The Free Motion Quilting Project: June 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

27. Piece a Disappearing Nine Patch Block

We're moving right along with the Building Blocks Quilt Along! Starting last week, we're speeding up the posting just a bit so this project will be finished by Thanksgiving. Today we're learning how to piece block #7 - a Disappearing Nine Patch:
free motion quilting | Leah Day

I really enjoyed this block because it's a fun transformation from a plain Jane 9 patch into something very different. I like that idea of transforming a simple block into another block that you wouldn't recognize.

It also helps that this block is super easy to piece! Let's learn how to put it together in this video:

free motion quilting | Leah DayYes! You definitely still can join in the fun of this Building Blocks Quilt Along! Even better, more than half the videos are already posted, so you can quickly stitch through the 6 previous blocks at your own pace. Get started today by picking up a copy of the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern.

As for the Disappearing Nine Patch, my favorite aspect of this block is the way the last 4 pieces come together. You can really mix this up and play with all the different ways to arrange these pieces. I choose to rotate just two shapes to create the new block:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Hmm...I wonder what it would look like to put together an entire quilt of these blocks? I'd definitely be interested to see what multiple fabrics would look like too. As always with quilting, a new block opens the door to new possibilities!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Quilting Mishaps

It's been an interesting week in the sewing room to say the least! I'm getting used to having another person in my sewing room and Dad is quickly learning all the many steps to piecing a quilt. Speaking of which, here's his first pieced top!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now for the mishap - just as Dad was squaring off the borders for this quilt, he also sliced off the tip of his index finger. I wish I'd caught a picture of the flap of skin sliced off because it was impressive!

Thankfully the cut wasn't deep, and definitely not as bad as cuts and burns Dad has had over the years as a machinist and blacksmith. It didn't bleed too badly and no blood got on the quilt top, but yes, cutting fabric with a rotary cutter can certainly slice up your finger pretty badly and quicker than you think!

Our other mishap this week was entirely my fault, though in 10 years sewing and quilting I've never made a mistake like this.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

My old iron failed after Dad starched and pressed over 10 yards of fabric for various quilts. I picked up a new iron (I usually go for the cheapest variety at Walmart), and was pressing multiple step outs for a quilt, moving from the cutting table to the ironing board to the sewing machine pretty fast, so I left the iron plugged in and hot the whole time.

Well, for the first time EVER, it slipped off the ironing board and landed flat on my cutting mat. And then proceeded to melt right through!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm only smiling because Josh and Dad are making so much fun of me! If Josh was the dancing kind he would have done a jig to the tune of "I told you so! I told you so!"

Yes, he's been sleeping badly for years worried about what might one day happen thanks to my irons left plugged in and hot. Well, lesson learned. It only took melting through the corner of a $250 huge table sized cutting mat to get the message!

So all in all, it wasn't a bad week. We got a lot accomplished together, but definitely have a few things to learn about multiple people in a small sewing / cutting area, and all the many tools that come with the job.

Here's to next week! Let's hope I don't manage to melt through anything else!

Let's go quilt,


Friday, June 27, 2014

Josh's Echo Shell in a Pinwheel Block

We're continuing to speed things up in the Building Blocks Quilt Along with our last series in the Pinwheel Block. Josh here today for my take at Echo Shell.

This was a turning point for me as adding the extra fabric along the edges finally helped me master control over stitching on the perimeter of the block. Unfortunately, the half circle echoes were tricky and I wasn't very happy with the end results of the block.

That said, adding the scrap lead fabric along the edges was game changing. I wish I had done this when I first started out. It's perfect for beginners.

Here's the finished block:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

And the back:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It's always interesting for me to see the finished backs of my blocks, especially after some time has past since I finished the block. The thing I've come to learn is it's never as bad as I first thought when I left the machine. It's wonky, the lines look more like drunken waves than symmetrical echoes, but the general shape and feel of the design is clearly there.

Have you joined us in our Building Block Quilt Along? You can jump in at any time as this is not like your average Quilt Along where if you miss the train at the start, you're out of luck. When you get your pattern (either a physical printed copy or a download which you'll receive immediately upon purchase), you get all 42 designs at once so you can quilt the blocks at your own leisure. You also join us on our Facebook page and connect with other beginners as well as quilters who are just beginning the Quilt Along.

