The Free Motion Quilting Project: July 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

45. Learn how to Foundation Piece Diagonal Curves

Whew! After a long weekend of feeling down, I'm putting myself back together again and doing the one thing that always makes me feel good: piecing. Piecing is the most constructive form of quilting in my opinion. You're literally making something out of nothing if you're working with scraps, and at it's core this is a peaceful, soul building exercise.

When I piece it's usually out of the desire for that simplicity of just 1 + 1 = 2. I don't have to think about it, I don't have to agonize over it. Just send the fabric through the machine, feel it slide through my fingers, and every time I stop, magic! the pieces have gotten bigger!

Foundation piecing the sections of hair for Express Your Love was exactly like this: magical. In the beginning I was a bit worried this grand idea wouldn't work out, but in the end, it worked perfectly and I'm loving this luscious texture created by so many pieces of fabric all pieced together happily:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So today we're going to get started with the red section of hair which I used for the top most and bottom most hair sections. You can start where ever you want and use whatever colors you want for this project. Go through your scrap bin and see what you have. For this style you will want long strips between 1 - 2 inches wide.

I don't really know how much yardage this would translate into...maybe 1/8 yard of 4 fabrics? That should be way more than enough. Really this is best suited for scraps because you can use up so much in one lock of hair.

To get started, first prepare your foundation. As I said in that post, the French fuse is optional. I thought it would be necessary because my foundation fabric was relatively thin, but once I got going, I could see it wasn't 100% necessary.

Next get all your strips laid out so they're easy to sew on one by one. You'll want a nice variety of shades of your chosen color so tear some strips from yardage if you need to.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Another thing that might make this process easier is to set up a pressing board next to your machine. Pressing between each strip keeps things nice and flat and reduces any chance of rippling fabric as you work through the hair.

Now let's watch the video and see how to foundation piece strips in diagonal lines and angle the straight strips around a curve.

I use this most simplistic method to foundation piece two locks of hair. I liked this method a lot because it didn't require a lot of prep, the finished piece wasn't nearly as bulky as some of the others I tried, and it pieced together very quickly.

One thing to note is to always leave the seam allowance around the foundation! You want more fabric hanging off the foundation edges rather than too little. You will need 1 inch around the foundation shape on all sides to turn it easily!

What do you think? Is piecing your go-to task when you're feeling blue? What is your favorite thing to make when you want to feel better?

There is no doubt in my mind that quilting is a healing craft and can provide comfort just in the simple act of stitching two pieces of fabric together. Make something out of nothing and stitch yourself back together once again.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Other Foundation Piecing Posts: 
Prepare Your Foundation 
Red Diagonal Section  
How to Create a Scrappy Mix of Colors 
Orange Triangle Section
Yellow Log Cabin Section  
Green Mosaic Section 
Blue Double Scrappy Section 
Purple Braid Section

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Express Your Guilt

I've been toying around with this post in my head for awhile now. Sometimes I post ideas and thoughts immediately, and sometimes things need time to gestate before I can share them in a reasonably logical way without getting super confusing or jumbled. And yes, this might be a post that's a bit too much for you on this rainy Saturday afternoon, in which case I encourage you to go check out all the posts we've worked through this year right here.

I guess the best place to start is with Express Your Love and what I expected from this journey on January 1st, and where I find myself instead here more than 6 months later. Back in January, I was looking for a bridge that would finally unite my two passions: creating new designs and experimenting with new techniques.

I also wanted to make a quilt, or many quilts, on the theme of love. Expressing it, saying it, showing it, giving it away, and receiving it with an open heart. So often around that time I found myself feeling terrible, and I hadn't yet figured out what was behind my bad feelings.

All I knew is that I wasn't as nice and as I could be to the people I loved the most. That had to change.

Over the last 6 months we've worked on three different versions of this beautiful quilt. None of mine are near completion and that's okay. This is a process in more than making quilts, but also learning and experimenting with new techniques.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Black wholecloth version - She still needs some hair!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Spoonflower Printed Version - She still needs a lot of fillers!
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Pieced version - she still needs a face and body!
I was about midway through the black wholecloth version that I finally put my finger on one of the major causes for my frustration and bad feeling: guilt.

I'd never put much stock in guilt before. I'd certainly never recognized just how much it rules my life. When it came time to cut out the toxic people in my life, I did so without a single regret. I refuse to feel guilty for protecting myself and my family from those that would relish seeing us fail.

But somehow not feeling guilt over that made me assume I didn't feel guilt over anything at all. WRONG! It was this summer that finally woke me up to just how much I cringe over small day-to-day things.

Did I hug James when I came upstairs? No...GUILT! Did I play with him before lunch? No, I needed to get that quilt section finished...GUILT! Did I respond with support to Josh's stress over international shipping issues? Nope, I was in a hurry and I snapped for him to take care of it...GUILT!

Now that I feel it and see it for what it is, I literally feel like I'm drowning in it. I'm being pulled underwater and drowned in the river of my own guilt. A small guilty feeling over quilting in the morning makes me feel defensive and snappish by the afternoon. Soon every word out of my mouth is a snarl, and by that time everything I do and say compounds the guilt over and over.

