The Free Motion Quilting Project: September 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

UFO Sunday #6 - Snowball, but still have fun

It's UFO Sunday time and what are you working on today?!

This week I've been taking a look at my UFO list and seriously wanting to cut it down by half in a hurry. It seems there's loads of projects that just need something small, like binding, a name tag, or a hanging sleeve.

Why do these small things not get done? Why leave them to pile up when that quilt could be being used and enjoyed?!

So today we're going to learn about the Snowball Effect.  

This is a term used by debt advisers to help you pay off your debts quickly.  Basically you budget a certain amount of money, let's say $200 to pay off debts.  The first month, you knock out all the tiny debts, like $50 here and $25 there.  All those little guys get paid off first and only the minimum balances get paid on the big debts.

Then the next month, you still have that same $200 budget, PLUS any money freed up by not having minimum payments or fees on the small debts you paid off.  You use all that money to pay off the next biggest debts.

And on it goes, slowly snowballing up until you only have really big debts to pay off and knock them out with big punches every month.  It's really a great way to pay down lots of debt and get control over your finances in a short amount of time.

But is this a good way to bust through UFOs?

I decided to test the theory this week with 3 UFO quilts clogging up the shelves of my sewing room.  Each one only needed about 1-2 hours of attention - mostly binding, hanging sleeves, and a bit of quilting needed to finish them up.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So I busted through all three in a couple days and it really felt great!  I could feel the snowball effect of enthusiasm and energy being sent straight into my sewing room.

Picking these now finished quilts up and bringing them upstairs to the couch also felt really good.  Three less things in my sewing room - YAY!

But...and yes, there is a but to this....after finishing so many things at once, I really, really, REALLY wanted to start something new.

So I did.  I decided not to resist the temptation to create something new because ultimately it's what I needed this week.

Keep in mind that unlike paying off real debts which really NEED to be paid off or they hurt us down the road, UFOs don't hurt anyone.  They just take up space and drive us slowly crazy because of all the pressure and stress they bring by sitting in the corner of the sewing room whispering "finish me...finish me...finish me..."

So here's what I made: I had loads of tiny scraps left over from James's Space Quilt, which I had not thrown away yet.  This is pretty unusual for me, as I could previously be known as The Ultimate Scrap Fabric Waster.  It must be a side product of finishing so many UFOs and not buying more fabric, but I'm tending to get a lot more frugal with my fabric.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

But what the heck do you do with this?  These are literally shreds from squaring off the edges of fabric and none were wide enough to even get a seam allowance out of.

Normally, back in my UFO Creating Days, I would have shoved all these in a bag and thought "I'll get to that later." and left it to fill up yet another bin, shelf, or drawer in my sewing room.

Those days are long over!  I wanted to keep these shreds, so I'd better do something with them - NOW! I pulled out some wash-away material, sandwiched those shreds between, stitched it quickly with some funky designs, rinsed away the stabilizer and ta-da a bright rainbow scarf was made:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Clearly I forgot to comb my hair today...but my scarf still rocks!
I love making stuff like this, but rarely do it.  This time it felt like a fun reward for finishing so many UFOs and I really enjoyed making something new and functional out of all those scraps I would normally have trashed.

So that's the lesson for this week: yes, make a list of your UFOs and yes, spend a day knocking out all the "small debts" that can be completed in a few hours.

But also find something fun you can make as a reward.  All work and no play makes a quilting no fun!

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 or Tuesday's UFO Followup 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
Let's go quilt!


Saturday, September 29, 2012

To Quilt or Not To Quilt

Tina Rathbone of Artelicious recently emailed me about her beautiful storm at sea quilt and asked an interesting question:

How can you tell if a given area on a quilt even needs to be quilted?

Photo from Tina Rathbone's Artelicious Blog
In truth, there's only one  rule that governs whether an area of your quilt should be quilted or not: the rating of your batting.

So let's say Tina is using Quilters Dream Poly (I have no idea what batting she's using, this is just an example) - this batting as clearly listed on the website can be quilted up to 12 inches apart.

Clearly the white triangles around the purple diamonds are much smaller than 12 inches, so Tina could leave them open.

But what if she was using a different batting that said "quilting up to 2 inches."  In that case, I might feel pushed to work into those areas to fill simply to ensure the batting didn't shift or bunch up after the quilt was finished.

So understand - when it comes to the utilitarian necessity of lines of quilting holding the 3 layers together, you only have to quilt within the rating of the batting and you're done.

This might be a relief for those struggling through UFOs that has already taken loads of time.  Quilt it minimally by using a batting like Quilter's Dream that can be left VERY open.  There's no sense making a troublesome project last longer than it has to!

But in there is a flip side of Tina's quilt - the artistic addition of texture and another layer of design created by the quilting stitches.  Does it NEED more stitching - not as a utilitarian "holding it all together" thing, but as an addition to the other stitched designs within the quilt?

The answer here is entirely subjective and honestly, entirely up to Tina.  I might quilt this quilt entirely differently or entirely the same. The only way to know what works and if the quilt needs it is to audition more designs!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

These are just simple sketches I drew up this morning with my cup of tea.  I like the idea of feathers or rings of circular echoes simply because they would add formality and structure to the quilt.  There's a lot of organic wiggliness going on and these might add a nice contrast.

Notice the difference of the two feathers (top and bottom).  The top has the feathers stretching out from the diamond, the bottom has the feathers curling in.  See how that simple change of direction really alters the entire effect of the block!

These are just 3 ideas.  There are literally hundreds of ways this block could be filled. Ultimately Tina will need to make the decision based on how she's feeling about the piece and how much time it will take to fill these areas as well.

So that's the most simple rule of thumb when it comes to filling more of your quilt - are you having fun yet?!

If yes, keep going and enjoy the process of adding more texture!

If no, slap a binding on that monster and get it out of your sewing room.  No sense in making difficult quilt into an intense torture session!

Let's go quilt,


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Question Thursday #33

It's Question Thursday and this week I have a few questions to answer from quilters, but I also have a few questions to ask as well!

Let's start with a great question from Pat at Color Me Quilty:

Would you iron wrinkled batting?

Full Question: How do you handle really wrinkled batting? The picture above, isn't really badly wrinkled. But sometimes I have pieces of batting that are much worse, especially a curl on the edge of the batting. Do you press it before basting it or do you just try to smooth it out the best you can as you baste?

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Hmm...I admit, this is an issue I haven't run across often. If I had a particularly wrinkled batting, I would first spread it flat for a day on a big table to let most of the deep wrinkles ease a bit.  If I was storing this batting, I'd fold it up carefully and hang it from a hanger in my fabric collection.