So that's it for the Pinwheel block. Until next week, let's go quilt!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

26. Quilt Echo Shell in a Pinwheel Block

Let's speed things up a bit! This week we've already learned how to quilt Wiggly Lines in a pinwheel block. Now let's finish up our last pinwheel with echo shell:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Echo Shell is a design you can either mark and stitch right on the lines, or you can stitch completely free hand. In the video I demonstrated both methods so you can see how they work and what the finished results will look like.

Join in the fun of the Building Blocks Quilt Along anytime! Click here to pick up your copy of this pattern to get started.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
When quilting free hand with no marks to guide you, no, your design is not going to be absolutely perfect. The echoes might be inconsistently spaced apart, your starting shape might be a bit wobbly.

But I encourage you to see this as your unique signature on the block. No one else can quilt it quite like you, and that's special!

So try challenging yourself this week to mark half the block and quilt on the marked lines, and leave the other half unmarked so you can practice quilting free hand as well.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

All Hands on Stitch!
It's Wednesday and time to check in on the storm that is my sewing room! It's also time to spill the beans about what I've been busy with for the past several weeks - a new, updated edition of Stitch it Up a Notch: How to Piece Perfect Quilts!

This is was my very first book, originally published as an ebook in 2009, and it's all about precision piecing - how to piece so that every seam you sew matches perfectly and predictably every time.

When I wrote this book, I also shot videos to demonstrate many techniques. Up until now, those videos were always separate from the book, and sometimes difficult to watch as you were reading.

free motion quilting | Leah DayWith this update, Josh has edited the text, I've updated the layout, and we've included links to the videos inside the book so you can go watch them as you read the book. Even better, the videos will now be compatible with ipads, so you should be able to watch from any device - computer or tablet.

Now all that's left is shooting new photos, which is not a small job. From my calculation, Dad and I will be cutting over 8 yards of fabric today to create the 5 quilt projects included in the book. It's an overwhelming task of stepping out and shooting over 250 photos on everything from measuring exact 1/4 inch seams to cutting scraps accurately.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This has been a perfect project to work on with Dad because it's given me the opportunity to teach him all aspects of perfect piecing from the ground up. As I'm teaching these steps to him and watching his progress, I'm also reviewing the information in the book and making sure it's as clear and informative as possible.

It's a big job, but I love having so much help to work on it! Dad and I will knock out the piecing with occasional help from Josh to shoot photos and then my Father-in-Law, Chet will give the book a final edit to be sure everything is in good shape. With so many helping hands, we're on schedule to have the book finished by early July!

Update: We've since finished this update to Stitch it Up a Notch: How to Piece Perfect Quilts and it is now available in both a digital download edition here and a print edition from!

This new book is a million times better than I'd originally planned with over 200 additional photos, five step-by-step skill building projects, and page after page of extreme detail on the topic of quilt piecing. If you've been struggling to figure out why your blocks don't finish exactly right, it's time to stop guessing and pick up a copy of How to Piece Perfect Quilts today!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Josh's Wiggly Lines in a Pinwheel Block

Josh here for my last block in the Pinwheel series.

I am definitely getting more comfortable making curves and wiggly lines. I liked this block because it's great to work from the center out, opposed to the usual where we start on the borders and make our way in. And speaking of edges, the corners were the only area of this block that gave me any issue.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Leah recommended adding an inch or two of scrap fabric to the perimeter of the block helps let you maneuver around the edges. I have tried this technique and I can absolutely say this helps and makes your life so much easier when you're working around the corners, especially when you're stitching in detail.

Let's go quilt!


Monday, June 23, 2014

25. Quilt a Pinwheel with Wiggly Lines

free motion quilting | Leah Day
free motion quilting | Leah Day
It's time to quilt up our third Pinwheel Block! This quilting design is nearly identical to the straight lines we learned at the beginning of the month - the pattern is the same and you can flow through the half square triangle shapes the exact same way. The only difference is this time you're quilting wiggles:

Just in case you're looking for an easier way to mark this block, it is now available as a 8 and 10 inch stencil from Quilting Creations Int! Click here for the 8 inch stencil that fits this block.

Looking for the wiggly lines quilting design from the video? Click here to find the graph to mark your quilt in the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern.

