The Free Motion Quilting Project: June 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013

FMQ Friday - Balancing Intensity and Sanity

It's Friday and the very last weekend of June. This is significant because I promised myself I would jump back into Duchess Reigns on July 1st.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

All that's left to do is quilt the lion heads, the swirling, interlocking feathers, and the extremely dense background of Boomerangs and Sharp Stippling. Just thinking about all that is left to quilt and how many endless hours of patient stitching is in front of me makes my hands start to sweat and my heart to race.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So I think I'm going to have to break this baby down further over the next 4 months. I'm thinking 1 corner per month. Knock out the background first, then the feathers, then the lion, then take her back upstairs and hang her up until the turn of another month.

While this might sound slow, tedious, needlessly complicated, and time consuming, I've just realized that my old method of grinding a quilt out super quickly isn't feasible anymore. I want to enjoy it!

And I think I have enjoyed this project far more simply because I've stretched it out into more than a year of steady work. Hanging her on the wall for the last 2 months in between periods of quilting has created almost a long-distance-relationship sort of feel. We have a great time when she's down on my sewing machine, but then she's gone and I admire her from afar...okay...maybe that's a weird way to talk about a quilt! Lol.

Working this way has finally allowed me to find a natural balance though, a balance I have sought for many years between a huge, intensely designed show quilt and smaller, quicker projects for shooting videos and learning new things.

When bogged down in one one big show quilt, I feel trapped and stiffled. What about all those cool techniques I keep wanting to try? Nope, you can't play with that! Ooo...look at that pretty fabrics! No! You can't get that!

But when I don't have a big quilt like this in progress, I find myself craving the rush that comes from intense design and steady, focused work. Especially during this time of the year, I want to sit and STITCH and let the world turn around me while I empty spool after spool of thread.

When I look back at the happiest summers of my life, the summer creating Release Your Light and Shadow Self are my top two, and I was going through some seriously tough times then! I was happy BECAUSE I was fully occupied and passionately expressing myself in thread.

Big quilts like Duchess Reigns give me this platform for intense focus, and, well, notice how many times I've used the word "intense" in this post! I might not dance in frozen crystal castle with a violin like Lindsay Stirling, but I still crave that same hit. I just happen to do my performing on a sewing machine.

But to do this ALL the time? No, that would drive me insane. I need to occasionally step away from that intensity and pick up lighter, easier, quicker projects. These days I find this creates a wonderful push/pull effect where I push myself to stitch my best on Duchess Reigns, then I pull myself back to reality and fun simplicity with Express Your Love.

So what about you? Do you ever feel like you're trying to balance two different pursuits or focuses in quilting? What makes you happiest to quilt?

Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Piecing a New Home

Nope, I haven't had a sudden craving to piece schoolhouse blocks, but I'm instead building a far more important new home for my online quilt shop.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Remember this new logo? It's been several months since I designed it, but not a single day has gone by that I haven't actively worked on this new site in some way or another. It's been a long process, partly because it's very stressful to move from one site to another after 4 years. I'm just taking it one day at a time and making sure every t is crossed and every i dotted because I want this new site to rock!

I mostly work on the site in the afternoon while James and Josh are out playing with chickens or swimming in the pool. In the early morning hours I've been piecing like crazy and boy do I love what I've been working on:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm calling this Foundation Piecing + Applique and we'll be learning it in a few weeks. I'm sort of making it up as I go along, which is both fun and terrifying at the same time. It might not look like much now, but just wait until this yellow ragged, scrappy strip gets turned into a lock of hair on Express Your Love!

So I have to say after three days of consciously chilling out, working on things I love, and actively trying to stay calm, the summer anxiety blues are slowly receding. I'm still not feeling great, but I can see the light in the tunnel.

