The Free Motion Quilting Project: October 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Our New Dog, Basil the Beagle Mix

Meet the newest edition to our family, Basil, a beagle and basset hound mix!

Josh and James surprised me Saturday morning with a call from James's school. They were at the yearly Fall Fest event and one of the vendors was a dog rescue group. After a brief call and some back and forth texting, I told Josh to go for it and to adopt this fellow. What made up  my mind was watching a little video of James walking Basil on a leash--as you can see below, he is extremely rotund, and he waddles more than walks!

Josh instantly started him on a reduced calorie diet with a majority of cooked green beans, carrots, beats, or kale along with a portion of healthy dog food without fillers like corn and soy. Within a few days I noticed a difference in Basil; he was happier, moved around so much  more, and he actually could run!

Well, it was more of a waddle-lope, but it's definitely progress:

We lost our greyhound, Jinjo, in 2010. The memory of losing Jinjo is still painful for both Josh and myself, and it's hard to even link to the post about her loss.

Basil is similar to Jinjo in many ways, although clearly not in weight! They are both very laid back, low maintenance dogs, and they both sleep and lie around for the majority of the day.

Basil has nearly one acre, completely fenced in, to explore and go on scent hunts. And James has made it a routine every evening to give him a run before he gets his dinner.

So that's it about our new dog! He is an older dog at eight years old, just as Jinjo was when we adopted her at five. We hope to enjoy many years with him just as we did with Jinjo.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Machine Quilting a Star Block with Rulers

Last week we learned how to piece a 6 pointed star block using the beautiful fabric from this month's Quilty Box. This week I decided to continue the challenge by machine quilting my star block, but I really wanted to challenge myself to try something new so I decided to try ruler quilting!

Learn how to machine quilt with rulers
Ruler quilting is the process of using a ruler or template to guide your foot so you can quilt straight lines or specific shapes very easily without wobbling all over the place. You do need a specific ruler or guide foot for this technique in order to have a wide base for the rulers to balance against.

Learn how to machine quilt with rulers
I used the Drunkard's Path cutting templates from my Quilty Box as the guides for quilting the center of my block. All those perfect echoes and straight lines were entirely created from the edges of one cutting template! See how I quilted this star block with rulers in this quilting video:

A great resource to learn more about ruler quilting is Amy Johnson's Craftsy class Quilting with Rulers on Your Home Machine. You can sign up for this class and learn all about getting a ruler foot for your machine, how to work with different rulers or templates, and tips for managing bigger quilt projects. Click Here to learn more about Quilting with Rulers.

I did demonstrate this on my Juki 2200 QVP-S because it came with a ruler foot and I have found it easier in the larger arm of this sit down longarm. Click Here to find my review of this machine.

Learn how to machine quilt with rulers

I'm still mastering the basics of ruler quilting and maintaining a consistent stitch length is the biggest challenge. Sometimes I push the quilt through the machine nice and steady and other times I push it through super fast. Even though we're quilting with a ruler guiding the foot, the same rules of free motion quilting still apply. You still have to maintain that balanced ratio between the speed of your hands and the movement of your machine to create beautifully balanced stitches.

Learn how to machine quilt with rulers

I really enjoyed mixing ruler quilting and free motion filler designs in the background of the star block. It's a beautiful combination of straight lines with pockets of crazy texture peeking through.

It's tough to quilt on this small scale with the ruler foot on the machine though. I really wish the ruler foot was designed so you could pull off a bit to quickly convert it from a ruler foot to an open toe darning foot on the fly. As that is probably logistically impossible, I guess I'm just going to have to get more practice!

Have you ever tried ruler quilting? Does it look easy or harder than regular free motion quilting? Share your experience with this technique in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How to Baste a Star Block

Yesterday I shared a tutorial on how to piece a patchwork star block. Today I'm basting that block to get ready for machine quilting!

Click Here to find the Baste Your Quilt Kit. I love basting with Pinmoors because they are so easy to install, but also quick to pull out of the quilt as I'm machine quilting.

I basted with bent safety pins for years and they certainly hold securely, but they're a real pain to remove. The absolutely worse thing to happen in the middle of a relaxing quilting session is to stitch right into the middle of a safety pin and break a needle.

Yes, my method for basting bigger quilts is a bit different. If you'd like to learn how to baste a king sized quilt in sections, definitely join the Quilting a King on Your Home Machine workshop where you will learn how to baste your largest quilts on your dining room table.

