The Free Motion Quilting Project: March 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

Copyright Terrorism

Oh yes, it's high time I address this hot topic.  Of course, everyone has a different opinion when it comes to intellectual property rights, and you may or may not agree with mine.  As always, read if you want or go enjoy all the free designs I've shared so far (all of which you are free to use for whatever reason).

Copyright issues seem to be cropping up with increasing frequency in the quilting world and I for one would like to try to stem this flow, or at least open your eyes, to the very real threat looming for our craft.

What is this threat?  Where is it coming from?

It is coming from within our own ranks. Quilters with a certain penchant for copyright and legal wrangling are turning our open, creative craft into a mine field of rules, regulations, licensing, attribution, and copyright lockdown that it's enough to make anyone set down their rotary cutter and sell their sewing machine.

And these particular Copyright Nazis (I really can't think of a better name for them) are not just vocal, they are flexing their arm powerfully enough to include copyright notices within quilt shows.

Just recently I was contacted by AQS asking if it was okay if a quilter used my designs in a quilt entered into one of their shows.

At first blush, that seems like a good thing.  I'm excited to know the designs from this project are being used and seen in shows.  Of course you have permission!  Run with it!

But then I started thinking - they were referring to a QUILTING DESIGN.  A squiggly line drawn in thread by a machine on a quilt, like any one of these:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Is that really even copyright-able?  The image, yeah, I can see my photograph of the blocks above holding a copyright, though unlike many bloggers I don't mind if you use my images so long as you tell people where you found it.  Does the actual STITCHING hold a copyright though?

Do you see how ridiculous this is?  How the questions and implications start, but they very rarely end.  You can set a precedent once by your reaction to a situation and it will just roll from there.

Here's a simple case in point:

This is a spiral design.  I call this Basic Spiral and it was published on Day 5 of the project and published in From Daisy to Paisley.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
But is this DESIGN really MINE?  Can I claim ownership of this?

First off, I don't even WANT to claim ownership of these designs.  I don't feel like this is my property simply because I stitched it on a 4 inch square, named it, and published it online and in a book.  See my full copyright policy here.

I feel this way because spirals have been around since the dawn of time.  A spiral is a spiral is a spiral and stitching it out in a quilt doesn't make it a special, different design from the spirals drawn on walls or sand thousands of years ago.

But what about the designs that aren't spirals?  What about the designs that I'm sure are 100% new and have never been stitched on a quilt before?

First off, how I can I be sure, 100% sure, that a design has never been stitched on a quilt before?  Have I seen every quilt in existence since the dawn of man?  No!

I have a human brain, and have seen an ordinary creative person's usual quantity of inspiring images, places, and things that have led to new designs.  I do have a unique talent for creating new designs, but I'm not so conceited to think that I'm the ONLY person who has ever though to create a design like Desert Sand.

My point is: All art is derivative.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
But could this stitched design really have copyright to the extent that someone could be afraid to stitch it on a quilt for fear I would come after them for copyright infringement?

As scary as this question is, at the beginning of the Free Motion Quilting Project, way back when it was called 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs, some of the first questions I received were from quilters concerned with copyright.

Mostly the questions came from longarm quilters who need to be able to use designs in quilts for service.  Technically this is a commercial activity and most copyright policies get very sticky when business / money gets involved.

These longarm quilters were so gun shy of using the designs from this project that many would ask, then ask again for further clarification that it was REALLY OKAY to use these designs in the quilts they quilted for service.

They were scared.  Very scared.  And that makes me so sad.

Because if you're in business to make a living, the very last thing you should be scared of is doing the thing that makes you money! 

Why in the world should they have to ask for permission in the first place? It's a quilting design!  It's the design in thread that's stitched on the surface of a quilt and I don't care how exactly you follow my instructions, every quilter will quilt the design slightly differently.

But these quilters had more experience than I did at the time. Early in the project I published a design that looked too similar to another design by another quilter. It didn't matter that I'd thought of the design while eating sushi, the level of negativity, name calling, and awfulness this generated was so overwhelming I took the design down.

Despite the fact that I seriously doubt these designs can or should be copyrighted, I backed down.  So I've been on the receiving end of a Copyright Nazi and her cohorts and I know what that feels like.  It sucks.

My question is this: is this the world we want to create? 

Is this the industry we want to build, where quilters who quilt for a living must live in fear that they will be sued for the designs they use?  That a blogger trying to teach and spread the love of free motion quilting can be threatened for using the wrong design? That quilters who quilt for show must credit every designer involved in their quilt, down to the fabric and thread manufacturer?

Because as I said before, once the questions start, the don't stop.  

Recently there's been a very public example of this with Kate Spain, C&T Publishing, and an author Emily Cier.

I've read many posts directly from those involved and have a basic understanding of what happened.  Of course, situations like this are so fraught with drama and finger pointing and blatant lies that it's often hard to know what is true and what isn't.

The basic story goes like this: Emily Cier wrote a book called Scrap Republic for C&T Publishing.  Moda, a fabric manufacturer sent her lots of fabric for free to create the quilts in this book.

Now this doesn't seem like a big deal at first sight, but Emily was designing quilts that used only a specific line of designer fabric.  Out of a line of fabric, you might have 10 - 20 prints that all coordinate together so you can make matchy matchy quilts.

Of course, when you make a quilt out of only one line of fabric, it's pretty obvious.  The fabrics are designed to match, so they do actually match! 

Just to see what all the fuss was about, I purchased Scrap Republic this past weekend and flipped through it.  I'm not a fabric designer and I don't even use prints that often, but I instantly recognized several fabric lines popular in 2011.

Yes, the fabrics were large enough and obvious enough that you could easily tell not only the particular print, but the entire fabric line being used.  I'm sure someone more into prints could easily recognize all the lines in the book.

I also found while flipping through the book that while Emily Cier was given credit as the creator of the quilt, neither the fabric line, nor the photographer were given credit for their contribution to the book.

And this is a sticky point because I actually like the fabric in two of the quilts and would really like to know who designed it!

Sometimes providing credit (attribution) is a good thing and has nothing to do with copyright. In this case, it'd be nice to know the fabric line so any quilter reading could search for the right fabric and make that exact quilt on page 39.

So that's enough about the book, which had some clear flaws.  It's one thing if you take a line of fabric and chop it down into 1" squares and mix it with 100 other prints.  It's quite another thing to leave the fabric in large pieces where the design is very obvious.   

