The Free Motion Quilting Project: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quilting Bigger Also Means Faster!

Whew! We're having one weird week this week what with the sale ending on Monday and today Josh and I drove to Gastonia, NC to visit Gaston Day, a wonderful school James will hopefully attend next fall.

While in Gastonia, I hopped by Sew Much Fun, Mary Jo's Cloth Store, and Hobby Lobby to collect some new supplies: solid fabric for more modern quilts, printed batiks for a couple skirts, and yarn to experiment with couching.

Three times today I was browsing through the store, looking over fabrics or trying to select a ball of yard and I heard: "Are you the Leah Day?!" This has started happening just about every time I go in a craft / fabric store in this area, and I have to admit, it's pretty weird!

But it's also wonderful to have a chance to chat with quilters who know the project and have enjoyed following along with the designs. I do miss that side of teaching, getting to see people in person, so maybe we will be able to pick up again when James starts school full time in 2013.

Who knows! All I know is I'm having a great time quilting on a larger scale. Here's a little quilt I finished last weekend:

free motion quilting | Leah DayIf you recognize this little wall hanging it's probably because I've created it before! You can read about the original Flower Bouquet Quilt right here.

This time, I've chosen to quilt on a 1/4 inch scale which isn't huge, but it's much softer, and covers the quilt much quicker.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe last time I created Flower Bouquet, each flower was different. This time each flower is the same Sunflower design and stitched with a layer of white and a layer of pale yellow thread.

The background was quilted with Gravel Stitch, and the base stitched with Flaming Spiral, two designs we'll learn next year.

Finally the border was quilted with Edge of Reality. I think I'll go back and couch some dark red decorative threads through the middle of that wiggly line to bring it out a bit more.

What do I love the most about quilting this little quilt? How much time it took to finish! I worked on this over 2 evenings so it was quilted in around 4 to 6 hours. Best of all, it was a suitable amount of time for the size of the quilt, which means I didn't get bored working on it.

Overall, I really like this little quilt, and it certain has made for an easy and quick gift for Christmas. Now if I can just get two more small quilts finished, I'll have covered everyone on my list!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Last Wholecloth Finished

This weekend I decided enough was enough and I turned off my computer (which NEVER happens) and went into my studio to get some quilts DONE (which hasn't happened much this year).

First off, I had this pretty little wall hanging under my needle ready to finish:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis quilt was originally designed as a quick wholecloth gift for a friend. Then it became very obvious that I couldn't finish it on time because I'd chosen to quilt it on a microscopic scale. It was also clear that this quilt should complete and that makes for a very sticky gift. (Hey, here's a quilt for you, but do you mind if I borrow it to show for the next 2 years???")

So instead of finishing it late, it was folded up and put under the table. Under the table is where all my UFOs go. I guess I assume if I stick them somewhere I rarely go, can't see without effort, and try not to think about, then they don't count as UFOs.

But the other day I was digging around under the table and saw this little top and decided it MUST be finished THIS year.

So I pulled it out and put it on TOP my table and immediately remembered the reason why it was under the table before: I'm bored to death with stitching so densely.

Yes, it looks nice. Yes, it's sure to induce drool and amazement and maybe even rage at a quilt show ("How the *&$# does she get her stitches so SMALL!").

But it's also driving me up the wall that after 2 hours of non-stop quilting that all I have to show for my effort is 2 to 6 inches quilted. COME ON! If I keep quilting like this, I'll barely finish 1 quilt a year, and I'll be blind by the time I'm 40. I'll also be that crazy woman in the back of your quilt guild, obsessively ripping out stitches, muttering under her breath "it must be must be must be perfect..."

I'm just so darn bored with it.

Sorry to complain, but I realized the other day that I've been constructing and quilting quilts roughly the same way for around 3 years. No wonder I'm ready to tear out my hair and throw my sewing machine out the door - there's no challenge anymore!

To put it in another perspective - my original goal has been met. I set out in 2008 to make a show winning quilt. I naively thought that if I made a super awesome show winning quilt, it would tour the world, win at every show, and I'd support my family with the show prizes. He. He. He. He. He.

3 years later, I now know that it's not quite that simple. A quilt might win a major ribbon at one show, but only an honorable mention, or no ribbon at another show. There's no way to guarantee a win, and the cash prizes...well...let's just say it's usually just nice way to support your fabric or thread addiction.

But this year I met my original goal when I won Best Machine Quilting at AQS Knoxville with Winter Wonderland. This was a major win at a major quilt show, and it certainly felt great, but after the show I admit to feeling a bit lost.

It's hard to describe it, but it suddenly felt like I was quilting for the money, which I don't do. I don't make quilts to sell and I don't work on commission, but suddenly I felt....paid...(there's really no better word for it) to do what I do.

