The Free Motion Quilting Project: August 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Question Thursday #29

It's Question Thursday and time to see if I can help answer your questions about quilting!  This week we've had a lot of questions in the comments.  Let's start with a question from Donna about the heart designs we learned in this week's Quilt Along #29 - Fun with Hearts:

How do you do your sharp points? 

Full Question: Is there something I am missing, a trick , a stop? I have no trouble doing curves but struggle with designs with any sharp turns. Mine are always slightly rounded.

Great question Donna!  It can be tricky to create a perfectly sharp point in the beginning because technically it requires just a bit of travel stitching (one or two stitches worth).  The thing you might be missing is the need to slow down, or even stop completely with your need down in those points.

Try this: stitch some Sharp Stippling with hearts and wherever you plan to create a point (either in the baseline design or in the heart shapes), consciously stop your machine with the needle in the down position.

Now start stitching slowly and move away from the point.  This time it should form a good sharp point because you stopped and could move away properly.

As you get more comfortable with this, you will speed up and no longer need to actively stop with each point.  It may feel weird at first - all that stopping and starting - but it should resolve this issue for you.

Next let's answer a question from Midlife Traveller about Auditioning Designs from last week:

Do you pay attention to fabric prints when auditioning designs?

Full Question: When the pieces are patterned (i.e. you've used a fabric with a pattern on it), do you take that pattern into consideration at all when "auditioning"? Do you have any basic rules for this (e.g. never use sharp edge designs on a curvy fabric pattern)?  

This is an interesting idea.  We have an enormous variety of prints and designs on our fabrics and they certainly play a big role in the design process.

When it comes to planning designs and auditioning, yes, I would definitely take this into consideration.  The biggest thing to keep this in mind is that busy prints are always going to hide your quilting designs.  It's utterly pointless to stitch a complicated or time consuming pattern over a fabric that will just hog the show.

As for rules about mixing designs, NO, I absolutely never, ever put limitations on what I can do with designs!

Why am I so adamant about this?  Because I learned the hard way through years of blocked beadwork that rules like that are just limitations that stop creativity in its tracks.

Yes, you may have a quilt full of curves that looks best with a zigzaggy design, but that doesn't mean that will hold true for ALL your quilts.  While it may seem like having a rule like this would make your life easier picking designs, personally I would use caution when creating any all-or-nothing rule.

So what's a girl to do?  Play!  Freely play with the many design options for your quilts.  Just try not to put rules on it or you may find yourself quilting in a smaller and smaller box of limitations.

Next let's answer another question about auditioning from Danielle Hudson:

How can I audition designs without a computer or printer?

Full Question: I have 2 problems. One, my printer is out of ink(trip to kinkos?) and 2 I can't show my quilt until the blog hop:/, which means I can't link up with my project just yet! I need a program like yours. Got any CHEEP suggestions for a MAC?

The absolute cheapest option for auditioning designs is this: go to Office Max and buy a giant pad artists vellum (tracing) paper. They usually cost around $15 - $25 and you'll want BIG sheets.

Vellum is a bit different from regular tracing paper because it's thicker and harder to tear, but you can still see through it to trace a design.

Now lay a sheet of vellum over a section of your quilt.  Trace the piecing and applique shapes onto the paper.  If you position the paper carefully, you should be able to get a good selection of your blocks, sashing, and maybe a bit of border all in the same piece of paper.

Do this as many times as you want to create traces of your actual quilt.  Now go sit down at your kitchen table with a nice cup of tea or coffee and play!

Remember to draw the filler designs at the same scale as you actually plan to quilt.  Because you've traced from the real quilt at full size, you can also draw the filler designs at full size as well.

Even better, when you've filled in your pages of vellum, you can lay them back over the quilt to see their effect!

Yes, this option will take more time because you're hand drawing everything, but ultimately if you don't have a printer or wish to shoot photos and deal with printing them out in grayscale at kinkos, tracing on vellum will be the best option.

Finally one last question about quilting tables from Louisa:

 What is an affordable alternative to a drop down sewing table?

Full Question: What would you suggest for quilting a large quilt (single bed or larger) on a machine with its' own table (it's a Janome QXL 605), when I don't have a proper machine table with a cutout? I am having trouble because a), the table isn't actually attached to the machine and gets dragged around by the quilt when I move it and b), the quilt is catching on the corners of the table and making it very hard to machine smoothly. I can't afford the machine table or the space to put it in, so I really must learn to work this way.

This is totally understandable and is a problem that many quilters face.  Personally I really don't like the small machine extensions that create a surface around 20" around the machine.

The reason being, most of these extensions don't actually HOOK to the machine in any way.  As soon as you get a big quilt the machine, the extension bed starts sliding around, pushed and pulled by the movement of the quilt.

If you have it available to you, try securing the extension bed to the table surface in some way.  You might be able to do this with screws or bolts to attach the extension table to your main table so it stops sliding around.

You can then go to a hardware store and look for Insulation Sheeting.  This is stiff polystyrene boards that can be stacked together to raise the surface of your entire table.

You'll need to measure the height of your machine bed (usually between 2 - 4 inches), then go to the hardware store and mix and match different thicknesses of sheeting boards until you get a collection that is the right height.  Each board is between $15 - $25, and at max you will need 3.

Now get home and cut out a corner of the boards that will fit around your machine, or machine and extension bed if you have one. 

Again, you will need to secure this to the table in some way.  Clamps might work.  You could use slippery plastic to cover the entire table surface, over all the sheeting boards and then secure it under the table top so everything stays in place.  This could have a dual benefit of making your quilt easier to slide over the surface.

But as you can tell from this description, this is not going to be a small setup. If you have an issue of space, there really isn't much better option than an extension bed.  If you also can't stand the idea of screwing it to your table, look for tape or Velcro or even sew some kind of sling to keep the machine and extension together.

Of course, it can feel very limiting to not have your machine in the optimum setup.  The one thing I always try to remind myself of when I start getting annoyed with the limitations of my space or sewing machine setup is how women have still managed to do this for hundreds of years, even without the best setup or even a sewing machine.

Just try to make small improvements every month.  I swear the quilt hanging system I installed over my sewing machine was the best $30 I spent in 2011!  Small changes, small improvements, small steps can make a big difference.

That's all the questions for this week!  I'm headed into the sewing room to kill two birds with 1 stone: quilt a UFO and make videos for the quilt along at the same time!

Quilt something beautiful today,


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quilt Along #29 - Fun with Hearts!

Great news! Harry is fixed!  Unfortunately my computer's memory had to be wiped clean and a new motherboard installed, but this actually worked out well because it finally kicked me into getting Josh's computer set up with the right software to edit videos, and if this week's video is any guide, I think he's going to do a great job!

