The Free Motion Quilting Project: January 2016

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sneak Peek of Block #2

Are you ready for the second block in the Machine Quilting Block Party? Many quilters have joined this week and are posting beautiful photos of their first block to the Facebook group.

Our next block will be coming out tomorrow and since it's also the first Monday of the month, you'll find the video on how to piece the block on the same day! Here's a sneak peek of block #2:

Please don't feel like you have to rush through your first block in order to be ready for block #2. We're only working on one block per month this year so it won't be hard to keep up. The block patterns will be available beyond 2016 so you can easily catch up even if you fall behind.

Are you excited about the new skills you are learning? Did you try quilting more Sharp Stippling over a bigger quilt project? I used this design to quilt a small precut baby quilt super quickly and I love the results!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Quick and Easy Baby Quilt
This past week I was sent a pack of Tonga Treats from Timeless Treasures to play with. These precut packs of batik fabrics are awesome treats for beginning quilters because each pack comes with a super easy quilt pattern. Just grab a treat and you're ready to create a new quilt!

The pattern includes instructions for piecing a beautiful quilt top, but the quilting instructions say "quilt as desired." What are we going to do?!

Click Here to find the quilting video.

Not all quilts need to be quilted to death! I could tell just by looking at this quilt top that the fabrics were too busy for a quilting design to be very visible.

I also wanted to quilt this project quickly so it would be ready to give as a gift for my cousin who is expecting a new baby next month. The best choice in both situations is an All Over Style design. I choose our design for the month Sharp Stippling and I couldn't be happier with the results. Click Here to find the tutorial.

I really enjoyed working with Timeless Treasures to create this tutorial. This particular pack of 5-inch Tonga Treat precut squares should be arriving in quilt shops soon.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How I Nearly Ruined my Favorite Craft

I've been stitching a new beadwork necklace this week and enjoying the slow, peaceful process of stitching tiny beads together. Of course, anytime I do beadwork I'm reminded of why this craft was once nearly ruined for me. Hear the full story in this story video:

So what do you get from a very narrow definition of your craft? Boredom. Frustration. Anxiety. Disappointment.

In the beginning, forming a narrow definition of your craft may feel like a logical way to reduce information overload. If you don't have a sewing machine, learning how to hand piece first is a logical first step to learning about quilting with the materials and tools you have on hand.

However, you run the risk of getting stuck in one place with one style of piecework if you begin to think that only hand piecing "counts" or worse, judging all other forms of patchwork as inferior. It's always a dangerous position to think in terms of "right" and "wrong" but this is exactly what can happen with your craft if you're not careful.

How I nearly ruined beadwork for myself

I got into beadwork when I was 11 or 12, possibly the most judgmental age of a kid. I quickly decided only stitched beadweaving counted and was the "right" way to do beadwork. Even when I worked in a bead shop, I turned my nose up almost all other forms of the craft.

Eventually this hard line attitude began effecting what I created. I began judging my stitches, the colors I was using, and how the beads looked next to each other. I got into a terrible habit - I'd start a necklace, get it halfway created, judge it as inferior, and rip it apart to "save" the beads from the project.

This combination of constantly ripping, and the shrinking amount of time I had for crafts in college resulted in no finished work for many, many years. Thankfully I didn't get rid of my bead collection, but for a long time this craft just wasn't any fun. I didn't find joy or fulfillment from it because my narrow definition and intense judgement of my work had made it absolutely no fun.

Why quilting will never be ruined

When I got into quilting many years later, I immediately saw the different styles and categories of quilting and quilters. Traditional and art quilters were the largest groups when I began quilting, and both rather rigidly set against one another.

I remember hearing a group of art quilters condescendingly slam a traditional quilt as being so "predictable" and "uninspired." I can also remember reading lots of magazines where traditional quilters would write in to demand that this "art crap trend" please end already!

More recently the modern quilt trend has created a brand new bunch of rules for what is considered cool for quilting. But the definition of what is a modern quilt feels like a forever shrinking box. You may be making a modern quilt today that will not be considered "modern enough" tomorrow.

My reaction to all of these groups, rules, definitions, and trends has been to smile sweetly and ignore them all completely. I don't want to be a card carrying member of any group because I don't want to limit what I can make or how I make it. I'm a quilter. I can make anything I want.

Quilting will never be ruined for me because I've learned my lesson from beadwork. No rules. Nothing is right. Nothing is wrong. You can try everything. And everything is awesome.

What do you think? Do you consider certain quilts "right" and other techniques "wrong?" Do you consider yourself a traditional, art, or modern quilter? Have you ever felt bored by the quilting style you've been doing?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 25, 2016

Practice Isn't Pretty

Have you been practicing free motion quilting lately? Have you been satisfied with your result or unhappy with the appearance?

It can be really hard to keep practicing and trying when you aren't getting the results you want. Watch this video to check out the new technique I've been practicing and the ugly practice sandwiches I've been making along the way:

I've been practicing free motion couching which is sort of a combination of free motion quilting and embroidery. Using a special foot, you feed thick cord or yarn through the foot base and stitch it securely to your quilt top with normal thread in the machine.

