The Free Motion Quilting Project: November 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013


It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I'm baking bread and tossing a salad for our special meal tonight. Josh, James, and I all came down with bad colds this week right before Thursday and we decided to push back the big meal until I could stand up long enough to roast a chicken and make some gravy, and Josh and James could actually eat it without throwing up! Lol.

Yes, it has been one of those weeks in which my steadfast schedule flew out the window, but today working in the kitchen I feel ever more thankful for the life I have and the people I'm lucky enough to share it with.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm thankful for my good health and ability to get out of bed early in the morning and get to work with passion and energy.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm thankful for my beautiful child with so much energy and vitality, he fills up every room in the house and makes my days much more interesting and memorable.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm thankful for my awesome husband of 8 years (can it really be that long?) whose guidance, love, and friendship I can easily credit as making me the woman I am today.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm thankful for the skills in my hands, which have enabled me to make beautiful quilts, and capture feelings that words can't really express.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

My list of things to be thankful for could go on and on, but I'll finish it here by sharing that I am so very thankful for you - every person who reads this blog and comments, shares, follows along, and learns something new.

You guys inspire me every day to be a better teacher, quilter, and writer, and this project would not be what it is without you.

Thank you!

Leah Day

Friday, November 29, 2013

FMQ Friday

It's Black Friday and a day of super sales and tons of shopping for the holidays. Personally I'm happy to stay home and shop online, where I'm warm and comfortable and not being trampled to death at 6 am by 200 people desperate to buy a Furbie.

So what am I shopping for today? Fun stuff to learn this winter! Craftsy is running a huge sale and has discount ALL CLASSES to $19.95 or less!

Here's a few of my favorite classes perfect for making a quick gift for the holidays or learning a fun new quilting technique during this coldest part of the year:

Secrets of Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise - There is nothing more rich, warm and inviting that the smell of slow cooked, hearty meals! I've used a crock pot for years to make roasts and ribs, but this class is definitely kicking those skills up a notch. 

Wee Ones Seamless Knit Toys - While my little boy isn't "wee" anymore at almost 7 years old, he still loves stuffed animals. This class teaches three super cute knit toys: a rabbit, a hippo, and an elephant, knit seamlessly in the round for a fun, quick project!

Elegant Embroidered Quilts - I'm just learning embroidery and I LOVE this class for the different ways Amanda Murphy shows you how to use embroidery in quilts. After showing my Mother-in-law the flower table runner project, I could tell I'd found the perfect project to turn into a present for her this Christmas.

You can find these three classes, plus hundreds more, right here at Craftsy today for just $19.95 or less!

Whew! With that out of the way, let's link up our free motion quilting progress from the last week!
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,


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Josh's Quilting Tip #5

Today's beginner tip is going to be short and sweet.

After about an hour of free motion quilting for the very first time, I realized how important being relaxed was in order to maintain stitch consistency and overall quality.

As I sat down to work on the block, I was tense, anxious, and obsessing over every little screw-up or stitch irregularity. My posture was also very stiff and I couldn't relax my shoulders.

I needed something to help take the edge off and get me into the FMQ zone.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Thanks to being relaxed and comfortable at the machine,
this stippling is some of my best FMQ stitching yet.
So make yourself a cup of hot soothing tea, like chamomile, or pour a glass of wine, or have a cold beer, or a small mixed drink like a gin and tonic (obviously, you don't want to go overboard here, unless your goal is a drunkard path, haha).

Another option would be putting on a CD of relaxing music, an audiobook, or even a white noise generator.

So that's how I've been getting into the relaxed flow of free motion quilting. While alcohol obviously is not required to free motion quilt, it did make it easier to lose my tension and anxiety and just go with the flow. This was especially true for the first two or three sessions of free motion quilting.

Here's a hot, seasonal drink recipe which is perfect to sit next to your machine.

Hot Toddy

- Calming tea like chamomile or mint
- A cheap scotch blend or Canadian whiskey

Fill a mug 3/4 way full with hot water and add your tea bag. Steep for a minute, then pour in a little cool water so the alcohol doesn't evaporate out, then add 1/2 shot of scotch (obviously not good stuff!) or whiskey.