This week we're going to learn 5 new designs, which may sound like a lot, but in actuality this will be very easy.  All we're doing is taking Stippling, Sharp Stippling, Zippling, Circuit Board, and Loopy Line and mixing them with Hearts!

Difficulty Level - Beginner.

Design Family - Independent.

If you're looking to make quilting easier on your home machine, you should check out the Ultimate Quilting Kit, a collection of three awesome tools that make it much easier to move the quilt, give you more control over your stitches, and help reduce awful thread issues.  Click here to learn more about the three tools in the Ultimate Quilting Kit!

Now for the 5 designs for this week, let's work on some new terminology.  Whatever design you start with (Stippling, Sharp Stippling, Zippling, Circuit Board, or Loopy Line), let's call those our Base Line Designs because this line is what will be doing all the work, fitting and filling in the space and linking all the hearts together.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

And don't run away with the idea that only hearts work with these base line designs!  You can use any shape, any symbol - circles, squares, spirals, leaves, triangles, stars, etc.  If you can stitch it in thread, you can definitely add it to these baseline designs.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The neat thing about these designs is they can be used to create a more unique, themed quilting design for your particular quilt.  In the video I used the example of a space quilt, maybe something like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This quilt is obviously already quilted, but I have another one in the works that's much bigger and will need to be quilted very open for a bed quilt.  The background could easily be filled with any baseline design mixed with stars so it fits the theme of the quilt.

Another fun theme would be a Valentines day quilt.  If you're going to bother appliqueing hearts, why not add them to the quilting as well?

The sky is really the limit for the number of designs you can create this way!  Play with different shapes and symbols you like this week and see what textures appeal to you the best.

How do you know if one of these designs will look good on your quilt? You'll just have to audition them over your quilt top and see!

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!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, August 27, 2012

UFO Followup #1

Yesterday was our very first UFO Sunday where we all link up and share a bit about a UFO we're working on one day of the week.

On Mondays or Tuesdays I'm going to followup on the linked up blogs and especially draw attention to those needing help.  We all need some extra advice and opinions sometimes, and this will be a great way to get help from one another!

Photo from Karen at Fireball Quilts
So this week we had a great variety of UFO quilts in all stages of construction.  Everything from plain fabric to fully pieced quilts were shared in the quilt along, but a few stood out in particular to me:

First off, Karen from Fireball Quilts shared some auditions for the border of her UFO quilt.  Make sure to stop by Karen's blog and share your opinion on which border option you think is best. 

Personally I loved the pick with the complaining kitty!

Laura Stermer is also needing some helpful advice on her eagle quilt over at L2DS Designs.  

Always remember that, while you may have started a project with a specific construction idea or color set in mind, sometimes things MUST change when it comes time to finish that UFO.

In the case of Laura's quilt, I shared the idea of cutting out the eagle and appliqueing it onto a new background fabric.  While this certainly wasn't the way her quilt was originally pieced, it might be an easier method to use than trying to piece the background in place.

Fabric color and availability also seemed to be a big issue this week for UFOs.  If you find yourself stuck for only the simple reason of not having the exact right fabric, maybe take another look at that project. Is there really only ONE fabric that can work to finish it?

Sometimes it's liberating to be reminded that YOU CAN ALWAYS BREAK THE RULES.

Now for the most impressive UFO of the week:
Photo from Kay Sorensen's blog Quilts + Color
OMG!  This is so gorgeous! I'm dying to see how Kay finishes this masterpiece.  It's making me want to pull fabrics right now for a lone star.

But no...I have many UFOs to get through myself...I'll just have to content myself with drooling all over my computer keyboard when I look at Kay's quilt!

Now on to a few questions we had about UFOs this week.  The first is about quilting from Danielle Hudson:

How big should I scale my quilting to get the maximum cuddle effect? I really want them to be soft and cozy!

Great question Danielle!  1 inch scale (1 inch between the lines of quilting) will definitely result in a very loose, cozy quilt, however it is challenging to quilt this open on a home sewing machine.  The reason is you'll have to seriously swing out and make BIG movements with your arms rather than small movements with your hands and wrists.

Personally I shoot for a wide 1/2 inch on bed quilts.  It just seems a bit easier to quilt, adds a nice texture to the quilt, but the quilt will still be soft and cuddly.  It might be a bit denser than you like though, so just stitch out a few tests, soak them in water, throw them in the dryer and see how they fluff up.  This will be different depending on the batting you use so it's good to know what things will look like and act like after being washed.

 Finally, we have a few more questions from Karin at the Quilt Yarn about the finishing of her english paper pieced quilt:

Photo from Karin at The Quilt Yarn
The main question Karin asked was "How do I best quilt this?"

Perfect timing Karin because last week on the free motion quilt along we learned about auditioning designs!

Take this photo you have of your pretty red quilt, print it out a few times in black and white, sit down and PLAY!

Draw designs in different places, experiment and see what you like and what you don't like.  Personally I think it's just fine to machine quilt this type of quilt.  I certainly enjoy hand piecing, but I never feel that hand piecing automatically requires hand quilting.

Remember who makes the rules? You Do!

Always remember that even though a quilt was planned with a border or with a certain color or with a specific construction method in mind, you don't have to remain true to those original plans if they're causing a problem.

Sometimes it's just not possible to buy the right fabric, to piece with that x,y,z method, or to even finish a certain project at all.  As Jessim from Skittles Sewing and Stuff put it best:

I decided I didn't like where I was headed.  I took a deep breathe and threw it into the trash.  Project status: Finished.

Damn straight! I can't wait to see what you guys are working on next week!

Time to shut up and go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, August 26, 2012

UFO Sunday #1: One Step at a Time

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It's UFO time!  It's high time we made an official stab at pulling out all our UnFinished Objects and getting them finished!

Already this new program has generated a lot of questions, mostly about how we're defining a UFO.  I've thought about this quite a bit and decided this is the definition we're going to work with:

A UFO is any project you have left and must return to.

That's pretty simple, right?  It's any project you've made some start to - picked out fabric colors, cut out pieces, began sewing blocks, etc, but you stopped working on it and have left it alone for some time.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNo, I personally don't think UFOs are only dusty quilt tops on a shelf you haven't touched in 5 years, though those would certainly be a good choice to start with!

This week I worked on a UFO that's pinned to my design wall that I look at every single day, but I haven't touched in 3 months.  It's still a UFO because it's unfinished and I must return to it.

It is the returning factor that is important here.  Returning feels pretty distinctive and not always pleasant. 

When you start a project, you have the pumped up, excited, adrenaline feeling of starting something new.  You're ready to go and enthusiastic about working on the new project!

But if you stop working on a project, if you get bogged down about it and for whatever reason walk away from it, the feeling of returning to it is very different.

Put it this way - no one ever walks into a quilt store and says "I need to buy some fabric I'll cut up and stuff into a bin for the next 3 years!"

