The Free Motion Quilting Project: January 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sensitivity and Free Motion Quilting

I've been working on my little sawtooth star quilt this week and got a big reminder of an important detail of free motion quilting - sensitivity.

While this might not sound like a big deal, being able to look, listen, and feel both your quilt and your machine while free motion quilting is extremely important.

This is an ability to:

Look - Know what your machine and especially the area around your needle LOOKS like when it's working properly. If you see thread tugging in a weird way, stop and check what's going on.

Listen - All machines make noise when they run, and usually make MORE noise when there's something wrong. What is that weird chugging noise? It sounds like the thread is caught on something. Oops! It is caught on the back of the quilt.

Feel - You're hands are right on top of the quilt, responsible for moving it, but they can also be mini radar detectors for any issues going on with the machine. Tugging or resistance from the quilt are two sure signs that something is very wrong.

The quilt should always be easy to push around when the needle is up - if it's not, stop stitching and check. This sensitivity to changes in your quilt or machine can save you a lot of time and headaches if you work on developing it, and if you listen to what your intuition is telling you.

Here's a little case in point:

While quilting the stars of this quilt with stippling, I noticed that on about every other star I'd experience a weird tugging / pulling feeling coming from the machine.

The quilt was still moving smoothly as ever and I didn't see it hooked to anything, and the resistance was slight, but still present in the movement of the quilt under the needle.

This feeling wasn't very noticeable when stitching simple curves, but as soon as I began moving the quilt more quickly, I felt a constant tug and resistance against the quilt.

Rather than continue to stitch this way, I stopped and took the quilt off the machine and flipped it over. Lo and behold, my stitches were looking pretty bad on the back, almost as though I had a major tension issue going on with the machine.

But here's another plus for developing a sensitivity to free motion quilting - you'll be much more likely to diagnose the right problem and fix it easily.

Logically if your tension worked fine on that setting yesterday, chances are unless you changed thread it shouldn't be wildly different today.

So I took a look at the bobbin area instead. It's always a good idea to check your bobbin thread first when dealing with a funny running machine because a lot of thread issues stem from this area.

A simple tug on the thread told me loads about what was going on - the thread was literally STICKING as I pulled it from the machine.

Bobbins are designed to do one thing - spin and unwind thread.

I use little genie magic bobbin washers in my bobbin cases to make the spinning of the bobbin smoother and more even, which reduces bobbin issues and thread breaks so an issue in this area is pretty noticeable.

If I tug on the bobbin thread coming out of my machine, I expect it to smoothly spool out.

I know there's a problem when I tug on this thread and the thread comes out in fits and spurts, feeling as though it's sticking as it unwinds from the bobbin.

So I pulled the bobbin out and checked that I had wound it properly, then I checked the bobbin area - is it full of lint or stray threads? Time to brush it out!

After replacing the bobbin and bringing the thread up to the top of the machine, I gave the thread another tug - smooth sailing once again.

While it may seem a crazy simple fix, all my machine needed was a quick brushing out.

As you quilt this week, keep an eye and ear open for the way your machine sounds and feels when it's stitching nicely. Try to develop a feeling for the good stitches so when things go weird, you know what to do, or at least what is the most likely culprit.

Time to shut up and go finish this quilt!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Torrent of Fear - Part 2

Last week I posted a bit about the background of Torrent of Fear, the first quilt I'm tackling this year as apart of my personal goal to create 12 goddess quilts this year. Today let's discuss the construction technique that managed to get her together in just 3 days.

Yes, you heard that right - the top of Torrent of Fear is complete! I'm happy to report that this quilt top is ready to be quilted!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Just in case you don't believe me, check out this video which details how she was constructed and a fun reveal as each piece of freezer paper was peeled off one by one:

So how was Torrent of Fear pieced so quickly?

Very simple - it wasn't.

This quilt was put together using No Sewing Until You Quilt It, a method of applique that allows you to put together a quilt top without taking a single stitch.

Essentially this quilt top is TOGETHER, but it is not stitched, appliqued, or pieced at this point. Instead it's all being held together with glue and french fuse, a lightweight fusible interfacing.

Way back in 2005 when I was first getting into quilting, Ann Holmes, a member of the guild I joined, shared her technique for putting quilts together very similar to a stained glass window.

I was instantly hooked on the technique because something about this construction and design really worked with my brain. I was suddenly able to design and create any quilt I could think of so I used it to create many quilts, including the first goddess in the series Life and Fire:

So why haven't I been using this technique for all my quilts?

At some point in 2010, I became obsessed with perfection. I wanted the pieces of my quilts to fit seamlessly together and the quilting to flow effortlessly to the edges, and in order to achieve that look I used alternative techniques that used a lot more precision and finicky steps, but also produced much more "perfect" results.

I say "perfect" here because even the quilts I created with these methods had issues. They were not any more or less perfect than my previous quilts, but they were much more complicated and time consuming techniques that gave the illusion of perfection.

Looking back, I think I was mostly into the idea of making my life difficult.

Thank goodness that phase is over! When I settled on the design for Torrent of Fear I took a good look at the techniques I was using and decided enough was enough - I'm returning to the older methods that worked great before because if it was good enough when I was a beginner, it's definitely good enough now!

And it is! Torrent of Fear came together quickly and was very exciting to put together. I forgot how much I love the big reveal at the end - peeling each piece of freezer paper off the surface to reveal the fabric underneath. It's like unwrapping a present!

Now that the quilt top is complete, it's time to consider the quilting. Rather than quilting the snot out of her, I'm planning to keep the quilting much more open and play with many interesting techniques like couching decorative threads and yarn over her hair and glittery threads in the blue section.

Overall it's all about having fun and letting go of fears of imperfection and inadequacy. Who would have thought making quilt about fear would make me so fearless?!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Multi-Colored Insanity

Yes, this is what insanity looks like:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis month I've been in the process of taking all 365 designs from the project and putting them together to create one massive quilt.

The thing is, 365 is not a square number! I can either add 15 designs to create a quilt that's 19 rows by 20 rows (380 blocks) or take 4 away to create a quilt that's 19 by 19.

But that seems a bit cheap. The last thing I want to do is create a quilt that's SUPPOSED to have all 365 blocks, but in fact it only has 361.

Or maybe I'm obsessing about this a bit too much?

One solution would be to place the 4 blocks in each of the corners and add a long outer border to the quilt. I could even combine many designs together to create a fantastic design flowing along each side.

I could even quilt the name of the quilt along the top border - 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting - but I'm worried this will get the quilt disqualified from shows because it's essentially like stitching my name to the front of it. Any judges want to weigh in on this idea?

The technique to join the blocks together is a very simple Quilt-As-You-Go technique. Binding strips cover the blocks from the front, fully encasing the 1/4 inch seam allowance from the edges of the blocks. On the back more binding strips cover the raw edges.

Here's a very, very simple run down. I actually go into much more detail on this technique in the DVD Beginner Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs.

How to connect one quilted block to another quilted block

1. Trim down your blocks to a desired size. Whatever size the blocks need to be, they need to be EXACTLY the right size. Don't eye ball it - square it!

