The Free Motion Quilting Project: November 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Quilt Along #42 - Bust Your Sash with Spiral Ornaments

Thanks a bunch to everyone sharing your opinions about Cheater Cloth yesterday. While yes, "cheater" implies something bad, I also view these pre-printed fabric panels as just another style of wholecloth.

Of course, the one issue about designing this is how to actually get it IN fabric. Many of you mentioned reservations about Spoonflower simply because of the expense of $18 per yard fabric.

It's really a cost vs. time issue here. I can upload a design this morning to Spoonflower, which is a print-fabric-on-demand company that anyone can design for, and have fabric ordered and on its way to me immediately.

Contrast this to traditional fabric designing - I can design something and hand it off to a big fabric design firm, and I might see those prints ready to sell in 6 to 8 months to coincide with the spring and fall Quilt Market.

So I think the best approach is multiple options. I'll design and quilt on the stuff, and you will always have the option of the Spoonflower panel, or the option to make it yourself, or draw it on fabric yourself. Easy peasy!

With that little aside out of the way, let's switch gears to the Free Motion Quilt Along! It's the end of November and the last week of Quilt Busting Designs. This week we're going to blast through the sashing of your quilts with Spiral Ornaments:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This cute design would be nice for a holiday quilt, and maybe combined with other designs like Icicle Lights and Star Flower.  Definitely a lot of places to play here!

Difficulty Level - Beginner.

Design Family - Edge to Edge.

So now that we've finished up with 4 great Quilt Busters, have you been able to blast through a few projects on your list in time for the holidays?

Just remember that if you quilt a little every single day, you will see not only enormous improvement in your quilting ability, you'll also see a lot of progress with every quilting project you have in progress.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cheater Cloth Query

I've been do you feel about cheater cloth?

Cheater cloth is another name for Pre-Printed Fabric or Smart Cloth that is printed with a mock quilt design. It's "cheater" because it's a solid piece of fabric that you can go straight to quilting with rather than troubling to cut and piece.

So how do you feel about it? Do you like it? Have you ever used it?

I'm curious because from a teaching perspective it's a very good option for the following reasons:

1. No marking - the quilt is already printed on fabric so that saves a load of time
2. No cutting and piecing - again the quilt is printed so you can go straight to the quilting.
3. Ultimate freedom of design - It's just fabric so you can play a lot more freely, right?

However the major draw back is of course - Cheater Cloth is not a REAL quilt.

It lacks real quilty things like seams, seam allowances, multiple layers of fabric - all the ridges and weirdness that real quilts have. So quilting a cheater cloth quilt really will be significantly easier than quilting a real, pieced or appliqued quilt.

There's also this stigma I'm picking up that cheater cloth is somehow bad, as in "cheater cheater pumpkin eater"- not a legitimate quilt. Certain big quilt shows even have it in the rules that pre-printed quilts are not eligible for entry.

So if you found a beautiful cheater cloth panel, would you quilt it and hang it in your house as a wall hanging, or would the cheater cloth aspect of it make it somehow undesirable?

I'm curious, and I'd like to know as many opinions on this as possible from quilters of all skill levels and styles, so no matter what is said before you in the comments, please post your opinion below!

And yes, I'm curious because I want to design cheater cloth panels and maybe use them for teaching in the coming year. So if you think this is a totally terrible idea, please tell me so and WHY in the comments. If you think this is a totally wonderful idea, please tell me so and WHY in the comments. I look forward to hearing many opinions!



Sunday, November 25, 2012

UFO Sunday - Remember all Your Projects

I'm super sorry for how late this UFO Sunday is going up. I have to admit, I haven't worked on a single UFO because all I've been knocking out this week are new projects or things that have been in progress for awhile.

So today I'm reminding myself to remember all my projects! That includes UFO Sunday!

Now let's link up and see what UFO's you've knocked out this week!

Simple rules for UFO Sunday link up:

1. Post about a UFO you've been working on this week. A UFO is any project that you started and shelved at some point in the process. Projects from any craft (not just quilting) are welcome!

2. Make sure to share a link back to this UFO Sunday post or grab a button below to share.

3. Comment on at least 2 other linked up blogs. Help your fellow quilters work through a tricky part of their UFO by sharing your opinion and advice!

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project
Let's go quilt!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Quilt Along #41 - Invasion of the Pods

It's Quilt Along time and this month we're busting through quilts quickly with big designs or techniques to blast through loads of space with every pass.

This week I've taken a look at the Zen Breaks we learned during the summer while working on our modern quilt top. I really like Zen Breaks and I think it's a great way to break down and secure all the areas of a quilt and have nice spacing for multiple designs.

However, stitching across the quilt with all those long lines of quilting to break it up can be a bit of a pain. I began thinking of ways to break up the quilt and use multiple designs, but be able to move from the center in more of a clustering fashion.

