The Free Motion Quilting Project: January 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Spring Rain in Quiltmaker Magazine

Yes, I'm writing for Quiltmaker Magazine! I met the awesome team behind this magazine at spring quilt market and began writing articles last year. For the March / April issue, I challenged myself to design a super simple throw sized quilt and find an easy way to free motion quilt it as well.

I LOVE how this turned out! This is honestly one of my most favorite quilts because the piecing and quilting are such nice companions. Here's a short video to learn how to quilt one of the marked tear drop motifs:

Would you like to make Spring Rain too? Find the pattern and template to mark the tear drops in the March / April 2015 issue of Quiltmaker Magazine!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Design #441 - Love Butterfly

Time for a new design today and my inspiration is none other than...butterflies! For this design I wanted to create a really simple butterfly shape using other simple shapes. This ended up being more of a motif than a filler design, but it's still going to look great on your quilts wherever you put it!

This design fits into the Center Filled family because you start in the center and fill outward. It's also Beginner Level because this cute little design is formed from super simple heart shapes and echoes.

The antennae added to the butterfly effect, but also created a weird spot in the texture...hmmm...stick with it or scrap it, that's totally up to you! Let's see how it's quilted:

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned realizing that this design works more like a motif than a filler design. Fillers literally "fill" the space on your quilt, like Sharp Stippling in the background of this butterfly block:

Motifs are designs that stand out as their own unique statement. Yes, they also fill space on a quilt, but most often they are a design that is placed first, then a filler design is quilted around a motif for emphasis.

So here's another take on Love Butterfly, but this time placed on the quilt as a motif, surrounded with three rows of echo quilting, then filled around with Stippling. See the difference?

Don't worry if you don't understand the difference between motifs and fillers. The terminology isn't important, but what you choose to do with the design is! Where are you planning to use Love Butterfly?

I think this design would look super cute placed randomly over a girly baby quilt. If you used bright, contrasting thread they would really pop and look so cheerful on the surface!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Three Finished Quilts from Dancing Butterfly

Josh here, and today I have several pictures of some amazing, finished quilts from the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along! These photos were shared on our interactive facebook group where you can share photos and make friends with quilters all over the globe. Yes, people have already finished the Quilt Along, but many more are just getting started--you work at your own pace and leisure, no rush, and the Quilt Along will always be available.

First is Jennifer D. M.'s quilt, which is actually two quilts as she split the twelve butterflies into six apiece in order to make dual quilts for two friends:

Next we have Seaside Quilter's finished Butterfly quilt, with an extra butterfly pillow:

And here is the front of Karen A.'s quilt:

And here's the back, with some more wonderful colors:

Wow, weren't those just incredible?

If you haven't started on your Dancing Butterfly quilt, today is the perfect time as the pattern is on sale from now until Friday.

Let's go quilt,


Monday, January 26, 2015

Decorative Antennae Designs

We're nearly finished investigating all the creative ways we can play with the butterfly designs from the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern. Today let's explore some creative ways to stitch the butterfly antennae!

In the pattern, you'll learn how to mark and quilt the antennae shapes using satin stitching. The one challenge is this adds the thin, tricky shapes to the block surface BEFORE the quilting. As you fill the background space, you will have to stitch carefully through the area to keep the design consistent and not stitch over the antennae lines.

I frequently stopped and marked my way through this space to plan my entry and escape. It worked well, but it was a bit time consuming and many quilters have reported just ignoring the antennae and quilting all over them just to make it easier.

So the first way to change up the antennae is to wait to add them until AFTER the block is quilted. Jodi J on the DB Facebook Group free motion quilted her antennae shapes in place with a contrasting thread color so they stood out against the quilted background.

Another idea is to skip stitching all together! In this block I added the simple shapes using 20 mm hot fix crystals:

I've wanted to play with hot fix crystals for years, and horded the supplies, but never actually put heat to rhinestone until now. They're surprisingly easy to use - just place the crystals, then press with a heat tool like Cheri's Cool Tool and the glue on the back of the crystal heats up and bonds with the fabric.

You do have to hold the tool on for awhile, particularly for the larger crystals. I held it on for 25 seconds per crystal to secure these big guys in place.