2. Cut a 1 inch and 1.5 inch strip of binding fabric as long as the block.

3. Fold the 1.5 inch strip in half, wrong sides together, and press the snot out of it.

4. Place the 1 inch strip on the front (right side) of the quilt block.

5. Place the 1.5 folded in half strip on the back (wrong side) of the block with the raw edges matching up with the raw edges of the block.

Stitch a super accurate 1/4 inch seam allowance, stitching through the block and BOTH binding strips at the same time.

6. Finger press the 1 inch binding over (leave the folded binding alone). Place the second block on top of the first, right sides together and line up the edge of the block with the edge of the 1 inch binding.

7. Stitch the second block to the 1 inch binding with a super accurate 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Spread the blocks flat and, if your seam allowances are stitched properly, both should nest into the space created by the 1 inch binding.

8. Now finger press the folded binding on the back over to fully encase all raw edges and either zigzag stitch or hand bind the fold in place.

9. Repeat with each block to create rows of your quilt, then repeat more strips of binding on the front and back to connect the rows together. So long as the blocks and strips are cut accurately, and so long as you stitch with a perfect seam allowance, this method can join any set of quilted blocks together.

Keep in mind this isn't the only way you can do this! This is simply the way I'm putting the blocks of this 365 quilt together because each block was quilted and trimmed which means there's no remaining space around the edges to attach the blocks in any other way.

I also prefer this method over just satin stitching the blocks together because it puts a bit of space between each block, almost like sashing.

I can already tell the most time consuming part of this project will be finishing all the binding on the back of the quilt. I still haven't decided if I want to hand stitch each back binding strip or blanket stitch it.

Multiplying the number of blocks by the size of this quilt means there will be 324 - 4 inch sections to hand bind, plus another 18 sections the full length of the quilt....yeah...I really think I should use the machine for this job unless I want to finish it around the time James goes to college!

Time to shut up and quilt!


Note - I realized when I first published this article that I wasn't clear about the border and adding the title. What I meant to ask was this - what if I actually quilt the words into the top of the quilt "365 Days of Free Motion Quilting"?

I guess I could cover it with fabric if I enter it into a show, but the photos for entry will always have the title showing front and center. Any thoughts?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Question Thursday #4

It's another Question Thursday day and I have a wonderful term from MC at Slair's Lair for the perfect scale to stitch with. You know you've found the perfect scale when it's not too big, not too small, but it's just the right size - the Goldilocks Zone!

I've seen lots of wonderful stippling from everyone that has linked up so far to yesterday's post! It's so exciting to see your progress in just 4 weeks of quilting together.

Now let's see if I can answer some of the questions that have come in this week:

To paraphrase what Mimi said in the comments earlier this week:

Do you take notes of tension changes / machine adjustments to help you remember how to get the machine back to normal?

This is a great question because many quilters are afraid to touch any part of the machine for fear of not being able to get it back to normal.

The best solution for this is to keep a small notebook or journal close by your machine and jot down where your tension, stitch length, stitch width, and even the pressure of the foot, if you have that knob, each time you fiddle with your machine.

Personally I keep notes on what I change the machine to when I do something different, and especially when I'll need to return the machine to this exact setting again in the future.

For example, I often applique with a blanket stitch set at 2.0 stitch length and 2.0 stitch width and use the open toe applique foot. Would I remember this if I hadn't written it down? Absolutely not! I can't keep specifics of stitch length and width in my head so it really does help to write it down.

When it comes to tension, it really is different with each machine. On my old Juki, I was fiddling with that tension knob every single day, on the Janome Horizon the tension is set on "auto" for piecing, applique, and free motion so I never have to worry about it.

It's totally different with each machine so figure out if you can either leave your tension alone, or if you can set in one place for FMQ and leave it there. If so, make a note of it so you'll remember!

Next let's hear from Mrs MomMegan Craftsalot (love your name by the way!):

How do you properly finish the ends of thread when are quilting and back yourself into a corner? Please tell me when you "break your thread" are you suppose to hand sew it in? Can you just cut it off and move on?

I showed this just a bit in yesterday's video, but this is such an important question, I have a better video to illustrate what to do with your loose threads:

Just in case you can't watch the video: To properly finish off your loose thread ends, first tug on the top thread to bring the bobbin thread up to the same side of the quilt. Next take a cheater needle and pop both threads in the top of the needle. Then run the threads into the middle layer of the quilt for around 1 inch or so, then cut them off.

I keep my single cheater needle on a Pin Place so it doesn't get lost in my big magnetic pincushion.

Please, whatever you do, don't just cut off the thread tails and move on. Many teachers will show you how to build up the threads to "lock" them in place at the beginning and end of a line of quilting. The only thing this does is puts a knot on your quilt and a potential for your stitches to come unraveled.

If you're in a big hurry, just leave your thread tails long and pull them all to the top of your quilt where you can see them. As you quilt your quilt, just shift them out of your way and only after it's done, sit down with a cheater needle and hide all of the threads within your quilt. Your quilts will thank you!

Pat from Color Me Quilty asked:

When quilting with a good quality cotton such as Aurifil, is there a way to keep it from breaking?

If you're using a high quality thread and it's breaking constantly, something is obviously rotting in Denmark.

First look at the way your top thread is being fed into the machine. Tug on the thread a bit. Does it glide off easily or is the spool sticking and not turning easily?

If your thread isn't gliding easily, chances are that is the problem. Unlike piecing where the thread is slowly unwinding from the spool, free motion quilting uses thread a lot faster and requires the thread to feed much more quickly off the spool.

So a thread like Aurifil's awesome 100% cotton, which never breaks for piecing, might suddenly start breaking when you quilt with it.

What is the solution here?

It's simple really - fix the way your thread feeds into the machine.

free motion quilting | Leah DayOne of the best possible tools you can buy is called a Spool Stand. I don't carry these right now because the ones I like are way too heavy and huge to ship, but they're truly awesome:

I keep a spool stand next to every one of my machines. The Janome Horizon even has a spool stand attachment that you can screw onto the back of that machine so it takes larger spools.

Even when piecing and appliqueing now, I always put my thread on a spool stand because it will feed much more evenly and effortlessly into the machine, which in turn reduces thread breaks and issues that happen when the spool doesn't glide easily.

Of course, your thread could be breaking for another whole set of reasons. When I buy thread, I always write the month and year on the side of a spool when I buy it. This helps me remember how old a spool of thread is because thread can actually go bad.

Recently I was piecing a quilt and my thread kept breaking even though I was using high quality Gutterman 100% cotton. What is going on here? Then I remembered back to when I bought that spool of thread - James was 6 months old! No wonder it was breaking - it's at least 4 years old and has been stored unprotected in my basement - all things that could weaken the fibers enough to cause frequent breakages.

The lesson here is simple: if you're getting frequent thread breaks try to ask questions and diagnose the problem. It might be as simple as your thread is too old or it's not happily feeding into the machine.Link
The next question is from Karin from the Quilt Yarn:

When I did a workshop on FMQ we were advised to start the stippling from the bottom up so that you could see how far apart from the preceding lines you were. Is there a right way of doing this or is it a matter of personal preference?

Karin, have you ever met someone else named Karin? Did they sign their name the exact same way you did? Chances are your signatures might have looked similar because you were writing the same word, but you definitely had your own unique touch to your name.