No, we buy fabric and cut it up with the best intentions.  Now we just need to return to those intentions, pull out those projects and decide what is worth finishing and what needs to go.

Oh boy...did I really say that?!

Yes, you need to DECIDE what you WANT to finish and what quilts are not worth your time.  Time is a precious resource and it doesn't make sense to waste time working on a project you hate.

So this week take a look at your list of UFOs.  What is the one you want to work on least?  Ask yourself why.

Is it the construction?  Can the quilt be fixed or repaired?  What bothers you most about this project?

It might be a good idea to take 30 minutes to journal about the project.  Write down your feelings and dig into the emotion behind it.

Yes, abandoning and returning to a project is emotional.  You might find projects you can't return to because of issues beyond the fabric and thread.  That project may have been started right before a difficult time in your life and looking at it reminds you of that time.  This has certainly happened to me with Sinkhole, which is why that quilt ended up being caught on fire.

As for what to do with quilts you just can't finish, consider donating them to your local quilt guild for charity quilts.  Another alternative would be to sell it on Ebay.  Sometimes the best thing to do when a project gets too heavy and bogged down is to release it to someone else who doesn't feel the same way about it.

But of course not all UFO quilts are like this!  Sometimes a quilt is a UFO simply because you haven't had the time to finish it, or there's a bit of construction that's intimidating.  That's been my case with this 365 quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

What's the problem with this quilt?  There's really two problems: 1. it needs to be pieced together, then finished by hand, 2. I have no idea how the borders are going to work.

So here's a short video about this quilt and how I decided to work on it this week:

As you can see in the video, the 365 quilt is in a real state of disarray.  I have one huge panel put together, but the other strips are stuck to the design wall needing to be put together.

I only had a few hours to work on this quilt and began putting the strips together.  After 3 strips were together, I realized this wasn't a very logical way to proceed with this UFO.

Here's why: if I walked out of the room, I'd have another big panel of strips put together, but also still a mishmash of unprepared strips with no binding.  It would still be an overwhelming monster and not something I'd feel excited about working on.

So I simply focused on completing the most basic step: I attached binding to all the strips.

When I left the room yesterday, it looked like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

With all the binding attached, suddenly this quilt doesn't feel so time consuming to work on anymore.  When I walked into the room today, I could see how easy and fast it would be to get these strips together and be able to get this quilt off the wall.  Suddenly the excitement is back!

No, I still don't know how I'm going to deal with the borders of this quilt, but I really shouldn't be worrying about it right now.  This quilt needs loads of hand work to be completed before the borders will be attached, and hopefully during that time I'll figure that step out.

So I hope this story helps you see how to proceed with a UFO you have in progress this week.  I really hope this new program helps us all to tackle our unfinished projects and make a solid stab at getting them finished.

Sometimes you just have to pull it out and get it through 1 single step.  Just get the blocks together, or get the blocks connecting into strips, or get the quilt basted.  It doesn't have to be a huge step, but a step in the right direction.

Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog or online photo:

1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.  If you're linking up a photo, first upload it to Flickr or Facebook.

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.

If you have any questions about finishing your UFO, make sure to post them clearly within your post.  5 questions will be selected and answered on Monday's UFO advice article.

By the way, if you'd like to share this program on your blog, grab a button below!

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project
Time for me to shut up and go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Question Thursday #28

Time to answer questions!  It's been a crazy week, but Thursdays are always one of my favorite days because I get an excuse to hop around to all your blogs and see what you've been working on.

The first question this week comes from Mary at Can't Stop Stitchin about the quilt storage method we learned last week:

Do you ever pin your quilts to the noodle, or does the tautness of the sleeve keep the quilt tight on the roll?

No, I never pin my quilts to the noodle, mostly because I'd be afraid I'd forget about the pins and they'd rust within the quilt while in storage.

I actually build my storage system differently for smaller quilts.  A smaller quilt can't really be rolled the same way the larger quilts can, and it also seems a bit excessive to create a whole noodle system for just one little wall hanging.

So instead you can build this alternative:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah Day
There are actually 5 quilts stacked underneath Hot Cast and all roll together in one tube to save space
In this situation you start with a large piece of fabric.  Depending on the length of the quilts you're wanting to store, start with a 1 to 2 yard length of fabric.

Fold over one side and stitch to create the tube case for the pool noodle.  Seam both ends to fully encase and secure the noodle within the wrap.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Finish all the edges of the fabric, then attach 3 - 5 long ties (leftover binding works great) to the end of the fabric and you'll have a quilt noodle wrap storage system.

Simply place the top or bottom edge of your quilt next to the noodle and start rolling.  Secure the quilt by tying the ties around the noodle.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

You can easily store 5 - 10 small quilts this way all wrapped up together!  It's a much better way to store the smaller wall hangings and wholecloths because they'll take up less space when combined into one noodle wrap.

Now the one downside with this system is it's open at both ends.  The quilt is wrapped up in a roll, but the ends are open.  Just make sure when you plan your system to build it at least 15 inches wider than the quilt you want to store.  This way there's plenty of room for the quilt in the middle and away from the edges which could get dirty or damage the edges of your quilts.

Next let's answer a question from Pat at Color Me Quilty who's having problems with thread:

Do thread nets help thread feed more evenly?

Full question: The thread seems to be very loose and loopy. Even when I put the thread on a spool stand, I still have issues. So my question to Leah this week is would a thread spool net help? I have a bunch of these, but I've never used one. Do I need to cut it down? Is there anything I need to know before I use this? Any other suggestions of things to try?

This is a very annoying issue Pat's struggling with.  I used to struggle with this myself on the Juki machine and would sometimes have to stop every 20 stitches and pull the loops and twists out of the thread manually with my hand just to get the thread to feed properly.  Do that for 2 hours and you'll understand the term "sewing machine from hell."

Anyway, I think a thread net will help in this situation.  I haven't used them on a sewing machine, but used to use them a lot on my serger and found them quite helpful for eliminating loopy, excessively loose thread feeding issues.

Another thing that might help is pulling your spool stand further away from your machine.  The thread is looping up and feeding in too loose, so adding a bit of distance might help.

As always, the best way to diagnose any problem is to work step by step, take notes, and try to find exactly when the problems happen, and when they don't.  Sometimes the smallest thing can make a big difference, but it's hard to see all the variables if you change multiple things at a time.

And right along this line of thinking, here's a plea for help I recently received via email from Layna:

I am pretty good at sewing, but stippling is just not working out - and i cant figure out why? !

Full question: I have all the element right but when I start to sew - the stippling stitches are all messed up. the tension is loose and gathering on the back and the needle wont catch all the stitches as I sew. I have re-threaded many times and changed the needle to a new one, etc. but don't know what else it can be. The machine sews great on regular settings but as soon as I start the free motion it goes wrong. I tried both the feed dogs up and down , down is the worse so I have been using them up. Any ideas??? 