This design is not only super simple, it's also super fast! I knocked out this design in less than 10 minutes because there's no travel stitching involved in this design. I also skipped stitching the block in the ditch, which saved several minutes of careful stitching too.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

As you can see, the back of the block still looks good even without the ditching. Some designs can live without it, some need it to provide a "fence" around the design. Ultimately it's a simple design that will make your pinwheel really spin. Have fun with it this week!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Free Motion Quilting with Feathers

Have you found yourself staring at quilts filled with feathers and found yourself filled with longing to learn how to quilt them? Well stop waiting and get feathering by joining in Angela Walter's excellent Free Motion Quilting with Feathers class!

Click here to learn more about this class and save 25%!
In this class you will learn how to start your feather, form the shape so it's angled properly and perfectly round and plump, then travel up to the next so they stack together just right.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

You'll also learn loads of variations - adding echoes, swirls, leaf shapes, and even changing the feather shape for a fern shape. All these many possibilities are simple variations of a basic feather. Once you learn the basic feather, you will be able to stitch so many other interesting designs!

 free motion quilting | Leah Day

Of course, Angela is best known for being a longarm quilter, and she does show you how to fill feathers on her longarm machine. But all of these designs are first demonstrated on a regular home sewing machine too!

I certainly remember my first frustrating attempts to master these designs. I seriously struggled because I was just looking at pictures in books and trying to discover the trick to perfectly formed feathers. Being able to get a solid visual guide for these designs is so essential, and Angela's class is the perfect place to start.

So check out Free Motion Quilting with Feathers today and save 25% on this class!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ultimate Guide to Art Quilting

Whoo hoo! I just received my copy of The Ultimate Guide to Art Quilting!

This is super special because I know this book has been in production for many, MANY years. The author, Linda Steward, contacted several years ago about including a picture of one of my art quilts in the book.

I was thrilled and gave her a pick of any art quilt in my gallery. Linda choose to include Flower Bouquet, a little wall hanging with free motion quilted flowers, and one of the best border designs I've ever quilted.
free motion quilting | Leah Day

And here it is in the book! I'm amazed it was given it's own special page, so I guess Linda was a fan of those borders too!

I'm just thrilled to be included in the book and to now own a copy because it's such a nice reference for hundreds of cool art quilting techniques. Everything is covered from felting fabric, dyeing, applique, embellishment and of course, many ideas for quilting designs and textures to add to the surface.

I know what I'll be curling up with by the pool this afternoon! Definitely preorder your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Art Quilting if you're interested in learning more about art quilting design and techniques, or just looking for awesome inspiration to make beautiful quilts.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Busy Bees all over the House

It's a busy Wednesday and time to check in on what we're really working on around the house! I've been working hard slicing and connecting the blocks of Josh's Building Blocks Quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It's so exciting to see this quilt come together! It's such a testament to building skill and I'm so pleased to see how the connecting binding hiding a lot of stitch issues along the edges of the blocks. Josh picked the binding fabric, which really makes the blue and gray fabric come together, so even though I'm connecting the squares and binding, it's still HIS quilt!

Speaking of Josh, he's busy packing orders and listening to music in the office:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Don't ask how I got him to make this terrific smile

Upstairs Dad is drawing quilting designs on his computer to create the line drawings we use for patterns. We're already working on the stitch diagrams for next year's quilt along and may be able to have stencils ready when the quilt along starts.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Whew! We certainly do have a lot going on. Now I'm heading back downstairs to finish up Josh's quilt and get cracking on my next BIG project!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Josh's Spirals & Pebbling in a Pinwheel Block

Josh here for my turn at free motion quilting spirals and pebbling in a pinwheel block.

I've always loved pebbling from a visual point of view, but I found stitching the design out pretty difficult. Clearly I need a lot of practice if I want to take pebbling to the next level, which I sincerely do. I'd recommend stitching on some scrap blocks to get a handle on pebbling, or spirals, or any filler design that's not coming easily to you.

Speaking of spirals, you'll see at the 2:35 mark I hit a speed bump with a skipped stitch. This was due to going in a direction the machine didn't like and yielded some bird nesting. Under Leah's tutelage, I worked through the skipped stitch area and ultimately decided not to rip out the bad stitching.

Now onto the pebbling. I really enjoy making these in figure 8 paths, but Leah was ultimately right as this gets confusing and you can easily miss a pebble.

Here's the finished block:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

You can see this is not my best work. I was pretty disappointed with how this turned out. But this is just one block in 42 and it's important to keep going without getting bogged down.

