The Free Motion Quilting Project: April 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Embroidery Tutorial: Chakra Wall Hanging

On Sunday I felt inspired to make a gift for several yoga friends, and what better inspiration than the chakras, or energy centers of the body. Chakras have associations with both color and symbols, which make them a fun inspiration for many creative projects.

I used designs from the Expressions of Textures embroidery CD to stitch out seven beautiful designs to make this skinny wall hanging:

machine embroidery | chakra wall hanging
Click Here to find the full tutorial and materials list for the Chakra Wall Hanging

This project was SO easy and fast because my machines did most of the work! I was able to edit some videos and cut fabric for another project while my machines stitched out the designs.

Just in case you're wondering about my machines, I have two embroidery machines: Janome 15000 and Bernette Deco 340. I've had the Janome for a few years now, and picked up the Deco last December so I could test my designs on more than one machine.

Bernette Deco 340 Embroidery Machine
 Hoop A on the Bernette Deco 340 Embroidery Machine

But this project did generate an interesting question on Facebook - where is the skill in embroidery when the machine does all the work for you?

I honestly used to feel the same way. I had no appreciation for the effort it takes to digitize a good design and make it work in multiple formats and sizes on hundreds of different machines. I just felt like hitting a button was somehow cheating the creative process.

embroidery design | machine embroidery
Fast forward many years and I've totally changed my tune! It took watching many machine embroidery Craftsy classes for me to start understanding embroidery better and how fast and fun these projects can be.

And yes, there definitely is skill involved! Knowing how to hoop your fabric, using your machine efficiently, and stabilizing the material is a huge learning curve.

As a designer, learning to digitize is an awesome opportunity to share my designs with quilters who don't have the time or energy to learn free motion quilting. It's also wonderful to be able to stitch out 21 squares in a few hours and make an awesome gift for several friends!

So if you have a hang up about machine embroidery, take a minute to actually try it out at a show or shop. These machines have the ability to create beautiful, finished projects in far less time and with much more dependable results. What in the world is wrong with that?!

Let's go embroider!

Leah Day

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #19 - Queen of Hearts

It's time for another Dancing Butterfly Design. This beautiful heart design is super easy to free motion quilt - just stitch hearts! There's a reason I call it Queen of Hearts because it fills your quilt with loads of love and awesome texture at the same time:

free motion quilting design | heart quilting design
If you're looking for a fast, easy design to fill a baby quilt I think Queen of Hearts would definitely fit the bill. You can easily increase the heart size so they cover more space and fill more quickly. The bigger the design the faster the quilt will get finished and the more open and soft the finished quilt will feel.

Let's learn how to quilt Queen of Hearts in this video from the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern:

Now one thing to keep in mind about this free motion design is I loved drawing hearts a lot as a kid. I drew hearts and rainbows just about everywhere so this shape feels very natural for me to draw, which translates to a really easy free motion quilting.

If you didn't draw a lot of hearts, this design might feel more challenging for you. Sit down every morning with your breakfast and practice doodling this design as you drink a cup of coffee. Don't put loads of pressure on yourself. You're just doodling!

I promise by the end of the week you will see a lot of improvement in your heart shapes and this will help your quilting as well. Give it a try and see for yourself!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, April 24, 2015

Super Spring Sale!

super spring sale

We're celebrating the return of warm, sunny weather with a big sale! Save 35% on all Books, DVDs, and Quilt Patterns this week only. Click Here to shop now!
This is a great time to jump into quilting with both feet! If you've just started quilting and want to learn the basics the downloadable book How to Piece Perfect Quilts will help you learn the basics of preparing your fabric, cutting accurately, and piecing each block precisely with perfectly matching seams.

This downloadable book also comes with extra how-to videos to guide you through every step of the piecing process. If you've been struggling to piece precisely, this book will help you troubleshoot and figure out why your seams aren't matching up and how to improve your quilting ability with every block and quilt you create. Click Here to learn more now!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

A New Studio Just for Making Videos

About a month ago, I decided enough was enough. It seems like every time I turn on my cameras and hit "record" someone has to go stomping upstairs, or walk over head, or turn on music, or start printing orders!