Not only is this recipe great for relaxing, it's also a nice remedy for a sore throat.

So what are some of your favorite things to do to get in the relaxed zone for free motion quilting?

Monday, November 25, 2013

76. Wild Quilting! Textured Applique

It's time to learn one last fun construction technique for Express Your Love. Way back in the spring I set my first version of this quilt aside with the promise that we would come back later and learn a cool technique to finish off her hair.

So today we're going to learn textured applique or WILD Quilting! This form of applique is free form, fun, and the very reverse of nit-picky, perfect turned edge applique. I love to use it for quilts that need more than just plain flat fabric appliqued. When you need the quilt to look alive, like it's so full of texture that it's ready to jump off the wall, this is the technique to use!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is just green fabrics rustled, pleated, and twisted in layers over the hair section. I've secured all the fabrics using water soluble thread to hold them firmly in place temporarily. The intention here is to hold everything securely together without worrying if the thread looks ugly or not because it will just wash out later. See what I mean in this video:

After all the fabrics are in place and I'm satisfied with the look, I'll switch to Isacord thread and do a wide satin stitch, exactly like we did with Trapplique, down the channels between each fabric. This will catch the edges of the fabric and hold them securely, but not flatten the texture created by all the folds, pleats, and twists.

The motto here is There is Never Enough Fiber, so feel free to branch out beyond just wrinkled fabric and add yarn, beads, sequins, paint, and maybe the kitchen sink if you feel like! The point here is to create rich layers of texture, so have fun, play, and remember you can always add more fiber!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, November 22, 2013

FMQ Friday

It's Friday and I'm quilting! I've pulled out Duchess Reigns and I got a curled feather and bit of background filled this morning:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm glad I took a break on this quilt back in September. Coming back to it now, my attitude is totally different and rather than rushing, I'm learning how to enjoy this time consuming process. It's slow, and slightly boring to fill the same designs over and over, but it was really nice to have a project I could pull out and free motion quilt for an hour without a lot of fuss and prep.

Also on the machine today is a test block for next year:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm not leaving anything to chance in planning for our quilt along next year! This t-shirt block came out exactly how I planned in the piecing, but the quilting feels a little dense. I can easily open this up a bit without changing the general effect of the design, which I think is looking pretty cool!

My goal is for these blocks to be simple to piece AND simple to quilt, and sometimes I'm my own worst enemy. I keep reminding myself what the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten advises about cooking a meal for lots of guests: "How can I simplify this?"

I'm lucky Josh started quilting this fall because I'm continually turning to him and asking "Is this too complicated?" and usually, if I'm asking, it means that yes, I need to simplify!

So that is what I've quilted today. What have you been working on? Link up your free motion quilting progress and share what's on your machine today!

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, November 20, 2013

No More Secrets!

It's Wednesday, and what am I really working on???

For months I've kept quiet as I've worked through multiple secret projects and finally today, I've decided I just can't take it anymore! What is the point of keeping secrets anyway?!

So here's the deal: Today I'm mostly preparing and testing coupon codes for our huge Thanksgiving Sale, which will run from Thursday, November 28 to Monday, December 2nd. This has always been our favorite time to offer huge discounts so you can stock up on awesome quilting supplies for the winter!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I've also just been finishing up the final touches to the new Download version of Free Motion Basics For Beginners this time expanded into a 24 page PDF, which feels a lot more like a book than a video set! I've added images, more step-by-step practice exercises, and templates to guide your first steps into free motion quilting.

This new version of Free Motion Basics for Beginners is going to launch early next week, just as soon as Josh is finished polishing my text (I'm bad about misspelling, even with auto-correct!)

Finally, the last big secret I've been keeping under wraps is our project for the Free Motion Quilt Along next year.

This year has been a bit haphazard, working on Express Your Love in a very artistic, freeform way, which worked in a way, but after a lot of reflection, I realized I could be a much better teacher with a lot more planning and focus behind the project we work on together.

So I've been listening to quilters all year and specifically focusing on what questions are still not being properly answered about free motion quilting.