Let's go quilt,


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

38. Learn How to Quilt Basic Maze, #395

It's time to quilt! This fun little design came to me while designing the tote bag for my last Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers Volume 2. I wanted a super simple Edge to Center design that would have a nice texture, but also be easy to stitch. Basic Maze seemed to fit the bill perfectly:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Why basic maze? I actually considered calling this Ruler Stitch because the first line definitely looks like the marks on a ruler. But the inspiration for this particular design wasn't a ruler, but a scene in the movie Inception when Cobb is explaining the dream world to Ariadne. The second maze she designed was simply lines drawn in a box and the second I saw it, I knew I could stitch it!

Difficulty Level - Beginner.

Design Family - Edge to Center.

Of course, now that I've watched this video clip of Inception that's all I can think about. Time to pull out some hand work and dive into the world of dreams!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, June 24, 2013

Thread Chat with Pat Sloan

A super hug and thank you to everyone that commented on yesterdays post. I hope it helps. It sure helped me to just put it all out there. Today has even been a better day and I had a wonderful chat with Pat Sloan about thread.

In short, I love Isacord thread because it's thin, strong, comes in lots of pretty colors, and you get lots of thread (1000 m) for not a lot of money ($6).

Listen to the full radio show for free right here.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Battling Summer Sad

Is there a particular season of the year you just HATE? I've tried ignoring it. I've tried pretending it doesn't exist. I've tried wishing it away.

But the fact is, summer and me don't get along. At all.

Many people understand Seasonal Affect Disorder in relation to winter. If the sky is gray and the weather bitterly cold, it will understandably make you feel sad and moody. But extreme sunlight?? Hot weather? Really?

But it's true. Summertime can be just as debilitating as winter, with anxiety topping the charts during these hot months. Personally I never feel more wigged out, stressed, overworked, and underfed as in the summer. I gain weight, I drink too much, I sleep way too much one day and way too little the next.

Just maintaining my simple summer schedule feels like climbing Mt. Everest every morning. It's tough to stick with, but I have stuck with it simply because without it, I doubt I'd get out of bed at all. There's a side of me that feels completely bewildered and confused by this behavior. Just get to work Leah! Just get over it! Just keep moving! I'm an extremely good self motivator, but I can't deny the very weird feeling that only half my brain is working right now.

This isn't the first year I've dealt with summer sad, though it is the first year I've taken serious note of how much it changes my behavior and attitude. For the last 4 years at least, I've literally hibernated during this time by becoming obsessed and consumed with writing a book, quilting a big quilt, creating a DVD, or in some very stressful years, struggling through all three at once.

One might argue that this is just my creative cycle. The rest of the year I maintain a better balance, but this time of the year I want to dig deep and not come up for air for weeks on end.

That's certainly one way to look at it, but I have to say being on the receiving end of this drive to just mindlessly stitch ALL THE TIME is not very easy. It's also a hard impulse to follow when I really want to have fun with my family and do all the summertime things - camping, fishing, and swimming - that I've missed out on in previous years.

So what am I going to do? I kept asking myself this today as I bounced around the house from task to task. Why can't I settle? Why can't I have fun?

Finally I found an answer: Why don't you just give yourself a break?

Give in and give up. Stop trying so damn hard. Yeah, you're anxious, so BE anxious. Sit with it and feel it and put it to rest. Stop trying to run away from it because it's only going to catch up with you later.

That answer isn't a comfortable one. I know that finding balance during this time of the year will always be difficult, if not downright impossible. The one comfort I have is the knowledge that this is not how I typically am, and that pretty soon this summer will end and this anxious energy will hopefully go with it.

Will I manage to get through this season without hibernating, without disappearing completely from my regular life and schedule? I can't answer that right this second. All I can say is I'm going to try very hard to keep quilting alone in the morning and swimming with the guys in the afternoon. So long as I maintain at least that balance of activities, I will feel that this year is an improvement. It is not a high standard I'm setting, but as I said before, I'm trying to give myself a break!

It's not easy to put all this out here, but it helps in some way to simply be honest. If this season is making you feel crazy, anti-social, and unbalanced, maybe it helps to know you're not alone. For me, talking about this with my dad, who also deals with high anxiety and stress during this time of the year, was very comforting. You are not alone. Yes, it will pass. Yes, you will be okay.