If I needed to use it immediately, I'd probably try to iron it using a pressing cloth and first testing on one corner.  Some batting types will melt if hit with an iron that is too hot, so just be mindful of that when ironing your batting.

When it comes time to baste, just make sure to spread it out over the backing and really smooth the stuffing out of it.  Go overboard smoothing with the palms of your hands until the batting is completely flat and kind of sticking to the backing.  This might take 20 minutes for a small quilt or over 1 hour for large quilt.

All that smoothing will pay off because even an intensely wrinkled bat will be forced to smooth out under so much attention.  Just take your time, grab a glass of wine, pop on an audiobook, and by the time you get into the meat of the story, you'll be ready to add the quilt top and start smoothing it down as well!

Now that was the only question I found this week which means I get to ask one of you guys!

I need to know how I should best write this tote bag pattern.  For reference, here's one version of the bag:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This was created by taking free motion quilted pieces (basically the practice sandwiches we've played with all year), slicing them up and connecting together to form the bag and strap.  If you've been practicing a lot, this is a great project to use up all those quilted panels.

But here's another version of this bag:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This version is obviously a pretty goddess face on the front.  When I carry this bag I get loads of wonderful comments and personally I love it and think it will make a terrific pattern....but...

WHICH ONE SHOULD I CHOOSE?! I plainly don't want two identical tote bag patterns with the only difference the inclusion of a goddess face design.  Too many options end up being confusing and distracting as well.

Focus.  I just need a focus on this particular project.  So logically I created a third possibility:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This bag would feature super simple shapes and quilting with words (whatever phrase or poem you liked).  This would be great for anyone just getting into free motion quilting and wanting to practice but not have the stress and pressure of a big quilt.

I also realized that really any surface would do for the front of the bag, so you could use any orphan or leftover block from any quilt.  If you've ever joined a block-of-the-month club and only completed 2 blocks, this would be a great way to use up those UFO orphan blocks:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
ARGH! As you can see, I've managed to take a simple idea - a tote bag pattern - and turn it into a schizophrenic, multi-personality nightmare.

Any advice?  Which bag pattern would you spend money on, if any?

In truth, I'm not even sure myself what this bag should be.  The goddess was fun to make, the practice quilting was fun to make, the wordy wonderland was fun to make, and the idea of finishing up UFO orphan blocks was also a nice idea.

Overall it's a very fun pattern, but what should it ultimately be?!  Too many possibilies and complication - that is the story of my life.

I'm off to quilt something simple and with hopefully only one personality.

Let's go quilt,


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quilt Along #33 - Pointy Paisley

It's Quilt Along time again and time to finish up working on Pivoting Designs!  So far this month we've learned Paisley, Lava Paisley, and Snake Paisley and watched them each being stitched into the sashing of the Batik Beauty Quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

By the way, did you know you can review all the posts to the Free Motion Quilt Along all year?  Just click on the "Free Motion Quilt Along" link on the top bar to find all the posts.  We also have a playlist right here on YouTube that plays each video in order from #1 to #33 so you can watch the videos play automatically without having to click around to find the next one.

This week we're continuing to fill this space with Pointy Paisley.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This was one of the very first paisley variations I created and has always been a favorite because the jagged, triangle texture really looks wonderful no matter where you put it on your quilts.

I've recently received a lot of questions about free motion quilting and how I make it look so easy on the machine.  Just remember that I've been quilting since 2005 (7 years now) and focusing almost completely on free motion quilting since 2008 (4 years now).

No, it doesn't take years to master free motion quilting, but it does require practice and a certain willingness to ignore your mistakes.  Just remember that you're using your machine in a totally different way from usual - YOU are creating the stitches by synchronizing the speed of the machine with the movement of your hands.

The difference comes in with the feed dogs.  When you sew a dress, piece a block, applique, or quilt using a walking foot, you're using those feed dogs to pull the fabric evenly forward underneath the foot.  This is how the machine is designed - to feed fabric forward the tiny amounts dictated by the set stitch length.  No matter if you stitch fast or slow, your stitches remain the same size when you're using those feed dogs because they do most of the stitching work for you.

While, no, I don't drop the feed dogs (I cover them with a Queen Supreme Slider and turn the stitch length to 0), I'm still not USING them in any way when I free motion quilt.  The quilt is not coming into contact with them, will not be fed forward by them, so all those perfectly fed, even stitches are going to disappear the instant you start free motion quilting.

So if you get started today and things look terrible, just remember that is PERFECTLY NORMAL!  We all have to stitch through the ugly stitches in order to get the hang of moving the quilt at the right speed in tune with the speed of the machine.  Just stick with it and practice each design for a bit each week and pretty soon balancing the movement of the quilt and the speed of the machine will be no problem.

Now let's talk about Pointy Paisley.  This design kind of stands out from the other Pivoting Designs we've learned so far this year because it features all straight lines and sharp angles.  If you find yourself struggling to keep the lines perfectly straight, try keeping the triangle shapes smaller and more compact and that will make them easier to stitch.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

While I know not everyone wants to quilt on a small scale, stitching smaller is actually a good way to learn free motion for many reasons.  For one thing, you don't have to move your quilt as far to form each shape.  Less movement will actually make this process easier because you're not having to move the quilt as often.  Keeping everything compact and small will allow you to focus more on forming the designs and matching your speed to your hand movement.

Stitching smaller also eats up less fabric, so there's less waste if you really mess up and want to throw your practice block away.

Once you feel comfortable with a design on a small scale, THEN expand it to a larger scale and see how that feels.  As the shape gets bigger, you will need to speed up the machine (put your food down!) to compensate because your hands will likely speed up to form the shapes faster.

Free motion is all about speed and movement.  The more control you have over movement, the more you can focus on speed.  The better you get at using your foot pedal and adjusting that speed minutely, the more you can focus on moving the quilt smoothly over the surface of the machine.

It's a balance and while it can be time consuming and sometimes frustrating to find this balance, it really is the ultimate key to unlocking free motion quilting on your home machine.

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!

Also it's not required, but highly appreciated and super cool to link back the Free Motion Quilt Along so everyone you know can come quilt with us too.  Grab a button to put in your post or on your blog to share the love!

Free Motion Quilt Along
Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, September 24, 2012

UFO Followup #5

It seems I'm not the only quilter to receive less-than-glowing reactions to her quilts!  While it's certainly no fun, it's good to know I'm not the only one that's struggled with this issue.

In fact, it seems I only got the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad reactions.  As Pat at Color Me Quilty shared this week, it can be far worse to see a quilt you've given be nearly destroyed by improper handling:

Photo from Pat's blog: Color Me Quilty
Pat is seriously needing some help to know whether to fix and repair this quilt or simply start over from scratch.