Yes, this makes Leah very angry! Lol! My camera takes pictures along with video and captured this angry shot when I'd just about had it with interruptions. As you can see, I do have a temper, and it isn't very pretty when it's unleashed.

This has been an issue since I started making videos in 2009, but lately it just seems impossible to find a time to film without interruption or distraction. Dad is busy prepping many quilts in the room to the right of my filming room, and Josh is printing and packing orders to the left.

I've tried working around everyone and they've tried working around me. I've tried waking up super early and filming at 7 am. I've tried building a sound proof door. None of it works and we're all really done with the situation.

My solution? Build a new studio specifically for making videos. This new space needs to be out of the house and away from all the racket, but close enough that I don't waste much of my day driving over to it.

I also need CONTROL. I debated renting a studio apartment nearby, but what if my new neighbors turn on their vacuum cleaner? Or they have loud children? I would have even less control over another space than I do at home.

sewing studio unfinished shed | barn sewing roomAfter a lot of debate, I decided to set up a prebuilt barn from Old Hickory Buildings, wire it, insulate it, and turn it into a dedicated filming space in my back yard. Now when I want to make a new video series or DVD, it will be an easy process of walking into the woods to my little cottage, turning on the lights and cameras, sitting down and getting to work.

Setting up this new space will be time consuming and we're right now in the middle of preparing a very big, very exciting secret project. I plan to work on this new project on and off for the next two months and will hopefully have it ready to use by June!

Yay! No more angry Leah and hopefully more fun videos to come very soon!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #18 - Triangle Mosaic

Back to butterfly time! We only have five designs left to learn for this fun project and today's design is one of the easiest in the set:

triangle mosaic | free motion quilting
This is Triangle Mosaic, a free motion design created entirely by breaking down your quilting space with straight lines into triangles. It's super easy, requires only minimal travel stitching, and creates a super cool effect for your quilts!

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

I love Triangle Mosaic because it's so easy, yet creates such a fun texture for your quilts. Check out how neat this free motion design looks when paired with Abstract Leaf in a beautiful butterfly block:

butterfly quilt | free motion quilting
Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, April 20, 2015

What can we do with funky rotary blades?

I've been blogging for Craftsy every Sunday with a new Leah Day's Quilting Study series! Yesterday I shared a post all about using funky rotary blades like these:

Click Here to check out the post and share your ideas for using these cool blades for creative projects!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, April 17, 2015

Slow and Steady Turtle Journal Quilt

I've just completed another quilted journal page! This little guy should help me remember the point of quilting isn't to rush to the end of the project, but to enjoy every minute of the process:

I've added this little turtle quilt to the journal gallery today so click here to read more about him and learn about quilt painting, hand embroidery, and free motion quilting!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #17 - Abstract Leaf

Finally life feels back to normal and I'm back to posting new designs for the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along! Today let's learn how to free motion quilt Abstract Leaf, a pretty design that combines triangles and tear drop shapes for a pretty effect.

free motion quilting design abstract leaf 
I love how this looks on a bigger scale! The straight line, triangles, and tear drop echoes form a nice contrast with one another. For these blocks I quilted with Hobbs Heirloom Wool, which added extra pretty puff between the quilting lines.

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

Have you tried quilting Abstract Leaf yet? What was your favorite part of the design and where did you quilt it on your quilt? Share your experience in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, April 13, 2015

Back Home and Happy!

Whew! It was quite a drive back home from New Hampshire to North Carolina. Josh and I split it up by driving 10 hours Sunday and 5 hours this morning. I'm so so so happy to be home!

Yeah, I was looking pretty ratty last night. I think I probably look worse right now. Thankfully I'm not feeling selfie-lishous at the moment. It's been a long day of unpacking, reorganizing, and really quickly getting back on ball with everything left in limbo while we were teaching at MQX East.

