The Free Motion Quilting Project: February 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #8 - Bamboo Forest

Time for a fun Edge to Edge design to make our Dancing Butterfly borders and wings really pop! Bamboo Forest is one of my favorite designs for adding beautiful texture without a lot of fuss.
It's hard to believe such a beautiful quilting design is created entirely with simple curving lines! Let's learn how to quilt this in a short video from the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern:

When it came to using Bamboo Forest in my 4th butterfly, I marked long lines across the block to help with placement. It's definitely not required, but it may help keep the lines of the bamboo lined up across the edges of the block.
This definitely isn't required, but I found it easier to stretch the bamboo across the length of the block this way.

So what do you think? If you like the look of Bamboo Forest you might also like Hardware Floors, a similar design stitched with straight lines instead of curves. No matter which way you stitch it, these designs are simple to quilt, but really look great anywhere you use them!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow Fabric Dyeing!

We have another round of snow days with around 4 inches of snow on the ground. After a round of sledding and snowman-making, I headed straight for my dyeing room to do some snow dyeing!

This is really simple if you're already into dyeing fabric. Just wash and soak your fabric in soda ash as normal (I do 1 cup of soda ash to 1 gallon of water), then spread it out in a bin like so:

Next, top with snow! I added a layer around an inch thick so I couldn't see the fabric below. It's was kinda tricky to place the snow on the fabric without grabbing a fistful and compacting it in my hand. I ended up with some big hard ice balls in there along with some more powdery, fluffy snow. I honestly don't know if this matters or not.
With the layer of snow in place, I sprinkled on power Procion MX dyes from Dharma Trading Co. This is my preferred dye, but it is a dangerous chemical so I always wear gloves, a respirator, and covered the bins immediately after adding the powder dye.

I have NO idea how this will turn out, but I'm excited to see the results! I'm going to leave the bins to batch for 24 hours and then rinse out the fabric to see what it looks like. Crossing my fingers it's going to be pretty!

Let's go dye,

Leah Day

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Two More Months to MQX!
Yes, MQX is just around the corner and I'm getting so excited about teaching at this big festival for the first time! Just in case you've never heard of MQX, it stands for Machine Quilting Exposition and is taking place in Manchester, New Hampshire from April 8th - 11th this year. Click Here to learn more about MQX.
All of my classes on free motion quilting are filled, but there's still lots of space available for my workshop Life Journey Through Goddess Quilts.

This 2 hour lecture / class will be all about exploring creativity, making and learning from mistakes, and the joy of self expression through quilt making. During this class I'm going to get you started on the first steps to making your own goddess quilt and how to instantly feel more creative every single day.

I want to teach this lecture and share this information because it's so close to my heart and is THE way I love to express myself and work through obstacles. I hope to inspire more quilters to let go of their fears and make quilts that reflect who you are, what you want, or what you are going through.
Does this sound scary?
I think there is plenty of space for self expression within quilting, and I want to open your eyes to those possibilities. I believe many quilters are craving this source of expression.

On every quilt show form I fill out the description is always limited to a certain number of words and reminders are added to not quote from lengthy poetry. Clearly many people are wishing to express themselves, far beyond what space can allow.

I know these days that "art" isn't nearly as popular as "modern" style quilts, but in a way these quilts are both ancient and modern - ancient symbols people have painted and drawn for centuries, but now stitched out in the most modern ways.

I promise if you come to this class, you will learn many things. But even better, I know you will leave inspired as all hell to go home and BE CREATIVE. Even if it's not perfect. Even if what you are expressing is hard or ugly, I hope to give you the tools you need, courage included, to express it.

So click here to read more about this class and I'll see you at MQX in April!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, February 23, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #7 - Sharp Stippling

A few weeks ago we learned how to free motion quilt Zippling, a cool variation of the super popular Stippling design, but with straight lines and sharp angles. Today let's learn another similar Independent Design, this time with curves and sharp points to create Sharp Stippling:

This is one of my all time favorite designs because it creates such a beautiful texture for your quilts. It's also super easy to machine quilt into any quilting space. I used it for the background of my butterfly block, but you could just as easily quilt this design in the blocks or sashing, whatever looks best to you!

Click Here to find the full length video in the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern!

