The Free Motion Quilting Project: October 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quilt Along #38 - Lost Data

It's Quilt Along time and high time I finally let loose a great big YAHOO! because my Craftsy class is finally available!

My class is Free Motion Quilting a Sampler and I'm basically teaching you how to quilt fillers over Amy Gibson's Block of the Month quilt! You can check out the class right here and see both pictures and a few short videos of the project.

I really hope to see you in class! I know we have a wonderful interaction here on the blog and on YouTube, but honestly Craftsy has built a platform that is out-of-this-world for learning new techniques for any kind of craft. Interacting with you, from a teachers perspective, is just so much easier, so I know it's going to be a wonderful place to teach even more information about free motion quilting.

If you'd like to learn more about this new class, click here to watch a preview and a get a 50% discount off the regular price!

Now let's get going on a new design for this week.  This month we've studied Edge to Edge designs and many variations on the same Flowing Lines theme. Here's a quick review of each design:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

free motion quilting | Leah Day

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It's been wonderfully fun to focus on this group of designs, but this is the last week of October so it's time to finish up with one last variation, this time combining Jagged Lines with Zippling to form Lost Data:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Funny story about the video below - I asked Josh to edit a list of videos the other day. He worked on them for a few hours and said "I got them all done except the one with lost data."  Oops! I do believe that's the first time a design name has gotten me in trouble!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate.

Design Family - Edge to Edge.

In this video I'm using Machingers Gloves, Magic Bobbin Washers, and a Queen Supreme Slider to make free motion quilting the big Batik Beauty quilt much easier on my home sewing machine.

Even with as long as I've been quilting, I still rely on these tools to make the quilt easier to move, to keep the bobbin gliding smoothly, and to maintain more control over the movement of the quilt.

Find these three tools in the Queen Supreme Kit right here in our Quilt Shop.

Now this is the last week of October, the last day actually, so I hope you all have a fun and safe Halloween. Next month we're going to focus not on a family of designs, but on ways to break up and knock out quilts quickly.

At the end of this particular video, the Batik Beauty quilt was less than 1/2 filled and I was feeling eager to knock it out quickly. After quilting out all of November's designs, the quilt only had a few small places to fill, so the designs we'll learn in the coming weeks will hopefully fill spaces very fast, very simply, but still with amazing texture and design.

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, October 29, 2012

Sewing Room Organization - Drawer Research

Following Question Thursday's long post about my sewing set up, I went into both rooms and took a hard look at many places that appeared cluttered in the photos. I pulled out drawers, took inventory of what was arranged in each and ultimately decided my studio could be optimized in many ways.

Optimizing is an important word to me. It means fully filling every area of the space so it's not only quicker to find the things you need, you're also able to pack more stuff in to fill each drawer, bind, nook, and cranny to the max.

This process can take time. Time to see and experience a space, and time to learn how you use and interact with it.  Today I'm going to share a small wall of my sewing room with you and how I'm planning to change it to make it better and the research process involved with deciding which pieced to buy.

Here's the space in question:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

When I shot this photo for the Question Thursday post, I knew I wouldn't share it.  It's just so cluttered and awful looking. It also regularly drives me crazy because I'm always losing things, dropping things, and despite lots of wall storage, the shelves have never felt just right.  Here's a bigger shot of this space:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
The main problem, as I have come to understand it from experience and working in this space, is the small 9 drawer cabinet in the corner. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE this cabinet, but it's obviously a problem.  For one thing, it's very small.  It doesn't fully fill the space it has to fill.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
The drawers are also terribly designed to hold what I need them to hold right here. I originally bought this cabinet on impulse because I've always wanted to own or build a little apothecary cabinet with all the cute little drawers to hold special little things in each drawer.

From a practical standpoint, this sucks. The drawers are narrow, but deep which means everything either gets lost in the bottom, or won't fit in the first place. 
free motion quilting | Leah Day
I found 3 things I'd been looking for in the bottom of this drawer, but only after dumping everything out on the floor!
The only thing that seemed to fit well were my sewing patterns. But even here, I could only view the top pattern and the rest were squished underneath. They have a bit of that crammed-in feeling and I never felt inspired to flip through and find something to make because it required digging.

So clearly this cabinet is cute, but cute isn't what's needed right here. In this space, I'm needing to organize a lot of thread, bobbins, and miscellaneous quilting tools.  I do want those patterns organized here as well, but in a way that I can flip through them easily.

I also want a taller piece of furniture right here.  This low cabinet is terrible about getting junked up and cluttered because it's the perfect height to just dump whatever odd and end on the surface.

Ultimately I've decided that more drawers are the answer. For this, we have several options both from the quilting / crafting world and beyond it.

First I decided to research the Recollections 3 drawer cubes I'm already using to hold my isacord thread collection to the right of my sewing machine.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Measuring carefully, I need to fill a space that's 44 inches long x around 50 inches high, though I could go higher by moving that shelf bracket if needed.