I use this example because it's the best way I can illustrate that every single person will stipple differently. You will start in different places, you will move across your quilt differently, you will fill the quilt itself in different ways. And that is OKAY!

There are MILLIONS of ways to stipple your quilt. Each teacher teaches this a little differently. Every quilter will learn and apply those lessons differently.

So the best thing you can do is focus on what works. Always move to what is easier, to what feels most natural for your brain and your body. If starting at the bottom and working upwards feels natural for you, do it!

I hope it's clear that everything I post here are IDEAS. It's not a scientific law or a rock solid fact. These are all ideas which means some work and some don't. Just keep moving to what works and what feels right.

In the comments of yesterday's post DrMary asked:

I've noticed that you are using a new type of pin set-up to baste your quilts?

Yes, I'm now using Pinmoors and simple flower head straight pins to baste my quilts. This is a new product developed by Loretta Ivison that works by locking the sharp end of normal straight pin so you can now baste with the normal pins you already have around the house.

I've started using Pinmoors to baste my quilts because they're a lot easier and faster to use than safety pins, tear my hands up far less, and are easier to take out, especially when I'm filming a video.

You can learn more about this cool item right here in the Quilt Shop!

Helen and Tsigeyusv both asked pretty much the same question in the comments of yesterday's quilt along post:

I noticed in this video, when you paused in your quilting, that in one part the needle stopped in the up position and in another part it stopped in the down position. Do you have a preference and is it different based on quilting a straight line as opposed to a curved line?

If I have the option on the machine, I will always end with my needle in the DOWN position.

This makes almost all aspects of free motion quilting much easier:
  • When shifting and squishing the quilt, you won't lose your place if the needle is down.
  • When stitching on a line, you can always stop with your needle down on the line to stay on track.
  • When quilting a filler design, stopping with the needle down makes it much less likely for the stop to show.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. If you have the option, always set your needle to the DOWN position.
The thing is, not all machines come with this function. Right now I'm quilting on the Janome HD1000 which is a $300 machine and has almost no special features.
It doesn't have a button to select to put the needle automatically in the down position so in order to get the needle down, I either have to carefully tap the foot pedal or move my hand to rotate the hand wheel.
So sometimes, as in the case of yesterday's video, I forget to do either! I apologize if it was confusing, but for the record, I usually stop with the needle in the down position every time I stop.
But this just lets you know how easily you can learn how to use a machine with fewer, or no, special features! Once you get comfortable always taking one hand off the quilt to rotate the hand wheel, it will become a habit that you don't even think about.
Never let the limit of special features make you think you can't free motion quilt on the machine you have right now. Chances are it will work just fine, but only if you put some time and effort in playing with it.
Finally Brenda K asked in the comments of yesterday's post:

Where do you look when stitching?
When stitching a normal straight line I tend to look about half an inch ahead of the needle. But when the line curls around and to the side and behind the needle I tend to lose the line and start looking right at the needle. Then I hesitate and wobble as I search for where I'm going. Any advice?
This is a great question Brenda! I'm like you - I tend to focus on the area I'm stitching INTO, not right at my needle.
When you lose the line, the best thing to do is either shift the quilt a bit or move your head slightly so you can see where you're going.
Sometimes I'll lean forward and tilt my head to the right to keep a line of sight on the line I'm stitching on.
The trick is just remembering to sit back up when you're out of that area so you don't get a backache!
Whew! That's it for this Question Thursday! It's high time I shut up and go quilt that little Sawtooth Star quilt so I'll have something to show you next week!
Let's go quilt,
Leah Day

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Quilt Along #4 - Quilting on a Line

Is it really Wednesday again already? That means it's time for another Free Motion Quilt Along lesson!

Last week I promised we would work on something other than Stippling and I didn't lie - this week we're focusing on stitching on a line in free motion.

So let's watch the video and learn many different ways to master this skill:

Stitching on a line is a super essential skill to free motion quilting. It's right up there with travel stitching and echoing as in the top 3 most fundamental free motion quilting skills to master.

Why is it so important to be able to quilt on a line?

It's super important because one day you're going to want to stitch in the ditch or quilt around the edges of an applique to draw more attention and focus to these shapes. You might also find a stencil design and fall so madly in love with it, you'll want to stitch it on ever quilt you ever make.

Or you might find a gorgeous fabric that can make a pretty quilt all by itself. You'll mostly likely want to quilt that awesome fabric by following the lines on the print rather than quilting all over the design.

As you can see there are a lot of different places this skill is used and almost all involve quilting REAL quilts.

Of course, it is possible to quilt a real quilt without ever stitching on a line or stitching in the ditch. This is All Over Quilting where you cover a quilt with one single design on a large scale.

All Over Quilting is fast, efficient, and certainly gets the quilts done, but not everyone is satisfied with this method of quilting.

If you spent 3 days piecing special quilt blocks, don't you want them quilted in a way that enhances their overall design and shape? Don't you want to get credit for your hand work? Of course you do!

Not everyone wants to cover their quilts with wall to wall quilting which is why we need to know how to stitch on a line, or in the ditch, so our quilts can be quilted with designs that ADD to the piecing or applique design.

Of course, this involves quilting a real quilt, which can be tricky to film on video, and even more tricky for you to follow along with.

So far I've been demonstrating my lessons on practice quilt sandwiches created with plain black fabric so you can clearly see what I'm doing in the video. For this particular lesson, I've demonstrated on stripped fabric, printed fabric, plain black fabric, and a "real" cheater cloth quilt (more on that quilt below).

It's entirely up to you what you want to practice this lesson on, but I would advise at least trying to quilt on the line of stripped fabric and a fairly simple print.

If you want to baste a small quilt top for this lesson, go for it! The more you practice this technique, the better you will get at it so it really doesn't matter what you choose to practice on.

Now let's learn some tips on quilting on a line:

Stitching on a line 101

Tip 1 - SLOW DOWN! Stitching on a line requires more concentration and focus than stitching random wiggly Stippling shapes. The best way to learn is by slowing down and running your machine slower so you can move your hands slower too. Once your brain catches up and you feel more comfortable, then start slowly increasing your speed.

No matter how comfortable you get, stitching on a line will always be slightly slower than stitching free hand.

Tip 2 - Don't Rip. Don't you dare pick up that seam ripper if you stitch off a line! Keep stitching and learn how to correct the mistake you made in another area of the quilt.

Ripping will only ever increase your skill at ripping, and I've never seen awards for "Best Seam Ripped Quilt" at a quilt show though it would be an interesting category to judge.

Tip 3 - Use your hands. Your hands can do more than just move your quilt around on the machine. Your hands are useful guides if you learn how to position them properly.

When you're stitching straight lines, keep your hands parallel to the needle. If you can, use the index finger of your right hand as a guide to keep the line straight. I show this technique a bit better in this older video right here.

Tip 4 - MOVE the quilt. If you start stitching off the line a lot and can't seem to get back on it consistently, take a good look at the quilt. Is it positioned in an awkward angle where you can't see where you're supposed to quilt next? Rotate it!

Look at where your stitching - is this angle and movement difficult or easy for you to maneuver? Rotate, reposition, squish, fold, curl - do whatever you need to do in order to make that section of the quilt easier to quilt.

Of course, you're not always going to have the opportunity or ability to rotate the quilt for every single angle you quilt. Sometimes it's just not practical to continually move the quilt around that much.