After reading "Drive" by Daniel Pink I realize that quilt shows with cash prizes might not be the best fit for me anymore. Basically getting a cash prize can really mess up the extrinsic vs. intrinsic drives behind quilting. The point can become all about the prize and the prestige and the cash, and not about the joy of making the quilt.

When I got home from Knoxville and took a hard look at my quilts and quilting style, I realized that that's exactly what had happened. I was making quilts that were specifically designed to win, or at least do well in shows. I wasn't listening to my feelings about the process anymore, most notably the screams from my psyche that this is getting DULL!

Change isn't easy. Even though I knew I was bored to death with quilting the snot out of my quilts, I continued to do it. It's hard to change your style overnight, and especially hard to stop doing something when it's working. What will happen if I make a quilt that isn't a show winner?! Perish the thought!

No...if I make a quilt that is quilted more openly, I might actually have FUN and enjoy myself! Isn't that a scary idea!

So this pretty little wall hanging will likely be the last quilt I quilt this ridiculously, at least for awhile.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI have to admit, it's awesome! I think this is probably the prettiest quilt I've finished in a long time and I played with a bit of couching in the center and outer edge. You can see the couched metallic thread better in this shot as it curves around the corner:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Overall, the couching was my favorite part because it was something DIFFERENT. I look forward to playing with it a bit more, but on a larger scale.

I guess it all comes down to what is necessary and what feels good. For a long time quilting densely felt necessary and good to me. I was just thrilled to be able to control my stitches so well and be able to produce these textures in thread. I don't regret it, but I do regret getting stuck in this rut and feeling trapped in it.

But now it's not necessary, and it no longer feels good. Yes, you can definitely look forward to many BIG scale designs coming up soon in 2012.

Now this pretty purple quilt has only the binding left to hand stitch in place and then it will be finished! Once it is out of my sewing room, I think I'll tackle the giant - Emergence. She was also quilted on a small scale and seriously needs to be done by January 1st.

Let's go quilt,


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 347 - Super Circuit Board

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you're having a wonderful time with family and friends, eating good food, enjoying nice weather, and giving thanks for another year.

We're gathering this evening for a Thanksgiving feast that can't be beat, so this afternoon I'm blogging, working on the site, and generally getting prepare for the usual holiday craziness.

But before I run off to work on the site, let's learn a new design called Super Circuit Board:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This is another variation of a much older design called Circuit Board. In this case, I caught myself wondering "What would happen if you blew up circuit board and made it gigantic, then echoed those lines until your quilt was filled?" The answer is Super Circuit Board!

Difficulty Level - Beginner. This design is quite easy because there is almost no travel stitching involved! Focus first on stitching the foundational line which is basically a huge, blocky maze. Then simply echo this line until your quilting space is entirely filled.

Design Family - Foundational. This design type is one of my favorites because once you set the foundation, there isn't a lot to think or obsess about. Just echo, echo, echo. It's rather meditative to stitch the same, or a similar pattern, repeatedly and once you get comfortable with the design, it's very easy to apply just about anywhere to your quilts.

Directional Texture - No Direction. While the lines of Super Circuit Board do seem to come from all directions, the overall effect of this design is very flat and directionless. Think of how a maze looks - the straight lines and sharp angles will draw your eye because all the movement stops in these places.

Suggestions for Use - Experimenting with modern quilts last weekend was so much fun, I'm definitely going to continue piecing up simple quilts using my now-favorite L shaped block.

Making such simple quilts has created many questions - what if I made wiggly blocks? And what if these blocks were quilted with Super Circuit Board to create a maze over the surface? What would this quilt look like? What effect would it have?

It sounds like I'm going to be in the studio playing with modern quilting quite a lot this winter!

Back of Super Circuit Board
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion quilting design in your quilts

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 346 - Electric Storm

Even though we're heading into winter, we've still been getting some big, summertime thunderstorms. All that lightning and electricity has inspired a new design called Electric Storm:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis particular design was featured in my new book From Feathers to Flames or else click here right now to check out all the wonderful tools and free motion quilting resources in the new Leah Day Quilt Shop.

Difficulty Level - Beginner. Electric Storm is really fun to quilt! First start on one side of your quilting space, stitching long jagged lines into the center. Travel to the opposite side and fill in with more jagged lines, occasionally allowing the bolts of lightning touch and stitch a star to show off the sparks!

Design Family - Edge to Center. Working from the edges into the center of your quilting space is kind of a weird way to work, but it's very effective for spaces like your sashing or borders that are narrow and long and can easily be filled by stitching in a line.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. This fun jagged texture will really add some spice to your next quilt!