In this arrangement, 9 recollection cubes will fit pretty nicely:
free motion quilting | Leah Day
This is a guestimation layout created by measuring the space and comparing it with the size of each cube
The nice thing about these cabinets is I know the drawers will work well for thread and they can easily be customized to hold paper, stabilizer, and other quilting tools.

The one downside of these cubes is the drawers are not customizable in any way.  You get all the same size drawer through every single cube. This would be fine if I just needed to fill these cubes with thread, but I don't (that would be a RIDICULOUS amount of thread!)

I have many other items that might not fit well into these drawers, like my pattern collection, which will again be thrown in drawers and difficult to sort through quickly.

The cost is also a bit high for this. At $39.99 regular price, the total cost for 9 will be well over $350.00.

Also, I don't think I've ever seen a Michaels store carry 9 of these at a time. The most I'd probably be able to find is 2 or 3, which will mean multiple trips to Michaels stores all over NC, which will be a royal pain in the butt.

So there's upsides and downsides to this system.  It's good to look at all the angles and understand how it will play out. The cost, plus the hassle of finding all of them, PLUS the downside of not everything fitting is making this system take 3rd place for this particular project.

Let's try again, this time moving out of the craft / hobby market to IKEA. Here I found an awesome drawer set called the Alex:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

These drawers are very nice. The first 5 are slim, but fit thread spools nicely.  The bottom 4 drawers are taller and big enough to hold a jumbo 5000 meter spool of Isacord. Could they also hold patterns arranged on their side? Hard to say because I didn't have one with me at the store, but if it worked, the patterns could be arranged to at least be thumbed through easily.

To fill my space, I'd need 3 of these cabinets which would add 27 drawers to my sewing room. This could potentially hold TONS of tools and materials and really clean up the clutter.

As for downsides, again the drawers are the size they're going to be forever, so if something doesn't fit right, it's going to have to find a home elsewhere.

Also the drawers don't come out all the way, so if I fill up one with tons of thread, I might have to stick my hand in deep to get the thread at the back.  It's a small thing, but something to remember.  With the Recollections boxes, the drawers slide out completely making it easy to get to everything in the drawer, or pull it out to completely reorganize it.

As for the cost, each cabinet costs $119 at IKEA so again we're talking over $350 for this setup. Also when I was checking out this system at the store, the box is SUPER HEAVY. I'm pretty strong and have previously handled trips for several tables and big furniture by myself, but to lift even one box, I'd need help.

The tenant of IKEA is kind of a hands off approach to customer service. I've never even seen an employee working the self serve area, other than working the registers. To get these drawers I'd need to plan my trip ahead of time so I could bring Josh, but not James, because these probably won't fit with the car seat installed in the car.

Again, this might seem like a lot of detail to go into, but it's good to think about all these things BEFORE you're trying to shove a giant box in your car that will never fit and is too heavy for you to lift.

How big is your car? Do you know how much it can hold? Do you know the weight capacity? Do you know the max size of box that will fit? Understand these things before your trip so you're not surprised at the end of it!

Now there's one more system I've been researching and this is back in the specific Craft / Quilting world. The reason I'm making a distinction between the two is for two reasons:

1. Furniture / storage designed specifically for Craft / Quilting is designed to hold this kind of stuff, so it will potentially work better than furniture just designed to go in your office or living room.

2. Furniture specially designed will always be more expensive.

So there's the upside of getting something specifically DESIGNED to hold thread, but the downside that you're going to pay through the nose for it.

That is the case with this last option. This is a layout of Artbin's Super Satchel Cube which is designed to hold Slim, Single, and Double Deep Artbin storage containers.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
9 of these will fit nicely into my space, but the cubes themselves will set me back well over $350 just for the CUBES! To fill the slots with all the containers needed to fill it, this system could cost well over $1000.

I did do a bit of research and found to be the cheapest retailer of these cubes and satchels with the plus side of very cheap shipping. You can get it shipped to your local Walmart store, then pick it up with it arrives and have someone help you load them all into your car, or you could have them shipped directly to your home, which saves the whole process of having to shop and wrangle boxes in your vehicle.

The major plus side with Artbin is it's specifically designed for quilting and I personally happen to LOVE them. The thread organizers work wonders for keeping the thread cleanly arranged, and I've never found better storage for everything from colored pencils to fat quarters.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Also because each storage cube can fit all 3 sizes of Super Satchels, you can FULLY customize this cube to fit exactly what you need to store. If you need to store a lot of big stuff on the bottom, use 2 Double Deep bins per cube. Lots of little things? Fill a cube with 6 slims. Tons of medium sized stuff? 4 singles will slide in perfectly.

This system also has the bonus of being able to slide the bins out completely.  Pull out a single to pick your thread color, or find the perfect fat quarter, then slide it back in place. Easy peasy!

So there's good and bad to all of these options. Not one is absolutely perfect, and all three will work with various upsides and downsides.

This is the process of researching storage for your sewing or quilting space. I've been working on this for 2 days, and spent at least 4 hours looking at different options, then drove 1 hour to IKEA to just look at the Alex. I might have even bought one on impulse if there wasn't only 1 left, and it was chipped and too heavy for me to budge!

