The Free Motion Quilting Project: Double Edge Sword of Sequential Quilt Alongs

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


  1. Hello Leah and Josh, I'm one for the 2014 quilt along-ers who fizzled out part way through. I did look ahead some, but never got around to watching all the videos. I still intend to finish the quilt and am very interested in learning the qayg method for finishing the project. Will the videos stay up for a while? Hope so!

  2. Despite having the pattern and watching the videos, I haven't as yet done the BBQA but it is on the to do list as is the Butterfly quilt. Please don't be disheartened or give up doing what you do as you are an inspiration to a lot of people. Josh's attempts at the quilt also helped a struggling newbie(me) so well done.

  3. I think giving everyone all the videos and info up front but also doing a post weekly or however frequently throughout the year on the project, covers all bases. I liked starting out with the group last year, it was a total blast. But I get busy during the summer competing and things around my farm just take over every minute of the day. I didn't feel weird falling behind and I still haven't finished it, even though I wanted to before Christmas, but I made some serious progress on it during November. Then I got busy with customer orders for things… but it will get done and I don't worry about it. I think you can't please everyone and you're doing a great job.

  4. Sigh. It is sad to see you unhappy with results. I know how much effort and thought was put into both patterns and all the work with videos. Please know that we are very happy with all that you have done. I for one have learned a lot from you. You have given me the motivation to not only try, but be somewhat successful at fmq!! I will continue to practice and improve all thanks to you, Josh and BBQA and am looking forward to completing the DBQA. Keep up the great work. You never cease to amaze me with your quilting. Cheers. Melissa

  5. I'm wondering if the QAL "posts" for the fun Butterfly QAL may be appropriate for a linky party of sharing, an inspirational post from you, as well as summary/pr for links for those that have signed up for this, very inexpensive QAL, get blog post reminders of the videos.

    Bottom line: we all need to look for ways to be more productive on our administrative tasks, which will hopefully allow the creative souls more time to create, thus providing a win-win for #CreativeGoodness for everyone. I'm not sure what the correct mix is, but I want to support and encourage you to find it and not feel you need to provide a solution for every person.


    1. That's a great idea! Adding the additional option to link up and share will create even more opportunity to share and connect with other bloggers on this project.

      I wish I could say I don't care about what people think or how they react to my projects, but the fact is, it's tough to find out after 6 months of work that black and blue are the two worst colors for a quilt, that butterflies freak people out, and that pink was also not a good choice. I'm not kidding - I've heard it all. No, I can't please everyone, but good lord do I try!

  6. You definitely can't please everyone. If people can't see how they can modify the design to suit themselves specifically then that is their issue. Pink may not be for everyone - it's not for me but I can still appreciate the beauty of your quilt. I am just going to use different colors for my own. I love that you encourage people to do what feels right to them and go with their own inspiration! It was cool how some people made small changes to their BBQA quilt to suit their own needs - using your design as a jumping off point and then adding in their own bits of inspiration. Anyways, there will always be sour grapes in the bunch.. just ignore them and focus on the good! :)

  7. I followed religiously with the Building Blocks QAL. Yep, I'm one of those people who quilt slowly and am pulled in many directions so the BBQAL quilt is still only partially done!!! (Talk about needing a solution; I need one!!! LOL) But when I finish my current project, finish the bag that's also an UFO, the BB quilt is next. I'm loving all the new techniques I've learned and just ';doing' the quilting is super for me. It was fun to see that Josh, as a new quilter, struggled with his quilting but the improvement was wonderful to see. I got the cheater cloth in the gray/blue combo and still cannot decide what color to use for my sashing. Have loved seeing the quilts you shared. Nope, I'm not doing the Butterfly - I need to concentrate on UFOs for awhile. :) Thanks for the fun time. I continue to read and follow along because I continue to learn. I sure don't have a solution for you; just know I appreciate you and have enjoyed the QAL. I will share my quilt WHENEVER I get it finished.

  8. As someone who has now done two QALs on my blog, I totally understand! I think the weekly thing is good for some, and monthly is good for others. You work hard and put together some great blog content and people aren't excited about it! There are a lot of people who are "starters" and not "finishers!"

  9. I just found your youtube channel in November 2014 and am excited to start the BB quilt. I may not be able to actually "quilt along", but please don't be discouraged - I think the views will pick up a bit as folks discover how awesome it is!!

  10. I followed the BBQA, watching all of your videos and about half of Josh's but didn't make the quilt. I had just started Free Motion Fillers V2 when the BBQA came out and decided to stick with it. I'm still only half done with FMFv2, but it built enough confidence that I FMQed a 90x90" on my domestic machine.

    I like butterflies & have the DBQA pattern. It took me a couple days to work out what you'd done with your colorways and then I settled on fabric in yellow/orange/red & turquoise/teal (I dislike pink). Personalizing a design is part of the fun. I'll get started in Jan. but I won't join the face book group or any other social media. I don't have and don't want accounts on those platforms. I'm glad you will be doing some blog posts, because I did feel disconnected.

    With any activity, people drop out. The younger group prioritizes kids& jobs. The older group may not do facebook, etc. unless trying to connect with (great) grand kids. Many workshop & BOM projects take years to get finished. We had a UFO challenge last year and it was amazing what got finished. Your BBQA videos will probably continue for years with a low level of activity as people reconnect with their project.

    Another consideration for you: did you achieve your other goals for the project, particularly financially? If the answer is yes, then maybe you've reached the right number of people and perhaps everyone learned something even if they did not finish the project.

    BTW the people who dislike butterflies could substitute a different, but similar sized applique, perhaps a flower or bird.