Personally, I would chuck this quilt.  There's really no saving something that's shredded this badly.  It would be one thing if it was just on the front, or just in one spot where the area could be covered with an applique, but there's shredded fabric on all sides.

Kind of think of it like a doctor looking at a burn victim.  If a quilt is shredded on both sides and the binding, it's like a person that's been burned over 90% of their body.  Yes, it's possible to fix it, but it will be a LOT of work and will probably never look the same.

I also wouldn't replace this quilt right away.  No, I'm not advising you to punish the child, but the fact is this quilt wasn't taken care of properly.  Logically if the kid has a bit more time to want a new, not damaged quilt, then he might appreciate it more this time around, and chances are his mother will take better care of it.

The fact is, we can't control what happens to quilts once they leave our keeping.  They will be used and abused because that's what quilts are for.

And this kind of links back to free motion quilting.  I quilt my bed quilts on a 1/2" scale.  To some quilters, this seems dense, though it is still very soft and cuddly.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Why do I stick with this scale?  Because it's secure!  If a quilt is meant to be used and enjoyed, I want it to be able to take the maximum amount of wear with the least amount of tear.

More stitching simply means more security and stability in the finished quilt.  Why do you think hand quilters still rate themselves by the number of stitches per inch?  More stitching is BETTER!

But of course not too much stitching, or you end up with a cardboard blanket and that won't be soft or cuddly for anyone to play with.  There is a balance here, you just have to find it.

Here's a great quote from B from the Mariner's Compass Quilting Project:
So moral of that story is you don't have to fix every mistake immediately, you don't have to worry about every wobbly stitch and you certainly don't have to let it put you off moving forwards.   The more forwards you move, the more confident you get and the more forgiving you can be about those early mistakes and actually enjoy seeing them as proof of the learning process and your accomplishments.
If you stitch a quilt too densely, who cares! It's a learning experience!  Just get a quilt on your machine and TRY IT.  So many quilters question, question, question me about scale, polyester thread, batting, etc, asking asking asking questions to make it all make 100% perfect sense in their heads before getting started.

I understand this and am patient with it, but the fact is having all the answers isn't the answer!  Sometimes you just have to get on your machine and do some stitching in order to see for yourself what works, what scale looks nice, what batting works the best, etc.

Speaking of jumping in and trying it, Laura Stermer of L2D2 Designs is playing with trapunto on her eagle quilt.  She shared the following question:

Should I try to trapunto the blue body of the eagle? I'm worried that the weight of the applique will negate any extra batting I add.

This is a common fear that multiple layers of cotton fabric will stop the puff from really puffing on a trapuntoed quilt.

So here's the deal: yes, you will get a very nice puffy trapunto effect wherever you want to add it.

It doesn't matter if you have applique, lots of piecing, or multiple layers of fabric, an extra layer of batting will definitely show.  You can see this here in Shadow Self, I trapuntoed huge sections of this quilt through multiple layers of applique and it showed up wonderfully.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

But there is one caveat here: you have to quilt the background DENSELY.

So if Laura adds trapunto to her eagle, it will be puffier, but the puff will only show up nicely if the background around it, the wings of the eagle for example, are quilted very densely.

Think of it as creating hills and valleys in your quilt.  In order for the hills to be nice lofty hills, you need to create some deep, flat valleys.

But also keep in mind that trapunto is a finicky technique that needs some practice and experimentation before trying on a really big, really important quilt. Why?  Because you need to know exactly what combination of materials will work together and stay very FLAT with no shrinkage after soaking.

And this is unfortunately something Danielle Hudson from Fresh off the Spool found out this week.  Using unfamiliar materials, her beautiful wallhanging shrunk dramatically and is distorting the quilting design.

Make sure to check her post and read the comments where I've posted tips on how to hopefully stretch out the quilt and lock it back into the correct shape.

Always remember that mistakes happen.  This is a learning craft and with every quilt you will learn something new.  Some lessons you will have to learn multiple times, some lessons you only have to learn once.  Some lessons are easy to swallow, some lessons will hurt badly.

This is the nature of our craft!  If we wanted an easier road we'd all be scrapbooking! LOL!

So go make some mistakes, but don't beat yourself up for them. Learn to love the process of learning, mistakes and disasters, triumphs and successes all combined.

Let's go quilt,


Sunday, September 23, 2012

UFO Sunday #5 - Quilt for YOU

It's time for UFO Sunday, and I'll start off by saying that we've been through the ringer this week, but managed to come out alright.  James has been in school for around 4 weeks now and suddenly last week my sweet boy transformed.  And it all came to a head over a quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I've had this UFO on the floor of my sewing room for 6 months.  I created the pattern, I printed the large scale drawings out, then proceeded to dump them on the floor and leave them there for months.

And yes, I consider this a UFO!  I had intended to make it and I did not.  Tripping over something for months on end definitely counts as a project needing to be completed!

I also really, really want this done by the time James is 6.  I felt an enormous amount of guilt that he hadn't had a new quilt in years and really wanted one that would capture all the things he loved and obsessed about as a little kid - robots, dinosaurs, and aliens. 

So this week full of determination, expectation, tons of super mom power, I plowed through this quilt.  I even took a terrific Craftsy course from Carol Ann Waugh to learn a super fast stitch and slash technique for making each block and they came out AWESOME:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
The blocks were complete, the middle panel complete, and the border fabric sliced when I showed it to James with a super excited "Don't you like it?!"

Woe to the mother who asks this question with her heart on her sleeve.

James took one look at it and said "I don't like it.  I don't want that quilt. I don't want it to look that way."

These words cut me up and shredded my expectations.  I'd had so much riding on him loving this quilt, being super excited and happy about it.  My guilt over not making it sooner needed relief from knowing he would love it when he finally got it.

But that didn't happen.

Instead this quilt was a catalyst for a huge family melt down.  As I said, James has been in school for around 4 weeks now and the teachers are really pushing him in all areas.  It's a lot of work for a free spirited kid to sit still, listen, draw, color, sing, and follow directions for a full day, and I had been continuing that process at home with more coloring and skill building activities right off the bus.

Basically, he was getting worked all day with no down time.  Overstimulated, overworked, my kid lashed out with a temper and meanness I'd never seen before.

And it was all directed at me and the quilt I was creating for him.  Yes, honesty is important, but I could tell from the look on James's face that he knew he was being intentionally hurtful.

But that's the thing about kids.  He couldn't tell me: "Mom, I'm fried!  Stop asking me to work so hard after school!  Let me be a kid and run around and play, okay?!"  He doesn't have that kind of communication ability or personal insight yet.