But how could I have known it was so heavy if I hadn't got to look at it first? You might see 85 lbs written online, but that doesn't mean much until you actually wrap your arms around it, lift with your knees, and realize - baby, it just ain't movin!

Likewise, I remember buying my Recollection organizers from Michaels and the difficulty of even finding TWO in the store. How many stores will I have to travel to to find a set of 9?

And while the expense of the Artbin Super Satchel Cubes might seem excessive, the nice thing about all of this options, and really any storage system you install, is... don't have to get it all at once.

Start with 1, fill it with bins. Then get another as budget and need demands.

Understand that this is a process and it pays to work slowly rather than jump in whole hog. I've ultimately decided to start with only 1 IKEA Alex drawer or just a set of 3 Super Satchel cubes. These will roughly finish up the same size and after installing one set, I can make the decision to add another if it's needed.

I might not end up filling this wall with tons of drawer storage, but instead leave the corner open for Lucy, my best quilting friend I've had since high school.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
So take your time. Consider your options. Weigh the possibilities, and also remember the limitations of nature (how much you can lift) and practicality (how big is your car).

Also have FUN! Shopping is fun, especially when it's a buy you're confident and happy about.

Now let's not let the drive for super organization and optimization get in the way of something more important: QUILTING! Get off the computer and go make something beautiful today.

Let's go quilt,


Sunday, October 28, 2012

UFO Sunday #10 - Quilt Without Guilt

Whoo Hoo! I'm doing a happy dance of joy because guess what I finished today:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

After last week's post, I decided to take my own advice and just focus on one thing. Unfortunately that's just not entirely possible when you have so many balls in the air. I just couldn't stand to drop all the balls!

Lol...that sounded weird. However I did manage to FOCUS and spend most of my time working on this quilt. All that's left now is binding and a quick wash to hopefully crinkle everything up and soften the surface. Not too bad for a week's work!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I have to admit though - focusing isn't always easy for me. My brain really enjoys distracting me with tons of ideas for finishing the quilt AND accomplishing something else at the same time. I kept thinking thinks like:

" could use this quilt to shoot the quilt along videos for January and February!  Let's do that!  Pick those fills and get the camera ready!"


"You know, this would make an awesome pattern! Let's shoot photos as you quilt it so you can turn it into a pattern later. It will be quick and easy!"

This might seem like innocent, helpful ideas my brain was throwing at me. Good ideas for killing 2 birds with 1 stone and accomplishing multiple things with one pattern.

But here's the deal: I wanted to quilt this quilt for James and get it done THIS WEEK. I also wanted to use thread colors that only slightly contrast, and in some places, they match.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

What I mean to say is, I already had a plan for this quilt and expectations for the difficulty of finishing it and the time it would take.  I had it all pretty much figured out.

At this stage, if I tried to shoot videos with this quilt, I'd have to totally change my ideas and expectations for this quilt. The thread would need to change, I'd need to spend a few hours planning which stitches to use and where, and then my quilting time would be limited to only the early morning when the house is quiet enough to film.

As for a pattern - they are NEVER "quick and easy." I'm seriously trying to delete those words out of my brain for anything to do with product creation. They take time, tons of energy, and a meticulous attention to detail. In truth if I never make a pattern again it will be too soon.

Rationally, I know all these things, but it seems like my brain forgets them in the quest to turn me into Wonder Woman.

While yes, I could definitely do both of these things, it wouldn't have been either fast or easy and I definitely wouldn't have finished it in the same amount of time. The Space Quilt would not be sitting on my table fully quilted making me feel awesome and productive.  It would still be unfinished.

So I choose to ignore my brain this week.  I focused on finishing the quilt and I did something I rarely do:

I gave myself permission to quilt it for me and no one else.

This might not seem like a radical thing, but it's feeling more and more like a major big shift in how I think about my projects.

Typically I create a project always with the intention of it being filmed and shared here online. This is the nature of what I do online. I shoot and share EVERYTHING.  For the last 2 years at least, I've pretty much filmed and shared everything I've quilted.

And this is starting to look like a bit of a liability.  At what point have I given up my choices on my quilts - the simple choice to do what I want to do, to make it for me - in the quest to be a better teacher and create a quilt that is more "filmable."

Looking through my stack of UFOs, the main reason these quilts are in this bin is because at some point my brain decided it would be a GREAT idea to turn them into more than just what I wanted them to be originally:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The Power of Now - This top is finished and needing to be quilted.  It hasn't been quilted because I knew my quilting design wouldn't show over the busy fabric. I need to give myself permission to quilt this for me and not need to film it because the quilting simply won't be very visible over those fabrics.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Hawaiian Quilt - These blocks need to be put together and quilted.  It hasn't been finished because at some point I thought it would make a nice pattern.  So here it sits because the truth is - I don't want to make the pattern, I just want to make the pretty quilt.

There are many more, but these two best illustrate this problem I'm having. At some point my brain hijacked these projects and decided it would be WRONG for me to just finish them as is. They have to be turned into something MORE.