The #1 thing I've found is confusion about choosing designs. What goes where? How do you know, and then how do you quilt it quickly and logically without fuss?

We're going to answer all of these questions next year as we piece and quilt the blocks of a beautiful sampler quilt called Building Blocks. Yep, this is what I've been working on almost continually since September.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'll be posting more information about this project and the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern which will be coming to the Quilt Shop very soon.

Whew! I feel a lot better with all those secrets out in the open. It's exciting to plan and design these wonderful projects, but even better to be able to share exactly what's going on and what's coming soon!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Josh's Quilting Tip #4

Today for our totally beginner tip we'll be talking about how much space to leave on the edges of your blocks as you free motion quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Have you ever tried to quilt right to the edge of the quilt piece? For me, at least at this stage, that feels nearly impossible. The edges are that awkward place where I can't get a grip on the quilt, or find a nice direction to move in, so free motion quilting anything decently goes to the wayside.

Leah subscribes to the school of thought extra edge space is better, and allows one inch of empty fabric on the edges. She even designs her quilts this way, cutting borders 1 inch wider than they need to be so she doesn't have to quilt all the way to the edges.

Since I've only experienced quilting blocks individually (10 inch blocks, with 8 inches quilted in the middle), I immediately wished I had more than 1 inch to hang on to. Had I known the edge area would be so tricky, I would have pieced two inches of empty space on the edges of the block, and from now on, I'm definitely going to be adding a lot more fabric to the edges of everything.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Here's my block of stippling, which felt much easier and more natural to quilt with 2 inches all around the edges.
Leah prefers 1 inch open on her design blocks, but either way, this extra fabric really helps!
There are two reasons why having so much empty space along the edges is helpful.

One, I can keep my stitching more even and accurate as the extra room gives me a lot of space for mistakes. Imagine a game of American football on a 100-yard platform and there's a cliff along the edges of the playing field--there is no out of bounds turf, just a steep fall. Same goes for the end-zone. You'd have to be able to stop on a dime when making a touchdown.

Let's just say the dynamics of the game would be fundamentally changed. You could never run at full speed as you'd always have to take the drop-off into consideration. (Plus football would suddenly be far more entertaining to watch!)
So in my experience, having plenty of "out of bounds" space is critical for a beginner.

Second, having more space yields a larger block, which is also easier to navigate and rotate around. You also have a lot more room to place your fingers.

When I brought this up to Leah, she warned me that many quilters would look at this as blasphemy, as fabric is a valued commodity and little is to be wasted. She apparently has had a hard time convincing quilters in class to add even 1 inch around blocks or quilts, and often gets huffy comments from the Quilt Police demanding why she wants them to waste so much fabric on the edges.

However, as a beginner, you need to learn the ropes and get comfortable with the process. I think it's easily worth sacrificing some fabric, and if your stash is anything like Leah's, I don't think you're going to run out of fabric anytime soon!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

If you're also a beginner, I would be interested in hearing about your experience. Is it easier for you to free motion quilt on blocks or quilts with a lot of extra space on the edges, a little, or none at all?

Until next time, let's go quilt.


Monday, November 18, 2013

75. Free Motion Quilting Modern Weave, #417

Time to quilt! It seems like my weekends are becoming more and more packed with fun activities with James and Josh as we prepare the yard for winter and decorate with lights for the holidays. It's loads of fun, but I'm definitely going through quilting withdrawal by Mondays!

Today's design is a fun variation of Triangle Mosaic. Add in straight lines running in all directions and you end up with a beautiful Modern Weave:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Even with the extra lines, this design is pretty speedy, so if you're needing a fast design to stitch through a quilt quickly, this might be a good fit! I've stitched this today on my usual tiny scale, but if you'd like to see this quilted on a much larger scale for a bed quilt, I did teach it that way in the Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers Volume 1.

This class focuses on 50 beginner designs, all taught on a larger scale to create a cute throw quilt. If you're looking for a nice project to practice free motion quilting and get lots of skill at larger designs, definitely check out this class today. Click here to get 50% off your class enrollment today!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, November 15, 2013

FMQ Friday

It's Friday and time to share what we've been quilting this week!