Friday, June 21, 2013

FMQ Friday - Creating the Perfect Spot to Hand Sew

It's finally Friday! I'm so happy this week is over and the Summer Solstice is finally here. It's officially summer!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
To celebrate I'm heading to IKEA, which might not seem like the best place to celebrate a seasonal holiday, but today I'm looking for a nice chaise lounge or sofa bed to put in my guest bedroom. The little futon fitting between my book cases just isn't cutting it. It's hard, uncomfortable, and not somewhere I ever want to sit. I think a softer, cushier chair would be a lot more suited to this space.

My goal here is simple: I want this spot to be my spot to sit and do hand work. I'm tired of constantly shifting my hand work bags, baskets, and bins to the living room, dining room, bedroom, upstairs, and downstairs depending on where I've decided to stitch that day. I'm ready to have a dedicated space just for this, where I can sit in the sun and stitch comfortably. I might even install a camera mount to the side of the bookshelf so I can film easily here. How's that for efficiency!

Way back in college I had a special chair set up in front of a window in my dorm room. I'd sit and stitch, read, and study comfortably for hours in the sun with my sewing machine propped up on a small storage box in front of me, and all the fabric I owned fitting into just 2 grocery bags.

Unfortunately I never took a picture of this setup, but it was definitely cute, though I don't at all miss the pain in my back from leaning over to stitch all day. Looking back I probably should have noted that when given a choice between studying for a biology exam, attending class, or sewing a pair of pants, I always choose to sew.

So now I'm wanting to somehow bring that experience from 11 years ago (has it really been so long?) into my guest bedroom. I plan to sit my way through IKEA until the perfect couch or chaise lounge is found!

What about you? Do you have a special place to sit and hand stitch? What makes a spot particularly more comfortable to you?

Let's link up and share anything this week! I'm not free motion quilting this week because piecing has taken precedence so feel free to link up any post you've written this week about quilting!

Let's go quilt!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Piecing, Mounting Cameras, and Batik Fun

It's Wednesday and time to check in on the studio and see what's stitchin'!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

All this week I've been piecing up a storm and shooting videos at the same time, which is a bit hard to do because my downstairs kitchen area has never been set up well for shooting videos. The ceilings are low, the lighting is either way too bright or way too dim, and the background is always messy and disorganized.

So as I've been piecing, I've occasionally had to stop and screw a new camera mount into the wall or ceiling. Not the most normal thing for a quilter to do, but hopefully I'll soon have this area sorted out so I can shoot cutting, pressing, piecing, and applique videos just as easily as my free motion quilting videos.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm often emailed for details about filming and yes, once I get my kitchen better set up I plan to share a video tutorial just on making video tutorials! The one thing I've learned over the years is that you can do a whole lot with almost nothing so long as you're willing to try. Jump in, make some mistakes, play, and remember that perfection only comes through trial, error, and practice.

And maybe it helps to know that even after making videos for 6 years, I'm still learning and figuring things out one step at a time!

When I've not been fiddling around with my camera setup, I've also jumped back into dyeing fabric, specifically trying out wax resist batik. I've been feeling really stressed out and anxious lately, and nothing chills me out like painting wax on fabric.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So that's what's going on in my sewing room today! You can expect some videos on these new techniques coming soon!

Let's go quilt,


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

37. Learn How to Quilt Lava Rocks, #394

We're finally getting into the heat of the summer and I'm ready to warm things up with this funky new design! This is Lava Rocks:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

At this point, with nearly 400 designs on the project I often find inspiration coming from the designs themselves. This particular design is a combination of Overlapping Petals and Cobblestones. Mix the two together and you've got one wobbly wiggly texture that's perfect for the background of Express Your Love:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Let's learn how to quilt it!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate.

Design Family - Stacking.

As I said in the video, there's only one place I wouldn't put this design - over the goddess's face and body. Why? Because she might end up looking spotty like she's been attacked by polka dots!

Let's go quilt,


Friday, June 14, 2013

FMQ Friday - Is this Illogical?