The one downside to the crystals is the question of washing the quilt. Will the glue on the crystals stand up to a run through the washing machine? I didn't have time to test it yet, but I'll update this post as soon as that block has gone through the ringer!

Now for another creative idea - hand embroidery. You can hand embroider the antennae shapes either before or after quilting. In this case, I marked the placement for the antennae and then quilted around them as if they were really there.

Now for the hand embroidery. I decided to use a decorative metallic thread called Razzle Dazzle and cut a short length and tied a knot at the end.

I inserted the needle about 3/8 inch from the tip of one antenna, sliding the needle just under the surface of the fabric, not all the way through to the back of the block. I pulled the thread through until the knot popped into the fabric so it was hidden in the middle layer of the quilt.

Now for the first stitch. I inserted the needle about 1/4 inch from the start and slid it through the middle layer of the quilt another 1/4 inch:

For the next stitch I inserted the needle in the hole at the end of the first stitch, then rand the needle another extra 1/4 inch through the quilt. So in this way, the second stitch is doubling back on itself. 

All the remaining stitches are made this way - by stitching back through the second hole of the previous stitch.

This forms a nice line of decorative stitches all the way to the top of the butterfly body. To jump to the other antenna shape, I just traveled through the middle layer of the quilt and brought my needle up right at the start of the marked line:

I repeated the same stitch on the other line, then ran the thread through the middle layer of the quilt about 1 inch, then tied a knot, then ran the thread another inch, making sure the knot popped into the quilt to hold the thread securely inside the quilt.

I love this option because it's so subtle, but also clearly a little extra time and effort was made to add the little antennae lines to the quilt surface.

Ultimately it doesn't matter if you add your antennae before or after the quilting, or with satin stitching, hand embroidery, or a surface material like hot fix crystals.

Whatever you use, make sure it fits with your goals for the quilt. Obviously if you're planning to give the quilt to a baby and it will receive heavy use and washing, adding crystals, buttons, or beads might not be the best idea. However, if you're planning for the quilt to hang on a wall or show, these additional elements will really stitch it up a notch!

One thing I've learned is to stop being so afraid to try new materials. Buying new stuff is the easy part, and it feels so good to have a stash of cool materials to play with at any time. But hording materials and never using them is as silly as baking a cake and not eating it!

So what materials have you been stashing away? Pull them out and play! The only way you will learn how to use them is to USE THEM in a real project and what better quilt than one that is all about experimenting and learning new designs and techniques?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
Helpful links: 
Check out more posts for the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along right here.
If you haven't picked up your pattern yet, find a download version here, and a printed version here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Store-wide Sale

Josh here for our weekly Feature Friday.

Starting today and going through next week, we are putting everything (except our quilting tables and acrylic inserts) on sale for 15% off orders of $20 or more.
This is the perfect time to try our new Quilting Back Support.

Leah writes, I've been crafting and sewing since childhood and unfortunately never developed good posture habits. I'd frequently hunch over, straining the muscles in my upper back and neck for long periods of time.

This has resulted in a lot of pain and headaches as an adult, especially after quilting or working on a computer extensively. When I found the Quilter's Back Support, I was skeptical that adding weight to my back would really help my posture, but after trying it on and getting the size adjusted just right, I found immediate improvement.

Have you had trouble finding Lite Steam a Seam 2 for our Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along? We now have the fusible web back in stock and can easily get new supply within a matter of days, instead of the previous period of weeks!

Quilters have been reporting this product is very difficult to find; in fact, it's only recently come back on the market.
And don't forget Leah's newest book, her spiral bound 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs, on sale this week for $33.96.

You will find a high quality of photo of each meticulously stitched design; every single one of the 365 filler designs have been stitched out in painstaking detail, no computerized images here.

Challenge yourself to memorize--not mark--a new design every day for a year. Stitch the designs exactly as shown or mix it up by creating your own variations. There is no limit to the possibilities.

Let's go quilt!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happiness and Show Quilting

Yesterday I received the wonderful news that my quilt 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs has won a first place ribbon at Road to California!
 I'm very pleased with this award and how well this quilt is doing in shows so far. It's an odd quilt because it doesn't really have a true pattern or design other than all the different filler designs, which you have to get pretty close to the quilt to see.