Some attribution should have been given, not because of copyright, but because it would have made the book a better resource.

Now the story gets sticky because C&T Publishing randomly flipped through the book and picked a photo of one of the quilts, enlarged the image and printed it on the front of an eco tote bag.

Keep in mind, the fabric used in the quilts were obvious.  The pieces they were cut into were large, making it very clear which line of fabric each quilt is created from.

The quilt used for the eco tote just happened to have been created using Kate Spain's Fandango fabric.  Kate saw the bags and decided they violated her copyright of her fabric line.

Kate Spain then initiated a lawsuit against C&T Publishing and Emily Cier and demanded both the eco totes AND the books be destroyed.

Now things get murky because on her blog, Kate Spain denies starting a lawsuit, but it's obvious on both C&T's and Emily Cier's blog that a real, big, scary lawsuit was initiated.  C&T Publishing ended up taking the blame and came to some accord with Kate Spain.

I'm thinking a lot of $$$ changed hands because everyone is friends again and Kate wants to design quilts with Emily.  Personally after a lawsuit threat I'd tell her to shove her fabric get the idea.

You can find all this information in various forms on Emily Cier's Blog, C&T's Blog, and Kate Spain's blog.  Keep in mind that everyone has their own spin on the truth. (Note: Blog posts were removed at some point in time on the last two blogs mentioned above.)

I'm not saying Emily Ceir was the bad guy, or Kate Spain, or C&T. I think they all made mistakes in this situation and no one is the winner.  Personally I'm the most cheesed off at Kate Spain simply because if she is this quick to sue and get cash for it, how many other fabric designers will start doing the same thing.  Will I one day be sued for the print fabrics I used in Power of Now?  

free motion quilting | Leah Day
If I have to worry about how I use a raw material (fabric) how is that any different from a lumber company copyrighting a special type of wood or a yarn company copyrighting an exclusive type of yarn?  THIS IS RIDICULOUS!

As I said before, this situation only creates questions, questions, and more questions.  

Let's work backwards: the tote bag was printed with a PHOTOGRAPH which was taken by a photographer for the book.  Whoever that person was, they aren't credited in the book.

The QUILT was designed and created by Emily Cier.

The FABRIC used in the quilt was designed by Kate Spain.

Who really own the copyright?

Is the quilt actually Emily's or should she pay licensing fees to Kate just to sleep under it?  And if Kate is really wanting everyone to use her fabric for any reason, why does she print "for personal use only" on the selvage of her fabric?  That statement implies a limitation and a rule of what can and can't be done with it!

(Updated: Fandango did not have this printed on the selvage)

Unfortunately this entire situation sets a precedence.  C&T Publishing took the blame and settled, which means the real question of who owns the copyright in this situation will never be battled out in front of a judge who would give us the legal guidance we need to know what is right and wrong in this situation.

Even better would be to get a judge who knows copyright law and understands the public domain nature of utilitarian industries.  Personally I think copyright has gotten way out of hand in the quilting world, which is only one step shy of the fashion industry.

And guess what the fashion industry is?  

Open, public domain.

I have a favorite jacket that I love wearing in the winter, but it's getting worn out.  I could take that jacket and make an exact copy of it.  An EXACT COPY.  I could even turn that copy into a pattern and sell it.

I would not be doing anything wrong.  I would not be violating any copyright.  Clothing is completely open because a long time ago the US government realized it would be ridiculous to try to copyright clothing - a utilitarian commodity.

Imagine if a company could copyright a zipper - we'd all have to pay licensing fees just to use it. Or the collar of a shirt.  Or the way your elastic pants fit.

I can feel you nodding your head in agreement.  You wouldn't want to pay $50 extra for your socks just because the manufacturer had to pay an expensive licensing agreement with the copyright holder of sock design.

But how is this any different from a quilt design?  We use basic geometric shapes: squares, triangles, circles, hexagons, diamonds that have been around for hundreds of years, yet quilt designers are increasingly demanding that this is THEIR quilt pattern, or THEIR exclusive technique.

To understand this better, take a minute to watch this awesome lecture on the fashion industry.  The details, especially the comparison of revenue and net worth of this open industry in comparison to copyright rich industries like the music or film industry is extremely eye opening. 

I love this video because it perfectly illustrates all the reasons why copyright can be detrimental to an industry.  If you lock everything down, slap rules and limitations on your work, you essentially slam the door on your potential.

And that's not just your potential to make cash, though money certainly flows more freely into open systems.  It's also the potential to create new designs, come up with new ideas, continuously innovating and expanding into new realms of design.

Current copyright idealist say that without copyright, the creator won't want to create because they're constantly being copied and ripped off all the time.

The current mentality is that being ripped off, an example being those eco totes with Emily's quilt and Kate's Fabric, is the worst thing in the world because the designer isn't getting paid for their work. Kate even wrote on her blog that if she didn't protect her copyright, she wouldn't be able to make a living.

WTF?!  How much did sending your lawyers after C&T an Emily Cier cost?

And this brings us back to the core question - did Kate even have copyright over the image of the quilt in question?  Was it not Emily's quilt because she cut the fabric up and turned it into a quilt?  Or wasn't it the photographers copyright because it was his / her photo?

The idea that an eco tote being sold with a photo of Emily's/ Kate's quilt on the surface would suddenly beggar Kate Spain puts me into a rage.  It is such utter nonsense.

The fact is, if Kate had simply requested that her name and Fandango line was mentioned somewhere on the tote, she would have had a wonderful advertisement for her fabric being sold all over the world.  She would likely have sold even more fabric, and gained loyal customers for future lines too.

The idea that without copyright all designers will be broke and stop designing is simply not true.

The reverse is the truth!  How much innovation comes out of the fashion industry each year?  They innovate constantly because as soon as a new shirt is released, it's copied quickly, but the buyers loyal to the brand want the original, real product from the real brand.

So in order to have a business, big designers are always changing the look, cut, and feel of clothing so they remain unique and authentic and their loyal customers keep buying.  

They continuously innovate, not in spite of, but BECAUSE they are being copied all the time!

I probably wouldn't have created all 365 designs if I hadn't posted them online and seen quilters start to use them.  The excitement of seeing these designs in all sorts of quilts just made me feel so excited, I couldn't wait to make more.

I could never fathom telling you where or how you could use these designs.  I can't even imagine requiring you to give me credit.  I certainly appreciate it, but did I actually quilt YOUR quilt?  No!  YOU DID!  I just taught you a cool design, but you were the one with the skill and talent to use it.

