The Free Motion Quilting Project: December 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What is Your Word for 2016?

Yes, I'm one of those people that picks a guiding word for the year. Or rather a word seems to pick me. Two years ago I followed a guided meditation and the word RELAX barreled into my subconscious like a freight train.

This past year my word has been CREATE and I've certainly done a lot of that! I've created far more in the past year than many years combined, largely by learning how to get out of my own way and allow things to flow with less need for perfection.

I've definitely found having a guiding word to be a great learning experience. It has helped me stay more focused on an overarching goal that could otherwise have been lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Sometimes my yearly word has been challenging.

I know Relax doesn't sound like a challenging word, but it actually was! I had to learn how to relax, which started with learning how to stop working all the time. I'd developed a habit for always keeping my hands busy which seemed comforting, but actually made me feel increasingly anxious. I had to learn how to be still and really relax and overcome my fears of not working and not finishing my projects.

So your word for the year can be a personal challenge. Or it can be a guide to point you in the right direction.

My word for this year definitely feels like a challenge. It's GROW.

Now there are a lot of ways to take this word, but I've decided to take it at the literal meaning - grow plants. Yes, I'm going to be tackling gardening this year with gusto!

Gardening and I have a love / hate relationship. I love landscaping - leveling the land, building walls, hauling dirt, and improving my yard. I like building gardens, but I'm not a huge fan of actually growing the plants inside the garden.

It seems every time I put a lot of effort into a plant, it dies. Or bugs eat it. Or rabbits eat all of the beautiful collard green plants I've just planted right down to the ground (yep, happened this fall). It just seems pointless and temporary when I could spend that time making a quilt that will last forever and won't require daily watering!

So this word is going to challenge me to lose my bad attitude, get over my gardening grumbles, and learn to embrace growing things with my whole heart.

I'm also going to focus on growth in other areas of my life too. I want to grow as an artist and to feel more confidence with drawing and painting. Just writing that sentence would have been unheard of a few years ago because I've never really considered myself an Artist.

But these days, it's hard to deny. I make things, many of them artistic, so I'm an artist now. ;-) It's high time I get over that hangup.

I've decided to challenge myself to draw something, anything, every single day. Along with the drawing, I'm going to record a little journal entry so each day my drawing will be sort of like a diary for the entire year.

I know setting this intention and following through every day for 365 days has the power to change my life. I've experienced it before, and I want to see where this leads.

So what is your word for 2016? Do many words feel right this year or do you have one word shouting at you for attention? What are your intentions for this new year?

Let's go quilt (or draw),

Leah Day

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Enjoying the Quiet After Christmas

You'll have to excuse me if I'm a bit quiet this week. This is my favorite time of the year - the magical week between Christmas and New Years that just feels like an extra bonus before the new year begins on January 1st.

I usually dive in deep on a quilting project during this week and quilt like a mad woman on only the things I want to work on.

This year, I'm feeling pulled towards the Dream Goddess quilt as well as a big push to finish my year long scrapbook which sort of stalled out around the summer. I'm at that tricky stage of having done so much I can't drop it, but jeez - SCRAPBOOKING? What the heck was I thinking?

I'm also taking this week to get all my final ducks in a row with our new quilt along. We have a wonderful Machine Quilting Block Party planned for you this year and it's going to be so much fun to teach a block-by-block, month-by-month quilt along again. 

It's definitely a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of work! I'm going to take the next few days to be off the computer so that I'll fully energized and ready to roll with the new block party on January 1st.

I hope you're planning to join us for this fun new monthly project in 2016!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I do hope you're having a wonderful, relaxing holiday! We've had a wonderful day together, though we began with a bit of a rocky start.

You see... my sweet, sweet eight year old has been having some gratitude problems this year. James really couldn't wrap his head around the fact that in our family Christmas is about showing your appreciation and love for the people in your life. He seemed to think it was all about presents and after not one, but SEVERAL behavior issues over the last few days Josh and I decided we needed to take drastic action.