Soon I find myself sitting with my eyes closed, trying hard not to yell the words: Get away from me! Go away so I won't hurt you! Can't you see I don't deserve you?! Can't you see I'm not good enough to have you?!

Journaling has helped so much to find this issue and weed it out. Writing two solid pages of my thoughts every morning has helped me at least recognize this guilt that causes me to act so badly. My theory has always been once you see it, see what the issue is clearly, then you can do something about it.

And I know exactly where this comes from - right from the very people I feel no guilt for cutting out of my life. My sisters were guilt masters. "You don't deserve that Leah. You were BAD." "You didn't work as hard as us. You need to finish this all by yourself because you're lazy."

My mother was equally good about flexing her guilt button. Josh actually laughed out loud when after a fight he offered to make me dinner and I responded with "I shouldn't be rewarded for bad behavior." That, along with, "It sounds to me like you're being selfish," had been a comment mom had made so often, it's like it's been stapled inside my brain.

It's times like these, when I see the thing I need to work on, but I feel so mired in the emotion I can't move, that's when I pick up my pencil and start designing.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
If you'd like to make a quilt out of the sketch above, feel free. I've posted the photo here even though this is by no means the finished quilt design, but a starting point to work from.
What I've found over the years is that emotions like these need work. I can't snap my fingers and make those memories, or the pain they still cause me, go away. I see it for what it is, and that is one step in the right direction, but now I need to know how to step through it.

I work on this by making a quilt on the subject. Yes, a quilt on the subject of guilt. As I work on it, I feel it, I process it, I ask questions about it. Eventually I find a way to step through it, and by the time the quilt is done, that huge, heavy emotion charged with the pain and abuse of my past will feel small and manageable once again.

Will it ever go away? No. I don't think so. But I can learn my way through it and how to quell the feeling before it takes over and turns me into a destructive monster too.

That is ultimately where the largest source of guilt comes from: I have destroyed my monsters, cut them out of my life and protected myself from their poison. But now I run the very real risk of becoming a monster myself.

Kindness is not optional. I hold myself to a very high standard because I've seen what happens when you stop caring. I've seen what happens first hand when you "have nothing left to give" which is what my mother said from the time I was 12 as her excuse for not caring what happened in her home.

There is so much truth to the saying "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" and while some women might take that as a license to act how they please, I see it as yet another mark of just how much responsibility comes to with the position of wife and mother.

Who is the most responsible for bringing peace and compassion and contentment into a home? Who is the member that can sew harmony or discord with a single comment? Who, whether she is a breadwinner or not, is ultimately the head of happiness of any household?

In the end, I know my thick, heavy, oil drenched feelings of guilt will have a very easy counterpart: kindness. It's not easy to tap into right now. It's not easy to wade my way through the waves of guilt I keep putting between myself and everyone else I love. But by the time I finish this quilt, I believe I'll have worked on this emotion enough to finally set it aside.

There has been a rawness to this post that you might have found unsettling. Please understand that I'm not a person who makes quilts just to cut out fabric and sew it back together. I work on them and they work on me, and in the end, I'm always a better person for sharing the experience.

Because even if this has made thousands of people uncomfortable to read, I'm writing it for the few people who struggle with guilt too, the few that might be helped to know that there is a choice between drowning in heavy emotion, or stitching your way out of it.

It's time to pick up a needle and take up this challenge. I refuse to let guilt ruin my life.

Let's go quilt,


Friday, July 26, 2013

FMQ Friday - Something to Listen To While Quilting

It's Friday and time to link up about free motion quilting! This week I made some slow progress on Duchess Reigns:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm now clocking in at more than a year in progress with this quilt. Part of me loves it, part of me feels trapped by it. And part of me knows my bad attitude has a lot to do with the snotty cold I just caught in the dead of summer. Bleh!

So for the last two I haven't been feeling well enough to get on the machine, so I've turned again to hand piecing hexies on my red chaise lounge in front of the window. This is now, officially, my favorite place to sit and stitch in the house:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Perfect spot in the sun, and I can watch the chickens peck around the yard from the window. Perfect!
To keep my foggy brain entertained while piecing, I've been turning on both TED talks and the TED radio hour. TED is a talk conference focusing on technology, entertainment, and design, and speakers from all over the world come and make a presentation for around 12 minutes.

What I find fascinating about these talks is how far they range in topic from changing the world through guerrilla gardening in South Central LA, to the incomplete image we get from supermodels, to how to prepare for Alzehiemers disease.

Listening to these talks is fun and entertaining, but behind the scenes, I feel my brain chewing on these ideas. I love listening to the TED radio hour, which combines several TED talks into an hour long program with extra interviews with the speakers. It's so fascinating to learn even more about these people and how their lives have changed, or what more they have learned after giving their speech.

So if you're looking for something to listen to while you're quilting, consider downloading the TED or NPR app to your tablet or phone, or you can download episodes singly to any MP3 player or burn a CD.

