The Free Motion Quilting Project: Multi-Colored Insanity

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?


  1. Your quilt is going to be so amazing, Leah. I didn't realize you could be judged by the name of the quilt! Can you switch it around a bit? Something like-365 Days in Motion. Whatever you do, I know it will be perfect! Thanks for the tute on joining blocks!

  2. Hi Leah! I am sure no matter how you put it together the quilt is going to be amazing. About the name, when the big figures of quilting enters a quilt into a juried show, in most cases we can tell who made that quilt without even reading the label. One of my favorite quilters of all times is Ricky Tims. When you see one of Ricky's quilts you can tell immediately by his choice of fabrics and his style. Sharon Schamber has a staple style of quilt making. Cindy Needham uses mainly linens. Others use mainly fusibles. David Taylor's quilts can be spotted at a distance and so on. There is nothing wrong developing your own style and going along with it. It will take you far. So, if your style is variable quilting in the same quilt, go with it, and give it the name you feel fits right.

  3. I vote for putting the four blocks in the corners, it has it have all 365. It is striking, not insane.

  4. what a wonderful souvenir of 'the project'! i think it's lovely...

  5. Wow... this is going to look wonderful. I like the way you plan to join the blocks. For what it's worth... my preference in viewing the finished quilt is to add squares so all 365 are in there. I also like the joining strips hand stitched. But that is a lot to do, even though they go along rather quickly. And since this is a machine project, it would be in keeping to use machine stitching for that part, too. Look forward to seeing your resolution of this. Thanks for all the good info you provide us!

  6. That is indeed the draw back of the method of QAYG.

  7. I'm so excited about this project. I feel like I'm a part of it since I've been following along since the beginning. I don't know much about the judges views but I can't think of a better name then 365 days of free-motion quilting!! I will HAVE to find a way to see this in person if you're puting it in a show!!!

  8. I like the idea of doing 361 and then the last 4 in the corners ,I know you can do this , good luck !!!

  9. I like your idea to place the remaining 4 blocks on the corners. Great solution.

  10. What a fantastic quilt! Thanks for posting the instructions on how to join them - someday I will do the same with several practice blocks from playing with your designs, but I can guarantee it won't have that many blocks!

  11. I like the idea of adding the additional 4 to the corners. My suggestion for the names is simply "365".

  12. I know of many ways to join blocks but have never come across this one! I will definitely give this a try - thanks! ~Jeanne

  13. How about just calling it 365 days. And I like the four in the corner idea.

  14. I have started the Beginner FMQ. I have 1 block done. I really like the idea of the quilt as you go method to reduce the bulk of the quilt as your quilting. If I were to quilt less densely, would this method be flexible enough to be a utility quilt?

  15. Hi, Leah. Love your recent series on getting started free motion quilting. Lots of great tips - even for those of us who have been doing it a while!

    Re: QAYG - when I've done the connecting strips, I put the single layer strip on the back of the quilt, not the face of the quilt - the opposite of what you are doing. I can then carefully edge stitch the folded strip down with my machine (you could use a machine blind stitch instead of the straight stitch.)

    I know you enjoy hand stitching, but with the number of blocks you've got, you might give it a try on some scraps to see if you like it.

    Thanks again for all your hard work -

  16. I wouldn't name it... it should speak for itself. I would keep it with the original 365 patterns and then (maybe with a survey) pick the top "10" and repeat them with black on black (thread/square) and randomly place them through the quilt. Just my two cents :)

  17. I don't think putting the name on the front is a good idea. It will make people look at the title and not focus on the quilted squares. And as maride says, everyone will recognise the project anyway, unless they have been living under a rock!

  18. Hi Leah,
    I know this flavor of insanity well! I am sure it will be gorgeous no matter what...but my thoughts are that if you put the four in the corners then the borders will need some kind of cohesive FMQ design. I suppose repeating one or four of the designs would could make 15 FMQ free blocks of varying colors...which you could theoretically use to work on color balance? Many years ago I took music lessons (unfortunately I had no talent for it) and I recall my teacher telling me...without spaces or pauses are just making noise! Food for thought. Looking forward to seeing the final product! :)

  19. I agree with the comments about putting borders on a 19 x 19 set with the 4 extra blocks in the corners. It's a shame you can't embroider The FMQ Project on the quilt! Anonymity would be impossible. Leah Day and Free Motion Quilting Project are synonymous! And who hasn't heard of either one by now? Enjoy the notoriety...the fame...we're all so proud of you.

  20. Hi Leah, this quilt will be such a celebration of the project- and thus I say go for quilting the name in it. You just said in a recent post that typically you don't even enter these quilts into contests, and even if you do- heck it is a celebration of a huge time in your life- so do what you want to do. Contests will come and go but you will have this beauty forever and it will always remind you of the blog that made you famous in the quilting world- go for it and do so with reckless abandon. I really can't wait to see it all finished.

  21. I think the corners are a great idea - because I guess you can't put them on the back

  22. what about using then as part of the label on the back

  23. in reference to the name on the quilt - you can add it to your label on the back - make a short explanation about the quilt - at a show you have to cover the label - that will take care of the judging

  24. The first 365 - This will be a wonderful quilt. I'd do my best to come to a quilt show that was showing this one! Will be good to see how you decide to do the joining strips... Thank you so much Leah! You have really empowered me to actually work to finish my quilts!

  25. I would go with the 4 in corner stones... this is a massive project and the blocks as group are a huge statement. I would not think more of a statement has to be made with the quilting of the borders. Perhaps when it is all together you will have a lightbulb moment for the borders... this is one quilt I would like to see in person.

  26. Please please please post a video of you joining a couple of blocks together. I'm a novice and I have some quilted blocks to join, and while I think I get it, I really want every example I can find before I make the leap. Your videos are so clear and helpful.

  27. I like the "corners" idea! (It's nice to keep exactly 365). How big will it be?? Call it "365 Days" or something like that, and put all about the project in the quilt label.
    Good luck and thanks for all the great ideas.


  28. When you were getting close to 365, I actually went into EQ and figured out a quilt layout thinking I would do all of the designs on my long-arm. A trip-around-the-world would accomodate this nicely since it gives you the automatic grid. Alas..I haven't done it, but I did mock up the trip-around-the-world in EQ! :-)

    The four corners is nice so you get all 365, another idea given the way you're doing it, you could put four on the back just making it double thick since it is already quilted.

  29. You could name your quilt Pick my favorite top 10 that would make sure everyone had a good look at your Fab work I like the idea of 4 corner blocks and would add long borders with your favorite quilting pattern
    Your lessons have taught me a lot and not to be afraid of playing

  30. I would love to see it when its done, or half done. Your sections are so straight. I tried this technique once and it looked like it had been quilted by a person with very bad eyesight. I realized after that that accurate cutting means just that along with a proper,constant quarter inch. Maybe just put the name on the back, just do what you do to win, Im rooting for you. Let us know when it goes to show, I would pay to see it.

  31. Leah, I like your idea of putting the four extra quilt squares in the corners - perfect and precise solution. Additionally, I recommend that you put the name of the quilt ("365 Days of Free Motion Quilting") on the quilt label on the back of the quilt. A title on the front of the quilt would distract from your work.


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