The Free Motion Quilting Project: December 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014!

Happy New Year's Eve! Today is the last day of 2013 and it's high time I sum up things up and get ready for what is to come. I generally do this every year, so if you're curious about previous years, you can click the links to find the posts for 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Typing and linking up that list makes me smile to know that it has now been 5 years since I started this project, which now in hindsight was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It is wonderful to be able to share and teach through videos and posts, and even more wonderful to know that this work is appreciated and enjoyed by thousands of quilters each week.

Even after this much time, it still gives me a little thrill to receive a kind email, or even better a letter in the mail, from quilters who love and appreciate the videos I've posted. I might have started the project to scratch my own itch and interest in free motion quilting, but I've kept posting long after achieving my initial goal simply because it's a thrill to see so many people following along.

Now to look back on the year...this has been a mixture year of both good and bad, smart and stupid decisions, mistakes and amazing successes.

I set the intention for this year with our quilt along project, the Express Your Love goddess quilt. Even now, I have no regrets about focusing on this quilt for a year, but I can clearly see how my lack of planning and organizing greatly limited this project's success.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Looking back, I know fear is what mostly kept this project in limbo. I was afraid of spending loads of time planning and organizing, because - what if no one likes it or appreciates the effort? - that is what the fearful voice in my head kept whispering.

By letting that fear win, I didn't give the project the proper planning and attention it deserved, and well...ended up with a rather chaotic jumbled mess of a quilt along. Yes, it still worked out okay in the end, and we all learned a lot of cool new techniques, but how much better could it have been if I had dismissed the fear and allowed myself to plan and organize each post logically?

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The flip side of this mistake is the joy Express Your Love has been to work on, and the amazing changes it has created in my personal life. You can't set an intention to show more love to your family and NOT end up with a totally different perspective on life, love, work, and family.

In a way, I believe the planning of the quilt along was also hampered because halfway through the year I became sidetracked with an intensely personal quest to understand my ability to express and receive love.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe first step in the path was learning about guilt and finally acknowledging how much deep, black guilt I mucked around in on a daily basis. If I quilted all day, I felt guilty for not spending time with my son. If I spent time with my son, I felt guilty for abandoning a quilt project. It was a never winning vicious cycle.

The second step was realizing that all that guilt was really just a cover for shame.

I used to think it was normal to want to work constantly, to feel a steady compulsion to be working, reading, or stitching on something at all times. Now I see that these actions are the compulsions of a workaholic.

Hard as it may be to understand, or for me to admit, my need to constantly work has been the greatest source of pain and isolation in my family. Almost all of my struggles to express my love, or feel love from others, begins here.

Constantly working is actually a habit I picked up as a little kid. When the chaos of my dysfunctional household grew too great, I'd hide behind a chair and sew, crochet, knit, or play legos in complete isolation simply to escape the abusive people around me. Years later, this habit is still playing out, and it's high time I learn how to stop working and simply LIVE.

I found many books on shame helpful like Daring Greatly and Healing the Shame that Binds You, but really the best move I've made was finally realizing that I can't do this alone and finding a therapist that would help me move weekly towards a shame-free, balanced life.

Thanks to my therapist, I finally read the 5 Love Languages, and after completing the poll in the back of the book I've found the love languages for almost everyone in my family. Expressing love has never been easier because I know exactly what actions to take to make everyone feel most loved.

Therapy has also FINALLY allowed me to overcome deep rooted fears about planning and organizing for the future. In years past I've asked why does everything have to be so hard? I seem to naturally make my life difficult by my lack of logical planning and foresight.

This year I'm asking - How can I simplify? How can I actively make my life easier? 

This might sound simple, but this is a totally new way of thinking for me. I now see that most of the complication and chaos I created around myself was simply a cover for the shame I was always trying to hide.

Already these changes - the ability to logically simplify, the ability to plan and organize, the ability to think ahead without overwhelming fear, the ability to just hang out with my family and ignore the compulsion to work - are making a profound difference in all areas of my life.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It was letting go of those deep fears that finally allowed me to plan, write, and launch the new Building Blocks Quilt Pattern.

I had only 2 months to write this pattern and plan an entire year's worth of videos and posts for our 2014 quilt along. In years past, I would not have been able to even get past the sketching and designing stage. I would have become too mired in illogical fears and "what ifs" to complete the pattern in time.

It is a mark of my progress that I was able to create this pattern, even having to change some blocks that were too complicated (SIMPLIFY!) and complete all 94 pages with time to spare, and virtually no mistakes.