Unfortunately I haven't been quilting, but piecing and designing, which are equally fun! These black and blue blocks are for something super special coming up in January!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Of course, we've also been learning about English paper piecing with our 3 part series on hand piecing hexies. This is making for a fun project to work on by the fire in the evening.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So what have you been busy with? Link up and share your beautiful free motion 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,

Leah Day

Thursday, November 14, 2013

74. English Paper Piecing Part 3: Connecting Hexies

It's time to finish up our work with English Paper Piecing! Just in case you missed the other two posts, here's some links to get you started:

Part 1 - Designing with tiny hexagons
Part 2 - Turning Hexagon Edges

Today we're learning Part 3 - how to connect these little shapes together to form a pieced shape, and how to turn the edges to form an applique:

Now I caught the English Paper Piecing bug from an excellent Craftsy class with Mickey Dupre called Pieced Hexies. If you're wanting more information about piecing hexagons and creating entirely new, scrappy hexagons, click here to get 33% off this fun class!

 Connecting the hexagon shapes couldn't be easier, however, you sometimes have to get creative about how to connect a huge number of these together. I would often take little tiny stitches through the seam allowance of a shape to get to the next corner so I could stitch along 2 edges to attach the next hexie.

The main goal here is simple: avoid breaking thread often as this creates more knots, more stops and starts, and it's more time consuming than just figuring out how you can keep moving within the shape you're creating.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Once you get the shape you're looking for, in this case I was creating a large face shape, make a template and turn the edges exactly as we learned in turning large applique edges.

You will need to remove all the little papers out of the hexagons along the edge of the shape you are turning. I left in the papers in the center of the shape just to add to the body and keep it stiff and manageable while I was working with it.

After it's all done and the edges are turned, then go through and pick out all the basting stitches and remove all the hundreds of little papers from the hexie shapes. This is a bit time consuming and tedious, but after finishing that step you will be DONE!

Now - is this the ONLY way you can piece with hexagons, even tiny hexagons? I had a slightly rude comment from the last part along the lines of "that is ridiculously complicated - you can do it much easier with x, y, z method." (Don't you just love the quilt police!)

My response to this type of thing is always the same: if you know an easier, faster, more fun and exciting method, USE it. Make a video and post it on YouTube and share it with everyone!
But do understand that there is never a single, golden way to create anything in quilting. There is no "right" or "wrong" method either. I've chosen to use this method, and yes, it's time consuming, but it's also a great project for travel or lazy days by the pool.

So enjoy getting addicted to piecing hexies, and remember to check out the Craftsy class Pieced Hexies with Mickey Dupre if you're interested in learning even more variations on this super cool technique!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Josh's Quilting Tip #3

Josh here for today's beginner tip!

Today I'll be talking about your positioning of the quilt block and the best angle for your stitching.

First thing, are you right or left handed? Leah is left-handed and I'm right-handed. Obviously, this makes a huge difference in the direction your stitching will go, but it may not necessarily be the way you initially think you should go. Leah recommended one direction for me, which after a minute or two of stitching clearly was not working, and then I tried a direction I thought would work, but this angle was not the right one either.

Only after experimenting with several fillers and directions did I find the right positioning. I also moved my hands wider apart on the block, which was critical in discovering the most comfortable angle for me.

This brings me to another point: I could not get fully comfortable stitching until I adjusted something on the machine. There was a screw about half an inch from the block surface which was perfectly placed to get in my way. My fingers are larger than Leah's, and the screw would jam down on the nail of my index finger any time I got too close.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This became so distracting I was watching the screw more than my quilt block. As I'm totally new to machine sewing, or working with anything quite like it, I had no idea what would happen if the screw hit my finger. Would it damage the foot or the machine? Would it smash up my finger like a mantis shrimp? I did not want to find out.

Ultimately we loosened the screw so the flat side was parallel with my finger (as shown above), opposed to perpendicular. This gave me just enough space to feel comfortable getting closer to the foot.

To sum up today's tip, feeling comfortable around your machine is key to learning the best way to place your hand on the block and the most natural direction to move the block as you stitch. Try out several basic filler designs and repeat them until you're confident you've found the angle that's best for you. When you find it, you will know instantly. At least that was my experience.