I also really liked Angela Walter's method of breaking up a quilt with tiles that she shared right here in Sew Cal Gal's Free Motion Quilting Challenge.

I like this idea, but straight lines and sharp angles are harder to produce on a domestic sewing machine without marking. If I used this, I'd want those straight lines to be perfectly straight and probably end up marking each one as I worked through a quilt.

But what if that design could be bent into a free form arrangement more like Zen Breaks? And what if it could be quilted free form through a quilt from the center using Quadrant Quilting?

All these questions had to be answered, and as luck would have it, they worked out into a great new design / filling technique - PODS!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Basically you start with a cluster of a design. Stitch until you are bored with filling it, then surround it with a few rows of echo quilting. You've just formed a pod of a design!

Now branch off one side with a new design. Quilt until you're border and surround it with echoes. Wash and repeat and watch this video to see how it works in real life:

Difficulty Level - Intermediate.

Design Family - Foundational.

In truth, the photo isn't very clear when this design is stitched over the Batik Beauty Quilt because there's so many wiggly lines of quilting with this design. So here's a break down of how it's stitched. First start with a small cluster of any design:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Next, surround it with echoing:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Then branch out with another cluster of another design:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Then surround it with echoing:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

To fill up a whole quilt, just apply this formula in rows using Quadrant Quilting. Not only is it extremely entertaining to quilt so many different designs, it also moves quickly because those repeated lines of echoing eat up loads of space with every pass!

So with one more quilt buster under your belt, what are you going to blast through this week?

I don't know about you, but the only thing I'll likely be busting through is a very yummy turkey tomorrow on Thanksgiving.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, November 18, 2012

UFO Sunday - Celebrate Your Progress

It's UFO Sunday and time to celebrate our progress! How many quilts have you finished since we started? Here's my list:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Batik Beauty

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Modern Quilts needing binding

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Goddess Tote Bag

free motion quilting | Leah Day
James's Space Quilt

I also have two major UFOs being finished up right now, but they are not quilts, but a book and DVD! Yes, UFOs come in all shapes and sizes and I have no lack of business UFOs I'm working through this year on top of many quilt projects.

I will say it feels wonderful to work through and finish ANY project, no matter how bogged down and difficult. It's definitely making me learn and live the KISS principle because the more complicated something is, the more difficult it will be to finish.

So remember no matter how many UFOs you have left to finish, it's good to stop and look back at what has been accomplished and pat yourself on the back for getting through the tough projects.

So how am I celebrating today? I'm treating myself to a WIP rather than a UFO - Duchess Reigns:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

She's marked (finally) and I'm working on the first layer of trapunto on the surface. It's so nice to be cuddled up with her on the machine, slowly stitching out beautiful feathers.

So what are you working on today? What can you celebrate finishing since we got started blasting through our UFOs in September?

Instead of looking at all that's left to finish, make sure to take a day to take stock of all that you have accomplished. It may just give you a boost to keep on working through many more UFOs before the year is out.

Now let's link up and see how you've Kept it Stupidly Simple this week!

Simple rules for UFO Sunday link up:

1. Post about a UFO you've been working on this week. A UFO is any project that you started and shelved at some point in the process. Projects from any craft (not just quilting) are welcome!

2. Make sure to share a link back to this UFO Sunday post or grab a button below to share.

3. Comment on at least 2 other linked up blogs. Help your fellow quilters work through a tricky part of their UFO by sharing your opinion and advice!

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project
Let's go quilt!


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Joy of Being Good at Something

I woke up this morning with a giant smile on my face. This is saying something because I woke up at four a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep!

It's hard to distill my wonderful mood into a simple single reason, but I think the best way to describe it is it feels damn good to be good at something.

I haven't always felt good at what I do. Growing up, I was given attention for my beadwork, knitting, and crochet crafts, but when I'd explain that I wanted to do this work for a living, I mostly got sympathetic smiles and "There's no money in it, sweetie. You can't make a living with crafts."

This is unfortunate because these activities have been what I've always wanted to do, what I've always spent the most time on. When I'm not eating or sleeping, I want to be making something and putting my hands to good use. 

So I pursued other things, not necessarily because I liked them, but because they seemed like they were a safer bet for a secure future. In middle and high school I was in the band and played the drums.

To say it simply - I totally suck as a musician.

I got through 7 years of band, including 4 seasons of marching band with long night practices and many hours of rehearsals only through sheer force of will. I was just plain bad at it.

Comparisons aren't fair, but the fact is, I was markedly different from the other kids in band class. The other kids could "feel" the music. They didn't have to count obsessively in order to feel a rhythm, and that aspect of playing never came naturally to me. I could stitch a pretty design around the drum in beads, but when it came to feeling the beat and rhythm, I struggled because that wasn't the way my brain worked.