In horribly Grinch fashion, we stole all the presents from under the tree and moved them to our bedroom closet. Then we picked out a big box and filled it with packing material and a bag of smooth, heavy river pebbles (shaking the box yields the same results as shaking a massive Lego set). We wrapped it up beautifully and set it out as the only present under the Christmas tree.

Why give my child a bag of rocks for Christmas? Well, we were all out of coal! It's been raining for days so we didn't want to rake up wet sticks and leaves so the bag of rocks seemed like the best option.

Before you think we traumatized our son, rest assured we did open presents after an important life lesson. We gave James time to feel his disappointment and to express his feelings. Then we expressed our disappointment in his behavior and that even though Christmas morning is usually new toy bonanza, he always needs to remember that getting tons of presents is not what this holiday is really about.

Josh and I found two quotes about gratitude that perfectly illustrated what we wanted James to learn from this experience:

After a few tears we headed back to the closet and opened up presents together snuggled in bed. I love my son and I wanted him to have a marvelous day, but this year marked a serious turning point.

We no longer have a child who can be swept away by the mystery and magic of Christmas and Santa Claus. He knows who the real Santa is and we need to adjust our Christmas accordingly. This day needs to be much less about presents and much more about having fun together and feeling gratitude for what we already have. 

Merry Christmas,

Leah Day

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Tree Magic

Our Christmas tree was a total bust this year. Josh made the call last night that it was too unstable to trust so we carefully took off the ornaments and lights, sucked the water out of the base, and threw the tree out the front door.

Christmas trees are really special to Josh and I. Josh loves the smell of pine which he says makes the air easier to breathe. I love a big Christmas tree for the magic it brings to the house. The combination of lights, ornaments, strings of beads, and bows always make our tree a festive knock out.

Christmas Tree Symbolism

I also love having a big, lush Christmas tree because I associate it with wholeness. In my family growing up, the very first year we didn't have a big tree was when we experienced a family catastrophe on Thanksgiving and we suddenly had a wrecked car, no money, and everyone was angry, sad, and upset.

We went out into the woods and cut down a spindly cedar tree that year. I remember really liking that tree, even though it was so dramatically different from all the Christmas trees we'd had in years past, probably because it so accurately illustrated how everyone was feeling: hollowed out, unable to take more weight, sad, on the verge of collapse. 

For this reason, Josh and I have always tried to find the tallest, fattest tree that will fit into our house. Even when we didn't have a truck and had to cram the tree into a tiny car, we always made the biggest tree somehow fit.

But this was the first year choosing the biggest tree came with consequences - it fell completely over, smashing ornaments and spreading a gallon of water over the floor. It honestly broke my heart.

Creating Change

My word for this year has been Create and I feel like this has been enormously helpful. Being creative has always given me a way to wrap my brain around challenging situations and process hard emotions.

Creating is a refuge for me as well, so when times have gotten tough I've been able to retreat and create something beautiful and, while it often didn't fix things completely, it did help me feel more in control over my situation.

Which is why after writing most of this post, I realized that I COULD NOT just leave that tree on the front steps. It wasn't working as it was, but what can I create from that tree that will work?

After James went to bed, Josh and I headed outside with a pair of loppers, handheld saw and headlamps and cut that once massive, heavy, lopsided tree in half. It's not going to be tipping over now!

We brought it back inside and decorated it once again, but I noticed immediately I had a very different attitude about it. The first time the tree fell, I got really angry. Like UniKitty angry.

I was so mad I didn't want to decorate it again. I didn't trust that tree not to ruin my day and smash more ornaments. I also didn't want to risk more water spilling on our delicate wood floors.

Bring back the Magic

Taking a saw to the tree and lopping it in half really fixed it for me. I felt in control again and since we began this transformation at night, it suddenly became a fun surprise for James in the morning. We even topped the little tree with his Elf on the Shelf to make it seem like the Elf did it for him:

In this way, I feel like we brought the magic back. James is 8 years old and definitely knows Santa isn't real and the Elf doesn't move on his own, but I think he will be surprised with the new, baby tree which actually looks even better than the first.