I know for a fact, if you lock everything down, all you will focus on is keeping everything locked down.  You will spend countless hours NOT quilting, designing, or being creative because you'll be busy talking to lawyers, reading copyright laws, and studying ways to make your work "safer."

When in reality all you're doing is make people feel uncomfortable and scared.  I don't know about you, but I'm extremely uncomfortable about using not just Kate Spain's fabric, but any designer print thanks to this situation. 

Already I knew better than to use any fabric printed with "for personal use only" or "for home use only" on the selvage but now I feel far more constrained in my choices.  And constraint of any sort makes me want to punch my fist through a wall.  I hate feeling like I can't use something or do something because someone might wag a finger and threaten to sue me.

Should I only create with hand dyed fabric?  What if the dye manufacturer comes out with a special, exclusive, copyrighted color and demands attribution for using their color of purple?

I'm all for sharing great products, and I love telling you all about the tools and materials I'm using.  It's when it becomes a REQUIREMENT to tell you every tool, every material that went into a quilt, that makes me very uncomfortable.

But this is the world that's being built every day by situations like I described above.

If you want a quilting world where we all work in secret, creating in a void of new ideas and innovations just so your work can be "yours" to slap a copyright on, you can be guaranteed of one thing: failure.

Because no one wants to deal with this.  No one wants the headache, the complication, the fear, or the negativity that this kind of attitude will bring.  The more you shut down and lock up the quilting world, the fewer people will want to have anything to do with it.

I've met a few quilters with this close minded mentality.  One in particular came to teach at my local guild.  She was unbelievable in her desire to copyright and control every aspect of her quilts, right down to trademarking the name of her "exclusive" technique.

After a conversion about teaching, she emailed me to say that I should never use a term - TWO WORDS - we had both come up with to describe a new way to sell patterns.  I deleted her email and will never speak to her again.  No one has the right to tell me what words I can and can't use.  I have no time or energy for Copyright Nazi's or the lies and fear they try to spread.

On the flip side I've met wonderful quilters who seem to understand the reality and implications of excessive copyright.  If we lock up this industry, we will lose something powerful, something essential, something that brought me to quilting in the first place: freedom.

Freedom to play with fabric.  Freedom to experiment with different shapes and layouts.  Freedom to play with new techniques and materials.  We can lose the freedom to create.

Because if you have to check with 5 different fabric designers and the quilt pattern designer AND the free motion quilting designer in order to make your quilt, how likely are you to do it?    Even the idea of asking, even words like "licensing," are enough to send many people packing.  Off to find another hobby the lawyers haven't ruined yet.

Many quilters understand the growing impact of situations like the recent tote bag fiasco.  I for one want to see an end to excessive copyright, particularly on blogs.

If you post something: an idea, a technique, a pretty picture, whatever, man up and give it away for free.

REALLY free.  As in copyright free - as in anyone can use whatever you post for ANY reason.

What's the worst that can happen?  Someone might teach your technique or idea.  More people will learn it and enjoy it than you could ever reach alone.  Is that such a terrible thing?

Spend some time thinking about copyright today and what world you're helping to create with quilting.  

A world where we share ideas, techniques, fabric, and tools as freely as our grandmothers around a quilt frame.

Or it could be a world locked tight by fear, lawsuits, negativity, selfishness, and egotism.

The choice is yours. 

I'm off to quilt now and create something beautiful to share with you later this weekend. 

Leah Day

UPDATE - 3/31/2012

I've never received so many responses to a single post before, and I plan to keep the comments open so everyone has a chance to air their opinion on this matter.

Kate Spain even shared the following comment which clarifies some points, including a mistake I made about about her fabric:
Hi Leah,

Thanks for your thoughtful post and great questions about copyright and the extent to which it is influencing the quilting community. Lots of people think I'm trying to control the ways in which my fabric is used, but that is untrue. As far as making things (quilts or otherwise), please answer these four questions about your fabric use:
- Is it just you sitting at your sewing machine making stuff to give to friends/family or to sell?
- Are you shipping fabric overseas and having any manufacturing done in a factory?
- Are you copying or otherwise reproducing recognizable designs from fabric and printing them onto another material like laminate or plastic and then manufacturing a new product like a tote bag? Or shower curtain?
- is your distribution through mass market channels?
If you answered Yes, No, No, No, then you really have nothing to worry about! Whatever you are doing with my fabric is fine!

Also just wanted to clarify that the selvages on my fabric do NOT have a "for personal use only" stipulation. If you spend your hard-earned dollars on it you should be able to use it however you like! I've written more on my blog to clarify the resolution of this situation and an FAQ:

I completely agree with you that an absence of attribution is a missed opportunity for both promotion as well as resource material.

One last and important thing to know is that I did not make ONE dollar on this, and donated the recalled tote bags to several local charities.

Keep up the great discussion!

With Kindest Regards,
Kate Spain 
Sincerest apologies for my mistake about your fabric, but my core issue with this entire situation remains.

If I have to stop and ask myself 4 questions before I cut fabric, I simply won't cut it.

Because here's something I know about the quilting / crafting world, Ms Spain - it is very rarely black and white or as simple as a "Yes" or "No" when it comes to question #1. 

The question was: Is it just you sitting at your sewing machine making stuff to give to friends/family or to sell?

First off, if I answer "yes" to this question, is that yes to making stuff for family / friends, or is it yes to potentially selling it?  Already things are getting confused!

If I plan to sell what I make - what does that mean?  Can I make something to sell: a quilt, a handbag, a tote, a belt, a skirt, pants, machine cover, etc, etc, etc or not?

I've been making some form of income from sewing since middle school.  Back then I would slice up the leg of jeans and insert funky fabrics into the leg to create homemade bell bottoms.  These caught on so well, I began making them for other girls in class.

So it's safe to say that EVERY item I've ever sewn since the age of 12 has been for personal AND / OR business use.  

I know I'm not an anomaly with this.  I've posted about business before and been surprised by just how many quilters (around 80% I'd guess) make SOME form of money from this craft.  It doesn't matter whether you make $50 or $50,000 a year with this, money is money, sales are sales.

Which is why this issue is so very important.

We want the freedom to make whatever we want for whatever reason.

I shouldn't have to ask myself 4 questions!  I shouldn't have to question my right to cut up fabric and use it!

Because the questions never stop.