What I love the most after listening to several talks in a row is the pervasive optimism that each speaker brings to their talk. Everyone is excited and happy to share, and even if what they are sharing is a relatively depressing subject, they still manage to end with a positive note of hope.

Overall I can sum it up to this: change is possible. I can't think of a more positive message!

So what have you been up to this week? Let's dig into some gorgeous quilting!

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,


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Equal Parts Excitement and Terror

It's Wednesday and I'm trying very hard not to bounce up and down with the weirdest mixture of  excitement and terror. The building I've had my eye on for years, MY BUILDING! is once again empty and might be for sale.

This is such a total, absolute pipe dream. Several years ago I posted about this building right here and how much it fascinated me. Every time I've seen it, I've thought how pretty it would look with quilts hung between the columns and how much fun it would be to teach classes in a dedicated place. was soon rented and has been unavailable for more than a year. When I saw it being rented, my reaction was a mix of relief (yay! I can stop wanting that building) and anger (hey, that is MY building!)

Suddenly this morning the place was empty, the cars moved, the lights off, and I can only assume it will be open either to rent or buy soon. EEP! My building is available again!

Lol. I still can't decide if I want to make a move on it or not. I've felt such a strong pull of ownership over this place for so long, but's super scary to buy something this big on top of our house, car, and business expenses.

I still can't manage the huge risk that this would be. But I can definitely imagine how much fun it would be to teach and quilt in this nice space. So what is going to happen with that, how it's all going to pan out remains to be seen. If a sign goes up for sale, it might be time for another tour...that's all I'll allow myself to commit for right now at least.

So when I haven't been bouncing around in my chair with equal parts excitement and terror, I've hopped back on Duchess Reigns and stitched a few more feathers and background.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Part of the reason that building is such a welcome distraction is because all my current projects are feeling slow to the point of stuck lately. Nothing is MOVING! I'm plodding along with everything steadily, but sometimes I'd just like to tear through a project in a day and call it done.

Unfortunately that isn't an option for any of these projects, and starting something new and quick just to be able to finish it quickly is rather pointless. It would just be yet another thing to finish!

So I'm off to plod some more and dream of that building filled with beautiful quilts and humming sewing machines.

Let's go quilt,


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

44. Learn how to Quilt Bloody Sawblades, Design #398

It's time to learn a new design! Today we're learning Bloody Sawblades:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

In the video today we're learning this design on a small scale, but if you'd like to learn how it works on a larger scale make sure to check out the Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers Volume 1. In that class we stitch all designs on a larger, bed quilting scale so if that's what you're wanting to do, that class will be right up your alley!

So why such a gory name for this pretty design? Well, there's something about a name like this that sticks in your head. I've found from experience that the more you remember a design and think about it, the more likely you will be to try it when you're quilting.

Or...I might have that whole idea backwards and I've just grossed you out so badly you'll never want to try it!

Either way, let's at least give it a shot with this video tutorial:

So really this is just a combo of Sawblades and Swirling Water so if either parts of this design are confusing or tricky, you might want to stitch out both of those designs first, then see if putting them together is a bit easier.

Now it's been one of those days where I've run around town, gotten photos taken, eaten lunch with a great friend, and in just a bit I'll take James to see a movie. I think between now and then, I'm going to hand stitch some hexies in the sun.

Let's go quilt!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lessons in Teaching and Learning

I'm back home from teaching a workshop to a wonderful bunch of students at Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shop in Greensboro. Getting home I'm always focused on returning the house to normal - getting my machine back in place, getting my tools back in order, unloading any treasures I picked up, and generally exhaling out any lingering stress from the drive.

It's a lot of work to travel and teach. That might sound a bit obvious, but I sometimes wonder if it's really understood just how much effort it takes to travel to an event, unpack, prepare, then stand and teach for hours and try to give every student the best experience possible.

When I first got into quilting and attended guild meetings, workshops, and quilt shows, I never really understood how much work goes into just getting the presenters, the teachers, the vendors all in place and ready to do their thing.

It was a surprise to me in 2010 when I started seriously traveling and teaching around NC and SC just how much work it was. It only took about 6 months for me to realize that a life on the road was just not for me. I couldn't relax, I couldn't find my balance. I found myself wearing thin and my patience and understanding a shorter and shorter fuse.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Yes, this is exactly what my feathers looked like
the first time I stitched them! Super thank you
to the students that donated their practice
squares. It helps to know exactly what you can
expect from the very beginning!
It was after a memorable quilt show vend when I heard the same question literally 50 times and felt no desire to answer it the last 10, that I knew I just couldn't be a good traveling teacher. I can try, but my personality is not suited for that much interaction on a daily basis.

But I still need to do this. Occasionally.

It's hard work and I'm tired, but I'm not at all resentful of the effort because I needed this reconnection with real quilters. I've come from several months at home where it's easy to forget what those early beginner struggles are. I love to get around real people, in person, and see and hear the issues that are happening right at the beginning and hopefully be able to supply the courage, confidence, and inspiration to keep working at it. It's because I do this very rarely that I can do it well and put forth loads of effort on demand.