Instead, he found an obvious emotional trigger and he pushed it. It was that response, in addition to a few days of constant belligerence and frustrated tantrums that finally woke Josh and I up to the mistakes we were making.  But the damage was done where this quilt was concerned.

And that's the major pitfall about quilting gifts.  You never really know how someone, especially a child, will react.

If you have too much riding on a wonderful reaction, chances are you will be disappointed.  It's probably not intentional, but think about it - how much time and energy does a quilt take to make?  How much did you think about the person it was intended for during all those long hours of cutting, piecing, quilting and binding?

To give a gift like that, and then have it shrugged at, or worse openly snubbed, is like being cut with dull scissors and having salt and whiskey rubbed in the wound.  It hurts really bad.

What's worse is it also feels like a huge waste of time.  All that time and energy you could have been putting into some other project for yourself or someone who might actually appreciate it.

So are quilts really good to give as gifts?  

I think they are, but with a few special rules:

#1. No secrecy - The best way to get a disappointing response is to keep the project a secret.  You can really throw some people off with a special handmade gift, and truthfully you can't get more special or more handmade than a quilt.  I've had people react with everything from excessive tears to shrugs and entirely because they didn't know HOW to react to such a gift.

The best way to get a great response is to let the person know they are getting a quilt far in advance, and keep them updated about the progress throughout so they know how much time and energy it's taking.  No, they are not allowed to provide input or change your design (this is a GIFT, not a commission).  They just need to know what is coming, and they need to clue in to the best way to react.

#2. Stockpile Baby Quilts - Making individual baby quilts every time you meet a pregnant person really is the pits, mostly because babies come so erratically.  You might end up in the terrible situation of needing 10 baby quilts for all your many grandbabies and great grandbabies and not enough time to make them all.

So the solution?  Stockpile.  Don't make quilts specifically for that one mother and baby in mind, just make them whenever you feel like.  Bind and stick em' on a shelf and one day they will be given away.

Yes, it might feel soulless to make baby quilts for whoever-as-yet-unnamed person, but honestly this is a great way to divorce your emotions from the giving experience.  That way whether you get a shrug or super hug, there shouldn't be any resentment.

#3. No Deadlines - Staying up until 3 am every day for a week is awful.  Staying up that late and wearing yourself out for a gift that might be badly received is even worse. 

Don't put any deadlines on your quilted gifts.  Deadlines will just make you crazy, irritable, and feel even more that the quilt is not yours or for you, and make it that much more mired in emotional "stuff" when you get around to giving it.

Quilt for YOU.  Quilted gifts are great, the act of giving quilts is great, but make sure the quilt is ultimately for YOU and fulfilling something YOU want and need as well.

Otherwise what is the point?

I spent a lot of time thinking about James's reaction to his quilt.  Yes, it made me cry.  Yes, I almost dumped the project. Yes, it was hard to return to it after having my excitement and enthusiasm crushed.

But I'm set on my goal to finish ALL my UFOs by the time I turn 30.  I'm very serious about this goal and it's very important to me to fulfill it, to the point that the idea of dumping this quilt is too painful. Finally I realized:

I WANT to finish it for ME.

When I realized that, I suddenly stopped feeling so hurt and upset about James's reaction.  This isn't his quilt, it's my quilt. I'm making it, I'm enjoying it, so it's my quilt.

So today I put the finishing touches on the border and I have to say, this is one of my most favorite quilt designs ever!  It's fun, cheerful, bright, and funky all at the same time!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Fun, cheerful, and bright, I'm definitely planning on publishing a pattern of this quilt!
And while James might have said he didn't want it in a fit of temper and frustration, I know one day he will want this quilt.  He will want to sleep under it and cuddle with it.  I know that one day it will end up on his bed, where it is intended to go.

But I no longer need his validation of this quilt to want to make it.  I don't need his excitement or approval.  I don't need his appreciation or good response.  I love it, I want it, so I will make it. Simple as that.

So that is the ultimate lesson: Quilt for YOU.  Whatever you make, however you make it, wherever it's going in the end, make sure you're getting something out of it and enjoying the process with every stitch.

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 or Tuesday's UFO Followup 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
Let's go quilt!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wall Venting

I've been writing a lot lately about the power of journaling, but what about the power of just coloring?

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Today I taped these three huge pieces of drawing paper to the wall in the hallway, pretty much the only big wall in the house I haven't hung a quilt on because you couldn't step back to look at it.

This giant coloring board is technically for James, who is needing an outlet for his emotions after a long day of school.  We've been having some behavior issues and the teachers suggested this idea because he will be able to color how he is feeling.

Those words, that idea, struck a chord with me for some reason.  I know very well that art is an excellent conduit for emotions, but I never added it up that James's chaotic scribble drawings were his way of venting.

I also didn't expect the overwhelming urge to cover this wall with my own silly drawings, or the host of weird questions that popped into my mind.  What color is happiness?  How can I express contemplation?

I have only one rule for this wall: no judgement.  No matter what James, Josh, or I draw, there will be no judgement, no criticism, no condemnation.

We all feel.  That is what this wall says. We all feel and we all have a right to our feelings.  We all feel, even if we can't express it all with words or actions properly.

We all feel and this is a safe place for those feelings to be shown.

Let's go draw,


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Question Thursday #32

It's Question Thursday time and this week it seems like everyone is split about 50 / 50 - half like Paisley better and the other half like Lava Paisley!

It just goes to show that stitching a single design will only teach you so much about any particular design family.  You have to play with a few different designs to see what feels easier for YOU.  It may be that the basic tear drop of Paisley feels more natural to stitch, or it may be that the wiggliness of Lava Paisley fits your brain better.

There's no way of knowing which design will work best until you stitch it, play with it, and try to find Flow while creating the design.

I love this definition of flow from wikipedia: "...flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning."

I find flow most easy to get into if I'm listening to a good book or music that makes me want to dance.  The book engrosses that part of my mind that wants to be critical and picky and allows me to just create and not stop and worry about what I'm doing. 

I get into flow so easily with quilting now, it literally feels like someone has thrown a bucket of cold water on my back when I'm interrupted.  Hence the reason why I recently hung this sign on my door (and why I built the sliding door this summer):

free motion quilting | Leah Day
The sign reads: PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB. Only interrupt if your are dying. Everything else can wait!
This sign is not rude or mean to my family.  It's meant to be a reminder of how important my quilting time is, and a warning that I will not be happy if they kill my flow.  My rule is simple: everything else can wait while I'm on the machine.  Everything.

But how am I able to do this?  Aubrie from Teach n' Craft had a question along these lines:

When do you find time to sew, and how do you integrate it with work, kids, exercise, etc?