What if I made a quilt for myself and photographed it.  That photograph ended up in my online quilt gallery and one day, years down the road, I decided to make a picture book of all my quilts, which was then sold all over the world and through mass market channels.

Technically that would fall within the big no-no you've just outlined, but at the time of cutting the fabric, I would have no idea of the potential of that quilt, made with that fabric, to end up sold in that way.

We never know what the end use of a quilt will be.  

We never know how long it will last or who it will be given to, or who will photograph it, or what those photographs will be used for.  We just don't know.  It's impossible to know.

All the questions this raises will just keep getting bigger and bigger, more complex and more technical, and our feelings of frustration, anxiety, and fear will build until all desire to create is obliterated.

It's far easier not to cut that fabric and not to have to ask those questions.

I've edited the above post to reflect my mistake about Kate Spain's fabric.  Her fabric does not have "for personal use" stamped on the selvage.

Thank you,

Leah Day

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Question Thursday #12

It's time for another Question Thursday post full of your questions all about quilting, specifically this week a lot of questions about stitching on a line and filler quilting.

To start, please understand that I didn't mean to confuse anyone about this wholecloth by teaching outline quilting and filler quilting separately.

I did this simply because it was easier to teach within the 15 minute time limitation set by YouTube.  I also thought it would be less confusing to see the two steps separately.  

Keep in mind that I'm still learning how to teach this, just as you're learning how to quilt it, and each week I learn more about what works and doesn't work online when it comes to teaching.  Give me a year of working out the kinks, and I promise things will get easier!

So please understand that no, you definitely don't have to quilt your quilt the way I demonstrated.  

It's far easier and less time consuming to combine the two techniques together and outline and fill your quilt at the same time, or at least fill and travel stitch to new areas so you don't break thread a million times between small pockets of space, like the hearts.

So for the heart area - first stitch the outline, then fill the heart, then travel stitch into the next heart, outline and fill it as well.

Keep in mind that we will return to this Heart and Feather Wholecloth in the future when playing with more designs so even if your first attempt left you ready to throw your quilt in the trash, trust me the next time around will be far less time consuming or confusing.
Now let's answer some questions from this week's quilt along:

What is the right speed for quilting on a line?
Her full question is:  So my first question to Leah this week is about practicing. I know that you said to go slow to stay on the line, but I ended up just crawling. My lines, curves and stitch length got really wobbly. Is it better to practice with a little speed and work on precision or stay slow (and wobbly) and work to gain speed as you get more confident. (Am I asking a chicken and egg question?) 
This is kind of a chicken and egg question because speed is going to be something that's different for everyone.  I'd say work to whatever feels most comfortable for you.  That might not be the answer you want to hear if you're looking for exact instructions and specific steps.

So work to find a speed that is fast enough that you don't wobble a lot, but slow enough that you don't totally loose control.

Another reason why I split the two lessons is to give you the opportunity to see how you can trace and outline quilt the wholecloth pattern just to practice outline quilting.  You don't HAVE to fill this wholecloth if you don't want to, and simply stitching the outline can be very helpful for finding that perfect speed / movement ratio.

The key here is to keep stitching!  The more you do this, the less difficult it will seem until pretty soon you'll be able to do it in your sleep.

 Pat had another question about travel stitching:

What is the best stitch length when travel stitching?
 Pat's full question: My second question is about stitch length and travel stitching. If you travel stitch, it covers up your stitches, so that the single stitch looks totally different than the traveled stitches. If a piece has a lot of travel stitching, is it better to keep your stitches really small/short? What is an optimal stitch length for FMQ?
This is another thing that's different for everyone, but generally free motion quilting stitches are on the smaller side.

Smaller stitches generally look better over all areas of the quilt, and in curves specifically because the longer the stitch, the harder it is not to go choppy with it and produce a zigzaggy line rather than a curve.

Pat's definitely right about a travel stitched line looking entirely different from a single line of quilting.  This effect can be so noticeable you can subtly change the effect of a quilt just with extra travel stitching, as MC from Slair's Lair demonstrated this week.

This is something you have to play with personally and ask yourself "what look do I like better?"  If you like the effect of travel stitching, do more of it, and experiment to see how the stitch length effects the finished design.

Because stitch length in free motion is entirely created by your movement / speed ratio, this isn't something we can "set" with a dial or a button on our machine so we can't really argue with what is the "right" way to do it.  

You will definitely find as you get more comfortable with free motion quilting that your stitch length will naturally even out and become consistent.  It will do this on it's own, simply as you gain more skill at this technique.

As always - play, have fun, experiment! 

Next question!  Malini asked:

Can we travel stitch between motifs instead of breaking thread?
Malini's full question:  You had mentioned that we need to break threads 16 times. My question is that instead could we travel stitch on the lines of motif if we're using the same thread for the microstippling as we did for the outline of the motif? This way I can get away with breaking the thread.
 Yes!  As I said above, most definitely travel stitch between the hearts or fill between the triangles so you don't break thread so often. 

Malini also asked:

Why did you use that thread color?
Full question: Did you choose to use different color of thread for microstippling for video and picture purpose?  Or do you suggest to use different color thread than the one used for outline because the motifs will pop more?
I had to kind of laugh at this one because I really can't get away with anything online!  I have to remember that!  You guys are even better than my 5 year old - you miss nothing!

I've stitched out 3 Heart and Feather Wholecloth Quilts to create this tutorial.  The first red one I created normally: used a lightbox to mark, layered and stitched the design in a logical fashion.

I started to mix things up a bit with the purple quilt, which was actually created from some form of silk - I don't remember the actual name of the material.  It was slippery and silky and certainly wanted to shift, but provided an extra challenge for quilting on a line.  I decided after outline quilting that the purple silk fabric looked best with just an outline and didn't need filler quilting.  I plan to bind this quilt as is.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
For the blue quilt, I marked this one using tissue paper just to see how that technique worked.  Rather than quilt with regular thread, I stitched the outline first in water soluble thread just in case the tissue paper gave me fits and I wanted to wash the whole thing out.

Quite to my surprise, the tissue paper came off nicely, leaving only the white water soluble thread as an outline.  When I sat down to quilt the video for this week, this quilt was the one I picked up simply because it was prepared and ready to go.  I have another 3 marked wholecloths, but they required more work to prepare and I was running out of time.  Those I'll save for another tutorial later this summer.

