The Free Motion Quilting Project: February 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 257 - Echo Shortcut

Today we have a really weird design. It's kind of a mix between Echoing Designs and Pivoting Designs, but it looks and acts most like an Echoing Design so I'm calling it Echo Shortcut:

free motion quilting | Leah DayEchoing Designs start with a basic shape, then travel stitch and echo that shape repeatedly. You fill your quilting space by quilting more and more clusters of shapes and echoes all around.

Pivoting Designs are very similar, but they start with a shape, then pivot off the starting point to echo, creating a bit more thread play right around the starting area.

Recently I was thinking about Echoing Designs and wondering if there was a way to make them even easier. What if you created the shape, then pivoted, and widened the space between the lines slowly?

It's a bit of a cheat, but it works much easier, and look terrific on the surface of the quilt. Let's learn how to quilt it!

Inspiration - I was looking at Echo Shell, one of the very first designs from this project, and usually one of the first designs I teach to beginning quilters. I wanted to see if there was an even easier design I could teach and I think I've found it with Echo Shortcut!

free motion quilting | Leah DayDifficulty Level - Beginner. This is much easier than Echo Shell because you don't have to travel stitch to create space for your echo. It can be hard to stitch right over your stitching lines in free motion when you first get started

Design Family - Echoing. Technically it's a mix of Echoing and Pivoting (shall we call it Pichoing? or Ecviting? Ha!) but it works most like an echoing design so that's the category I'm sticking it in for now. I'm curious to see how many designs I can come up with this new model. It might just be a new design type of it's own!

Directional Texture - All Directions. This really has a funky texture and it's quite different from Echo Shell. I love how changing one small thing can change a design completely!

Suggestions for Use - This is super easy and very fast to quilt, so I would experiment with this one over the surface of your whole quilt. If you've never free motion quilted before, this would be a great design to start with!

Back of Echo Shortcut
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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Few Quilty Auctions

Yes! I have finally gotten all my stuff out of the quilting room, photographed, and up on Ebay!

These are items I've either been holding onto for years and years, waiting for divine inspiration to kick in and tell me what to do with it, or they're items I'm downsizing from the store.

Click here to see a list of all my auctions. My name on Ebay is Blindwithopeneye (a name that goes back to high school!)

So here is a short tour of the haul on Ebay:

Sewline Pencils - I've stopped carrying these in the quilt shop (mostly because they're a pain to stock), but I still had quite a few pencils and refills left over. I've put the leftovers together into kits so you can potentially get a pencil and several refill packs for a very nice price.

- I've amassed a fairly ridiculous collection of batting over the last few months! I've wanted to try out new things, but I get so worried it won't meet my expectations, I always end up going back to my standard Quilter's Dream Poly.

So I'm auctioning off some Soy Soft, Luna Loft, and Tuscany Collection battings in sets. They're all crib size and will be perfect to try on a small project just to see how the batting feels and works for you.

Knitting Machine - Yep, I've owned a Bond Knitting Machine for 7 years now. I really enjoyed being able to crack out a sweater in 1 day. Now I really don't have a place I can set this up, nor really the attention span to make sweaters when all I want to do is quilt!

The machine is still in great condition and comes with all kinds of extra tools and upgraded do-hickies. Maybe there is someone out there that's been looking for just this kind of thing for years, who knows?!

Cake Forms - Does anyone remember this great idea from last summer? For the record, it's still a great idea, it's just not legal to sell raffle tickets on a big ticket item unless you're a non-profit in my state.

So if you have a guild or another non-profit group, this would be a great way to run a raffle of fat quarters or quilty supplies. Or the more traditional use would be to use these as actual cake forms. Cover them all with frosting and you'll have a 32" tall beautiful, but totally inedible cake!

Random Fabric Precuts
- I've amassed another collection of precuts and finally this summer I rounded them all up into one bag and declared that if I hadn't used them by 2011, obviously I wasn't going to. They're all very cute prints and would look terrific in a scrappy quilt.

Bernina 807 Machine - I'm really clearing house now! I purchased this machine last year and after getting the Horizon, it just seems silly to have 4 machines.

This little guy is a real workhorse. It's the same size as the Bernina 830, but lighter and has fewer stitches. What it lacks in fancy stitches, it more than makes up for with quilting feet! I've hunted down 15 feet so you can free motion, and pintuck, and roll hems, and piece all on the same machine simply by changing out the feet.

I really haven't used this machine much this past year, and of course it is 30 - 40 years old and has had several owners so far. I'm selling it "as is" and generally after going through the mail, you should always have a machine serviced to make sure the timing hasn't been thrown off.

So that's it for this short tour! There's a total of 21 auctions online and you can Click here to see all of them.

It feels great to clean out all this stuff from the sewing room and know it's going to go to someone else who will use and enjoy it. I've started all of the auctions off at 1 penny, even the sewing machine just to make sure that everything sells this week and by next week I'll have a lot more space in my studio.

Which means I'll need to buy more fabric to fill it up! Ah! The endless cycles of quilters...