Ah! I'm already feeling more peaceful and content because I've been extremely piece-ful today! I've begun carefully piecing the background for a new version of Express Your Love:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This might not look like much, but this is 4 hours worth of piecing. Actually more than that because the center star was pieced at Sew South back in March!

I've decided to make one version of this quilt that is entirely pieced. The background will be pieced around this star. Each lock of hair and breath and her body will be pieced from scrap fabric and then be appliqued over the background. Every section will be a mass of multiple shades of the same color.

I love piecing. It's peaceful and simple, but I rarely give myself permission to piece often, largely because it's so extremely time consuming. Of course, not all forms of piecing are time consuming. Last year the modern quilt we worked on together was a lesson in simplicity and it was a project that you could literally fly through, so long as you didn't stop to think too much.

But today I am thinking and planning and fitting everything together rather methodically. Fortunately the cutting has been super quick thanks to the log cabin Accu Quilt die I've been using to cut the pieces for the blocks.

I've always felt a bit ambivalent about using my Go! for strip cutting, mostly because I can easily cut strips from fabric very accurately and feel that getting things on grain and straight on the die is a bit trickier than just using my rotary cutter.

Today however, I waved a flag of truce between the warring factions of speed and perfection. I accept that my log cabin blocks aren't going to be pieced to extreme perfection so using this die definitely saved me loads of time.

Even still, it left me asking a simple, obvious question - why the heck do we do this?

I know where this craft originated from - sewing scraps of whatever leftover fabric was around the house into a utilitarian blanket for warmth and comfort. I understand that this particular version of quilting - piecing tiny bits of worn out clothing together that might normally be thrown away - has very frugal beginnings.

But I was working from yardage, cutting it up just to sew it all back together again. I think if I could go back in time and transport one of my great great great grandmothers into my sewing room, she'd probably faint at the idea. Is this even logical?

Maybe that's the wrong question to ask here because I already know it's not logical. It's art. It's entertainment. It's meditative. And I enjoyed it!

And just to keep things in line with FMQ Friday, here's what I finished free motion quilting yesterday:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The inner ring is done! I've decided to hang her up and enjoy her on my dining room wall until July. Then I'll buckle down once again and quilt through each corner in turn. Right at the moment, I'm satisfied just to sit and stare at her through every meal.

So what have you been up to? Enjoying the heat of the summer or cranking the AC so you can quilt in comfort?

Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Further on the Journey of Express Your Love

It's Wednesday and for the past three days I've been working through more tree and landscape sections to the point that today, right now, I have just 2 trees and 1 landscape left to finish.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm so incredibly happy about this section. In just 12 days I've nearly completed this inner ring which means I can officially say this quilt is 1/2 way quilted. The borders will likely be very complicated and time consuming, but for now, I'm super pleased with how this has worked out.

Just like in May, I plan to hang Duchess Reigns back on the wall for a few days just to have a good look at her and get motivated for the next step. The pause I took in May was absolutely perfect, allowed me time to work on other things, and wrap my head around the enormity of this project. She really is overwhelming, even to me.

Once Duchess is out of the sewing room tomorrow, I plan to begin construction of 3 new Express Your Love goddess quilts. Each quilt will be constructed in a different way, and I'm especially wanting to challenge myself to stop running straight back to my default stitching scale of 1/8 inch or less. It's time to try other things!

I'm feeling the need to dig into Express Your Love and really get immersed in several different ideas that have been floating around my brain for awhile. It seems making this quilt has been a journey that is less about saying "I love you." to James and Josh (that's actually the easy part), and far more about working on self love and finding the strength and space to say those words to myself.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

At the beginning of the year, the very first words I wrote into the first version of the quilt was "I am Enough." It's been 6 months since that first video and unfortunately I found myself yesterday saying the exact opposite. Why am I struggling with this all over again?

But it seems like my journey in the last few months has been heavy on self understanding. Reading books like Quiet and Focus and The Happiness Project and The Power of Habit have taught me so much about myself in such a short space of time, my brain is a bit overloaded trying to make sense of it all.

