The Free Motion Quilting Project: 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Here I Come!

Every year I take a day to stop and look back on the year and take stock of all that has happened. I like to do this because it provides a wonderful record of the year, and helps me keep track.

Yes, I admit the years are starting to blur together and it's hard to remember when things happened. I love the quote from Gretchen Rubin - The days are long, but the years are short. This perfectly describes how time seems to pass both very slowly and way too fast all at the same time!
This has been a big year of change for us. Josh and I started the year filming over 40 videos together for the Building Blocks Quilt Along, something we had never tried before. It was fun, and certainly an interesting way to spend time together, but also challenging. Have you ever tried to teach your husband something you're really good at....and FILM it too?!

Looking back, I think Josh's videos are some of the best we made last year. Josh honestly showed what it looks and feels like to begin free motion quilting, which isn't always pretty! His spoonflower quilt remains my favorite of the two we created.

I love the imperfect stitches and creative way he filled the final blocks. Even though the quilting wasn't perfect, it showed continual improvement through the project, and that was really the whole point.

One major change for our business was the type of business we own. In July we switched from a sole proprietorship in my name to a S-corp shared equally by both Josh and I. While we've always run the business together, making it official did change a few things, mostly in how we communicate (I'm not allowed to get my way all the time) and how we plan new projects (one thing at a time!).

We finally made it to Spring Quilt Market this year and had great success getting our books and DVD distributed by Brewer and available in national catalogs like Connecting Threads and Nancy's Notions. It's so exciting to open a catalog and find our books listed inside! also changed for the business when my dad joined us in June. He has learned loads about quilting too and is my solid "behind the scenes" guy for all fabric prep, cutting, and piecing. I'm amazed at how many tops we've put together this year and I know for a fact that I couldn't have published the new version of How to Piece Perfect Quilts without him.

With Dad's help we not only published that book, we also released the new Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern, our new quilt along pattern for 2015! This new quilt along is all about applique and beautiful free hand, free motion quilting.
I'm excited to be teaching another online quilt along and helping so many people learn about free motion quilting. This quilt is even bigger than last year, making it a great project to fit on a twin to full sized bed, but it's a Quilt-As-You-Go project, so it will still be manageable on a small machine!

The new posts for the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along will start tomorrow, as well as new design posts and videos. I find myself once again dreaming of new textures in thread, and I'm looking forward to demonstrating these new designs in real quilts this year.

Dad and I have also worked together to learn embroidery design and digitizing. This is a new arena for me and I'm super excited about all the possibilities machine embroidery hold.

After five years of teaching teaching quilters to free motion quilt on home sewing machines, I know this technique requires practice, patience, and lots of effort. Learning more about machine embroidery, I find I'm able to digitize beautiful designs so that anyone with an embroidery machine can stitch them easily with the touch of a button. Yes, I love that instant gratification!

I'm especially interested in in-the-hoop projects that combine my love for construction, quilting, beautiful design, gorgeous thread, and functionality all in one go. This is very different from everything I've made before, but so fascinating, I find I'm brimming with ideas for new projects every day.

In 2014 my word for the year was Relax. I believe I accomplished so much, and so many things were able to change in my life because I finally learned how to relax successfully. This might sound odd, but if you're not taught how to do something, even something as simple as relax, you're probably not going to do it properly!

I now start most days with a 30 minute meditation, and have frequent alerts during the day to step away from my computer and take a break.

I've finally overcome the worst of my workaholic tendencies to work when I'm tired, angry, or overwhelmed. I've also learned how to give myself a break and stop being so hard on myself. When life gets challenging, I'm able to adapt and bend with the flow of my life rather than fight against it.

Being able to relax is a gift that has granted me buckets of happiness and contentment. I've been able to challenge my impulses to work constantly and learn how to relax and play again.

For this coming year, I didn't have to concentrate very hard for my word to pop into my head - it's Create. I want to make stuff! I don't even care what it looks like, I just want to dig in and enjoy the process of making new things.

I hope 2015 also finds me letting go of fear. I want to create with abandon, without the fear of messing something up or being imperfect. I also want to find easier ways to create more quickly, and learn how to stop myself from making things unnecessarily complicated or time consuming.
I believe my impulse to create will also lead to trying different crafts. I want to learn how to paint this year and finally let go of my issues with calling myself an "artist." I want to dig into my style and the messages behind my art, and maybe, just maybe, begin selling my art.

These ideas are just dreams right now, but I know that dreams can come true if they are taken seriously, given attention, and pursued with a vengeance. My word is CREATE and I plan to do just that! Come on 2015 - I'm ready go get started!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Safe Space to Play

One of my personal challenges for this coming year is to take more time for art and self expression. I also find I work through difficult emotions or events much more easily when I take the time to draw, paint, or stitch out my feelings.

I also often feel stuck on big projects that are time consuming and easily become boring. I want to feel free to pop off the big projects to work on something small that won't eat up loads of time.

So I've decided to make a quilted journal. Each "page" measures 7 inches with an extra inch on the side so they can eventually be bound together to form a book. I even fed my inner nerd by designing the journal page, then digitizing it so I can easily stitch each page in the hoop of my embroidery machine:

Once I take it out of the machine and trim the fabric around, I just turn it right side out and the journal page is ready to quilt!

This is a personal journal and just a fun exercise in creativity and expression. I'm not going for perfection or even stellar design. I'm trying to give myself a safe space to play.

For the first page I drew a box inside and sketched a girl I've had in my head this week. She's pretty with big eyes and flowing hair - very much in the same style as many of my goddesses. I want to work on faces and expressions more and I'm learning loads by taking two drawing classes on Craftsy - Drawing Facial Features and Drawing Facial Expressions.