Let's go quilt,


Signs of Spring

I don't know what it is with me this year, but I've totally fallen in love with spring!

Usually my preference is for fall, but this year the weather has been so sweet in NC. We've had some gorgeous warm days perfect for getting out in the yard, relaxing, and soaking in a bit of vitamin D.

Today was so nice Josh, James, and I went on a tromp through the "forest" as James calls it. It's really just our overgrown backyard that I hope to one day landscape into something other than a snake and poison ivy den. So far it's too early for either snakes or poison ivy to be growing so we wandered around looking for Josh's lost chicken Regatta.

She was a cute little fluffy black chicken that laid the sweetest tiny eggs. Unfortunately she seems to have flown the coop, possibly picked off by a hawk, but then again she may wander back to the flock in a few days as though she was just taking a vacation.

We're seeing many signs of spring in the yard and gardens. My crocus bulbs planted the year we moved in are still going strong.

I love bulb flowers. You do the work one year and get to enjoy them forever so long as the bulbs get enough nutrients to multiply. The daffodils are also getting started, but none have opened so far.

The yard isn't looking as well as I expected this year. We did a lot of work to it last summer with fertilizer and weed and feed and lots of other stuff, but still the most dominate thing we manage to grow is weeds.

Still, the weeds are growing that beautiful bright green we haven't seen in several months! I'd certainly rather they be there than nothing at all.

Our willow is also leafing out. Josh and I were watching it and last Thursday morning it was still bare, but by the afternoon as we left to get James from school, it was covered with these little green buds. Mother nature can move fast when she's in the mood!

I really enjoyed getting out in the yard and checking everything out today. It's been awhile since I've been in my gardens or taken stock of what I'd like to do with them this year.

Last year I was just too crazy busy to do anything other than quilt and build the business, and for many reasons I just didn't want to be outside. This year things are just as crazy, but I really want to be out enjoying this beautiful weather and playing with James.

Having him turn 4 this week reminded me of just how fast his childhood is going to fly by, and unless I'm here and paying attention, I'm going to miss it.

So I'm heading back out to the front yard to start planning a project we can work on together. I think James is definitely old enough to help me pull weeds and plant flowers. It's high time the kid got a little dirty!

Let's go quilt (or play in the dirt)!

Leah Day

Friday, February 25, 2011

Another Year Older

I've kind of taken this week off to work on quilts and focus on my awesome little boy because this is the day he turns 4 years old.

It's hard to believe it's been 4 years! Sometimes it feels like he's been here forever, a smiling face and cheerful presence my whole life. He really is the most happy, outgoing person I've ever met!

But sometimes it feels like he's only been here 4 minutes, the memories of his birth still so fresh in my mind.

Last year this was a hard day for me because the deep hole of post partem depression was still knocking at my door.

This year, I can feel the space I've put between myself and that pain, the miles of emotion I've tread while creating Shadow Self, My Cup Runneth Over, and Sinkhole.

I've gotten a little distance from all that darkness, but I think it will always be an aspect of my life. It's another little patch on my quilt. It doesn't define me, but it is, and always will be, a piece of me.

So today while I give many hugs and kisses to my baby, who is not really a baby anymore, but a fully potty trained, extensively talking, BIG boy, I'm also going to take a little time for myself to celebrate the time that has passed and the distance I've climbed out of that hole.

To the journey,


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Crockpot Babyback Ribs

This is Josh for our Thursday's recipe.

Leah wasn't able to make her "What's Leah Working on" Wednesday post yesterday because she's neck deep in a series of flower bouquet miniature quilts. They are looking great so far and the plan is to make them available in patterns, which will hopefully be coming very soon.

free motion quilting | Leah DayFor today's recipe we're going to make some delicious and incredibly tender babyback ribs. Once again, we'll be using the crockpot, which means this recipe is ideal to start before you go to work. It's so easy to throw together you'll be amazed at the end product--honestly it was better than the $12.95 rib platter Leah and I love at a Charlotte restaurant.

Crockpot Baby back Ribs

4-6 pounds pork baby back ribs, one rack
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tbs paprika
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp black or mixed peppercorns, freshly ground
3/4 tsp ground oregano
1/4 tsp regular white sugar
Bottle of favorite barbecue sauce, or South Carolina style sauce *

Mix all dry seasonings in a bowl. You may have to pound the brown sugar to be sure it's not clumped and incorporates into the seasoning.

Rub seasoning all over ribs, ensuring every surface is covered. Be sure to coat the underside as well.

Place rack of ribs on edge in crockpot, meat-side out. I curved the ribs into a circle, the ends touching. You want the ribs to stand upright.

Liquid is not necessary as the slow heat steams the ribs and as it cooks moisture is given off and collects on the bottom.

Cook on low all day (minimal 7 hours) or high for 5 hours. Low and slow is the game here. Once you turn on the heat be sure not to open the lid. Just let it cook all day.

Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce or try this mustard-based sauce:

* South Carolina Style Barbecue Sauce

4 cups yellow mustard (2 20-oz squeeze bottles of regular mustard)
8 oz beer, any kind
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
8 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 Tbs cayenne pepper
1 Tbs ground black pepper
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
Dash hot sauce, optional

Heat all ingredients in saucepan over medium heat and mix well. Cook until sauce just begins to thicken. Serve warm or cold.
This unique BBQ sauce has an awesome orange/rusty yellow color. Adjust the cayenne for desired heat--this finishes pretty hot.

- Josh

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 256 - Butterfly Filler

Ah! The sun is shining, a warm breeze is blowing, and a hint of spring is in the air! Outside Josh's chickens have boosted production and we're now getting an average of 3 eggs a day.

So let's celebrate this change of seasons with a filler design dedicated to a bug that seems to symbolize spring - the butterfly!

free motion quilting | Leah DayToday is a busy day recording and editing videos. I'm hoping to be able to get done quickly so I can head into the studio and baste Hot Cast.

When I'm not working on her, I'll be piecing up two new versions of Flower Bouquet! I'm rather addicted to this wallhanging and can't wait to see how it looks in another colorway.

Inspiration - I'm not usually big into butterflies or flowers. My nickname as a little kid was "grub worm" because I was a bit of a tomboy and hated anything too girly. Now I'm finding that flowers, butterflies, and especially pink can be cute and cheerful in the right quantities!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design really isn't very difficult. Just keep a very cartoony butterfly shape in your mind and then echo that shape to fill your quilting space. The hardest areas will be those weird areas where a butterfly won't fit, so either chop one in half or just stitch some curvy lines into the area to keep the design consistent.

Design Family - Echoing. Echoing designs all start with a simple shape (in this case the butterfly) and then build off of it with space filling echoes. Feel free to use this design on a large or small scale and in any area of your quilt.

Directional Texture - All Directions. Because of the echoes, this design has a nice flowing texture. The butterfly shapes will stand out on this design so keep that in mind when you use it.

Suggestions for Use - Yesterday with Falling Stars I imagined using that design on a space quilt for my son James. I guess I have kid quilts on the brain because today I think Butterfly Filler would look terrific on a quilt for a little girl.

I have one such little girl, the daughter of my best friend, who needs a quilt of her very own. I'm thinking a purple and green quilt with this design stitched over the center and Spiral Chain along the borders. It's sure to be a simple, but beautiful quilt and perfect for any little princess!

Back of Butterfly Filler
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

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 255 - Falling Stars

Today is day 255 and I've been looking back through all the designs posted and realized we really need some more star designs!

So here's a fun design of stars set on the end of a jagged line as though they are falling from the sky:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Today I'm back in the studio and working on cleaning it up and clearing it out. I've recently realized just how much STUFF I have sitting around that I'm never going to use.

So I'm planning to throw most of it up on Ebay this week! I know I will be selling at least 1 machine, possibly 2, fabric, a knitting machine, and several items I've discontinued from the store.

I'll keep you posted about the auctions when they get started! Now let's get back to Falling Stars:

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. The hardest part about this design is not creating the falling stars, but dealing with all the weird areas and gaps that can result. If you end up with a big gap in the texture, just quilt some straight lines into the space on the same scale as the rest of the design.

Design Family - Echoing. Falling Stars is pretty similar to Starfish and World of Stars, but I like this one better because it has a lot more movement and flow. A super easy variation of this design would be to switch out the jagged line for a curvy line to create an entirely different texture.

Directional Texture - All Directions. I just love the texture of this design! The straight lines and sharp angles really draw your attention to the stars.

Suggestions for Use - My son James is totally obsessed with space. He's constantly talking about blasting off in his rocket ship and flying to the moon, the stars, or the planets.

If you have a similarly space crazy kid or grandkid, consider creating a space inspired quilt complete with rocket ships, aliens, and planets, but don't forget to stitch some Falling Stars in the background as well!

Back of Falling Stars
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Quilt Courtepointe Video

I'm totally bushed after a wonderful weekend in Columbia, SC with the Greater Columbia Quilter's Guild. What a wonderful bunch of ladies!

So while I go throw myself in bed for hopefully a very long and restful sleep, please enjoy this awesome tribute to quilting video created by Gayle Thomas in 1996 and produced by the National Film Board of Canada:

Connie M sent me this last week and I've gotta say, quilting and Celtic music is the best combination in the world!

My favorite part was the Drunkards path. Which was yours?

I really love seeing all the blocks and how each builds and grows into the next. Patchwork is really what drew me to quilting in the beginning because it is such an open, limitless field to play in because we have literally hundreds, if not thousands, of possible quilt blocks created from simple combinations of squares, triangles, rectangles, hexagons, diamonds, and quarter circles.

I don't know about you, but this video is making me want to pull out my scraps, cut some simple shapes and piece, piece, piece some pretty colors together!

But for me that's going to have to happen tomorrow cause my eyes just aren't staying open a moment longer.

Let's go sleep!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Italian Crockpot Roast

Josh here for a belated Thursday recipe.

This one is going to be quick. It's super easy and has a great flavor.

