The Free Motion Quilting Project: January 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

FMQ Project Link Up

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhew! It's the last day of the month and our last Friday link up of the month. My head is spinning with how amazing and awesome this month has been launching the new Building Blocks Quilt Along, teaching so many quilters how to piece and free motion quilt, and also work with Josh to create new videos to help beginners in particular.

This week we both tackled the last design for our four patch block: big spirals stitched into all four patches of the block. 

Click here to read my post and video on spirals. Yes, this is a pretty big spiral shape, and challenging to quilt it the way I demonstrate in the video.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Josh's video on spirals was a lot more realistic to a beginner's perspective as he rotated the block dozens of times to work into the center and back out to stitch one spiral. We also caught a common thread issue on camera - the machine moving in a direction it doesn't like and causing the thread to twist up around the needle.

Paying attention to your thread, especially around the needle area, is a super good habit to get into. Usually if your machine doesn't like what's going on, it will let you know immediately in subtle ways before you break thread completely.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This week I also shared a new design called Broken Eggs, which combined a lot of different textures into one design that was supposed to look like cracked eggs with the yolk and white swirling all around.

In the video I was sort of designing / quilting at the same time and making decisions for this design on the fly. This kind of creative stitching is very freeing, and you never really know what you will end up with.

So that's what I've been busy stitching! What have you been up to?

Simple rules for the FMQ Project Link Up:

1. Link up with a post that features something you've learned from the Free Motion Quilting Project.
2. Somewhere in your post, please link back here.
3. Comment on at least 2 other links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect with other quilters around the world!

Grab a button to easily link back to the Free Motion Quilting Project!

Free Motion Quilting Project
<div class="Free Motion Quilting Project" style="width: 150px; margin: 0 auto;"> <a href="" rel="nofollow"> <img src="" alt="Free Motion Quilting Project" width="150" height="150" /> </a> </div>

Thursday, January 30, 2014

#424 - Free Motion Quilt Broken Eggs

Several years ago I posted a cute little Cracked Eggs design which was basically Pebbling with a wiggly line through the middle.

Today I'm feeling inspired by eggs again, only this time I'd like to incorporate the swirly runny yolk to create Broken Eggs:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It's amazing to see what a few simple lines of quilting can do when they all come together. Honestly this really didn't come out the way I was expecting, or the way I was seeing it in my head, but I'm loving the swirling texture anyway!

After filling the block completely with Broken Eggs, I looked down at the texture and saw little sunshines inside all that swirling texture. I'll definitely have to give this design a try again with a slightly different inside circular design to see what happens!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow Day!

It's been awhile since I had a free Wednesday to post about what I'm really working on. Since the turn of the year Josh and I have been running full tilt to keep up with the Building Blocks Quilt Along, but I have managed to squeeze in work on some other projects.

One big project on my agenda is finishing our master bathroom. Back in December we had to fire our worthless contractor, tear out the terrible tile job he'd done, build wall back in, and lay new tile.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I do love this bathroom immensely now, but this was without a doubt the biggest tile job I've ever done in my life. It was also really distracting to come upstairs from the office after lots of work online just to find this project waiting for me.

At this point I only need to paint the window, hang the blind, and my dad is coming this weekend to help hang crown molding around the ceiling. By Sunday evening, I'll be able to scratch this project firmly and finally off my list!

One side effect from working on this bathroom project is Josh and I have finally realized that our house is just not big enough for our family and our growing business. I've planned out renovation after renovation, but at some point I've finally stopped and realized that it would be far easier to build a new house than keep trying to fiddle with the one we have now.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
So we've been land shopping too! Josh and I are planning to buy a small piece of land in Gastonia, NC and build a house in the next few years.

The great news is we found the perfect spot! The bad news is, it has a drainage easement. I'm still trying to figure out what that means and if this is the right place for us or not. I tend to get emotional about this kind of thing, so I'm trying hard to keep my cool and look at the land from all perspectives.

But today I'm not even trying to get a lot done because James is out of school and literally bouncing off the walls because it's a SNOW DAY!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Yes, in my area of NC, a light dusting of snow is enough to close the schools and empty the grocery stores of bread and milk. It's super silly, but after living here my whole life, I really can't imagine it any other way.

So I'm off to make hot chocolate and warm up before we head back outside to go sledding again!

Let's go have some fun!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Josh Quilts Spirals in a Four Patch Block

It's Josh here a little early this week, and it's spiral time:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This can be super tricky for beginners. It certainly has been a real pain for me. This one will really test your mettle. But don't let it get you down, even if you make some ridiculously bad stitching. Just finish through and take comfort in the fact that the end result at least has a spiral shape.

Once again, the key here is rotate, rotate, rotate.

This is easily the most advanced and trying design I've attempted yet. This called for a lot more maneuvering of the block and at least for me I found mistakes were a lot easier to make and a lot easier to spiral out of control, so to speak.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Do not be afraid to totally readjust where you lay your fingers when you're working with large circular shapes like this. I found this one to be a completely different beast from the past fillers I've made.