Full question: This week I'm really wondering when people do most of their sewing if they work.  Do you mainly quilt on the weekends?  Do you make sure to do a bit each night?  Anyone successfully integrating work, quilting, kids, cooking, etc...and still managing to exercise?

This is a great question because I think it's good to explain just how erratic my sewing and quilting has been over the years and how I've made a serious shift and changed my behavior just this month.

Many people assume if you quilt for a living, or have a related business to your craft, that you have all the time in the world to stitch.  This is SO not true!

Almost every professional quilter I ask struggles to make quilts for themselves on top of quilts for teaching. It's obvious the reason: exactly how much time would you have if you're on the road constantly and when you are home you need to cut and make kits or new patterns or new class plans?  At what point would you quilt for YOU?

That is one pitfall to turning a craft into a business and it's the major reason why I don't travel.  It would take me away from my sewing room and my family, two things I can't live without.

But even without travel, which I pretty much stopped in 2011, I haven't made many quilts.  Despite working on this blog and obviously loving quilting, I found myself spending more and more time bogged down with computer work: editing videos, answering email, writing books, updating the site, and less and less time actually on the machine.

It wasn't until I started journaling, as I wrote about in the UFO Sunday followup that I've dramatically changed my quilting habits.  Here's what my day looks like now:

I wake up at 5 am and write 3 pages of solid text.  Just whatever is on my mind, it gets put down.  What I want to do that day, what I'm worried about, whatever comes into my head gets transferred to paper.

Then I hit the computer and get most of my blog post written before I wake up James for school.  I have to be very efficient because I don't have much time, so the endless hours of horsing around online are over.  James and I have our time in the morning to sit and read and then I take him to the bus stop.  After seeing the bus pull out, I walk 2 miles FAST.  This is my exercise and it's made an enormous difference for how I feel.

For the last 3 years I've struggled with terrible headaches, largely caused by bad posture.  Walking with a stick and weights I'm correcting this issue and no longer have headaches at all.  The endorphins and adrenaline from walking also makes me feel terrific.

When I get home, usually around 7:40, I immediately get on my sewing machine.  The house is quiet, Josh is still asleep, and no one can interrupt me.  It's a magical time to quilt and get into that perfect flow state.

So that is how I do it.  I wake up very early.  I have a plan already made, already fully laid out before I even step into the sewing room. Before I would never write or work through my ideas and would always be walking in trying to figure out what to do.  I would waste tons of time just wandering around looking at all the junk piled, all the UFOs all over the floor, all the patterns on the table, and get so overwhelmed I'd walk right back out again. 

The fact is we ALL have a limited amount of time to quilt.

It's a small window so make sure to use it wisely.  Have your projects planned and your expectations realistic.  If you're not sure how much you can finish, set a small goal, like getting 3 blocks pieced, or getting the center of a quilt quilted.  If you have time to create 1 more block or quilt more, that's even better!  It will be like a bonus that you got more done than you expected.

If you want to do things like exercise, make sure to do it early in the morning when you aren't dreading it all day.  Doing it first thing makes you feel great and gets it out of the way so you can do the other things you like to do better.

I also set the evening time aside for my family.  From around 4 pm, I don't get back on the machine because that time is for James and Josh.  I finally feel that all my bases are covered and the time I spend at any given thing is being used efficiently and effectively.  

Now let's switch gears and answer some questions about quilting!  This first is from Danielle Hudson at Fresh off the Spool:

I don't want to add more fabric so how do I quilt to the edges of my quilt?

Full question: Here is my quilting question for Leah. My Greek Cross quilt will be composed of 30 blocks. I hadn't planned on a border, nor did I really want one. Plus, I don't have any more of my background fabric. I did not plan ahead for extra fabric on the edge blocks. What should I do in order to quilt to the edge. Is there any option other than adding a border. I was actually thinking of using some sort of tape(like surgical tape.....I guess because its fabric) to tape the edges down(as close to the edge as I can) once I got close enough to them. I have no idea if this would work. I could do a multiple print border, but it's not the look I was going for.

It is most definitely possible to quilt to the edges of your quilt.  The problem is, it's not EASY.  That's why I always advise adding 1 inch of extra fabric all around the quilt so you don't have to quilt off the edges. a pinch, as Danielle is in right now, here's what you can do:

Quilt from the center to the outside edges carefully.  If you have a special border design selected, quilt it through the area, making sure to secure the quilt working from the inside edge to the outer edge.

This will push the fabric outward so if there's any excess fabric, it will simply slide further over the extra batting and backing on the edges.  As you quilt to the edge of the quilt, really put some pressure and tension on the quilt to keep the 3 layers together and flat and smooth.  Stop and smooth the quilt with your hands often and push any excess bagginess out to the edges.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Stitching right to the edge of a quilt is possible, but not much fun.
Take your time and work slowly outward so the quilt top doesn't get baggy.

Here's what NOT to do: Don't quilt around the edges of the quilt.

Why?  Because the quilt top will shift.  It will spread outward like a cracked egg.  If you quilt around the edges, it's like you've just built a barrier around the quilt, and any shifting will now have to be sorted out INSIDE the quilt.

Which means pleats.  Lots and lots of baggy pleats and puckers and bubbly nonsense.  No fun.

So take your time.  Work around the edges carefully.  Figure out how to place your hands to keep the 3 layers together and flat and the excess always pushing to the outside.

Now for a question from Pat at Color Me Quilty about my weird thread inconsistency:

Why do you use cotton to piece, but poly thread to quilt?

Full Question: If you FMQ with polyester Isacord, why do you piece with cotton Aurifil. Don't get me wrong, I love Aurifil thread, it makes a great seam because it's thin. But, what is the advantage to piecing with cotton?

Yes, this is true.  I like to piece fabric using Aurfil 50wt. Mako cotton, but I quilt almost exclusively with Isacord Polyester Embrodiery thread.

Why?  Well, there's a lot of reasons.  First off, I piece on Bernina machines because my Janome Horizon is always set up for quilting.  Maybe I'm lazy, or maybe I'm just picky about it, but I always piece on the Berninas, and for some reason Isacord doesn't feed well through those machines.  I'm not sure why, but it's a bit finicky and it doesn't produce as solid a straight stitch.

It also comes down to how I want the stitches to act.  With piecing, I want the threads to really lock together firmly, almost sticking together, so the pieces are firmly locked together and no stitching will unravel.

I find cotton best for this because it seems to naturally lock and bond with itself.  If I hate having to rip out piecing stitches because the Aurifil literally locks itself into the fabric, but this is what you want with piecing - a super secure seam that takes WORK to unravel.