Digging into this, I believe this is the reason I totally flaked out on my goddess quilt challenge this year.  How can I make 12 quilts just for me? What if they all turn out like The Power of Now and are unfilmable, even with super contrasting thread? 

Rather than face that possibility, I just didn't make the quilts. That goal, like many others, is another UFO waiting to be picked up and finished. And before you say it, yes, this is the path to burnout and I know it.  

A craft is worth pursuing ONLY if you can pursue what you want when you want to.

This is the freedom of creativity, and I've somehow lost this due to my own mental paralysis.

So this week I took one small step in the right direction. I finished James's quilt for me, the way I planned to finish it, and I got it done. I didn't shoot videos and I will NOT be making a pattern out of it.  
free motion quilting | Leah Day

Whew. That feels better. I can now go bind this quilt, wash it, and give it to James without ever needing to worry over it again. I can now look at it without feeling guilty and enjoy cuddling under it without the sense there's something still left undone.

Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog or online photo:

1. Write your blog post about your UFO project. 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, October 25, 2012

Question Thursday #37

It's Question Thursday and Pat at Color Me Quilty has asked my favorite sort of question:

So my question for Leah is about the Ikea table and adjustable legs you show in this post. Since I don't have an Ikea within at least 200 miles of me, I will need to order them online. You show two tables, one that you said you cut down. I'm assuming it was the one behind the machine. Could you share the exact dimensions of both tables and your combined sewing table configuration? How did you cut the table down, table or circular saw? Did this affect the pre-drilled holes for the legs? Was the raw edge of the table a problem? I love your sewing machine set-up, so any pertinent information would be hugely appreciated.  

Okay!  This is a fun excuse to share a few studio pics and lots of links to various places where I regularly look for new furniture for my sewing room.

The first thing you have to understand when looking at these pics is how long I've been working on these setups.  We moved into this house in 2006, and pretty much ever since I've been improving it by large and small degrees to make each space better suited to quilt making.

And yes, it can take YEARS, mostly because some improvements may not be immediately obvious when you first start quilting in a particular room or space. It takes time actively quilting and using a space to notice that - oh, that table feels uncomfortable at that height, or - hey, I wish I had a light right here and a place to hold my seam ripper and scissors!

And yes, this is expensive.  I honestly don't know how much I've invested in furniture, storage bins and shelves, but keep in mind that I didn't go out and buy it all in one day. If you're looking to change up a big part of your sewing set up, try splitting it into 2-3 parts - get the tables set up first, then do the wall storage, then floor storage.  This way you can budget for each and the bill will be easier to swallow (or hide from your spouse!)

And one more yes - Yes, I have a ridiculous amount of space. We more or less bought this house for the basement because despite needing a new roof, new appliances, and new plumbing, it was the perfect house for a quilter to have more than enough room to spread out and make big quilts. I work in my basement kitchen plus a small bedroom, and dye fabric in my laundry room.

But ridiculous amounts of space can easily mean loads of wasted space.  Part of working in this space has been learning how to deal with weird areas and how to maximize my potential, even with limited electrical outlets, low ceilings, and terrible original design and construction.

The biggest key I've learned is to never expect "forever" fixes. You will improve things, yes, but these improvements might spark others, and in 2 or 3 years, you might end up moving the furniture around quite a bit and end up with a totally different setup and a totally different arrangement of gear.

Josh is never very happy with me when I decide to make a drastic change, mostly because he's calculating all the cost of all the small changes that will now be destroyed for a big change.  One case in point was this set of kitchen cabinets in my basement kitchen:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Inside these cabinets, I fitted these sliding drawers from Lowes to hold all sorts of tools, fabric paint, and colored pencils.  They worked very well and allowed me to fill the cabinets with lots more stuff than I could without them.

But since last January I've been making plans to gut these cabinets.  For one thing, they are very prone to mice and because they were very terribly built by the original owners, I can't fix them to be mouse-proof.  I don't know about you, but having a rodent eat my colored pencils just freaks me out!

I've also always wanted a window along this wall to let in some natural light.  Pulling down the top cabinets and moving the sink will allow this to happen, but at the moment this renovation is on hold until we get some old cast iron pipes fixed first.

But even with the kitchen remodel months (or years) away, I'm always looking ahead. Now what to do with all those sliding drawers?  They didn't cost a huge amount, but they were an investment in my sewing room and still very useful and it always helps to show Josh that I'm trying to use old things to improve new things.

So I built this custom cabinet:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This was always a very weird area of my basement kitchen where the low ceilings did something funny right next to a door.  There has never been anything to fit into this area, so I took careful measurements and using only scrap wood leftover from various projects, I built the set of shelves into the wall.

So this project, served two purposes - it used the drawers from the cabinets and it solved a weird space in the kitchen.  Two birds with one stone!

This is the kind of thing I'm talking about with slow improvements and turning one improvement into another.  4 years ago when I started using this kitchen as a sewing room, I didn't see that weird space as a place to put a cabinet.  I just saw it as a weird space.