So also spend time stitching in some odd angles. Stitch straight lines from left to right and from right to left. This will probably feel a bit like writing with your non-dominate hand - a little awkward, but not unbearable. The more you do it, the better you will get at working with many angles AND staying on the line at the same time.

Now let's talk about the quilt I'm working on in the video:

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow I'll be honest - this isn't a REAL quilt. This is a cheater cloth quilt I designed and had printed at You can purchase this 1 yard quilt in green or blue right here.

Here's a quick disclaimer about these prints: Keep in mind that the dyes in Spoonflower fabric is more delicate than traditionally printed fabric. I've personally found a lot of fading with these prints, and I'm being honest about it here because I don't want you to be surprised when it happens.

Instead of throwing these quilts in the washer, instead soak them in the bathtub and don't use detergent. Also don't prewash your fabric when you get it - just add a border and baste it so it's ready to be quilted.

I'm designing these prints mostly for my use to teach and show you how to quilt something that at least LOOKS like a real quilt because I don't always have time to piece a quilt AND quilt it in one week. For this reason, the cheater cloth I'm designing has to be very dark, which means the fading is even worse.

Just keep this in mind if you purchase these Spoonflower cheater quilts - they will be great to practice with, but probably not the best hard wearing quilts.
Now let's talk about quilting this quilt in free motion:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI could easily quilt all over this quilt with large scale stippling, filling the quilts in rows as we learned in Quilt Along #2.

But if you had pieced all of those Sawtooth Stars, wouldn't you want to get credit for them?

So I don't want to quilt all over the stars and ignore all those piecing lines. I'd like to draw attention to them and make sure they stand out in the finished quilt. To do this, the first step is to stitch each star in the ditch.

But here's another point - you don't have to stitch EVERYTHING in the ditch.

If you choose to pay attention to the piecing design that doesn't mean you have to stitch every single seam you pieced in the ditch. This is not only overwhelming, but also a big waste of time.

Take a look at your quilt and decide the major elements you want to focus on. Only stitch the outlines of those particular shapes and ignore all the others.

For my sawtooth star, I've decided to stitch only the star shape in the ditch. This means I'm ignoring the center square shape and the outer square shape (the edges of the individual block). The lines I quilted are in white below:

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou can always decide which lines you want to quilt and which you want to ignore. The lines you ignore can then be quilted over with any free motion filler design.

So this is the way I stitched each star of my practice quilt in the ditch. Below I've numbered the blocks in the order I quilted them - always working from the center of the quilt to the outer edges.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI also quilted in the ditch between the green sashing and black border. I now have three distinct areas to quilt in: within the stars, within the sashing, and within the border.

Each of these areas can now be quilted with different filler designs to finish the quilt, or if the batting was rated high enough, I could even bind this quilt as is and call it done.

Now you may be wondering - why in the world are we doing this in free motion?

Can't we just do this with a walking foot?

Yes, you're absolutely right to wonder about this. A walking foot can easily stitch straight and slightly curvy lines with no problem, and because it slowly moves the fabric forward, it's much easier to stay right on a line.

But here's the major limitation of walking foot: it's not free motion.

A walking foot can ONLY quilt straight and slightly curvy lines. You can't stipple with it, you can't make free form designs, and it's unbearably, mindlessly SLOW!

Not only does it move slowly over your quilt, it also forces you to continually shift and rotate your quilt so the seam you're stitching is always straight down from the foot. That means to stitch 1 single sawtooth star block in the ditch, you will have to shift and reposition your quilt 16 times!

In free motion, you'd be able to stitch in the ditch, then fill the space with a design, and only rotate the quilt if you really need to. You'd also have the opportunity to wiggle over to the next star and fill it as well, all without breaking thread once.

This saves SO much time, and keeps the quilt flowing and moving, making it easier to finish!

The ability to quilt on a line in free motion is a major TIME SAVER. It's faster, and once you master it, it will also be easier.

So that's it for this week! I hope you'll take some time this week to play with stitching on a line and in the ditch. Just remember it doesn't have to be perfect and the more you practice this technique, the better you will get at it.

Now let's link up and share your progress from last week's Quilt Along #3 - Playing with Scale:

Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog:

1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.

2. Copy the link of the specific blog post. This is not just the link to your blog itself (, but the link to the specific post:

3. Click the blue link up button above and paste your link into the box.

Keep in mind that you're posting your progress from LAST week on THIS week's post. This way you have time to watch the lesson, play with the ideas, then post your progress to the next quilt along. I hope that makes sense!

As always, any questions you have, please post them in the comments below or on your blog and I'll answer 5 tomorrow on Question Thursday.

Time for me to shut up and quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quilting with Your Whole Heart

For some reason I seem to be turning into a quilting / motivation coach! Half my posts are about quilting and the other half are about overcoming obstacles that stop us from quilting and enjoying this wonderful hobby.

Still, I think it all works together nicely, particularly with the Quilt Along, and today I'd like to talk about putting your heart into it!

I attended a morning yoga class and the instructor led the class with the theme:

Practice with your whole heart.

Working through the poses, she continually brought our attention back to this mindfulness and I loved the way it kept my attention on my mat and in the pose and not wandering off to the millions of things I had to do today.

But we can apply this same less to more than just muscle stretches.

When you quilt, when you are creating something, where are you? Are you actively focused on the task in front of your, or is your mind stumbling through the past or daydreaming about the future?

The next time you're at your sewing machine, try bringing your awareness to your hands and the delicate movements they're making.

Focus on taking a stitch, finishing a seam, or completing that block, and instead of rushing off to the next step, take a minute to touch the stitches you just made. Look at them closely and see their perfection and imperfection. Don't use this as an opportunity to criticize yourself, but to appreciate what you can do. Relish your abilities!

When you get frustrated with a difficult task, take a deep breath and thank yourself for being a creative person. How many people refuse to even TRY a creative hobby out of fear, laziness, or apathy? You are awesome simply because you create.

As you work, bring your heart into your stitches. Think about the person you're making this quilt for, even if it's for you! Think about the gift that it is to receive a handmade quilt, and the gift that it is to be able to make one. Quilting is all about wrapping someone up in the loving warmth of a comforting blanket. Quilting is an act of love.

Back in that yoga class this morning, I kept returning to the idea of love and practicing with my whole heart flowing into each pose, each movement, each breath.

As I left that class, I began thinking about all the different ways this applies to my normal routine. I began to see that every task, even washing the dishes, is an opportunity to work through your heart - to put your whole being into the job and focus on absolutely nothing else.

It's actually a comforting thing, as I found working through this day, to play with James with my whole heart, to clean the kitchen with my whole heart, to drive to the grocery store with all my thoughts focused solely on one thing - going to the grocery store.

Very soon I began thinking about quilting and why this project feels so very different now.

When I dug into this feeling, I began to see that this year, more than any other, I have returned to quilting with my whole heart. I'm following my heart by teaching this way, by trying every idea that pops into my head, and by sharing it all openly here on the project.

Often the ideas for the next quilt along post come only after writing a Question Thursday post, which means this project is literally happening in real time.

For the last two years I've created videos far in advance which means by the time they were posted, I was already quilting something else. This was an extremely stressful way to create and it always left me feeling a bit unbalanced. I always want to talk about what's happening right NOW, not what happened 3 months ago!