Suggestions for Use - I'm planning to use this funky design in the sashing of a quilt I'm making for my son James. Large blocks filled with dinosaurs and robots will be surrounded by wide sashing filled with Electric Storm. Sounds like a match made in heaven!

Back of Electric Storm
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

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

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oh Thank Cuteness

Jake over at Generation Q has started a...well..what do you call it? Blog initiative? Post trend? Whatever it's called it's a series of posts focused on being thankful, and particularly dedicated to the cuteness of our lives. Here's the initial post just in case you'd like to write up a cutie post and share it with everyone too.

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhen it comes time to sit down to my Thanksgiving meal, I know I'm most grateful for my wonderful family.

I'm most thankful for my wonderful husband. He's my mentor, my counselor, my business partner, my shipping manager, my customer service personnel, my IT tech, my lover, my everything.

Working in the same office, sitting no more than 10 feet from each other all day EVERY day which isn't easy, but I can't imagine my life any other way. Josh and I weren't made for the 9 to 5 job. We aren't designed to have a boss or be a boss in a traditional way, so the luck of finding each other and seeing our potential cup overflows with thankfulness.

free motion quilting | Leah DayOf course, without Josh I would never have had James, my terrific kid. Super chatty, irresistibly sociable, full of energy, he is the starter of our conversations now. "Hey! This is Leah Day and Josh Day and I'm James Day, 4 and a half."

Everyone knows our names now. Everyone. Grocery store baggers, every waiter or waitress that comes to our table, even the post office clerks!

I'm constantly wishing for a video camera in my hand to capture his cutest moments. When he was around 2 he'd climb up on your lap, rub your cheek, touch your upper lip and lower lip and say "Beard. Mustache. Soul patch." It didn't matter whether you were a guy or a girl, everyone in James's book had a a beard, mustache, and soul patch!

free motion quilting | Leah DaySometimes we wonder how two severely introverted people could create such an extroverted child.

Watching James has taught me so many things: how to play and laugh at nothing and let go, let go, let go. How to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and just have fun, even if it's walking down the isles of a grocery store.

I'm so incredibly thankful for my family. So happy they are apart of my life, so grateful to be apart of theirs.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 345 - Pattern Fern

It's time to look way, WAY back in time to 2009 when I posted Fern & Stem. This fun little design is a great base for many other textures. You can fill the stem and leaves with many different designs as I've done with this variation called Pattern Fern:

free motion quilting | Leah DayAre you getting geared up for Thanksgiving coming up quick on Thursday? This year we're making a slightly different feast - instead of turkey and all the trimmings, we're going to make a southern soul food meal of greens, cornbread, hoppin' john, corn on the cob and sausage.

It's always nice to try something new every couple of years so the meal doesn't get stale and boring. Josh and I always split the meal so it makes for a great day in the kitchen cooking together.

Of course, right after Thanksgiving things really heat up with all the big Black Friday to Cyber Monday online sales. Make sure to swing by sometime this weekend to see all the terrific free motion quilting tools and resources available in my Quilt Shop.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. This design is advanced only because the stitching needs to be quite precise. Hitting a particular line, traveling along it, or simply staying withing a small space are all lessons we're going to focus on in 2012.

Design Family - Stem Centered. Pattern Fern starts with a simple stem. The "leaves" are what really fill your quilting space with texture, so make sure to branch them out so each leaf fills a large amount of space on your quilt.

Directional Texture - All Directions. The really neat thing about this design is just how much the pattern is going to show up and stand out on the surface of your quilt. This is one fern that is definitely NOT going to blend in!

Suggestions for Use - Playing with several modern quilt designs over the weekend has certainly gotten me thinking about using fillers in unusual ways. What would my black and red quilt look like with a large Pattern Fern stitched over the surface?

Back of Pattern Fern
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, November 19, 2011

Time to Find a New Friend

You may remember that last year, right around this time, we went through a very hard time when we lost our greyhound Jinjo at nearly 11 years.

She'd been with Josh and me for more than 5 years (we got her the summer after we got married), and in so many ways she completed our little family in our little apartment.

When James came along, life got busier, but Jinjo was always there, happy just to get a pet on the head and then snooze all day in the sun. Greyhounds have got to be the absolute perfect dogs for quilters - they're clean, they don't smell, they have very short hair, they don't slobber or drool, and they sleep all day curled up like a cat!

When we lost her last's hard to's like I suddenly realized just how much I loved her and would miss her and how much it was hurting to lose her.

Jinjo taught me that you never know how much time you have, so you should be loving and kind EVERY day. It's easy to assume you will have years and years, but sometimes you don't, and you never know when it will be the last time you get to say, "I love you."

I'm bringing this whole story back up again because Josh has been hinting all summer that he was ready to get a new greyhound. He'd occasionally mention it to James and the two have been bringing it up regularly for several months.