So what do you think of Sharp Stippling? If you like traditional Stippling you might want to give this fun, wiggly design a try.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, February 20, 2015

Try a Free Craftsy Class!
If you've never taken a Craftsy class, you don't know what you're missing. Craftsy is an online learning website with over 600 classes of streaming video on every craft you can imagine: quilting, sewing, knitting, crochet, weaving, and even cooking and home decoration.

Click here to sign up and try out a free quilting class today!

Since 2012, I've taught three classes for Craftsy, which you can learn about here. My goal as a teacher has always been to read as many students as I possibly can, and by designing and teaching these classes with Craftsy, I've been able to reach over 40,000 students from all over the world.

Every class is a streaming video which is always available any time of the day or night. Even better, you can watch classes over and over, from your phone or computer or iPad, and interact with the instructor and other students. Once you purchase a class, you'll never lose access because the class never expires. So even if you sign up for a class today and don't get around to watching it until next year, it will still be available in your account.

Here are a few of my most recent favorite classes on Craftsy:

Help, How Do I Quilt It? - How many times have you asked yourself this question? Angela Walters breaks down many quilting techniques and demonstrates how to quilt a variety of quilts with many different designs. Quilting with Your Walking Foot - I used to be a major anti walking foot snob until I watched Jackie Gerring's awesome and eye-opening class on walking foot style quilting. Jackie walks you through many different designs and gives you a realistic idea of how long it will take to quilt your own quilts.

Click here to find these classes in the quilting category on Craftsy!

Taking a Craftsy class is a totally different experience than taking a traditional quilting class put on by your guild or local quilt shop. Check out the site and sign up today for any of these free classes. You'll learn a lot about quilting and have a blast mastering new techniques on your own time.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #6 - Zigzag Path

New design time! Today let's learn how to quilt Zigzag Path, a new foundational quilting design that will fill any quilt with beautiful zigzag texture:

I divided my square in half diagonally and free motion quilted Zigzag Path into both triangles. This design will also work great in sashing and borders and I used it to stitch the border of butterfly block #3:

The neat thing about this design is you can quilt it both with free motion quilting and walking foot machine quilting. First let's watch the video on free motion quilting this design from the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern:

Now for the walking foot version! I shot this video a few weeks ago and just wanted to see if everyone was interested in more info about walking foot quilting. We're already working on a new project to play with this quilting style!

The Zigzag Path stitched with my walking foot was a bit slower because I had to change directions for every angle. Also walking foot quilting is WALKING - you really can't go very fast with this style of quilting.

However, the stitch length throughout the block was absolutely consistent, which is much harder to achieve when free motion quilting. Looking at my lines though...they weren't any straighter! It looks like I'm going to have to practice straight line walking foot quilting a bit to get back in the practice of this style.

I'd love to see how you stitch Zigzag Path! Share your photos in the Dancing Butterfly Facebook Group so we can see your progress!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snow Day!

I know many places in the US have had tons of snow this year, and we finally saw a little piece of the action last night!

This is a major event for my neck of the woods. In NC, even the threat of snow will close schools and send everyone to the grocery store in a mad dash for milk, bread, and eggs. Personally I prefer to stock up on beer, wine, and something good to cook for dinner!

Today we're taking a little snow day break and chilling on the couch, playing video games, and might go out to sled a bit later. Josh and I have been turning fan pulls and Christmas ornaments in the barn and still have a project in the works on the lathe that needs a lot of sanding.

Yes, Josh and I have gotten into turning together! My grandfather was a wood turner and I remember watching him turn bowls when I was little. A few years ago I picked up a lathe, and recently Josh has joined me in the shop as we turn small projects together.

Also on the agenda today is a lot of time on the couch playing GameBoy with James. Josh picked up a copy of the new Majora's Mask for Valentine's Day and I haven't done much besides play it like a total gaming addict since Saturday.

This is most definitely my absolute favorite Zelda game of all time! It's hours and hours of game play packed over 3 days when the world is about to end. Last night I beat a dungeon with only 13 seconds to spare, despite James telling me over and over "Mama, you're going to lose. You don't have enough time." Thanks for the vote of confidence kid!

In other news, I'm working on several BIG projects! The monster king sized quilt Salsa Verde is finally on my table and getting quilted for a new DVD we will be releasing this spring!

I'm planning on quilting this on the Juki Exceed F400, which is one solid little workhorse. I was a bit skeptical at first, but I've really fallen for this little machine and most especially the awesomely designed darning foot.

The one issue I'm having is trying to film with this massive quilt taking up all the room around my machine. We shot two videos last week but will unfortunately have to reshoot them because both the quilt and my wrist were in the way the whole time. Grrr!