Pinmoors are definitely easier to see and remove as you're quilting. Now with this patchwork star block basted, how are we going to quilt it? Make sure to check back next Monday to see how I machine quilt this beautiful block!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Learn more about the Baste Your Quilt Kit:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How to Make a Patchwork Star Block

It's Quilty Box time and today I've pieced a beautiful six pointed patchwork star!

patchwork star block
This weekend I received my latest Quilty Box and found a book, thread, templates, and beautiful fabric designed by Angela Walters. Each month I challenge myself to make something from the supplies in my Quilty Box rather than hording them in my sewing room. Remember - having cool supplies does not make you a creative person!

It's always a fun challenge and of course a great excuse to shoot a video and teach you something new about quilting!

I used this AccuQuilt Go! die to cut my triangle shapes. Piecing the six pointed star was very easy because the die cuts the shapes so perfectly. I was able to cut 18 triangle shapes from one fat quarter of fabric by first slicing it into 5 inch strips, then being careful to rotate the strip on the die to cut with the least amount of waste.

Cutting patchwork triangles
I did get a bit confused when piecing the triangles together and often thought I'd pieced something wrong, only to rotate the shape one more time and find it fit perfectly. Making this block definitely made me have several blonde moments!

patchwork star block
Make sure to arrange all the pieces of the block on a nearby table so you don't get confused. You definitely can chain piece the triangles together, so long as you have somewhere to position the pieces and get them back into the right place.

I decided to piece all the blocks separately and my patchwork stars finished at 15 x 17. I then added 2 1/2 inch strips of black fabric to the top and bottom to have more background space around the patchwork star. I always like adding a bit more fabric around a patchwork shape so I have space to machine quilt without having to stitch right tot he edges.

machine quilting with rulers
Speaking of machine quilting, I'm planning to machine quilt these stars separately and since the Quilty Box came with a set of templates, why not try using them as rulers for ruler quilting?! Be looking for more videos on this star block coming soon!

Now for a bit more about Quilty Box - this is a subscription box of fun gear that arrives every month containing over $50 worth of quilting tools, books, and fabric. Click Here to learn more about Quilty Box!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sewing Machine Review: Juki 2200

Yes, I've finally gotten my act together and shared a full length, very detailed sewing machine review of my Juki 2200 QVP-S. This is a sit down, table mounted longarm I purchased back in April:

 I shot a quick video to discuss the basics and show you how it feels to quilt on this table mounted longarm:

Yes, I did once write an article on 7 Reasons Why I Don't Want or Need a Longarm, but a lot has changed since I shared that post. For one thing the prices of these machines have gone done to be around $5000 - $7000. While that might not seem affordable, it's much more affordable than what these machines used to cost.

I still hold to the main point of that article - buying a bigger machine will not make you a better quilter. It takes time, effort, and a lot of practice to master free motion quilting no matter what machine you are stitching on.

Even I was surprised by the amount of practice this machine required. When I purchased this sit-down model, I figured this wouldn't be a big change from quilting on a regular home sewing machine. It ended up feeling very different and it's taken me 6 months to get used to quilting on this machine.

Ultimately I'm happy I have a machine I can dedicate to my big projects. I'm really excited about learning ruler quilting and sharing new videos on this machine, but I still plan to shoot most videos on my home sewing machines.

Do you have questions about this big machine? Don't hesitate to ask in the comments below!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Make Quilting Easier

One of the most frequent questions I hear from quilters is about moving the quilt - How do we make it easier? How do we manage a big quilt on a small machine? How will I be able to quilt that?!

Quilting a king on your home machine
One of the first things I explain is that you don't have to quilt your quilt all at once. You start in the center and work your way to the outer edges, filling the spaces of your quilt with different designs or one single pattern. It really doesn't matter what you stitch or how it is stitched, so long as you are working from the center to the outer edges so any excess fabric or batting has the ability to shift outwards as you go.

But starting in the center can definitely be tricky, especially when it's a VERY big quilt on your machine. Big quilts mean a lot of bulk and weight, which thanks to gravity isn't very easy to move. When we quilt in free motion, we must be able to move the quilt smoothly over the surface to produce small, consistent stitches.

If we don't have this smooth movement, you may find yourself in a frustrating, jerky tug-of-war battle with the bulk of the quilt fighting you on every stitch. It doesn't look pretty and frankly, it's a total wear out. I've quilted many quilts that feel more like a wrestling match than a fun quilting experience.

The thing is - quilting doesn't have to be this hard! Quilting a large quilt CAN be easy, but only if you're willing to make the changes to your sewing machine set up and tools so the quilt is easier to move!