The fact is, until only very recently I've been a bit too flexible in my own definition of myself. This might sound a bit weird, but I regularly take on jobs and agree to do things that I don't want to do, some things that are actually very uncomfortable to my introverted nature, but because I CAN do it (I can grit my teeth and muscle through anything. Literally, I have a will of steel), I tend to say yes. I'm starting to see that my tendency to agree is more than a liability to my happiness, it's downright destructive to my whole family.

So I want to practice saying "No" and dealing with the waves of guilt and fear that rise up like a tidal wave anytime I say it. I also want to practice figuring out exactly what I WANT to do, not just what I feel compelled to do because I obligated myself. I also want to relearn how to quilt for me and only for me.

What do I mean by that? I Quilt for Me was a phrase I began saying more than 2 years ago, but I continue to struggle with it. Between the pressure to compete at quilt shows and make quilts for various people, companies, or classes, I find my personal projects always pushed to the back of the line.

I know I'm not alone with this issue, but whenever I give voice to it, all I can hear is my mother's words rebounding in my head, "It sounds to me like you're being selfish."

Maybe it is selfish, but I'm tired of putting myself last and I don't think this issue of self love will go away until I take a serious stand for who I really am and what I actually WANT to do.

Until May, Duchess Reigns was always on the back burner, always shunted to the side the second something "more important" came into the studio because I couldn't say for sure if I ever wanted to show her or not. The first Duchess was ruined after showing. It would absolutely break my heart to see this quilt damaged or lost in the mail.

But when Josh asked last night why I couldn't just work on Duchess Reigns for myself, only for me, never to show, not really to teach with, my instant gut response, which made me cry even as it came out of my mouth was, "I'm not enough for that. I don't deserve her."

My response was so incredibly ridiculous I think it finally snapped my attention to this very real need to change my mentality. It also helped that Josh's eyes nearly bugged out of his head and he made me repeat what I'd said three times until I saw for myself how ridiculous it was.

Through all this rambling and seeking, I find myself wanting to make these new versions of Express Your Love simply to dig further in. I feel like lately I've been standing on the edge of the diving board with these quilts, hesitant to dive in. What if I get overwhelmed and bogged down under so many various versions of the same quilt?

But on the flip side, what more will be revealed if I just give myself permission to make as many quilts as I want to make and to quilt them however I want?

It may be that this journey with this quilt takes longer than 1 year, and I need to hope and trust and cross my fingers that I won't bore you all to tears with it. The fact is, I need to make these for me, to work out some lingering shadows of self doubt, denial, and neglect that are still lurking in the back of my closet, and maybe, just maybe, it will be a journey you can share too.

That is one thing that makes this year feel very circular and solid - sharing Express Your Love on this blog was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It might not have the flair and instant appeal of the original 365 quilting designs, but to me at least, it is far more satisfying.

Let's go quilt,


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

36. Learn how to Quilt Foundation Puzzle, #393

Do you ever stop and think - What would happen if I stitch a block like this? or What would happen if I put those two colors next to one another? or What will happen if I piece that fabric in this arrangement?

Questions like these are intuitive and natural to anyone creating a quilt. Once those first beginning stages are mastered, your natural curiosity should be your guide to ever more interesting experiences in piecing, color play, and quilting.

Today's design was created from just such a question - what will happen if I break up a space with several foundational lines, then fill those spaces with closed spirals? The answer: What happens is you get an awesome new texture!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This worked out so easily and looked so great in the block, I already added it to the background of Express Your Love:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now let's learn how to stitch it!

Design Family - Foundational.

Difficulty Level - Advanced. I'd say the only downside about this design is it might be a bit time consuming. You could easily speed the process up by stitching open spirals into all the spaces instead of closed spirals because that will eliminate a ton of travel stitching.

Still, I like the travel stitching and darker quality of this design, no matter how time consuming it makes the design. In terms of intensity this is a design that's going to ratchet any area of your quilt up a notch!

Let's go quilt,


Friday, June 7, 2013

FMQ Friday - It's just a QUILT!