Yesterday we broke darning feet, worked on speed control, practiced stitching on a line, then dove into free motion designs. This was the first class I've ever taught out of From Feathers to Flames, the first time I'd tried using printed practice squares from Spoonflower, and the first time I drew out feathers for each student to stitch over. Trying all these new things helped me learn more about teaching and gave me loads of ideas for improving my videos online and more projects we can work on together.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
These practice squares were simple, but a nice place to start.
I plan to play with more designs and larger sizes to see what works best.

Wandering through class, the thing I'm most reminded of should always remain the most obvious: every student is different. Every student has a different experience. There is not one single path, design, trick, or angle to mastery. We all must make our own journey.

So the advice I repeated to everyone is this: find ONE design that works for you and go quilt it.

Quilt it on everything and anything. Finish 3 quilts from your stash with that single design. Just QUILT and learn and grow with it. Ignore your mistakes and don't obsess about perfection. Just QUILT.

So that's what I'm off to do myself!

Let's go quilt,


Friday, July 19, 2013

FMQ Friday - Hitting the Road

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt's FMQ Friday and time to share what you've been busy with! For some reason this week's design Little Tongues was a huge hit:

While I was stitching it on video I decided on the fly to build up a huge single shape which stands out quite a bit from the others. I also messed up at one point and had to do a bit of fiddling to get a smaller shape to work out. Lol. I guess my mistakes make for good instruction!

In other free motion news, I'm heading to Greensboro today to visit with my dad and teach a workshop tomorrow. While packing, I folded up the quilts I'm bringing in a stack and had to shoot a picture.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I think I like the backs better than the fronts!

Also going on this weekend is a fantastic summer sale at Craftsy! I know I'm going to take advantage of these low prices and sign up for some classes on knitting and crochet I've been eyeing for awhile!

 Remember you have access to Craftsy classes FOREVER, so even if you're not in the mood to watch and follow along right now, you can always watch the class in 6 months, or 6 years, whenever it's right for you! I've just recently started watching Beyond Basics Broomstick Lace and I've been a student in that class since last October. You really can attend on your own time and at your own pace, so if you haven't given a Craftsy class a try, definitely consider it this weekend!

So what have you been quilting this week? Is the summer heat finally making you want to head inside and crank the air and quilt like there's no tomorrow? I know that's exactly what I plan to do as soon as I get home!

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,


Thursday, July 18, 2013

43. Foundation Piecing + Applique Introduction

It's time to learn something new! Over the next several weeks we're going to switch between learning new designs on Express Your Love and how to construct large pieced sections using a technique I call Foundation Piecing + Appliqué.

This was the technique I used to created these cool sections of hair:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So where do we start with Foundation Piecing + Appliqué? Well, as with any foundation piecing project, we have to first create the foundation, or a base upon which the fabrics will be stitched. Check out the video to learn what to do!

So the basic steps are as follows:

1. Extend the size of your printed master pattern. Click here to download the original and tape all the pages together.

Now take extra sheets of paper and extend all edges by 6 inches. If you have created your log cabin background, lay it on top of this master, lining up your special star block (or whatever you used in that center spot) with the Earth shape it replaced. Mark the edges of the fabric background so you now have an extended pattern the same size as your pieced background.

2. Flip the master pattern over.
3. Draw the outline of each shape on cotton fabric (white fabric was easy because you can see through it without a light box. You'll want each piece of fabric to be at least 1 inch bigger than the shape you're working on on all sides.

4. Flip this foundation over and press French fuse, or your alternative favorite lightweight interfacing, to the wrong side for stabilizer. Technically this step is optional.

I felt like having a bit of stabilization to the fabric would be nice so it wouldn't go wobbly on me later. Turns out we ended up with so many layers of fabric that this might get a bit bulky on some piecing arrangements so only do this if you want to.

5. Mark the foundation lines onto the back side of the foundation (interfaced side) for reference.

That's it! Once you create all the 7 foundation pieces for the goddess hair it will be time to start piecing! Next week we'll get started with an easy arrangement of diagonal strips as we tackle the first red section.

Now I don't know about you, but learning new techniques makes me hungry! I'm off for a snack and then back to the machine!

Let's go quilt,


Other Foundation Piecing Posts: 
Prepare Your Foundation 
Red Diagonal Section  
How to Create a Scrappy Mix of Colors 
Orange Triangle Section
Yellow Log Cabin Section  
Green Mosaic Section 
Blue Double Scrappy Section 
Purple Braid Section

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gearing Up for a Workshop

It's Wednesday and time to check in the studio to see what's really going on! I'm happy to say I've jumped back on Duchess Reigns and am getting lost in her outer borders:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Intense is about the only word that can describe this quilt. It's requires intense focus, it looks intense, quilting it feels intense. It's also very time consuming so instead of setting the goal to finish a whole section every day (impossible), I'm instead setting the goal to empty 1 or 2 bobbins a day.