Take a deep breath!  It's okay!  We're going to figure out what's wrong with your machine step by step.

To start, take your machine 100% back to piecing.  Put on your piecing foot, put on thread you use for piecing, set the stitch length and position that you normally use for piecing a 1/4 inch seam, and even pull out some fabric and piece 2 pieces together.

Now look at your stitches - are they looking good?

If so, then we know your machine is capable of piecing, therefor it's capable of free motion quilting.

Many quilters don't believe me when I say this, but i firmly believe that if a machine can piece, it can free motion quilt.  No, not all machines are EASY to quilt with (some are more finicky than others), but it is possible to do this on all machines.

Now let's make a list of all the things you must change on your machine to free motion quilt.

1. Foot - switch to a free motion quilting foot

Honestly that's the only thing you MUST change in order to free motion quilt.  You need this foot because it's designed to hover over the quilt and allow you to move in all directions.

So screw on that foot and try free motion quilting.  Keep all the other settings for piecing the same.  What is happening to your stitches?  Do they look good?  Do they look terrible?  Can you move the quilt or is it impossible to budge?

Some issues you see at this point may be simply down to your speed / movement ratio being off.  You may see loops on either side of your quilt which look like tension problems, when in fact they are actually speed problems.

But if you can't move your quilt, or it's very jerky and  you can't see where you're going, you may just need to modify your free motion quilting foot.

Also note that if your foot is too high, your thread could break often because the quilt is bouncing around too much.  You might have to play with the height a bit depending on the thickness of the quilt you're working on.

Here's a list of OPTIONAL things that you COULD change, IF you WANTED to:

1. Thread
2. Needle
3. Feed dogs down
4. Stitch length to 0
5. Add tools like the Supreme Slider and Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers.

These things are NOT REQUIRED.  They are optional and some machines will stitch better and some machines will stitch worse when they are fiddled with.

What you change and what tools you use will be different on every machine you own.  It really is down to what the machine likes best.

But it is important to note that these changes are OPTIONAL.  You can quilt with cotton thread, or you can switch to another type (thinner and stronger is best).

You can also change needles for quilting or keep the same needle you piece with.  I always quilt and piece with a Universal 80/12, but that will not hold true for everyone.

You can also quilt with the feed dogs up, engaged the way the machine is designed to be used.  There is no law that says free motion quilting must be done with the feed dogs down.  Most machines work better with them up.

Even if you keep your feed dogs up, you don't have to change the stitch length to 0. I often forget this step and the machine is still able to quilt just fine.

So long as your foot is adjusted high enough, the quilt will skim the surface of the machine bed and the feed dogs won't bother it.

Here's my settings: I often forget to set my stitch length at 0, my feed dogs are always up, I don't change needles from piecing to free motion quilting, but I do change to Isacord Thread (I piece with Aurifil) and always use a Supreme Slider and bobbin washers.

On a different machine, however, some of these settings may change.

The best advice is to change 1 thing at a time and take notes as you work.  If the change is immediately good, make a note of it in a journal or piece of paper so you can keep track of your improvements.

The same is true for what doesn't work.  If you change threads and suddenly see thread breaks or bird's nests, make a note of it!  Your machine obviously hates that thread and you'll need to experiment to see if you can adjust to make it work, or if it's just simply never going to be quiltable.

Just remember that no matter what you read in books, no matter what you've heard at quilt guild, the ONLY thing you absolutely HAVE to change to free motion quilt is your foot.

Everything else is optional.  Some of it will work, some of it won't.

So have fun playing and experimenting this week and hopefully find those pretty stitches you're looking for.  Remember - if your quilt can piece, it CAN free motion quilt!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Quilt Along #28 - Auditioning Designs

It's Quilt Along time and I have some bad news - my computer Harry is still out of commission.  I've never had a computer break this badly and unfortunately don't have a backup computer with video editing software installed. I'm working on a substitute laptop, but unfortunately it doesn't have the power to handle the software, so please bear with me for one more weird week!

Rather than learn new designs, let's learn how to play with all the hundreds of designs we already have.  By the way, if you're ever in the mood to browse, you can find all 365 designs right here.

You can also find all 365 designs in a beautiful spiral-bound picture book that's loads of fun to flip through and pick designs quickly for your quilts.  Find 365 Free Motion Quilting Fillers right here in our quilt shop.

So how exactly do you know how a design will look in a particular area of your quilt?  By giving them an audition and seeing which wins the part!

Yes, auditioning designs does require drawing, but you don't have to be perfect at this in order to know if a design will work or not.  Perfection is not the point.  Just getting the general shape of the design over your quilt is the idea.

So the first thing to start with is a photo or drawing of your quilt.  If your quilt is already fully finished and pieced together, hang it on a wall and shoot a photo of it.

Now get this photo on your computer or take it to a printing store and print it out in grayscale (black and white).

Why are we removing all the color?  Because color can be distracting.  It's also hard to see your pencil marks over.  Honestly my favorite way to do this is with a simple black and white outline of the piecing design so that way there's no distracting color or shading to deal with.

If you have a quilt in mind, try working this week with a photograph of a single block or a border corner section. This way you can play with designs over a small section at a time and hopefully not be overwhelmed by the full design.

Of course, if you can't do this - either you don't know how to take and manipulate photos this way or don't have the capability, don't worry!  Here's an image to play with this week:
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Yep, this is a simple Sawtooth Star block.  No frills, no flash, just a simple star block. 

But how many ways are there to quilt this block?  5?  10?  100?  There are literally millions of ways to quilt this shape.  How do you know what way is best?

Simple - what do YOU like best?

The only way to answer this question is to print out this sawtooth star block and draw three different versions of it.  We're simply holding an audition and any designs you like are welcome to participate!

Here are mine:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The first is a simple combination of Stippling in the block and Pebbling in the outside edges.  The Pebbling is much darker and denser than the Stippling, which means the outline of the star will show up nicely.

It's important to note that this drawing is showing very dense quilting.  You will definitely need to pay attention to scale as you audition designs because this can really effect how the texture looks on your finished quilt.  What is the only way to know what it will look like ahead of time?  Draw it and see!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This second version fills the star with Paisley and the outer edges with Stippling.  In this case the star looks much more flowing and fluid when filled with all those tear drop shapes and echoes.

Remember that every design type will appear slightly differently.  Paisley is a Pivoting Design, which means it has a lot more traveling and thread play and will show up more boldly on a quilt, even with matching thread color.  Stippling is an Independent Design and will always appear much lighter because it's always a single line of thread wiggling over your quilt.