I had an interesting revelation about mistakes today while quilting another tree and landscape section of Duchess Reigns. I made a mistake and stitched off the line I was supposed to be traveling. It wasn't a huge mistake and I was sitting there debating whether to leave it, hide it, or break thread and pick it out when a single question popped into my head:

Does this mistake stop your quilt from being a quilt?

The answer, of course, was no. Even with this tiny mistake, my quilt will still be a quilt when it is finished. In a few days I might not even be able to see where this happened, and when the quilt is on the wall, it will likely be even more hidden in the complexity of all this stitching.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So this mistake is not really a mistake. It's not worth ripping out because it is not really wrong.

I guess this is looking at the quilt from the perspective of utility, not of decoration. If we look at mistakes from the perspective of Will My Quilt Still Work As a Quilt? then, at least for me, it's far easier to accept this little stitch-off as part of the process. It's not worth picking up the seam ripper and making a big production out of it.

I can see from this one question where all my drive and obsession from perfection comes from. My perfectionist nature comes in full force when I'm making something not to fill a need (utility mindset), but for decoration, and especially competition.

Because Duchess Reigns has been mostly designed and quilted to be a decorative, competition quilt, my drive for perfection has been overwhelming. And right now it seems really pointless. I mean, what does it matter if I pick out that one missed stitch or not? The quilt is still a QUILT and it still looks damn good!

Will a judge call me out on it? If they do, will it undermine my good feelings about my quilt? I love Duchess Reigns, but what if it's just not up to the level of perfection the show demands?

A few weeks ago I showed a picture of Duchess Reigns to a friend and expressed my frustration at the perfection drive. I was agonizing over minor thread inconsistencies that I see clearly, but probably no one else would notice.

My friend looked at the photo and said simply "But Leah, this was made by YOU, a human. You have to allow for those inconsistencies because that's where the art is."

So that is what I'm working on today. I'm leaving in the minor mistakes. I'm allowing this quilt to reflect not the skill of a obsessive compulsive stitch ripping crazy woman, but the skill of a human who is making a quilt.

That is, after all, all I am doing. I am making a quilt. There's no reason to get so bent out of shape about it!

Now what are you working on today? Hopefully not having to talk yourself off the ledge of perfectionism!

Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect.

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Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, June 6, 2013

35. Learn how to Quilt Permed Fern, Design #392

Are you ready to learn another new design? I've been looking back at some old favorites: Swirling Feathers and Tongue of Flames and decided to try a funky variation called Permed Fern:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

When I was a kid I thought getting my hair permed was the height of cool. That is until a short hair cut and frizzy perm combined to make me look like Ronald McDonald for a solid year. Let's keep the curly-q shape out of my hair and just in a quilt!

Difficulty Level - Advanced.

Design Family - Stem Centered

I have to say this design just makes me smile. I'm not really sure why, But I really like it! This design does involve a fair amount of traveling so it's always going to show up fairly bold on the surface of your quilt.

It's also always going to be slightly more time consuming to do all that careful stitching so just take your time. At the end of the movie Wreck It Ralph, Ralph decides to take life "One game at a time." so with this design just remember to take it one stitch at a time!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Quilting, Demo, and Camping all in one day

It's Wednesday and time to check in the sewing room to see what's really cooking. I'm super happy to report that my summer routine is holding steady after 5 days and I've managed to knock out a landscape and tree section of Duchess Reigns every day:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I think when I look back at this quilt this will be my favorite time to look back on because I have such a clear and easily attainable goal every day: quilt a landscape section, quilt a tree section.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This takes around 2 hours every day, which might seem like a lot of time to quilt such a small space, but it's very detailed and very easy to stitch off into the woven lines and make a very noticeable mistake. Today was the first day I broke thread less than 3 times to fix mistakes, which is a great improvement from yesterday when it seemed like I was breaking thread every other minute!

In the kitchen, I've finally put my foot down. I have always hated the cabinets in this room because they're terribly designed and don't hold anything properly.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I had a whole plan for remodeling this space this year, but after our lengthy bathroom remodel, we've decided to push this improvement back another year. But how can I stand these cabinets being so unusable for another year?!