Could I have mastered music the same way I've mastered quilting? No. I've just never loved it the same, and in order to get good at something, you have to WANT to do it all the time. That is they key - practice. All those other kids in the drum line had spent every day for years practicing at home. I came home and knitted and made jewelry. Drumming was never going to be my passion.

When I left high school and went to college, I left music behind for good, but I pursued an equally flawed idea in going to college. I was fairly good at math and science so I started a degree in biology.

Again, I could muscle through it if I really concentrated and forced my way through. My grades were not terrible, but they weren't great either. I just didn't love it enough to really put in the practice time with study and homework.

Did my B's and C's mean I was stupid? No, absolutely not. They were an indication of my focus and attention. When I left class, I didn't go study, I went to sew!

It took a long time, and more than two years toward a college degree before I started to realize this was a weird thing to do. I began to see that, again, I was different from the other kids in school. They studied. I sewed. They organized reading groups. I organized a knitting club. Clearly I wasn't in school for the right reasons, or I just wasn't at the right school.

Eventually I stopped in my tracks and took a critical look at what I was doing. I could continue to beat my head against a wall and pursue a degree with no passion, but sheer force of will driving me to obtain this thing I didn't really want.

I thought I needed that piece of paper for a long time. I thought it would somehow be valuable to me and make me into something I wasn't. Maybe it would have the power to turn me into a dedicated biology student that loved studying and running experiments.

But people don't change that way. I was fortunate enough at 20 years old to realize that a piece of paper wasn't going to turn me into a brilliant scientist with an intense passion for microbiology. That is not me. It was never me. It will never be me.

So I guess this smile on my face today has a lot to do with that.

I know who I am.

I know what I'm good at,

and I will pursue it with intense passion until the day I die.

Let's go quilt,


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Question Thursday #40

It's time for Question Thursday, and time to announce that this is the LAST question Thursday post. I'm just finding it a bit overwhelming to check for questions on YouTube, Facebook, Blogger, email and now Craftsy and try to make a post out of all of it.

So instead I'm going to try to answer questions when I see them here and on your linked up blogs, but I have to admit, the best possible place to ask questions and get a response within 5 hours is in my Craftsy class Free Motion Quilting a Sampler.

Why? Mostly because the learning platform is so seamlessly designed. You watch a video on the left side of your screen, and on the right is a list of all the questions other students have asked and a box for you to enter your own question.

So anytime during the video if something doesn't make sense, you just click on the little box and write a question.

I check Craftsy first thing in the morning, then at lunch, then in the evening, so if you ask a question, you're guaranteed a response within 5 hours during the day, or first thing the next morning.

It's a million times easier for you because you can ask questions anytime and the questions are time stamped for that point of the video. So if something I say or do doesn't make sense you can write "Hey, what did you mean right there?" and I can easily find that point and clarify what I was trying to teach.

It's a million times easier for me to answer the questions because I don't have to hunt for them and I can respond directly and even upload a photo to show you if it's needed.

So if you're feeling grumpy about my decision to shut down Question Thursdays, just remember there's an awesome new place we can connect and interact so much easier right here at

And to finish off today, I did receive one question this week from Cindy at Cinder Gal Quilts:

What size needle do you use?  

 I use a Schmetz Universal 80/12 needle.

Yes, I know a lot of quilters use Top Stitch, Embroidery, or sometimes even Microtex needles, but I have always liked Universal. I got started using this type and size when I made clothing and they seemed to work best on a wide range of fabrics from knits to cottons, made a small hole, and always seemed to stitch well.

The one time I change needle types is when I use Metallic thread. For that I use the Schmetz Metallic needles in whatever size seems right. Usually an 80/12 is my standard size, but I'll go up or down in size depending on what the thread seems to like.

The best thing to do with needles is experiment and play with a variety until you find the right fit for your machine. It's really down to how your machine works and what it likes best, so pay attention to any changes in stitch quality whenever you change needles.

Now I'm hopping off the computer to finish marking the surface of Duchess Reigns. It's taken 4 days and 4 pens so far and I'm hoping to finish it up today so I can start quilting tomorrow!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Quilt Along #40 - Quilt Busting Flower Power

Whoa! Have we really been quilting along together for 40 weeks?! Yesterday I spent some time tooling around back at older posts and it's amazing to see just how far we've all come this year.

Personally I've learned LOADS about filming designs and teaching quilting in real quilts, which was my major goal for this year. What was your goal? Did you meet it and find yourself quilting better than ever?

Working on The Duchess Reigns is reminding me the importance of goal setting and continual work for improvement. How much would you like to improve in 4 years? Where would you like to go with it? The sky is honestly the limit, but only if you know what you want and have a plan to get there!