Winning this ribbon this week made me stop and reflect on how competition quilting has changed for me over the years.

When I first began show quilting, I NEEDED a ribbon. I needed the validation and confirmation that I was good enough. I just didn't have the self esteem to believe it on my own. Most of my thoughts ran in circles around feeling inadequate, but always with the hope that another quilt, another ribbon, another prize would make me feel better about myself.

Then as I won more ribbons, I began to feel like my quilts were being hijacked. Was I designing them for me, or to make a judge happy? Judge's opinions can vary so greatly from show to show. Once a quilt won an honorable mention at one show, then turned right around and won Best Machine Quilting at another. I couldn't deal with this inconsistency, and when I "lost" I was always absolutely devastated.

When making the quilts, my thoughts were a swirl of negativity. It has to be PERFECT! Why did you make that STUPID mistake? WHY are you even trying this technique? You're not good enough.

Eventually I got so frustrated with myself and my unrealistic need for perfection, I had to stop making show quilts. I just burned out and stopped competing in 2011. I just couldn't take the negativity it was generating in my life.

It took me a few years and reading several good books to finally pull out of that funk. The Power of Habit was one of the most helpful books for identifying the negative thought patterns that were causing me so much trouble.

I realized that winning couldn't make me happy in a sustainable way. It's a brief surge of pleasure and excitement, then back to the regular pattern of thoughts and feelings from before.

If I'm feeling depressed and sad, winning might bring out a smile for a day, but more than likely I'd be right back to thinking sad, depressed thoughts again. The most important thing I've learned in the last three years is that happiness, security, and contentment are a choice. 

I can choose to be kind to myself and accepting of my abilities, or I can choose to be my own worst enemy. I used to expect to feel elated for WEEKS after a big win, but it just doesn't work like that. More quilts, more ribbons, more awards - none of it matters if I don't feel good about myself to start with.

So now it's 2015 and I'm competing again, but this time, winning isn't my goal. I can't explain how I turned the corner except to say that my new goal is far more important and achievable than just winning.

Instead I show this quilt out of a desire for her just to be seen and appreciated.

I show now just to share. I want to show up and put my work out there and for everyone to see what I can do, but I could care less what a one or two judges have to say about it!

I don't travel much and quilters rarely get to see my quilts in person. By entering shows, many more people will get the chance to see my quilts and appreciate them close up and personal. I much prefer to keep this quilt moving from show to show rather than rolled up in the closet.

This transformation of attitude has been such an amazing relief! I can truly say that winning a ribbon is just the icing on the cake. It's not my purpose to enter, but a nice side benefit. I much prefer to receive emails and comments from quilters who have attended the show and loved seeing the quilt I entered. That is the whole point!

So if you're going to Road to California this weekend, make sure to keep your eyes out for 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs. I'm not sure where she's headed next, but I know for sure she's not done yet!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Design #440 - Paisley Pile Up

It's new design time! I promised I'd get back on track with new designs and this morning I sat down and filmed five new videos before breakfast so we're definitely going to get back to a regular schedule of design posts from here on out.

Today I'm sharing Paisley Pile Up, which kind of looks like a lot of Paisley's got in a fist fight. It's a bit of a mess!
This is a Super Beginner design, which means it will be very easy to quilt no matter what your skill level. Most Overlapping designs are very easy because they just involve overlapping shapes and you can hide any mistakes in the rather chaotic texture. Check out the video to see what I mean:
This design was also featured in my Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers Volume 2, which is an excellent class if you're interested in learning more about Overlapping, Edge to Edge, Edge to Center, Stem Centered, and Foundational Designs.

You'll learn 10 designs from each family and see them stitched in a cool tote bag project!

Click Here to for a 50% discount for Free Motion Fillers Volume 2!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Finishing Duchess Reigns

It's official! I've been bursting at the seams since Sunday because I've FINALLY finished the quilting on Duchess Reigns!!!

I put the last stitches into the outer border of this quilt on Sunday and shot a quick casual video to share how I was feeling at the moment she was complete.