Very soon we're going to start investigating more design types - visiting a new one each month actually so we can gain a better understanding of how all of these designs work and can fill the spaces of our quilts.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Finally this third option opens up yet another path - adding marked elements to the piecing.  Let's imagine the star was pieced, so the extra flower I've drawn inside was just marked on the fabric. I call these marked designs Motifs.

Motifs are designs that are not pieced or appliqued, but QUILTED in only with thread.  They form new shapes and designs over the surface, and are marked to ensure their symmetry and placement.

Many times I'm asked why I mark certain things and why I don't mark others.  I mark a motif because I want it to show up as exactly THAT shape.  I want exactly THAT flower, formed exactly THAT way. 

I couldn't free-hand this shape.  If I tried to stitch this without marking, it would not look like this - wouldn't be lined up properly, wouldn't fit this space perfectly, and the effect wouldn't be the same.  Marking is required for motifs to achieve that exact shape, in that exact placement.

Fillers on the other hand are not meant to be perfect or exact.  They flow and bend and fill in places organically.  I don't mark these designs because they're meant to be random, and it would also be ridiculously time consuming to mark them over the surface of a whole quilt.

Adding the marked flower motif to the star block has opened another world of design possibilities!  I can stitch Stippling around the flower, wiggling into all those tight places, then fill the outer area with Paisley.  What a pretty audition!

So which of these auditions is the "right" one?

Well, all three are good designs.  All three add interesting effects to the quilt.  There really isn't a "wrong" way to quilt a quilt, so there really isn't a "right" answer here.

The right design is the one YOU like the best.

How will all this look in thread on fabric?  The only way to know is to stitch a small sample using a scrap of the fabric in the quilt and the thread you planned to use.

No, you don't have to quilt out a whole block if you don't want to, but it's a good idea to get some practice with the fillers you've selected with the thread you plan to use.  Some fills like Pebbling simply won't work with some types of thread because the layers of travel stitching will cause weak, thick thread to break.

So that is your challenge this week!  If you have a quilt needing to be quilted, consider taking a photograph and playing with drawing designs over the surface.  If that is not open to you, print out the sawtooth block and play with drawing designs over it.

Yes, this is play!  Not torture!  Just have fun, keep it simple, and experiment with the many effects you can create by auditioning different designs and marked motifs over the surface.

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!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Where Did My Baby Go?

We've all heard this phrase.  I think I've heard it hundreds of times from my parents, and other parents I know, but for the first time, today, I understand what this question really means.

It is not a rhetorical question meant to insight the guilt and chagrin of the child.  For some reason every time I heard this phrase as a kid, I always felt guilty for growing up, like I was somehow doing something wrong by getting older!

But as a parent, I now understand that this question is really an expression of heartache.  Of course we want our children to grow up to healthy, functioning adults, but it's also a sad marker of time passing and days and years we can never return to.

Whats behind all this emotional rambling?

Today James started real school.

Where did my baby go?

Yes, he's been in preschool for 4 years, but for some reason starting pre-kindergarten today seems different. It's the start of real school - longer days, friendships that will grow each year, and soon he'll be able to read and write and before I know it he'll be all grown up.

No, my five year old is not leaving for college today, but I can suddenly see and feel just how soon that day will come.

Where did my baby go?

This might seem ridiculously silly, but I can honestly see a total change in my perspective as a parent from this event. 

Last week I began working on a quilt design for a quilt representing a mother and child.  Last week I depicted the two figures as trees rooted together side by side.

That's as good an explanation for my previous line of thinking as I can illustrate.  I felt James as a permanent fixture in my life, rooted next to me.  The other quilt I've designed with mother and child, the figures were literally interconnected:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

But now these illustrations don't work for me.  They don't accurately represent the true nature of our children - gifts given for a short time.

It seems silly that I of all people could forget this.  Yes, we can have children, raise them, love them, but there are no guarantees they will stay close.  Once grown, it is the child's decision to stay close or to fly away to distant places.

Last night I could suddenly feel James's absence from my life.  From now on, he will be away at school from 7 until 4 - the longest block of time ever.  All summer I was looking forward to this time to quilt and work, but I wish I could just have a few more years of my baby back.

I know I'm not the only parent who lives with regrets.  I should have played more, worked less, paid more attention, smiled, laughed, cuddled, and hugged more often.  No matter how much time we have, we wish we could have a bit more.

I know it's normal to feel this way.  My dad warned me that I might grieve a bit today and he was right.  It's sad, but it's a good sad.  I'm grieving the years gone, and at the same time making a dedication for the years left.  They will not be missed or wasted.

Today I'm going to start working on a new quilt design and again the mother figure will be a tree, but this time the child will be winged like a bird.

Our children are like birds.  They roost for a short time in our loving branches, but one day they have to fly away.
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Sorry for the bad sketch, I only had paper towels to draw on!
Today James didn't cry a bit, but I did.  I explained what would happen at drop off over and over so he unbuckled his seat belt, picked up his backpack, held a teacher's hand and walked into school without a blink.  He was ready to go.

He was every inch my brave sweet boy flying off to new adventures, and I could only sit and watch, wish him luck, and drive away.

Here's to the years we have.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sundays: New UFO Day!

Have you ever created a written record of all your UFOs?  Actually made a list of ALL of them, and what is required to turn them into a finished quilt, bag, placemat, etc?

I recently did this and it was a humbling experience.  Page after page of unfinished projects, many for this blog, but many more for myself, family, and friends.

For myself, I'd really like to finish this quilt of all 365 squares from the original project:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Also these goddess faces that didn't work for Power of Now could easily be made into a tote bag:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

And there's all these unfinished quilt tops, neatly folded in plastic bins just waiting to be basted and quilted...

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So how about it?  Shall we make a date - just ONE DAY out of the week to work on our UFO projects?

Not only will this keep us all on track for getting projects completed, it's also a terrific way to make gift quilts for the holidays.

Rather than start all new projects from scratch, start pulling out those old tops and figure out which ones can be quickly completed to create a wonderful gift for someone you love!

Best of all, we're going to link up with this new series, so if you have a quilt top that's been in the closet for years because you just don't know how to quilt it, get a photo of that troublesome top online and link it up on these posts to get some advice!

On Sunday's we'll link up with any progress we've made on our UFOs or a photo of a UFO quilt you just don't know how to finish.

On Mondays, I'll post again with tips and advice to help you bust through the roadblocks stopping you from finishing those quilts!

Remember, this is just 1 day out of the week.  Pick a project you can pull out quickly, then find a bin or drawer you can stuff it into after your UFO day is done. So every Sunday from here on out the Free Motion Quilting Project is going to be UFO central - whatever you got, pull it out cause it's time to finish it.

See ya next week with some UFOs in tow!