So what is my major goal today? To help you learn how to knock out a quilt with a giant Sunflower!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
If you'd like to check out the original video for this design, it's right here stitched on a much smaller scale. Sunflower is a sweet design of overlapping petal shapes that makes it easy to stitch and place anywhere on your quilts.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Today we're going to super size it with extra fries to cover and entire corner of the batik beauty quilt. Now keep in mind as you watch this, that Sunflower is a Quilt Buster meaning it will cover a huge amount of space, but it's not a Speedy Buster meaning it's not going to be the fastest design to quilt over a large area.

The reason? Lining up all the petal leaves can be a bit tricky, mostly because you need to rotate your quilt quite a bit to keep a clear line of sight on where you're stitching.

So one solution would be to stitch the flowers around 12 inches in diameter. This size should be large enough to bust out a big section of your quilt, but small enough that you might not have to rotate and reposition as often.

Without further ado, let's check out the video!

Looking to make free motion quilting easier on your home sewing machine?  In this video, I'm using 3 tools I really can't quilt without: Queen Supreme Slider, Machingers Gloves, and Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers. Click here to learn more about these tools and support the Free Motion Quilting Project!

So with Sunflower under your belt, what do you plan to do with it? I can see using this over the Modern Angles Quilt. Bust out a corner with a large sunflower, then surround it with a single fill like Stippling or Sharp Stippling.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Nice modern effect don't you think? How many more ways can you use Sunflower to bust up your quilts? Play with it this week and share how you use it next week on the Free Motion Quilt Along!

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, November 13, 2012

Duchess Reigns #6 - Marking the Top and Stitching Samples

It's amazing how fast time moves from summer to fall. I just realized the last time I posted about Duchess Reigns was back in August. Ugh! I wish I worked faster, but the fact is designs like this shouldn't be rushed.

This quilt started back in the summer and I've slowly worked my way to the final version. Even now I'm making tweaks as I alter certain aspects of the design and fills that will be used over the surface.

But I've learned with this project that sketching fills only does so much. Sometimes you have to see a piece of the quilt IN THREAD to know how it will work, to know what will happen with it. So that's what I've been doing for the past week: stitching samples of key sections of this quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

They have even fit together pretty nicely so I can see the effect on the design wall. As I said in the studio tour video, it's one thing to look at your quilt from 20 inches away, it's another thing entirely to stand back 10 feet and see the effect it has.

And effect is what I'm going for.

With this quilt, I'm taking my time. Far more time than I've taken with my last two goddess quilts Hot Cast and Emergence. With both of those, I finished the quilts only to feel a sinking disappointment. They could have been better if only I'd spent more time planning and designing and experimenting rather than rushing off to finish them.

Taking my time on Duchess Reigns has also lead to an interesting coincidence. It was exactly 4 years ago that I was marking the surface of the original Duchess - November 2008. At that time I was only dreaming of show quilting, dreaming of being a quilting teacher, dreaming of owning a quilting business. This blog, my business, even my quilting ability was largely undeveloped.

I can still remember spending hours marking the surface of that quilt, occasionally helped along by James in a bouncy chair (he was 18 months old at the time). The original duchess really changed my whole world quilting wise because it not only pushed me beyond what I thought I could possibly do, it also lead to my first show ribbon, which finally helped me see and believe that I was really good at this.

This week as I mark the surface of the Duchess Reigns, I'm being helped along by my 5.5 year old. James is such a different person now - talking non-stop, independent, opinionated.  it's making me reflect on just how much has changed in 4 years and what's to come in the next 4.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm so very happy I'm working on this right now. This quilt is kind of a testament to all I've learned, and how much I've changed as a quilter. Everything from the construction process, dyeing (yes, this white top will be dyed!), fillers in planning - all of it is a push to see and account for every aspect of design.

No, I don't expect this quilt to be perfect, but I do want to finish this quilt and feel very happy with it, so I'm going to continue to take my time, stitch more samples, and enjoy this process.

Let's go quilt,


Sunday, November 11, 2012

UFO Sunday - KISS

What does KISS stand for? Keep It Simple Stupid.

At least, that's the acrynym from the Marines, you could also call it Keep it Stupidly Simple or Keep it Simple Sweetie, but the meaning is the same:


I could win awards for the way I can complicate things. I think of a simple project I'd like to make and immediately think of 10 ways I could turn it into a total mess of multiple steps, phases, tangents, and purposes.

And what do I usually get? Another UFO!

Complication isn't fun. It isn't creative and it doesn't FLOW.  When something is complicated with too many purposes or steps, it becomes bogged down and impossible to work on.

I found this out the hard way with the 365 project. It should have been simple to post a design every day for a year, but if you add videos and books and DVDs and teaching on top of it, that simple fun project has suddenly become a tiresome burden that can't be completed on time.

This week I've once again been reminded of the joy of keeping things simple.