After realizing all of this, I know exactly why the project feels so much lighter, so much more fun and more exciting than ever before: because there's so much love here!

I love to teach, I love to share, and I love that all of you are here to enjoy it.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being here and for quilting along with me.

Now let's go quilt!


Sunday, January 22, 2012

A New...Old...But New Machine

Reading the title of this post, you might think I've finally taken one stitch too many and have gone utterly insane.

But in truth I really have just purchased a new, old, but new machine!

Yesterday I drove to a quilters house in Hollis, NC and bought a Bernina 1230, which is technically a "new" machine to me.

But it's also an old machine because it was built sometime between 1989 and 1998.

But it's ALSO a NEW machine because it has hardly been used!

When G. emailed me about this machine, she was really asking for advice as to whether she should sell it and get a bigger, quilting oriented machine. She already had the exact same model and came by this machine via a friend.

I instantly went on the alert because I've been waiting patiently for one of these awesome older Berninas to walk across my path again.

Allow me to digress for a moment into a bit of my sewing history:

Once upon a time, I was a newly married woman and starting a new job sewing garments for a living. The brother machine I was using at the time gave out after just one week of hard sewing.

I obviously needed a machine that could take the heat of high speed, high intensity sewing. So I went to my local Bernina dealer, at that time in Asheville, NC.

And what should I find waiting for me? A gorgeous, used, Bernina 1130.

This was my first introduction to this amazing line of machines. I played on the 1130 for more than an hour. No, I didn't need all the fancy stitches. No, I didn't need all the bells and whistles, but golly I fell in love with that machine!

But...I couldn't afford it. I had exactly $400 in my pocket thanks to a college refund check and the price on the 1130 was $675.

Looking back I realize what an unbelievable deal it was. That machine was complete with all the feet, knee lifter, the works. On ebay these regularly go for over $1000.

But I couldn't swing it. Josh and I refused to go into debt for ANY expense, even our wedding, so going into debt for a sewing machine seemed like a silly thing in comparison.

I walked out of that store and went to the local Viking dealership which advertised a machine for $300. Truthfully I was very satisfied with the Viking Prelude 340 I left the store with, but in the back of my mind I never, ever, forgot about that Bernina 1130.

As the years have gone by, I've kept an eye on these machines. Not just 1130s, but 1230s, 1630s and pretty much any other machines in that early computerized line. Pretty much ALL of these machines are golden. They've kept their looks and their awesome stitch quality which means their value is actually increasing as these machines get harder to find.

Every couple of months I'd check Ebay auctions looking for one, but I've never found the "right" machine.

Because it was such luck to run across that 1130 in that quilt shop, I always felt I'd get another lucky break and the machine that was meant to me mine would wander across my path.

And as luck would have it - one did just this week!

What's totally unbelievable is that this machine is ALMOST new. Every piece is here, even the original advertising books and print out guides:

It honestly feels like running across a mint condition tea set that was previously owned by Queen Elizabeth, with ALL the pieces, nothing scratched or chipped. It feels like this machine left the store and came home with me, despite the fact that it's probably more than 20 years old!

What I love the most about this machine is its stitch quality. Every stitch is - literally - perfect. As I said on facebook this morning - Truly nothing pieces like a Bernina.

Now you might be wondering about quilting. Yes, I most definitely can free motion quilt on this machine. Berninas have one of the best feet designed for free motion quilting - the open toe embroidery foot.

You might think the quilting ability of this machine is limited by the small space between the needle and the motor of the machine. This area is called the harp space and in the 1230, this space is around 6 - 7 inches (I haven't actually measured it yet).

But I don't think this is a limitation to quilting. For the last two weeks I've been quilting on a very small Janome HD 1000 with a 6.5 inch harp space and I haven't found this space to be terribly detrimental to quilting.

I believe the biggest reason it hasn't been a challenge to quilt on the Janome HD 1000 is because it's on a level surface with the table surface. It's much easier to move the quilt in general because I'm not pushing and pulling the quilt over the edges of the machine bed.

So I will definitely quilt on the Bernina 1230, but mostly plan to use this machine for piecing and applique. I always have two machines set up these days - one for piecing quilts and one for quilting. This way two projects can be going at a time and I'm not constantly having to switch out machines.

Now you might be wondering about my Janome Horizon 7700 - have we had a falling out?

Absolutely not, though it's hard to love a machine deeply when it's broken!

The catch spring on my Janome Horizon broke a few weeks ago and it turns out the whole tension unit in the machine has to be changed in order to fix this little bit of metal.

It's not all bad though. Since I have to drive all the way to Greensboro to get it fixed, we might as well have a workshop while we're at it!

I'll be teaching at Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shop on February 18th from 10 am - 3 pm. Give the store a call to sign up for the class and I'll see you next month!

I'm off to shut up and quilt on this new, old, new machine!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Torrent of Fear - Part 1

Last week I wrote a long post about fear and how it can stop you from trying new things, including quilting your own quilts.

It's no secret that I've been thinking about fear a lot lately. Last year I was mired in a sea of fear and indecision that left me powerless to do anything but tread water. Looking back at those feelings and that stuck place, I'm able to see just how crippling this situation can be.

So it is that helpless, fear drenched state that is the theme for a new goddess quilt called Torrent of Fear:

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhen I sketched this quilt, I really wanted to include some positive aspect within it. An umbrella, a rainbow, a covered area that could protect the figure from that torrent of fear.

I liked the idea of shelter. Finding shelter, even if it's just a pink umbrella, to stop the fear from pounding down.

But after playing with the design for several days, I began to see that showing fear in all it's dark, soul-destroying glory was necessary. There is no shelter here, no positive light or redeeming quality.

This is exactly the way this type of fear feels. It doesn't feel like there is an end. When you're standing in that torrent of fear, you cannot move, you cannot create - you are stuck.

And if you let that torrent come down long enough, you will lose all your form: your beauty, your creativity, your intelligence. If you stand still long enough - you can lose everything.

For that reason, you may find this quilt unbearably dark and forbidding. You may find it too dark and painful to be beautiful.

But this is precisely why I need to make this quilt this way:

I want to SEE fear.

I want a visual representation of fear on my wall so I can look at it, and look within myself, and make sure I'm NOT that figure standing still, allowing fears to pound me into nothingness.

I want to look at that dark cloud and see the potential destruction it can bring into my life. I want to acknowledge it's power and it's presence because ignoring fear doesn't mean it goes away.

When I look at this quilt, it makes me ask questions.

Are you truly not in the mood to start that next quilt, or are you just afraid that something will go wrong with it?

Are you truly not able to cut that fabric up, or are you just afraid to cut it incorrectly?

Are you truly not able to pick a quilting design, or are you just full of fear for the outcome?

Fear stops us from making decisions, from being able to weed through all the many millions of options we have every single day and make a single, simple choice.

When we finally HAVE to make a decision, fear takes away our peace of mind (and our sanity) when it makes us question over and over "Is this right? Or is this better? Or maybe I should do this..."

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Fear is apart of our lives, but it doesn't have to rule us.

That's why I'm creating Torrent of Fear: to see it, to accept it, to acknowledge it's presence in my life, but to also set limits on what it is allowed to do under my roof.