Italian Crockpot Roast

1 top round beef roast
1 bottle Giardiniera (pickled Italian vegetables, found near the olives)
1 cup peperoncinos (pickled Italian hot green peppers)
4-6 small new potatoes, red or white or combination
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
1/4 cup water
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian dry seasoning (or oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme)

Rub roast in olive and season on all sides. Sear in a pan so the seasonings absorb into the meat until all sides are brown.

Wash potatoes and quarter onion and place at bottom of crockpot. Add 1/4 cup water.

Place roast on top of potatoes and onions. Pour out vinegar from Giardiniera and pepperoncini and add on top of roast.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 5-6.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Beautiful Finish

Today is What's Leah Working on Wednesday and I'm heading into the studio to snap some shots to share with you...

First up is the finished Flower Bouquet Quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah DayLast night I blocked this quilt by steaming it with my iron, then pulling and pushing on it until the borders were straight and finishing at the same size throughout. It ended up finishing at 22" x 29" which I realize is the perfect size for a small, quick project without a lot of fuss.

Now when Josh saw it, he got super excited about the border:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis is Ocean Current, a foundational design that was SUPER easy to stitch through the borders. All I did was set my foundation with a curving, swirling line, and then all I had to do was echo quilt it to fill in the area.

My original plan was to fill one half of the foundation with bright green thread and the other half with dark green thread, but Josh argued that the black looked better so it blended perfectly and allowed the green to really stand out.

Since I know I'm going to make more of these, I decided to try it and I really like how this turned out. Foundational designs are definitely moving up on my list of absolute favorite designs.

Now I had some questions about the background area around the flowers and how I was going to keep the stitching in this area from competing with the flowers.

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt's really just as simple as matching your thread color. I used a dark purple thread that perfectly matched the purple fabric and stitched Sharp Stippling throughout this area. This independent design flattened out the background, allowing the flowers to stand out even better.

For the stems, I left them blank. Call it lazy, but I just didn't think they needed any more texture than they already had from the pretty batik fabric.

But the vase, that's a different matter! This is Pebbles in a Stream stitched horizontally across the vase area. I choose to stitch this in a bit lighter thread color and it worked out very nice:

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow for the bottom section. I did decide to contrast thread boldly here so the stitching would really show off.. This is something I threw in for fun in the background to give the effect that the vase was sitting on a table. It wasn't pieced into the background, it's only stitching!

free motion quilting | Leah DayFor this area, I knew I wanted a vertical texture to oppose the horizontal texture in the vase. I was a bit stuck on a filler choice for awhile because I wanted something vertical, but not necessarily straight lines. I ended up going with Gentle Flames and I think it was absolutely perfect for the space.

Having made one Flower Bouquet, all I can see are the different possibilities to making many more! I really want to play with stitching the flowers with different colored threads and see what a version looks like with all the same flower, just in different colors and sizes.

I also want to play with a wider border, different fillers and textures in the background, vase, bottom area, and borders. There are just so many possibilities!

But before I run off to start making another one, I really need to get this one bound and totally finished.

When I'm not binding this little beauty, I'm going to be stitching away at Hot Cast:

free motion quilting | Leah DayShe's been basted with the first layer of trapunto batting and I'm stitching along the lines I want to be puffy with water soluble thread. I'm hoping to get this finished up today so I can take her with me to Columbia, SC this weekend and clip her on the road. By this time next week, she could be fully clipped out, basted again, and ready to quilt!

So that's it for today! Lot's of pretty things to work on in the studio, many exciting new quilting possibilities, so if you haven't touched your machine today, what are you waiting for?!

Let's go QUILT!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 254 - Sun Medallion

Is the sun out and shining for you today? Right now we have a soft blue sky, gentle breeze, and a hint of spring in the air.

But even if the sun isn't shining in your neck of the woods, you can now make it shine anywhere on your quilts with this Sun Medallion!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I've been trying to create a sun design since the beginning of the project, but every time I tried, it just turned into a mess of triangles shooting in all directions.

This time I focused just on creating a good base of 16 points and then just expanded and echoed them out to the edges. The end result is much easier to stitch and much more interesting looking too!

Click Here if the Video Does Not Appear

Difficulty Level - Advanced. This is a fairly tricky design. I rarely say this, but in this situation I think this design is probably easier to stitch by marking it, rather than free handing the design.

Maybe just start by marking the core 8 points and the 8 more points in between. Once you get this area stitched, it's a simple process of travel stitching around the points, echoing them one by one.

Design Family - Center Fill. This design works by starting in the center and working your way to the outside. It's a simple way to create a quick flower design anywhere on your quilt.

Directional Texture - Center Focused. You can't escape the blasting, center filled texture of this design! Definitely place it where you want lots of eye catching attention.

Suggestions for Use - Guess what I finished up last night?! My Flower Bouquet Quilt!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Now that I've finished this, I can't wait to make another one. I have a feeling this pattern is going to be extremely addictive. Maybe for the next one I'll use Sun Medallion as a flower and play with different colored threads in the next one....heading into the studio to start picking out fabrics now!