For me, the pain of losing Jinjo always overshadowed the desire to get a new hound. Finally last weekend Josh and I attended Renaissance Festival and spent some time with the greys in the rescue tent. It was quickly obvious that both Josh and I were missing having a dog and it was time to look into getting a new grey.

So why do I only want a greyhound?

Quite simply, they are the perfect dogs. Once you have one, I don't think you can go back for just any ole' dog.

Greyhounds are unusual because they're pretty big dogs, but very skinny. They also have lots of energy, but in spurts of around 10 to 20 minutes. After a good walk or run, they're ready for a long nap, and generally happy to stay put curled up in the corner of whatever room you're in.

The thing that makes greys really different is their racing life. From how I understand it, all greyhounds are bred to race, and puppies are trained for racing from the time they're born. If they don't race well, they leave the track at 2 years old. The dogs that race well continue racing until they turn 5 (or are hurt) when they are automatically retired.

For a long time, greyhounds didn't have much of a life after the race track. People didn't realize that these were excellent dogs that could make terrific pets, so for a very long time, the dogs that didn't work out on the track simply didn't live very long.

Now we have wonderful organizations like Greyhound Friends of NC which collect dogs of all ages from the track and set up a system for them to be adopted. Most states now have one or more organizations to rescue greyhounds, so if you're interested make sure to google your area to see what's available.

Recently we contacted GFNC and began looking through their lists of greyhounds available for adoption. After being approved for adoption, we headed up to Greensboro, NC today to visit with the hounds and hopefully find one that would fit with our family.

We met many dogs today, but this little girl is the "one:"

This is Kiki, a beautiful 2 year old girl with lots of spunk, but a sweet temperament.

I had to keep reminding myself that I was not going to get a carbon copy of Jinjo. Being younger, she's going to need a bit more exercise and attention, but after an hour playing around, I think she's going to be a great fit for our family.

We spent a lot of time testing her with James. I just wanted to be sure that even if James ran around, made sudden moves, yelled or fell down that it wouldn't scare or startle the greyhound. While it will take time for both the dog and our son to get used to one another, this particular greyhound seemed totally uninterested in chasing James, which is a great sign.

As we did last time, Josh and I began auditioning different names for our pretty girl. Finally we all settled on Kally. In two weeks, Kally will be spayed, have her teeth cleaned, nails trimmed, and be ready to come home.

I think I speak for all of us when I say "I can't wait!"



Friday, November 18, 2011

Trying My Hand at Modern Quilting

Are you a Modern Quilter?

I admit, I've had a bit of trouble understanding this movement until recently. I've certainly seen a lot of modern quilts, but then I've also seen a lot of quilts that look quite traditional, but are labeled "modern." It's all a bit confusing, which is why I haven't really pursued understanding this movement better until now.

With a quick search of "modern quilts" you will find the Modern Quilt Guild. On this website you can find the following list that describes modern quilters or modern quilts:
  • Make primarily functional rather than decorative quilts
  • Use asymmetry in quilt design
  • Rely less on repetition and on the interaction of quilt block motifs
  • Contain reinterpreted traditional blocks
  • Embrace simplicity and minimalism
  • Utilize alternative block structures or lack of visible block structure
  • Incorporate increased use of negative space
  • Are inspired by modern art and architecture
  • Frequently use improvisational piecing
  • Contain bold colors, on trend color combinations and graphic prints
  • Often use gray and white as neutrals
  • Reflect an increased use of solid fabrics
  • Focus on finishing quilts on home sewing machines
From this list, I've kind of gotten a sense of the movement and a better understanding of how modern quilts should look as opposed to regular quilts. To say it plainly, this little wholecloth currently on my table is NOT a modern quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis is obviously a decorative quilt with dense stitching that prevents it from being a functional quilt (i.e. you can't snuggle with it). It's not simple. It's very symmetrical and it's not minimalist.

But what about this?
free motion quilting | Leah Day This is just a solid piece of black fabric with my big bold, simply stippling design stitched over the surface. It's functional. It's simple. It's quite asymmetrical. There's a TON of negative space. It's one big bold solid colored fabric. Is this a modern quilt?

I guess that's one of the underlying things that slightly bothers me about the modern quilting movement - it creates an opening for criticism. Is my quilt modern enough? What counts as modern and what exactly is traditional now?

And what is up with the quilting on these quilts??? The most intricate design I've seen so far was lines. Lines, lines, and more lines. Hey, lines can be really cool, but is it possible to use some neat free motion designs and the quilt still be a modern quilt?

These have been the questions that have swirled around my head whenever I saw or thought about modern quilting for around the last year or so. I've asked a lot of questions, but I wasn't willing to just TRY to make a modern quilt to see what it was like.