You have to look at every aspect of your space creatively.  You might only have a closet, or a corner of a room. Even big spaces can be wasted if they're not used properly. Whatever space you have, LOOK at it and really study it. Even if it's not very big, there's usually loads of wasted space on the walls that can be used to hang shelves.

Case in point is another weird space, this on the opposite end of the kitchen:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Originally when I wired this room, I put the light switch on the inside of the little wall, which was a silly move.  It always felt awkward to reach in around the wall to turn on the light and again, it created a weird space in the nook created by the wall coming into the room - nothing could fit here.

So this summer I turned off the power, pulled down the paneling and switched the box to face the opposite side.

That one small change allowed me to fit this IKEA shelf into the space and it fit PERFECTLY.  It was actually so tightly fitted between the ceiling and floor, I had to flip it in another room and shimmy it into the space

After getting it installed I did a little dance and thanked my high school shop teacher, Mr. Lamb yet again for teaching me how to read a ruler back in 9th grade.  I swear, of all the knowledge learned in high school, that is one of the few lessons I use now on a daily basis!

Now this shelf holds all my handy tools for pressing and basting - starch, pins, pinmoors, my speakers for listening to audiobooks, and even a coaster for my cup of tea.

On the wall, I've hung these IKEA rails from the kitchen section with lots of cups and hooks.  In the cups I keep pens, pencils, fabric marking tools, rotary cutters, and scissors.  On the hooks I've hung the rotary rulers I use most often close by, then the rulers I use least often further down the wall.

All this is very convenient because as you see in the photo above, I keep my pressing board on the corner of this table, perfect for pressing fabric and within easy reach of scissors, starch, and marking tools.

I don't use a built-in, permanent ironing board, but prefer to have a free standing board I usually place on this corner of my table.  I built this board with plywood (48" x 20") using Sharon Schamber's perfect pressing board instructions and it is absolutely worth it's weight in gold.

When it's not being used, I just lean this board against the wall in the hall or against the ruler wall.  It's only 3/4" thick plywood so it's heavy, but not too heavy to move around easily.

I do exactly the same thing with my cutting mat.  I have a very large cutting mat and usually leave it in place on the tables so I can cut at any time. If I need to I can shift it off to against a wall so my tables are totally clear.

These might seem like such small things they seem silly to bother with. Does it really matter if you have a place to put your drink?  Does anyone need a special location for starch?

The answer, in my opinion, is yes.  Having a place for these things means they don't get lost in the chaos of my tables. I know exactly where they are and don't have to search for them.

Before I used a kitchen rolly cart for all these odds and ends it always ended up covered in a messy array of junk. Even now when I've moved it into another room, I can't ever find what I'm looking for on this cart.  It's terribly designed and only gets cluttered up. Looking at it now, I'm seeing a need to scrap this cart and move the stuff on it to the built in cabinet in the kitchen. As always, I'm looking for ways to improve by small degrees.

So now on to the sewing machine setup!  Right now I have 3 machines set up to work at any time.  One is in the weird hallway area between the kitchen and sewing room:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is a Bernina Activa 210 set up in a Gidget 1 Arrow sewing table.  This is mostly used for piecing right off the cutting table.  I cut on the table, sit down and piece the pieces together.  It's very quick this way and the risk of pieces getting confused is minimal.

Because piecing doesn't usually require a lot of space, you really don't need a big table for your piecing machine.  The size of the Gidget tables is small enough where you have the room to piece a quilt together, but not excess, wasted space to the back which will only end up getting dusty.

Looking at this picture I can see two places I can improve this setup.  If I added some shelving over the table, and a set of drawers like these, I could better deal with the clutter that usually ends up junked on this table. It's not in dire need, but I can see how these two things will improve this area significantly.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

In truth though, I prefer to piece on my Bernina 1230, which is currently in the sewing room in this Marilyn cabinet also made by Arrow Sewing Cabinets. This is a very good cabinet, though there were a few small things I modified on it to make it work perfectly for my needs.

First, I cut out the piece of wood that covered the base of the sewing machine and replaced it with angle brackets.  The wood was intended to support the frame of the table around the door, but all it ended up doing was make changing the bobbin very, very difficult.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So after a bit of hammering, I chipped out the piece of wood and screwed in L shaped brackets for support instead.  Now it's super easy to slide my hands inside and change the bobbin without moving the machine out of the cabinet.

I use these L shaped brackets a lot as you will see and always have a pack or two of various sizes around the house.  I believe this one was leftover from putting together IKEA furniture. They're easy to use, and very simple in design, but do understand that modifying a table like this will void your warranty.  I'm not guaranteeing it will work for you, only sharing what has worked for me so far!

I also replaced all the original hardware for the cabinet.  This is aesthetic of course, but if you hate the drawer pulls they just have to go.

Again, this machine is almost entirely used for piecing and a little applique, so the table doesn't need to be huge to accommodate this need.  It has gotten a bit cluttered up top, which means I really need to go through the drawers and rearrange things and get it all better organized.