When I drew the girl, I had a lot of different things on my mind. I wanted her to look strong, peaceful, and happy because this was the exact opposite of how I was feeling.

The holidays really work on me and I was feeling tired and stressed. Instead of taking a break and relaxing, I began bouncing around other quilting blogs and quickly felt jealous. HOW do they DO IT? I saw beautiful table runners and placemats and cute aprons and felt totally overwhelmed by the amount other people could manage during this time. I would love to be making beautiful things too, but WHERE IS THE TIME?

My jealousy was ugly and it made me feel terrible. I rarely feel jealous because it's such a pointless emotion. When I do feel it, I read it as a sign that I need to stop looking at what other people are doing and go quilt myself. It's often a sign that my creativity is being stifled.

Picking up this little journal piece, I realized I had space to quilt text around the goddess face. She's so pretty, I wanted the words to be something nice. I first started with "Jealousy is ugly" but that didn't seem to fit. Instead I went with "Jealousy is not Pretty." I think this is the perfect little reminder about that particular emotion.
Of course in the process of making this little piece and flexing my creativity, I was able to let go of those ugly jealous feelings and feel good about myself again.

I believe in my heart that there is enough room for ALL of us to succeed, make gorgeous quilts, and design beautiful things. There is enough for EVERYONE.

Instead of focusing so hard on what everyone else is doing and comparing myself negatively, I want to feel happy, supportive, and kind. I don't have time or the space in my heart for an ugly emotion like jealousy. This little piece is a reminder of that.

I'm planning to add a bit more to this piece, to maybe paint her hair, and play with different thread colors over her face and background. This is an open space to play, but I admit I'm feeling a bit afraid of messing it up completely.

Hopefully this journal quilt project will accomplish two things - give me a vehicle for self expression, and force me out of my comfort zone to try new things. Even if I screw this piece up completely, I'll have learned something and isn't that the whole point?!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Double Edge Sword of Sequential Quilt Alongs

You know I'm starting something interesting with that title! Yes, last year our Building Blocks Quilt Along (BBQA) was an amazing experience of teaching and connecting with quilter's around the world.

I began sharing posts on Monday, then Josh followed up with his take on Tuesday (you can find ALL the posts in order here), and we both participated in answering questions and sharing photos on the super active Building Blocks Facebook Group.

The interaction has been terrific and we've met so many amazing quilters and seen first hand how many people have transformed their abilities through this project. It really took my dream of online teaching to a new level!

But around July many people dropped out...attention began to wane...and we became very aware of the potential negative consequence of focusing so completely on one single project. By October we doubled the speed of the posting, but we both felt like we were beating a dead horse. I can see clearly from the numbers of video views - the final videos of the Building Blocks Quilt Along were hardly watched.

As you might imagine, this is intensely frustrating. It was a huge amount of work to piece and quilt each block on video, and to have barely 300 views means that video was a dog before it was even uploaded.

So sequential quilt alongs have an inherent double edge sword. The upside is it generates wonderful camaraderie and excitement in the quilters starting from the very beginning.

The downside is many quilters didn't find the project until halfway through and either didn't want to start late, or didn't like feeling guilty for being behind. Many people also lose steam in the summer and then feel guilty starting back and again, the feeling of being behind everyone else is no fun.
I battled with this issue all through the fall and wanted to sort out a new way to share the videos and information in the next quilt along. Our Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along (DBQA) launched this month to great reception, this time with ALL the videos included so everyone can work at their own pace.

But the downside to sharing the pattern this way has been less excitement and anticipation. Instead quilters are reporting feeling disconnected and less enthusiastic about the project. I really can't win!

So after a great debate with Josh and several questions posted to the Dancing Butterfly Facebook Group, we've decided to return to the idea of sequential posts. Each Monday I will share tips on the free motion quilting designs featured in the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern.

We're planning to post fun articles with tips and tricks for using the designs as well as beautiful photos from the Dancing Butterfly Facebook Group. I will not be sharing new videos since all of the videos are already included in this pattern, but we will share new ideas and perspectives that crop up along the way of creating this quilt.

Ultimately this has been another learning curve in our great journey of online learning and teaching. We're constantly trying new things and figuring out what works and what doesn't. Lesson learned and new posts will begin January 1st!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Progress on Duchess Reigns

Yesterday I clicked on the space heater in my sewing room, turned on an awesome audiobook, sat down and returned to quilting Duchess Reigns after more than 18 months on a shelf.

The progress is still excruciatingly slow. The density of this quilt requires travel stitching over certain spaces 3-4 times, which builds the thread so it looks beautiful, but the thread can easily break once the area gets too thick. In one space I counted over 20 thread breaks. It began feeling like I was breaking thread every 50 stitches or so, which is SO annoying!

The progress is slow, but snapping photos like this allows me to see how much progress I made in one day. It's easy to get bogged down with a quilt like this and I think documenting every victory is important. I'm going to start snapping more photos with each ray space completed just so I'm able to see that progress is being made.
So yes, it's still tedious and boring, two of the reasons why I quit working on it. But now I can see the light in the tunnel and I know if I stick with it, I could knock her out in a few days or weeks of steady effort.

The quilt also FEELS easier to quilt now that I've switched to the Juki TL2010Q. I never realized just how contorted my body had to be to quilt on my other machines. Now that I can actually see all around the needle, this feels so much easier to see what I'm doing as I fill each space.

Visibility is one of those things I just didn't take much notice of before, but it's definitely making a difference in my attitude and how my body feels after several hours of quilting!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, December 26, 2014

Coming off the Christmas Cliff

Ahh....Christmas is over! Yes, that was a sigh of relief, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The holidays are overwhelming and stressful and the big day of Christmas always looms in my head like a massive mountain that blocks my vision in all directions.