My studio has been clean. My mind has been clear. I've been able to walk in and get to work. Simple, clean, clear mind. It makes it SO much easier to work.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I've also taken the steps to start working on a big giant business UFO - a DVD of this quilt that's been sitting on my computer harddrive waiting to be edited. Why did it wait so long? Probably because I was trying to make it too complicated!

Simplicity is a blessing. I think I want to tattoo that phrase to my forehead. Or maybe on my arm. Or maybe on the palm of my hand. Somewhere I can see it every time I pick up a pencil to write a list, to outline a book, to plan a design, to write a blog post.

I don't have to make things complicated. I'm choosing to.

Last year I began asking myself the same question - Why everything always have to be so hard?

Over the last year, many things have gotten easier, but I still have a bad habit of seeking complication, often at the absolute worst times. It is not a fun habit to have, and it is one I seriously want to break.

So in a stab towards simplicity, I'm going to stop numbering these posts. Numbers indicate order and there is no order to these posts. They're random! They're only whatever rant I have building up all week!

No more numbers, no more complication. Keep it simple stupid. I'm going to try to keep those words in my head this week while I work on my UFOs. It doesn't have to be complicated in order to be good, in fact, complication is often very, very bad.

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!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Quilting Studio Tour

Alright! I'm finally ready to share my video studio tour!

This kind of feels like getting a major UFO off my chest. I've wanted to share my whole setup for a long time, but kept waiting and waiting until the place is "perfect."

Well, there is no such thing as perfect! It's always a work in progress, always a changing, evolving space depending on what I'm quilting and focused on.

So while it's not perfect, and in many places downright ugly, this is where I create and I'm proud of what I've built because every single aspect of this studio has helped me make quilts, shoot videos, and share here online.

Without further ado, here's the studio tour!

I really hope you learned a few things in this video about organizing your quilting space. After adding my new set of IKEA Alex drawers and getting my patterns organized, this space feels so much cleaner and more organized.

So much so that I've finally felt the freedom to start The Duchess Reigns!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I now know that my creativity has trouble getting a foothold when surrounded by chaos. My goal from now on is to keep the studio neat and organized because when it is out of control, I'm usually not creating - I can't create when there's a big mess in my way.

So here's to keeping it neat and tidy! Let's see how long it lasts!

Let's go quilt,


Friday, November 9, 2012

Fearless Quilting - 8-bit Self Portrait

After taking James to see Wreck it Ralph I've been craving a quick, simple piecing project.  In between dyeing fabric, I pulled out the scrap bin and sliced up my own little 8 bit portrait:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Sometimes you don't need a plan.

Sometimes you just need a bit of fabric...

and a sharp rotary cutter...

and the fearless desire just slice and play and see what happens!

Let's go quilt,


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Question Thursday #39

It's Question Thursday and time to answer your questions about quilting! The first question is from Nickersmarie about using Matrix over a quilt:

Do you quilt from the center or quilt from the corner when busting a quilt with Matrix?

Full Question: I getting ready to quilt a 90 x 90 quilt, in QAYG sections. I have 6 square and rectangular sections and you gave me the idea that I could use one design for each section. I also have to keep in mind that these are complex paper pieced stars with many areas with seam allowance build up. The smallest section is 24" x 24" and the largest is 36" x 36". If I use Matrix in one of them, I would theoretically have to start in a corner, and I know we always like to start in the center and work out. Would you quilt the first two diagonal lines starting from the center? 

For what Nickersmarie is describing, I think this would be fine to quilt from corner to corner on the diagonal. So long as you stabilize the quilt really well with lots of basting pins, you should be able to quilt from edge to edge with no problem.

Now for anything larger than 36 inches, I'd probably start in the center and wiggle to the outside edges. Then break thread and return to the center and pick up right on top of the first thread start and wiggle to the opposite.

The one nice thing about Matrix is once you get the first set of wiggly lines set, the second set running perpendicular will feel a lot easier. All the pins in your quilt will like be removed and you can easily stitch from edge to edge with less stopping. We call it a Quilt Buster for a reason!

Now let's check in with Pat at Color Me Quilty:

Could the thread at the end of a spool be causing issues for free motion quilting?

Yes, most definitely! Thread can do funny things when it gets to the end of a spool. I once heard a professional quilter (can't remember who) mention winding bobbins off the end of a spool because the thread there was "creased" and gave a slightly different sheen than the thread on the beginning of a spool.

Not sure about creases in my thread so much as stitch issues caused by the spool not having as much weight to it! A great habit to get into would be to quilt through the beginning of a spool, then use the last half to wind bobbins. I definitely find when I'm reaching the end of a spool that problems are more frequent, the thread more finicky, and skipping and loopies on the back of the quilt more frequent.

Now for one last question from a desperate Jen from Quilter in the Closet:

How do you fix a hole in your quilt?