Isacord, on the other hand, feel slick to me.  It's the shiny nature of the polyester thread and it looks great with quilting, but with piecing, it just doesn't feel secure to me. 

Please understand that this is pure opinion speaking.  I'm sure if your machine likes it, it would be fine to piece with any thread you want.  The tradition is cotton, yes, but that doesn't mean it's all you can ever use.

I use it because it feeds through my machine wonderfully.  It's super thin, so it doesn't take up room in the seam so my blocks are more accurate.  It locks together so the stitches are almost impossible to remove without effort.  All these things tell me this thread will be great for piecing.

Is it the only kind of thread to use for piecing?  Nope.  It's simply the right kind for me.  Try it out, play and experiment and see what thread YOU like the best and ask yourself what you're looking for from piecing thread or quilting thread.

So that's it for this week!  It's now time for me to jump back on the machine and find that flow state again.  I guess I'm could call myself a Flow Junkie - I can't get enough!

Let's go quilt,


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Quilt Along #32: Wiggle it up with Snake Paisley

It's time for the Free Motion Quilt Along where we only have 2 more weeks of Pivoting Designs!

Yes, this new format of moving from design families every month might seem a bit faster paced, especially if you're just now joining us.

But please don't hesitate to jump right in!  Each month with start with a simple design and through the month we will play with different versions or variations on that theme.  This means if you can stitch one design, chances are the others will work for you as well.

The cool thing is you never know exactly what will work, or how it will feel until you try it.  Such was the case with this design Snake Paisley.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Back when I started quilting, I really struggled with stitching Paisley.  Then I tried Snake Paisley and the mechanics of the design clicked. For some reason this wiggly snake shape was easier to master than a tear drop shape.  Will it be the same for you?  You'll have to try it out and see this week!

Just in case you aren't aware - if you'd like to be emailed each week with an update about the project and details about the designs being posted, make sure to sign up for our free weekly newsletter right here.  You'll also get access to the Batik Beauty quilt pattern and be able to make this beautiful quilt for yourself!

Also ASK QUESTIONS! You don't have to link up to ask questions about this design or any of the other topics posted to this project.  I generally pick around 5 questions to answer on Question Thursday posts.

Now let's break down Snake Paisley into simple steps:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Snake Paisley works just like all the other Pivoting Designs we've learned this month: start with a wiggly shape, return to your starting point, pivot and echo.  When you're bored with echoing, branch off in another direction with a new wiggly snake shape.

Basically this is a lot like Lava Paisley, but with a sharp tip on the end.  Make it as wiggly and wobbly as you like, as long and slithery as you like, as short and stumpy as you like.  There are no limits or rules for how you quilt this design!

And yes, do play around with all of these options because they each produce a slightly different effect:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

See the wide range of shape and texture you could get by playing around with the length, width, and wigglyness of your initial snake shape?

I admit I have issues with calling any design a "signature" design simply because many quilters use that term to excuse copyrighting their special wiggly lines (absolutely ridiculous!)  However, how you decide to quilt a design can be as personal and unique as writing your name.  Go with what feels comfortable for you, and what look you like the best.

See all the different textures you can create with Snake Paisley, Lava Paisley, and regular Paisley:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog:

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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!

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Free Motion Quilt Along
Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, September 17, 2012

UFO Followup #4

Wow!  Our little UFO Sunday group is really rocking!  I love that so many quilters are linking up and sharing projects and getting the help and advice you need to need to get moving.

By the way, if you jump on a UFO project, please continue to link up and share even if you feel that it's now a WIP (work in progress).  I personally find that UFO projects need a bit more motivation and they're easy to set aside unless you have the drive to take them all the way to the finish line.

Reading through the many linked up blogs from yesterday's post, I found a super funny comment from Chris at Passion Quilting:

I sure had some trouble binding this quilt, I think I must have been drinking when I wasn't looking or something...

LOL!  I think I could use that excuse for more than one quilting catastrophe!

I also found some questions on Malini's blog My Quilting Journey:

For a busy quilt how to do choose the thread color, if you're going for a look that blends well with the fabric?

Even a busy fabric should have a single dominant color that is usually a good choice.  If you're quilting over a multi-colored busy quilt, pretty much any color can go so long as it's in the same color value as the quilt (pastel with pastels, bold with bold, etc).

I've heard many sayings that dark green, olive, gray, or blue could be quilted over any quilt and blend nicely.

But the fact is - it's your quilt!  I don't think there's a single, ultimate, BEST choice for any quilt.  So long as you like the look of it, so long as you can see where you're stitching and don't get lost constantly in the quilt, then any thread color will do.  Just pick a color you see within the quilt and don't obsess about the places it contrasts with the other colors.

Photo from Malini's blog My Quilting Journey
If you were to quilt this one would stop and use a different thread color for the white diamonds?

First off, is this a bed quilt or a show quilt?  If I'm working on a bed quilt, I really, really try to quilt the quilt with the greatest amount of speed and least amount of fuss possible.

And no matter which way you slice it, changing colors is more fuss and will always slow you down.

So personally, I'd probably quilt this quilt with blue or green thread.  All over it.  One single color.

Yes, those colors would contrast sharply over the white sections, but mostly blend in all the colored areas.  Personally I'll take a bit of contrast in exchange for probably 50 less thread breaks!

Finally let's finish up with a quote from Karin at The Quilt Yarn:

This is what happens ...I come up with some ideas, get very excited about them only to go back to the more familiar designs that really don't challenge me that much. Hence, I then think...hmm...too boring and go back to some more exciting ideas and so the whole thing starts again...going around in circles and losing a fair bit of momentum on the project. I wonder whether other people suffer from this annoying indecision syndrome...

Anyone else suffering from this challenge / fear / boredom cycle Karin's talking about?

I certainly can relate to this situation!  It's so easy to get caught up in a wave of excited inspiration, but then get smacked in the head when reality and that very REAL quilt is in front of you.

Suddenly your brain starts a fear spin cycle of questions "Are you really going to try that new pattern out on this?  How will it look?  Are you sure it will look good?"

These kinds of questions can get you very, very stuck in one place, stitching the same designs, wearing the same well-worn path over and over because you're basically stuck in a fear loop.

Personally I was stuck in just such a loop almost all summer and found relief only when I cracked the pages of The Artists Way and began journaling with Morning Pages.

What is this?  Basically it's 3 solid pages of your mental crap.  Whatever is on your mind.  Whatever comes out first thing in the morning.  And yes, it has to be 3 pages.  No cheating.

For the first couple days, my morning pages were filled with anger, frustration, and bitterness.  I let these feelings flow out of my mind and onto a page and suddenly, I didn't have to think about them anymore.  I acknowledged the negative and positive feelings within and gave them the space to exist rather than trying to ignore and suppress them.