I have a bit of ripping to do to get the quilt back to square one and we will try again. This is definitely a learning process for us, but we will figure it out and knock out the remaining videos quickly. This new DVD will be available first as a digital download collection, then as a physical DVD disc a bit later this year.

So that's what I'm up to today! I'm off to make some hot chocolate and find my boots so we can go sledding!

Let's go have fun!

Leah Day

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #5 - Echo Shell

It's time to learn another filler design for the Dancing Butterfly Quilt and this is an oldie goldie - a design I created right at the start of the Free Motion Quilting Project - Echo Shell!

I've quilted this design in so many quilts over the years and in all different scales. It's an extremely versatile quilting design and a great skill builder for learning echoing and travel stitching. Here's Echo Shell on a much smaller scale on my Vase of Hibiscus quilt:
And quilted a much larger scale in the 3rd butterfly:

Hopefully you can see the huge range of uses for this quilting design and how pretty the texture looks on the surface of all styles of quilts. The texture it creates always reminds me of clouds and I frequently use in the sky section when quilting landscape style quilts.

Let's learn how to quilt this design in a short video from the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern:

Click Here to find the full version of this video in the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern

Echo Shell is a terrific skill builder for both travel stitching and echoing. It may take some time to perfectly travel stitch and echo each circular shape so you may also want to try Echo Shortcut as well. That's a great alternative design that doesn't include the travel stitching of Echo Shell.

So what do you think of Echo Shell? Do you prefer to quilt on a large scale or small scale? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #4 - Feather Filler

Today we'll be showcasing a beautiful and universal free motion quilting design called feather filler. If you'd like to learn how to use this design in a quilt, join our new Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along and save 50% off the pattern all through February.

And here's a picture of my stitched-out Feather Filler:

And here is Sherise B. W.'s gorgeous Feather Filler, fully stitched out in Butterfly Block 2 (along with zippling, in the bottom right):

Don't you love the colors Sherise has chosen?

Enjoy practicing with Feather Filler, and until next time, let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Design #442 - Boxy Spiral Knots

Hmm...what would happen if I stitched Spiral Knots with straight lines? I'd end up with something like this funky Boxy Spiral Knots design!
When I first started quilting spirals, I'd always forget to leave space to get back out again and end up stuck in the center. This design takes what could be a mistake and turns it into an intentional design choice. Yes, it's a bit messy, but it's also wonderfully freeing to just overlap the lines and not worry about everything working out just perfect.
So like Spiral Knots, Boxy Spiral Knots is a great learning design. Instead of worrying about estimating your space and getting in and getting out, just worry about the first step - just stitch a simple square spiral.

When you've filled to the center of the spiral, pick a direction and stitch straight out. Easy peasy! See what I mean in this video:

Yeah, I've been missing my drop down of difficulty level and design type. Be sure to click the links to find similar designs!

Difficulty Level - Super Beginner. This is super easy because there's very little fuss with this design. Is there a perfect way to quilt it? Nope. Can you hide all your mistakes? Yep. So there's nothing to worry about with this one!

Filler Family - Independent. This family of designs are all based on Stippling, but this design incorporates overlapping your quilting lines so don't feel bad for stitching all over your boxy spirals - it's absolutely necessary for this design.

Suggestions for Use - Just today I was tweeting with a quilter who is struggling to pick a design to get started quilting with. I'd say Boxy Spiral Knots is a great choice. Not only do you get a fantastic texture, you also can't really mess this design up. It's MEANT to look messy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Casual Cam - Strength to Break Cycles Art Journal

I seem to be bouncing around on a lot of different topics these days! What can I say - with my word this year being "create" I feel an unquenchable urge to stitch, paint, draw, and be creative in a hundred ways every day.

Sometimes this feels effortless, sometimes challenging. One of my favorite projects this year is my small art journal project. I start with pages created in-the-hoop on my embroidery machine, then draw, quilt, and decorate until the page feels done. Click Here to read more about it and how each page is created.

Last week I shot this Casual Cam video about my latest journal page about breaking cycles and habits. This is me - personal and unfiltered - and you might learn a thing or two about me that you didn't know before. I share this stuff because it might help someone else, and it helps me to say it out loud.

Click Here to read more about this art journal page.

So how have cycles played through your life? Have you ever felt the urge to work through personal issues with a quilt project?