No matter how well I plan or how chill I try to be, the lead up to the big day is always a mess of stress. This year we added a vacation to the beach the week before Christmas and that made things even more complicated!
But now it's the 26th and I'm sliding off the Christmas cliff and taking stock of what remains of this year and what I'd like to do with these last few precious days.

Because the holidays are so huge and overwhelming, I never plan anything during this time. I leave the whole last week of the year wide open so when we get here it feels wonderfully open and free. I can work on anything!

I have many quilts calling my name, but the one I'm most excited to get back to is Duchess Reigns. I put her on the wall at the beginning of December and I'm finally ready to finish this quilt. It's not going to finish the way the left side looks - that's too boring to even contemplate. Instead I'm going to let my freak flag fly and quilt whatever I feel like in the right side.

No, she won't be symmetrical or perfect or probably even show worthy, but she will be MORE than all of those things to me. I'm actually excited to get back to this, which is surprizing since I haven't touched this quilt in more than 18 months.

I'm excited because I finally feel ready to let go of the drive for perfection and symmetry and embrace a new idea - that creativity needs to flow spontaneously and freely and I should quilt how I FEEL like quilting that day, with no obsessive worry about what it will look like, or worse, what everyone else will think.

So that is what I'm easing into as I slide off the Christmas cliff and into these quiet, chill weeks before we jump into 2015. I don't expect to finish all the quilting, but I do plan to take out a massive chunk of it in a very creative, unique way!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Quilting Feathers on Christmas Eve

Yesterday we drove back from vacation, unpacked the car, and everyone found a different spot in the house to chill, be quiet, and alone. I found myself in my sewing room, slid the door shut, flicked on the space heater, and got lost in beautiful feathers on the Dream Goddess quilt.

For this quilt I felt completely drawn to feathers and circles. I decided not to question or try to make this more complicated than it needed to be. I just allowed the circles to circle and the feathers to flow exactly where they wanted to go.

So here's a not-so-quick casual cam about the feathers in this quilt:

Hopefully you can see that no matter what direction I stitch the feathers in, I always form them the same way, traveling along the back side of the feather and swirling out to form the next. Keep in mind there are hundreds of ways to quilt feathers!

I had loads of fun shooting this yesterday and I hope it inspires you to try feathers soon too! Make sure to post any questions you have about this quilt in the comments below.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Recipe Blog Blitz

It's the week before Christmas and all over the place, you can find holiday cookies to stuff in your face!

Today I'm participating in Sew Cal Gal's awesome Holiday Recipe Blog Blitz. This is a group of nine quilting blogs who are all sharing an awesome recipe today as well as a fun quilting tip. Make sure to check out all the blogs at the end of the post so you can get loads of cool recipes to try this week!

I've decided to share my family recipe for Cranberry Bars. These are delicious and, thanks to the cranberry, have a subtle feeling of being good for you, so I always feel less guilty when I eat an entire plate of them in one go.

The best thing about these cookies is they are bars, which means you can always double your yield by cutting them into smaller rectangles or squares, and they store amazingly well. You can also change up the flavors by using jam or preserves instead of cranberry to try different flavors. I've tried this with apricot jam and it was wonderful!

Cranberry Bars Recipe:

1 1/2 c. unbleached, all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. quick oats
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. shredded lemon peel
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. butter, melted
1 16oz can of cranberry sauce
1/4c. pecans, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl stir together flour, oats, sugar, lemon peel, and baking soda. Stir in butter and mix thoroughly. Pat mixture into an ungreased 12 x 7.5" baking pan, reserving 1 cup for topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Carefully spread cranberry sauce on top of crust. Stir nuts into reserved topping. Sprinkle evenly over the cranberry sauce.

Bake 25 - 30 minutes until top is golden. Cool in the pan and cut into 1 inch bars.

Sew Cal Gal was super sweet to format this into a cute card which will be easy to print and enjoy!

Now for a quilting tip...hmmm...I'm on vacation right now and about as far from quilting anything as I can possibly be. But when we get home, I'm going to hit the machines to work on two projects exclusively through the end of the year.

During the last two weeks of the year I like to dig through my sewing room and pull out my major UFOs - Unfinished Fabric Objects - and figure out what they need and how much time they will take to finish.

I think it's good to take a yearly inventory and ask yourself honestly if you really WANT to finish that project. The switch to a new year is a great time to drop what doesn't serve you. If you have a project that is just mired in muck - LET. IT. GO.

Don't wrap yourself in shame or regret or guilt about a project that just isn't your thing anymore. Let it go, pass it on to someone else who can finish it, or donate it to a quilt charity that will finish it and pass it on to comfort someone else.

It's not much of a quilting tip, but it might help you start the year with a lighter load and a happier heart.

Now for a list of the other blogs where you can find more fun holiday recipes today!

Bea Lee (Beaquilter) -

SewCalGal –

Stitch This (Martingale) –

Wendy Sheppard  (Ivory Spring) -

Marjorie Busby (Blue Feather Quilt Studio) -

Jeannette Jones (Inchworm Fabrics) -

Barb Gaddy (Bejeweled Quilts) -

Behind The Mouse – The Electric Quilt Blog -

Enjoy all these great recipes and have a wonderful time celebrating this joyful season!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to Clean and Oil Your Machine

This week I've been quilting like crazy on the new Dream Goddess quilt and realized it was a great time to share a new video on how I maintain my machines.

After I empty 2 bobbins of thread, I stop, brush out the bobbin area, oil the machine, and change the needle. This habit keeps my machines working properly and my stitches looking great, no matter how much I'm quilting.

I learned to maintain my machines this way after sewing 60 - 80 garments a week back in 2005. Doing that level of volume and using very linty thread created loads of dust and lint build up in my machines. After I destroyed two machines (literally locked up the bobbin area with lint) I learned to stop and brush out the machine often.