Stitching spirals, especially on Spoonflower cheater fabric, reminded me of a lesson a college basketball coach imparted on me about individual sports like tennis or racquetball:
Always try to maintain an equal routine where you practice with someone who's below your skill, practice with someone at your skill, and practice with someone above your skill. 
Spirals were clearly above my skill and kicked my ass.

Still, it made for an interesting video and Leah shared a lot of additional technical info about what thread issues to rip, especially toe catchers. At least I didn't make any of those in this block!

See you next week,


4. Quilt a 4 Patch with Spirals

Wow! I've really been blown away by all the beautiful blocks being posted to the Project Link Up on Friday and to the Facebook Group page! I'm seeing lots of wonderful quilting, and also lots of beautifully brave quilters sharing pictures, asking questions, and moving forward with free motion quilting, in spite of machine issues, imperfect stitching, and even surgery and illness.

I've also seen and heard a lot of self criticism too, and this is something that I struggle with myself. It's like there's a little monster in the back of your mind that focuses only on the single missed stitch in the block, but ignores all the great stitching everywhere else.

It's easy to say "Don't listen to that negative inner critic." It's something else to actually not listen to it and resist the urge to begin beating yourself to a pulp for all your imperfection. Recently I learned a cool technique for controlling the thoughts in my head, and since it might help some of you, I've posted it here:

1. First I listen to hear the thought clearly. Sometimes this voice can come in like background noise or a whisper in the night. "You know, you're really not that good. You should just stop trying. Why bother?" 

2. After acknowledging that a negative voice is present, I imagine my brain is a stage and that voice is an actor in the back of the stage ruining the performance. There's lots of other actors present - voices that are reminding me of what I need to do today, voices that are positive and uplifting, voices that are kind and forgiving. But that negative inner critic is a real slime ball and he's ruining the whole show!

3. So then I call in my stage director. I imagine her to me a small, feisty woman with a clip board who's in charge of the show. I imagine her spotting the inner critic and screaming at the top of her voice "GET THE HELL OFF MY STAGE! OUT! OUT! GET OUT!" The negative critic cringes away from this onslaught and is kicked off the stage in disgrace.

I don't know about you, but that mental image really helps kick my inner critic off the stage of my mind. It also makes me feel very in control of my thoughts, and it makes me smile - and I think turning it into a funny show is why this has helped me so much. Turning that kind of depressing negativity into light humor is a very powerful trick indeed.

This kind of thing might seem silly, or pointless, in the face of the negativity you're under. Trust me, I've been there, and I still struggle with it myself! If this mental picture doesn't work for you, find a picture that does work, and put yourself in control of what is going on in your head.

The point here is simple: You Are In Control. 

We just sometimes need a reminder that we can kick that negativity to the curb!

Whew! So that was an interesting start to this post, but it's quite timely because we're learning spirals today:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Spirals can be tricky. They are definitely easier to quilt on a marked line than free hand, at least until you get some practice with it.

Just to illustrate this point, I marked the black squares for this block, but didn't mark the blue squares. See how they're a little different? This is the main difference with quilting on a line verses free hand quilting - you're going to end up with a slightly different design and it might not be as perfect looking as the marked design.

I also simulated a mistake that's very easy to make with spirals, so make sure to watch the video so you catch all the details for this design:

free motion quilting | Leah DayJust in case you haven't picked one up yet, you can find Building Blocks Quilt Pattern right here in Print Format and in Downloadable PDF Format which includes the piecing and quilting guides for all 42 blocks in this series.

NEW! This block design is now available in a quilting stencil from Quilting Creations International. Use the stencil to easily mark the design on plain fabric, your block, or another fun quilt you're working on! Click here to find the 8 inch stencil compatible with the Building Blocks Quilt.

Just a bit of a recap:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

An open spiral is literally open - you stitch inside the spiral leaving an open space to stitch back out of. There's no travel stitching involved, but you do need to be able to visually estimate your space to work into and out of the shape smoothly. 

A closed spiral is locked up - you fill in the entire space as you stitch into the center of the spiral and travel stitch back out. The travel stitching is time consuming, but beautiful because it adds an extra layer of thread to the surface of your quilt. Notice how the spiral in the lower right corner appears slightly bolder, with the white thread standing out more? The only difference is the travel stitching!

Understand that there are two ways to stitch spirals and both look beautiful! There's no right or wrong way to stitch this design, and even my slightly funny block is still going to fit perfectly into my finished quilt.

So have fun with Spirals this week and remember to pop back over for Josh's video on this design tomorrow!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Secrets of Slow Cooking Craftsy Class
I've been thinking about something new I can add to the project on Saturdays and I think I'm going to use these days to share a bit about my favorite Craftsy classes.

