatten in the background of your quilt) or you can stitch in the more dominate, showy areas.

I think this would be really interesting to use in a landscape quilt for the air or water. While it's certainly not what most people would think of as a good water design, I think it could have a very neat effect!

Back of Electric Paisley
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts
and send in a picture to show it off!

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

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Teaching at Myrtle Beach

You might have been wondering where the heck I've wandered off to this week after Wednesday and I can happily say I've gone to the beach!

Myrtle Beach Quilt Party is a retreat organized by Mardelle Smith now running in its 21st year. This year she added a vendor mall of many awesome quilting vendors along with a nice line up of teachers.

Teaching this week went very well and I absolutely loved every student! This was my first experience teaching a two day class and it was really nice to have more time to remember every tip and tidbit, to show the students a sampling of almost all the design types, and to watch the quilters go from totally unsure of their ability to ready to go home and quilt a real quilt.

More than anything else I feel that teaching is more about building confidence and providing encouragement than actual techniques. So many quilters have convinced themselves that they "can never do free motion quilting" and it's simply not true!

If you remember back to your very first quilt block, was it pieced perfectly? Did all the lines match up? Did that stop you from continuing to piece and quilt more quilts? NO!

So your first quilt won't be perfectly quilted, who cares!? Just quilting one quilt will give you enormous practice at moving the quilt and forming the design and by the time you get done with that quilt you will be light years better than when you started!

All it really takes it one single design. Just pick one beginner level design and get started on a quilt or just plain fabric that you're not emotionally invested in (so maybe not the quilt that took 500 hours to piece and contains remnants of your grandmothers wedding dress).

Just quilt! Make some charity quilts! Make a quilt for a teenager in your family or that nasty daughter in law who you know won't take care of a real quilt. Get all your ugly stitches out (and yes we all have to stitch through a set of ugly stitches first) and get on with quilting and learning so you can get to the level you want.

Whew! So that's my rant. Stop waiting, start quilting. No excuses!

I'm off to bed. Three days of teaching have worn me plain out. I swear I love to teach, there is nothing more inspiring and energizing than a room full of learning students, but traveling and hauling all this stuff is just too hard. Gotta be an easier way!

Let's go sleep!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Am Enough

This is a post I've been wanting to write for awhile. I realized about 3 weeks ago while working on Sinkhole just how much some rippling issues were bothering me about that quilt top.

Rippling happens when a quilt wasn't pieced quite perfectly. It usually happens when a piece of fabric is cut fine, but either from being in a hurry or not paying attention, it's not pieced just right into the quilt. The result is a rippling effect where the fabric of the quilt top is baggy in certain areas and it only gets exacerbated when you start adding dense free motion quilting over it.

I fully admit to rushing through the construction process of Sinkhole, and it caught up with me when I reached the quilting and found huge amounts of rippling and bagginess over the outer rings.

This actually started to bother me more than the negative words did! The rippling was a huge imperfection and kind of like the quilt was saying "You're not as good as you thought, are you???"

While working through that quilt, I laid in bed one night thinking about these issues and how huge these flaws appear on the quilt. Then I started thinking about all the flaws on my other quilts and how enormous they appear to me. Why is it impossible to create a perfect quilt?

As I lay there thinking about this, I remembered the numerous quilters who write every day worried they will ruin a quilt by trying free motion quilting. I remember the number of times I've seen a gorgeous quilt, only to have the creator point out every flaw and issue with the quilt top and quilting.

So I know I'm definitely not alone in obsessing about flaws and imperfections, and I know this tendency stretched beyond our quilts too.

How many times have I complimented a woman on her outfit or her hair, only to hear her cut herself down for her weight, her complexion, or some other perceived flaw?

We look for flaws constantly in ourselves, we know our greatest limitations, our weaknesses, and visible imperfections so well, it's hard to see beyond them, and this bucket full of negative, flaw searching really makes it that much easier to hate ourselves.

In my quest through Sinkhole, I've really sought one thing: to overcome my own self hatred. By writing the dark words on my quilt, I finally faced the underlying causes - every negative, cutting, harsh word that I believed wholeheartedly and that had caused my eyes to focus solely on my flaws, never on my perfection.

Yes, I said the word perfection.

I'm not being stuck up or conceited. In every quilt I've ever seen, there are flaws, but the perfection always far exceeds the small areas with issues. Usually if the flaws hadn't been pointed out, I would never, ever have found them.