How would you represent this image - breaking cycles - yourself?

I'd love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #3 - Zippling

Time for another Dancing Butterfly quilting design! Zippling is a beautiful, zigzaggy Independent Design that can easily be stitched on a large scale and small scale.
The trickiest part of Zippling is keeping all those sharp points pointy and straight lines very straight. Many quilters on the Facebook Group struggled with this design a bit, but with practice quickly mastered the steps:

This excellent zippling is from Doreen H. You can see more of her photos as well as many others from quitlers all over the world by joining our super active and fun facebook group.

Let's watch a quick quilting video to see how this works in free motion:

Click Here to find the full length video in the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern.

Let's go quilt!


Friday, February 6, 2015

New Precut Butterfly Sets!

Dad's been busy in the cutting room fusing and slicing up a storm to create a new set of Precut Butterfly Shapes!
If you've been wanting to jump into this project, but worried you don't have the time and patience to cut out the applique shapes, this is definitely the set for you! 

This collection comes with 12 precut butterflies in 6 colors (2 duplicates of each color). Right now we're carrying this in the range of pink to red Island Batik fabric I used for my Dancing Butterfly Quilt.

Click Here to check out the set and learn how to fuse them on your quilt blocks!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #2 - Ocean Currents

Wow! I'm amazed by the response to yesterday's walking foot casual cam. Josh and I are already discussing ways to explore this style of quilting in video!

Today we're back to free motion quilting and learning how to quilt Ocean Currents in a block of the Dancing Butterfly Quilt. Learn how to quilt this beautiful foundational design in the video below:

Find the full length video tutorial in the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern!

In the video I just shared how to set up the foundation for Ocean Currents, which is a large open spiral line. The rest of the design is filled by traveling and echoing the first line until the block is filled with rows and rows of flowing lines.
This design can be challenging if you're first learning how to echo quilt because keeping those lines evenly spaced takes practice. But if you look closely at my block, you'll see that not all the lines are perfectly spaced! It's important to realize that you don't have to stitch Ocean Currents perfectly, just do the best you can.

So this week we learned how to quilt Paisley and Ocean Currents. These two designs look great on their own, but absolutely gorgeous when quilted together in a Dancing Butterfly Block:
Find the special video on quilting the two designs together in the butterfly wings, background, and border in the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Casual Cam - Walking Foot Quilting!

Last week I was shooting the video for Quilt Shop Gal's FMQ Challenge and happened to have a walking foot on my machine. It got me thinking...

I'll admit - I haven't touched walking foot style quilting since 2006. As soon as I learned free motion quilting, I dropped my walking foot like the ugly guy at the prom and became slightly...snobby...about this style of quilting.

In my defense, it just didn't seem like you could do much with a walking foot! It's rather clunky and you have to always be stitching in one direction so straight lines and subtle curves are pretty much all you can do. Why mess with a walking foot when you can go in all directions with free motion?

But what if this foot can do more than just straight or slightly curvy lines? What if we can push the boundaries and fill with a walking foot the same way I fill with my darning foot? I wonder if it's not the actual foot, but the level of experimentation done with it that is limiting design ideas.

So I left the foot on my machine and grabbed a 10 inch quilt sandwich and stitched out the first four designs that popped into my head: curvy lines, zippling, zigzag path, and square spiral:

Yes, straight lines are still the dominate line for a walking foot to make, but there's a lot more you can do than just stitch grids. You can echo and change directions and make lots of interesting textures for your quilts!

This experiment got my creative juices flowing and I decided to shoot a quick video to show you how to quilt Zigzag Path with a walking foot:

What do you think? Would you like to see more creative designs with a walking foot? Do you find walking foot style machine quilting easier than free motion quilting?

Let me know in the comments below and we might start a new walking foot design series!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #1 - Paisley

Time to quilt our first design for the Dancing Butterfly Quilt! It seems like almost everyone on the facebook group has jumped ahead and has already given Paisley a try. Let's see some examples from members:

Pamelyn Baim of Thistle Fire Quilts shared a series of gorgeous photos of both Paisley and Ocean Currents quilted in her cute butterfly blocks:
 Make sure to check out Pamelyn's post right here to see all her gorgeous photos!

Dorthe M shared this awesome example of Paisley this week:

Unfortunately Dorthe also mentioned struggling with thread issues. Her bobbin thread keeps showing up on the surface of her blocks:

This is a very subtle tension issue that's slightly pulling the thread from the bobbin up to the surface between the top stitches. This honestly doesn't look bad to me because the thread colors are matching. This is one of the reasons why I emphasize matching thread colors - it nicely hides issues like this!