Changing needles is also something I do often. In fact, if any stitch issue crops up, my first default is to change my needle, even if I JUST changed it yesterday, or an hour ago. A dull or slightly bent needle can create loads of issues, thread breaks, and ugly stitches.

Just in case you're wondering about my machine, I'm now quilting full time on the Juki TL-2010Q. I've been quilting on this machine since August and have found it to be solid, reliable, and the added visibility around the needle has made quilting much easier on my neck and back.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dancing Butterfly Rainbow Colorway

It's been 14 days since we launched the new Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern and the major issue that everyone seems to have is picking fabric colors. After a bit of tinkering with EQ7 I came up with this rainbow colorway this morning:

Dancing Butterfly Quilt Rainbow colorway

I'm still sticking with Island Batik fabrics because I can easily design with them in EQ7 and the fabric colors are coming out very accurate to what you could expect in your finished quilt.

For this layout the butterfly background colors are two soft neutrals - Island Batik Copper (light brown) and Butter (cream). After setting these colors I started thinking about more bold contrast like white and black or black and red, so that might be another color way to try next!

For the design blocks and butterflies, I decided to use the entire rainbow to make it super bright and colorful. The colors used above are Island Batik Candy, Nasturtium, Daffodil, Apple, Waterfall, and Wisteria.

The key I find to working with lots of colors is to be generous with yourself - allow yourself to try any color combination you can think of, but try not to debate the merits of one over the other (that can trigger the regret from the Paradox of Choice).

Instead look at this as a fun experiment in creativity - how many possible colorways could you create? Have fun and be adventurous!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, December 12, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

A few weeks ago my friend Patsy Thompson emailed to ask if I wanted to participate in this Around the World Blog Hop which shares about what we're working on and what inspires us. Make sure to check out Patsy's post here to see what she's working on too!

1. What you're working on?
I pretty much always have multiple quilts in progress, both projects for myself and quilts I'm creating for patterns, books, and DVDs. Just yesterday I began cutting into my huge collection of food fabrics to create a cool crazy quilt I've had in mind for years:
 When creating a new pattern, I always spend a few days and a few yards of fabric planning and testing out different ideas. This particular quilt could be made in several different ways, but some methods are more complicated than others. These days I'm all about making life SIMPLE so I often ask my dad and my husband Josh to weigh in with their opinion about the simplest construction method.
Also on the design board are several new quilts designed exclusively from precut fabrics. I've finally caught the precut addiction and I'm enjoying the challenge of designing with specific cuts of fabric. 
Yes, precut fabrics are pretty simple, and for the longest time I didn't want to design with them because I felt my quilts needed to be complicated in order to be valuable. It took working through the Building Blocks Quilt Along to learn that simple is better. If I want to be a good teacher, I need to simplify, be able to explain the steps clearly and streamline the process so it's fun and interesting for the quilters that want to make the pattern.
The quilts I make for myself have also gone through a change and I'm in an interesting spot to be able to see this. On my dining room wall I've hung Duchess Reigns - basically the queen quilt of complication!
She's definitely pretty, but I can't stand the idea of quilting ANOTHER two border corners in this intense, super dense, super time consuming, super BORING way. I've hung her on the wall to determine if I can change the two remaining corner designs, and if I can, how that will effect the rest of the quilt.
Yes, a design change at this stage will be very noticeable, but I'm okay with that. I realized looking at this quilt for the past two days that I cannot finish her if I continue filling the same way. I must change the design, or simply chuck the quilt in the trash and never finish it. I've decided to make a change and use this quilt as a visual example of growth and my changing mentality.

No, I don't mind that she won't be perfect or even symmetrical when finished. I would rather see her finished and ENJOY the process of quilting the rest of this design rather than the alternative.

I also have been working on a new Dream Goddess that really expands on my new ideals - simple, easy construction, bold color, big quilting designs.

This quilt, I can already tell, will be so much easier to quilt and so much more interesting. Right now she's ready to be layered with batting and quilted with water soluble thread for trapunto. I'm hoping to tackle this next week and have her ready to clip while we're on vacation. I LOVE clipping batting! It's one of the weirdest things, but I find it super relaxing and very easy to do. I just wish I had more quilts that needed it!

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre? 
I'm not really sure how to answer this one. I believe all quilters have a distinctive mark / style that comes through no matter what type of quilt they are making. I know I can recognize one of Patsy's quilts a mile away because of her use of beautiful dyed fabrics and intense quilting.
I make quilts that feature loads of filler designs because designing new fillers is what I do! I love picking designs that accent the overall design, but also add their own unique texture to the quilt. You can easily spice up a border, or transform a boring background just by using the right design and the right thread color.
But that's another thing - I don't think there's ever a single right answer. Multiple designs can work in any given space, and this sometimes makes it hard to choose which designs to use. After reading the Paradox of Choice, I'm much more willing to go with my first choice, whatever first pops into my head, rather than debating and testing multiple designs.
If I pick wrong - if I'm not happy with the fabric color or the thread color or the quilting design I've learned to just accept it and move on. Why agonize about it? So what - I made a bad choice! There are so many more quilts I want to make and so much more experience just waiting around the corner.
This little 7 inch quilt is a little experiment I'm calling You Can Do A Lot With 7 Inches. I'm giving myself permission to play and experiment with small squares. You can actually learn a lot with a small amount of fabric, and it's not so time or fabric consuming that it feels wasteful.
So maybe that is one way I'm different - I make all kinds of quilts: traditional, modern, art, elaborate, simple, bed quilts, and wall hangings. I refuse to be pigeon-holed into one set style. I will try ANYTHING once.
3. Why do you write/create what you do? 
I write patterns and shoot videos because I'm an online quilting teacher. Yes, I do occasionally teach in person, but for the most part, I teach online to reach the greatest number of people with the least amount of effort.
Does that sound bad - least amount of effort? I don't think so. I can sit down this morning and shoot a video in 15 minutes. Josh will edit that video and upload it to YouTube and most will reach 1,000 views in just a few days.
Contrast that with teaching in person - I can teach 25 people comfortably in a 6 hour workshop. I'd have to teach 40 workshops to reach 1,000 quilters. That is 40 days away from my son and my sewing room, with the whole day focused on teaching. It's definitely fun, but also exhausting!