Now let's go quilt!


Monday, November 11, 2013

73. English Paper Piecing Part 2: Turning Hexagon Edges

It's piecing time! Last week we learned the basics of design with pieced hexies. Today we're going to learn how to turn those edges, then later this week we'll finish up with connecting them together.

Now you might be wondering what got me so psyched about hexies in the first place. I really caught this bug from Mickey Depre after taking the Craftsy class Pieced Hexies. If you're looking for even more amazing hexagon inspiration, definitely check out her fun class!

Turning the edges is not a hard task, but it is slow and there's a method to this madness. I worked on my 160+ hexies in the following way:

1. Cut strips of fabric - Place your chosen paper piece size on your ruler and estimate at least 1/4" around the shape on all sides.

2. Pin shapes to fabric - You should know the number of hexagons you need based on your master design on graph paper. Pin hexies to the strip, leaving at least 1/2 inch between the shapes.

3. Cut out and turn the edges - Working 1 at a time, cut the pinned hexie off the strip and turn and baste the edges as shown in the video.

While it's definitely a time consuming project, it's also very portable. I kept all my hexies in a little pouch with needle and thread and was able to piece almost anywhere, even in the line at the grocery store.

After turning a mess of hexies, we'll next learn how to connect them together on Thursday so make sure to check back for the last part later this week!

If you absolutely can't wait, do check out the Craftsy class Pieced Hexies for a really fun spin on this whole idea. Mickey Dupre teaches you how to piece the shape itself, THEN turn the edges, to create a variety of cool designs within the traditional hexagon shape. She's really taking hexagons to a whole new level! Click here to get 33% off this awesome Craftsy class.

Let's go piece!

Leah Day

Friday, November 8, 2013

FMQ Friday

It's finally Friday and time to link up and share what we've been free motion quilting this week!

Most of this week I've been busy editing videos and designing, but I did find some time to hop on the machine and stitch out some new designs:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

These will be coming soon to the project in December and January!

Speaking of January, I've also been hard at work designing, drawing, cutting, and calculating for our project for next year.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This project is going to be very different from Express Your Love because I've learned over the course of this year that having a project detailed step-by-step is not only more effective to learn from, it's also easier to teach.

So be looking forward to a much more linear, step-by-step project next year to quilt along with us each month here on the project!

Now what have you been up to this week? Are you blazing a trail through all your holiday gift quilts? That season is coming up quick, so don't hesitate to grab a design and some fabric and start quilting today!

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, November 7, 2013

72. Designing with Mini Hexies

We're getting towards the end of the year and it's time to start wrapping up all the loose strings of Express Your Love. Today we're going to learn the first part of 3 videos on English Paper Piecing mini hexagons to create the intense piecing effects like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Of course, this is most definitely not the only way you could piece her face, and I believe I choose the most time consuming, fiddly method possible! Still, it was a fun project to work on over the summer, and once you've planned and graphed out your project, it's definitely portable and a terrific project to work on standing in line, waiting for meetings. If I was still in school, this is what I'd be doing in class!

This first part focuses on the design side of things. How did I know how many 1/4" hexies to make and turn the edges? The answer is in this video:

Here's the steps again with links to everything mentioned in the video:

1. Choose a hexie size - Paper Pieces offers sizes ranging from 6" to 1/4" and there's probably hundreds of sizes to choose from. The size is measured by one of the sides of the hexagon, so the 1/4 don't look nearly as small as you would expect.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

My advice? Do not even look at the 1/4" papers. They are like little kittens, so cute and tiny, and they don't look like they'd be THAT time consuming, and then you'll end up justifying a completely ridiculous project that takes the rest of your life to complete. Please! Trust me! Beyond there be dragons!

Okay, don't say I didn't warn you!

2. Print hexie graph paper - This wonderful site allows you to print hexie graph paper according to the length of one side, exactly the same way Paper Pieces measures their hexies. Choose a size, convert to decimals by dividing the fraction (3/8 = 0.375) and plug it into the system and print as much paper as you need.