But what can Dorthe do about this issue? She could try lowering her top tension by 1/2 a step at a time and stitch again and see if the stitches improve. If they don't improve (and sometimes things won't get better even with a tension adjustment), then it might be an issue of thread or speed / movement and it will improve with time and practice.

I'd say an issue like this is only serious if you can clip the top threads and pull out the entire length because the bobbin threads are so loose. That indicates the top or bobbin aren't threaded correctly on your machine.

Now for another awesome Paisley example from Doreen H:
This looks great! Yes, it's normal to have some issues interlocking the Paisley shapes together. Those areas of travel stitching where the Paisley shapes build on top of one another can be tricky.

In a recent class I emphasized how much to slow down while travel stitching using this analogy:

Quilting is like driving a car. When you swing around to make the tear drop shapes can be 55 mph, but when you travel stitch, you need to slow down to 5-10 mph.

Just like driving a car, we can't do everything the same speed!

Now that you see what other members have done with Paisley, let's learn how to quilt this design together:

Click Here to find the full length video in the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern

Clearly Paisley can be a bit tricky to get the hang of, but with practice you can definitely master this design and quilt it beautifully over your butterfly block.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, February 2, 2015

Free Motion Quilting Settings and Tools

We're ready to start quilting our blocks for the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along and this week I'm going to be posting tips every day to help you get started free motion quilting!

Let's get started by watching a video on Free Motion Quilting Settings and Tools:

Looking for more videos? Find ALL of the videos for making the Dancing Butterfly Quilt within the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern.

Let's go over the many tips included in this video:
#1 - Visibility is key - In the videos I'm using the Juki TL-2010Q, which has great visibility around the needle. I don't have to hunch over in order to see the needle as I'm quilting. Another new tool I'm using is the Quilting Back Support which adds weight to my low back and helps me maintain a natural upright posture.

When quilting, you may work on a quilt for several weeks, quilting for several hours a day. Just make sure that you're really comfortable and not straining your neck or back as you quilt. Having an adjustable height chair can also make a big difference.

#2 - Feed dogs - I've written extensively about dropping or not dropping your feed dogs in the past. The truth is you can free motion quilt with feed dogs up or down. For many machines dropping the feed dogs causes issues like tension problems and thread breaks. Other machines handle it fine, but this is an important thing to test on your machine to see which option produces the best stitch for you.

I FMQ with feed dogs up in normal position. To reduce their movement, I just dial my stitch length down to 0 so the little teeth only move up and down a bit.
#3 - Darning Foot - One crucial tool for free motion quilting is a darning foot. You basically can't FMQ without it! This foot is specially designed to hover over the surface of your quilt so you can move the quilt in all directions.

There are a lot of styles of feet on the market, and unfortunately many of them are badly designed. I modify my feet by breaking the base open and bending back the top bar so they don't hop on the surface of the quilt. Here's a video on how to make this modification with an inexpensive darning foot:

#4 - Extra Tools for FMQ - To machine quilt, you really only need a darning foot and a sewing machine. That's it! However, there are some optional tools that make the quilt easier to move and help you reduce thread issues.
I use a Queen Supreme Slider to make the quilt move more easily on the surface of the machine. The slick, Teflon surface reduces the friction between the back of the quilt and the table surface, making it much easier to move in smooth, fluid motions.

I also use Bobbin Washers to improve my stitch quality. I find I have fewer thread breaks and birds nests and the stitches on the back of the quilt look better too. I put washers in all my machines and leave them in all the time, no matter if I'm piecing, appliqueing, or quilting.

I also wear Machingers Gloves which give me a great grip on the quilt so I can move it easily. The gloves give me the feeling of control and stability, and without them my hands feel like they're just sliding all over the surface of the quilt.

Find all three of these tools in the Queen Supreme Kit and save $10!

Even with all these tools in place and your machine set up with a great darning foot, please understand that free motion quilting is still going to feel a little weird when you first get started. It's very normal to produce very ugly stitches in the beginning until you learn how to place your hands and think through the designs you are stitching as you quilt your quilts.

So don't panic if your quilting looks terrible when you first get started! Join in this quilt a long and pick up your copy of the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern and challenge yourself to work past those ugly stitches.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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