One big thing - TAXES. Blah! Thankfully my accountant and bookkeeper have been on top of it and all we have to do is go sign the forms so they can be submitted.

Another giant annoyance has been my credit card. They decided to update it to a new version with a special security feature. That's really wonderful, but the downside is both the expiration and security key needed to be changed for every account this card is used on.

This might not sound like a big deal, but I have many automatic subscriptions to things like Google storage, Vimeo, and my newsletter program all bill me automatically on this card so each account had to be individually changed to the new numbers. Uggh!

feather quilting classYes, I'm complaining because this transition is a bit hectic, but ultimately it's totally worth it. MQX was honestly the best show I've ever attended and the most fun I've ever had teaching! I had three full classes of awesome, creative quilters and met many women who I've only known previously by comments and pretty photos on Facebook.

It's so awesome to meet quilters in person and finally put the name and face together, though sometimes that's hard to do when your profile pic is your dog (talking about you Linda Stevens!)

Winning Teacher of the Year still makes me feel like crying with gratitude. I've been trying hard to put it into words and the simplest way to say it is I never expected my online teaching to be valued this way - essentially equal to, or better than, in-person teaching.

Leah Day and family
I don't teach in person much because my focus is online education and for the longest time I've felt like an outsider. I'm the weird girl who prefers YouTube to Paducah. I'd much rather shoot a video and share what I'm working on than pack up my bags and leave my family for a weekend.

I guess this proves that there is room for all of us - online and in-person teachers. Just like there's plenty of room for hand, machine, and longarm quilters. I'm always reminding my students not to set too small a definition of quilting, but I need an occasional reminder myself!

I'm so happy I went to MQX East and definitely plan to return, and I'm also so happy to be home and cooking dinner with Josh and getting big hugs from James.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, April 11, 2015

MQX Teacher of the Year

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this one. Last night I was recognized as Machine Quilting Teacher of the Year!

I can't describe how this feels. I'm so overwhelmed and thankful to be recognized this way. I almost immediately started crying because it just feels so good to be appreciated for what you do!

When I got on stage I had no idea what would come out of my mouth but it was something like: "Thank you so much for this recognition. I can't believe this. I'm really just a girl that makes videos in her basement."

So much of what I do is alone, on my own with a camera and sewing machine. To be recognized Teacher of the Year feels amazing and I'm filled with gratitude for all my students who shared their love this way.

Thank you so much!

Leah Day

Friday, April 10, 2015

Many Quilting Adventures at MQX East

Josh and I have had two great days at MQX, met so many wonderful quilters, and eaten loads of great food. What a terrific combination! Unfortunately I'm having trouble uploading photos today so most of these shots are pulled from Facebook. I'll update later with more photos as soon as I can!

On Wednesday we kicked off teaching with a class on Free Motion Quilting from Feathers to Flames. I like teaching out of this book because it's a mini book and easy for students to page through at their machines, but packs over 60 cool designs so everyone leaves with a lot of ideas and inspiration at home.

I use a white board to draw and illustrate the designs for each chapter, and usually wave my hands around a lot so Josh easily captured this silly shot of me:

Leah Day teaching quilting
Lol! I think a white board works okay, but some students weren't able to see, and sometimes I'm not as coherent as I'd like. I think it's time to transition to a power point presentation shared using a laptop and projector. While it will be a bit of work initially to write and draw out each design, I'll be able to use it again and again and I think it will make the class run more smoothly.

After class I gave my hair a quick comb and headed upstairs to meet Bonnie McCaffery for a photoshoot! Bonnie is now a professional photographer and came to MQX to shoot headshots for professional quilters and longarmers. We had a terrific time and I loved the experience! I felt relaxed and pretty and Bonnie knew exactly how to help me pose so the lighting was just right. I'll be sharing the photos I picked as soon as Bonnie has time to touch up a bit in photo shop and send them to me next month.