Which means that in every quilt, and in every person, there is overwhelming perfection just waiting to been seen and acknowledged.

For years I've been given many compliments "You are so creative. I love your work. Wow, this is so impressive." and those compliments never seemed to stick. As soon as that person was done talking, I was off again pointing out the flaws, nit picking every issue, and with each one found, reminding myself again and again "You're not good enough, you are not smart enough, you are not pretty enough."

And I realized laying in bed that night that these words are kind of like a mantra, chanted over and over until they become true, when in fact, they are the very reverse of true. They are a mantra of self hate, a focus on all things negative, shameful, and lacking.

I've said many times to my friends and family this month "Self hate is a habit."

It is a habit to say these things to ourselves. It is a habit to focus only on the negative, to ignore the perfection and beauty and possibility that lie in every person. I have to remind myself of this daily, so that as I dig myself out of this sinkhole, I don't fall back into my old habits of self hate.

You might think that something as small as finding flaws on your quilt doesn't amount to something as awful sounding as "self hate," but I beg to differ. If you are a quilter, making quilts brings you pride and happiness. To search for and point out the flaws in your quilts is to crush your pride and happiness a bit each time you do it.

Recently I picked up a magazine on crafty blogging only because three words were written on the cover: I AM ENOUGH.

The magazine article went on to describe an artist initiative created by Tracy Clark. It is a self-kindness collaboration of artists and women who share their stories. You can read many of them right here.

But those words stuck with me like nothing else. I Am Enough.

I had to ask myself: why is this so huge? What about these words moves me tears, to laughter, to change?

And then I realized, these words are the very reverse of that negative mantra and there is awesome power in their simplicity: I am enough. I am pretty enough. I am powerful enough. I am perfect enough. I lack nothing.

So this was the last line I wrote on Sinkhole:

I am enough. My love for myself is enough to move mountains. I do not need your approval to be happy or free.

I had to stop writing words at that point, to take some time off to make those words true. To get some practice saying these words, living them, and applying them to every part of my life.

At the same time the idea for Hot Cast popped into my head. A goddess that symbolizes this learning curve. Of learning how to allow love to flow from your heart freely, regardless of flaws or imperfections.

I am enough.

Say it with me because You Are Enough too.


Leah Day

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 247 - Graffiti Art Curved

If you remember back to last week and Graffiti Art, the interesting design I misspelled, you'll remember that I mentioned a curvy version of this design, and here it is!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Yeah, I misspelled this one too! Josh is always griping at me because I'm horribly lazy about spelling. I'm always asking him "How do I spell...?" even though I have access to countless online dictionaries at my fingertips!

As for the words showing up, if you want them to show up the best, use Graffiti Art and don't echo stitch them. The words will stand out very boldly and be clear to read on your quilt.

If you want them to show up mildly, stitch them in cursive like Graffiti Art Curved and don't echo stitch them. This is more subtle, but also more personal because it's a lot more like handwriting. If you want to hide your words, then stitch the echo stitching and it will hide the words and make them more of a subtle statement.

And how do I know? Because I made the mistake of stitching Sinkhole, not knowing that the straight lines and sharp angles of Graffiti Art would overwhelm the nice words stitched in cursive. The darkness is overwhelming the light.

This is a pretty big problem and one I'm still trying to find a solution to. The bad words on this quilt are just simply way too overwhelming. It's one thing to make a dark quilt, it's another thing to make a vortex of negativity and depression.

free motion quilting | Leah DayMy best friend asked me last week if I'm ever going to finish Sinkhole, show photos, or close the door on this quilt. I didn't have an answer for her.

The reason? This quilt is far, far from being finished. It may be that I need to rip every dark line out, slowly and painstakingly un-stitching each word. All I know is, I have an intense pull to work on Hot Cast, and I'm following that pull and allowing myself some space from Sinkhole.

I certainly don't regret quilting this quilt the way I did. I received a lot of advice generally along the line of "Don't do that! That's so negative and bad!" which I happily ignored. This is a journey, no one ever said it would be easy, and I'm very, very glad I stitched out all those negative phrases, even if I do rip them out, paint over them, or obscure them in some way, that will be part of the journey too.

So that's my long winded explanation and a photo of one side of the quilt. Let's get back to learning actually how to quilt Graffiti Art Curved:

Difficulty Level - Advanced. This is a bit easier than the straight lines and sharp angles of Graffiti Art because it flows more naturally like handwriting.