So keep that in mind if you finish a block you think looks awful. Is it worth it to restitch the entire block, or even worse, fiddle with seam ripping and fixing and then ripping again as you fall into a feedback loop of perfectionism?

Until next week, let's go quilt,


Monday, June 16, 2014

24. Quilt a Pinwheel Block with Spirals and Pebbling

We're jumping right into our next Pinwheel Quilt Block, this time with Spirals and Pebbling:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This might look really intense and difficult, but I honestly made my block easier by changing two Pebbling areas into a different design. The denser areas are actually stitched with Underwater Rocks, a super fast, super fluid design that breaks all the rules!

Let's see how it works in this video:

Looking for the Spiral and Pebbling quilting design from the video? Click here to find the graph to mark your quilt in the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern.

If you watched the video you'll know our mantra for this week is Throw More Thread At It!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Pebbling is a beautiful design, but it requires slow, careful stitching to fit into a shape perfectly. I much prefer the faster, free feeling of stitching Underwater Rocks where you just throw more thread at it by circling around two to three times with sloppy, imperfect echoes / travel stitching.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

I've got to be the luckiest girl in the world with all these great guys in my life!

Josh and James Day | free motion quilting | Leah Day

Happy Fathers Day to all the amazing fathers who work every day to raise healthy, smart, self-confident kids!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Kristy's Quilt

I love chance meetings and wonderful coincidences. This past spring Brandy Maslowski, the creator of Canadian Quilt Talk radio sent me a message about being on her radio show. With just a few clicks on her site, I ran across her kickstarter campaign she was using to fund a children's book about quilting called Kristy's Quilt.

I really loved this idea and helped fund the kickstarter campaign and spread the word on Facebook. So the campaign was a huge success and Kristy's Quilt is now in print! Click here to find this book!

Kristy's quilt is a fun children's picture book about a little girl learning how to make a quilt during a quilting retreat at her family's lodge. I love that it included real details on quiltmaking, like rotary cutting, piecing, and basting the quilt. A child reading this book will finish it knowing some of the steps we take to make a quilt and might just feel inspired to jump right in!

Not only is the book funny and entertaining, it's also beautifully illustrated by Marcia Stacy, who definitely understands what beautiful fabrics should look like on a page!

I have to say after reading this book I think this should be on every quilter's list to give to grandchildren - boys or girls. James loved the book and kept pointing out things he's seen me use - "There's a rotary cutter! She's basting Mama!"

We need to inspire another generation of quilters with beautiful quilts to sleep under and inspiring books like this to read. Click here to pick up your copy of Kristy's Quilt!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Friday, June 13, 2014

Introduction to Bargello Craftsy Class

It's time for a Craftsy class review! One class I've had on my list to watch is Introduction to Bargello with Karen Gibbs because the projects in this class look so beautiful and fun:

Madison Star Quilt by Karen Gibbs
I saw saw the title card version of this Madison Star quilt at spring market and immediately recognized it from the Craftsy class. It's just as bold and showy as a lone star quilt, but the bargello piecing technique makes it much more like a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes.

So what is bargello exactly? Originally this began as an hand embroidery style, but it's translated nicely to quilting in the form of strip piecing. Piece multiple strips together, then cut the strip collection into strips, then piece THOSE back together and...well it might be a better idea just to join the class and let Karen explain the details!

Watching the class this week, I found myself itching with the impulse to go buy a jelly roll to try out some of the cool projects in this class. Karen has used bargello piecing to create amazing drama and texture in her quilts. I never thought to make half square triangles or try reverse applique with this technique, but she used both in this dramatic Something About Paris quilt.

What's nice about this quilt is it's not super fiddly or exact. Karen's designed the pattern with plenty of "fudge" room where even if the piecing isn't quite perfect, you're still going to produce a gorgeous quilt.

So if you're in the mood to learn a fun piecing technique that will add amazing drama to your quilts, definitely check out Introduction to Bargello today! Click here to save 25% on this class!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Building Block Stencils!

I've been DYING to share these super awesome stencils with you since I saw them at Quilt Market last month! We now have stencils available for many of the blocks in the Building Blocks Quilt!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

We've worked with Quilting Creations International to create this beautiful set of stencils which will make using these designs so much easier on all of your quilts. If you've been really struggling to mark the designs using a light box or tracing paper, these stencils will allow you to mark the quilt block easily from the top side.