On Thursday Josh and I hit the show in the morning and immediately bumped into this beautiful quilt:

winter wonderland quilt
I about shouted out loud when I saw this quilt! This is an awesome version of my Winter Wonderland Quilt created by Kelley Neeley. It's just really exciting to see a quilt I've designed executed so beautifully. I then ran into Kelley as I sat down at the Sew Very Smooth booth and she recognized me. I had to give her a hug for doing such a great job on her quilt and even changing up the design by adding lace!

I then got a bit distracted at the Sew Very Smooth booth because I saw a tool I'd just played with at the Savannah Quilt Fest and had to stop and chat with the maker. Steve and LuAnn Tippets make the Ideal Quilt Guides, very simple rulers for ruler work style quilting.

I've been pretty skeptical about ruler work on a domestic machine, mostly because I don't know how we can manage the bulk of the quilt pushing through the machine AND keep a ruler in place at the same time. Their 8 inch ruler just happened to be on the Juki 22000 so I started playing and my opinion quickly changed.

IF your machine is on a flush surface with the table and IF you are using a ruler with the special rubber coating Sew Very Smooth specializes in, then it will stick securely to the fabric, giving you a lot of control over the quilt and enable you to use the ruler to form perfectly straight lines and 45 and 60 degree angles.

Now I haven't done much more than play with this, but I'm excited! I can't wait to get home to play with these rulers when my new machine arrives.

After my ruler find, I started walking the show and taking a close look at the quilts. Wow! MQX really kicks up the free motion quilting to a whole new level! Many, many quilts I saw could easily have been the Best in Show because they featured excellent design, beautiful craftsmanship, and amazing use of color.

As a teacher at the show, I get to pick my favorite and award it a Faculty ribbon. I wandered the quilts in search of my favorite. I found it in this little art quilt by Anne Kimball called Why It Urpp II:

alligator quilt
I love this quilt because it's so experimental! In the description, Anne describes stumbling across the perfect way to make alligator skin effect with setacolor paint and cheesecloth, then trying to figure out how to make a background that worked with the awesome alligator.

I love the texture of this quilt and the way the alligator is hanging off the end. I just recently experimented with satin stitching off the edge like this and it is NOT easy. I still haven't quite figured out the right combination of stabilizers and steps to make it work.

I appreciate experimentation and I give Anne's quilt my faculty award because I want to see more of this at shows. When we try new things and step into the unknown, weird, unexpected things can happen, but this is how we find magical effects and new techniques as well.

After wandering the show for a bit, I ate lunch quickly and scooted off to teach our next class - Fill with Feathers: Blocks, Sashing, and Borders. This is the second time I've taught this class on feathers and I think it's actually easier than my filler design class because we focus on just feather designs and nothing else.

Many students stitched it up a notch by adding circles, spirals, and other creative designs within the feather shapes. Lots of creativity all around!

 Working of a large collection of worksheets also makes the class run easier, but again, I think I've had it with drawing on a white board. I never know how big the white board will be and they're always either too high, too low, too heavy, etc, etc, etc. When we get back home I'll be researching how to teach this more effectively either through powerpoint or video in class.

Whew! We've definitely been busy, but today we're taking it easy until 4 when I present my trunk show / lecture on the goddess quilts. I've been looking forward to that all week and I can hardly wait!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dancing Butterfly Design #16 - Echo Hook

Time to get back to Dancing Butterfly! Our super long car journey has definitely thrown off my schedule and I'm honestly not quite sure what day it is, but I know we're overdue for a cool video on free motion quilting!

butterfly quilt | free motion quilting
 The free motion design we're learning today is called Echo Hook and I love the simple texture this will create for your Dancing Butterfly Quilt. It fills really quickly with big clusters so your design block and butterfly block will fill super fast.

Find many more videos and instructions for making your Dancing Butterfly Quilt right here.