Friday, August 17, 2012

The Duchess Reigns #5 - Gut Feeling Adjustments

Having finished Emergence last week, the #1 quilt on my mind has become The Duchess Reigns, and boy is she looking pretty these days:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Still, I'm not going to rush this quilt.  I'm not going to rush this quilt.  I'm not going to rush this quilt.  Maybe if I say it enough times, it will not rush through this process!

Part of this whole not-rushing policy is learning how to proceed in small steps.  I'm in the habit of taking giant leaps - finish x,y,z part of the design and let's print the full sized quilt!  Let's go! - and this often gets me in trouble.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Why?  Because even when a design that looks perfect on paper, changes might have to be made. 

Take the photo above which a is a close up of the star surrounding the center goddess.  This looks great, but when printed full size, marked on fabric, and quilted, it didn't come out very good:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
What's wrong here?  Well, for one thing the tree was the most obnoxious thing I've had to quilt in 2 years!  The tiny, spindly branches were just too thin to have a nice impact and the itsy bitsy spaces left where the branches wove together were a real pain to quilt into and fill.

If there was just one tree in this quilt, I might leave this alone and simply deal with the frustration in this area.  However, there are 16 trees in this quilt!

I really want to fill the background of these trees with Swirling Water, but obviously it's impossible with the trees designed as they are.  Rather than cling to the design and force it to work (yes, I have done this in the past and it sucks), I simply went back to the original design and redesigned this element of the quilt.

The same was true for the goddess's hair:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Here again there were loads of thin lines to outline, then lots of tiny channels to fill with Channels and Paths.  Again, I could have left this as is, but my guts says I don't like it.

I also don't like using Swirling Water over the goddess's face.  It makes her face look all blotchy.  And I could go on.  Some places are easy to pick fillers, others are quite tricky and my first choice is not always the best.

What is the point of all this highly opinionated nit-picking?

Ultimately who will have to spend hours quilting this quilt?  Who will have to stare at it day after day?  And who ultimately needs to feel happy and satisfied with this creation?  ME!

For almost all of my previous quilts, I'd reach this stage of design and just start rushing, rushing, rushing through to the end.  I love to design, but as soon as that stage feels finished I just want the quilt to be done.

This time, however, I'm trying a totally different approach - no surprises.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This sounds boring, and to a degree it is kind of dull.  I'm experimenting with multiple filler designs for each section of the quilt.  I'm experimenting with multiple thread color choices.  No option, no choice, no element will be left in the air.

This way, there will be no surprises in the finished quilt.  I will not stare at her face wishing I'd covered it with Stippling instead of Swirling Water.  I will not stare at the background sun wishing I'd filled the rays with a darker color of orange.  No surprises, no regrets.

This is what I have a tendency to do with my finished quilts and it's absolutely no fun.  When I set out to create 365 designs, I never realized the possible downside to so much choice: too many options.  Sometimes it's impossible to pick or know what will work, what will look best, and what color anything should be.

So what is the solution?  Test, test, test.

Know what things are going to look like and if they don't look good, adjust, change, fiddle, and redesign until things get the way they should.

So that's what I plan to do today!  I have a fresh new full sized print of this goddess design that needs to be taped together.  Once that's solid, I'm going to mark up another bunch of fabric and try again, and again, and again until the right fillers and the right colors are obvious.

Let's go quilt,


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Question Thursday #27

It's Question Thursday time and it looks like both the new storage method and painting a quilt tutorial have generated lots of questions!  Let's see if we can answer them all so you can have fun trying out these new techniques.

The first question is about quilt painting from Karen Klamczynski in the comments:

When you use these paints, do you always use them "over" quilted thread, or have you ever sewed over areas that have been painted? 

Both Jacquard Lumiere Textile Paints and Shiva Paintstiks can be painted on top of quilting lines and underneath.  The paints will stiffen the fabric and change the way it feels to quilt the quilt, but yes, you can most definitely quilt on top of painted fabric!

The best thing to do when considering using paint is to make small samples:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Above is a picture of a sample of red Lumiere paint with Isacord thread stitched above and below it.

To make this sample, I first painted half the fabric with the paint and allowed it to dry.

Then I quilted over the entire square with Heart Flow.  The most noticeable difference about quilting over paint is the noise and feel of your needle.  It makes more of a "pocking" sound as it pierces the paint.  Also you'll want to avoid making mistakes over painted fabric as it does leave holes when you rip out the stitching.

Once the quilting was complete, I painted over the stitching on the side of fabric that didn't have paint before.

As you can see, creating samples like this allow you to get a good idea of what the paint will do on fabric and what your thread will look like over it or under it.  This changes the effect of both the quilting and the paint, so it's worth experimenting with before going wild on a real quilt.

Yes, it may be a bit time consuming to do a sample like this for every color of paint, but it's honestly the only way to know 100% what will happen.

This leads us perfectly to a question from Pat at Color Me Quilty:

So my question for Leah, do you buy each color you want or is there a way to mix them?

Yep, you're not the only one that's had trouble mixing Jacquard Lumiere paints!  When it comes to this particular paint, I haven't had much luck mixing it either.

The only color I've managed to change was metallic silver.  I mixed this color 50-50 with Gunmetal to create a medium silver color.

My best advice is to first make sure you like the paint, then once you're really in love with it, begin collecting 2-3 colors a month.  Focus on the colors you're needing to use that month and make samples so you know what the fabric looks like with those colors of paint.

Pretty soon you'll have a huge collection of colors, plus samples to know what the paint looks like when dry.

Now let's answer the many questions raised in the comments about the pool noodle storage method detailed in yesterday's post:

Could the pool noodle eventually damage your quilt?

Full Question: I'm wondering if the pool noodle should be completely sealed in archival plastic of some sort to stop any chemical leeching from the foam stuff they use to make it.

Second full question: The only question I have is about the use of pool noodles as the inner core... Are you sure that these are safe to use, over the long run? I'm mostly concerned with off-gassing from the plastics used, and the eventual deterioration of the plastic foam...

Yes, it's definitely possible for the pool noodle to damage your quilt.  The material is polyethylene foam, which while safe to swim with, is probably not the most archival.

So here's the deal: for the storage tubes I build for my most delicate and prized quilts, I cover the pool noodle with several layers of acid free paper, secured in place with acid free tape.

Once completely covered with paper, I still build the fabric cover to add another buffer between the pool noodle and the quilt.

As for testing this storage system, I've had two quilts in storage since 2008.  The Duchess stays in permanent storage, wrapped up all year round.  The other quilts occasionally come out and are hung, but they're all easily in storage for months at a time.

As of right now, none of my quilts are showing adverse effects from this storage method.

Also keep in mind that heat is the biggest cause of issues of leaving, off gassing, and chemical exchanges.  This storage method is really designed for keeping quilts in a well air conditioned, cool place, like a closet or behind the couch.

I would definitely NOT recommend it for quilts stored in the attic, barn, or any place that gets hot.