So yesterday I came into my studio needing to piece a simple, very speedy quilt for a Christmas gift. Actually I really need to make 2 quilts, not just one.

I need the tops done right NOW so they can be quilted right NOW so what better time to try my hand at an asymmetrical quilt where the seams don't have to match?

And thus, my affair with modern quilting has begun!

free motion quilting | Leah DayI call this an "affair" because piecing this quilt top was so enjoyable, it has to be a sin! For 3 hours I didn't obsess about cutting strips 2.5 inches wide, perfectly square, perfectly matched up with the ruler. I just wacked them out of my scraps and guess what???? I DIDN'T EVEN IRON THEM BEFORE PIECING!!! LOL!

It was just fun. I can't think of a better word for this style of quilting. FUN! I haven't had much FUN in my quilts lately. I've been bogged down this year with too much...I don't know...too much everything. Too much perfection, too much detail, too much attention.

The simplicity of just piecing two simple strips onto a single, roughly cut 6 inch block was extremely freeing. I decided to frame each colored block with two strips of black fabric to make "L" shapes. I didn't let myself obsess about it. I didn't even plan out the pattern. I just made the blocks, cut them down to a square size, then lined them up in this arrangement and sewed them together. Ta Da!

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo am I officially a Modern Quilter? I'm still not sure about the label or defining myself as any one thing. Keep in mind, I don't even call myself an "Art Quilter" so I personally I'm most comfortable just calling myself a QUILTER and leaving it at that.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 344 - Feather Loops

Remember that moving "There's something about Mary?" I think there's SOMETHING about feathers!

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt's a nasty rainy day today so maybe these Feather Loops will brighten things up a bit. Josh and I have been getting up together each morning and walking around 2 miles in an effort to spend more time together and to lose weight.

With the big 30 looming on the horizon, I know I had better change my exercise habits now or face a nasty wake up call in a few years!

So while I run upstairs to find my raincoat, you can stay nice and dry and learn how to quilt this new feathering design:

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design is a pretty simple combination of shapes. First create the loop shape running from one side of your quilt to the opposite side. Then stitch into the middle and form a second loop, almost like a central vine running down the center of the first.

Finally stitch down this middle loop and branch out with your feathers. Everyone stitches feathers differently, so play with this design until you find a comfortable way to form the feathers for you.

Design Family - Edge to Edge. This is a slightly weird design in the sense that it doesn't exactly reach from Edge to Edge, but it's close enough to count. Basically this means it will work best in the sashing and borders of your quilt, or at least any area that is skinny and narrow.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. Feather Loops is going to have a nice horizontal texture if you stitch it around your quilt blocks or borders.

Suggestions for Use - Feather Loops is a beautiful design that emphasizes a formal, delicate pattern. I think it would be an excellent choice in a wholecloth quilt to showcase a large, central motif.

Back of Feather Loops
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler designs in your quilts,
and make sure to tell your friends where you learned it.

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

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 343 - Pebble Daisy

Yesterday's Sawblades design must have been too grisly so let's lighten things up with a cute flower design. Add some circles to Paisley Flower to create Pebble Daisy!

free motion quilting | Leah DayToday is a terrific day because I've FINALLY figured out what I'm going to do next year on this project! While it might seem a bit late (or a bit early) to be thinking about what's coming in 2012, let's just say it's occupied a LOT of space in my mind over the last year.

But last night, I finally sat down a wrote a list of what I wanted to be working on and somewhere out of that list came and idea for....

Ha! You're just going to have to wait until January 1st to find out!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design isn’t super difficult, it’s just a collection of many steps. Focus first on stitching your petals and laying out your flower shape evenly within the space.

Next, travel inside the petals and fill them with Pebbling. Last, expand the flower with rows of echo stitching until the flower stands out beautifully on the surface of your quilt.

Design Family - Center Fill. This design starts in the center of your quilt and radiates out. This means if you have a block to fill, all you have to do is start in the center, then stitch out with your petals and echoes until the entire space is filled.

Directional Texture - Center Focused. Flower designs usually draw your eyes to the center and Pebbled Daisy is a great example of this! The travel stitching in the Pebbling areas will make these areas stand out much darker on the surface of your quilts.

Suggestions for Use - Looking for a simple, fun project to play with between now and the holidays? Try stitching Pebbled Daisy or any of the Center Filled Flower Designs in a 5 inch circle, then finish the edges and add a grommet in the top to make a beautiful ornament.

Back of Pebbled Daisy
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, November 13, 2011

Day 342 - Sawblades

It's a beautiful, chilly fall day and Josh and I are heading out of town to the Carolina Renaissance Festival. If we decide to pay a few dollars and take the Dungeon Tour, we might just see a few grisly implements of torture like these Sawblades!