This accomplishment was huge, and the reaction so far has blown away all my initial expectations! I can now see clearly that by taking the time to plan, simplify, and organize a solid project, we will have an amazing quilt along next year.

But we still have one more day to go in 2013, and this week I've been getting lots of practice at NOT
working. We're on the last day of our vacation, and for the first time ever, I've actually taken a vacation and left all my quilting and crafting stuff at home.

This has quite possibly been the most relaxing vacation I've ever taken. No matter how much I love quilting and I love the work I do, I cannot escape the connection between constantly working and constantly stressing. It was high time I put everything down and simply enjoy the sweet company of my guys.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo that has been my year! As with all years, it's a mix of good and bad, ups and downs, but at this point right now I feel happy, relaxed, and excited for what is to come.

Happy New Year!

Leah Day

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Last Link Up of the Year

I hope you all had a very, very Merry Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Yule! It's been a wonderfully relaxing two days playing board games with James, video games with Josh, and spinning yards of art yarn thanks to the drum carder Santa brought me for Christmas!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I've also managed to squeeze in a bit of quilting time on Duchess Reigns. Nope, it doesn't make a lick of difference...she's still months from being done, but I'm feeling good about the 6 inches I was able to fill!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So now that the holidays are nearly over, we're taking off on a vacation! During vacation the Quilt Shop with only feature download items until 1/2/2014. 

We won't be home to ship physical items like thread and quilting kits, but you can still treat yourself to download books, DVDs, and patterns like the new Building Blocks Quilt Pattern!

I'm also not planning to post for the next few days simply because it's high time I took a vacation and just hung out with Josh and James with nothing quilting related in my hands or on my mind.

I promise we will be back right after the new year with the awesome new Building Blocks Quilt Along and tons of fun things to learn about piecing and free motion quilting.

So that is what I've been up to this week! How about you? Link up with anything quilting / creative you've made this week!

Let's go quilt,


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

80. Free Motion Quilt Tangle of Lights, #421

Happy Christmas Eve! I hope you're kicking back and enjoying all the food, fun, and good times with family and friends that this time of the year brings. No, there might not be a lot of time for quilting, but just in case you find a tiny bit of time to hop on your machine today, here's a super cute design that fits right in with this time of the year:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Tangle of Lights is a super simple combination of Loopy Line and the stars from Icicle Lights. This design flows quite easily and can be expanded to cover large areas or shrunk down to fill in tiny spots. If you're already planning your quilt projects next Christmas, this will be a great choice for a fast, fun fill to use in any area of your quilts.

Let's learn how to quilt it:

Whew! It's been a super fun year working together on Express Your Love and learning loads of new, beautiful free motion quilting designs. We've run the gambit from interesting artistic techniques to crazy complicated foundation piecing methods.

My hope is these fun techniques and designs will open your eyes to the thousands of possibilities for quilting. If you're feeling bored and tired of the same old techniques, trying something new and slightly challenging is usually the best solution!

I'll be updating the Express Your Love Quilt Along page today so all the posts are listed together in one place. While this hasn't been a linear step-by-step quilt along, it's still nice to be able to find the videos easily.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Now next year the format for our quilt along and new designs will be changing. The Building Blocks Quilt Along will be a step-by-step guide in both piecing and free motion quilting on a super beginner level as we work block by block through the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern. These posts will be added every Monday starting January 6th!

We're also going to continue learning new designs and returning to the original way of numbering them (Day 421 - Tangle of Lights). So don't be confused if you suddenly see the numbers change in January! New designs will be posted every Thursday, with our FMQF link up still on Fridays.

So that's it for this year! It's time for me to head upstairs and make some egg nog and cookies so Santa has something to enjoy when he comes for a visit tonight *wink*

Let's go quilt,


Friday, December 20, 2013

FMQ Friday

It's finally Friday and December 20th, which means crunch time for Christmas has officially begun! I'm celebrating by spending a little quiet time in my sewing room with some non-festive fabric:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is another little table runner project I've been stitching out on the embroidery machine. I'm going for earthy / organic designs stitched over brown, gray, and cream colored fabrics. It will use the same general design as the Christmas runner I finished last week:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Technically I didn't free motion quilt either of these, but hit a button on my Janome 15000 instead. Still, it's pretty and giving me an excuse to play with fabric, even as I sort bills and clear accounts for this month. Sometimes you have to just take whatever little piece of time you have and make what you can with it.

Simply put - it's hard to find time to actually sit down and free motion quilt so let's link up for the next 2 weeks with whatever we're working on: piecing, quilting, gift wrapping - whatever you're doing, link it up!