Just in case you've never heard of Craftsy, or never taken one of their amazing classes, click here to check out the awesome free class Perfect Pizza at Home. This free class will give you an idea of how the class platform works and let you check to see if your internet streams fast enough.

Yes, all Craftsy classes are streaming video, which means you can't download them, and you do need a high speed internet connection to get the best experience. I've also personally found the classes stream more cleanly to my iPad, but that could just be the nature of the wireless in my neck of the woods.

So what have I been watching most recently from Craftsy? It's winter time and Josh and I love to make beef roasts and stews. Secrets of Slow Cooking: Mastering the Art of the Braise has been a wonderful class to watch together as we cook in the evening.
This class is teaches braising techniques for a variety of recipes, and it's organized in a really interesting way. Teacher Molly Stevens takes you through three very different recipes focusing on each step of the process: selecting meat and preparing it, browning, seasoning with aromatics, adding liquid, and slow cooking for a delicious finish.

Just in case you don't eat meat, Molly also walks you through a lesson on braising vegetables so you can apply the same principles of slow cooking on low heat to potatoes, cabbage, and fennel.

I really enjoyed the lesson on preparing meat for braising and how to tie a pork shoulder. This step has always been a bit confusing and I've already used this technique on my last beef roast!

So if you're looking to learn more about slow, low heat cooking, or just simply wishing your beef roast had more flavor this winter, definitely check out Secrets of Slow Cooking this week!

Let's go cook!

Leah Day

Friday, January 24, 2014

FMQ Project Link Up

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt's finally Friday and time to link up! This week Josh and I both quilted gridlines on a four patch block.

free motion quilting | Leah DayJosh's post and video on gridlines is right here, and it includes a helpful demo from me on hiding your loose threads in the middle layer of the quilt.

In the video we also discussed a stitch issue that looks like a glob of thread on the back of your quilt. This happens when you stop moving the quilt or block, but forget to take your foot off the pedal. If the machine continues to stitch, the thread will build up to create a noticeable knot or glob on the back of the quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

If you're seeing lots of little knots on the back of your blocks too, just remember it's okay to stop and take your foot off the pedal completely so you adjust the block, think about where you're going next, or reposition your hands.

Also posted to the project this week is Kidney Stones! This funky design will look great quilted in large and small scale so definitely give it a try this week:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So that's what we've been quilting! What have you been working on this week?

Simple rules for the FMQ Project Link Up:

1. Link up with a post that features something you've learned from the Free Motion Quilting Project.
2. Somewhere in your post, please link back here.
3. Comment on at least 2 other links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect with other quilters around the world!

Grab a button to easily link back to the Free Motion Quilting Project!

Free Motion Quilting Project
<div class="Free Motion Quilting Project" style="width: 150px; margin: 0 auto;"> <a href="" rel="nofollow"> <img src="" alt="Free Motion Quilting Project" width="150" height="150" /> </a> </div>

Thursday, January 23, 2014

#423 - Free Motion Quilt Kidney Stones

It's time for a new, super funky design! This is called Kidney Stones:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I find this name perfectly suited to the clusters of large and small pebbles and rows of echo quilting, but I'm sure if you've ever had kidney stones, it's probably not a very good name. Many quilters felt the same way about Bloody Sawblades and Eyeballs too!

Regardless of the name, this design is super fun to quilt so let's learn how to do it together:

I've stitched this design today on a really tiny scale, but this isn't the only way this design will work! You can learn how to quilt it on a much larger scale in the Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers Volume 1. Click here to check out the class and get 50% off your enrollment.

No matter how big or how small you stitch it, this design is going to be a real stand out on your next quilt! Just in case you're looking for similar designs, this design belongs in the Pivoting Family with other awesome designs like Paisley and Lava Paisley.

It's also an Intermediate level design, which doesn't mean impossible! It just means there's some travel stitching involved that might take some practice to master.

Of course every time I post a weird name design, several more pop into my head. I'm off to stitch Wiggly Pasta and Cat Sick

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Josh's Gridlines

This is Josh today for another beginner video in the Building Blocks project. Let's dive right in and get started free motion quilting Gridlines:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Learn more about the Printed Cheater Cloth blocks Josh is working on right here
Overall I found this design tedious to quilt with all the straight lines filling the block. However, I did learn a lot about what directions the machine likes to quilt it, so ultimately it was worth it. Let's watch the video and you'll see what I mean:

I actually broke thread several times by pushing the machine in a direction it just didn't want to go. This will quickly make itself known to you. Here's a helpful tip: don't be stubborn and try to force the machine. Instead, work with the machine and rotate your block as needed.

You'll notice this issue on this particular block because of all of the straight lines. Generally, curves are more forgiving.

Leah jumped in and included tips on tying and hiding the threads in the middle of the quilt with a cheater needle. I ended up with several thread breaks on this block, but she was able to tie them all off so they were less noticeable. Even still, I had a lot of little thread knots on the back of the block, especially around the outer edge.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So you'll see I had a lot of thread buildup with this one. This was due to user error, and as Leah said at the end of the video, if your hands stop moving, take your foot off the foot pedal.