Now this tree really makes me happy! It's short and funny looking, but when I look down at it, I'm reminded of how important it is to create the change I want in my life and to keep moving forward.

Merry Christmas,

Leah Day

Friday, December 18, 2015

Machine Quilt Wire Flourish #459

Ready to learn a new machine quilting design? Today's design, Wire Flourish, is inspired by metal work and the beautiful fleur-de-lis and twisted sculptures I grew up watching my dad hammer out in his blacksmith shop.

The idea behind this design was simple - start with a wiggly spiral line, then branch out with to more spirals to both sides to form a symmetrical wire shape. The next step is to travel stitch and echo this starting line to expand the design and make it stand out on the surface of your quilt. See how to machine quilt it in this free video:

The only downside of Wire Flourish is the travel stitching required to create the starting wire. This can be a bit time consuming to start each shape, but you can always branch out and stitch a wider line instead of travel stitching. The key is finding out what works for you and sticking with it through your quilt so it looks consistent.

Looking for more great quilting tips? Learn much more about machine quilting and be inspired by hundreds of designs in the book 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Quilty Box Has Arrived!

Has your Quilty Box arrive yet? I was super excited to receive mine this month because it's extra special - I got to select the fabric and supplies for you this month!

Included in the box is a copy of Beginner Free Motion Quilting Fillers, a DVD that will guide you through quilting 30 beautiful designs. Within this DVD I teach you now to quilt the designs into small squares, then connect the squares together to make a cool free motion sampler quilt.

I selected the rest of the items in the box with this project in mind. You can easily quilt the designs into the 10-inch precut squares of Island Batik's London Fog, a gorgeous collection of batik fabrics.

Easily mark the squares you need with the enclosed 6 1/2 inch Frosted Olfa cutting ruler, and quilt each block with the spool of Isacord Polyester Embroidery Thread, my absolute favorite thread for free motion quilting.

Yes, you can still get this box of fun get at! Click Here to buy just this box for yourself. Click Here to subscribe to Quilty Box and make sure to use the coupon code LeahDec10 to save $10 on your first box!

Learn more about the materials I selected in this Quilty Box in this video:

Now you might be wondering about the DVD - we no longer carry the disc version of this DVD in our store. This DVD is now available as a downloadable video workshop that includes the sampler quilt pattern plus printable worksheets for all 30 designs. Click Here to learn more now.

I had tons of fun putting this collection of supplies together for you and I hope you enjoy learning how to free motion quilt on the beautiful Island Batik fabrics in your Quilty Box.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, December 14, 2015

Machine Quilt Light Spiral #458

Ready to learn a fun machine quilting design that will be perfect for a quick Christmas project? Let's learn how to free motion quilt Light Spiral!

This beautiful design was included in the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along, and today I feel like machine quilting this design on a much smaller scale. When quilted this way, the spirals get smaller and the lights can get bigger, making for a dramatic thread painted effect for your quilts. Learn how to stitch it in this new video:

I've been promising Josh a new set of hot mitts for pulling stuff out of the oven so today I sliced up some Insulbrite (heat reflective batting) and began machine quilting Light Spiral over the surface.
This looks super cute and the denser quilting design will hold this oven mitt together very sturdily so it lasts many years.

Do you have a special holiday themed project in the works?  Don't leave it until the very last minute! Aim to spend at least 15 minutes working on it every day and you'll definitely have it ready in time for Christmas.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, December 11, 2015

Don't Buy Your Kid a Toy Sewing Machine

Earlier this week I shared a post about buying a new sewing machine and today I have to follow up with an additional rant / tip - Please, please, please don't buy your kid a toy sewing machine!

I was once an unlucky recipient of a toy sewing machine when I was around 14 years old. I had wanted a new machine for years, but I just couldn't wrap my brain around the cost of a real machine. I saw a toy machine at Walmart and figured it would be just as good as the others.

I can remember well the total letdown of that little toy machine - all the parts were cheap plastic and the foot attachment was so wobbly stitching a straight seam was absolutely impossible. A machine should never be described as flexible, but that is exactly what that flimsy plastic machine was!