After filling the entire quilt yesterday, I remembered the water soluble thread which will still come out when I soak the quilt.  I needed to stitch the outline again in real thread and decided to play with another challenge.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I put a bobbin of Razzle Dazzle thread in the bobbin and navy blue thread in the top, flipped the quilt over, and using the water soluble thread lines as a guide, I quilted the outlines a second time with the back of the quilt face up.

This is a pretty easy technique, though the travel stitching can be very hard to line up properly.  I did make quite a few mistakes in the feathers, largely because it was almost impossible to see my blue thread on the blue backing fabric.  Next time I'll use a lighter backing so I can see what has been stitched and what hasn't.

I just had to remember to turn my top tension all the way up to 9 to make the top thread really pull that thicker bobbin thread in place securely.  If you have a side loading bobbin, you might have to adjust the tension to feed the thick Razzle Dazzle evenly.

A few hours later, this wholecloth is finished with funky metallic thread as the outline:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
So Malini - you probably go more than you bargained for with this explanation, but that's exactly why I was using two different thread colors on the blue quilt this week!

Always remember that there are multiple ways of doing EVERYTHING.  You might see me do something here online and not understand why it worked that way, so ask, ask, ask and I'll always explain why I did what I did and how I did it.

Now for a question that came in via email:

Did you buy a machine specifically for piecing?
Full Question: Frequently I read blogs about how experienced quilters and sewers have multiple sewing machines that they use for different purposes (piecing, appliqué, etc.). I can understand that certain machines may be better for free-motion quilting, but a separate machine just for piecing? Are some machines really better at sewing a consistent 1/4" seam than others? (I thought it was all my fault! LOL!).
Yes!  I truly believe that some machines are better at piecing than others.

Mostly this has to do with the foot that either comes with the machine, or is sold separately, that is designed by the company as the 1/4" foot.

There are many piecing feet on the market, but few are well designed.  In my personal opinion, the very best 1/4" foot made today is the Bernina Patchwork Foot.  Unfortunately this foot is only made to fit Bernina machines.

Keep in mind that I've never pieced on a featherweight and I understand those machines are exceptional at piecing, but right now my absolute favorite machine for piecing is a Bernina.  I don't care what make or model it is - I always keep a Bernina in the house, and it usually has a patchwork foot on and is ready to piece.

So far I've owned a Bernina Record 830 (old model), Activa 240, Activa 210, Bernina 807, and now a Bernina 1230.

While the Activas were current models until last year when they were replaced with the E series, my personal preference has been the older machines.  My favorite of all of them is the Bernina 1230, truly a dream machine!  You can find these older machines on Ebay, and if the seller doesn't know what they have, you can often get a very good deal on a very good machine.  

Now that's it for this week!  I'm heading into the sewing room to start binding some of these quilts so I'll have something to show you next week. 

It's time to shut up and go quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quilt Along #12 - Microstippling

Yes, it's time finally time to take the classic Stippling design and shrink it down to a super tiny scale when it becomes Microstippling.

I may be wrong, but I do believe this is the only design we have that has one name for the large scale version, and another name for the smaller version.  I think that's a good indication of just how important Microstippling is to free motion quilting - super important!

This design does many things for our quilts, and because we're working on a wholecloth right now you can see and appreciate just how much microstippling flattens out the background areas around the motifs.  On top of flattening the surface, this design also has zero thread play or travel stitching, which means the design doesn't stand out or shout for attention.

This combination of features makes Microstippling simply the best design for filling backgrounds, flattening the space around complex areas without competing with other designs or shapes.

Of course, I could wax on all day about my love for Stippling and Microstippling, so let's get on with the video so you can learn a few different ways to shrink this design down to a smaller scale:

I'd say the two most essential items I used in this video were machingers quilting gloves and the isacord thread.  The machingers allowed me to hang onto the quilt and achieve a very fine level of control over the design and the Isacord stitched out smoothly and didn't break, even when the stitches got very tiny.

So let's break down the steps to going dense one by one.

It will definitely help to review Quilt Along #3 - Playing with Scale and spend some time working down from a big scale to a smaller scale.

I used a small seam ripper I keep near my sewing machine as a visual guide to stitch a 1/4" scale, then a 1/8" scale, then a 1/16" scale of the design.  These measurements are not approximate, and you shouldn't worry too much about measuring your design.  The key is not really achieving any set scale, but simply to find a CONSISTENT scale that works for you.

So first start by going back to Quilt Along #1 - Let's Wiggle, and wiggle your way through a 10 inch quilt sandwich with simple rows of stippling.  I stuck with simple U shapes, but if you want to run through all the different types of shapes go for it!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
 As you work through each row, attempt to work on a smaller and smaller scale. 

When you reach a point where you can't help but cross your lines of quilting, you've probably reached the smallest scale you can stitch, so stay there for awhile and stitch several rows of various shapes, working to create a more and more complex version of stippling.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
 It's a really good idea to practice this over a period of several days because you may find your skills suddenly improving overnight. 

It might sound crazy, but working on a smaller scale seems to supercharge many quilters skill level.  I personally believe it has something to do with understanding how the design works (which is easier on a smaller scale), which translates into better stitches, and an ability to stitch on a smaller and smaller.

Once you feel you've achieved a level of microstippling you're comfortable with, it's time to stitch it in your Heart and Feather Wholecloth.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
 As always, let's get started in the center of the quilt.  We've already stitched all the lines, so you'll need to pull up thread in each heart.  The best place to do this is in a point - either the end of the heart or the indentation that comes down - this is where your thread start will not be as noticeable.

Now it's time to fill that heart with a very dense Microstippling.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
 I often find at the beginning of a project, particularly one I'm learning a tricky new technique, I have a lot of "false starts" and do a bit of ripping until I get into the rhythm of the design.  If you can, spend 5 minutes microstippling on a scrap sandwich before actually quilting the real quilt.  This will help you relax and get into the groove and make quilting the quilt much less intimidating.

When you fill the hearts, keep in mind that you're stitching an extremely dense design onto fabric and batting - things will likely move and shift a bit.  So make sure to stitch around the perimeter a bit, but also fill into the middle of the heart so you don't allow all the extra fabric to puddle up in the middle of the heart.

Once you fill the hearts in the center, I expect quite a few of you will want to kill me because you will likely have around 16 threads to hide in the center of your quilt!  Keep in mind that when you're quilting a wholecloth on your own, you can easily combine the steps of outline quilting and filling so you have much fewer thread breaks. 

But do take the time to hide all of those threads.  You can find a video to show you a quick way of doing this right here.