Photo from Jen's blog Quilter in the Closet
Jen had a horrible mishap with her quilt while taking a photo and ended up with 2 holes in her quilt that go all the way through from front to back.

Now looking at the size of these holes, I don't think this is a desperate, quilt ruining catastrophe. In fact, I think the fix could be pretty easy.

#1 - pull out that gray fabric where the hole is located.
#2 - mark a circular shape all around the hole.  Because Pebbling was quilted over the area, I'd try to fit the circle to fit with the pebbling a bit if possible. It doesn't have to be a perfect circle. An amoeba shape would be just fine so long as it fits and covers the hole and the background fill a bit.
#3 - Cut out a circle of gray fabric, place it over the hole and hand applique it in place. Make sure not to overlap the yellow section or it will show noticeably on the surface of the quilt.
#4 - Quilt over the circle applique with more pebbling to lock it in and secure the hole.
#5 - Create a name tag for the back of the quilt and cover up the back holes with it.

This is just how I'd fix this particular quilt. The gray fabric combined with Pebbling will make it easy to hide the holes, especially if you use the same gray fabric and quilt over the patch with Pebbling and make it fit consistently with the rest of the quilting.

Yes, accidents happen! I once ruined an entire quilt trying to get it clean! Try not to beat yourself up about it when it happens, but instead think of the most logical, simple way of fixing the issue. Sometimes a solution is simpler than you think and in the end, fixing the hole or issue will become the defining characteristic of the quilt.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Quilt Along #39: Quilt Busting with Matrix

It's Quilt Along time and it's also November and I know what that means! How many quilts are you suddenly feeling the pressure to have finished, bound, and ready to wrap up under the tree?

I ways feel the pressure too, but unfortunately never get started early enough in the season to make quilt-giving a possibility. But then I got to thinking...(always a dangerous thing)....

What if we focused an entire month just on Quilt Busting Tactics? These would be methods to knock out quilt tops quickly with beautiful quilting that also happens to be very SPEEDY quilting.

So that is what we're going to work on for the 4 weeks of November - busting through large sections of a quilt with quick, pretty designs.

Now all of these designs can be quilted in multiple ways. Keep this in mind as you learn them. They don't HAVE to be used to bust the stuffing out of a quilt, but they CAN be used this way and they're all going to be very different and give a unique look and finish to your quilt tops.

The first we're starting with is Matrix:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I've used Matrix on dozens of quilts and it's one of the most variation-rich designs on the project because it inspired Matrix Rays, Blackhole Matrix, Matrix Maze, and Matrix Flow (something to try if you're still craving variations of Flowing Lines).

This design is technically edge to edge and would work great in sashing and borders like all the Edge to Edge Designs we learned last month.

But what about using this design over a whole quilt?  How will that work? Quite beautifully actually!

Matrix was one of the first designs created for the original Free Motion Quilting Project. Find photos of all these designs in the easy to flip through book 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs available right here on

Now let's break down how this worked over Batik Beauty.  My goal in using this design was to knock out a corner section solidly with one design covering a large space:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
So I started in the corner against a block that had been quilted, started a new line of quilting and wiggled my way to the opposite corner, off the edge of the quilt top and into the batting.

This is the one time I use the thread cutter on the Janome Horizon because if you quilt off into the batting, you can easily trim and bind that edge.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Make sure to stitch at least 1 inch beyond the edge of the quilt top into the batting area
 Sliding the quilt back into the machine, I started a new line of quilting back next to the first start, but this time around 1 inch away.

Once you finish the first set of lines, just quilt a set perpendicular to form the wiggly grid. You could also change it up a bit and leave some lines out to make it even more interesting:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Yes, this Matrix is on a 1 inch scale, you can easily space the lines very wide apart in order to finish your quilt that much faster.

How wide can you go? As wide as your batting will allow. Most Quilter's Dream Poly will allow quilting up to 10 inches. If that's the case for your quilt, just make sure to keep the lines of wiggly Matrix about 8 inches apart so it's sure to stabilize the batting enough that it doesn't shift within the quilt.

Here's another quilt I've quilted this design over:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This older log cabin was very creatively (imperfectly) pieced and quilting different designs over the surface just seemed like a big waste of time and thread. Nothing much was going to show up over the light fabric colors.

So I just used a 5 inch matrix to cover the whole quilt! It's stable, the piecing issues have never been a problem, and it's one of the softest, cushiest quilts in the house.

That's the real key with this design - let it go open and wide apart lines and you'll finish your quilt very quickly. The scale I used for Batik Beauty was actually pretty tight in comparison, but I did this to stay consistent with the rest of the designs used within the quilt.

Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog:

1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.

2. Copy the link of the specific blog post. This is not just the link to your blog itself (, but the link to the specific post:

3. Click the blue link up button above and paste your link into the box.

Keep in mind that you're posting your progress from LAST week on THIS week's post. This way you have time to watch the lesson, play with the ideas, then post your progress to the next quilt along. I hope that makes sense!