I wish I could say that it's thrilling and wonderful to finish a huge project like this, but really I mostly felt tired and relieved. Tired because I'd quilted for more than 3 hours to finish that outer edge, and relieved that the damn quilt is done and I can finally move on!

Yes, I can see issues in the quilt. Mostly I can see where different design decisions would have resulted in a very different quilt. From a distance, she's not as bold and eye-catching as I would like. Like most of my quilts, you have to get up to about 4 feet away to see the detail within each space.

So in a small sense, I'm disappointed, but in another sense, she is a perfect representation of where I was when I began designing her in 2012.
Shy Guy, my old tom cat was the inspiration for the corner motifs
 This was also an experiment of thread density and showing contrast only through filler designs. In all of those cases, I'm very pleased with the effect and look forward to trying new ideas that came from making this quilt.

As for what this quilt represents - Duchess Reigns represents transformation. In three years I've transformed in so many ways, and one of the most important was choosing to lighten up about the imperfections in this quilt. Yes, there are thread breaks I didn't fix properly in this quilt. Yes, there are mistakes that I covered with thread painting.

It's not that I don't care. I do care about the quality of my work, almost too much at times. Learning how to relax my death grip on perfection was so. amazingly. freeing.

I don't need her to be perfect, and I don't need to hold myself to that high, impossible standard. I guess I've learned to be nicer to myself as this project as progressed. I'm able to forgive the mistakes and move on, where I used to get stuck and berate myself for not being perfect.

I also finally allowed my freak flag to fly with this quilt. No wonder she changed my life - she's part woman, part bird, part cat! She's strong and beautiful and inspiring me to design even more crazy sexy goddesses than before. .

This quilt has certainly been a journey, a challenge, and a learning experience rolled all into one. Overall and overwhelmingly, I love her. I'm so glad I made her. And now I'm ready to go die more fabric and get her bound!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 19, 2015

Satin Stitching Alternatives

satin stitch | butterfly block
Let's get back to butterflies! Last week I shared some tips about fusible applique and how to decide when to use this technique in your quilts.

Today let's explore the different ways you can finish the edges of your butterflies before quilting. In the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern I finished the edges with satin stitching, which is essentially a dense zigzag stitch that covers the edge of the shapes to prevent fraying.

Satin stitching can be really beautiful on the surface of the quilt, no matter if you match thread with the fabric or contrast boldly. I chose to contrast the satin stitching thread color on all of my butterflies and I love the bright, cheerful look this added to the surface!

satin stitch | butterfly quilt
But satin stitching has a few can be time consuming and a bit fiddly. Dialing down the stitch width to turn points nicely requires practice. Satin stitching is also heavy and the build up of thread can cause ripples and distortion unless you use stabilizer to keep the fabric under control.
So there are upsides and downsides to satin stitching. The upside is it covers the edges of the applique and adds beauty and texture to the block.

But it's definitely not the ONLY way you can finish the edges of your butterflies! Here's a few other techniques you could use instead:

Decorative Machine Stitching
decorative stitch | fusible applique
Instead of using a dense zigzag stitch, you could use any of the decorative stitches on your machine. This is a fun opportunity to play with the different designs on your machine and add even more texture to your blocks.
decorative machine stitches

If you haven't already, it's a great idea to stitch out a sample of all the decorative stitches included on your machine. Play with adjusting the width and length to see how it changes the designs.

One tip I learned from Carol Ann Waugh's Stitch and Slash class was to stitch the different designs on stabilized fabric and create a stitch bible for each machine. That way you know at a glance what the machine can do and what designs will look beautiful for your project.

Using decorative stitches on your butterfly wings, or for the antenna shapes is a very nice alternative to satin stitching, but it does create a new question - how do you free motion quilt around the decorative stitching?