Now it's time to work on the space between the heart motif and the inner interlocking squares.  I designed this wholecloth intentionally leaving very little space within this area.  This means you should be able to quilt through the space with a single row of microstippling.  Unless your bobbin runs out, you should be able to do this in a single pass, working clockwise or counterclockwise.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Now for the interlocking squares there are 8 triangles.  Each one can easily be filled by starting in a point, then working a row across the shape to the second point, then another row to fill to the third point.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Yep, you'll have another 32 loose threads to deal with here.  Just turn on a good episode of Top Gear or Dr. Who and hide them all at once.

Now it's time to fill the space between the outer interlocking squares and the feathers.  This area is also quite narrow, but there are spaces where you'll need to be careful of how you stitch and fill.

Just make sure to stitch evenly through the area, following along the edge of the feather a bit, but then stitch up to the straight lines for a bit so you don't end up with pockets of excess batting and fabric in the middle.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Once you finish up with that last inner section, you'll need to fill each heart in the corners as well.  Yep, this will create another 64 loose threads to hide so take your time and try hiding them as you quilt each corner.

The only remaining section will be the outline of the quilt, filling to the edges with as much quilting as you'd like the quilt to have.

This would be a good time to lay a ruler over your quilt and figure out exactly how big you'd like it to finish.  My red heart and feather wholecloth finished at 16 inches and has a nice bit of microstippling around the edges.

The trick is to not do more filling than you need to because it's time consuming and can get tedious.  Mark a line to indicate how far you need to fill, then only fill a bit past this line.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
So that finishes the quilting of our Heart and Feather wholecloth!

Next week we're going to finish up this project by soaking, blocking, trimming, and binding for a perfect finish.

I was going to try to include all that information in this post, but then realized we really need an updated post about binding and blocking so look forward to learning about that next week!

Now it's time to link up your progress from last week's Quilt Along #11!

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

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Power of Now

Yesterday I shared a link to my update to The Duchess. I hope you haven't run away with the idea that that quilt was ruined recently. It happened over 3 years ago and I've definitely moved on and gotten over the experience.

Yeah, it sucks that I ruined that quilt, but I can always recreate her, this time with much better quality fabric, definitely not white!

But this leads to an even more important point: it's good to learn from the past, but the time to pay attention to is right NOW.

Yep, I'm sharing one of my personal posts today, so feel free to catch up on Quilt Along posts if you'd rather not join us.

As I've learned in 2 years of trudging through the drudgery of my past, if you look for pain and sadness, boy, you will find it!

You'll find a hole that will suck you up and just get deeper and deeper with more pain and blackness, which is why I've made a conscious decision to stop being so introspective, and not surprisingly, I'm a lot happier for it.

So as a reminder to this new awareness - to stay present, HERE, not in the past or in the future, but right here in the NOW, I've created a simple goddess:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe goddess in the center with her eyes open represents being awake - fully present in the present moment.

All the crazy fabrics around her represent all the thoughts that could be distracting her. Thoughts, memories, worries, pain - they will always be there, but they don't have to rein supreme.

This is the first time I've added eyes, nose, and a mouth to a goddess. I struggled for a few weeks to pick the right colors for her hair and background and ultimately created two faces that weren't used for this quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis one just came out too dark and I didn't end up liking the weird combination of purple skin and green lips.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis one ended up too light and I didn't like how her eyes finished. Kinda creepy...

But these faces were completely put together so I think I'll use them in a goddess tote bag!

I'm so happy with how this quilt is coming along. I've wanted to create a goddess quilt that could look as good on the wall as it could on a bed or the couch - literally a goddess throw quilt - and this one seems to fit that bill perfectly.

So rather than quilt the snot out of her, I'm going to keep this simple and very open. This quilt is designed to be used and enjoyed as a bed quilt, so I don't want to make it too stiff with excessive quilting.

In many ways this quilt has pushed and pulled me out of my comfort zone. Towards the end, I realized just how much I've depended on black fabric, almost as a crutch, when I couldn't figure out what color would be best in a quilt.

Well I ran out of black fabric with this quilt, so I guess that's another nudge to move beyond that dependency and try new things!

I still haven't come up with a perfect name for this quilt, but I'm leaning towards Power of Now. The book this is based on (The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle) has been so extremely helpful, it seems to be a fitting title.

Now it's time to get this quilt basted and quilted. I can't wait to curl up with this pretty girl on my couch...wait...that sounded weird...

Oh, you know what I mean! Lol! I'm going to shut up and quilt now!


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Duchess Updated

In the last two weeks I've linked multiple times to The Duchess, a quilt I started in 2008 and finished in 2009. Because I've linked to it so many times recently, this quilt has been on my mind a lot and I've finally taken the time to update the page written about it right here.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou can now watch a 40 minute video on The Duchess being created. Everything from marking the surface with Fine Line pens, basting, quilting with water soluble thread for trapunto, soaking the quilt, blocking, and finally attaching seed beads and lace.

Because we're working on our little wholecloth I figured it's a pretty fitting thing to share right now as you work on the outline of your Heart and Feather Wholecloth.

You'll see a lot of steps in this video that we're not doing this time around because we're not making the motifs puffier with trapunto. I figure I'll throw that technique at you sometime this summer.

It's funny to watch the video again because many things have changed in the 4 years between then and now. For one thing, I wasn't very good at making videos or lining up the camera so I apologize for the bad angles!

Also you may notice in the video, the first part of the quilting is demonstrated on a Bernina Activa 240, then I sold that machine halfway through the quilt and purchased a Juki TL-98QE.

I also mentioned using a quilting hoop and Gutterman cotton thread, both of which I definitely don't use now. It's amazing how opinions can change in just a short length of time.

I've also updated the story of how this quilt came to be totally ruined by a stupid mistake I made in caring for it.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYes, The Duchess is completely ruined. This is what the surface looked like last summer when this photo was taken. It's now so delicate it must remain in storage rolled in the top of my closet. Areas on the surface are now so brittle, the fabric literally crumbles when you touch it.

You can read what I did to ruin this quilt right here.

In truth, I don't even like hanging it on the walls because it's very depressing to look at. This is a good example of a totally ruined project.

So as you work on stitching the outline of your wholecloth, you might wiggle off the line a bit, but that definitely won't ruin your quilt.

A quilt can only be ruined if it can't fulfill it's intended function. The Duchess can't even be hung on the wall now, so it's definitely ruined. So long as your wholecloth fulfills it's intended function as a gift, a table decoration for Valentine's Day, a wall hanging, then no matter what happens, you will have a successful project.