Let's go quilt,


Thursday, December 19, 2013

79. Free Motion Quilt Space Feather, #420

I don't know about you, but I always start getting withdrawal symptoms this time of year from lack of quilting and sewing time! If I'm short tempered and distracted, chances are a quiet 15 minutes on the machine is all I need. Luckily this week's design is short and sweet and involves almost no travel stitching:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This Space Feather was originally shared in the class Free Motion Fillers Volume 2. If you'd like to learn how to turn a corner with feather designs like these, definitely give this class a try!

The intention with Space Feather was to create a feather shape with almost no travel stitching at all. Instead of traveling, you just bounce against the starting stem. The only tricky thing is getting the angle and curve of your feathers smooth and consistent, but what you can't freehand, you can always mark!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
And just to clarify, marking a design isn't cheating. In fact, you can't even tell a design is marked if the lines are all erased completely after quilting, so no one will be able to tell either way.

I often mark designs if I'm struggling to get proper placement, or if I simply want to take the guess work out of the design and don't want to waste time ripping if I get it wrong. I learned quickly while making my quilted jacket that marking the feathers ahead of time saved a lot of time and headaches getting the feathers to fit into every nook and cranny of my jacket front and back.

So when in doubt - MARK!

Let's go quilt,


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cutting Fabric and Tiles

It's Wednesday and time to check in on what's really going on! Today I'm cutting, cutting, cutting both fabric for kits and hardie board for the bathroom.

Just in case you've never seen a kit in production, here's what it's looking like for us:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is 8 bolts of Kona Ocean which will be cut into around 36 Building Block Kits. I also have another 8 bolts of black fabric, and thread on order so hopefully these kits will be put together and ready to go by next week.

Also on the cutting table today is the Building Blocks cheater cloth quilt panel from Spoonflower!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I decided to use gray and blue for this panel, with all the quilting lines printed in black. I'm open to other suggestions, so if you have a colorway in mind just post it to the comments below.

Basically I'm designing this fabric so if you don't want to pick up the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern, and you don't want to bother piecing the blocks together, you can always pick up this cheater cloth panel instead.

However, this isn't a way to save money! This will only save you TIME having to cut, piece, mark, and quilt your blocks. Spoonflower fabric is expensive and you will need 3 yards of this panel in order to get all 42 blocks, which will run over $50.

So understand the cost / benefit of this cheater cloth. I really like the printed lines for following while quilting, and I plan to use this for teaching classes in person, but it is on the expensive side, especially when you could easily cut and piece the blocks from scraps in your stash.

I've taken the time to create it simply as another choice for this project, and certainly a great option if you're short on time and patience with marking the blocks.

And for the last cutting project of the day!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The last thing on my chopping block today is a large piece of hardie backer board. I have about 100 different surfaces in my bathroom to match up from the shower surround to the wood around the shower to the existing tile in the main room. Careful cutting and placement of this board will be my main job this afternoon.

It's going to be slow work, but I'm not on a deadline so I'm going to take my time. No sense in rushing when the job has already been ruined once!

Whew! I have a big day of work ahead. I'd better get cracking!

Let's go quilt (or cut lots of random stuff),


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

When to Fire Your Contractor

Today it looks like it's my turn to veer off-topic and share a personal post.

Nothing about free motion quilting today, or even beginner quilting, but instead I'm going to talk about something pretty much everyone has been through at some point, or will go through.

If you follow Leah on Facebook, you probably already know what I'll be talking about today. Let's just say there's a reason why I haven't been taking a daily crack at the sewing machine...

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is our master bathroom, which featured a cobbled-together, totally not-to-code shower that has been a big problem since the day we moved in our house seven years ago. The main issue was a worn out, water-damaged floor which caused the tile to leak constantly into the basement. About 5 years ago we installed a shower pan in the base which sort of fixed the issue, but the leaks soon returned whenever the caulk around the edges cracked.

Leah recently put her foot down about it and we hired our go-to contractor to install a plastic surround and tile the area around the shower to fill in the gap between the old tile and the new surround. While we have done bathroom and tiling renovations before, this one seemed out of our league. Our guy confidently told us he'd be in and out in two days on this job, so we scheduled it when it would be most convenient when we were out of town for a few days.