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt's funny, when I was in high school, I imagined I would one day work at Renaissance festival. I loved everything about reenacting, but just never got into it. Maybe I should return to that fantasy and try my hand at stitching a Elizabethan style quilted dress, corset, and skirt?

While Sawblades might not sound like a fitting design for such a garment, when stitched around the hem or trim of a garment, these swirling circles will look really nice. Let's see how it's quilted:

Difficulty Level - Intermediate. This design is a variation of Pebbling, so if you’d like to get some practice, first stitch a very large scale Pebbling over a large area of your quilt. Then when you start feeling bored stitching only circles, start filling them with simple curves to finish off the Sawblades.

Design Family - Stacking. Circular shapes stack together very easily! Don’t worry about every little space being filled. Instead focus on stitching the circles big and, well, circular. Try to avoid wiggly, wobbly amoeba shapes!

Directional Texture - No Direction. When designs stack together like bricks, they tend to have the same texture as a brick wall - rather flat and backgroundish. That doesn’t mean it’s ugly! It just means this would be a great choice for a large background space in your next quilt.

Suggestions for Use - I like the idea of using Sawblades over a big quilt, with each circular shape around 4 to 5 inches across. This huge version of Sawblades would certainly be a lot of fun to stitch and would definitely create a unique texture for that quilt!

Back of Sawblades
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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Design Day

Just in case you haven't looked at a calendar today, it's the awesomely cool date of 11/11/11. In America at least, it's Veteran's Day, which means the mail won't run, many places will be closed, and generally it's a great day to take a break, hang out with family, and enjoy the changing weather.

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt's finally getting colder here in NC, so Josh built me a fire and I'm spending the day working on new designs for the project for next year.

I'm going through all the designs I've created so far and trying to find simpler, less complex versions to fill in the gaps between certain designs. With over 365 designs created, it's really hard to keep track of them all!

I'll try to shoot some photos today so you can see a few sneak peaks of what is to come. Back to work...err....Play!

Let's go quilt (or design)!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 341 - Cracked Paisley

What happens when you hit Paisley with a hammer? Cracked Paisley!

free motion quilting | Leah DayAll this week I've been working, working, working on new designs. With more than 365 created, it's now time to fill in the gaps - finding the designs that fit in between a beginner design, like paisley, and a more advanced design, like this cracked paisley.

The hardest thing now is keeping up with all the names!

Difficulty Level - Advanced. Yes, this looks complex, but the trick is to stitch this only in areas that can fit a really big tear drop shape so it will be easier to travel inside and fill the space with cracks.

Design Family - Pivoting. A really neat thing to experiment with this design will be the effect of the echoes. The echoes are soft and curvy, but the cracks are jagged, straight lines and sharp angles. The more rings of echoing, the more funky this design will become!

Directional Texture - All Directions. Because you have a combination of two such different textures, this is going to be one serious eye-catching design! Make sure to place this somewhere in your quilt it has more than enough room to stand out and show off.

Suggestions for Use - Personally I’m intrigued by the idea of stitching this design in two parts: first stitch the large tear drops, but leave them open. Then go back inside with a different thread color to fill each open space. What would this two color texture look like??? You can’t know until you stitch it!

Back of Cracked Paisley
free motion quilting | Leah DayFeel free to use this free motion filler design 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

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Josh here! It's been a while since we've shared a recipe, and Leah asked me to do a special one today. We made this recently and it turned out so good it needs to be shared. This was our first time having oxtail -- beef tail, from grass-fed cattle from a local rancher--and I was surprised at how tender and flavorful it was. It tasted like a slow-cooked pot roast and was just as tender.

Slow-cooked Oxtail Stew

# 2 pounds boned oxtail pieces, excess outside fat trimmed (they look like meaty donuts where the bone is the donut hole)
# Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
# 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
# 1 large onion, chopped
# 4 cloves garlic, smashed or chopped
# 3 tablespoons tomato paste
# 20 juniper berries, crushed
# 20 allspice berries, crushed
# 1 quart beef stock (homemade makes a big difference but storebought is fine too)
# 2 yellow new potatoes, peeled quartered
# 2 stalks of celery, just the root
# Red wine to taste for deglazing
# 1 Tbs Vietnamese Chili garlic sauce
# Leeks, mushrooms, carrots, any root vegetables you have on hand
# Enough boiled egg noodles to serve alongside the stew

1. Sprinkle the oxtails with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, cast iron pot, or large frypan over medium-high heat, brown the oxtails on both sides.

2. Cook the onions and garlic in the Dutch oven for 2 minutes along with browned oxtails. Add the tomato paste, juniper, chili garlic sauce, and allspice and cook 2 minutes more. Deglaze with red wine to taste--be sure to scour up everything, those brown bits at the bottom are key to flavoring. Pour everything into a crockpot, scraping bottom of pan, and add enough beef broth to just cover the meat. Cook on high heat setting for one hour or until nicely bubbling, then drop to low and cook for 5 or 6 more hours.