Eventually I'm hoping to move the 1230 into the hall so it can be used as the main piecing machine and install an embroidery machine in this cabinet. No, I have no idea what embroidery machine I want yet, or even if I really want to make embroidered quilts.  It's the design aspect of embroidery and the amazing software being made that's intriguing me...but that's a story for another day.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now to quilting!  This is the table that has required the most work, and the most frequent modifications since I started quilting in this space.

Right now I'm quilting on the Janome Horizon 7700 and it's installed in a Gidget 2 sewing table. I'm using 1 x 4 boards under the long legs to bring the table up about 1/2" on carpet which has brought it up to the right height to fit with many other tables.

To the right I have a set of two Recollections drawers picked up from Michaels for thread, bobbins, and miscellaneous quilting tools. This has worked perfectly to hold many spools of thread organized by color and the height worked out just about perfectly with the table surface.

To the back I have this IKEA Vika Amon table - the 59" long version which I cut down to 54 3/4" to perfectly line up with the Gidget 2 plus Recollections drawer width.

As for cutting the table down, I just used this Delta Jigsaw.  Make sure you have a blade long enough to go all the way through the table and of course, be very careful as you cut it.

As for the legs, I use these Vika Kaj legs which adjust to any height.  For the cut down table, because it was going right up against a wall, and because I knew I would never have anything super heavy on that side, I only used 2 legs on the left and used big L brackets to screw the table permanently against the wall on the right and back.

This is a unique situation for a quilting table that I wouldn't do for any other kind of table.  Yes, quilts can be heavy, but no, they're not going to be so heavy they will overwhelm a strong set of brackets.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

You can see the L brackets in this photo, plus the fabric straps which hold large quilt patterns rolled up, and my electrical extension all running under the table. It gets a bit complicated, but every space can be used for something, though it might not look great in a photograph.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now added to the left side of the table is another 59" Vika Amon Table (not cut down - full size), and has all 4 Vika Kaj legs attached.  This table needed all 4 because I regularly lean against it and put a lot more weight on it.

Could I get away with just 2 legs and screw it into the wall with L brackets to the back?  Probably.  Again, it's not like this table is ever going to meet 500 pounds of books, so it doesn't need a huge weight limit.

Why all this obsession about fewer leg?  They're expensive!  And don't go for the non-adjustable legs - they aren't tall enough to do the job and you'll end up with tables of multiple heights, which is the whole point of going with IKEA tables in the first place.

Also if you just use folding tables, you won't be able to do this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Two Antonius frames will fit perfectly into this area and are a great place to store batting.  If you use a folding table, this area will be wasted because the bars that support the legs will eat up the space.

Now on to fabric.  I've had a love/hate relationship with every single fabric storage system I've ever used, mostly because no system ever gives me the total freedom to see every piece of fabric I own and be able to see immediately how much yardage I have of it.  That would be a magical thing, but I think it's totally impossible!  So yardage goes on this wall:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is a fancy closet organizer from Lowes which I picked up before knowing about IKEA, otherwise I could probably have gotten something better designed and possibly a lot cheaper. It was a real royal pain in the butt to install and I don't have fond memories of getting the extra conduit pipe cut to the wrong size twice before getting it properly installed.

But after all the hoopla, this really has been a great setup for fabric.  The one thing to keep in mind is STUDS.  You need serious support for this much weight hanging on these poles.  I used big screws with serious anchors where I couldn't find studs to screw into directly.

The one thing I don't like is this isn't very useful for small pieces - fat quarters and smaller just get lost on hangers, or fall off constantly.  So those got tucked into the drawers where I forget about them all the time and never remember to pull them out and cut them up.  Improvements are definitely needed in that sector.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Scraps generally get wadded up and stuffed into this over the door shoe hanger.  It works, but it also doesn't work. Lately I've begun saving scraps by the quilt they were cut for in Double Deep Artbins like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I figure if the colors worked well for one quilt, they could be cut to make another from the same scraps.  It saves the headache of sorting through it all and pick and choose all over again.

And Artbins just happen to fit perfectly in this cubby shelf I bought 10 years ago from Big Lots.  I'm not sure if this shelf is still available, but it sure has lasted the test of time for me!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So that's about it!  At the moment, I'm pretty content with how everything is working and only see small areas where things can be rearranged to reduce clutter and improve efficiency.

Still, things are only static for awhile with me.  I'm always looking for ways to improve, and the kitchen cabinets will definitely be getting an upgrade soon.

As for designing the new kitchen, I'll start by taking careful measurements of the walls, then use a graphic design program like Serif Draw Plus to draw an outline of the kitchen.  Then it's just a matter of searching through IKEA's kitchen cabinets and drawing squares and rectangles the size of cabinets and playing with the arrangement until something works perfectly.

Working this way is time consuming, but doing it yourself will save time. If I paid a contractor to work out the kitchen cabinet layout, I'd probably end up paying a lot more and ending up with a setup that isn't ideal for my needs.