No longer will fears to rule my parenting, my marriage, my business, or my quilts. No longer will I allow this emotion stick me in place and dissolve my ability to act, react, or create.

Which makes this quilt the perfect project to tackle a very big fear:

How to make a goddess quilt less complicated, time consuming, and difficult.

I've been afraid to tackle this challenge. I've been afraid of changing anything with the way I make this series of quilts, mostly for fear that the new, simpler quilts wouldn't stand up to the older ones.

I'm really afraid to hear someone say "I really like the way you USED to make these quilts."

This is the trick about fear - eventually you have to face it or risk getting stuck forever.

I can either continue to make crazy, densely quilted monstrosities that make me crazy, or I can face my fear and start making quilts the way I really want to make them.

So how do I want to make this quilt?

First off, I want to get it together quickly. I can't take 3 months to get this quilt top together! Looking at my schedule for the rest of this month, I really need the quilt top completed in less than a week.

I also want to quilt much faster and more efficiently too. No more dense, cardboard stiff quilts!

Speed is directly related to size. The bigger a quilt is, the longer it will take to make it. While I love big, over-the-top wall hangings, I've come to realize that a quilt can have just as much impact in a smaller size. The effect really has more to do with color and design than it does with overwhelming size.

So Torrent of Fear was sized at just 30 inches wide. After printing her out on just 18 pieces of paper (Emergence was printed on more than 100 pages!), I'm extremely satisfied with her size and shape. She actually fits on my large ironing surface!

So with those changes in mind, make sure to check back tomorrow to see Torrent of Fear in the!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

New Goal: 12 Goddess Quilts

This year I've set a new goal for myself: 12 goddess quilts to be completed in 2012.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow the first question you may ask is - Why?

In truth, I'm setting this goal for myself for several reasons. The biggest reason is simple: I want more quilts!

I've actually had ideas bouncing around in my head for more than 20 goddess quilts, but at the rate I'm going, they'll never get made!

I'm also wanting to force myself to quilt every single day. I'm already quilting much more than I did last year, but there are still days that I could be quilting that end up stuck on the computer instead.

And the most important reason: I want to release my goddesses series from the quagmire I've lock it into. Each quilt has been bigger and more ostentatious than the last. Most have been quilted so densely, they can practically stand up on their own.

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhile making the last two quilts, Hot Cast and Emergence, I caught myself several times asking "Why does this have to be so hard?"

Why does it have to be so time consuming?

Why does every piece have to be so perfect?

Why does the quilting have to be this dense?

So part of this goal is answering these questions truthfully: it doesn't have to be so hard.

A goddess quilt is just a quilt and there's no reason for it to be so time consuming, so perfect, or quilted so dense.

I was the one who was making it so difficult by placing too much importance on each quilt being capable of doing well at quilt shows, as though their only value to me was a ribbon or a cash reward.

free motion quilting | Leah DayBut here's the really weird thing - I haven't been entering! I've had hundreds of opportunities to get Shadow Self, My Cup Runneth Over, Hot Cast, and now Emergence in major quilt shows, but I haven't even TRIED.

Eventually I've had to get honest with myself: these quilts mean far more to me than a ribbon or a big show win. They mean so much to me, I don't like the idea of putting them in a box and shipping them somewhere. I like them to be here, hanging on my wall, making my house pretty, making me smile.

So I'm not serious about showing these quilts. I don't want to show these quilts, I don't care if they have the capacity to win or not, it totally doesn't matter to me anymore.

Which means I definitely CAN make 12 goddess quilts in one year because it DOESN'T have to be this hard anymore.

No longer will I struggle for the unattainable: Perfection. This illusive mistress is no longer the object of my desire. Let someone else struggle and fret and drive themselves crazy for her seductive promises.

As I've said many times this week, and will likely continue to yell at the top of my lungs every chance I get:

Perfection is not the point!

Maybe if I say it enough, write it enough, repeat it enough, even I will learn this lesson!

The point is to create the quilt:
to capture the feeling and idea
and colors you're wanting to connect

- and then finish the damn thing so you can enjoy it.

The point is not to have a stash of fabric that could fill the Taj Mahal, but to have a stack of quilts to use and share and give away, and hang on the walls to enjoy.

The point is to leave your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with QUILTS to use and enjoy, not a hundred quilt tops that will remain folded in a closet, wandering from family member to family member in some strange grief charade.

In this spirit of finishing quilts that can be used, I'd also like to take a leaf out of the Modern Quilting movement and try creating a utilitarian goddess bed quilt.

I just have a hankering to curl up under one of my giant, flaming girls, but obviously need to loosen up my quilting stitches in order for the quilt to be soft and cuddly enough to sleep with.

I'd also like to lighten up on the psychoanalysis that seems to go on with each of these quilts. Yes, they're personal, but that doesn't mean they have to be such mind blowing drudgery to create.

As always, each quilt will have a theme, but not all will have a deeply personal connection. I'd like to make a goddess about fear, sadness, peace of mind, strength, anger, love and passion.

So that is my personal goal for 2012: 12 new goddess quilts.
That's one quilt per month, and as luck would have it, I've already started on the first: Torrent of Fear. Check back tomorrow for a play by play of how this quilt top came together in just 3 days.

Time to shut up and quilt, I've got a goddess to create!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Question Thursday #3

We're moving right along with our free motion quilt along and it's super fun to go through all the linked up blogs to search for questions to answer here on Thursdays.

And I'm seeing loads of beautiful stitching! It's so wonderful to see your progress after just two weeks of working on stippling.

We have a wide variety of questions to answer today so let's get going! Pat at Color Me Quilty asked:

I was wondering what do you use in the bobbin when you use special threads on the top, such as metallic or some of the heavier weight threads?

This is a great question because very rarely will we put a specialty thread in both the top AND bobbin of our machine.

So here's my opinion when it comes to metallic and specialty thread:

Metallic - I mostly use Yenmet metallic thread which was designed to be used with Isacord thread. Because the two were designed to be similar, it's easy enough to use Isacord in the bobbin and the Yenmet metallic on top and find a balance between the two.

But here's another, slightly weirder, opinion: why not stitch with the same thread in the bobbin?

Seriously, what is the problem or issue with that idea? Mismatching thread causes enough problems on its own, maybe matching specialty thread will make using it easier? It's worth at least TRYING this idea.

Invisible thread - I'm not a huge fan of this stuff, but I have been known to use it. When I do, I use it in both the top AND bobbin of the machine.

Why in both places? Because if my tension is off slightly, who cares?! I can't see it and neither can you!

Heavier Weight Thread - I haven't had a ton of experience using heavy weight threads in the TOP of the machine. I did use quite a lot of Razzle Dazzle in the bobbin for Emergence and found the most important thing was to use a color in the top of the machine that matched well with the color in the bobbin.

It was also important to crank up the tension on the top to really pull that thick bobbin thread down onto the quilt. The top thread will end up showing up a bit no matter how high you set the tension, so just make sure the colors are somewhat balanced.

And this leads to one more important point:

Always match colors on the top and the bobbin.

You will do yourself the greatest favor in the world by just picking one color and going with it on both sides. Small tension issues, hiccups in the stitch quality, and other small details will be much less noticeable if the colors are the same.