3. One to two hours before dinner add the potatoes, celery root, and other veggies--I used the white part of one leek cut into half inch pieces along with sliced portabello and button mushrooms. Make sure to slice the mushrooms, if using, as thinly as possible. I decided against carrots because I didn't want the extra sweetness, but I may try them next time. I also may try a turnip because I think its bitter taste would be a nice component, though I think this would only work if you like turnips like I do.

4. Skim about a quarter inch of grease and scum off the surface about 20 minutes before serving. (You could also do this throughout cooking but I personally feel the secret to crockpot cooking is keeping the lid on and letting the steam do its magic.) Remove your quartered potatoes and mash the heck out of them. Return to crockpot and stir thoroughly to incorporate into sauce. This will thicken your sauce into a nice, slightly runny gravy.

5. Boil egg noodles, bring to al dente ("to the teeth," gives a tiny little crunch but "just done"), drain, then add to crockpot. Stir everything and kill heat, letting sit covered for about ten minutes for the noodles to soak up the sauce and cook a tad more. Serve.

For serving, you can either take the boned meat out of the pot beforehand, which will be fork tender and will come off with a spoon, and yank everything off the bone and divvy into bite size bits. Or you could leave it on the bone--some people like the marrow and leaving the bone in will make an interesting medieval-style meal. That's my preference. Provide knives, even though you don't need them as the meat will be almost like butter.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 340 - Wiggly Tentacles

Recently I was looking back through all the designs we've learned so far to see if there are any easy variations that could turn a simple design into something more complex. Here's a variation of Flowing Glass (changed by adding points) that also experiments with filling the spaces with curvy lines to create Wiggly Tentacles:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis kind of looks like the stalagmites or stalactites you can find in caves. I like the texture because it's kind of creepy. Maybe it's something about the tentacle texture, but it makes me think of sea monsters and octopi!

Difficulty Level - Advanced. The first step of this design isn't very difficult - just stitch a wiggly flame type shape into the center of your quilting space, come to a point, then stitch back to the starting line.

If you like, you can just leave the design open as wiggly flames reaching into the center. If you're up for more challenge, just travel stitch inside and bounce from side to side with simple curves until the entire flame shape is filled.

Design Family - Edge to Center. This design fills from the edge of your quilting space into the center, making it the perfect design type for quilt sashing or borders.

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. You can't miss the horizontal or vertical texture of this design! However, if you really wiggly your starting flame shapes, chances are it will produce a much more free form texture on the surface of your quilts.

Suggestions for Use - Looking for an awesome design to stitch around a water themed quilt? I think Wiggly Tentacles would make the perfect frame for any quilt so definitely try this one in the borders.

Back of Wiggly Tentacles
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

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 339 - Crazy Weave

Ah! Back home again after a super fun vacation. While we all had a great time, we really prefer to sleep in our own beds so it's very nice to be home again and getting life back to normal.

And the most normal thing to do is share some more designs for the project! Here's what happens when you stitch Flowing Lines on top of itself to create Crazy Weave:

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhile this might look pretty intense at the moment, it's really a very easy design. So long as you can stitch a wiggly line, you can definitely stitch this design!

The nice thing about Crazy Weave is that it hides a lot of your mistakes. Even if you stitch off during the traveling sections, I doubt anyone will see it when you add the second layer of the design. See what I mean in this video:

Do you know anyone that would like this design?
Make sure to share it with your quilting friends
today so everyone can enjoy this fun, funky texture!

Difficulty Level - Beginner. As I said before, this design is as easy as stitching curvy lines. The sections of travel stitching will likely be the hardest part, but again, if you mess up don't fret about it!

Design Family - Edge to Edge. This design is stitched from one edge of your quilting space to the other, making it a great design for sashing, borders, or to stitch over your entire quilt!

Directional Texture - 2 Directions. This design is pretty similar to Matrix in that they both have an obvious horizontal or vertical texture, but they're also a lot like a grid, which has a flat, directionless texture.

Suggestions for Use - I think this would be a really fun design to experiment with on a large scale. The large, wiggly lines could even be quilted with a walking foot, which makes this a great design for those quilters who haven't quite jumped into free motion quilting yet!

Back of Crazy Weave
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

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Vacationing Thoughts...

Do you know how to take a vacation? Does that question even make sense?

I ask because the truth is - I don't really know how to take a vacation! I'm not good at relaxing and taking it easy. I'm not good at having nothing to do.

When I look at it critically I know I'm really good at working. I'm really good at supporting my family, which is not a bad thing by any means!