In the end, after delay after delay...we got the most appalling, ridiculous, and outrageously shoddy tile job you could ever imagine. Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes would have broken into tears at this level of work. Seriously, it was so bad our bathroom would have been a frontrunner for being an episode in one of his clean-up/do-it-right-up-to-code series.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Where to begin? The caulk. My God, the caulk. It looked to have been applied over the gaps and blank spaces as if a cat had been wielding a tube of toothpaste. Nothing was even, it was all over the tile, and in some places there were mounds of it, in others just a tiny strand. This was very clearly done at lightning speed without a single care put into the work. It was so bad I think it was done intentionally.

Next, the tile. We used the easiest variety of tile to install, the little square glass tiles that come in sheets and can easily be cut and laid without using a wet saw. If you need to cut a tile, you can use a pair of glass nippers, but for the most part, this tile is very easy to place, and it looks terrific when done right.

But it wasn't done right. The guys installing the tile didn't plan out the layout. They didn't decide from the beginning how to arrange the tile in a way that would be consistent and make sense flowing from the floor to the walls to the shower ceiling. Everything was slapped together and not lined up, and you could see every flaw from twenty feet away.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Worse than the layout discrepancies, the tile wasn't level or flush. Every edge was at an angle, jutting out, or pressed in about a quarter of an inch more than other tiles. The border rectangle tiles were put up like scattered lines of refrigerator poetry after an 8.0 earthquake.

The thinset was smeared over the wall and left that way to dry. (Note: this is easy to remove. All it requires is a wet sponge. I know this because Leah and I have tiled before.) And not just little dabs, but big, gummy smears.
free motion quilting | Leah Day
The worst thing, however, the pièce de résistance of this disaster and nightmare, was the base tile, which needed to fill the gap between the floor tile and the shower surround, and also fill a gap about an inch deep where a wall had been removed.

Instead of cutting backerboard and layering it, or simply using a piece of wood, the guys just dumped a gallon of thinset into the area, leveled it up, then slapped the tile on top.

This is not what thinset is designed to do. It's not "thickset;" it's not mortar, it's not designed to fill spaces like this because it cannot dry. After a week of waiting, Leah stepped on the floor to find the tile squish down like silly putty. The only thing good about this situation was it was easy to rip out.

Finally, huge gaps were left in the subfloor--if the tile had set properly, we would have had a leak even greater than what we had before, making the entire job, and all the money we spent, pointless.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This was devastating, as you can probably imagine. This bathroom job, which was guaranteed to be a two day job, took ten days, with a period of five days of no work, where our toilet was left unceremoniously sitting on our bedroom rug. We have a small bedroom and our toilet was a nice centerpiece for that time, along with the tools, plastic sheeting, and refuse and coke cans left behind (I cleaned this up immediately almost every day).

For anyone who's had extended work done, you know what it's like. It's like being under siege. But nothing is worse than when your bedroom is invaded and you're treated so disrespectfully.
free motion quilting | Leah Day

Anyway, we are fixing the disaster ourselves, even though we do not have the time. We are doing it in evenings after James goes to bed. No way are we having another crew in here, or anyone other than ourselves in our bedroom. It's a liberating decision, to take your personal space back after an event like this.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Angry Poppy not happy!
In the end, we're looking at this in a positive light. We are taking back home improvement and doing the work ourselves again. I really have to thank Leah's dad for taking a good, long look at everything and revealing the catastrophic problems.

He was largely responsible for removing my blinders, to both the bathroom and the whole situation at large -- I knew the tile job was a wreck, but I had no idea of the extent of the problem. My father-in-law has been a contractor and working on houses for most of his life, putting in entire bathrooms from subfloors to properly vented moisture fans. He said flat-out this was the worst work he's ever seen, and that he's seen a lot of sub-par work.

I know this isn't a newbie free motion quilting tip, but I would like to end with some tips we have learned (the hard way unfortunately) about contractors and home improvement work.
1. Here comes the great Mike Holmes again... do not hire a general contractor unless he or she is fully licensed and bonded. This is for your protection. There's a reason Mike drills this into your head in every episode of every single show he's ever done.

2. Have the job planned out beforehand, and know every aspect of said job. If this involves going into your attic or crawlspace, go into your attic or crawlspace with the contractor and have her explain each step of the job. This ensures no surprises down the road, not shortcuts, no shoddy or non-code work. If you're having a fan put into your bathroom ceiling, be sure it is vented (and not vented to the sewer vent!). Do not let someone tell you it's fine to simply vent into your attic. That's a recipe for black mold--hot, moist air meeting dry, dusty air does not mix.