Back of Sun Medallion
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, February 14, 2011

Day 253 - Java Stitch

Happy Valentine's Day! This is usually a day of chocolate, hugs, kisses, and silly cards. But this year I think we should add something new to Valentine's Day to make it extra special...

Coffee! Or to be more precise, this coffee inspired design called Java Stitch:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis design is simply a combination of two of my favorites: Coffee Beans! and Poseidon's Eye. Swirl them together and add a dash of cream and you get the perfect design for any coffee, chocolate, or food inspired quilt!

Difficulty Level - Advanced. The trickiest part of this design is filling the circles with Coffee Beans. If the circle is really small, you'll really need to shrink down the oval bean shapes or simply cut them in half in order for them to fit. Just take it slow and don't freak out of every bean is perfect. After all, the coffee still tastes just fine no matter what the beans look like!

Design Family - Branching. I warned you that I was going to make a million variations of Poseidon's Eye! These designs usually work on any scale and in any area of your quilt, but I think Java Stitch will look better when stitched fairly densely. Coffee beans the size of golf balls might look a bit too weird.

Directional Texture - All Directions. How about a nice swirling mocha everyone? You can't escape the beautiful swirly texture, so make sure to place this design where you want a lot of pretty movement and thread play.

Suggestions for Use - I KNOW there have got to be some quilters out there with coffee, chocolate, or other sweet inspired quilts! I'd try using Java Stitch in the background or the sashing of some cute appliqued blocks. Sounds sweet!

Back of Java Stitch
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Getting Back to Hot Cast

I haven't posted much about Hot Cast in the last few weeks.

free motion quilting | Leah DayIn biological terms, I've been letting her gestate.

It's funny I use that word because for the last 2 months I've really been wanting to nest - to curl up in a room with pretty fabric, beautiful thread, and inspiring books, exactly the same way I felt when I was pregnant with James.

Before you run off thinking I'm knocked up, I can guarantee this is not that kind of nesting.

But it is nesting in another sense. It is a moment of peace and silence. It is a moment of slow growth and minimal movement.

While little has changed, I've been slowly working through some deep issues that embody this quilt. Most specifically my issues with anger and with self love.

To start, let me explain that the initial design of Hot Cast was exactly that: hot, angry, molten, and constantly changing. My mood swings during the design process of this quilt were incredible. Happy go lucky one minute to raving rage-filled lunatic the next.

The anger was a by product of Sinkhole. The last words I stitched on that quilt were "I am enough. My love for myself can move mountains. I do not need your approval to be happy or free."

Since stitching them, I've been trying to live these words every day. The last line were words particularly directed to my mother, the person that instilled inside of me a deep well of rage and anger.

She taught me to be angry over almost nothing, but to express it only when the fire reached the boiling point. She taught me that it's wrong to speak my mind and express how I feel, unless of course it's in a constant drone of angry nagging to everyone around me.

Having grown up to constant nagging, I refuse to do it myself as an adult. That used to leave only two outlets for my anger: 1. seethe in fury 2. blow up and destroy everything.

Over the last few weeks, I've slowly hand appliqued the hair of Hot Cast, and I've tried to learn a more positive way to express anger.

More than anything else, I've learned that many things I used to get angry and overreact about were not just out of my control, but out of everyone's control.

A great example is a trip Josh and I took to Hendersonville, NC on Friday. We had a great time, but James ended up in a constant coughing fit all night long so none of us got any sleep.

Even a month ago, I would have gotten up on Saturday in a towering rage, ready to smite all who I perceived responsible for the situation. I could see that this was an avenue my anger was used to taking, but it no longer made any sense.

It certainly wasn't mine or Josh's fault James caught a cold and coughed all night . It wasn't even James's fault as he probably caught it from some snotty nosed kid in preschool!

So I now see the edge of my anger. I see the road I used to turn down, but I no longer take it.

It's not a monumental change, but it is a change nonetheless.

Hot Cast has also challenged me to love myself in a way I never have before. In this simplest terms I'm learning how to be good to myself.

Being good and kind to myself isn't easy. I can be a real slave driver. I like to see a lot accomplished and I get really annoyed with my body if I'm too tired or sick or stressed out to accomplish it. A good chunk of my self worth comes from what gets done and if nothing is getting done, I usually feel like total crap.

So I've had to not only redefine how I love myself, but also how I find a sense of self worth.

Building self worth off of accomplishments works to a degree, but it's ultimately a castle built on sand because when you can't work, you can't finish anything, and then you just feel like crap.

I think this is the area I will focus on more as I continue with Hot Cast. Figuring out how to take that love in my heart, nurture it, grow it, and stretch it out, so even when I've got a migraine or a head cold and I just can't work on anything that day, I still feel okay.

I know I'm already working on this because I find myself saying a few words over and over:

Be gentle. Soften those lines. (the tension in my face). I am enough. Go rest.

So on that note, I'm off to rest and be gentle with myself today. I've been running through a cycle of extreme headaches this week and the only fix has been to chill out in a dark room for a few hours. I'd hoped to get more done today, but it's just not happening when my head feels like it's going to explode.