Invest in Your Quilting Experience

To make quilting easier, the first and most essential tool is a flatbed sewing table. If you don't have one, please, please, please treat yourself to one soon! When your machine is setting up on a table top, you are having to pull the quilt up and over the edges of the machine, fighting drag with every stitch.

Make quilting easier on your home machine
When the machine is set down into a flatbed or dropdown sewing table, the machine's needle plate will be on a flush surface with the table top. The difference is the feeling of running up a steep hill or running along totally flat ground - which feels easier?

Instead of having to pull your quilt up over the arm of the machine, all you'll need to do is slide it under your needle. No more tug-of-war, no more battle of weight and gravity against you!

Even more important than having a flatbed sewing table, is expanding that table surface in an optimized way. The best directions to add more table surface is to the back, directly behind the machine, and to the left side because these are the directions your quilt will need to shift into. We very rarely shift our quilts to the right because it would get hung up against the motor of the machine.

Quilting a king on your home machine

Another helpful step is to push your sewing table setup into a left corner so the left side and back are flush with walls. The walls will act as a barricade and prevent your quilt from sliding off the table surface and jerking against your needle.

Does all this seem like a lot of work just to make quilting easier?

For a long time I thought I had to "make do" with what I had. My sewing machines set up on the table top and I fought the bulk with every stitch. I resigned myself to mostly making small quilts because anything big was just too overwhelming.

But then I found a flatbed sewing table and suddenly I could quilt anything I wanted. It took a few years to figure out how to set up extra tables properly so the quilt had more than enough space to be supported and blocked from flopping off the edges of the table top. Yes, quilting a big quilt is still a time consuming process, but at least now it doesn't feel like a battle waged between me and gravity.

Now it's your turn - are you struggling to quilt your own quilts? Do you have a flatbed sewing table? Isn't it time to make your quilting experience easier and more fun?

Click Here to check out our Affordable Sewing Table which comes with a custom cut insert for less than $300. It's a small table that can easily be expanded with folding tables to fit your space just right. It also has wheels so you can take it with you to workshops too.

If you're tired of fighting the endless tug-of-war with your quilts, please make your experience easier by investing in your setup. My tables have lasted for years and made such a difference to how easy and fun quilting feels and I know it will make a big difference for you too!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, October 12, 2015

Galadriel Costume Part 2

Costume time has come! I've been working hard on my Galadriel costume all weekend and shot this quick casual cam to catch you up on the latest:

The dress is definitely fitting better and all that's left is finishing the sleeves, inserting the lining, and stitching the hem. This project has definitely become longer and more involved as I fell head first in love with couture sewing.

It all started innocently enough. I mean, I never PLANNED to have an affair with a new sewing style. It just happened!

It all started when I signed up for Alison Smith's Couture Finishing Techniques Craftsy class which is all about finishing your garment beautifully with invisible zippers, gorgeous hems, and perfect interior seams. I actually met Alison while filming my last Craftsy class and she is such a fun, spectacular teacher, and I love how clearly she explains every technique.

It was during this class that I realized I was finishing the seams to my Galadriel dress all wrong. Well, no, I could have left it as it was, but I suddenly felt compelled to rip the dress apart and start over from the beginning. Yep, it was a slippery slope from there.

Of course I then had to sign up for all of Alison's other classes, especially Couture Dressmaking Techniques where I leaned how to mount each piece of satin on an interlining which adds more body and strength to the fabric, plus lets you stitch down the seams by HAND. Oh, this is just so fun!

The fun revelation in learning these techniques is realizing that ready-to-wear isn't the construction style I should have been chasing after all these years. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to make garments that looked as professional as those I could buy at the store.

I bought a serger and began sewing professionally, but everything was speed sewn. I'd serge a seam, reinforce it a bit on the sewing machine, then flip the garment to do the same on the other side. Always rushing through every step so I could finish one shirt and move on to the next. Cranking out 50 garments a week required absolute focus on speed and efficiency.

This is what I love about couture sewing, at least by Alison Smith's definition - it's about taking more time and having a greater connection with the garment you are creating, and taking the extra steps to ensure that it lasts.

Wrong and right side of an invisible zipper
 This might seem horribly time consuming and complicated, but it's really not. I've really enjoyed having the hand work to relax with in the evening. Yes, it's definitely been more expensive with the cost of satin outer fabric, interlining, and cotton lining fabric tripling the amount of fabric going into the garment.

But it's so worth it! This dress feels amazing to wear and I can't wait to use these techniques on other garments as well. As for what's left for Galadriel - I need to get this dress done because I still have a hooded cape to sew as well! The fabric is on it's way so I'm hoping I'll have time to get everything done before Halloween.