But here is what this machine was to me - frustrating, annoying, and yet another barrier between me and learning to sew properly. Many times I blamed myself for the uneven stitches and wobbly seams when in reality it was entirely due to the cheap machine I was using.

Now here's an interesting question I was asked today - Is a real sewing machine dangerous?

Stitch your finger one time and
you'll never make that mistake again!
I had to stop for a second and think about that. Whether it's a toy or a real sewing machine, the only way to get hurt is to stitch through your fingers. When I was a kid, I never let my hands get anywhere near the needle. I could see that sharp needle moving up and down and it didn't take much imagination to know how badly it would hurt to stitch over my fingers.

Looking at a toy sewing machine for sale at Walmart this morning, I found the entire needle area covered with a thick plastic guard. Clearly this thing was designed with parents fears as the #1 concern - not the child's enjoyment or skill building potential.

Please don't get me wrong - I absolutely hate to see my son get hurt, but I do think some valuable lessons in life are taught by using real materials. Your kid will only have to stitch through their finger one time to learn THAT HURTS. By getting hurt, they will learn to respect that piece of equipment and pay more attention to what they are doing.

Leah laying bricks in 7th grade
I believe in teaching my child to use real tools because that's how I grew up. My dad handed me a real hammer and nails and showed me how to drive them into a piece of wood to make a box. I smashed the crap out of my fingers and thumb for hours, cried many tears, but I kept at it and eventually learned how to hammer a nail without hurting myself.

Unfortunately it seems most parents aren't like my dad and prefer instead to infantilize their children with the toy version of everything from sewing machines to ovens to pottery wheels.

I could get James an Easy Bake Oven because they're designed for kids and supposedly safer than learning to bake with a real oven. But will opening little packets of processed powders to make strange colored cakes and cookies really teach him the type of baking I want him to learn?

I'd rather risk a burn teaching him how to open the oven and pull out a pan of muffins than risk my child growing into an adult who doesn't know how to really cook. Consider the message we're sending to our kids - you're not old enough, this is too dangerous for you, you need to be safe at all times.

At what point do we risk a little pain in exchange for our child understanding that the real world doesn't come with safety guards on every surface?

What this all really comes down to is common sense. If your child is mature and capable of listening, learning, and focusing on their work with attention, then they are ready for a real sewing machine.

If you're worried they will get hurt because that kid is too flighty and distracted, wait another year and look for a sewing camp or class in your area during the summer so they can learn the basics with a professional teacher.

I also think a real sewing machine should be an investment. That means spending $300 - $500 for a solidly built, REAL machine with changeable feet that can grow with your child. Unless you're willing to commit that kind of investment into your child's potential sewing future, don't buy in.

Whatever you do, don't buy a cheap toy sewing machine thinking that you can just get a better one once your kid proves they like sewing. You might as well take her passion for sewing and kick it off a cliff because that will be one frustrated kid. Who wants to sew or quilt when it means constantly fighting with a bad machine?

Buy a book on hand sewing instead and explain that this is how all clothing was made once upon a time, and it's still a viable way of stitching fabric together. If your kid really wants to learn how to sew, a needle and thread is a simple, inexpensive way to get started.

Let's go quilt (or sew)!

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How to Buy a Sewing Machine

It's the perfect time of the year to be shopping for a new sewing machine, but what machine is the best? How do you purchase a new machine with confidence, knowing you're buying the very best machine for you? And how do you eliminate the risk of winding up with a lemon - a machine that just doesn't do what you want?

I recently did the math and realized I've owned 15 different machines in the last 15 years and I've purchased several from dealers, online from big sewing machine sites, and on Ebay, and I've finally sat down and shared my top 10 tips for buying a new sewing machine. Watch it all in this free video:

Yes, I am a bit of a foot junkie! I realized a few years ago that 99% of my attitude to a specific machine had to do with the feet - how they attached, how secure they fit on the machine, and how accurately they measured the seam.

Wobbly feet make me crazy, and this is one of the main reasons I've steered clear of certain sewing machine brands. If I touch the foot and it wiggles, I usually keep looking for another machine.