Easy. Tear them apart and make them work better! Where's my crowbar?

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I took all the doors and hardware off the cabinets and even used my handheld electric saw to cut off a few bits here and there so my bins could fit perfectly. Of course, if I was wanting to keep these cabinets I certainly wouldn't do anything like this:

I simply sawed off the front section of the cabinet right there, and it's definitely a bit ragged looking, but it was the only way I'd get those 5 blue bins to fit!

This situation is temporary. In another year or so and then they will be replaced with open shelving when this kitchen gets an overhaul. Until then, this will work just fine because now all my scrap fabric is up in the cabinets and easy to find and keep organized.

And last but not least, yesterday we went camping! After a long day quilting, then ripping apart the kitchen, we set up tents and camped out in the front yard.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Why the front yard? Mostly for practice. We just got a new tent and it's always wise to break it in once at home so you know how it all works and just in case the tent is broken or missing a piece in some way. Better to find that unfortunate news out at home!

So far we haven't had a camp night when everyone stayed out the whole night so I think we need one more night of practice before booking a real adventure in the mountains. I have absolutely no desire to drive a long distance, pitch a tent, and get comfy only to be asked "Can we go home now?"

Today I'm still packing up camp gear and airing out sleeping bags. It seems camping is an enormous amount of work, involving huge amounts of gear, mess, and complication, but in the end the happy experience is totally worth it.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Here's to jam-packed summer days and lots of melted marshmallows on top!

Let's go quilt,


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

34. Learn how to Quilt Cobblestones, Design #391

It's design time! I came up with this one while designing the quilt for the Free Motion Fillers Volume 1 Craftsy class. For the soft throw quilt featured in class, Cobblestones was quilted on a super large scale like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

But for the Earth section of Express Your Love, we really need a tiny version of Cobblestones like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Personally I have the feeling this is a bit harder to quilt than Pebbling because you're aiming for a totally irregular shape. It can be just a bit trickier to travel stitch along these wiggly wobbly edges, but so long as you keep things slow and controlled you'll be just fine!

Difficulty Level - Intermediate.

Design Family - Stacking.

At the end of this video I began dealing with excess fabric that wanted to pleat along one edge of the earth section. This seems to be an issue I'm struggling with a lot lately. But how I sorted out the extra fabric in the video is exactly the way I'd sort it out in a show quilt or wall hanging. On a bed quilt, I probably wouldn't have noticed it at all. So I hope leaving that section in is helpful!

So how about you? Do you ever find the same issue running through several of your quilts at once? Share your experience in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,


Monday, June 3, 2013

Art Journaling: Spider Web

I've been recently feeling the urge to push past my normal routine and try new things, new crafts, new techniques, and new ideas that will in turn cycle back into quilting. I found a local shop where you can paint ceramics, canvas, or fuse glass and tonight I took my first class in Art Journaling:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The theme was spider webs, and it was super interesting to see how different students took the meaning positive or negative.

I choose to take a neutral position. A spider is neither good nor bad. It is a spider. I have been reading The Mastery of Love so this kind of logic is coming easy to me today!

What struck me most was the idea that things can get caught in a spider web, but things can also pass right through. I like this idea especially in relation to good and bad thoughts / memories.

I like the idea of hooking good memories into my web and letting all bad memories simply fly right through. What was that? Oh, I don't remember, it didn't get caught in my web.

I can't wait for my next journaling class! While paint isn't my normal medium, it's very freeing to just slap color on paper and make exactly what comes to mind in minutes. From now on I know spider webs will definitely feature in the backgrounds of my quilts!

Let's go quilt,


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Maintaining a (sane) Summer Schedule

My post on Friday about putting myself in pretend "jail" to get back into the flow of quilting seemed to have sparked some interesting questions. And since it is that time of the year when kids are home, the house feels full to bursting, and every day is blazing by faster than the last, I figured it's a good time to share how I stay (mostly) sane through the summer.

The first thing I've vowed to do is not disrupt my normal routine.