It's easy to say, but we'll see if I can remember that tip for the next block.

Until next week, let's go quilt!


Monday, January 20, 2014

3. Quilt a 4 Patch Block with Gridlines

It's been a fun week seeing so many Wiggly U Shapes quilted on 4 patch blocks! I've seen so many different color combinations my head is spinning with all the beautiful possibilities for this quilt. Just in case you've missed any posts from this project so far, click here to check out all the posts shared so far.

Today we're tackling another skill building design - straight lines that create gridlines:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Yes, I know what you're thinking - But Leah, I could quilt this with my walking foot!

True, a walking foot can quilt straight lines like these perfectly, but that's about ALL it can do. If there was any extra filling or fun designs in this block, you'd have to break thread, change feet, and start the cool stuff in free motion.

Learning to quilt both straight lines ans curvy designs in free motion means you will be able to quilt ANYTHING you want with one foot, one set of settings, and maybe even only one thread break. It's faster, simpler, and once you master it, lots of fun too!

Let's watch the lesson and see how this works:

Just in case you're wanting to join in, you can pick up a copy of the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern right here to get started.

Here's a couple points from this video:

Plan Your Path - It is never a waste of time to stop, think, and trace! You have full sized quilting guides so you can mark your blocks and practice tracing and moving through the space in the most logical way.

I got a lot of questions this week on the Facebook group about travel stitching and many members were worried about traveling through an area too much.

I don't personally think there's a problem with traveling over an area 3-5 times, but if your machine or your thread disagrees, they will let you know by breaking thread. It's not a big deal, but it does save some time to think about your path from the beginning so you have the least amount of travel stitching to fill in the block.

Saving a 1 stitch mistake - If you stitch off your line, or out of the ditch, with just one stitch and the needle is down in the quilt, you can usually still recover this stitch by rotating the hand wheel backwards to lift the needle and reposition it.

Why backwards? Your top thread makes a circuit through the bobbin case. If you rotate the hand wheel towards you, or hit your needle up button, the circuit will be complete, the stitch will be made and the only way to fix it is to stop, break thread, pick it out, hide the tails, start again, hide those get the idea.

If you rotate backwards, you're basically just pulling the top thread back out of the bobbin case and you can usually recover from this smoothly, so long as the stitch didn't complete itself.

Don't Rip - Even if you do stitch off a line, out of the ditch, or off the line you're traveling, please don't pick up your seam ripper to rip it out. We're learning how to QUILT here, not rip, and perfection isn't the goal of this project.

So that's it for Gridlines! Swing back by tomorrow to see Josh's video on this design and get more insight from his beginner's perspective.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Building Blocks Cheater Cloth Quilt

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It's amazing just how vast and many-legged this Building Blocks Quilt Along is becoming! Today I'm sharing a special post focused solely on the Building Blocks Cheater Cloth fabric printed by Spoonflower. 

We now have 3 different colorways for this Cheater Cloth Fabric!

Click here to check out the Colorful! with White Background
Click here to check out the Colorful! with Purple Background
Click here to check out the Blue with Gray Background

I've received a lot of questions about the fabric, how to prepare it, how to quilt with it, and of course, how to finish your blocks at the end to make a quilt. I want to make sure you know what to do, no matter if you're piecing and quilting or you're just quilting the blocks, this is a super fun quilt to be working on and I want you to get started on the right foot!

The first and most important thing to understand is the Spoonflower fabric is an alternative to purchasing the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern and cutting and piecing the blocks. If you are short on time, or if you wish only to practice free motion quilting the blocks this might be a better option for you.

I've also gotten a lot of questions from longarm quilters who want to join in. Rather than take the time to piece all the blocks and connect them together, the Spoonflower fabric will allow you to get started on one big panel of fabric with no extra prep other than loading it onto your rail system.

So here's the steps to using the cheater cloth fabric:

#1 - Purchase 3 yards of fabric right here. You will need 3 yards in order to get all 42 blocks of the quilt. Yes, this is a bit pricey, but it's a good option if you don't want to buy the pattern, fabric, and cut and piece all the blocks one by one.

No matter which colorway you go with, you will need 3 yards. Scroll back up to find links to the three colorways currently available.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

As for fabric types - my favorite is the Kona cotton, but the basic combed cotton will work great too. Josh is using the basic combed cotton for his quilt blocks.

#2 - Don't wash the fabric. This is the only time I will tell you not to prewash fabric! I just don't think it's necessary before you cut out the blocks. I've also found when working with Spoonflower that it tends to fade more when washed as yardage than as a quilt. Maybe the extra agitation? Regardless, I think it works just fine straight out of the package and also that's more time saved not having to wash, dry, then starch and iron the fabric flat again.