3. Create your template - Lay the graph paper over the master pattern for Express Your Love and play with the arrangement until you find a position that minimizes the wasted hexies (those you will turn to the back). Then trace the master pattern shape (i.e. the face outline) onto the hexie graph paper.

4. Outline your project - Go around the shape and outline all the hexies around the shape. You'll want to have at least 1/2 hexie shape to turn, if not more, especially around areas like her mouth and neck.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

5. Count the hexies - Once you have an outline you're satisfied with, count and number all the hexies within the shape. You have a number! This will be your goal! Now the process is very easy: cut, pin, turn, and connect that number of hexies to create your shape. We will be learning how to do this in Part 2 and Part 3 coming up next week.

So that's it for this part of the design process! This planning process can work for any quilt, art quilt or traditional, and will allow you to plan, design, and create any shape with pieced hexies.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Embroidery Time!

It's Wednesday and time to check in on what's really going on in my sewing room! This week I've been playing with my new machine, the Janome 15000 and following along with a fun Craftsy class, Elegant Embroidered Quilts. This is my first ever hooping with sticky stabilizer!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It's so much fun to see this stitch out and I've already learned a lot just by stitching out this one little strip of flowers. The best thing about it is I can set up the hoop, hit start, and after making sure everything is running smoothly, I can walk away and work on something else.

It almost makes me feel like there's another Leah quilting in the office!

Of course, I did get a few questions after my post about the 15000 about whether this is "real" quilting or not. Does it really count to be able to hit a button and produce a gorgeous embroidery or quilt a large block without even being in the room?

Well, having played with this machine a bit I can definitely say there is a learning curve here. It's really not as easy as hitting a button straight out of the box, but eventually once you learn about stabilizing and hooping, that will be how easy it is to produce a cute embroidery or quilt a mess of blocks:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
These designs were digitized from blocks I quilted for the project and are included in the Janome Horizon 15000
For me as a designer, I don't consider this "cheating" because I'm planning to design and digitize and I see this as a way to be a lot more productive. I'm already a prolific designer, but working with embroidery software means I will be able to DO so much with what I've designed.

So often these days I simply don't have time to do all the things I want to do: to make all the quilts, projects, and run off with the cool ideas that are always bouncing around in my head. With the 15000, I can have a quilt chugging along for a gift for a friend or family member while I work on new designs for this project or quilt a show quilt. It's simply productive!

But yes, I do understand the reservations and criticism of machine embroidery that this is "cheating" or just not a fair show of skill the way regular free motion quilting or hand quilting is. I understand it, I definitely see that point of view, but ultimately I believe this:

There is room for everyone in quilting.

Do what you love, enjoy what you do, and leave judgement and criticism to the Quilt Police!

One last thing about learning machine embroidery - I was feeling pretty intimidated by this machine and all the bells and whistles I didn't really understand. What helped me jump in with both feet and get going was the wonderful classes on Craftsy on machine embroidery. Here's my favorites with some discount links if you'd like to sign up too!

Elegant Embroidered Quilts - Amanda Murphy teaches how to incorporate embroidery motifs with simple piecing to make beautiful quilts. This is the class that taught me how to use the sticky stabilizer and how to stitch multiple designs within one hooping, which saved loads of time!

Machine Embroidered Quilt - Eileen Roche was really my inspiration for understanding machine embroidery and just one of the cool methods you can use for quilting and appliqueing at the same time. I especially liked her tips on hooping without the backing fabric to make a "quilt cracker" which will hide all the thread breaks. Even though this is embroidery, I really hate all those tie offs on the back of the quilt!

Digitizing Machine Embroidery Designs - I'm just getting my feet wet with digitizing and this class with Cookie Gaynor is essential to learning what all these complicated terms mean and how to most effectively digitize designs. I really like that Cookie teaches digitizing for many different projects and explains the ways you have to accommodate when digitizing for quilting a quilt verses embroidery on a knit sock.

So that's what I'm up to today! I plan to hoop another strip of white fabric and embroider another panel of flowers then figure out how I'm going to connect the two together with another embroidered block. Fun and challenging all around!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Josh's Quilting Tip #2

For today's tip, I'd like to talk about the two most important factors in machine quilting: hands and feet.