Traditionally we see fathers as the "bread winners" of a family and have no problem with male figures working excessively, vegging out in front of the TV ignoring everyone, and occasionally coming up for air during vacations.

I even witnessed this particular monster when I worked in the Outer Banks of NC back in 2003. Most families would arrive on Friday or Saturday and hit the shops where I worked on Sunday or Monday. By Wednesday, the dads in most families were looking pretty bewildered. They wore expressions along the lines of "Is THIS really my family? Is this really my wife? Is this really my kids?"

When I saw this sort of thing happen in the store it was usually in the midst of an all-out family tantrum. Kid wants a toy + Mom wants to teach the kid a lesson about money + tired from a long day at the beach = Total Family Meltdown. The dads always stood on the peripheral, and I always had an urge to shove them forward into the melee with a command: "Face what you've built!"

Because this is what we build! When the focus is only work, work, work, that doesn't leave a lot of room for family. It's should be no surprise when halfway through your vacation you realize you're surrounded by strangers you live with every day of the year.

Luckily, I haven't had a super disturbing wake-up call during this vacation. Even though I am my family's breadwinner, I've seen this particular issue too many times to fall prey to it. I was raised by a father who was largely absent, endlessly working, working, working to pay for my mother's ever-increasing need to spend money.

So my kid's occasional lapses into defiant, typical 4 year old behavior never comes as a surprise. What has been a surprise is seeing just how much he's changed since the last time we came to Pensacola, and the realization that these young years are slipping by so very quickly.

Sometimes it feels like my little boy will be little forever. I can remember him being 18 months old and developing the most annoying habit of pretending to fall over whenever I walked by. He'd scream and cry until I picked him up, gave him a hug, and worked with him on my lap.

At the time, it truly felt like he would be 18 months old forever, and unfortunately I didn't always stop and give him a hug and a kiss when he pulled the fake-falling stunt. Sometimes I was just too busy, too focused to take the time.

And now my 18 month old baby is a nearly 5 year old little boy and again, I forget that he's always changing, always learning, always growing. It's so easy to assume he'll be this way forever and I'll have plenty of time to catch it on camera, to give him those kisses, and to play that game one more time.

Last year around Thanksgiving, I had a huge wake-up call when we lost Jinjo, our greyhound, and the first dog I ever really loved. I woke up to the fact that you really never know how much time you have. You might have days or months or years, but you never know when something might happen to change the game forever.

It was at that point that I made the decision to stop hording my love, to start showing it more freely and, more than anything else, to stop being such a workaholic all the time. To take a vacation and to actually have fun and BE fun.

That's something I find missing from motherhood in general. It seems we're able to provide fun: to drive to fun places, to buy fun snacks, to even hire fun babysitters, but BEING fun ourselves?

For a long time I've had a hang-up with this. What will people think if I play on the beach with my kid? What will people think if I dress up and go trick-or-treating for Halloween? What will other moms think if I go swimming with my son and get my hair wet? What will they think if I get into the bouncy gym? What will they think if they see me having fun?

As totally silly as these questions may seem, they actually do run through my noggin, accompanied with a good dose of stress whenever they come up! The good news is I've finally started to laugh at myself when most of these question come up.

As a wonderful reader once wrote to me via email "What other people think of me is none of my business." Who cares what I'm doing or look like so long as we're all having fun?!

So this Halloween instead of staying home, working on a quilt or the site, I dressed up with my guys and went trick or treating for the first time in many years. We all had an absolute blast walking around as Iron Man, Lieutenant Uhura, and Commander Riker.

free motion quilting | Leah Dayfree motion quilting | Leah DayFor the record, no, I'm can't rightfully call myself a trekkie, but Josh probably could!

So as we head for home early tomorrow morning, I'm coming back feeling great. We've had a truly wonderful vacation, but even more importantly, I've learned how to take it easy, have fun, and ditch a truckload of worry.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 338 - Fiddlehead Fern

It's getting cooler these days so if you go for a walk in the woods, you might just find a real life example of a Fiddlehead Fern all curled up like this spiral design:

free motion quilting | Leah DayWarning: For some reason being on vacation is messing with my ability to write about quilting! Maybe my brain has finally reached the point of overload where it is forced to take over and go into vacation mode where all I can think about is driving to the beach, or the movies, or a kid fun house, and anything more taxing is refused at the door!

It feels so nice to just sit and chill out. I didn't manage to get a handwork project together so I'm not even stitching anything! This is nice because that always turns into a grind to finish, finish, finish the project before the vacation is over.

So for today only, all I'm going to post is the video of this design. I promise I'll go back and fill in the usual info later when I'm home and out of vacation mode!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate.

Design Family - Stem Centered

Directional Texture - All Directions.

Back to the fun!

Leah Day

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