#3 - Cut apart the blocks carefully leaving 1 inch all around. Using scissors or a rotary cutter, slice the blocks apart in rows, then cut the rows apart to have single blocks. These should measure around 10 inches square, give or take a bit, with an 8 inch printed square in the middle.

Note for Longarmers - Don't cut your blocks apart! Instead load the entire 3 yard strip into your rail system with batting and backing fabric and start quilting block by block. You will have a 1 inch section of open space between the blocks you can play in as well and this is a good opportunity to play with different scales (sizes) of designs.

#4 - Baste the blocks with batting and backing. Just follow the same instructions right here for basting, and take some time to consider your batting choices. Here's the amounts you will need:

Batting - 62" x 72" minimum size, cut into 10 inch squares.

Backing - 3 1/4 yards backing fabric (44 inch wide 100% cotton fabric)
                                    - OR - 42 layer cake (10 inch) squares

#5 - Free motion quilt on all the lines. The lines are printed in black, so a bright blue thread would probably be the best choice if you want to hide thread issues as much as possible. Josh is stitching in white simply for the lines to be super visible on camera.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

#6 - Cut the blocks down to 8 inches square. After you've completed quilting all the blocks, place a ruler on top and square the block to 8 inches. You may find the block has shrunk a bit, so don't just automatically cut the block along the perimeter lines. Actually measure and cut an 8 inch square with the block design centered in the middle.

#7 - Cut your binding. To connect the blocks together you will need 1 3/4 yards of binding, which is broken down into the following sections and cut into strips:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Connecting Binding for Front Side - Prepare all the 1.5” x 9” rectangle binding strips by folding them half lengthwise and pressing with a hot, dry iron.

Seam together all 9 of the 1.5” wide width of fabric strips, fold in half, and press with a hot, dry iron to flatten.

Connecting Binding for Back Side - Seam together all 9 of the 1” wide width of fabric strips.

Edge Binding - Connect all 2” strips together into one long strip. Fold in half and press with a hot, dry iron to flatten.

Note: All binding strips have been cut slightly longer than needed to make the connection process easier.

#8 - Arrange and connect the blocks together. Here's how I'll be arranging all my blocks into the Building Blocks Quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Layer quilted square with folded binding
on top and 1” binding on the back

Connection Step 1 - Starting the first block you're connecting, make the following stack along the right side of the block:

- 1.5” x 9” folded strip on top (blue)
- 8” quilted block
- 1” x 9” back binding strip on the bottom (pink)

Align all three pieces with raw edges to the right side. Stitch together with an accurate 1/4” seam allowance.

Note: You may need to use a walking foot to make all the layers feed evenly through the machine.
free motion quilting | Leah Day
Step 2 - 1” binding stitched to
the back of 2nd block

Connection Step 2 - Fold over the 1” binding on the back of the block and press. Place a second block WRONG sides together with Block #1, aligning the right side with the edge of the 1” back binding. Stitch together with an accurate 1/4” seam allowance.

Note: With this seam, you are only stitching through the 1” back binding and Block #2. Do not stitch through the folded 1.5” front binding or Block #1.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Press folded edge over to encase seam
allowances and zigzag to secure
Connection Step 3 - Spread both connected blocks flat and finger press the two 1/4” seam allowances into the channel created by the back 1” binding.

Fold over the front folded binding and press to cover the seam allowances of both blocks.
Secure this folded edge to the blocks using a zigzag stitch on your ma-chine, or hand stitch it in place.

Repeat connecting the blocks together to create a row using this binding method. Repeat again, connecting the rows together with the long binding strips to connect the entire quilt together.

#9 - Bind the quilt - If you haven’t already, connect the 2” edge binding strips together, then fold in half and press with a hot, dry iron.

Apply the binding to the quilt using your favorite method. Click here find a video on the method I use for machine binding a quilt.

So that's it! This is jumping very far ahead of where we are on the Building Blocks Quilt Along, but it should answer any remaining questions you may have about the Spoonflower Fabric and how it works. Click here to pick up your Spoonflower cheater cloth, and remember to select 3 yards in order to get all the blocks for this quilt!

Click here to check out the Colorful! with White Background
Click here to check out the Colorful! with Purple Background
Click here to check out the Blue with Gray Background

If you still have questions, please post them below and I'll answer them and update the post so everyone is on the same page.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, January 17, 2014

FMQ Project Link Up

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhat a week! My cup is overflowing buckets from all the excitement, enthusiasm, and appreciation for the Building Blocks Quilt Along. It's really wonderful to be teaching and connecting with so many people eager to learn and make this beautiful quilt.

We kicked off our free motion quilting  this week with Wiggly U Shapes, a simple, skill building design that's a great prep for Stippling down the road.

free motion quilting | Leah DayJosh joined in the fun on Tuesday and shared his first video on free motion quilting this design on the Spoonflower fabric. We had a great time shooting this video and I'm very tempted to make an extra video of all of our outtakes to share.