For even stitching, your hands and pedal foot need to be in harmony. During my initial FMQ session, I struggled the first few minutes and my stitching was all over the place. I had no idea where to place my hands; I had no idea how to work the pedal to produce even stitches. But after about ten minutes, and a few practice pieces, I began to feel comfortable with my hand placement and the pedal's sensitivity.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

free motion quilting | Leah DayI began free motion quilting bare handed. When I tried on a pair of Machingers gloves, the difference was night and day. Pressing on the fabric felt more natural, smoother, and I had so much more control. When I forgot to put on the gloves, I noticed the second I touched the block that something was off.

Another major element in better control was, interestingly enough, doing the opposite of what Leah suggests. Leah recommends operating the pedal barefooted. And this was how I worked for the first few hours and sessions of free motion quilting.

Here's what Leah says about quilting bare footed:
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Something many students noticed in class was how I quilt barefooted. I simply cannot quilt with shoes on. With a shoe on, I don't have as much control or intuition into what is happening with my foot.

I also quilt with the ball of my foot on the top of the pedal. My toes hang off the top because I have more control over the middle part of my foot than my toes.

Feeling the pedal and all the speeds your machine has, and being able to go from fast to slow and from slow to fast is a skill that will definitely come with time.
I'm more comfortable wearing shoes around the house, but Leah usually wanders around barefooted. So I decided to experiment by wearing a pair of sandals while quilting. Immediately I noticed a difference as the pedal was suddenly so much easier for me to control and maintain speed.

So if you're struggling to find even stitching, try putting your shoe back on, or, if you're wearing shoes, try taking it off. You may also want to try wearing a sock too. Everyone is different, so there's no right or wrong way here.

Just find whatever feels most natural and comfortable to you.

Until next week,


Monday, November 4, 2013

71. Free Motion Quilting Wired Feather, #416

I'm in the mood for a beautiful feather design today and the inspiration for this design is coming straight out of my love for beadwork and wire jewelry. What happens if we stitch a spiral "wire" into the middle of each feather?

free motion quilting | Leah Day

After stitching this design, I was suddenly reminded of Patsy Thompson's beautiful hyperquilted feathers in her book Feather Adventures. The cool thing Patsy adds in her hyperquilting is multiple thread colors. So she would quilt the feather in one color, then the spirals in another color of thread, creating an awesome two color effect!

No matter which way you stitch it, this design is going to be a lot of fun and a great way to practice feathers. Let's see how it's stitched:

In the video I talk a lot about visually estimating space to line up the feathers and start the curves at the right point. Simply put: this takes practice! I definitely struggled with feathers for awhile until I stitched them so many times, I memorized exactly how to make that smooth shape line up and curve out at the right place every time.

One thing I've learned from watching Josh learn to quilt is the importance of marking. Grab your marking pencil or pen and mark this design on your fabric if you can't visualize it to start. After a bit of practice, you'll get the hang of how everything is supposed to line up and you'll be able to quilt without marking.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, November 1, 2013

FMQ Friday

What a week! I sure hope your Halloween was safe and fun! We had a great time dressing up and trick-or-treating:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Yep, we're re-running costumes from back in 2011! Only one person "got" our costumes. He came to the door and saw Josh and I standing behind James and said "Oh! Red Shirts, I'm so sorry!"

Just in case you're not a Star Trek fan, you can read all about red shirts right here. Thankfully we lived through the night!

On the free motion quilting front, I hope you've had a chance to stitch out the designs from this week:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Stitch Dot Turn was pretty popular on Facebook, except with one quilter who said it reminded her of aerial photos of fracking. That was definitely NOT my inspiration, lol! I see this as a city with lots of blinking lights.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Also up for learning is this Glass Art, a funky design suspending open spirals in the middle of a narrow space.

Both of these designs would work great in sashing so if you have a quilt that's looking a bit empty, add a bit of Stitch Dot Turn or Glass Art and stitch it up a notch!

So what have you been working on? Has Halloween thrown off your quilting, or are you still stitching up a storm? Link up and share your progress!

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

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