Design Family - Foundational. The words are stitched as the foundation line, then echo quilted to fill the space. If you'd rather the words stand out more, don't echo quilt. It's as simple as that!

Directional Texture - All Directions. The texture of the design is created by the words you stitch. Another name for this design that I considered was "Words Have Weight" which they definitely do.

Suggestions for Use - Words are powerful. Quilts are powerful. I think combining the two makes for an extremely awesome work. The question is, What do you have to say?

Back of Graffiti Art Curved
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Feel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 246 - Grass Channel

Ah! The sun is shining, the snow is nearly all melted, and I can finally see some patches of green grass that help me remember that winter does not actually last forever, even if it feels like it does.

So let's celebrate those small green blades of grass and see how they work in a filler design:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah DayToday is another busy day of writing lists, packing, checking the list, and packing some more. I swear the amount of stuff I drag with me to workshops grows with each class!

But there is light at the end of the tunnel and I'm hoping to finish packing so I can spend some time hand appliqueing Hot Cast.

When I'm not chilling on the couch with a needle in hand, I'll be at the machine, quickly quilting the Australian Shadows Quilt. I decided to use a wider scale so this quilt will be soft and cozy rather than stiff, and this means the quilting is much faster to finish!

Inspiration - While working on Cave Points, and remembering Flowing Glass and Trailing Tears, I realized just how easy it is to come up with new Edge to Center Designs. Just play with the shapes and viola! you have a new design!

Another cool idea to try with this design is to change the direction of the curve on the opposite side. The points would still meet up in the middle, but the opposing curve would add quite a funky twist to this simple design.

Difficulty Level - Beginner. These simple curving shapes are really easy because once you get the first shape stitched, all the rest are simply echoed from that original curve. If you struggle to get the opposite side curving just the same way, try marking just the starting curve and it may work a bit easier.
Design Family - Edge to Edge. This design is stitched from the edges of your quilting space into the center, making this a great design type for narrow, open areas like sashing or borders. 

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. The nice thing about Grass Channel is the texture created when the two sets of curves meet up in the center. It gives your eyes a place to go draws attention to any areas of a quilt you stitch them into.

Suggestions for Use - This design really is the perfect sashing filler. Grass Channel can easily be stitched on a large scale, so it will fill a quilt quickly.

Sashing can be deceptively time consuming to quilt so it's nice to have a design that you know will go into a space without a lot of fuss and produce a really nice effect.

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

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

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Packing for the Party!

That's Myrtle Beach Quilt Party to be exact!

I've been getting really excited about this event. It's 3 days of workshops taught in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the Sheraton Convention Center. For those not attending classes, there is going to be a terrific vendor mall of quilting businesses from all over.

My friend Brenda Arrowwood of Schoolhouse Quilts will be there with her huge supply of books and every quilting notion known to quilting kind. It really is an amazing collection of tools, rulers, gizmos, and gadgets all designed to make quilting easier.

I'm probably going to stop by Featherweight Poppy, which is quite a dangerous idea as I've been thinking more and more about buying a Singer Featherweight. Do I really need another machine? Absolutely not! But wouldn't it be fun to see how a featherweight handles free motion quilting?

And of course I can't miss The Quilter's Gallery and their fabric pizzas - high in fiber, but calorie free!

I've known about this quilt party since I moved to Shelby, NC because so many members of my guild attend each year. It's hard to miss it when you attend a guild meeting only to find a skeleton crew because everyone has gone to the beach!

It was super exciting to be asked last spring if I'd like to teach classes there this year. Apparently my fellow guild members had spread the word a bit because apparently there weren't any classes on free motion quilting at the party in 2010.

What I like best is the chance to teach a 2 day class. This will allow me to share SO much more about free motion and allow us to get into designs and design types that I have never managed to get to in my 1 day, 6 hour classes.

Early on in the planning for these classes, I decided to try something new: to teach directly out of From Daisy to Paisley, the beginner book on free motion quilting designs.

I decided to do this because I usually end up spending 3 days printing and organizing handouts that end up either getting lost or not being used. That's a frustrating waste of time to say the least, and by teaching out of the book, I don't have to spend this weekend writing, printing, and stapling as I normally do before a workshop.

So today I plan to get everything organized and packed, and in my spare time, hand applique a bit more of Hot Cast's hair.