Rounding out this week I shared a new design - #422 Earth Flower. This funky flower design will work great in open blocks and cornerstones:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Whew! It's been a busy week, but loads of fun quilting and teaching so many excited quilters! What have you been up to?

Simple rules for the FMQ Project Link Up:

1. Link up with a post that features something you've learned from the Free Motion Quilting Project.
2. Somewhere in your post, please link back here.
3. Comment on at least 2 other links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect with other quilters around the world!

Grab a button to easily link back to the Free Motion Quilting Project:
Free Motion Quilting Project
<div class="Free Motion Quilting Project" style="width: 150px; margin: 0 auto;"> <a href="" rel="nofollow"> <img src="" alt="Free Motion Quilting Project" width="150" height="150" /> </a> </div>

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Building Block Sizes and Connection Method

free motion quilting | Leah Day
We're just getting our feet wet this week with free motion quilting our very first blocks...but wouldn't you know, my inbox is filled with worried emails about how we will put the blocks together!

I understand the need to get all the little details straight so everything is clear from the beginning, so this post will be all about clarifying any confusion about block sizes, the quilting guides, and how the blocks will connect together at the end of this process.

#1 - All blocks will piece to 10 inches.

We are piecing the blocks bigger for a reason! We need extra space all around the block to hang onto the edges while free motion quilting. This gives you lots more control over the quilt block, and it results in prettier stitches within the blocks.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

At times you may notice a situation that I have called for a longer strip - like 10.5 inches to be pieced along the edge of the block. I do this because it's sometimes easier to piece with a slightly longer strip and trim the edges of the block down to square the end.

#2 - All blocks will be quilted to 8 inches.

All 42 full size quilting guides included in the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern should measure exactly 8 inches square.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Many quilters are reporting guides measuring 7 3/4 inches. This means when you printed the document, your printer shrunk the pages slightly. You will need to print again, and this time select "actual size" in your printer dialog box.

Just in case you don't have it, Adobe Reader is the free program I'm using to open the PDF and print to the proper size.

#3 - All blocks will be cut down to 8 inches.

In 11 months we will be finished with this project, and we will cut down all the blocks to 8 inches square. Yes, you may end up cutting through the outline of your block, but most likely the quilting will shrink your block enough to be within this 8 inch square.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
The free motion quilting design shrunk the block by 1/8 inch all around
Even if you trim through quilting lines, your block will be okay! We are about to secure all those lines of stitching and the edges of the block with the next step.

#4 - All blocks will be connected together using a binding Quilt As You Go Method.

This method uses 1 inch strip on the back of the block and a folded 1.5" strip on the front.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

When completed correctly, you will have a 1/2" strip of binding showing on the front and back between the blocks.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This binding strip will cover the edges of the block by 1/4"

YES, this binding WILL overlap your quilting by 1/4 inch. I'm repeating it because I want to make it very clear. This isn't a huge overlap, but it seems to be confusing a lot of quilters.

I designed the pattern this way because:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This is the back of Josh's next block.
All of the thread knots along the edges
will be hidden by the binding at the end.
#1 - Most stitch issues happen around the edges. By binding this edge, you hide the issues!

#2 - Most thread breaks to start and stop quilting will likely happen around the edges. By overlapping this area, you are securing the stitching to ensure it does not come out with wash and wear.

#3 - Quilting shrinks the size of the blocks. If we cut the blocks a bigger size (let's say 9 inches), you should theoretically have 1/2 inch unquilted all around, which will be 1/4 inch after the binding is in place.

The problem is it never works out perfectly! Some blocks will shrink more than others and you may have situations where that 1/4 inch unquilted space grows and shrinks quite noticeably along the edge of the binding.

I made the decision in the design process to eliminate this space and trim right to the quilted edges of the blocks simply to reduce the likelihood of very noticeable stitch issues and hopefully make the process easier for beginners.

I want you to #1 have the greatest chance of success with this project, #2 have the greatest ability to hide mistakes that make you uncomfortable, and #3 be proud of your work!

But if you absolutely hate this idea of covering up the edges of the block and overlapping with binding, by all means, please feel free to cut your blocks bigger and bind with an open space between the quilting and the binding.

As with my Craftsy classes, if you pursue your own design or whim with the pattern, you're on your own as it is beyond the scope of this quilt along (and my brain space) to calculate binding for a different block size.

The choice is yours, but the pattern is now explained! It will be many, many months before we need to worry about connecting these blocks together, so between now and then let's piece and quilt and be merry!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

#422 - Free Motion Quilt Earth Flower

Wait a are we on #422?! What!?

Relax! Today I'm posting a new free motion quilting design - you know, the designs stitched in 4 inch squares that I've shared since the beginning of this project in 2009?