I thought about this a lot and stitched a sample block to test what a star design would look like on one butterfly wing. I decided to echo inside the decorative stitching around 1/8 inch away:
decorative stitch | machine applique

 This inner outline provided a line to travel along to form the design and fill the space consistently. I decided to outline 1/8 inch away on the opposite side as well and this created a neat channel on the front and back of the block:
decorative stitch | machine applique

The outer outline also provided a stitching line to travel along so I could fill Paisley consistently through the background of the block:
decorative stitch | machine applique

 Of course I know you really want to see the back! 
quilting machine applique

The only issue with decorative stitches is they might not cover the edges of the wings as perfectly as the satin stitching and the edges of the shapes may fray a little bit. I threw this little block in the wash twice and there's a tiny bit of fraying between the star shapes:
 quilting around machine applique

You'll need to play with the many decorative stitches on your machine to find one that covers the edge more solidly if you want to avoid all fraying potential.

Personally I find the whole Anti-Frayed-Edges-Movement a bit silly. Is a little bit of fuzz on the quilt REALLY that bad? With time and multiple washes, those frayed edges will soften and add even more texture to the quilt.

Another bonus - leaving the edges raw saves so much time! I honestly wanted to write the pattern to leave the butterflies raw, but then I realized the Quilting Police had officially banned frayed edges as evil and lazy. Grrr!

But it's a valid option that you may want to consider if satin stitching or decorative stitching 12 butterfly shapes is too time consuming or too fiddly for you to deal with. On the same block I experimented with decorative star stitch, I finished the left wing and body 100% raw.
fusible applique | butterfly quilt

Again, I had to figure out how this would change the free motion quilting of the block. I decided to stitch an inner and outer outline just like the decorative stitching.
fusible applique | butterfly quilt

 I first stitched around the outside of the butterfly shape to stabilize the block and remove pins. I then stitched inside the shapes 1/8 inch from the edge. This will allow only 1/8 inch of the fabric edge to fray, and the outline stitching around the outer edge will provide the space to travel stitch as needed as the block background is filled.
fusible applique | raw edge applique 

After filling, I zigzagged the edges quickly and threw it in the washer and dryer twice. The fraying was actually not as bad as I was expecting, but it will definitely soften and fray more along the edge over time:
fusible applique | raw edge applique
I personally find this edge soft and beautiful, and quicker to produce. Yes, I like it RAW! Lol - I should put that on a T-shirt!

But what do you think? Are you extremely allergic to frayed edges? Is it worth the extra 2-4 days of satin stitching to cover the edges of your blocks?

Personally I find frayed edges yet another fun technique to play with. I think of this like another tool in my toolbox and right now I'm wondering what a raw edge goddess would look like. Funky!

I don't like to limit myself to only one style or one technique, and I will never, ever believe that there is a single "right" way to complete a quilt and all other ways are "wrong." That is so horribly limited in my opinion. Let's have fun and explore the many possibilities this awesome craft encompasses!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

butterfly quilt | butterfly quilt pattern
Helpful links: 
Check out more posts for the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along right here.
If you haven't picked up your pattern yet, find a download version here, and a printed version here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Beginner Filler Designs DVD Sale
Josh here and this week I'd like to feature Leah's beginner level DVD, Beginner Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs.

This DVD is perfect for the beginner who is just starting out with free motion quilting. Leah breaks down 30 of the most basic and simplest free motion designs in extensive detail.

In this 2 hour DVD, you will be guided through 30 of the best and most popular beginner level designs from the Free Motion Quilting Project. Each design for this video has been stitched clearly onto black fabric and white thread in high resolution video.

Learn not only how to quilt each design, but also how to put your blocks together using a fun Quilt-As-You-Go technique to create a Free Motion Quilting Sampler Quilt.
Matrix Rays

With clear, easy to understand instructions, you're sure to gain the confidence you need to try each design. This is a physical DVD disc that plays in all DVD players no matter where you live in the world.

Frog Eggs
Some of my own personal favorite designs like Frog Eggs, Matrix, Rays, and Pumpkin Patch are broken down into simple steps.

 Leah explains how to fill the design in a logical way through the block and shares tips on expanding the design through real quilts as well.
Pumpkin Patch

Dig into the creative textures and designs you can stitch, no matter what your skill level!
Save 50% on Beginner Free Motion Filler Designs while supplies last! Click Here to pick up your copy for just $14.97.

Let's go quilt,

Josh Day

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