Now it's time to go quilt, make some mistakes, and have fun. Remember - it's just fabric, thread, and batting so don't make it harder than it has to be!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Question Thursday #11

Yay! It's Question Thursday again and it's time to answer many questions about our Heart and Feather wholecloth quilt!

Now the first thing I've noticed from many posts is the prevalence of Frixion pens, which are heat or friction erasing pens launched by Pilot last year. I didn't realize these had gained so much popularity so quickly, otherwise I would have posted a warning in Quilt Along #10.

Why a warning? Because these pens disappear with heat, which Kingman Quilter found, doesn't have to be applied heat from an iron - the marks can disappear simply if it's a hot day in your sewing room!

Also I have a person bias against any "disappearing" pen simply because it's a big load of BS - the chemicals in that pen are still in your quilt, and while they might "disappear" with heat or air, given a chance and the right situation those marks can reappear whenever they like. If you don't believe me, check out the results from Monica, the Quilting Climber's test of these pens.

I also don't like the marketing pushing with these markers because it makes you think it's okay not to wash your quilt after quilting. You NEED to wash the quilt to get the marks, starch, and other chemicals (spray baste), etc out of your quilt. No if's, and's or but's about it!

It's pretty obvious that these are my opinions and personal biases here, but I can't stress enough the importance of TESTING your pens before tackling a real project with them.

What if this Heart and Feather Wholecloth had been 40 inches instead of 15? What if it had taken 8 hours to mark instead of 1? How would you have reacted to disappearing/reappearing marks then? The point here is to always test, test, test before trying something on a real project, even if that project is small.

If you happened to use Frixion pens for your project, please don't feel like the project is ruined - if the marks disappear, put the quilt in the freezer and they'll reappear again. Once the quilting is complete, be sure to soak your quilt once it's quilted and double and triple check the marks aren't going to come back every time the quilt gets cold.

My general rule for any liquid marker - frixion, fine line, etc. - is the quilt MUST BE SOAKED in order to remove those chemicals from the fabric.

For dry markers - sewline pencil, fons & porter pencil, soapstone, chalk markers etc. - erasing is the first step with these pencils, then soaking to remove any remaining traces of the marks.

These markers are chemicals and they will continue to react with your fabric and the air continually unless they're removed. I've written more about chemicals in quilts right here if you're interested in hearing more of this rant!

Now let's get to some questions!

I received basically the same question from Sewhappy and Malini in the comments to yesterday's post:

What thread color would you recommend for this wholecloth project?

Traditionally wholecloth quilts match thread to the color of the fabric.

A white wholecloth is usually stitched in white thread, which makes it nearly impossible to photograph, but gorgeous when you look at it in person!

Of course, you don't have to go with traditional matching thread. In fact it will definitely help you to pick a contrasting thread color so you can SEE where you're stitching as you quilt this quilt.

Personally if I have a choice of contrast, I prefer to use DARK FABRIC and LIGHT THREAD simply because the thread really shows up on the surface of the dark fabric and I can clearly see where I'm going.

Now the opposite combination - light fabric and dark thread, I'm not a huge fan of simply because the lighter fabric seems to shine a light right through the thread, highlighting any mistake.

Of course, if you've already picked a lighter fabric and are agonizing about the thread color, consider stitching the quilt in white thread. If the fabric has any color to it at all - pink, yellow, blue, the white thread will still show up nicely and contrast slightly.

Now the next question is from Anne at Anne's Threads:

How do you baste bigger quilts with your elastic method?
Anne's full question: Leah, your suggestion for using the elastic strips to hold the backing in place when putting the quilt together was brilliant - it really helped. Sandwiching a quilt is one of the things I struggle with most, as I don't have any very big floors, walls or tables to do it on - do you have any suggestions for dealing with a bigger quilt in a limited space? Can the elastic method be used with a quilt that's bigger than the table? I have such problems getting the backing really smooth and free of wrinkles.
This is a great question! Unfortunately I think the elastic basting method is really limited to the size of your table surfaces. I've played with the technique enough to know that you really need a large flat surface that's slightly bigger than your quilt.

If you don't have a table this big, or even the space to set one up, look around your community. I'd bet there's a quilt guild or church or quilt shop that has large tables set up together which you can baste on.

If you happen to have the space to set up tables, consider investing in a collection of folding tables. 6 ft folding tables that fold in half are very common, and I've seen a new, thinner variety sold at Lowes. 2-3 of these tables will run you around $150 and when you're not using them, they can easily be tucked away in a closet or attic.

Folding tables are a good investment because they can come in handy for many things. I never realized how helpful they would be, but now regularly bring them out for holidays and big meals, yard sales, outdoor dyeing days, etc.

Now for a question about light boxes from Pat at Color Me Quilty:

What type and size of light box do you use or suggest?
Does it work with dark/black fabric? If you are marking a larger quilt (larger than the light box) do you add registration marks on quilt and pattern so you can line it up properly?
This is a great question because light boxes are a tricky investment. I'd hazard the guess that more than 80% of light boxes sold are never used. Why? Because they're not set up to be used easily!

For quilting, we obviously need a lightbox to be flat and flush with the surface of our tables or other work surfaces. Having a taller or shorter box is highly inconvenient and makes marking quite difficult.

I did quite a lot of research when I got into making bigger wholecloth quilts way back with The Duchess and I found a surprisingly small number of table light boxes (boxes with legs to set at the same surface as a table), and those I did find were SUPER expensive ($700 plus).

So rather than keep searching in vain for the perfect light box to fit my studio (which I likely wouldn't be able to afford anyway) I simply built one myself:

free motion quilting | Leah DayA lightbox is a very simple device: it's a box with lights inside with a translucent covering that allows the light to shine up through the top of the box.

My first lightbox came first from my grandfather who'd built the outside frame. I modified this and added an extra sheet of acrylic plexiglass to stiffen the surface. Truthfully, this has never been quite enough and the surface still bows considerably when pressure is applied.

Then using simple Waddell hardware and legs from Lowes, I turned the box into a table!

free motion quilting | Leah DayUsing only this single lightbox, which is 42" x 22", I marked The Duchess in 4 sections. Here's how that worked:

I taped the pattern to the tables (the pattern was only 1/4 of the quilt) and folded the fabric in half lengthwise, widthwise, and diagonally and pressed to create guidelines for marking. I then centered the quilt up on the pattern and began marking from the center.