To softening and accepting what the day brings,

Leah Day

Friday, February 11, 2011

If you don't like it...Break It!

While teaching in Myrtle Beach two weeks ago, I opened class by offering something pretty weird:
"If you'd like me to break your foot just let me know!"

I got some pretty weird looks from that, especially because I was walking around in just socks for most of the class. But eventually students found I wasn't referring to their actual foot, but their free motion quilting foot (also called a Darning foot).

Here's a video I shot last year of me breaking a cheap generic foot. It's always better to do this on another foot rather than the expensive one that came with your machine!

You see, most darning feet are pretty badly designed. I've only experienced two feet fresh out of the box that could work for free motion quilting without being modified in some way.

One was Bernina's Open Toe Darning Foot. I'm not sure why, but I'm having a really hard time finding that foot online and I wonder if they've discontinued it due to the BSR foot? Anyone know?

The other foot that has worked perfect straight out of the box is the darning foot supplied with the Janome Horizon. I absolutely LOVE that foot!

You can pick between an open toe, closed toe, or this wide base foot. Even better, you can adjust the pressure of the foot on your quilt top on the actual foot by fiddling with the little spring thingy on the side. That's just plain awesome!

But most darning feet aren't this smart or well designed. Most look something like this:

This is a generic darning foot I carry in the quilt shop, and straight out of the box, this little guy has some issues.

free motion quilting | Leah DayFirst off he has this long bar jutting out on the top that hits your needle bar every time your needle goes up. This causes the foot to raise up slightly and, when stitching at high speed, makes an awful racket (think machine gun fire).

The design flaw is pretty simple: rather than create some sort of adjustable mechanism, the foot is designed to sit too low on your machine. If it didn't have the needle bar thingy, the foot would be squishing your quilt so bad you wouldn't be able to move it.

So when you stitch with the needle bar in tact, you're not actually getting a totally free range of movement. Every time the needle bar lifts the foot you can move, but as soon as the needle comes down, you've just squashed your quilt again!

Lift, squish, lift, squish isn't a very smooth way of free motion quilting. You need to be able to move and slide your quilt around freely no matter what position the needle is in.

The great news is, the fix is very simple: break that bar off your foot.

Once you break that bar off (or just bend it back with needle nose pliers), your needle bar will no longer hit anything and a peaceful hum, rather than rapid gunfire, will fill your sewing room while you quilt.

But there is a problem! The foot will now be sitting at it's lowest position - the squish position! If placed on your machine in this state, your quilt will be impossible to move underneath it.

So solution #2 is to place either a rubber band or elastic ponytail holder over the top part of the foot, adjusting the height of the foot so that the base skims over the surface of your quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou can adjust how high the foot is by adding or subtracting loops from the top of the foot. I find that the average foot needs 3 loops lifting the base around 1/4." Start with that amount, and if it's too low (still squishing your quilt) add another loop and lift the base a bit more.

And if it's too high (things feel a bit out of control and your thread is prone to break when the foot is too high) take a loop away to drop the base a bit.

You will have extra rubber band or ponytail elastic left so just wind that around the top part to get it out of the way:

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhile this isn't the most elegant fix to your free motion foot, it does WORK and that's what matters.

But there is one other thing that's wrong with this foot:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
The base is a solid oval shape. Yes, it is made from a clear plastic, but that doesn't change the fact that it's nearly impossible to see through.

I prefer an open toe for free motion quilting, especially if I'm travel stitching because you can't stitch perfectly on top of a line you can't see!

To fix this part all you need to do is take some jewelry clippers and clip open the base. Because this can result in some sharp edges, I then take a nail file and sand down the rough edges of the foot.

Viola! An Open Toe Darning Foot, perfectly adjusted for your machine!

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo if you find yourself struggling to move your quilt smoothly and freely, or if you find that travel stitching is virtually impossible because you can't see anything around your needle, you know what to do:

Go break your foot!

That's it for this Feature Friday!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

This is Josh for today's recipe, which is an easy and delicious macaroni and cheese. Once again this recipe is from Divas Can Cook.

Leah and James worked on the cheese part of this meal while I cooked the noodles. James decided to be super cool while stirring it all together:

Leah mentioned that this was the best mac and cheese she'd ever had. That's a pretty bold statement you'll have to test for yourself.
3 cups macaroni, uncooked
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt & pepper
Paprika (optional)
1 cup smoked cheddar cheese, shredded (a must)
1 cup sharp cheddar (can use less if you don't like a sharp taste in your mac n cheese)
1 cup colby & monteray jack, shredded (cheese blend)

Preheat oven to 350.
Step 1.) Cook macaroni until al dente. (Look on the back of the box to see how long you need to cook your pasta for it to reach al dente texture. Do not overcook or you will have a mushy baked mac n cheese.) When pasta is done, drain and set aside.

Step 2.) In a large bowl, add milk, heavy cream & cheeses (except for the smoked cheddar). Stir to combine.

Step 3.) Taste the milk mixture and add salt & pepper until it has a good taste. This will help avoid having a plain, bland bake macaroni & cheese.