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

Sunday, November 4, 2012

UFO Sunday #11 - Start the Day with Quilting

It's UFO time and time for me to fess up about my lack of UFO work this week. Maybe I'm still mentally celebrating getting James's quilt completely quilted that I haven't yet realized that it still needs to be bound!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So today my goal is to trim the edges and bind it. Unfortunately I've caught a weird color that not only makes my nose run like a faucet, I also feel weak and weird and don't want to lift my arms. Sooo...binding might have to wait.

But it begs some attention as to why this quilt hasn't been bound. What have I been doing all week?

And I can't help but blame my computer for all my UFO issues.

I swear my computer sucks me in, holds me hostage, and won't let my brain go until it's sucked every last inch of energy out from my eyeballs and fingertips.

Yeah, ew, that was gross...

So this week I'm taking a stand. As soon as I my nose stops running and my body feels back to 100%, I'm going to start a new routine - starting the day with quilting.

Before email, before blogging, before uploading photos, before touching a video, before facebook, or any other computer thing I have to check multiple times a day...I'm going to quilt. I might have to wake up earlier. I might have to give up extra sleep or coffee time, but ultimately more time on my sewing machine is the only way to spend more time quilting.

So here's to a better week accomplishing a bit more not just on the UFO front, but also quilting and creating in general!

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!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Craftsy Class - Free Motion Quilting a Sampler

Okay! I've been chomping at the bit to share more info about my new class that has just launched on!

This class is called Free Motion Quilting a Sampler and in the more than 7 hours of class time, you'll learn how to quilt many filler designs and apply them over the surface of a sampler quilt.

Which sampler? It's actually Amy Gibson's Block of the Month Quilt!

Amy Gibson has taught this free class for Craftsy since January. If you run through the lessons, you'll learn many fantastic piecing and applique techniques and end up with 20 beautiful blocks to turn into a sampler quilt.

But what about quilting it?

Sampler quilts can be tricky to quilt. All those piecing lines, all those shapes and angles, can make it really hard to see where the quilting design will fit. Many quilters love making samplers to learn new techniques, but they often become UFOs because there's always that giant unanswered question - "How do I quilt this?!"

So that's where my class comes in! I took a look at Amy's quilt design and immediately began sketching fills over the surface. All of Amy's beautiful blocks were perfect to explore many interesting designs, so the free motion quilting is almost like a sampler of it's own!

Along the way of learning the designs, I've also shared all of my tips and tricks for mastering free motion quilting. Taking a look here on the Free Motion Quilting Project, I see all this information is here, but scattered across hundreds videos and tutorials that you will have to dig around to find.

Craftsy has enabled me to combine ALL this information into this one huge class because for once I finally didn't have a limit to how long I could talk and teach!

Of course, this also means some of my lessons are really long, but the nice thing is you don't have to take it all in at once. You can pause the lesson for days or months and come back right to where you left it with no hunting and searching for the right place in the video.

What I love most about Craftsy is it's much more like an in-person workshop. From a teacher's perspective, I can easily see and respond directly to every question posted to the platform. I LOVE helping quilters learn free motion quilting so being able to directly respond is making me feel like a really effective teacher.

From a student's perspective (and yes, I'm taking multiple Craftsy classes right now. I may be a teacher, but I will ALWAYS be a student) the system is unbeatable. The videos are high quality, the teachers awesome, and the ability to ask questions anytime, any place and get an answer is phenomenal!

There's a reason why I'm able to be enrolled in 9 classes at once - I can attend class whenever I want! Sometimes I'm needing a bit more info about fabric dyeing, so I check out that class.  The next evening I might want to continue learning how to spin, so I turn on that one. It's so easy to pick up where you last left off, jump forward, rewind, or start the whole class over at the beginning that there's never a risk of missing a step.

Honestly I feel that the way the lessons are delivered and the level of interaction has created classes that are more like college courses, or artist intensives. Growing up I drooled over the class cataloges for Penland School of Crafts and John C Campbell Folk School - two AMAZING intensive craft schools in North Carolina that my dad attended as a blacksmith.

However, when will I ever have 8 weeks to take an intensive class at Penland now? It might have happened before I got married, and it might still happen when James has left for college, but at the moment, that will just not fit into my life.

I did take a week long beadmaking class at John C Campbell Folk School, but can I still get in touch with that instructor? It's sad to say I don't even remember her name. Can I go back and watch footage from the class and remind myself exactly how to make a goddess shaped bead? Nope. That was an amazing class, but most of the knowledge was lost because I didn't take great notes and my interaction with the teacher ended as soon as the class ended.