Currently we have these stencil designs available for the 8 inch blocks in the Building Blocks Quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Many of the Rail Fence block designs actually worked better as border or sashing designs than as single blocks, so we've created Wiggles and Teeth stencil in 1.5 inch and 2.5 inch widths including a corner turn so you can easily use these designs in the sashing of a quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

We did the same thing with the Circuit Board design from Block #4 and created a perfect sashing or border design stencil complete with corner turn.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This Circuit Board stencil is available in 2.5 inch and 3.5 inch widths so it's sure to work in a variety of quilts.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

We've also upsized many designs to fit 10 inch and a few 12 inch squares. These would be fun to use for bigger blocks or on plain fabric. With a single stencil, you can infinitely mark over the surface of plain fabric so much easier and faster than tracing through a light box.

 free motion quilting | Leah Day

These bigger stencils would be a great choice if you're looking to play with a variety of quilting designs outside of the Building Blocks Quilt. 

I'm really intrigued to see what people do with this 10 inch house block stencil. What fun!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

And to answer a few last nitty gritty questions - Yes, we will eventually have MOST of the designs from the Building Blocks Quilt Pattern available in stencil form. A few designs might have a slightly different look - like the way we changed Block 4 designs into border stencils.

However, most of the stencils won't be available to purchase from Quilting Creations until after fall market (end of October).

Still, with so many fun designs to play with, we're sure to keep busy between now and then! Check out all the stencils I have available with Quilting Creations right here.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Quilts of my Past: Textiles from Isfahan

We're home again from our wonderful trip to Florida and sorting through all our bags, washing clothes, and putting away treasures from our trip. One treasure I found is in picture form - all the beautiful textiles Josh's uncle Jack brought back from Isfahan, Iran in the 1970's:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

These textiles are single layer, woven cotton cloth and dyed with amazing colors and patterns.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Thanks to my experience designing fabrics, I could sometimes tell where the design repeated, usually in darker bands where the design overlapped itself.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I honestly don't know how these were dyed, but my best guess is a method similar to Indonesian batiks - a tjap is used to print the design on the fabric. Only in this case the tjap is dipped in dye or paint rather than wax because this cloth only contained color on the designs. That's my best guess, but it's certainly something I want to look into more. Just check out the intricacy of these designs:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Jack pulled out spread after spread of these textiles in all shapes and styles. They held this story:

It is my understanding that in the 1970's we sold Iran weapons, including many F16 fighter jets. Josh's grandfather, Dutch, was a former navy test pilot and sent over to Iran as a consultant to train the engineers and pilots to fly these planes. Dutch moved his family over for several years right before the Iranian Revolution, but left in late 1978 before the Shah left in exile in January 1979.

So Jack bought all these beautiful textiles while living in Iran. In many cases he didn't know what they would have been used for, but had used them himself for table cloths, placemats, table runners, and hangings on the wall. Many were damaged with stains from use, but still holding up surprisingly well.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

My personal feeling about things like this - quilts, textiles, handmade creations that are totally unique and irreplaceable - is that they are better off used and enjoyed, even if it risks damage.

The reason is simple - no one loves anything that's stashed in the back of a dark closet. 

I'm a quilter today is because I grew up with quilts, slept under them, played with them, marveled at their intricacy, and ultimately fell in love with everything about them. This definitely wouldn't have happened if all the quilts in my house had stayed stashed in the back of the closet - safe, yet unloved.

So I encouraged Jack to pull out his textiles once again, get them washed to remove the musty smell from being stored in a cabinet for so long, and enjoy them on the tables and walls like he used to.

As for the quilts from Josh's grandmother, Betty, unfortunately we weren't able to find them, and Betty unable to remember them. I guess I waited a little too long for those memories and the quilts have either been misplaced or given away.

So if you happen to have a grandmother or if you're lucky enough to still have great grandmothers, sit and ask and see what they remember. Take photos and notes, and record these memories in a journal or photo album.

Quilts are funny, precious objects that are easy to take for granted because they are so utilitarian - just a blanket on a bed. But as we all know, they are far, far more than that and worth knowing who made them to connect us with our past. Because you never know when a new child will come along, and while sleeping or playing also falls in love with this wonderful craft.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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