Yes, punching out the new window and running a new electrical line are both projects I'm going to leave to my handyman, but hopefully I'll be able to keep the cost down by using IKEA cabinets I construct myself.

Just keep in mind, no matter how big of a space you have, you CAN find drawers and cabinets and organizers to fit, and fit perfectly for your needs.

You just have to be patient and meticulous. Take careful measurements and spend a lot of time searching websites and taking notes. It might end up feeling like a hobby in and of itself - searching IKEA for the perfect furniture - but it will save you loads of time wandering through the showroom guessing about what will fit and what won't.

Now Josh has been asking me to do a video studio tour of the studio for ages.  Would anyone like to see a video tour like that even after all these pictures?

Let me know in the comments if you'd be interested in that and I'll see about shooting a video tour this week.

Now that's it for today! I'm off to clean up and sort through a few things I saw in the photos that need rearranging.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quilt Along #37 - Jagged Lines

It's time to quilt along and learn a new Edge to Edge Design called Jagged Lines!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This design follows the same rules and basic steps as Flowing Lines, except now all the lines are straight and angles sharp.  It will still work wonderfully in any sashing or border area so let's check it out being quilted in the sashing of the Batik Beauty Quilt:

I received a great question last week from someone commenting somewhere (sorry, can't remember where or when!) about turning corners with any of the Edge to Edge Designs we've learned so far this year.

There's actually a lot of different ways to do this.  You could turn the corner by quilting a large triangle shaped gap over the corner to turn the full 90-degrees like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The trick here is making sure you make the gap wide enough to turn the line fully from horizontal to vertical around the corner.  This would probably be best for borders where you'll only turn 4 outer corners.

So what if you want to stitch this design throughout both the borders AND sashing?  How do we make that consistent?

How about using more jagged lines across the sashing gaps, then expanding the design in those directions like this:
free motion quilting | Leah Day

Basically you would quilt within the sashing first with long vertical or horizontal rows (blue).  Then wiggle into the weird spaces running in the opposite direction you didn't fill before (purple).  Then at the end quilt around the border with more jagged lines around the border (pink).

Of course, if you really wanted it all perfectly lined up, you could just split the design in the middle of the cornerstone spaces like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Basically a cornerstone is a square in the intersection of two sashing lines.  It's easier not to piece them in, but that doesn't mean you can't pretend they are there in the quilting!

For this method, you'd need to mark the center of the cornerstone with a dot as you see above and wiggle your lines to intersect with it, forming an "x" across the sashing area.  Then base your Jagged Lines from there, running in whatever direction you wish until you reach the next sashing intersection. 

Well that is 3 ideas right off the top of my head!  There's probably a 100 more ways to do it, so play, have fun, and make sure to share your experience with jagged lines next 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!

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Density Question

Today I'm back on the machine after spending a lot of time this month bogged down with computer work.  I'm learning that machine time must happen before computer time, otherwise it just doesn't happen!

I've been working from the center on James's Space Quilt, filling the spaceship, earth, and background with lots of beautiful quilting:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Yes, it's this looks nice, but is this quilting getting too dense on the surface?  This is supposed to be a soft, cuddly bed quilt designed to be light enough for warm summers or still useful as the top quilt for winter.

Working on it has gotten me thinking about quilting density and I just so happened to receive a question along these lines this morning as well:
My question is about the "stiffness" of the quilt after FMQ.  I meander...and make stitches about 1.5-2 inches apart and never cross lines. But in doing this.. I find that the quilt is so stiff and not "cuddley". I started stippling...and learned to make the stitches farther apart as I mention with meandering, but still...the quilt is so stiff. I use 100% cotton fabrics and usually 100% polyester or sometimes 80/20 poly/cotton batting. It is about 1/2 inch thick and kind of fluffy.
I want my quilts to be soft, and cuddly, and able to wrap up in them..have them be able to wrap around legs while watching tv or just to wrap up as the only blanket used and still have some puffiness to them.  How do I do this? I have tried several kinds of batting, and always the meandering..but still...while it looks nice...the quilts are stiff and not soft. ~ Cheri
Cheri's question is running in tandem with my thoughts - lots of quilting looks nice, but will it FEEL nice when it comes time to wrap up with this quilt?

And this is one of those tricky things about making both bed quilts and art quilts.  What works for one thing doesn't always translate over to the other.

Overall I'd say most of the stiffness issue will be sorted out with washing.

If you're using a cotton batting, chances are it will shrink slightly after washing and soften up the quilt.  The more you wash it, the more the fibers will relax and meld together. No matter what kind of batting, fabric, or thread you use, it will respond and soften with repeated washing.

Right now the Space Quilt is feeling very stiff, particularly in the areas of fusible applique because the fusible material adds stiffness and dramatically changes the hand.  I've found that this can change quite a lot once the quilt is washed a few times and the fusible given a chance to relax or dissolve, depending on the type.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

As for a total solution to quilt stiffness - I'm not sure there is one that also includes lots of quilting texture and design.  There's kind of a simple formula here:

Lots of quilting texture = stiffness, while minimal quilting texture = softness.