With so much thread going in such a small space, I'm not moving through this area very quickly, but speed isn't the point. She'll be done when she's done and that's just fine.

This Wednesday happens to hit around the middle of the month so I'm doing my usual business chores of printing out receipts and financial documents to take to my bookkeeper. While it's a pain in the butt to get it all organized and remember the 4 different sites and pages I need to fiddle with, it always feels so good when I've got it done and the books are in order once again.

With my pile of docs all ready to go, I'm getting geared up for my workshop this weekend at Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shop in Greensboro. Something special I've designed for this class is practice fabric from Spoonflower which I'll cut and sandwich before leaving town on Friday:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm intrigued to see if a practice square is something students enjoy in person. Being a mostly online teacher, I find it fun to experiment with new ideas in person, then figure out ways to make them work online as well. There's always something new to learn and try!

Now I'm off to see what else I can slice, sort, and stack to prep for this class and hopefully have time to knock out a little more of the lion in Duchess Reigns.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

42. Learn how to Quilt Little Tongues, #397

It's quilting time! Here's a fun echoing design to play with in the background of Express Your Love. I'm calling it Little Tongues:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Why such a weird name? Well I find after naming nearly 400 designs that it's the memorably weird names that stick in my head and I recall best on the fly. There's no doubt I'll remember this design when it comes time to pick a nice texture to quilt in another quilt!

Within Express Your Love, this design worked great in the background. Keeping all the shapes around the same size (same number of echoes) will result in a simple repeating texture like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So where will you use Little Tongues? Make sure to give this a try sometime this week so you can link up with us on Free Motion Quilting Friday!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, July 15, 2013

Joy of a Quilting Bee

Today I had a wonderful time hanging out with other quilters from Sew South at We're Sew Creative in Charlotte, NC!

It was only after seeing this photo that I realized JUST how orange my shirt was. WOW!
I've been needing an excuse to get serious about my hexie project and today was the perfect day to pull everything out and get set up in an organized way. I now have 161 hexies pinned to fabric and ready to turn. My goal is to turn 10 per day, which means I'll have all the tiniest hexies done by next month!

free motion quilting | Leah DayBut there's a certain freakishness to this project...I knew it going into it, but seeing Jennifer Mathis's reaction was priceless. "WHAT are you doing?!" Lol. I offered to send everyone packs of 1/4" precut hexies and universally the response was No!

What struck me today while pinning and stitching away is just what a social craft quilting can be. Most of the time I quilt alone in my studio with only an audiobook or music for company. Getting together with everyone else includes a lot more chatting, snacking, and shopping, but it's also a whole lot more fun!

While driving home I realized this group felt a lot like a traditional quilting bee. If I could have a conversation with my grandmother, great grandmother, or even great-great grandmother, they would all have perfectly understood getting together with friends to stitch. This group felt just the perfect size at 9 people and had we had a group project to work on as traditional bees usually did, I'm sure we would have busted it out in no time.

So this has gotten me thinking. When I first started quilting I loved being apart of a large guild in Asheville, NC. The connection with other quilters, the access to awesome workshops and teachers, and the constant flood of inspiration was addictive.

But these days I find the huge crowd of a guild slightly overwhelming. It's not any criticism of the guild system, which is truly wonderful for connecting quilters together, but more of how I've changed as a quilter and creative person.

I think in between the large group guild meetings and solo work, I've overlooked the joy of the small quilting bee. If today's afternoon of stitching is any guide, this is one fun quilting activity I want on a regular basis!

Let's go quilt,


Friday, July 12, 2013

FMQ Friday - Dyeing Up a Storm

It's Friday and time to link up! Today I've been busy for several hours dyeing up yards and yards of fabric. Like the urge to knit, my urge to dye fabric comes and goes quickly so I figure I need jump on it when I can!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I've also started work on a new background for shooting videos. I've had to fiddle around with the size of the new logo, but finally got it printed just right. Now it just needs to be marked on this purple fabric, quilted like crazy, the logo painted, and hung behind my machine.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I think this will end up being a project for next week because tomorrow I'm heading up to Charlotte to check out the Intergallactic Bead Festival, and on Sunday hanging out at We're Sew Creative for the Sew South Reunion. I hope to get a lot further on my hexie stitching while on the road!

So what have you been up to this week! Quilted anything beautiful lately?

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

Thursday, July 11, 2013

41. Designing a Log Cabin Background

It's time to keep moving on with our log cabin background for the new version of Express Your Love! On Tuesday we learned how to piece the simple 6 inch log cabin blocks. Today let's learn what other blocks are needed and how to put the whole thing together.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

First off, you need 30 log cabin blocks as taught in this post. A quilter named Sunshine asked about fabric amounts and I think 5 fat quarters of various blues for the recessive section and 3/4 yard for the dominate section should be plenty. I didn't actually measure this out, so it's not exact, but I think it should be more than enough for this project.