Step 4.) When you are content with the taste, add in the eggs. Stir well until combined.

Step 5.) Butter a 9 x 9 inch baking dish, and pour macaroni in.

Step 6.) Pour cheese mixture over macaroni & top with smoked cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with paprika and/or black pepper, if desired.

Step 7.) Bake for 35-45 minutes. Do not overbake. It may be a bit jiggly when you take it out of the oven. It will firm up as it cool.

Step 8.) Let cool for about 10-20 minutes to fully set.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fun with Flowers and Binding

Today is What's Leah Working On Wednesday so let's check into the studio to see what's going on...

I'm happy to say that I'm finally getting the binding on the Australian Shadows Quilt! I have an appointment with my photographer tomorrow so I have to get the rest of this stitched down by tomorrow morning!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Hand binding is a great excuse to chill on the couch with James. He seems to have inherited my ability to handle a quilt full of pins and never get pricked.

This is very unlike Josh who is a human magnet for sharp needles. I swear we can be sitting down and my quilt will have one single pin in it and Josh will get poked. Needless to say, he doesn't like sitting with me when there's a work in progress on my lap!

I'm using this hand binding time to watch a selection of my favorite BBC shows on Netflix: Top Gear, Dr. Who, and Torchwood. Apparently we now have an US version of Top Gear, but it looks like something straight out of Idiocracy. Not my cup of tea...

This morning before jumping on the computer, I jumped on my machine and stitched out the flower designs on this Flower Bouquet Quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI'm so happy with this I could dance a jig! I knew the Center Fill flower designs would look great in place of appliqued flowers, but I'd never actually tried it out.

Having stitched these 5 flowers, I'm even more in love with flower designs! All of the designs I used are fairly simple: Loopy Flower, Spinning Daisy, Super Daisy, Sunflower, and Woven Flower, a design I haven't posted yet.

I can't wait to fill the rest of this quilt and see how it's going to finish up! I'm probably going to use an Independent design for the background so it's easy to wiggle around the flower and stem shapes. I don't want the thread to build up too much in the background or it will distract from the flowers.

I haven't decided what to do in the vase or the border yet, but I've gotta say this is the most fun I've had making a wall hanging in a long time!

I'm off to quickly bind, then get back to quilting. This is so much fun!

Leah Day

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 252 - Woven Lines

I've said it a million times: the most under used, forgotten, empty place on a quilt is the sashing, or the space between the quilt blocks.

Let's learn a new design that will work perfectly in sashing of all shapes and sizes. It's called Woven Lines!

free motion quilting | Leah DayI know, I know! Stitching a sashing design into a block really isn't the best way of illustrating how it's going to look. It just ends up looking kinda squished into a square.

So here's another graph of Woven Lines drawn into a long, narrow space:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe average sashing on a quilt is around 2" wide, which is wide enough to space out blocks nicely, but really not wide enough to really get fancy with your quilting.

So just keep things simple by stitching these back and forth lines! It's very easy and this design has a nice flat texture that will make your pieced or appliqued blocks stand out that much better.

Inspiration - I've been trying to come up with a free motion basket weave type design for a very long time. I like the texture of lines woven together and I'm always experimenting with ways of stitching this without marking.

Unfortunately, it's really hard to create a uniform, symmetrical design without marking it! Woven Lines was created by trying to find a way to stitch a woven design in a free form way, but if you still struggle to keep the lines straight to your liking, don't hesitate to mark it to make it easier.

Difficulty Level - Beginner. This is an excellent beginner level design because it teaches one of the most core skills of free motion quilting - echoing. Learning how to stitch and space your lines perfectly apart is a skill that takes time to perfect.

More than anything else it's learning how to see and estimate space while you're quilting. the more you free motion, the easier it gets!

Design Family - Edge to Edge. This design works easily across your quilting space first with a zigzag line, then with straight lines to create the texture. Because everything in this design involves straight lines, it's a good choice for narrow, open areas like sashing or narrow borders.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. I love the effect this design has on the surface of a quilt. It's almost like the texture of a handmade basket - you just want to touch the surface and run your fingers over woven lines. It's both beautiful and utilitarian at the same time and the perfect design to balance out more moving, dynamic textures in other areas of your quilt.

Suggestions for Use - Have you picked up yet that I'd like you to use this design in your sashing? I have so many nice sashing designs now I'm wondering if I could create a quilt with just sashing to showcase them all. would certainly be fun to try!

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

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

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 251 - Hot Candy

Growing up in a small town in NC, we had two theaters to choose from: the "expensive" theater at the mall with $2 matinees and $4 regular tickets or the super cheap theater that always cost $1.25 no matter what time of day you went. I wish I could find a place with prices like those these days!

One of my earliest memories of going to a theater also stands out because it was the first time I ever ate Hot Tamales, those awesome candies that are both hot and sweet at the same time.

I started thinking about those Hot Tamales the other day and wanted to see if they would work as a quilting design. I'm happy to say we now have Hot Candy!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I have to apologize for my croaky voice in this video. Mr. Mucus and Mrs. Snot have decided to take a vacation in my nose and throat and aren't budging.