3. Look into your local building code yourself and be sure everything is built to it.

4. Have a timetable clearly laid out. While jobs always seem to take longer than planned, having something go two or three or five or six times longer is outrageous, and you're getting screwed. Yes, this has happened to us. Numerous times. No more, however. Additionally, find out when work starts and stops every day. If someone is showing up at 10 or 11 am or just whenever they feel like it, this is not professional.

5. Maintain boundaries with your contractor and crews. This is your house, not theirs. Do not let them act like they own the place. With this latest job, a delivery man was treated rudely. This was completely out of line. The only person who should ever communicate dissatisfaction with a contracted employee is the homeowner. That sort of behavior is territorial and toxic and a sign of a one-sided, unhealthy working relationship. If you see it, nip it in the bud, or find someone else.

6. Know when to end a working relationship. Do not let emotion, friendship, nepotism, or anything else come between the bottom line and the quality of work being done in or around your house. Also, do not let past work, which in our case had been adequate to barely commendable, cloud your judgment to sloppy work going on in the present. When something is wrong, and when bad work is defended and you suddenly become the problem (for us it was our fault because we bought "difficult" and "the wrong" kind of tile--a total lie), or when it's suddenly not your house and your decisions are not yours to make anymore, cut it off. We sent a professional, non-emotional letter of termination, clearly severing all ties.

Remember, you are the employer, and it's your house. The damage or bad work wrought upon you will be yours to pay for in the end. Always remember this.

free motion quilting | Leah Day7. Finally, always communicate with your spouse. Only yesterday Leah told me about an offhand, offensive comment one of the crew members said, right in front of the contractor! I had no idea this had occurred. When Leah told me, that was it. That guy is never stepping one foot on our property and we are totally done with that crew. Never tolerate disrespect, especially in the form of sexist, offensive comments directed at anyone in your family.
The thing to take home here is that this project will eventually be done, and at the end of the day we'll have good memories of working together and fixing the mess that was left for us. This has been a costly mistake but at the same time it's a valuable lesson we'll never have to learn again.

I sincerely hope our mistakes will help you avoid a similar situation.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Quilting IS Funny!

I've long been a fan of The Bitchy Stitcher, Megan Dougherty, and her brand of off beat quilting humor. I have especially loved her yearly calendars of featuring shirtless men wrapped in quilts, clutching large burritos...

Yeah, that wasn't a typo!

The acronym stands for Quilters Shirtless Man and Spicy Burrito Calendar
Megan's humor has always hit me in that perfect place between shock and gut busting laughter, and I know I'm not the only one!

So I'm super happy and excited to share Megan's first book of quilting humor: Quilting Isn't Funny.

This hilarious book is comprised of Megan's many humor columns from Quilter's Home Magazine, from Generation Q, and from The Bitchy Stitcher blog, and also two never-before-seen pieces. Megan has smartly self published this masterpiece and is offering the book directly from her website in both physical book and PDF formats.

Simply put: this book is hilarious! If you're looking for a diversion from the insanity of the holidays, and an excuse to kick back on the couch and giggle until your sides hurt, this is most certainly the book for you!

One of my personal favorite parts from the book is the introduction where Megan walks you through the 17 steps to make a quilt, which sounded oddly similar to my experience making my first quilt, minus the lawsuit and knee replacement surgery.

And I nearly spat my tea out all over Josh when I read Oh, Mom - a reaction to the modern quilting movement through the conversation between a hypothetical mother and daughter, highlighting and lampooning the absurdity of how serious some quilters of any given "movement" take themselves.

Again: this hits my humor buttons like crazy, but to many quilters...shall we say of a stuffier variety... don't find this so funny.

Which is why Megan titled the book Quilting Isn't Funny!

Many super stuffy quilters have written to magazines after her articles have been published demanding a subscription cancellation simply for being slightly offended by Megan's humor. My response? Lighten up!

We need a little more humor, and a little less perfection, and certainly a heavy dose of realism when it comes to this craft we all love. So if you're in the mood for a laugh, and this sounds right up your alley, definitely click here to pick up a copy of Quilting Isn't Funny today.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
And just to sweeten the deal, if you place your order for Megan's book anytime this week (ending Sunday, Dec 22nd), swing back here and leave a comment about your favorite part of the book.

I'll use a random number generator to pick a lucky quilter to win a free copy of the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern.

Let's go quilt (and laugh about it!)

Leah Day

Friday, December 13, 2013

FMQ Friday

Wow! Thank you all so much for your outstanding response to the new Building Blocks Quilt Pattern! I'm so excited that YOU are excited about piecing and free motion quilting this project together in 2014.