Now to make a quilt exactly like mine, you'll need to start with a fancy star block like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is the Twinkle Star Jennifer Mathis taught at Sew South and has kindly posted for free for everyone to enjoy! So click here to go check it out at Jennifer's blog Ellison Lane quilts!

Now to make this star work as the center of our background, we first need to make it bigger with small log cabin blocks to start the diamond effect radiating out from the center. I did this using 3 inch log cabin blocks like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

You will need to piece 8 blocks the following way:

1. Piece two 1.5" squares together, press seam allowances open.
2. Piece 2.5" x 1.5" rectangle to one side (darker blue color), press open.
3. Rotate and piece 2.5" x 1.5" rectangle to one side (lighter blue color), press open.
4. Rotate and piece 3.5" x 1.5" rectangle to one side (lighter blue color), press open.

So in the end you will have a block that measures 3.5 inches and has more lighter blue than darker blue.

Next, you will need to piece 4 blocks the same way, except now you will use only the lighter blue fabrics. This will result in 4 "solid" reading, lighter blue blocks for the corners.

Once you get that whole thing pieced together, you should have a block that measures 12.5 inches!

Now we have one last thing to cut out. Rather than piece all the blocks directly under the goddess and her hair, we're going to just cut 14 - 6.5 inch blocks of plain fabric. This can be any color you like because this fabric will be entirely covered up later.

So to sum up you will need:

- 30, 6.5" log cabin blocks
- 8, 3.5" mini log cabins
- 4, 3.5" mini log cabins in "solid" fabric
- 14, 6.5" squares cut from any fabric

Note: these are all listed in "unfinished" sizes before the blocks are pieced together into the background.

Now it's time to lay this baby out! It will seriously help to lay all blocks out on a table or design wall so you get the correct placement of the log cabin blocks to create this diamond effect.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Follow the diagram to piece all the blocks together to form your background. The shaded blocks represent the 6.5" plain squares cut from any fabric.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now, how did I figure all this out? Really it was all planned on this piece of graph paper. Once I realized that the paper pieced star was the same size as the Earth (6 inches) in the original Express Your Love pattern this became very easy.

Basically we're taking two things that are the same size (the block and the earth) and having that be the starting point for the entire background. Drawing this out on graph paper was essential for getting a good visual on how the quilt would layout, especially how to create the diamond effect radiating out from the star block.

Because the star and Earth designs were both 6 inches, when shrunk down to this smaller size, they are still on the same scale, which means 6 little blocks on the graph paper could represent the star block and line up perfectly with the 6 inch Earth circle.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Using tracing paper, I also created this transparent version of the goddess drawing and layered it on top to get an idea of how the quilt was going to look on this new background. Using these two drawings together, I was able to calculate easily how many pieced blocks I would need based on how the goddess was lining up on the background design.

Now, the one thing that I did change was the overall size of the quilt. I knew I didn't want to try to piece a log cabin in half or fiddle around with complicated logistics in order to piece the exact same size as the original. It was easier to simply let the log cabins piece out at the closest multiple of 6, in this case 36 x 48, and expand the original goddess design to fit this new background.

We will get into more of the nitty gritty of expanding the original design in a later video, but trust me, it's far easier to expand to fit than try to squish stuff down!

The one over ridding lesson I hope you can take from all this is that design is fun! I drew on graph paper and tracing paper, planned my design, pieced up a handful of blocks to test the idea, and ultimately created a totally unique, extremely pretty background.

Yes, design is challenging, but it's a FUN challenge! Look at it like a puzzle and you're trying to get all the pieces to fit together. Sometimes a design like this will take me months of pondering a problem or fiddling with some small aspect of the design. Other times I can crank out a design in minutes just by seeing two things line up the perfect way.

So even if you're not piecing along with us on this new version of Express Your Love, I hope you will give quilt designing a try. Just draw, play, try out different ideas, and if it totally doesn't work, there's always a fresh piece of graph paper to start over!

Let's go quilt,


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Love Child of Knitting and Crochet

So what's going on in the studio today? Hmm...well, I've had a sudden craving to knit and crochet so yesterday I finished up this little eyeglass pouch:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is actually not knitting or crochet, it's broomstick lace! Just in case you've never heard of it before, it used to be pretty popular in the 60's and 70's (or at least that's when a lot of my old patterns were published) and was often called Jiffy Lace. I think it's the happy love child between knitting and crochet - the perfect melding of two awesome crafts!

I finally got the hang of this technique thanks to the Craftsy class Beyond Basics Broomstick Lace with Jennifer Hansen. I love quick little projects like this because it literally took 1 hour of playing with a huge needle and little crochet hook to come up with this nice lacy pouch.

Of course, I don't usually use an eyeglass case, so I think this is going to go in my gift box. This is a box of things I've enjoyed making, but don't need to keep for myself. Setting it aside in my gift box means I won't forget it during the holidays and will hopefully find the perfect friend or family member to give it to.