  11. Leah and Josh,
    With this post I see you are discouraged that some of us have dropped out and postponed working on our quilts. I am guilty as charged, but it is not that I have given up or do not have it on my radar for this coming just got in the way. I have learned so much in the last year from both of you, and have enjoyed every blog that I have read...I am about half way done. I am starting up again in Jan to get back to the blocks. I always have more time in the winter than in the summer and fall and forget it when it gets toward the holidays. But, don't feel bad about it. You have done a great job. And you have promised that the blogs will be on the website so I felt free to slow down and not get uptight about staying up with everyone. I am not doing the butterfly project but I did get another of your courses from Crafsty. Wow, I am so excited in the progress I have made, I am really happy about my skills. And..I have still watched and read the updates from everyone. Loved seeing the completed projects, and will be happy when I can post mine too.

    Just, please know that you have done a great job. Don't take it personally and get discouraged. We are the ones who are have kept up the pace. LOL, and as a prior post said, as long as you are financially making it work, just follow what you are doing. I like that you have the blogs we can work on at our pace. I almost always at least read it and then know what's in store.

    Anyway, love you guys and thanks for your guidance and talent.

  12. Hi Leah and Josh. I agree with all comments above. I think Cyndy Winkler (above) sums it up well.
    My first thought is "you can't please all of the people all of the time".
    There are so many ways of measuring your success this year! I am only up to Block 3!!! BUT I have watched all of your videos as they have arrived and have learned so much along the way. If mental rehearsal counts - then I've had heaps of practise! Life just kept pushing the Building Blocks further back in the queue of things to be done.
    I saved your Building Blocks in order to blitz them on the holidays. So what's keeping from my Building Blocks at the moment? Well my daughter in law has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She has two little boys aged 8 months and two and a half. She has an excellent prognosis. We have been doing a lot of baby sitting and overnighters while mummy has been recovering from her operation and she will need more treatment in the next few months. The stress has been horrible as the boys are too little to understand where mummy is and why she can't lift them now that she is home. We are all making choices and adjusting to life's demands out here - please don’t take it personally when we fall off the schedule!
    Another thing - I've made other quilts this year and I noticed that my confidence has improved heaps and I am a lot free-er when I FMQ. I can only put that down to your role model and the videos. (Plus the first three blocks I have actually finished ;-P )
    I have enjoyed your videos and Josh’s down to earth acceptance of the tricky parts. I have also ventured on the FB page and found a very supportive and creative community of people there. I have therefore found the overall Building Blocks experience to be excellent - and your videos and FB page have kept me in excellent company too - something that I value very highly.
    Overall, Leah, I think you should look beyond numbers for your indicators if success. You are a wonderful teacher and your honesty and creativity are breathtaking. I have learned HEAPS and I see that expressed by many others.
    I hope you manage to feel less disappointed with your perception of the outcome for Building Blocks and that you have a great 2015!
    Hugs to you all!

  13. Leah, I agree with Michelle --- hard as it may be, I think looking beyond numbers for success is key. A year-long sequential QAL is an extraordinary thing, you're basically talking the equivalent of three semesters worth of work!

    I watched all of your and Josh's BBQA vids (some more than once) and they were absolutely invaluable. My pace on the BBQA slowed a couple times with competing commitments, but I found that the vids and the FB group made it *much* easier to play catchup and get back in the groove. The vids are not only helpful, but a very motivating boost. I'm finishing up the BBQA joining and binding now, and am also prepping to begin the DBQA this month.

    I think you'll always need to go with your own instincts on colors and patterns for the demo blocks, and there's no way you'll please everybody. How clearly the fabrics and thread read on the vids is much more important!

    Please know that you're a wonderful teacher, Josh is a brave assistant, and you've both made a huge difference in skill, confidence, and enjoyment for so many of us!

  14. Leah, I want to share with you that 2 years ago I was a brand new quilter. I watched with eagerness your videos on free motion quilting and felt more than a little overwhelmed. Then I stumbled upon Josh's videos and those videos gave me the hope that one day I will be able to achieve the ability to free motion quilt. Please accept my thank you for this video and please let Josh know that it was so uplifting to see him - as a beginner - going off the lines and having issues. I tend to be a perfectionist and beat myself up more than anyone else. I know that you also started at the beginning at one time but to see you just glide around while free motion quilting made it see daunting to me. So Josh's attempts have shown me that we all start at the beginning. Please give yourselves - the Leah and Josh team - a big thank you!

  15. Hi Leah,

    I just started quilting after a hiatus of over two decades. I found your web page to be one of best on quilting. I am just about done with the building block beginning sampler quilt. I have about 1/2 dozen blocks to left to quilt and have started to put the blocks together (3 rows done) and all is lining up beautifully. That is because I am paying extreme attention to seam allowances and squaring up the blocks just right. I watched every one of the videos on piecing and FMQ for this project. Your tips and specifics on the little details are what have taught me so much and aids in making things come out (mostly) right.

    Having your husband do the FMQ on the blocks was brilliant. It looks so simple, but it is not and now I know I am not alone!

    Next I am thinking of doing the butterfly quilt, but first I need to finish the building block quilt. UFOs are not very useful. I may some day do the 2017 quilt also, but I do not want to quilt one block per month only as that makes the project to dragged out for my personality, but probably works for others.

    I just wanted to tell you your videos are very good and say thank you for sharing them.


    1. You're super welcome Brit! It's good to know your perspective on a project. I'm always willing to try sharing a different way and we're still learning how to manage this one year at a time. I'm so glad you're enjoying our projects!


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