So that's it for today! I'm off to pack, applique, and quilt!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not Pizza, Meatza!

Josh here for Recipe Thursday. Today we're featuring a recipe that's a little different. And before you say, "Please, for all that's good and decent in the culinary spectrum, not another pizza substitute!" I'll tell you right now there is no almond flour, cauliflower, spinach mash, or questionable textured soy protein so prevalent in alternative vegan foods.

And you won't believe me until you try this yourself, but I actually prefer this to real pizza.

This modified recipe comes to us from Justin Owings, a practitioner of paleolithic eating. This is essentially Atkins (high protein, minimal carbs, no grains or sugars) with a basis on evolution and the hypothesis that agricultured grains are not something we should be eating.


1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp caraway seeds (Justin states you cannot skip this ingredient and I zealously agree)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp coarse ground pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground hot Italian sausage
2 eggs
Tomato sauce (bottled or homemade*)
Grated mozzarella cheese
Toppings of your choice

Preheat oven to 450.

In a large mixing bowl fully mix ground beef and sausage together. Crack eggs and incorporate. Add all seasonings and grated Parmesan cheese.

Slam meat mixture into a cooking pan at least 2 inches high. Pound meat flat until it touches edges. It's okay if the meat doesn't reach all the way to the edge.

Put pan in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes, browning meat. Remove pan and remove fat. Also use a paper towel to dab out fat and additional grease. The meat "crust" will have shrunk, but that's okay.

Pour a layer of tomato sauce over crust. Then add pepperoni, if using, then a thick layer of mozzarella, then any additional toppings (or another layer of pepperoni). For toppings we use onions, green pepper, mushrooms, and radishes. Grate some mozzarella over the top.

Turn oven to 500 or to broil. Return meatsa to oven and cook for 5 or so minutes, watching continually. The meatsa will be done with the cheese starts to turn golden.

* Homemade Tomato Sauce

1 22 oz can chef's cut tomatoes with basil (you could also use crushed tomatoes or tomato puree in a pinch--Cento brand is my favorite)
1/4 cup dry red wine
6-8 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
1/3 cup fresh parsely, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil

Heat pan and add olive oil. Saute garlic for no more than a minute, not letting brown. Pour in wine. Pour tomatoes. Add basil and parsley and salt and pepper. Simmer for at least an hour, skimming the foam and scum from the top every 15 minutes. I keep the empty can next to the stove for the skim.
If you're a fan of meatloaf, you'll love this. And hopefully if you're a fan of pizza, you'll love it too. A slice or two of this will definitely fill you up. And it's a fun recipe, something different to try.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hot Cast - Part 3

It's amazing how fast a quilt will move when you're absolutely in love with her! I've spent the last three days finishing the design and beginning the construction process for Hot Cast.

I haven't really pushed myself to GET IT ALL TOGETHER RIGHT NOW because it is simply impossible this week with all the snow and my 3 year old being home from school, and because I usually rush this process which only lead to issues down the road and I finally seem to have learned my lesson from previous quilt catastrophes.

It might seem simple, but with every goddess, the construction process changes a bit. With each quilt the design has different challenges that render an old method not as useful or more tedious and time consuming than it needs to be.

Here's a quick review of the construction techniques used in past goddesses:

Life and Fire - Appliqued using Ann Holmes's No Sewing Until You Quilt It method so the whole top was constructed using French Fuse, basted, then the first stitches made in it were to quilt it and applique it at the same time.

free motion quilting | Leah DayRelease Your Light - The body and hair were hand appliqued on a white bed sheet, fully quilted like a wholecloth, blocked and bound, then the whole quilt was painted using Shiva Paintstiks.

free motion quilting | Leah DayShadow Self and My Cup Runneth Over - Both of these quilts were pieced (and a bit of applique) using Sharon Schamber's Piece-lique technique.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah DayWhile designing Hot Cast, I immediately saw issues with the design that would make traditional piecing or applique really tricky. For one thing, the pieces I actually want to applique are huge, around 40 inches long or more.

I also wanted to leave large areas of the quilt white, almost like a wholecloth, so that the quilting was the absolute #1 focus.

Then I started thinking about Release Your Light and painting most of the surface of the quilt, but nothing will allow me to forget how extremely tedious and time consuming painting a large quilt can be. While it's a wonderful way to make a quilt and certainly saves loads of time in the construction process, it's by no means my favorite way to add color to a quilt.