Now that I've got the basics of broomstick lace down, I'm eager to start the Rebel Lace Cardigan that is also featured in the class. See I've got my yarn ready to go and everything!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It's really funny how my attitude and inspiration can change from day to day. For weeks all I wanted to do was cut and piece fabric, now all I want to do is sit in the sun and create broomstick lace!

When I'm not knitting and crocheting this cool stuff, I've still been piecing away at the tiniest hexies imaginable:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm pretty happy with using these 1/4" hexies for the goddess's face, but I think we're going to have to go a couple sizes bigger for her body and arms. It's just too much to consider covering her entirely with 1/4" hexagons. Maybe I bit off more than I can chew...

Regardless, I'm enjoying the process! It's the oddest feeling in the world, but I think I've finally learned the most simplistic, but most essential (and difficult) lesson for any creative person to learn: do what you want to do when you want to do it! Now I'm off to do just that!

Let's go quilt,


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

40. Learn how to Piece a Log Cabin Block

I've been hinting about this for more than a week and it's finally time to get started! We're piecing a new version of Express Your Love!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This version is going to be all piecing, all beautiful colors, all dynamic texture created with pieced shapes. There's something about piecing that is fundamentally simple and calming. Summer always feels crazy and chaotic to me, but working on this little quilt has really helped bring balance back into my life.

So this new quilt is going to be yet another version of Express we can make together, or you can take whatever elements or techniques you like and use them in quilts of your own! Remember there are no rules for this project - only have fun and follow along at your own pace.

I have to say that it was with this particular version of the quilt that I finally began to feel the joy of working in a series. I would never have picked this method to create a goddess quilt as my first choice because it seemed kind of scary and "out there."

Having pieced it this far, I can say this was a thrilling adventure and I will definitely make more quilts this way again! Sometimes it's nice to not know how things are going to turn out, but to trust in skill and intuition to open new doors.

So where do we start? Well, it's best to start at the beginning and the background for this quilt is what started it all. This background is going to be the stable base for all the elements that will be pieced separately and appliqued on the surface.

The design inspiration came from the little paper pieced star block I sewed at Sew South. This little star was so cute, but I knew I didn't want to keep paper piecing so I pinned it up and planned to use it somehow this year in Express Your Love.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Only recently the inspiration struck to surround the little star with log cabin blocks to create the diamond effect radiating out from the center. So let's start first by learning how to piece a log cabin block!

Yep, I'm playing with all new camera angles so sometimes things got fuzzy, but hopefully you were able to see how these blocks are pieced together. I'm definitely working on these new angles so I'll be able to share piecing and applique videos as easily as quilting videos.

Now for the piecing! Personally I just grabbed my Accu Quilt GO! and the log cabin die and sliced up loads of scraps. So long as you line up the fabric on grain with the edge of the die knives, you will cut strips that are fairly accurate and easy to piece.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Just in case you don't have a die cutter, here's the cutting list:

First cut 1.5 inch strips. You will need to cut strips of both Dominate and Recessive colors. My dominate color is the dark blue dot batik. My recessive colors are the mix of various lighter blues.

1.5" square both color sets
1.5" x 2.5" rectangle both color sets
1.5" x 3.5" rectangle both color sets
1.5" x 4.5" rectangle both color sets
1.5" x 5.5" rectangle both color sets
1.5" x 6.5" rectangle only Dominate color

Piecing the Log Cabin Block:

1. Start with the two squares and piece with an accurate 1/4" seam.
Press the seam allowance open (don't argue with me, just do it!).

2. Next layer the 2.5" dominate strip on top, stitch, press open.

3. Rotate the block and layer the 2.5" recessive strip on top, stitch, press open. You should find the block is starting to make a diagonal stair-step effect.

4. Rotate and layer the 3.5" recessive strip on top, stitch, press open.

5. Rotate and layer the 3.5" dominate strip on top, stitch, press open.

6. Rotate and layer the 4.5" dominate strip on top, stitch, press open.

7. Rotate and layer the 4.5" recessive strip on top, stitch, press open.

8. Rotate and layer the 5.5" recessive strip on top, stitch, press open.

9. Rotate and layer the 5.5" dominate strip on top, stitch, press open.

10. Rotate and layer the 6.5" dominate strip on top, stitch, press open.

This block will be 6.5" unfinished (before it's pieced with other blocks).

These instructions will make one single block, but do keep in mind that these are super easy to chain piece. I chained 10 blocks at a time and buzzed through this background in about 2 days!

To make the new background, you will need to piece 30 of the blocks just like this. We will also need some other blocks and plain pieces of fabric, but I think this will get you started for now. On Thursday we'll learn how all these blocks are put together and what other blocks we will need to complete the background.

Let's go piece!

Leah Day

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Creating a Treasure Trove of Happy Memories

This is a lesson from Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project, and I'm finally making a dedicated effort at creating a treasure trove of happy memories in my home. Getting back from Asheboro this weekend has really lit a fire in my heart to see more happy memories and tap into all the good times we've had together.