I once got an email berating me over this opinion because I obviously didn't understand that the her quilt was red on one side and yellow on the back, and it wasn't a solution, in her opinion, to just tell her to use the same color thread on both sides.

I replied gently that it wasn't my fault she didn't make a good choice with the color of her backing fabric, and that this really is my solution to 90% of thread tension problems.

Which leads to another good point: PLAN AHEAD!

If your quilt is mostly red, plan to quilt it with red thread, and buy more of that red fabric to use as the backing. It will save you time, money, stress, blood, sweat, tears, and possibly your sanity!

Since we're on this subject of thread and stitch quality, let's go next to Tammy's plea for help:

I don't know if my hands are going to fast, my feet or if the tension is off. Please help Leah!!!

Tammy posted this picture of her stitching:

I see several things in this photo.

Right here in the blue circle, I see loops pulling much longer and tighter in a deep curve than in other places. This tells me maybe Tammy maybe needs to stitch a bit faster in these areas.

But I also see some stitches that are more balanced in the red circle.

Which means that something might have happened to the thread in her machine. It sounds crazy, but I can't count the number of times I've hit my spool of thread and knocked it sideways causing my stitches to go crazy.

I also can't count the number of times my bobbin has suddenly become possessed by demons. It stitched fine 5 minutes ago, but suddenly it's making a CLACKETY CLACKETY CLACKETY noise that's loud enough to wake the devil.

So here's a simple checklist if your stitches go suddenly, inexplicably ugly:

1. Rethread your whole machine. Take out the bobbin, take out the top thread. Start over from scratch and don't rush through it. It's really easy to miss guides when you're in a hurry and getting frustrated.

2. Change your needle. Chances are this wasn't the issue, but it never hurts. A bent or dull needle can wreck havoc with your stitches so it's always a good idea to change it when things get ugly.

Try stitching again after completing #1 and #2. Don't stitch anything super complicated - just try straight or slightly curvy lines.

Then try a deeper, stippling wiggle. Did the issue come back again? If you saw long loops pulling up in the deep curves, try speeding up your machine in these areas.

If the problems persist, try this:

3. Return to Piecing. Change all the settings of your machine back to how you have it set up for piecing and actually piece a few scraps together. Are you still having issues?

If you suddenly stop having issues chances are you are doing something - dropping your feed dogs, changing thread, changing feet, changing tension, changing SOMETHING that is screwing things up.

If your machine is still having issues with piecing and you CAN'T get the tension corrected by any means, chances are your machine is actually broken in some way and the best solution is to see a repairman.

However, most often your machine is NOT broken. Most often there's just a single issue stopping you from finding good looking stitches.

You'll need to begin the process of diagnosing the problem step by step.

The most important thing is to keep quilting. Don't let the loops beat you down! Don't let eyelashes best your spirit! Just keep trying it, keep playing with it, keep working at it until the pretty stitches surface.

One more note about stitch quality: I received this question from Kitty May on facebook:

Why don't my bottom stitches look as good as the top ones? I'm using the same thread, Aurifil.

This is a great question because the fact is - even my stitches look better on top than they do on the bottom. Seriously, out of all 365 of my little design squares, even the ones stitched on black fabric on both sides, I could flip it over and look at it closely and see which side faced up while it was quilted.

So this leads to another point: Stitch quality is always a work in progress.

Everyone is always working to have better looking, more balanced stitches, but it's not going to happen overnight, and it shouldn't be something stopping you from quilting your own quilts.

Please keep in mind that it is SUPER easy to obsess about tension issues, a wobbly stitch in the sea of perfect stitches, a slightly longer string of stitches - but think about when and where you're doing this obsessing: you're sitting at your sewing machine, with your face about 5 inches from your quilt, with bright lights all around so you can see every issue in clear focus.

You're going to see every mistake, but you really shouldn't berate yourself for them! Just keep quilting.

This is the main reason why I beg you to match your thread colors. It's really difficult, if not impossible, to get absolutely 100% perfect tension all the time while free motion quilting.

If you have red thread on top and yellow thread in the bobbin, chances are some of that is going to show on either side and it will drive you crazy. Do yourself a favor and:

- Match your thread color - save your sanity!

- Give yourself a break about thread issues - it's not worth agonizing over!

- Ignore the issues and GO QUILT - thread issues WILL become less, but ONLY if you keep quilting.

I really hope you don't take this as a flippant response. This is my truthful solution to 100% of small thread issues, even the ones I see in my own quilts. Perfection does not exist in free motion quilting, and you can drive yourself crazy searching for it.

One last note and I really will shut up about this:

There is a way to hide 90% of your thread issues, 100% of small line wobbles and noticeable starts and stops, and 80% of massive tension problems. It's a really simple solution:

Wash your quilt!

Seriously, you're agonizing over your quilt when it's flat and perfect and fresh off the machine. Of course the thread issues are going to be noticeable! All that thread is still sitting slightly on the surface of the quilt. It's not yet gotten happy and soft with the other fibers of the quilt.

So throw your quilt in the washing machine, crank the temperature up to HOT, then dry that sucker on the hottest setting in your dryer, and I bet you'll have to SEARCH for those issues you were so upset about when it's finished.

And we have time for one more question from Sisbabestitches about quadrant quilting:

I do have a question- if you start in the middle in the quandrant, where are you supposed to end? Are you supposed to join up with the beginning again? I kind of improvised an extra row and swung back to the middle cos my start line was just hanging there by itself in the center looking really obvious. Though maybe it was just me!!

This might sound a little crazy, but I SO understand where Sisbabestitches is coming from!

For all those type A personalities out there, the idea of a random loose end hanging out in the middle of a quilt is just...well...uncomfortable.

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhat if someone sees that starting point? What if they see how the quilt was quilted in rows? What if they see other starts and stops and pick apart the whole quilting experience bit by bit?!

This might sound crazy, but I DO THIS ALL THE TIME to myself!

I once decided not to add a border to a quilt because I didn't know how to miter the corners and thought everyone would look at the squared off corner and think it looked weird. I've killed quilt ideas because I didn't know how to piece it or applique huge pieces without seamlines. I've not quilted in certain areas for fear of covering up piecing lines, even if that line was joining two pieces of the same colored fabric. It's enough to make a person crazy.

For the record: no one really cares. If anyone even SEES that starting point of your line of stippling, they're not even going to look twice.

But if you really, really absolutely MUST know what to do with that starting point, here's a few solutions:

#1 - Join up with the starting line when the quilt is 1/2 way quilted.

free motion quilting | Leah DayBasically you'll start in the center of the quilt (red dot), and stitch rows to fill one quadrant, wiggle with more rows to fill the second quadrant, then connect your line of stitching to the starting point.

Break your thread, then start again along the edge of your quilt (blue dot). This new starting point will be cut off when you square your quilt and attach binding so no one will ever see it.

#2 - Split the quadrants and then join up:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis is a slightly different way to quadrant quilt because you first stitch rows from the center to each side, then back into the center to break your quilt up into 4 equal pieces. Because you're able to quilt to each side of the quilt, the center section will be knocked out quickly and you can easily join back up with that starting point.

Again break thread here and start stitching again on the edge the quilt, stitching a row back into the center of the quilt to fill each quadrant. This way the loose end will be on the edge of the quilt and visible in the center.