Now to check in with what I've been free motion quilting:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Mostly I've been quilting blocks and shooting videos for the Building Blocks Quilt Along next year. I'm having loads of fun with these because they're so small and easy to manage.

However, my mind is already ticking away at another quilt along possibility for next year - maybe with a king sized quilt? It sure would be fun to quilt a king together and finally prove that it can be done on a home sewing machine.

Also in progress is a cute table runner featuring many Christmasy quilting designs:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

But wait...I didn't quilt those! My Janome 15000 did! These are just a few of the designs included in the Expressions of Texture Embroidery CD, which I finally managed to get my hands on last week. We'll soon be carrying this CD in the quilt shop, so hold tight and you'll be able to make one too!

I do have to say, it's so weird to see designs like Prickly Holly stitch out on the machine, identically each time. Still, I love being able to work on two quilts at once, and I really love the ability to design such intricate, beautiful motifs.

So that is what I've been busy with this week! What have you been 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, December 12, 2013

New Buidling Blocks Quilt Pattern!

I’m super happy and excited to announce that the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern is now available!

I'm so thrilled that this pattern is done because it's really the first time I've had the chance to carefully design a quilt specifically for beginning quilters looking to build skills for piecing and quilting at the same time. Josh has helped me significantly to simplify, simplify, simplify, but still create a beautiful quilt with lots of interesting blocks for us to make together.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So what is this pattern?

Basically this is a sampler quilt of 12 blocks, and 42 free motion quilting designs. 

The piecing techniques are a nice mix of traditional and non-traditional techniques. We’re going to learn how to strip piece, stitch perfect half square triangles and flying geese, and we’ll also learn how to slash stars, and cheat on a Drunkards path!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

On the free motion side, we're going to learn how to use simple shapes and designs to quilt the blocks openly in a soft bed quilt style. The designs might be simple, but they really transform the blocks with a texture that will knock your socks off!

So why have I been working so hard on this right at the end of the year? I had to get it done in time because this quilt pattern is going to be the base for the Building Blocks Quilt Along which will be starting in January!
free motion quilting | Leah Day

Just like the 2012 Free MotionQuilt Along and 2013 Express Your Love Quilt Along, we will be working together to create this quilt in videos posted weekly to the project.

We will begin first piecing a block on the first Monday of the month, and then each Monday after, we will learn how to quilt that block in many different ways. 

Can you tell I’ve been listening to your requests? Whenever I ask quilters what they are most confused by with free motion quilting, the answer is alway:

“How do I pick designs for my quilt? Where should this design go?”

The Building Blocks Quilt Along is designed to help you answer those questions, get lots of experience piecing and quilting, and more confident about picking simple designs to quilt in your quilts.

Now for some specifics:

The quilt blocks measure 8 inch after quilting. We're going to piece 3-4 copies of each block for a total of 42, then put them together to make the quilt.

The finished quilt size is 48" x 56," but if you wanted to make this bigger, all you have to do is cut, piece, and quilt more blocks!

You DO NOT need any special rulers or gizmos for this quilt! You will just need the typical tools for piecing and quilting on your machine. We will use a tiny bit of freezer paper and a tiny bit of french fuse.  

We do have plans for a quilt kit with fabric and thread which will be available in the next few weeks.

The Building BlocksQuilt Pattern is 94 pages (HUGE!) and available only as a digital PDF download. 

 free motion quilting | Leah Day

Simply download, print it out, and make sure to check the note in the Table of Contents on the extra pages you need to print. I’ve included full size templates and cutting guides wherever necessary, as well as all 42 free motion quilting designs in full size diagrams.

One thing is for sure, you’re definitely NOT
going to read “Quilt as desired” in this quilt pattern!

This is also a Quilt-As-You-Go quilt and broken up into blocks which we will quilt individually then put together at the end. This means that no matter what size your sewing machine, you can definitely make this quilt!

Are you as excited about this new Quilt Along as I am? I sure hope so, and I really hope you will join me in January as we being to piece and free motion quilt this skill builder together!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Josh's Quilting Tip #7

Our tip today follows last week's where I discussed the importance of daily practice.

When looking for a quilt block to practice on, I had an idea. Why free motion quilt on a square block? Why not try any scrap shape like a polygon? I'm always seeing random cut up shapes on Leah's table and I was curious why she doesn't quilt on them.

The idea intrigued me, but Leah quickly informed me this wouldn't work. Color me even more intrigued. When I asked why, she said it was something quilters just didn't do. Apparently we quilt on squares or quilt tops. When I heard that, I knew I had try.