Soon I was writing about quilting and the words "I want..." were dominant on the pages.  The number of things I wanted to do, but for some reason felt blocked from doing, filled page after page of my notebook. 

Specific issues on my quilts, specific fears that had blocked a project up for months were suddenly easy to work through.  I write about it.  I write down all the fears.  I yell at the quilt and I yell at myself and at some point....the right answers come.

I can't explain it other than to encourage you to try it.  I now wake up at 5 am to have time to write my pages before getting James up for school.  A few months ago I would have laughed at such an idea.  Now I know it's the conduit that keeps my creativity flowing.

So if you're finding a particular UFO very difficult to work on, very difficult to even take the first stitch on, or looping with the same fears running through your mind unchecked, consider writing about it.  3 pages.  3 solid pages of hand written text and you're sure to find an answer by the end.

And just to nail home the point - it was through writing these morning pages (and sometimes evening pages too) that I first got the idea to start this UFO Sunday series.  And I'd say that this project has unblocked my quilting, and my life, in a MAJOR way.  Give it a try and see if it helps.

Let's go quilt,


Sunday, September 16, 2012

UFO Sunday #4 - Quilting Through Fear

It's hard to believe, but Sundays are becoming my favorite day of the week!

It seems this UFO project began as a small pebble being thrown into a pond - not a very big deal or a huge initial splash.  But now the echoes of that ripple have begun to move out and expand and they are changing EVERYTHING in my life.

It's hard to believe a small choice like finishing what I make can have had such a profound change to how I feel and what I do on a daily basis.  It's a feeling of being UNBLOCKED, free and open.

This summer while reading the book The Power of Habit, I realized I had a habit of feeling anxious almost all the time.  It felt like an enormous weight rested on my shoulders and was always crushing, crushing, crushing down.

I didn't understand at the time where the feeling came from, so I just worked on releasing the habit.  Only now after deciding to finish all my UFOs and working through several projects did I realize where all that anxiety was coming from - the crushing weight of so many projects left undone.

And it's not just things I need to stitch.  I have huge business UFOs - books I'd like to write, DVDs that just need editing, patterns that just need to be put together coherently.  The combination of so many quilting UFOs, business UFOs, and even personal UFOs like my goddess series is definitely a source of anxiety and stress!

The solution is simple: finish the things you start.

But sometimes finishing is difficult.  As we've discussed before, a project can get blocked for many different reasons.  This week my project was blocked with fear.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I've had these two goddess faces created since the spring when I created them as alternatives for the face in the Power of Now (yes, another UFO I'll be getting to soon).

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I strongly considered chucking them in the trash once I realized they wouldn't work for the quilt center.  Why keep them?

But the work involved and the fact that they were goddess faces stopped me.  I just couldn't throw them away.  So they sat on my floor and made me feel guilty until now.

What was the problem?  I wanted to turn them into a bag or small quilts, but I was scared to quilt over them.  The dark one wasn't really a problem, it was the lighter face that was intimidating.

You see, I teach largely with dark fabric and stitch with light thread.  I like this combination because you can see what I'm doing, I can see what I'm doing, and the texture really pops beautifully.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

But the lighter face couldn't be quilted with light thread, it would just disappear into the fabric.  I would have to quilt this with darker thread.

While this seems silly now to obsess about, it really threw me for a loop. At what point did my choice of materials become so limited with fear?  At what point did stitching dark fabric with light thread become ALL I could do?

As soon as I realized my major issue with the project, it was far easier to stitch through it.  I was still afraid of totally messing it up, but that fear was less powerful than my desire to get the faces done.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Once quilted, two beautifully filled faces were ready for a new home.  Somewhere off my sewing room floor!

So I quilted a long strap and sewed the two up into a new tote bag:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now I have a beautiful bag that reminds me not to let fear stand in the way of finishing something beautiful.  I absolutely love carrying this bag because it's like carrying a goddess quilt around with me.  THIS is what I do and THIS is what I can make.  There's no more powerful statement that a handbag can make!

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 or Tuesday's UFO Followup 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
Let's go quilt!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Question Thursday #31

It's Question Thursday time and guess what I'm doing today? After more than a solid month, my computer Harry finally has his brains back and I'm re-installing software.  I never realized I used so many different programs to create videos, write books, draw designs, scan drawings, and now that I'm having to install it all at once, I'm learning the value of keeping all these backup discs and serial numbers very well organized.

But once Harry is up and running again, I've decided to stop taking chances with my documents.  I've begun using a program called Dropbox to keep all my files from books to quilting designs to our family photos.

Dropbox is a cloud program that keeps all your data stored on a server, but also accessible just like the normal folders in your "my documents".  Originally I installed it so I could easily work on quilt designs on any computer in the house.  No matter which computer I'm using, when I save the file, all the computers will be updated with the most current version of the file.

Even if I go to a coffee shop, or travel away from home, any chances I made to the files in the dropbox folder will be updated.  This means if I'm away from home and need to send Josh an updated file, all I have to do is change the one on my computer.  I don't have to email it, attach it, deal with bouncing or email load limits at all.

This is extremely convenient, but it didn't really sink in how useful this could be until my computer crashed.  Suddenly I didn't have access to any of my files: years worth of quilting designs, books, video files, and email.  Yes, I did have a backup of all these files thanks to Carbonite, but it took 3 solid weeks for all the files to download on the computer and fully restore!

So if you happen to have a laptop and desktop computer, or if you're traveling and need access to your files from any computer, I'd really strongly encourage you to try out Dropbox.

Yes, there is of course some security risks associated with cloud computing, most specifically the account being hacked.  Make sure to use a solid, strong password with your account that you don't use for any other accounts.  Also don't daisy chain your accounts with Twitter or Facebook as this can create bad situations as seen from Mike Honan's Epic Hacking.

So the biggest learning experience from my most recent computer crash?  Get organized, delete stuff you don't need, and keep the place clean!  I've definitely learned my lesson on data hording and will likely spend the day deleting files, photos, and videos I just don't need anymore.

With that wonderful tech lecture out of the way, let's answer some questions about quilting!  From the looks of things, the switch from Independent Designs to Pivoting Designs might have some growing pains.

Yes, these are two very different design types and will "feel" entirely different to quilt.  

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Back in January, we spent more than 3 months on Stippling before moving on to any other Independent Designs.  If you're wanting to feel as comfortable with Paisley and all the Pivoting Designs it's related to, you will need to spend some time quilting and experimenting with it just the exact same way.