With Craftsy, you will have that same awesome class experience, but now with the ability to interact and learn on your schedule, as your time allows, and you'll never lose access to the videos and instructions. It might not be in person, but you can watch the lessons repeatedly, ask questions, get answers, and you're guaranteed years of interaction with your instructor.

That's another thing - I occasionally teach workshops at Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shop in Greensboro, NC from around 9 to 4. Usually by 2 pm, most of the students are so "fried" they can't take in anymore. Our brains can only absorb so much and as a teacher, I've always felt very frustrated by how little I can teach before I've worn everyone out!

I was finally able to teach my basting technique properly with a large quilt!
When teaching Free Motion Quilting a Sampler, I intentionally threw in as much information as I could because I knew you wouldn't try to watch all the lessons at once. If you get overwhelmed, just turn off the class and go quilt for a bit. Digest the class in small chunks so it's not overwhelming. This is also a better way to learn because you can try a design, quilt it out, and if you hit snags, come back to the platform and post questions, or a picture of a stitching issue you're experiencing.

Another point I just thought of - cost. My dad sent me to the folk school for my high school graduation present, and I believe the total cost for the class, room to stay, and amazing food was well over $500. Yes, it was a terrific experience, but not something I could do very often.

The average in-person quilting workshop can cost anywhere from $35 at a guild meeting to well over $200 if your teacher is a big name in the industry. You'll still need to buy materials, and possibly a kit, so in-person workshops can get pretty expensive pretty quick.

In comparison, Craftsy classes cost between $30 - $50 and if you get on the newsletter and are patient, you'll typically get special offers and coupons for classes every few months.  You can even enroll in my class right now for 50% off the regular price right here!

So overall, Craftsy ROCKS! It's an unbelievable place to learn, it's a terrific place to teach, and I think it's going to blast the crafting world off it's feet as more people are able to learn, able to access awesome teachers, and able to crank their craft up to the next level.

I hope to see you in class!

Leah Day

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Question Thursday #38

It's Question Thursday and time to answer your questions about free motion quilting! I'm sorry for posting this so late, but Josh has caught a cold and that combined with my Craftsy class launching...well it's never a dull moment!  This week we have two interesting questions from Karin at The Quilt Yarn:

How do you quilt through the Borders of a quilt?

Full question: I started quilting the border from the middle out to the right, facing the border and having all the bulk behind the machine. That, of course, meant that I then had to turn the quilt to complete the other side, this time with the bulk of the quilt in my lap. This was very awkward and created a few hassles with just having to manage the bulk. What is the best way to go about this?

Borders can be a bit tricky. On the one hand, they're right on the edge of the quilt and easy to get to, but on the other hand, it's still a quilt, and even on the edges all that bulk can be a bit tricky to handle.

But the way Karin described quilting it is exactly the way I quilt through my borders. Basically you start in the middle and quilt to a corner, working from left to right (counterclockwise) as you shift the quilt through the machine:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Starting in the middle, the border is being quilted from left to right.
Most of the bulk is behind the machine and the quilting motion is mostly sideways.
In the middle this works great and if you have flat tables, the quilt will form a diagonal direction as you see above.

When you get to a corner, push your quilt around so it is almost entirely behind the machine like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This generally works well, especially if you only have the absolute corner in the machine, and all the bulk pushed to the back.

As you continue from here to the right, just keep moving sideways, but keep the quilt up on the table so it's easy to shift.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The best thing to do is knock out your border in 1 or 2 quilting sessions. For really big or complicated quilts, I'll break it down into 4 sections, quilting through one side before stopping.

This way you work through the area quickly and it doesn't become the last remaining thing that drags on and on forever.

Which side of the border should I quilt next to avoid issues?

Full Question: I'm starting to get a bit worried about the the moment I am quilting wherever I fancy as the quilt is secured by quilting in-the-ditch, however after I had done the top border, I wondered whether I now should continue with the side borders rather than doing the bottom border first (I was thinking of doing Jagged Lines in the bottom to match the top a bit). The quilt itself is pulling in the batting and the border is starting to crinkle (as is the sashing).

I would work your way around the whole border as you go. For the sides, pick a stitch and work through it, then switch to Jagged lines as you'd planned for the bottom border, then quilt up the opposite side with another design.

I'm always hesitant to break borders up or to quilt one side, then go to the opposite. It won't be a problem as you quilt through the top and bottom, but it might cause issues for the sides.

If things really shift, you could have puddles and pleats around the corners of the sides because the extra fabric won't have any place to go. Of course, this isn't a huge issue and if your borders are relatively narrow (4-6 inches wide). If that's the case, quilt it any way you want as I doubt it will be a huge problem.

So that's it for the questions asked this week! On Craftsy, I've been really staying busy with the questions from my new class Free Motion Quilting a Sampler. Tomorrow I'm going to post more details about this class and how amazing the site is for learning and teaching.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

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