Click Here to read more about buying a new sewing machine. 

Are you planning to buy a new machine this year? What are you specifically looking for and do you plan to trade in or keep the machine you have now? Have you ever purchased a machine you regretted? Did you keep it or trade it in for something better?

Buying a new machine is really fun and exciting, and I hope this video has helped you understand the buying process and how to make sure you're buying the perfect machine for you.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

No Sugar in December?

Yeah...I've been overdoing it in the sugar department lately. One of my favorite all time snacks is a cup of Earl Grey tea and a chocolate biscotti, or even better the lemon pound cake from Starbucks. Ahhh....delicious!

But too many cookies and caffeine really wreck havoc with my digestive system and I've decided to abstain from sugar for the next 30 days. Unfortunately the next 30 days just happens to be during the worst time of the year for sugary treats!

I'm taking my inspiration from a story in Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project. She also struggled with this dilemma during the holidays, but found the best solution was to totally cut off all sugar consumption. Eating a cookie here or there created too much temptation to eat more, but making a solid decision not to eat any sweets made it much easier to stick with her goal.

While this may make me sound like a total scrooge, I think it's a good thing to set limits, particularly around this time of the year. I still plan to bake and decorate cookies with James, and I'm sure I will appreciate the time much better without the accompanying sugar highs and lows that usually come with it.

Have you ever had to cut out sugar during the holidays, or challenged yourself to some other diet restriction during a challenging time? How did you get through it, and did it become a permanent habit for your life?

I'm off to see if my UN-caffinated brain can get some work done!

Leah Day

Monday, December 7, 2015

Find Me on The Quilt Show!

This summer my family enjoyed a short vacation in Asheville, NC and I jumped at the chance to meet The Quilt Show stars Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson and film a fun episode about machine quilting! Watch the short trailer for this show first:
I had a great time sharing about my books and blog, as well as teaching Ricky about free motion quilting. I shared my quilt-in-progress Dream Goddess with Alex and the inspiration for my goddess quilt series.

Click Here to watch the show with your Quilt Show membership!

Watching this episode, I'm struck today by just how lucky and blessed I am to work in such a creative, supportive industry. I LOVE being a quilter and teaching online, and I'm so very thankful for the technology that has allowed me to connect with so many people.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, December 4, 2015

Machine Quilt Parchment Roll #457

It's Friday which means it's time for a new machine quilting design! Earlier this week James and I were baking cookies and I took a look at the end of the roll of parchment paper and thought "Hey, I can stitch that!" 

This design is basically a riff on Belly Buttons, but this time we're filling the insides of the circles with spirals. Learn how to machine quilt it in this free video:

So where will this new machine quilting design work best? I think it will work great anywhere in your quilts! You can expand the circles and spirals to make for a very funky all-over style filler, and you can also shrink the shapes down to fill in tiny areas too.

Have tons of fun quilting this design and remember to share it with your friends if you like it!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ready to Quilt Sunshine Surprise?

Are you ready to jump into an exciting new quilting project with me? In 2016 we're starting a new MYSTERY quilt along that will teach you how to piece AND machine quilt a beautiful sampler quilt.

Just in case you've never joined us for a quilt along, each year we have a fun project to work on together block by block. For the past two years thousands of quilters have joined our quilt along projects and Josh and I have been delighted to see so many quilters build new skills and confidence for machine quilting.

I can't show you our new quilt because it's a mystery, but here's a couple sneak peeks of our first block!

The name of the quilt is Sunshine Surprise and as you can see it's going to be a bright, cheerful quilt filled with beautiful designs.

I've intentionally designed this quilt to be for absolute beginners. We will learn how to piece each block step by step, then we will mark the quilting design on the block surface. By quilting on the marked lines, you will be able to focus on moving the block and controlling the speed of your machine - two of the hardest things to master with free motion quilting.

Learn more about this fun new project and find the material list here.

So are you ready to jump into the Machine Quilting Block Party next year? Be looking for more sneak peeks between now and January 1st when the patterns go on sale!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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