For the last two years, I've incorporated the new designs into the quilt along posts, but this year with how big and focused the Building Blocks Quilt Along is, I've decided to split the two and return to the old numbering system with the new FMQ designs.

Just to clarify - if you're following along with the BBQA, this post design has nothing to do with it! This is just another fun design to play with in a 4 inch square or on your next quilt.

Why am I continuing to post these? Because I love them and they make me happy! I love working out new textures and designs to play with and eventually hope to have 1000 designs posted here for everyone to enjoy.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So here's #422! This Earth Flower is a combination Fiery Comets or Wiggly Tentacles connected together in a circle with Spider Web stitched in the middle.

I decided to leave the background of this design blank, but you could easily fill it by echoing the outer lines of the flower, or fill it with another earth themed design like Pebbling. Let's watch the video to see how it works:

Looking for similar designs? Earth Flower is a Center Fill Design so you can easily use it to fill in a block or large open space on your quilt.

I'm rating it Intermediate Level in difficulty because of the travel stitching, but no matter what skill level you are, it's always worth it to try any design you like. The more you like something, the more effort you will spend in stitching it, so definitely give it a try no matter where you're at in your quilting journey!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How to Start and Stop Quilting

We're off to a great start this week quilting Wiggly U shapes in our four patch blocks. Super thank you to everyone who commented with support for Josh's first free motion quilting video. You guys are such an awesome group to make videos for!

So now that we've started free motion quilting I've been getting a lot of questions here, on YouTube, and on the Facebook group about starting and stopping quilting.

Specifically - how do we secure our threads as we start quilting and as we end the line so our quilting stitches don't come out?

Here's the way I do this:

1. Start quilting by pulling the bobbin thread up to the top of the quilt. Using the handwheel on the right of your machine, rotate towards yourself to drop the needle down, then keep rotating until it comes ALL the way up and is even starting to dip back down again. This ensures the top thread has made a full rotation through the bobbin case and has caught the bobbin thread.

(Alternative - if you have a needle up / down button, just hit that button 2 times to drop the needle and bring it up)

Now give the top thread a tug and a loop should pop up - that is the bobbin thread. Give that loop a tug and tuck both threads under your darning foot so they are out of your way.

I showed this in our first video on Wiggly U shapes, so watch that video again and closely pay attention to everything I do BEFORE I started quilting.

Note: This set of steps sounds very simple and I can certainly fly through these steps because I have done them thousands of times. Josh has fits with it every time, so if you struggle with it too, don't worry, it takes some practice to get the hang of bringing the bobbin thread up!

Why do you need to do this?

If you leave your bobbin thread on the bottom, where you can't see it, there's a very good chance you will stitch through it as you quilt the block and it will become embedded in the stitching. Short answer - it looks terrible!

So bringing the bobbin thread up ensures there's no nasty surprises left for us on the back of the quilt, and tucking both threads under the foot makes it far less likely they will be sucked into the machine or become unthreaded as we get started.

2. Start quilting - Don't build up thread. Don't stitch in place. Don't backstitch. Don't overlock. Don't pass go. Don't collect $200.

Just start quilting!

Why? Because if you do any of those things, you will end up with a very noticeable glob of thread on the top and back of your quilt. You can not only see it, you can feel it too - it will be a hard lump sitting on the surface.

Many quilters have been taught to build up thread this way to "secure" the thread and clip off the thread tails immediately after. Personally, I don't think this is secure because with wear and washing those knots come out and the thread will start unraveling.

So don't build up thread, just start quilting and we will return to those thread tails after the block is complete.

3. Stop quilting - Just STOP. Don't build up thread. Don't stitch in place. Don't backstitch. Don't get the idea!

We don't build up thread at the end for the same reason we don't build up thread at the beginning.

When you finish a line of quilting just stop, rotate your handwheel to bring your needle all the way up, lift your foot, and pull the block off your machine.

NOW cut your threads leaving thread tails at least 4 - 6 inches long. You will have a single thread on the top of your quilt and a single thread on the back. Give one of these threads a tug (doesn't matter which side) to bring up a loop, which will be the other thread. Pull both to one side.

4. Tie, bury, and clip - You should now have your starting 2 threads and your ending 2 threads together on one side of the quilt.

Watch this video to see how this works step by step:

Click here to check out the Hide Your Threads Kit which comes with a pack of cheater needles and a pin place to keep them handy next to your machine!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
To recap: Tie 2 threads together in a knot about 1/8" from the surface of the quilt, then grab a cheater needle (or regular big hole needle if you don't have a cheater), pop the threads into the eye, run the needle through the middle layer of the quilt about 1-2 inches.

Pull the needle through, give the threads a tug and the knot should pop down into the middle layer of the quilt. Clip off the tails where the needle came out of the quilt.

Repeat these steps with the 2 ending threads. When you have a situation where 4 threads come together in one spot, tie off 2 at a time rather than all 4 together. (4 threads tends to make a huge knot that doesn't bury easily).