#3 - Disguise the Starting Point:

free motion quilting | Leah DayYour starting line doesn't have to just start and wiggle straight into stippling. You could stitch a loop or a tear drop shape instead and this will hide the starting point a bit better in the rows of quilting.

#4 - Show off your starting point:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis is the exact opposite of #3. If you're going to quilt your own quilts, why not get credit for it?! Start with a giant spiral, a massive ripple heart, a cluster of pebbles, or big grinning smiley face to add an element to your quilt that no one else has.

Think of it like your signature - your own unique way to start your quilting process, and something your kids and grandkids will look for with fondness on your quilts.

Ultimately I hope you can see that there's really no wrong way to do this!

Quadrant quilting is meant to make quilting your quilts easier and less time consuming or confusing. It's not meant to cause more stress or frustration!

But if it seriously doesn't work for your brain - if you really like quilting in circles or quilting randomly - keep doing it!

There's really only one rule this year:

Find what works.

And I guess that means there's also a second rule this year:

Go DO it!

If something works for you, shut up and go quilt that way. If it doesn't work for you, keep asking questions until you find something that does work.

It's time for me to shut up and quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quilt Along #3 - Playing with Scale

Let's move on to our next quilt along lesson! Today let's talk about Scale.

Scale describes the size of the design on your quilt and how far apart the lines of quilting are on the surface.

This has been something many quilters have asked about over the last few weeks so let's spend a week focusing exclusively on it. See how this works in this Quilt Along #3 video:

Now let's sum up what we've learned:

Quilting on a big scale (1 inch or bigger) means your quilting lines are quite far apart and the design is very open. A quilt quilted with a large scale design will be very soft and cuddly:

free motion quilting | Leah DayBig scale quilting is also much faster and requires less thread to cover your quilt.

Quilting on a small scale (1/4 inch or smaller) means your quilting lines are closer together and the design is much more dense. This means the design will stand out and show off more on the surface of your quilt, but it will also make the overall quilt stiffer:

free motion quilting | Leah DaySmall scale quilting is also much more time consuming and uses loads of thread.

There is also a happy middle ground between large and small scale quilting. If you quilt on a 1/2 inch scale your quilt will still be soft and comfortable, but the quilting lines will also be close enough together that the quilting lines will stand out and add to the overall quilting design:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe trick with scale is consistency.

If you want your quilt quilted on a 1 inch scale so it's soft and comfortable to sleep under, obviously you're going to be pretty miffed if you suddenly start quilting it on a 1/4 inch scale and it becomes as stiff as cardboard.

Likewise if you're quilting the borders of a wallhanging on a smaller scale, chances are you really want to maintain that small scale throughout and not leave giant open gaps within your quilting design.

While it might not feel like it, scale is something you can learn to control and you can maintain evenly throughout a quilt. The key is having something to look at that will keep the size of the design in your mind.

I call these touchstones or guides. It's just a small item that is as big as the scale you're wanting to stitch. As you can see from the photos above, each scale was quilted using that object as a visual guide to keep the design consistent.

It can be as simple as looking at the width of your finger or thumb (1/2 inch scale), or an empty spool of thread (1 inch scale), or a marking pencil (1/4 inch scale).

Having an object to look at will keep that correct size and scale in mind. You can even hold your touchstone against the quilting you've done to make sure the lines are roughly staying the right distance apart.

The location of your hands on the surface of the quilt also have a lot to do with the scale of the design.

Your hands will generally be right around your needle no matter what scale you're stitching, but when stitching on a bigger scale you will likely find it easier to have your hands slightly further apart.

When stitching on a smaller scale, you don't need to move as much of the quilt so your hands will come closer together and closer to the needle.

If you suddenly start seeing your scale change, pay attention to where your hands are on the quilt:

- If you suddenly find yourself stitching on a much bigger scale, check your hands. If you've widened the space between your hands, it's likely feeling really easy to swing that quilt around in big sweeping movements.

Replace your hands on the quilt, take a look at your guide or touchstone and return to your chosen scale.

- If you find yourself suddenly stitching on a denser, tighter scale ask yourself what has just happened. Chances are you've brought your hands closer together and you're not able to move the quilt as quickly to create the larger scale design.

Widen your hands, take a look at your touchstone, and return to the scale you were working on.

free motion quilting | Leah DayCheck out the two mistakes in this photo above. Which is more noticeable to you?

Personally I find the cluster of denser stitching in the left side much more noticeable than the area of more open quilting on the right.

Please understand that no quilt is perfect. If your stitching suddenly gets wider or smaller, don't rip it out. Return to your proper scale and keep quilting. It's not a deal breaker and it won't ruin your quilt!

Now you may wonder - what is the best scale to quilt on?

In truth, this is different for every quilter and really for every quilt. Personally I think you should learn how to quilt on a variety of scales so you will be able to quilt a variety of projects.

Being able to quilt on one scale and only one scale can get very boring and repetitive. It's very nice to be able to switch scales depending on what you're working on and how dense you feel like stitching.

This leads to another important quilting question:

How far apart should your quilting lines be?

It honestly doesn't depend on how the quilt is pieced or designed or the intended use of the quilt, but on the batting you use in the middle.

All battings have a rating. Somewhere on the package it will say "Quilted up to 4 inches" or some other number. This means you need to make sure you have lines of quilting at least 4 inches apart, otherwise the batting could shift inside the quilt, making it lumpy.

Back in the day when we didn't have needle punched batting, we had to hand quilt upwards of 20 stitches per inch simply to keep the batting in place. These days with modern technology and battings that are engineered not to shift, we definitely don't have to quilt that dense.

We now have battings that can be quilted as far apart as 12 inches! That means you could literally quilt your quilt with lines 12 inches apart and call it done.

Not all battings have such a huge rating however. It's important to always check the packaging and note what it says. If you were planning on quilting a quilt on a 2 inch scale (2 inches between all the lines of quilting), but the batting said "Quilting Up to 1 Inch," you'd better either switch batting or stitch that quilt on a 1 inch scale.

This is a pretty important issue because one of the main questions I'm asked about quilting is "How much quilting does my quilt need?"

The true technical answer is: as little as your batting needs.

You don't have to quilt the snot out of your quilts unless you really want to! There isn't a right or a wrong way to quilt a quilt and there isn't a magical scale that works perfectly for every project.

The key is looking at your quilt and deciding how much quilting it needs based on how much TIME you want to spend on it and how much MONEY you want to spend on thread!

So that's it for this week! Take a few days to play with stitching several rows of Stippling on a big 1 inch scale, on a small 1/4 inch scale, and a medium sized 1/2 inch scale.

Don't forget to link up your progress from last weeks Quilting in Rows below!

Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog:

1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.

2. Copy the link of the specific blog post. This is not just the link to your blog itself (, but the link to the specific post:

3. Click the blue link up button above and paste your link into the box.

Keep in mind that you're posting your progress from LAST week on THIS week's post. This way you have time to watch the lesson, play with the ideas, then post your progress to the next quilt along. I hope that makes sense!

As always, any questions you have, please post them in the comments below or on your blog and I'll answer 5 tomorrow on Question Thursday.

Time for me to shut up and quilt,

Leah Day

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