Yes, this design can be quilted in rows, on a smaller scale in a wholecloth quilt, and on a bigger scale in over a bed quilt.  If you're wanting a more thorough course in Paisley, try stitching through a few of these older exercises for practice.

Also realize how fundamentally different these designs are.  If you look at the photo above, see how Stippling doesn't really need a border around it?  You can wiggle into anything and fill it consistently, but Paisley doesn't work the same way.

You need edges to work off of with Paisley and it builds more like bricks fitting together rather than a single line wiggling around the space.

And this segways perfectly into our first question from Karin at The Quilt Yarn:

How do you deal with the odd spaces?

Full Question: my biggest issue were the odd empty spaces; do you just put lines in there to fit in with the overall design or leave some empty spaces?

All designs end up with funny areas where a new shape, in this case a full tear drop and echoes, won't fit.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It's entirely up to you if you want to fill these spaces up completely with gently curving lines or leave them empty.

Personally, my guide on this is scale.  On a small scale, those openings in the texture will form noticeable gaps in the design.  To fill them, I stitch simple curving lines which could be more echoes to a Paisley shape, but are cut off by the edges of the space or another overlapping Paisley.  Using travel stitching and careful spacing, extra lines can fill all the gaps so the design is completely and consistently filled.

On a big scale, however, open space is just fine because your goal is a soft finish, not necessarily a dense solid texture.  Also if your scale is 1 inch wide, you can get away with a lot of open gaps without the texture appearing broken.

Ultimately you'll just have to stitch it and decide how you want the design to appear on your quilts.

Now let's answer a question from Gwyned Trefethen's Musings about getting the hang of this design:

How do you make it look so easy?!

Full Question: How do you do it, Leah? How do you keep your echo lines so evenly spaced with such perfect arcs and swoops? I can imagine that practice is beneficial, but do you have any other tips for large, even very large free motion quilting?

It's funny that I can make this design look easy because when I first started quilting, it was very, very difficult for me.

What I remember struggling with the most was the size and shape of my tear drops and of course all the travel stitching and echoing.  It just seemed impossible to get right!

But looking back, it's not like I'd challenged myself to stitch a whole quilt with it.  Every time I tried the design, it was on a tiny scrap of fabric.  I'd stitch it for awhile, break thread a million times, get lost in the design, get frustrated, and ultimately decide that Stippling was an easier option.

It wasn't until I took the Paisley shape and turned it into a wiggly flame shape and forced myself to stitch it on 32 rays in Release Your Light that I got the hang of this design.  Maybe it was changing the starting shape, maybe something about it "clicked" in just the right way.

All I know is that once I started this project, somewhere around Day 40 I tried Paisley again and I could suddenly stitch it perfectly.  And since then it's become my favorite design and is stitched on almost every major quilt I make, so of course I can make it look very easy in the video because I'm very comfortable quilting it.  It's like writing my name now - I don't even have to think about it.

It could be that this is a real skill building design and practice is key.  It could also be the way your brain and hands work, that you haven't found the right movement and rhythm to make it feel natural for your body.  This will come, either with lots of practice, or suddenly you'll return to it and be able to stitch it easily.

If you're struggling, don't beat yourself up. 

Perfection is not the goal here.  Challenging practice is the goal and that rarely looks perfect.

And just to rock home that point, this week I spent 3 solid days trying to dye fabric for The Duchess Reigns Quilt top.  3 days and 3 huge pieces of fabric later, I'm no closer to creating a quilt top for this quilt.

Yes, it puts me in a bad mood.  Yes, I want to punch something when it doesn't work out perfectly.  So I leave the room and let it set until I can return with a better attitude.  The point is to have fun, to be challenged, to make mistakes, but to have fun working through the challenges until the final goal is reached.

Do I really need to hand dye this quilt top?  No.  I could probably find a big piece of purple fabric that could work for it, but it's the challenge of trying something new, failing, trying again, failing again - that is what keeps me coming back again and again.

So go and fail at something this week.  Try hard, stitch your best, and make some mistakes.  Mistakes are beautiful.  Mistakes are wonderful.  Because mistakes show that you are growing and learning something new.

Perfection is NOT the goal.  Enjoying your time stitching, no matter the challenge, no matter the mistakes - that is the goal.

If it was easy as pie, wouldn't everyone be quilters?  Or would no one be quilters?

Let's go have a great time quilting,


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Quilt Along #31 - Get Flowing with Lava Paisley

It's time for the Free Motion Quilt Along and this week we're moving on with more Pivoting Designs!  Last week we took a look at Paisley, so this week let's take that same tear drop shaped design and make it super wiggly and wobbly like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

 I'm calling this design Lava Paisley, but Josh liked the name "Sperm Count" a bit better.  I didn't think that would be something many people would want to stitch on their quilts, though I can admit I can see the resemblance.  Now let's get our minds out of the gutter with the video tutorial!

Here's a little reminder for the settings and tools I use:

1. I don't drop my feed dogs or use any special "free motion" setting on my machine.
2. Instead I dial down the stitch length on my machine to 0.  Note: I sometimes forget to do this but it doesn't hurt anything because my free motion foot sits high enough that the feed dogs don't impact my quilts at all.
3. On my hands I use Machingers Quilting Gloves to grip and move the quilt and maintain more control over my stitches.
4. Under the quilt is a Queen Supreme Slider, a huge slippery sheet that helps the quilt move more easily over the surface of the machine.
5. Inside the bobbin case I have Bobbin Washer which helps the bobbin spin more evenly and results in fewer thread breaks and birds nests.
6. Speaking of thread, I stick with one type, one brand, one color in both the top and bobbin of the machine at all times.  For this video I was using Isacord Silky White.

All of these tools and materials improve the quilting setup in small ways.  Combined together they make an enormous difference!  Even now after years of quilting, I really can't quilt as well without these tools.

Now let's get back to Lava Paisley on the Batik Beauty Quilt.  You can see the different textures these Pivoting designs create:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

When it comes to quilting Lava Paisley, the rules are very simple: stitch super wiggly tear drop shape.  Pivot and echo this shape as many times as you like.  Branch out in another direction with a new wiggly tear drop and surround it with echoes as well.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The tricky part with quilting pivoting designs is getting them to fit consistently within your quilt.  Often in the video you saw me travel stitch into new areas, or around previous shapes, before branching out with a new tear drop.

Don't worry if you can't visualize the design and how it will best fit in your space right this second.  Just stitch it and play with it wherever you want to use it and understand that the more you use a particular design, the more you will understand how it works and where it will fit best.

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!

Also it's not required, but highly appreciated and super cool to link back the Free Motion Quilt Along so everyone you know can come quilt with us too.  Grab a button to put in your post or on your blog to share the love!

Free Motion Quilt Along

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day

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