If I'm really being honest with myself, I know that fusing would probably be the most perfect method, but for this quilt I want to use loads of trapunto and the stiffness caused by fusing drives me up the wall.

Right now hand applique is still my absolute favorite construction method, if I have the time to devote to it. I know you might be shaking your head really this is probably one of the most tedious and time consuming construction methods around!

But for me it is peaceful and one of the few times I allow myself the joy of handwork. It is not fast, but if done carefully it does result in perfect work. Best of all, I can hand applique while sitting on the couch, or on the floor, or anywhere James decides he wants to play, and we can spend some time together while I put this quilt together. I certainly can't do that with painting or machine applique!

With so many methods available, and already knowing the specific look I was wanting for this quilt, I decided the best thing I could do was to test a variety of techniques and see which one worked the best.

First I created a sample of the body section of Hot Cast. I just quickly marked this on scrap fabric, basted it with scrap batting and backing and quilted the outlines very quickly.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI decided to try this on a body section because I have a very specific idea for what I want the body to look like for this quilt and I wanted to find the quickest way to get this look.

So first I tried painting. For this quilt I'm playing with Jacquard Lumiere paints. I'd heard about these several times from my quilting friend Susan Brubaker Knapp and finally decided to give them a try.

I love how the yellow and orange look like molten metal, exactly the look I'm trying to achieve.

Unfortunately the black body areas didn't turn out the way I wanted. I had to apply the paint very thick in order for it to totally cover the white fabric and then it went stiff and still had some white bleed through.

That settled it! No painting the body! So what about applique?

I quickly drew out a few of the shapes on the opposite side onto freezer paper, cut out black fabric, turned the edges, and glued them down to the sample.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe right side was painted and the left side was appliqued. The first applique piece went on okay, but then I struggled a bit to line up the pieces along the body edge. Not lining up all the way is just not going to cut the mustard for this goddess, so this method of cutting all the body shapes separately was scrapped too.

While this might seem like a time consuming waste of fabric and energy, it was actually quite essential to knowing how to put this goddess together. Looking at the little sample I could see clearly that I like two things about it: the black kona cotton used as the body and the bright Jacquard paint used as the veins.

So I decided to try one more sample, painting the black fabric to indicate the veins.

free motion quilting | Leah DayEureka! That's what works, isn't too time consuming or annoying, and will achieve the look I'm hoping to achieve. Best of all, this allows me to construct the body out of one solid piece of black fabric, hand applique, fully quilt the whole quilt, then go back after the quilting is finished to paint the veins.

Once the construction method was figured out, I began creating the large body piece. Because this piece is so big, I was extra careful to keep everything very, VERY flat and very, VERY stiff. I used loads of starch on the black fabric to stiffen it almost as much as the freezer paper so that it wouldn't warp or shift as I was turning the edges.

This time I also took another extra step of hand basting the body to the marked quilt top using YLI water soluble thread. I basted from the center, smoothing and flattening gently, until the whole body section was attached securely. This thread will stay in place even after I've hand appliqued the edges to keep the body fabric from shifting during the quilting process.

free motion quilting | Leah DayAnd finally last night I started on the hair. Originally I'd planned to make her hair purple and blue, but in the middle of the night as I lay in bed visualizing the quilt, I realized this was a mistake and said aloud "Her hair is not right." and woke Josh up out of a sound sleep!

So this morning I got back to work on it and changed her hair to orange and yellow, the perfect colors for a goddess on fire.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo that's the construction methods used so far. My plan is to only hand applique her body and hair. I may fuse the landscape in the background, or I may just let green thread do all the work, I haven't decided yet.

I do know that the columns, stairs, and floor the goddesses is standing on will remain white, or may be painted with only a subtle wash of pearly Lumiere paint to make them look like marble. I plan to quilt these areas almost like a wholecloth, adding puffy trapunto feathers and raised ridges to the columns that will stand out more because the fabric will remain light.

I'm playing with a lot more stark contrast with this quilt, and a lot more white than I've ever used before and it's fun to see where this will go!

I'm having a really terrific time putting this goddess together. Unlike other quilts in this stage, I'm taking my time, still sleeping, and not rushing through or racing to the finish.

