The Free Motion Quilting Project: Many Quilting Adventures at MQX East

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


  1. Hi Leah,
    For presenting designs at workshops have a think about using a device with a touchscreen connected to a projector. Ideally I would like to see the process of a design drawn / stitched out as well as the final result (hope that makes sense) - that's why your videos work so well. My preference would be a tablet and wireless connection so you can draw for everyone to see from anywhere in in the room (I work in Professional Learning for teachers so use this a lot).
    Enjoy the rest of the time at mqx!
    Monika from Australia

  2. Loved both of your classes! I loved learning new techniques from you. Thank you so much!

  3. I speak at tech conferences in a different field, and am always thinking how the setup I'm familiar with would work for teaching a group of quilters. :D

    Basically instead of a projector the place has a screen for you that hooks up to your computer with a regular AV cord and is just screen sharing.

    So you could also jump out of your slides, if needed, and flip over to a drawing program in another window. Then while you do your thing in your laptop, the audience can see it on the big screen.

    I haven't tried the tablet & wireless setup tho. I usually use my ipad for extra notes in one hand (if needed) and a clicker to advance my slides, if they have it.

  4. Leah, I was in the wednesday class Feathers to Flames and came away very inspired! I have not done much machine quilting beyond a basic meander, so I am excited to practice my new skills. Thank you so muh for your inspired teaching and sharing what you have learned.


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