So that's why I teach online - it's the most efficient use of my time. I can teach and share what I'm doing, but it doesn't disrupt my whole day.
4. How does your writing/creating process work?
All of my quilts start with an idea or inspiration. My goddess quilts all start with a theme or image in my head. Even my simple precut quilts start with some weird thought like - how many 2.5 inch squares can I cut from a jelly roll?
I've learned to follow these ideas, even if it means wasting fabric or drawing a design in the middle of the night. When I ignore them they keep popping into my head again and distracting me. The rest of the process of designing is kind of like putting a puzzle together. I begin working on the design and fitting the pieces together. When something doesn't work, I remove it and try again.
I've been working on this goddess design for several months and it's still not right. That's a sign that either I'm not ready to make the quilt or it just needs more time. I used to try to rush this process and learned the hard way that rushing is absolutely pointless and usually results in a disappointing quilt.
Frequently a quilt will get stuck or snagged on one issue or another. It's a sign to put it away for awhile and focus on what is in progress. I don't mind putting a design away for several months or years and returning to it with a new perspective and more ability later. 
As for the mechanics of design - I first sketch on paper, then scan the drawing into my computer and use Serif Draw Plus to draw the lines and add more elements. If any part of the design will be symmetrical it's far easier to have the computer program copy, paste, and align the elements rather than try to do it all on paper.
Designing in a computer program also allows me to pick the size of the finished quilt. I resize the drawing the the finished quilt size and print it out to create a master pattern. That method has worked great for all my goddess / show quilts for the past few years.
For more traditional quilts I've started using EQ7, which I learned this summer from Barb Vlack at AQS Charlotte. This program is far more complicated and not super intuitive, but once you get the hang of it, it's really awesome!
Most of the simple quilts I create for patterns and books are very basic, but I often get snagged if small details begin to cascade into greater and greater complication. When I feel undecided, I ask Josh for advice. Josh has two wonderful default answers ready for me at all times - "It looks great!" and "Go with the simpler / easier choice."
Don't get me wrong, he's not yes-manning me. When Josh doesn't like what I'm making, he tells me straight up - Those are not my colors, I can't help you. I believe those were his exact words with the Dancing Butterfly Quilt!
We're a good team because I'm usually focused on the appearance and design, while Josh is always focused on how many pages this fiddly technique will add to the pattern and how complicated it will be to describe. He's far more practical and less emotional about design. If there isn't enough fabric to add a border - don't add a border! Keep it simple!
Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don't. Josh enjoys reminding me of the times I got stubborn and didn't listen to his sage advice. The most complicated 8th block in Building Blocks? Yep, Josh advised against it. That block just about gave me an ulcer, so yes, again, he was right!
Working with my family is one of the most unexpected and wonderful things about my business. Many people give me all the credit for the videos, blog posts, and quilts. Apart from show quilts that I create entirely myself, all of my projects are created from a team effort.
I really love working with my dad and Josh every day. We make a great team and I honestly couldn't have published a book, and mega quilt along pattern, and blogged steadily through the last three months without them.

So that is me and this is how I work! I've really enjoyed sharing my process today and please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments below.

I was invited to join in the Around the World Blog Hop from the amazing and inspirational Patsy Thompson, but unfortunately I couldn't find anyone to pass the blog hop to next. Next week is the week before Christmas after all, so I think it's just a super busy time of the year. If you'd like to pick up the thread of this blog hop, just answer the same questions on your blog in a post next week!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

Leah's Casual Cam - Selling Sewing Machines on Ebay

I've had it! I've reached the breaking point with my studio where I am officially OUT OF SPACE something has to go! I've decided on a double attack - sewing machines and fabric stash - both are going to be seriously downsized.

So this week I'm selling all of my extra machines on Ebay. You can check out the listings here, and watch this casual cam video we shot as I was getting them ready for shipping:

A few tips for selling machines on Ebay:

1. Thoroughly brush out the machine and check for any defects - Make note of scratches, discoloration, cracks, chips - anything that signals the machine is not brand new needs to be included in the listing.

2. Collect all the feet and supplies - It's easy to odds and ends like the machine cover and manual if you've owned it for a few years. Try to find every piece, and if you've added to the machine with extra feet or tools, make sure to find them all, including the original boxes if you have them. Extra feet and bobbins can really make a big difference when Ebaying an older machine.
3. Take good photos. Get several close up shots of the machines and all the hardware that's coming with them. I've purchased many machines just based on the number of extra feet and special supplies that came with it.

4. Calculate shipping and decide on your policies - Shipping can be really expensive, especially on a heavy item like a sewing machine. Offering free shipping can certainly stimulate bids, but it can also eat into the profit of selling the machine. You'll also need to mention which method you prefer to be paid and how quickly - within 3 days of auction end is fairly standard.

5. Determine your starting price - This is tricky and I've messed up more than once. It's a good idea to make the starting bid a bit low for the machine value so you're sure to sell the item. However, you don't want to start so low you're not comfortable selling the machine at that price.

Just ask yourself what is the minimum you'd like to get for the machine and that's usually a good place to start. If the machine doesn't sell, that's a sign that the price is a bit too high and you should come down a bit.