She is my favorite of all of them so far and, while I can't wait to see the finished quilt, I love working on her a bit every day. It's this patience and peacefulness that I've definitely needed this winter, a chance to sit down with a needle and thread on a cozy couch, watch some movies, listen to some books, and slowly stitch these pieces together.

Let's go quilt,


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 245 - Graffiti Art

Since I decided how to quilt Sinkhole back in September, I've received many curious emails about exactly HOW I was going to write words on my quilt.

So I decided to create a filler design just for this! Here's what it looks like when you miss-spell Graffiti on a quilt!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Nope, I'm not the best at spelling and I learned a very important lesson while quilting this sample: it really helps to mark the word (and spell check) before quilting it!

I also played around with curving the lines so it looked like cursive writing, but the textures looked so different from the straight lines and sharp angles of Graffiti Art that they really needed to be two different designs. So Graffiti Art Curved will show up sometime next week!

Inspiration - When creating this design, I wanted a way to write words on a quilt, but not have them too tiny and small to read, or too big and showy that they overwhelm the design.

Stitching the words as a foundation for echo quilting seemed the best balance. By stitching the words first, then echo quilting, you can still definitely read the words on the quilt, but they are not too obvious.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. Writing the words in straight lines and sharp angles is actually harder than writing in cursive because you need to do a little more thinking about spacing the words and shaping them. As I said before, this is one design that it doesn't hurt to cheat and mark on your quilt first!

Design Family - Foundational. This design is formed by first quilting the words, then echo quilting the whole phrase to fill up your quilting space. If you want your words to stand out a bit more, try stitching them twice (or with a different colored thread), then echo quilting with a single line. The extra thread play will darken the lines that form the words and they will be slightly easier to read through all the echo quilting.

Directional Texture - All Directions. The texture of the design is really created by the words themselves, so the bigger and more interesting the letters, the more interesting the texture will be!

Suggestions for Use - Having quilted all but 3 lines of Sinkhole, I can most definitely say that writing words, particularly words that have emotional weight, onto a quilt can be terrifying, but also an extremely beneficial experience.

As you write the words, you have to repeat them in order to keep the correct shapes in your mind. For me this repetition became almost like a prayer or a meditation on releasing negativity. Face it and release it.

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

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 244 - Aztec Path

Whoa! Dude look at all this SNOW!

Depending on where you live in the world, this might not be very impressive, but for Shelby, NC, this is enough snow to shut down the whole town, close all schools and businesses, and create a cabin fever panic that has cleaned out the area grocery stores of milk, bread, and eggs.

I never have understood the whole milk, bread, and eggs thing. Personally when I'm stocking up for a snowstorm, I go for crave food like ice cream, Doritos, and beer!

It's kind of funny that I set up to share this design on such a snowy day. I'm certainly dreaming of Aztec paths and hot summer days!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Inspiration - Echo Crosses was a really neat design that got me thinking about cross shapes and how to use them more often. I decided to try a very simple cross baseline that could be echoed to fill any area and I think this finished up looking pretty neat!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design starts with a straight line, then occasionally branch off with a + shape. You can change the texture by increasing or decreasing the size of your + shapes and then fill the rest of your quilting space by echoing this base line.

Design Family - Foundational. This design starts with the simple baseline and + shapes. This line works as your foundation which is then echoed multiple times on both sides to finish filling the quilting space. Really this is a design that can go anywhere on your quilt and will look great stitched on any scale!

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. I love the texture created by straight lines and sharp angles! It's a neat combination because the design will recede and show off less than a curvy line, but your eyes are naturally drawn to it because so few shapes in nature are perfectly straight.

Suggestions for Use - The simple graphic texture they create is perfect for areas of your quilt that need to recede a bit, like sashing! Personally I keep thinking about my Australian Shadows quilt and I think this would be the perfect design for the background!

Back of Aztec Path
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hot Cast - Part 2

Ah! I have had a truly wonderful week working on this goddess quilt design. Many readers wrote in asking for a video on my design process, interested to see how this quilt is going to take shape.

The thing about making a video on design's impossible. I literally sit at the dining room table for hours on end, drawing, erasing, drawing, erasing, and really it would make for the longest, and most boring movie in the world!

I've also found that I really can't design while I'm on video. Trust me, I tried back in November to redesign The Duchess on video and ended up erasing everything I'd draw in the 2 hour shot. Talk about a waste of time!

But I do understand the desire to learn more about design, and especially how to take a basic idea and turn it into a quilt.