I came up with the idea while looking at various scrap fabrics laid out on the table. Some shapes were so wonky it was clear they were just destined for the trashcan. I also thought it would be cool and different to try free motion quilting on an unusual shape.

Here is the shape I chose...

free motion quilting | Leah Day you can see, this didn't work out at all.

I couldn't get comfortable with the piece, no matter what direction I stitched from or how I placed my hands. I even tried marking a spiral shape, but it was a no go. My stitching was all over the place. The piece was simply a disaster on every level.

What I learned: at least for a beginner, you really need a solid shape like a square or rectangle. In the future I do plan on trying to free motion quilt on some type of polygon, but it has to be a solid geometrical shape, not the random mess pictured above.

All in all, it was an interesting experiment, especially hearing Leah's reaction to my initial idea!

Until next week, let's go quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Leah's note: From the sound of this post, I might be headed for a nomination to the Quilting Police! In my defense, I just couldn't understand why Josh would want to quilt a scrap shape - what in the world will you do with it later? 

Also just because Josh couldn't quilt on that random scrap above doesn't mean scraps are totally off limits. You just need to piece them together to make a square or rectangle big enough to hang onto and move smoothly under your needle.

Another bonus of using a square or rectangular shape - they're easier to connect together to turn into something usable. Yes, even practice blocks can be turned into real quilts!

Monday, December 9, 2013

78. Free Motion Quilting Garden Maze, #419

Here's a fun geometric quilting design for this cold winter day!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Garden Maze was inspired by random labyrinth hedge mazes, and after reading more about them, I'm definitely see even more possibilities for new designs. This is also a straight line variation of Foundation Puzzle, so if you'd like to try this with wiggly lines, definitely click here to check out that other design.

Let's learn how to quilt it!

The first step to Garden Maze is to break down the space with straight lines stitched randomly all over your quilting space. I usually ended up with triangles, but really any shape works so long as the lines are straight.

The second step is to echo inside each open space with a straight line spiral. I filled up the space completely with the spiral, then travel stitched to get back out.

However, this isn't the only way you can quilt this design! You can eliminate all the travel stitching by simply leaving more space in the spirals. Don't be afraid to change up the design and make it work for you!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, December 6, 2013

FMQ Friday Link Up

It's Friday and time to link up what we've quilted this week! I admit I've spent far more time on the computer this week than in the sewing room, but the upside to that is the Building Blocks quilt pattern is finished! I'll be handing this off to Josh to edit and double check my numbers, but this will hopefully be going live next week!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now that that major project is off my shoulders, it's time to start shooting videos and quilting like crazy to prepare for the new year. This is always a tough time of the year because James is in and out of school, there's lots of holiday programs to attend, and I can't seem to go a week without sounding croaky or stuffy from some cold.

Somehow this always works out though and I know we're going to kick off to a great start in January. When I did manage to tug myself off the computer, I found Josh quilting this week's design Daisy Echo. It really is a fun design and perfect for a spring / flower themed quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day 

So that's what I've been busy with this week. How about you?

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, December 4, 2013

Tips for Writing a Quilt Pattern

Guess what I'm doing today? Yep, writing!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is my normal writing mode - curled up on the computer with papers spread all over the place (and all over the floor). I like to write in my guest bedroom rather than the office because I seem to focus better when I'm in a room all by myself. Also the natural light in this room is the best in the house, so that probably has something to do with it!

What am I writing? Today I'm working on the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern, which is going to come in somewhere around 65 pages, so I guess I should call it a book rather than a pattern! The rough draft and all the fabric calculations are done, so now I'm just organizing and formatting everything to look good in the final pattern.

Since this is what I'm really doing today, I figured I'd share some tips about writing quilt patterns and the software I use to make cool graphics like these.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This isn't rocket science, but it is a skill that requires some practice and investing in the right software is key.

I guess that should be my first tip - use good software. I used to be stubborn about this and used the Microsoft Works program that came on my computer for free. It was free and it more or less did the job, but it was very limiting. I struggled to place photos and graphics because every time I changed something on page 1, it would alter everything in the whole document.

That program might have been free, but it cost me in other ways: endless headaches and lots of wasted time fiddling with documents that could have been much more easily formatted if I'd invested in the right software to begin with.

Even worse, Works was discontinued a few years ago and suddenly the new computer I bought didn't have it installed. I couldn't open any of my saved documents!

It's taken a few years, and lots of money in compatibility software in order to fix this issue, and it could all have been solved from the beginning if I'd used a paid, upgradable program instead.