Then again, I can't help but wonder at this whole issue about density.  Maybe it isn't an issue at all.

I mean, isn't the hallmark of hand quilting tiny, compact stitches?  Don't hand quilters pride themselves on 20 stitches per inch (or less)?

Are we getting a bit obsessed about quilt density and stiffness when it's actually been the way quilts have always been finished?  That the super soft, cuddly quilts we're after are really a product of both age in antique quilts and the mass-production of soft blankets from Wal Mart?

These questions are a bit off track, but I find myself touching the surface of the Space Quilt and wondering what my grandmother, or great grandmother would have said about it.  Too dense?  Or nice and secure?  Overwhelmed with unnecessary texture?  Or beautiful?

Knowing the simplicity of my grandma, she probably would say something wise and obvious:

If you've made the quilt you want to make, you've done it right.

If it's too stiff, too dense, too loose, too open, too WHATEVER - learn from that, change something, and improve with the next quilt.

I can't say exactly what will make your quilts finish perfectly the way you want them to, but I can say if you're willing to try different things, you will eventually find the right combination of materials, scale, and designs that will create the quilts you want to make.

Do understand there is no WRONG here.  Even a stiff quilt is a quilt that can be used and enjoyed. While it might not be the cuddly masterpiece you were after, texture can still be fascinating for children to touch.

If James's quilt turns out stiff, do you know what I'm going to do?

Wash it as often as I can, occasionally take it outside for picnics in the grass, encourage James to jump on it, wrestle with it, and generally beat the snot out of it. After a year of hard use, if that quilt isn't super soft, then it must have had a steel wool batting in the middle!

Let's go quilt,


Sunday, October 21, 2012

UFO Sunday #9 - Single Focus, Cheetah Speed

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It's time for UFO Sunday - the day we pull out our Unfinished Objects and give them some attention.  Today let's start with a simple question: how many projects are you actively working on right now?  How many work in progresses (WIPs)?

I'm curious because I've been trying to balance 3 very different UFOs over the past two weeks.  One is a book, one is a pattern, and the third is a quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
While I'd like to call all of these WIPs, the truth is there is no way to work on three things at once!  The quilt has sat basted, but unquilted while the book has gotten the most of my attention, in between spurts of work on the pattern.

At any given time, one of these projects have to be put down for the others.  They're not WIPs, they're DRIVING ME CRAZIES! (new acronym: DMCs)

So after struggling through this week of hopping from project to project, I've finally come to a conclusion: this is NOT a good way to work.

A single focus is a blessing.  I sat on the couch last night hand binding the 365 quilt (another DMC) and thought about what it would feel like if I only had ONE SINGLE PROJECT to work on.

Only ONE.  Nothing else distracting me.  No other deadlines.  No other responsibilities.  Just ONE project.

As I sat thinking about it, I began to fantasize about what it would feel like to work on just one project - no weight, no yelling UFOs, no struggle to stay balanced amid the chaos of multiple projects.  Just a single focus that I could speed through with my mind calm and my eyes on the finish line.

I admit, this sounds like a fantasy land of quilting. 

A place where there is no guilt, no worry, no stress - just the joy of stitching a project through to completion. I'd be able to work so much faster!  I would be like a cheetah - blazing through projects with a single focus.

And just to clarify - no, the point of quilting is not to rush through projects with no enjoyment.

I don't want to rush, but I would like to move a bit faster!  There are many quilts I've had bouncing around in my head for YEARS and I can't quilt them because so much other stuff is piled up on top. Where is the enjoyment in this craft under so much weight and stress?

So my theory is now simple (though it might sound like gibberish if you aren't familiar with the acronyms!):

UFOs are created by having too many WIPs.  Trying to work on too many projects at a time, no matter their status or how long they've been in progress will only create more WIPs, which are really DMCs.  Eventually you'll get so overwhelmed and bogged down, they'll all get chucked as UFOs and the cycle starts again!

But there is a problem - how do you put down a WIP?

I've struggled with this question this week.  It would make my life very, very simple if I would just shelve one of the projects I'm working on.

But I can't.

They're ALL just SO CLOSE to being done!  I can't just shelve them NOW when THEY'RE NEARLY FINISHED!

This is the super emotional, totally DMC side of my brain shouting here.  Yes, all these projects are nearly complete.  So close they only need a day or two of work and they'll be done.

But that's the trick - they need a day or two of SOLID FOCUS.  I could knock out one this week if I could only put down the other two.  As it is, I keep bouncing from one to another, making each one take longer because my brain can't focus properly.

Just think of a cheetah - do they try to kill ALL the antelopes in the field at the same time?  Nope.  They pick just one and take it down with speed and accuracy.  They don't waste energy wounding several animals at once - they knock out a big one with one fell swoop.

So let's go for the jugular this week and try to knock out a single UFO with dedicated focus and concentration.  Chances are it will feel far more enjoyable because your brain will not be trying to take small bites out of so many different things at once.

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
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