Also note that you could also look for acid free or archival cardboard tubes designed to hold paintings. This might be a better option if you're really concerned about the pool noodles.

Now a question to clarify the construction and rolling technique from Sharidan:

Do you prewash the fabric for both the noodle and quilt sleeve? Also, do you roll the quilt in with the back on top or visa versa? 

Yes, I prewash all the fabric for this system.  If the fabric has color or a print, I wash it multiple times with a dye catcher to make sure there are no excess dyes running out of the fabric.

 Yes, the quilt will tend to roll a bit on the edge that you start rolling on because it is the most tightly wrapped.  The best place to start is from the top of the quilt and roll down with the front of the quilt to the inside.

This way when you unroll the quilt and hang it on the wall, the most curled section will be right at the top where the hanging sleeve is and the weight of the quilt will pull it down and back into normal, flat alignment.

Finally one last question from Jayardi:

Is this the way you send them to shows? Can you elaborate on your mailing method, please?

Yes, if I sent a quilt to a major quilt show, I would pack and send it this way.  You will need to place a tag on both the inner tube and outer sleeve so they stay with your quilt packaging at the show.

As for boxing the quilt, once in it's storage system, I slip the entire quilt into a long plastic bag to protect it from any water or moisture while shipping.

I then build a box long and wide enough using multiple cardboard boxes.  I have heard of some quilters using the large round cardboard molds for cement footings from the hardware store, but I have never used them myself.

You can also find large tubes and boxes from different cardboard box retailers.  The one issue here is you'll have to buy several in a case and it can get expensive.

Well, that's it for this week! I'm heading down to the studio to make a few new tests of fabric, thread, color, and filler designs for The Duchess Reigns.  As I said above - the only way to know what things are going to look like is to stitch it and see for yourself!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quilt Along #27 - How to Store Your Quilts

It's Quilt Along time and I have an unfortunate announcement - Harry, my loyal computer for the last 2 years suddenly decided he'd had enough and quit on the job.  Apparently I leave too much trash in the bin, don't clean up after myself, never remember schedule important events like defragging, blah, blah, blah.  Apparently I pushed him to the edge...

Right now he's at the computer repair place getting his memory wiped, and hopefully he will return as the efficient, hardworking companion I love, not the slow, grumbling, inefficient annoyance he's been lately.

Why this long story of my dysfunctional relationship with my computer?  Because the video and post I was planning to share today happened to be on that computer.  So instead of a new set of Independent Designs, we're going to instead learn a cool method for storing quilts.

Here's a new video, haphazardly edited in the You Tube video editor because I no longer have editing software (grrrr...), but hopefully it will work for this week at least until I can bludgeon some sense into Harry and get him back on the job:

No, I don't use this method for ALL of my quilts.  Bed quilts, particularly those made for James to drag around the house and abuse just get folded in a stack.  I figure those are made to be used and a few crease marks will be the least of their troubles.

For wall hangings and especially show quilts, and just about any quilt you quilt densely with thread (like the Heart and Feather Wholecloth), folding can cause some serious problems.

Here's the deal: Thread has memory.

I remember once reading a magazine article about a quilter who winds her bobbins with the thread in the middle to end of a spool.  The reason being - the thread at the end of the spool can sometimes have crease lines from the spool and not look as fresh and crisp as the thread at the beginning of the spool and it makes sense for this thread to be wound onto the bobbin and be on the back of the quilt rather than the front.

I remember thinking at the time "How much time does this woman have on her hands?!  Crease lines in thread?!" 

But these days I totally understand and respect what she was saying.  If you quilt densely, and if your quilt strongly depends on the quilting for effect and design, you probably would notice a difference in thread from the beginning to very end of a spool!

Anyway, that story perfectly illuminates the point I'm trying to make:

Thread can be creased or bent, and because of it's memory, it doesn't always return to normal.

When you fold up a densely quilted quilt and leave it that way for a month, the dense thread work gets used to being in that folded arrangement.

What can result is crease lines within your quilt - noticeable channels that can be seen from several feet away and definitely mar the effect of your beautiful quilt.

Yes, steaming your quilt can sometimes remove crease lines, but who wants to steam their quilts every time they're put on the wall?

More to the point, if you leave a quilt folded for months and months, sometimes steam won't be able to take out those crease lines.  They'll be permanently embedded in the thread and always subtly visible.

Even if you're not super obsessive about crease lines and thread memory, you might want to know how to store your quilts in your closet in a safe and space efficient way.

The fact is we all have more quilts than we have room to display them!  Here's the method for storing your quilt in a rolled tube which can be stored either vertical or horizontal within your closet:

Quilt Storage Tube System

Materials needed:

- New Pool Noodle (foam floaty thing in the pool section of most big box stores). 

-  Fabric to cover the noodle.

- Fabric to cover the quilt.

1. First lay your quilt out on a table and measure it from side to side.  Lay out your pool noodle over the surface and cut it so you have at least 6 inches more on both sides (12 inches bigger than the width of your quilt).  If your quilt is longer than 1 noodle, you'll need to get 2 and put them side by side.

2.  Use a flexible tape measure to measure the circumference of the pool noodle.  In the video I came up with 8 inches for the noodle.  If you add 2 - 1/2" seam allowances you'll get 9 inches.  Now for the length measurement - add the length of your pool noodle plus 5 inches extra to have extra fabric to close the ends.

3. Cut a rectangle of fabric to cover the pool noodle -  9 inches x length measurement.  Fold this fabric in half and sew across the bottom, then up the length of the rectangle with a 1/4" seam allowance to create a tube with one open end.  Why did we sew this with a 1/4" seam allowance?  To leave a bit of extra space for the pool noodle to slip into the sleeve.

What is the point in covering the pool noodles in the first place?  The plastic material these noodles are made out of is not exactly archival, acid free, or safe against your quilt.  The color can leach out of the noodle and into your quilt unless there's a barrier between the two.

4. Slip your pool noodle inside this sleeve, then turn down the open top edge.  Curl this down as tight as you can, then sew it closed on your sewing machine.  Yes, it will be bulky and difficult to maneuver under your needle, but do the best you can!

5. Now the noodle is covered and safe to roll your quilt onto.  Starting on the top or bottom of your quilt, roll the quilt tightly onto the noodle, stopping occasionally to smooth things out and tighten it up. You want this to be super tight so the quilt will form a stiff log on the noodle.

Why?  Because as a stiff log, you can store this quilt upright in your closet!  In the video you saw my quilts stored horizontally on a shelf, but you may not have a closet that's big enough to do this in.  Having the option of either vertical or horizontal storage is a real benefit to bothering to stitch this storage system in the first place.

6. Now take your flexible tape measure and measure the circumference of the quilt rolled onto the noodle.  This is a tricky measurement because you of course want the sleeve to be tight, but not so tight it's impossible to slip it over your quilt. 