To secure the fabric, I literally used 3 rolls of masking tape to hold it securely in place for each section marked. Each time a section was completed, the quilt was picked up, rotated, then taped back down exactly to fit the markings.

Yes, this was challenging and yes, it took a very long time, so after creating this quilt I designed and built another light box:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis box is built on top of a simple craft / hobby table that happens to have the ability to angle to create a drafting table. Drafting table light boxes typically run around $1500. I built this one for under $350 using 1 x 4 boards for the sides of the box and plug-in undercabinet lighting for the lights.

The most expensive element to this project was the plexiglass which I found on Ebay and the seller cut it down to size. This is super expensive stuff, but it's around 1/2" thick and forms a SOLID surface for marking.

The one downside with this table is the hobby table it was built on turned out to be too cheap and weak to hold the weight of the light box and plexiglass. I really need to take this table apart and throw away the base frame and rebuild the box on legs from IKEA.

So basically to answer Pat's question - I recommend building your own light box. It's far more economical and easy to build, and you can customize it to the exact size you want.

As far as size goes, I would recommend making your light box as big as you can possibly fit it in your sewing room. I'm in the process of designing a new lightbox that will cover my entire large table surface which is somewhere around 65 inches x 80 inches. I'm planning to build this box using tempered glass so I can iron over the surface without worrying about melting plexiglass.

Of course, I'm a bit obsessive about this ;-) I realized a long time ago how helpful lightboxes are and I've built my sewing room to accommodate them. This tool is helpful for far more than just quilt marking - I use them for applique, designing motifs, even designing wholecloth quilts like our Heart and Feather Wholecloth couldn't have been done without a light box.

Seeing how much I have to write about these makes me think I should build one on video to teach you how to do's on my list of things to do!

So that's it! We've had a lot of great questions today and I hope I haven't been too opinionated. Keep in mind that quilting is a very opinionated hobby which is why I always encourage you to test and try things for yourself.

Also don't let travel stitching scare or intimidate you! Just go do it and don't judge the experience. No, it might not look great the first time you try it, but you will get progressively better with each try.

Now it's time to shut up and go quilt!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Quilt Along #11: Outline Quilting

Last week we started working together to create this small Heart and Feather Wholecloth quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah DayJust in case you're running a bit behind, you can find this free pattern here and last week's post about it here.

Today you should have your quilt top marked, basted and ready to go so let's learn how to tackle outline quilting in free motion:

In this video I used a Queen Supreme Slider, Machingers, Bobbin Washers, and Isacord Thread when quilting this project. Of all of these tools, the gloves and thread were definitely the most helpful for maintaining control over the quilt and being able to quilt over the same area multiple times without breaking thread.

Now let's talk through outline quilting on your Heart and Feather Wholecloth.

We can break this quilt down into 4 sections: center heart motif, middle interlocking squares, corner heart motifs, and the feathers.

For each section of the quilt, it's a very good idea to spend some time tracing the paper pattern to get a mental idea of how you will quilt around each motif.

This allows you to plan ahead and minimize the amount of travel stitching you'll need to do. It will also mentally prepare you for moving the quilt under your needle. Even though they're marked lines, it's still possible to get "lost" as you quilt each motif and not know where to stitch next.

Now let's talk about some tips for staying on a line as you quilt. The biggest tip here is to GO SLOWLY. I had to speed up the video just to show you everything within 15 minutes, but I promise the machine was moving slower than usual in order to stay on the lines perfectly.

Also look at the position of your hands. Bring them slightly closer to your needle and spread your fingers wide for more control. Watch out for stitching through your fingers of course!

When quilting the straight lines, use your index finger as a guide by keeping it parallel with your needle and pushing the quilt straight through your machine. This will help keep those straight lines perfectly straight and right on the line without wiggles.

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt also helps to take breaks often, breathe, and shake your whole body to release tension. It's very easy to get all wound up when stitching on a line and this tension will work against you.

Of course, this section of the quilt feels a lot like week 4, but this time we're adding a new challenge: travel stitching.

Travel stitching or traveling is a necessary step to stitching this outline. In order to complete even the simplest section, the heart motifs, you HAVE to be able to quilt right on top of previous lines of quilting.

free motion quilting | Leah DayBeyond creating this wholecloth, traveling is a fundamental technique to free motion quilting. There are so many designs that require this skill so it will definitely pay off to spend some time working at it.

Personally I learned how to travel stitch by doing exactly what we're doing this week: I marked designs and forced myself to stitch around them. Again and again I'd mark designs from Karen McTavish's book Secrets of Elemental Quilting onto white fabric then quilt on the lines, travel stitching whenever I needed to.

It wasn't perfect and it took several motifs before the skill started to emerge. Even now I still make mistakes and stitch off the line if I'm not focused on what I'm doing. It happens! Don't beat yourself up about it and don't rip it out unless you absolutely can't stand it.

Of course, travel stitching can be extremely annoying if you're constantly breaking thread every time you try it. Sometimes you'll need to be able to travel stitch 2 to 5 times over the same area and most cotton threads are simply too weak and too thick for this job.

I'm using Isacord thread in this video because it's very thin and very strong and able to stitch over itself without breaking. If you're absolutely insistent on using cotton, Aurifil's 50 wt mako cotton will probably be your best bet.

Now the last section of the video covered feathers, one of the most beautiful elements to stitch on a quilt, but also one that gives many beginners fits.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo we learned two different ways of quilting around these feathers. Of course, there are many more ways to quilt around feathers and even more ways to quilt them freeform, but let's learn these two methods today:

Travel Back Feather - This feather is formed by hitting the vine line, then traveling along the back of the previous feather then swinging out to form the next. All the travel stitching will run between the feathers, making them stand out nicely on your quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Dayfree motion quilting | Leah Day
Bump Bump Feather
- This feather is formed by traveling along the vine, forming a feather, then traveling back along the top of that feather and bumping off to swing out with the next feather.

free motion quilting | Leah Dayfree motion quilting | Leah DayGive both of these methods a try and see which one works best for you! Also play with the direction and angle you stitch the feathers in. Feathers are challenging only because they angle and bend in a fluid way that is hard to stitch unless it feels natural for you.

The best advice I have is to PLAY. Don't obsess about perfection, just stitch on the lines and accept whatever happens. You may even want to mark several tops to play with simply so you don't get too worked up about small mistakes.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow it's time to link up your progress from last week preparing your wholecloth quilt!

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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