I normally get up at 5 a.m. No, I am not a morning person. Sometimes it's quite difficult to drag myself out of bed at this time, but I've been doing it for almost a year now and if I don't get up at 5, I'm definitely up by 6.

Why? Mostly it's the importance of having a routine. Getting up this early means I'm up before my family, most particularly my chatty little boy. I have time to grab breakfast, my journal and schedule notebook, and beat a path downstairs.

Once down in the den, I sit and write two pages of pure stream of consciousness. Everything from "I'm tired and my neck hurts" to "I wish that design was faster to stitch." comes out on the page. A lot of anger comes out sometimes. A lot of limited thinking. A lot of absolute crap in my head comes out and onto the page, which is where it can't hurt me or anyone else.

This is a lesson I learned from The Artists Way, which instructs that these "morning pages" allow you to get anything in your way out of your head and onto the page. I changed this task up just a bit and instead of writing 3 pages all in the morning, I write 2 pages in the morning and 1 page at night before bed.

That way I empty my head of anything weighing on my mind. In the past I've struggled with insomnia mostly due to so many buzzing thoughts in my head. Writing everything down means I fall asleep with nothing on my mind except sleep.

Back downstairs in the morning I've started a new routine after journaling: I work out.

Again, is this something I love to do? Absolutely not! I've never wanted to exercise, but with my 30th birthday looming in October I know I need to develop a healthy habit of exercise every single day. Working out in the morning to a DVD means I don't have to constantly remind myself to work out later. If I save it for later, it usually doesn't end up getting done, especially in the summer!

After all this, it's usually around 7 am and finally time to get on my machine and start quilting. I know from experience if I do anything else - check email, go grocery shopping, head upstairs to get a snack - any distraction will mean I don't quilt that day.

The reason is the same as with exercise - I can't "make time" for quilting. I have to do it first thing in the morning or it won't get done.

A lot of this routine and my understanding of when to do both exercise and quilting came from the book The Power of Habit. By creating my morning this way, even when waking up this early and exercise in general are not my natural desire, I'm able to do these things without complaining, and over time even come to enjoy them for the balance and sanity they bring to my day.

Habits form channels in our brains. I always imagine the furrows when a field is plowed. Once a habit is in your brain, it's there forever. I once had the insomniacs habit of sketchy sleep patterns and very occasionally at times of high stress those habits try to come out again.

The point of a habit is you don't have to think about the action. You don't have to go through the whole process of arguing with yourself whether or not to get out of bed or sleep in. Now that I've rolled out of bed at 5 am for a year, it's a natural part of my day. I don't have to think about setting my alarm and whether to put it at 5 or 6. I set it for 5 always.

Another plus to planning my day this way: after reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, I realize just how much quiet I really need. I need several hours every day because that is just the way my brain is wired. I like to be quiet, to be still, to work steadily and patiently.

It's taken awhile to realize that walking out of a room and closing a door is not a selfish act. It's not selfish when the alternative is getting overstimulated, irritable, and yelling at everyone, which will very quickly blow the whole day.

On Friday I mentioned dealing with destructive feelings of guilt. I used to quilt for several hours happily, but leave my sewing room geared up for a fight. I was feeling so guilty for my quilting time that I was instantly defensive and irritable the second my door opened.

One way I sorted this out was to remind myself that I have nothing to feel guilty for. Everyone in my family has a place and space to be themselves. No one is neglected. We are all doing our own thing in the morning and there's plenty of space and time for everyone.

Another way I'm keeping myself in check is literally checking off every day on my happiness checklist that I haven't allowed guilt to overwhelm my day. I also get a check for exercising and quilting. It's just a little positive reinforcement for doing the behaviors I know will make me happier every single day.

Of course, even with my determination to maintain a steady routine, it's still the summer and we still need to do extra fun stuff like camping, fishing, and swimming. I know just how much these activities can throw me off, but I also know how important they are to my life and long term happiness.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The most important thing is balance. It's important to have a routine and positive habits, but it's also important to have fun and do things spontaneously. Here's to the summer and finding the perfect balance for you, your quilting passion, and your family!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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