Let's say the measurement comes out as 14 inches and this time we'll add 1.5 inches for seam allowances and for a bit of extra space within the sleeve so it's easy to slip over your quilt.

For the length of your quilt sleeve, measure the full length of the pool noodle and add 12 inches.  This will give lots of extra fabric at the top of the sleeve to protect the quilt and you could conceivably hang the quilt from this extra fabric as well.

To sum up, cut fabric for the quilt sleeve using this formula:

Circumference of the quilt on the noodle + 1.5 inch seam allowances x Length of the pool noodles + 12 inches.

7. Fold the quilt sleeve fabric in half and sew the bottom seam, then up the full length of the sleeve with a 1/4" seam allowance.  It's a good idea to reinforce this seam with a second line of stitching 1/8" inside the first.

8. Now slip the sleeve over the quilt.  You will have to work slowly with this, first slipping the quilt into the sleeve, then slowly bunching the sleeve up around the quilt and pulling it forward.

If the sleeve goes on very easily and the finished tube is very loose and squishy, you might want to remove the sleeve and sew inside the seam allowance 1/8" to tighten it up.  The point is for it to be very tight and to hold the quilt firmly in a solid tubular shape.

So that's it!  While this may seem complicated and time consuming, once you make one it will make a lot of sense.  It usually takes me about 2 hours to create a new storage sleeve system for a new quilt.

Keep in mind that each storage sleeve has to be made specifically for one quilt.  Because all quilts will roll up on the tube at a different width, you really have to build this individually for every quilt you're wanting to store.

You might be wondering why I created such a complicated system for storing my quilts.  After The Duchess was ruined, it became obvious that unless she was rolled and secured in some way, she would literally fall apart in a matter of years.

At the time, I didn't have space to store my quilts in the closet horizontally.  I needed a way to have her rolled into a tube and be able to store vertically, leaning in one corner of my sewing room.

The pool noodles and tight sleeve system came about after a bit of trial and error.  Without the central pool noodle, the quilt was just not stiff enough to stand on its own.  When this finally came together, I created a storage system for both The Duchess and Release Your Light that have both lasted for years.

Even better, this has been the best way to transport both quilts to shows and guild meetings.  Rolled up in a tube, the quilts can be slid into the car easily and unrolled at the event with very little chance the quilts get dirty or damaged during travel.

One bit of advice: if you use colorful fabric for your sleeves, make sure it's prewashed and free of all chemicals and excess dye.  For a long time I only used white fabric for these sleeves, but then started having trouble telling them apart (remember, each one is specifically made for one quilt).

Once the fabric is attached to the pool noodle, there's no way to remove it to wash it unless you cut it off, and then it will be too short to reattach the end so make sure to prewash the fabric before cutting it out for your pool noodle sleeve.

Whew!  That's it for this pool noodle storage system tutorial!  I don't know about you, but I'm ready to see what you guys have done with free motion quilting or painting this week!

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!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy 3rd Anniversary!

It's hard to believe, but today marks the 3rd Anniversary of The Free Motion Quilting Project!

For three years, this has been the place to find loads of videos and photos for free motion quilting.  Along the way, I've shared bits of my life, my triumphs, but also my struggles, and of course, a whole lot of beautiful quilts!

So today let's go on a little tour of the past videos and projects and see what's changed in the last 3 years.

free motion quilting | Leah DayGetting started in 2009, the thing I remember most was wanting to quilt every single day.  I felt that I needed an excuse to be able to do this - some reason or task that would allow me to take this time for myself, to build skill and knowledge about free motion quilting.

When the idea for this project - creating 365 free motion quilting designs - popped into my head in the middle of quilting Release Your Light, I just couldn't get the idea out of my head.  Even though Josh wasn't too happy with the idea, I kept thinking about it through the summer of 2009.

I finally got started on August 14th with a set of 3 posts: Can I create 365 free motion quilting designs?  Rules of the project, and Day 1 - Shadow Waves, all published around 10 at night, when I just couldn't stand waiting around any longer.  I HAD to start this blog and begin this quest for designs!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

No, things weren't very well thought-out in the beginning.  At the time, I only had seven designs stitched, none of them filmed, and absolutely no idea if I could actually come up with 358 more.  Posting designs every single day on top of taking care of a two year old and running another business, it was a handful!

Eventually I had to slow things down and luckily no one seemed to mind.  It seemed what you guys were looking for was simple: more information and inspiration for free motion quilting, so that's what I set out to provide here.

Along the way, I started the process of compiling the designs into books.  From Daisy to Paisley was my first self published book featuring 50 beginner level designs from the project.  The next year it was followed by From Feathers to Flames, a book of 60 intermediate level designs.

But since the start of the project, almost everyone has asked for a book of ALL the designs.  Finally this spring I published 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs - a photo book that features all the designs from the project.

While there wasn't space to add instructions or how-to diagrams, it's still my favorite book of all three because you can flip through the pages and easily choose different designs to play with on your quilts.

Along with new designs, this blog is also the place I share my quilts.  Winter Wonderland, Shadow Self, My Cup Runneth Over, Hot Cast, and Emergence were all shared here in multiple unfinished stages so you can watch the transformation of these quilts from simple designs to beautiful finished quilts.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
And yes, along with the stories of these quilts, I've also shared my struggles with depression, childhood abuse, and low self esteem.  Overcoming these issues sometimes felt impossible, but ultimately I've learned that anything can be healed if you can quilt it out.

For more than two years, this project had a single goal: more new designs.  This January at the completion of the goal of 365 designs, we began the Free Motion Quilt Along - a new weekly video lesson that was designed for you to stitch along, interact, and ask questions about free motion quilting. 

I won't lie - it was a scary transition to change from posting new designs every couple of days to only sharing a weekly lesson.  I was really worried this change was too radical and would scare everyone away.

To my surprise, the Free Motion Quilt Along has been a great success!  Not only have I managed to demonstrate and teach more about free motion quilting, we've also created two fun projects together - the Heart and Feather Wholecloth and PoMo Angles Modern Quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Seeing everyone's finished quilts was just amazing!  It almost feels like we're a weekly bee that meets up to chat and learn and practice quilting together.

We might not live in the same area, or even speak the same language, but we have learned loads together over the last 8 months.

Ultimately this has been my goal for this project - to find a way to quilt every day, to teach and share, and hopefully help other quilters master free motion quilting on their home machine.

So here's to the last 3 years!  Thank you all for reading, watching, commenting, posting, linking up to the quilt along, and sharing the project with your friends.

Without so many thousands of cheerleaders, advisers, mentors, and yes, even the critics, I probably wouldn't have finished that first set 365 designs or continue to teach in the Quilt Along today. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Let's go quilt,


Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at