One of these days I'm going to sit down and record several weeks worth of videos so when James decided to bring home a cold, it won't effect the flow of videos being posted. Getting ahead of myself - that should be #1 on my list of goals for this year!

Difficulty Level - Beginner. This design is actually very easy and fun to stitch! Start with just a long, straight line, take a U-turn and come back to your starting line. Travel stitch a short distance and echo your long thin shape.

To create more Hot Candies, simply travel stitch and branch off in another direction. Easy as pie!

Design Family - Echoing. Hot Candy is fairly easy because it's created with a very simple set of rules: create the starting shape then travel and echo. Just memorize this simple rule and you'll be able to quilt Hot Candy anywhere on your quilt.

Directional Texture - All Directions. I think this design has a really interesting texture because it's mixing straight lines and slight curves. It's not super wiggly like Flame Stitch, but it's also not sharp and graphic like Lightning Bolt, but a nice balance between the two.

Suggestions for Use - Have you realized just how many candy inspired designs we have now? Hot Candy is also accompanied by Lollipop Chain and Peppermint Candy. Maybe I should make a whole quilt devoted to candy and chocolate? Hmmm...Sounds yummy!

Back of Hot Candy
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Day

It's a bird...No! It's a plane...No! It's Super Leah!

Ha ha! James has gotten on a Superman kick and regularly runs into the office yelling on the top of his voice "SUPER JAMES! Da Ta Da DA!" complete with air punch and blast off simulation. It's always hilarious and never gets old.

I'm feeling rather super human today knocking out item after item on my enormous to-do list. Josh just now told me that today is the Superbowl as well (I'm totally clueless on stuff like that) so today really is a Super Day!

So why is my to-do list a mile long? I've apparently gotten in a bit over my head with projects and today I'm determined to dig myself out on top.

First off is the Australian Shadows Quilt which I finished quilting this morning, will bind this afternoon, and hope to have on the wall ready for a photo shoot by Wednesday.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYes, I'm definitely planning to make this quilt into a pattern! I've gotten several comments and emails asking about it and I hope to have it done by the end of February.

I'm really hoping to get this little guy basted today:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI know this doesn't look like much right now, but after I get it quilted with some big flower designs it's going to be awesome! It shouldn't take too much time to quilt because it's nice and small.

What's really overwhelming me is this huge Valentine's Day quilt sitting on my tables half basted.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis was one of my "great" ideas in the middle of the night. Why not make another new quilt and quilt it with really awesome heart designs because I'm obsessed with hearts lately?

While I love this quilt, it's not happening at a very good time, so I think this beauty is going to be basted, then folded up and put away for a little while. It's just one quilt top too many right now and while I absolutely love it, I'm actually not super human

And with that quilt off the tables, I'll be able to baste the first layer of thick batting to the back of Hot Cast. I finished up the hand applique last week and she's been hanging on the wall ever since just waiting for the next step.

free motion quilting | Leah DayAnd when I'm not basting, quilting, or binding something today, I'm washing clothes and fabric, cleaning up the studio, and trying to put everything back in order. I don't know how it gets so crazy so fast!

Okay, off to baste that red quilt and get it off my tables. I can't cut binding with it there and it's really messing with my chi.

Let's go quilt,


Friday, February 4, 2011

Queen Supreme Sliders

free motion quilting | Leah DayLast week I mentioned in the post on Free Motion Quilting Tools that we would soon be carrying the new Queen Sized Supreme Sliders in the quilt shop.

I'm so excited to announce that they will be in stock next week!

So what is a Queen Supreme Slider?

This is a slick Teflon coated sheet designed to cover your machine bed, table top, and feed dogs, making it much easier to move and position your quilt while free motion quilting.

free motion quilting | Leah DayIf you haven't heard of the Queen Supreme yet, it's basically exactly the same as the regular Supreme Slider, only much bigger!

The original Supreme Slider is measures 8" x 11.5" and the new Queen Supreme Slider is 11.5" x 17," covering more than double the space of the original.

The needle hole in this new Queen Supreme Slider is positioned just 7" from one side. This means that if your machine has a 7" throat space (harp space) or bigger, the Queen Supreme can fit on your machine.

So why would you want this bigger version?

Don't get me wrong, if you already have the original Supreme Slider and find that it's working great for you, please don't feel like you have to run off and get a Queen Supreme just because it's bigger.

I've been using the original for years and I know what a tremendous difference even this smaller slider can have for making free motion quilting easier and faster on a domestic machine.

But if you don't have a slider yet, and you do have a bigger machine, then the Queen Supreme is a better investment for your quilting setup.

It's just common sense: the more area your slick slider covers, the easier it will be to move and position your quilt, and the less strain put on your shoulders and arms.

Here's a video on the new Queen Supreme so you can see how it fits on my Janome Horizon:

Click here to learn more about the Queen Supreme Slider.

So that's it for this Feature Friday! It's a cold, wet day here in NC, so I'm headed into the studio to hopefully finish quilting the Australian Shadows quilt. It's been sitting on my table for too long!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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