So allow me to write about the process instead!

If you've read last week's post on Designing Hot Cast, then you'll have seen the very first sketches of this goddess:

free motion quilting | Leah Dayj
free motion quilting | Leah DayOne thing I learned while designing this quilt was to use more paper and make more individual sketches as the elements of design come together. Usually I will make one sketch and simply erase and draw, erase and draw, and I don't actually have a record for all the different mutations the design went through.

Up until now I didn't realize that it would be nice to see the stages of the design, but the lesson has been learned so next time I will definitely work with more paper and spend less time erasing!

Looking back at this heavily erased and corrected copy, I believe this goddess went through at least 6 major revisions before her body finished looking like this:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI did eliminate the "tail" through the middle of the piece. That was mostly and idea I was running through based on the way bronze is poured into a sculpture using sprue bars. Eventually I realized that the real source of the molten metal going into this piece is through the heart, so for the first time ever, I'm using a heart shape in a goddess.

The next step after working on her body was to fix her hair. It was just a bit big for the piece which will be very long and narrow. Also from working with My Cup Runneth Over, I'm really wanting to experiment with hair that is more tangled or braided rather than just flowing straight from her scalp.

So I played with that a bit and her hair became shorter and a bit more wild:

free motion quilting | Leah DayAnd that is pretty much the finished version of the goddess! But what should go in the background?

This stumped me for a few days. I kept seeing Hot Cast in a rather tight frame and kept wanting to draw a box around her body, but I didn't want to just piece a regular border on the quilt and call it done. She needed some sort of frame...

When I hit walls like this sometimes I struggle with following my intuition. My intuition said she needed a border, a frame, that was almost as complicated as she was. I struggled with that idea because I was scared it would get TOO complicated and that my drawing skills weren't up to the challenge.

This struggle didn't last long. Finally I realized what I really needed was visual inspiration. If I can see an example of what the quilt needs, then I would be more able to draw it. And I didn't even have to draw the whole thing! A border is symmetrical, so all you have to do is draw half, then fold your paper over to draw the other half.

So I started pulling out my design books. My Dad gave me many of his design books a few years ago and I've amassed a collection of my own so that I have examples of most types of design, ornamentation, and architecture.

The first image that my brain jumped all over was this printer's mark 1213 on page 197 of Symbols, Signs, and Signets by Ernst Lehner:

I love the columns and arch, and especially the feeling of depth the border gives to the whole design.

Once I had the columns in place, I realized the goddess needed to be standing on something. Every other goddess before now has been free floating, kind of suspended in air. Hot Cast needs to come down to earth!

So I drew a platform and suddenly started thinking about stairs. I checked a book on symbolism and yes, stairs or ladders symbolize a shift in understanding or consciousness, the perfect symbol for this quilt.

Stairs are not easy to draw though and I was struggling with that until I remembered a book on Freemasonry I bought a few years ago. I've always wanted to make a quilt showcasing symbols from the masons and this suddenly became the perfect quilt to do it in!

I found two inspiring images in The Freemasons by Jeremy Harwood. On page 88, this apron design served as the perfect inspiration, plus drawing guide for my stairs.

Then on page 60-61, I found another perfect inspiration for a blazing star.

Putting all those elements together, here is Hot Cast with her new frame:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI really, REALLY love this design. It's the most complex, the most ornamental, and the most symbolic goddess I've ever designed. While I sometimes worry that she's a bit busy, I think this is just where my design is leaning right now and I'm going to run with it.

I'm still fiddling with a few elements of the design. The columns and arch have been giving me fits since the beginning. Here's all the little sketches I've created of just the decoration on the tops of the columns. It took drawing all of these to come up with the one I finally liked!

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe quilting design within the columns has also had many revisions. Eventually I had to realize last night that the sketch is done. I have an idea for what will work in the columns and it will just have to be worked out in full scale, probably with the help of a few quilting stencils.

So now that Hot Cast is designed, what next?

Last night I transferred the drawing on to fresh graph paper. This goddess had never been properly squared, so I squared her up on the graph lines and drew her again in pen. I've left out a few elements, like the feathers and column quilting designs, that have to be worked out in full scale.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow I'll take this drawing and load it into my scanner and get this small scale image into my computer.

From there all I really have to do is resize it and print it out! This goddess is ready to go and by the end of the day, I'll have a master copy finished and be working in fabric. I'm so excited!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

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