So that's it for my Ebay selling tips! If you're in the market for a new machine or serger, definitely check out my listings here.

Tomorrow I'm going to bust out my stash and begin boxing up auctions of fabric and scraps. I can't wait to send all this stuff off and be able to SEE my studio again instead of all this clutter!

Let's go quilt,


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Why Snow Globes Make Me Sad

Yep, it's that snow globe time of the year when every mantle has a snow-filled wonderland of glass and water. For years I've avoided snow globes, ignored them when I saw them in stores, looked the other way when I spotted one at a friend's house, or feigned nonchalance when someone handed me one to shake and enjoy.

Snow globes make me sad because of a particularly painful childhood memory that I'd like to share today. This is a shameful memory where I behaved badly, probably my worst, and paid the price in more than one way.

So I understand if you don't want your holiday spirit diminished and would rather read about designs or check out the latest posts to our new Facebook group.

Ultimately, I do have a positive spin on this memory, but first I have to reveal something very ugly about myself - I have a terrible temper.

When I get angry, I lose it, and not in a pretty way. My ears ring and my hands shake and my big mouth opens and all sorts of ugly things fly out of it and I have absolutely no control over what I say. It's shameful to admit, but my temper has lost me more than one friendship, and ruined many otherwise fun experiences.

The one redeeming feature is I very rarely lose my temper. I'm not a rage-aholic and I hate to fight, though I'm not afraid of confrontation. I'm not a super angry person who picks fights. I live very peacefully and happily, but when my buttons are pushed beyond limit - watch out!

My most over the top example of my temper in action - I flew back from Denver to Charlotte after shooting two Craftsy classes back to back. I'd been gone nine days, which to me is an eternity. I just wanted to get home, get back to my family, and rest. I was utterly exhausted.

But my truck was parked in long term lot 4 which was rarely used by the airport and no buses were signaling they were taking people to that lot. There wasn't an attendant on duty and no one to ask what to do. I began asking the bus drivers as they stopped and they kept telling me different things - lot 2 buses were also doing 4. No, Lot 1 buses were also going to 4. And so on. This went on for more than 30 minutes and I was beginning to wonder if ANYONE would EVER take me to my truck!

I should add that my largest, heaviest suitcase had broken so I couldn't move without banging my legs on the suitcase or knocking into the second suitcase or laptop case. It was a nightmare of unmanageably and frustration.

Finally, a bus picked me up. Finally, I got to the lot. I could SEE my truck! I was so close! I stepped off the bus and tripped over my broken suitcase. The bus pulled away and I tripped again as my laptop case swung and threw me off balance and I crashed into my other suitcase.

I felt like I smashed every bone in my body and that was IT! I'd had ENOUGH! I SCREAMED many terrible, very, very bad words right in the middle of the lot. I pounded my fists on the bag and just lost it in a tantrum that would have looked perfectly normal... if I were three years old.

It would have been so nice to have been all alone for that moment, it wouldn't have mattered that I screamed a string of profanity that would make my grandma faint. No such luck. Two middle aged guys in a big truck had been on the bus too and gotten off a stop ahead of me and watched as I flew into an almighty rage. As they pulled out around me, they just stared and stared. Yep, there's the crazy girl loosing her shit all over long term lot 4.

So that's how I lose it. Completely. Absolutely. No-holds-barred crazy.

Now you know how completely I can mutate from a normal blonde to the Incredible Hulk, this story might make more sense. We have a bit of perspective.

Now for why snow globes make me sad:

I was around ten years old when my mom bought a snow globe. It was Rudolph the reindeer and probably played that song too, I don't remember. I do remember absolutely, positively loving this thing.

I'd seen snow globes before in movies, but I'd never seen one in a store and certainly never dreamed of owning one. They were so amazing! A little world trapped in a glass ball that played music and snowed. What's not to love?

I adored this snow globe. I remember hopping off the bus and running inside to give it a shake and wind the music box. I remember staring at it forever just watching the snow fall. I wasn't really into Rudolph or Santa, but I loved that globe and found watching the snow very relaxing.

I'm a sucker for special Christmas ornaments. Growing up we had a cool metal lantern that would spin quickly if you lit four candles. I loved to put it together and watch it move. My great aunt had an even bigger version made of wood, but she never lit the candles while I visited. I loved the magical nature of these ornaments and decorations, and because they only came out once a year, that made them all the more special.

Side note - I've actually kept electric, moving Christmas ornaments since 4th grade and this was the first year I figured out how to get them to work with newer light strands! To celebrate, I found another on Ebay and have decided to start collecting them - one per year from here on out.

Yes, I know the holidays are more than pretty decorations and ornaments, but to me, these things make this time very special. There is a magic of wonder and beauty that I find in moving ornaments, and it helps me tap into my childhood feelings of excitement and gratitude.

Of course, there's a bad side to this story. You can't love an object as much as I loved that snow globe and not risk your heart (and your terrible temper) every time someone touches it. The downside to snow globes - they are very breakable.

Rudolph only survived a few weeks in our house. My mom's friend, let's call her Diana, came over with her two daughters, Ashley and Jessica (also false names), who were probably eight and six at the time. We often played together while our mothers binge-drank cheap boxes of wine and complained on long evenings together.

Looking back, I think Diana was a large source of my mother's alcoholism, and I blame her for stirring up much of my mother's anger and resentment. Even at ten, I knew my mother wasn't the same person after a day or evening hanging out with Diana.

So Mom and Diana decided to leave four kids in the house, my older sister who was twelve, me, Ashley and Jessica. They took off and left us alone for more than four hours. To this day I don't know where they went or what they were doing. What I do know - leaving four children (and yes, I consider even a twelve year old still a CHILD) is an extremely irresponsible, stupid thing to do.