Is this the ONLY way to do this?!

No! As with all things in quilting, there are hundreds of ways to start and stop quilting and deal with the loose threads that result. I hear a lot of whining (sorry, no better word for it!) about this method because it's a bit time consuming and tedious.

However, this is the only method use, so it's the only method I teach! I personally find it to be far faster, easier, and less frustrating than the build-a-glob-and-clip method. I figure if I take the time to put these quilting lines in the quilt, I want to make sure they are secure and will stay put and not come unraveled eventually with wear.

The method you use to deal with your thread tails is entirely up to you, so I'd suggest trying a lot of different methods from different teachers and find what works best for you!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Josh's Wiggly U Shapes

Josh here for my weekly beginner tip. Today, we're beginning something new. I too am following along with the Building Blocks Quilt Along, and this is my very first time working on the printed fabric cheater cloth panels from Spoonflower.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

If you haven't heard about this project, please take a moment to check out all the posts shared so far. It's a new spin on the traditional block of the month; every Monday Leah will feature a video demonstrating how to piece or free motion quilt a block, but the instructions for the entire yearly project arrive all at once when you purchase the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern. So no monthly emails or repeat downloads; you can work as fast or as slowly as you desire.

And if you already have the pattern, have you joined Leah's BBQA group on facebook? This is a great place to interact with fellow quilters and share pictures and experience. Over nine hundred have already signed up, and the place is buzzing. Group members started using the BBQA acronym, which I guess I'm making official here.

Now for the video:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Back of Josh's Block
The most difficult thing this time around was getting used to the Spoonflower fabric. You can find more details on using this cheater cloth fabric for the quilt along right here.

In the past, when I messed up a stitch, it didn't matter because the marking lines would come out. This is not the case here - the quilting lines on the fabric are printed and permanent, so they won't go away after quilting. So you need to be a little more careful and slow down.

Also, and I can't stress this enough, rotate, rotate, rotate. When in doubt, rotate. Yes, it takes time, but it's critical to stitch at an angle that's comfortable for you.

See you next week,


Leah's note: Josh had a bit of trouble remembering all the things he needed to say at the end of this video, and after lots of bad takes and mishaps, I jumped in to help, but forgot to take off all my scarves. Oh well! I guess this explains Josh's nickname for me - Frumpy Fraggle. lol!

Monday, January 13, 2014

2. Quilt a 4 Patch Block with Wiggly U Shapes

It's time to start free motion quilting! Last week we learned how to piece a four patch block and created 3 blocks to work on for the rest of the month.

Today we're going to quilt one of these blocks with a super simple design called Wiggly U Shapes:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This design is a great skill builder for Stippling because we're making that similar wiggly, curving line. Let's learn how to quilt it together!

Just in case you missed the videos on preparing your blocks, here's a quick recap:

Now for a few extra tips:

Stitching in the Ditch in Free Motion - Yes, yes, you might be used to grabbing your walking foot for ditching because it's great at stitching all those straight lines perfectly. The downside is a walking foot is slow, loud, and changing feet halfway through the block will create an extra thread break we'll have to deal with later.

If you want to gain serious skill for free motion quilting, you should ONLY stitch in free motion. All of those ditch lines are just straight lines, and you can absolutely quilt those in free motion too!

What is the benefit of FMQ Ditching?

1 - The ability to ditch and fill (stitch in the ditch, then immediately begin quilting the design within the block without breaking thread once).

2 - More practice quilting straight lines.

3 - Increased speed for quilting anything because you will have far fewer thread breaks.

I could go on with more benefits, but I think you get the point. I love ditching in free motion! (lol. I should print that on a t-shirt.)

Wiggly U Shapes - When it comes to making the wiggly U shape, you might find your hands speeding up in certain sections of the design. If any shape feels particularly comfortable for you, your hands will naturally speed up as they make that natural movement.

If you happen to notice your stitches becoming bigger in certain areas of the design, try increasing the speed of your machine slightly in these areas. Speeding up a bit will compensate for the increase speed your hands are moving.

Now what if you absolutely can't stay on the marked lines, or in the ditch at all?

Yay! This means you're learning! Guess what?! I couldn't stay on a line to save my life when I first started free motion quilting.

This is a SKILL. You will likely feel out of control. You will feel a bit like a kid learning to draw and trying to trace letter A's all down the page. I've watched my son James build skills all year for writing, and the key is practice, practice, practice.

Yes, wearing gloves can help you feel more in control over the block, but really the key is practice moving the block under your needle and controlling the speed of the machine at the same time.

Just to emphasize that point, Josh will be posting tomorrow and sharing his very first video. His block was far from perfect, but I want you to especially pay attention to one thing he doesn't do: he doesn't beat himself up for making mistakes.

Be very kind to yourself as you learn this. Don't expect perfection because it isn't the point of this project! Whatever you do, however you quilt this block, it is a starting point only, and you can only get better from here.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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