The thing I take from this project is that it's okay to surrender, to take more time, relax and enjoy every step of the process. No, I won't be wearing this dress every day, but when I do, I know I'll feel like a million bucks because I took the extra steps to make it marvelous!

Let's go quilt (or sew!),

Leah Day

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Birthday Sale!

Yes, tomorrow I'm turning 32 and we're celebrating with a big sale!

This sale is for all download video workshops, books, and quilt patterns. You'll need to make sure to select the correct format for books and patterns in order to get the discounted price:

Questions? Don't hesitate to contact us for help!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Getting Back Up After Being Kicked in the Teeth

I have a special Light Up Your Life post for you today as well as a HUGE announcement!

Yes, getting that email was like getting a massive kick in the teeth. Josh and I were so shocked we spent a minute just staring at the computer screen. I didn't even read the whole email because I was so distracted with the paralyzing feeling of  absolute panic.

It was awful because getting an email like that felt almost like losing a job. It was as if our web developer had pulled the rug out from under our feet, suddenly undermining the years and work we've put into our business. We felt powerless over the situation, and that makes both Josh and me not happy campers!

Making Logical Decisions in Times of Shift

It's no surprise that making logical decisions during a time like this can be challenging. Panic, anger, frustration, resentment, stress - all my monsters were wide awake and ready to run the show.

But I stopped. For four days I stopped and didn't jump straight into the transfer. I shopped around for different website developers, shopping cart systems, and hosting services. I considered our options for moving to the other quilting website developer.

And the most important thing is Josh and I came together and honestly, and very logically, discussed what we wanted. I want to keep teaching in videos. It's so much easier now to plan and shoot videos with the Crafty Cottage and I'm dying to get started on next year's Mystery Quilt Along. My passion is still solidly rooted in quilting.

Josh felt much the same. We'd had the rug pulled out from under our feet and change was now forced upon us, and if anything this has reaffirmed our commitment to this business and to one another.

Working Through the Rage

The hardest thing to deal with during this transition was not the sheer massive amount of boring internet work - redirects, new page construction, image transfers, working with various tech support and IT people, etc. This is the fourth website I've built, and the third time I've transferred While it's a skill I have built out of necessity, I would honestly much rather be quilting than stuck on a computer copying and pasting pages, resizing images, and sorting product SKUs.

The hardest thing to deal with was my simmering rage. This was a change necessitated by an company who had failed repeatedly to fulfill our needs or respond to issues in a timely fashion. I knew within six months of transferring to this developer that they were both too small and too niche to be good for us, but once we transferred, we felt stuck with them.

To make matters worse, the acquiring company was deliberately vague on the details. Our sites would be maintained for a year "more or less..." but what was the cut off date? How much exactly would it cost to transfer my site, including all photos and downloads to the buyout company?

I was angry and frustrated, but mostly angry with myself. I had made the decision back in 2013 to go with this company after all. Who was more to blame than me?

Blame, anger, resentment - this is not how I wanted to feel. Early in the work on this new site, I knew I needed to get a hold of my attitude and focus on the positive side of this change. Yes, it was unexpected - Get over it - Pull on your big girl panties and get the work done!

Finding Space for Gratitude

It didn't take long for me to realize that feeling resentful and angry was only going to make this job worse. I avoided talking about the transfer as much as possible. When I allowed myself to vent my true feelings, I literally felt toxic with the bitterness in my words.

I decided to stop complaining and get to work. As the site began taking shape, I was able to test it and quickly became excited about the new features that were so easy to implement. I was able to streamline the shop, update the text, and make wide scale improvements on photos.

Seeing all this taking shape felt great! Here was a site I could be proud of, that I could control without middle men / young college grads who knew nothing about IT or online businesses, that wouldn't have all that red tape in my way between me and the site's administration. I slowly found space to feel thankful this catastrophe had happened.

We now have a new shopping cart system, an updated layout, and a gorgeous, bright design that will give you an excellent experience no matter whether you're visiting on your computer, tablet, or phone.

Even better, the management side of this website is going to be so much easier. Josh can print orders, calculate shipping, and send download links from one page, which is making his job so much faster and easier.

No, I wasn't expecting this to happen, but now I'm actually thankful. We have rebuilt our business on a stronger foundation that not only makes our jobs easier but will be able to grow with us in a massive way.

Please go check out the new and let me know what you think!

Let's get moving, let's try something new,

Leah Day

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