To make a long story short - Ashley was holding the Rudolph snow globe and dropped it against a table. The glass shattered and water and snow bits went everywhere. The mess was nothing to my smashed heart. My absolute favorite decoration, full of wonder and beauty was now in a million pieces.

I think I could probably have held myself together if Ashley hadn't laughed. She let out a giggle - seriously a GIGGLE - that just... undid me.

Looking back, I don't think she meant to laugh, and I don't think she meant to smash our family snow globe. I think the laugh was some weird reflex of nervousness or her way of trying to make light of the situation. My ten year old mind didn't have any of that experience - I heard a laugh and I interpreted that she thought it was funny and cute to have smashed our snow globe.

You already know how I can lose it. This day, however, made my screaming tantrum in long term lot 4 look like a sonar ping in comparison. This was the worst, ugliest and destructive demonstration of my temper I can recall. 

But this time I didn't scream or yell or cry. I didn't learn how to show my anger in more healthy ways until much later. Instead I tore that little girl apart with words, verbally flayed her piece by piece. I explained to Ashley in exacting detail how much I absolutely hated her and wished her extreme pain. With no adults to referee the situation I had nowhere to go and no experience to guide me.

My anger stayed constant all day. I lashed out continually with passive aggressive comments designed to make Ashley feel small, ugly, and unwanted. Eventually she gave up trying to make it up to me and ran to hide in her mother's car and cried. For hours.

I can remember feeling bad about this even as it was happening. I can remember being sad that Ashley was crying, but feeling so gripped by anger that I couldn't control. A pit of shame and guilt was already blooming in my chest, but I couldn't turn it off. It was like I had no control over my mouth after hearing Ashley's giggle.

So this is the storm my mom and Diana returned to. Mom was instantly on my case - How DARE you treat Ashley like that?! Diana doesn't NEED this right now!

Diana took it in a totally different way. She collected her daughters and left, but returned later that evening with a new snow globe, including the receipt, and left it on our back porch because we weren't home. I remember pulling it out of the bag and feeling that deep, black pit of shame and guilt grow deeper and deeper.

I was called out repeatedly, wrote a letter of apology to Ashley, and shamed beyond belief for my display of temper. For the entire rest of the season I was repeatedly reminded that I'd behaved terribly and that Diana didn't have the money for that replacement snow globe.

My parents paid her back, but they wouldn't drop it. Even years later my mom would bring it up and remind me again how terrible I was. It didn't matter how many times I tried to explain or apologize, my actions that day were never to be forgiven or forgotten.

In short - this experience ruined my Christmas that year, and every time I've ever laid eyes on a snow globe, I feel again that wave of guilt and shame. I can't look at the swirling snow without remembering how badly I lost my temper, the mean things I said, and the little girl I hurt.

Of course, I have a very different perspective on this whole situation as an adult. At thirty-one, I have two decades more experience with my temper, my mother, and women in general. I also have a lot more perspective on the whole ordeal, and that makes the greatest difference in the world.

I know that I would never leave four children alone like that, not for any length of time. I think my mother and Diana were incredibly irresponsible, and I now question what they were doing and why they were gone so long - two questions I didn't think to ask as a child.

My best guess is they went to lunch and drank and complained together for four hours. This holds with their usual pattern of behavior and would explain why mom came home and immediately jumped down my throat - she felt guilty for her behavior and needed someone to blame.

Had there been adults home, the whole situation would have been different. Heck, the snow globe might not have even broken if an intelligent adult had realized it wasn't a good item to have out with smaller children in the house.

Even if it had been smashed, if a responsible adult had been home, I would have asked to play alone and been able to get away from Ashley and calm down without hurting her. Without any authority present, I felt like I had to keep a show of playing with the two other children, even though I really just wanted to escape the situation and cry.

Finally, when my son misbehaves, I punish him, but when it's over I remind him that I love him and he's an inherently good boy. I do not rehash all the ways he's disappointed or embarrassed me. I don't remind him of how bad he was or how terribly he acted. Shame and guilt are disgusting weapons to use on a child.

Really this whole post has been about James. James and I were at Lowes last week and he caught sight of a snow globe for the first time. The wonder and majesty of it caught him at seven just like it bewitched me at ten. I saw him light up completely and remembered how that felt too.

So this year I'm releasing this story, all the guilt and shame of it, and finally forgiving myself for what happened. Really, that's all that's left now. The only reason I can't enjoy a snow globe as an adult is I haven't let myself let it go.

Yes, I regret how I acted, but it's time to stop regretting and feeling guilty. This happened twenty-one years ago! I need to let this go and forgive myself.

Thankfully my sweet little boy is helping me. James earned some money helping with yard work and yesterday we went back to Lowes and looked at all the holiday decorations. We looked at lights and ornaments, wreathes and stuffed animals, and finally ran across the snow globes again. He picked one out and we brought it home.

Our new snow globe is a simple car with a Christmas tree on top and it plays Oh Christmas Tree when the music box is wound. It's sweet and small and fits into my seven year old's hands just perfectly.

Seeing James love this snow globe is so helpful to me. I see his joy and I'm reminded how that felt and slowly I'm allowing myself to tap back into it. What I'm trying to undo is my mother's deep-coded message in my psyche that I don't deserve another snow globe, that I should never, ever enjoy that again because of how I acted that one day so long ago.

When I hold this new snow globe and give it a shake, I remind myself again that mistakes happen and it's okay to hold this beautiful ornament and enjoy playing with it. This snow globe might get smashed to bits, but I know for sure I will handle it far better now.

Everyone deserves beautiful, special things. It's okay to have a temper and be imperfect. It's okay. It's okay to forgive the darkest, most shameful experiences because no one else can do it for you. We all deserve forgiveness, especially from ourselves.