What do you think about Echo Hook? Have you tried this design before? Share your experience or any questions you have in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

In New Hampshire for MQX

Josh here, and today we are in Manchester, New Hampshire for MQX, and wow, this is going to be a great show! We are both so excited to be here.

Unfortunately, we only have one picture to share as we were in a hurry to get here and most of the pics turned out too blurry as we had to shoot from inside the car with the window closed.

We left North Carolina at 6:30 am Monday morning, packing up our car the night before. We drove through most of the breadth of North Carolina, a lot of Virginia, then Maryland, and stopped for the night in lower New Jersey.

I hope I'm not the only Bruce Springsteen fan among Leah's readers, but I have to say I was surprised to learn the New Jersey turnpike spans a lot more of the state than what I'd always imagined from The Boss's song "State Trooper."

We left New Jersey and entered New York via the George Washington Bridge. My grandparents lived in Northport, Long Island until 1986 and I remember visiting their home when I was very young, but this is the first time I'd ever driven through New York state. We drove over I-95 along the westernmost perimeter of Manhattan and here is the one picture we took that didn't turn out too blurry.

We drove through a sliver of Yonkers, but after that the city was behind us as we continued into Connecticut, Massachusetts, and then New Hampshire.

It was a long day yesterday driving and today has also been pretty long, but we'll have some great photos to share soon of MQX!


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Packing up for MQX East

It's packing day! I'm packing up all the gear, supplies, worksheets, and quilts we're taking to MQX East. Yesterday we pulled all my goddess quilts out of the closet and out of their storage tubes and have folded them into a big suitcase.

Packing quilts for MQX East
They will likely have a few crease lines by the time we get to New Hampshire, but the tubes are rather clunky to deal with in the car and transporting through the show. Josh was worried about the paint on Release Your Light chipping off or getting damaged, but I checked her surface and it's still as soft and pliable as ever. Shiva paintstiks rock!

Release Your Light Quilt
The most time consuming part of this process is printing out all the worksheets for my new Fill with Feathers class.

Feather Worksheets Leah Day

These worksheets were lots of fun to design and they're a great help in class, but my printer doesn't like the wider paper size so it gags a lot, which makes me crazy! Next time I'll go to my local printer to have a big batch of worksheets printed all at once.

The scariest part of the trip is the 14 hour drive. Josh doesn't fly, and I really wanted him to come with me, so...we're driving from NC to NH and back again for this trip. I love road trips with Josh, but I admit - I'm a total scaredy cat when it comes to driving through big cities...or over bridges...or over water!

We manage to get through Atlanta, GA on a regular basis when we drive down to Pensacola, FL to visit family. We get through it because Josh is driving and I close my eyes the whole way through!

So hopefully we will get through all the big cities up to NH without a hitch. I've never been further north than Pennsylvania, so this will be a fun adventure to see new places, meet new people, and eat great food.

Just in case you're going to be in New Hampshire next week, my lecture Life Journey through Goddess Quilts is now free with admission to the show. I'll be sharing it from 4 - 5:30 on Friday, April 10th. I'd love to see you there! Click Here to learn more about MQX shows.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Learn How to Quilt Feathers in Quiltmaker Magazine

Are you itching to learn how to free motion quilt feathers? In the May / June 2015 issue of Quiltmaker Magazine I've got an article just for you!

free motion quilt feathers
For this article I shared a small feather diagram for you to trace and practice and instructions for quilting the feather two different ways. Josh sweetly agreed to stitch the feathers for the article and traced and quilted multiple times so I had plenty of ugly stitches to share.

Yes, it's 100% normal to stitch feathers a bit wonky, lopsided, or just plain ugly in the beginning! Be patient and keep tracing and practicing and pretty soon you will find that perfect shape you've been looking for.

Here's a short video I've created to correspond with the article so you can see how to quilt this feather design in free motion:

So if you've been craving feather designs definitely grab a copy of the May / June issue of Quiltmaker and give this little feather diagram a try! I promise if you stitch this feather design every day this month, you will be seeing definite improvement by May 1st!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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