So where can I start? I wanted a way to hang James's artwork and photos of all of us in select places in the house and be able to switch things out easily. During the remodel of James's room, I began researching magnetic paint and after a lot of reading, I decided it would be easiest just to buy thin magnetic panels and screw them to the wall. So James's room now has a feature spot for all his artwork:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Also the space heading downstairs has always been an ideal spot to hang pictures and messages so I installed 12 inch strips here too.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Unfortunately I'm good at buying the stuff to go on the wall, but not so good at actually sticking artwork and photos up on it. Josh stepped in and pinned up these photos of all of us with our late dog Jinjo.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

But I did get my act together with this flip IKEA frame. That photo on top is our wide grins after getting engaged. A very happy memory indeed!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It's funny how just seeing this photo will make me smile. I have so many memories like this that just make me swell up with gratitude and joy, but they so easily get missed or forgotten if I'm not reminded often. So I'm off to grab my measuring tape and see what other places in the house can be filled with good memories.

All this photo play is making me think of memory quilts and printing or transferring photos directly to fabric. Have you ever done this? Was it a fun project and did the finished quilt meet your expectations? I'm curious so I have a feeling a memory quilt is in my future!

Let's go quilt,


Friday, July 5, 2013

FMQ Friday - Packing, Packing, Packing

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Dad with tons of tools
It's Friday and time to link up! Unfortunately I've got to admit to not free motion quilting at all this week because I've been busy working with Josh, James, and Dad's girlfriend Emily to help Dad pack his house and get ready to move.

This has been a continual process for more than 3 years after my mom left. The house was a wreck to start with (three grown kids, 2 grandkids, and more than 30 years of accumulation will do that), but it was doubled when my grandmother moved to Texas in 2011, her house (and Dad's workshop) sold, and all his tools had to find new place to live.
Josh unscrewing the pot rack hanger
while Emily cleans up
So this weekend was the push, shove, and kick to box up EVERYTHING. It's hard work. It's hard physically in the heat and humidity of NC, particularly this year when it the weather has decided to get go through a seasonal shift and rain like there's no tomorrow at least once every single day of the week.

It's also hard emotionally. This was the house I grew up in and is filled with echoes and memories. Some are good, but most I'd like to put out of my mind forever.

James stayed entertained with toys
and a big box. Gotta love being 6!
But for me, the stuff holds memories too. Going through cabinets and boxing up trinkets, I realized just how much stuff my dad has held onto for 30+++ years. I found a blue vase that held cut flowers every summer. I found pottery dishes we'd used only for special occasions for more than 15 years.

It might sound angry and melodramatic, but there is a big piece of me that would love to smash these items on the brickwork outside. To see these plates and vases and stupid trinkets blown to dust would be an enormous relief.

Why? Because only then would I be guaranteed to never see them again. As morbid and sad as it is to think about now, my dad is 62. I will help him move, and move again as his life changes, but there will be a day that this stuff no longer has an owner and I will have to face it all over again.

By the end of 2 days of hard work, I did see the light at the end of the tunnel. We'd boxed up the house and moved furniture, planned the staging of the house, and eaten two great meals together. There's still a lot left to be done, but I feel like we've tackled the hardest part this weekend.

Now I'm off to sit in the sun and piece some itsy bitsy hexies!

Let's go quilt!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hexed Insanity

It's Wednesday and time to share what I'm working on! Despite my plan to get started on Duchess Reigns, I just haven't felt the drive to take her off the wall. I'm just feeling like a vacation! I need some light, carefree projects that I can pick up and finish quickly.

Which explains why I'm doing this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is insanity squared.

No, scratch that, it's insanity hexed. I'm hand English paper piecing 1/4" hexagons, which finish around the size of my index finger nail.

Yes, in comparison to Duchess Reigns, I guess this is a lighter, more carefree project, though I'm not sure it will qualify as anything I can finish quickly. All these little piece of gold silk are coming together to form the face, body, and arms of a new version of Express Your Love. One thing is for sure, this new version has brought out my crazy streak!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Let's go quilt,


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

39. Learn How to Quilt Universe Spiral, Design #396

Are you ready for some fireworks? It's nearly the 4th of July, which is America's Independence Day and I'm celebrating with this funky design:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I used this more than a year ago to quilt the background of James's little space wall hanging:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It's definitely a cute design and I think it could easily pair with hot fix crystals for a neat effect! Let's see how it's stitched in Express Your Love:

Difficulty Level - Intermediate.

Design Family - Branching.

Since I mentioned it in the video, here's the link to pick up the printed quilt panel from Spoonflower. You only need 1 yard of fabric, and my favorite is the Cotton Poplin.

I also had a lot of issues with excess fabric in this section. Mostly this was down to the choice to use extremely puffy batting. I really need to sit down and do a batting test before basting a quilt because once it's basted and the quilting started, you're stuck!

Even with the batting causing issues, I'm super happy with how all the designs are combining on the surface. We're going to continue learning new designs in this version, but next week also start constructing a brand new top. If you follow on facebook, you might have seen some glimpses of this version coming together already!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

That's it for today. It's nearly July 4th which means it's time to relax, kick back by the pool, and grill out!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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