Release and forgiveness can happen whenever you choose, and I think our culture lacks rituals for releasing guilt and shame. So what if I combine my desire for forgiveness and my love for beautiful, magical snow globes?

From now on when I see a snow globe and give it a shake, I'm going to close my eyes and think about something I've been holding on to - some memory that I hold regret - and I'm going to whisper "I forgive you" and open my eyes and watch the snow swirl around.

I think we need more rituals like this worked into every day life that encourage forgiveness and release. I wonder - if I whisper this every day for an entire year, what kind of change will I create in my life?

Give yourself a hug today, forgiveness is a blessing.

Leah Day

Friday, December 5, 2014

You Can Do a Lot With 7 Inches

I've been busy quilting the last few days, experimenting with new ideas and techniques and having lots of fun with feathers!

I'm teaching a new class - Fill With Feathers: Blocks, Sashing, Borders at MQX East (yes, there is still space available!) this spring and I'm digging in and finally allowing myself to fully and completely explore this very fun design.

I've also been playing with some different ideas in a 7 inch square. I'm aiming to create mini art pieces, with the idea that success or failure really doesn't matter. It's not enough fabric to get worked up about if I mess up, and it's small enough I can conceivably quilt one square in a few hours.

I like to call this little project - You Can Do a Lot With 7 Inches. LOL! I love that title. Josh thinks it's a bit inappropriate, but I need to keep this light and silly. This series is a way for me to warm up, experiment, try new things, find what works, and find what flops.

This first one was a fun experiment with trapunto, playing with different types of batting, and different filler designs around the heart shape. I sketched this out with a marking pencil really roughly, trapuntoed the heart and background shapes, then layered with more batting and backing and went to town with different filler designs.

At the moment, I consider this a flop because it finished so dark. I think it needs paint or beads or something to add some bling and make the heart stand out better. The other nice thing about this little series is they're so small I can actually try out ideas like this and it not be some mega month long commitment.

 Another thing I need to work out - how to bind these little quilts. I want the binding to form a rolled edge so only the right side of the quilt shows with no border around the edges. For this piece I did a pillowcase bind, but the back fabric wasn't tight enough and some of it shows around the edges.

Yes, this is me being nit picky, but I'm not satisfied. It's tough to bind a block so small, but I'm determined to find an easy way to do this that produces a really nice finish. I'm off to experiment some more!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Leah's Casual Cam - Feather Blocks and Quilting Experiments

Today I'm designing feather blocks, experimenting with new ideas, and hanging out with Filbert my filter. Yep, you did just read that right. See it all in this video:

I'm off to stitch more feathers!


Monday, December 1, 2014

New Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern

It's finally here! I feel like I've been pregnant for the past 9 months and now I'm finally ready to release this baby to the world!

This is the new Dancing Butterfly Quilt, a beautiful combination of butterfly quilt blocks and open design blocks that will transform your abilities for applique and free motion quilting.
This will be our next free motion quilt along starting in January! This quilt along is going to be a bit different from the Building Blocks Quilt Along. Here's how it works:
1. Buy a copy of the pattern.This link will send you to the download pattern which includes links to all 49 videos in the pattern. You can watch the videos online or download them to your computer.

We will also have a print version of the pattern available around December 10th. The print version will include links to access the videos, but you will have to have an internet connection to watch and download the videos.

2. Read and watch the videos included in the pattern. This pattern comes with over 40 videos linked within the pages so you can see each step demonstrated as you work block by block through the quilt. Interact and have fun! Ask questions, post photos, and share your experience in the Dancing Butterfly Facebook Group. Everyone is free to work at their own pace with this project, so you will see photos and questions from all sections of the pattern.

As you can tell, this project is more self-directed and not sequential like our previous quilt alongs. The reason is simple - last year I joined a weekly art group and quickly fell behind. I felt enormously guilty and frustrated and eventually just dropped out of the group rather than struggle to catch up.

After that, I realized I never wanted to create that experience for anyone else. So this quilt along is much more free form - start when you want, work as fast or as slow as you want, but still find the help and support you need anytime in our new facebook group.
What about blog posts?

Starting in January I will feature one design from the pattern each week with a blog post and a few more tips on quilting it. You can work to this schedule, or you can move ahead, or you can shelve the whole project for 6 months - it doesn't matter! You already have all the information you need in the pattern!

The posting for this project will likely last only until May or June, or we may finish even earlier. Please understand that this is definitely NOT another year long, month by month sequential project. Once you pick up a copy of the pattern, you have all the information you need to create your quilt.

What if I have trouble downloading the pattern?

I've created a special FAQ page to guide you through the process of downloading your pattern, printing it out, transferring it to your iPad or tablet, and accessing the videos within the pattern.

We've also set up a special video collection page where you can watch all the videos from the pattern in one place! This is very convenient to watch on your tablet and each video can also be downloaded so you can watch even without an internet connection.

The pattern also needs to be printed out at least once so you have the butterfly templates, placement guide, and design worksheets to practice each design. Check the section on printing the pattern so you're sure to print it out the correct size.

There's lots of bells and whistles to this pattern and we want to make sure you can enjoy it all! Make sure to check out the Dancing Butterfly FAQ if you have any issues.

Creating a pattern like this has been a HUGE process of planning and construction and I couldn't have done it without Josh editing videos and my dad helping me prepare fabric, piece and applique the quilt blocks. My father-in-law Chet and Janice Brewster from Creative Girlfriends Press both edited the pattern, and Emma from ETM Creative designed all our buttons, slides, and covers.

I'm the luckiest girl in the world to work with so many awesome people! I do hope you will join us for this quilt along and enjoy making the Dancing Butterfly Quilt with us! Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at