So easy solution - if you want to write get some software that will grow with you. These days I'm using Microsoft Word for rough drafts of all my books and patterns, and then if I do the final formatting I use Microsoft Publisher. These aren't super expensive programs, but do cost something (not free), but it's a worthy investment if you're looking to write professionally.

As for the graphic designs, the free Paint program on your computer is not going to cut it! I use Serif Draw Plus for all my graphic design work.

The more common program to use for this work is Adobe Illustrator, and yes, this does cause me some issues when I work with other graphic designers. I really should be using Illustrator, but I find it way too complicated and fiddly (not to mention ridiculously expensive).

Which brings me to my next tip - Learn how to use your software!

Yes, every program has a learning curve and it will take time to learn how to format the text, place photos, align, wrap the text, and so on. Draw plus had a smaller learning curve than Illustrator, but even still it took more than 6 months for me to really get the hang of this program.

The way I look at learning curves these days is like this: the first pattern you write will likely take you 3 times longer than you expect. The first drawing you make will take hours, or even days to complete.

Mostly this length of time will be spent learning how to use the program and figuring out how to get what you want. It will be time consuming and sometimes frustrating and tedious. Stick with it!

So the first thing you try will be time consuming. The second time you'll get a little faster. The third time you'll be even faster. Just like with quilting - each time you repeat these steps you will get more comfortable and confident and the process will get faster.

By the time you're writing your 10th pattern, or creating your 100th graphic image, you will fly through the process because you will have already been there and done that before.

Today I know I can finish the Building Blocks pattern by Friday. 2 years ago this would have taken me another month to complete, 4 years ago I couldn't have created even half of this myself. It's simply a skill to learn and develop over time.

And when it comes to developing skills, here's my last tip: dedicate time to learn. Josh and I recently started allotting 2 hours a week to training so he can learn video editing and graphic design. Before we never really set a dedicated time, and so these skills have never been given proper time and attention to develop.

Thinking more about my issues with Adobe Illustrator, I know I could master this program if I took a class on it. Not only would this enable me to buy the program at the discounted student rate, it would also help me bypass the time consuming, tedious learning phase.

So dedicate a set amount of time to just click around and learn and play each week, or take a class to get the basics under your belt. If you want to write patterns or books, this investment of time and money will most definitely pay off down the road.

Now it's back to Publisher for me as I finish up the formatting for the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern. If all goes well this pattern should be available next week!

Let's go quilt (or write),


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Josh's Quilting Tip #6

For today's beginner tip we'll talk about the absolute most important thing for a beginner to do... practice!
free motion quilting | Leah Day
A great way to practice is to stitch out the new design Leah posts each week.
This is my version of Daisy Echo...far from perfect, but it was a nice way to practice for 10 minutes.
I quilted pretty regularly through October, but the last month has been really busy and I haven't had as much time to practice. After more than a week's hiatus from sitting at the machine, not to mention free motion quilting, I quickly noticed my game was off after a minute or two of stitching.

When you're starting anything new, developing productive habits is crucial in the learning process. I'd forgotten my positioning, the best place to rest my foot against the pedal, and the way I held my hands and how much pressure to apply to the quilt block. The only thing my instinctive memory recalled was the direction I was most comfortable in when stitching.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Leah noticed the decline in workmanship instantly. She suggested free motion quilting every day, for at least half an hour, to master the basics and build your muscle memory. Even if you have to cobble together a block out of scrap fabric, daily free motion quilting is a must in order to get better.

That said, I also found overextending yourself when you're starting out is a not a good thing. For me my absolute limit was two hours per session. Your mileage may vary, but when you find yourself getting tired and frustrated and just wanting to shotgun through a block, it's probably time to step away.

Until next week, let's go quilt!


Monday, December 2, 2013

77. Free Motion Quilting Daisy Echo, #418

It's time to get life back to normal (or as normal as it gets in December) and focus again on quilting! Today I'm missing spring and wishing for warmer weather, so it seems the perfect day to share a design full of cheerful flowers:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This Daisy Echo design was quilted first in the background of Emergence, so this can easily fill into weird areas, or be expanded to fill large sections of background.
free motion quilting | Leah Day

Let's learn how to stitch it!

Hmm...these cheerful flowers are reminding me of the embroidered table runner project I've started, but not yet completed.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This project is from the Craftsy Class Elegant Embroidered Quilts, and once I get the border pieced, I think Daisy Echo will be the perfect design to finish off the background.

It's so nice to have a plan for a project in advance! It definitely makes me want to finish up my computer work quickly so I can...

Go Quilt!


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