The motion is just like free motion quilting because you can move the quilt in all directions. However, it's even more challenging because you need to make sure the yarn or cord is being caught by the quilting stitches. If the cord isn't in the right place, the needle won't stitch through it, and it won't be secured to the quilt top.

Here's a list of the issues I've been struggling with: sloppy stitches, needle doesn't catch the cord, too thick cord, too thin cord, wobbly design, and broken needles.

In short, I'm stitching out a lot of ugly crap! Lol!

It's hard to stitch out square after square of imperfect, sloppy stitches. Many times I've wanted to give this up, throw the foot in the back of a drawer and forget I ever wanted to learn free motion couching.

But I know I'll never master it if I give up. The only way to master anything is to keep practicing, keep making ugly stitches, and keep trying new things until the right set of movements, stitches, and materials finally click together.

As I said in the video, this may take 20 practice sandwiches, or it may take 100. There isn't a magic number or a specific amount of practice before you are guaranteed great results.

Maybe that's the hardest thing about practice - there are no guarantees. You have to just keep working at it, spend out your time and materials, and keep a close eye on your attitude and patience. You may not see great improvement for days or weeks or months so keeping a positive attitude will be a workout.

But the rewards for all your practice and hard work are absolutely worth it. Stick with it, keep quilting, and I promise you will see improvement the more you practice.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Beautiful Snowflakes in the Snow

It's been snowing! I know this isn't a big deal for most people, but we rarely get snow in NC and it doesn't stick around very long. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to play in the snow and play with some snowflake embroidery designs.

I've really been enjoying learning how to digitize machine embroidery designs. It's a very different way of creating that feels a lot more like graphic design than sewing or quilting.

The reason I've gotten into machine embroidery is because it allows me to play with my most complex and crazy advanced design ideas, but digitize them so that anyone with an embroidery machine can use them!

Be looking for a new set of six beautiful snowflakes next week at!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Machine Quilting Over Intense Patchwork

Do you love quilts with lots of little pieces? The more pieces in a block or quilt top, the more intense the construction process, and sometimes the harder it can be to machine quilt. Today I've shot a quick tip video to help you machine quilt your intensely pieced quilts:

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The quilt top in the video was the Hokey Pokey Crazy Quilt which was my most heavily pieced quilt on hand. Here's how I've made this quilt easier to finish starting with the piecing:

#1 - Piece quilts with a short stitch length - If you're at all worried about your pieces not holding together securely, lower your stitch length! I piece with a 1.5mm stitch length so the pieces are firmly locked together and a total pain to pick out. This allows me the freedom to...

#2 - Press seams open - When piecing I have my pressing board set up next to the machine so I can stitch a seam, finger press it open, then give it a firm press with my iron. It doesn't take any more time and it results in super flat seams.

#3 - Little or no ditching - All those seams will be even more tricky to deal with if you have to stitch them ALL in the ditch. The more pieces and seams in a quilt, the less likely I am to ditch because it will be time consuming and tedious. I might ditch around a block, but not the individual pieces within the block. It really just depends on the quilt style and design and how much time I'm willing to invest in it.

#4 - Avoid Intense Areas - Spread out your quilt top and feel the surface. Anywhere you feel a noticeable hard lump, draw a circle around it with a fabric marking pencil. Now when you go to machine quilt, aim to avoid those areas of intensity by stitching around them.

Instead of whacking directly against a lumpy spot and getting your foot caught up and your needle potentially broken, just avoid that area and keep on stitching.

Yes, for many intensely pieced quilts, the best way to quilt them quickly is All-Over style which will give you the freedom to avoid quite a lot of spots like that.

What do you think? Are you willing to take the extra time to press seams open or is this a technique that gives you chills? Do you think it's a waste to use an All-Over design on an intensely pieced quilt top? Share your opinions in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sister Sampler Quilts Book Review

AnneMarie Chany, the awesome quilter behind Generation X Quilters has just published a new book! Sister Sampler Quilts is a terrific book featuring three beautiful, modern sampler quilts. Learn more about it in this video review:

If you love sampler quilts, modern quilts, or you're looking for a great way to build your piecing skills, this is definitely going to be a great book for you! Find it at your local quilt shop or click the links below:
Sister Sampler Blog Hop

A lot of quilters are participating in this book review blog hop and you can learn a lot more about this book by checking out other websites and blogs this week. Some quilters will be hosting giveaways, while others are piecing blocks to show. Here's the full list of everyone participating:

Monday, January 18  
AnneMarie Chany / Gen X Quilters - Introduction
Sara Lawson / Sew Sweetness

Tuesday, January 19 
Leah Day / Free Motion Project
Brenda Ratliff / Just A Bit Frayed

Wednesday, January 20
Faith Jones / Fresh Lemons Quilts
Angela Pingel / Cut To Pieces

Thursday, January 21
Lynne Goldsworthy / Lily's Quilts
Amy Friend / During Quiet Time

Friday, January 22
Christa Watson / Christa Quilts
Violet Craft

Monday, January 25
Lee Heinrich / Freshly Pieced
Melissa Corry / Happy Quilting

Tuesday, January 26
Karen Lewis / Karen Lewis Textiles

Wednesday, January 27
Sherri McConnell / A Quilting Life
Melissa Mortensen / Polka Dot Chair

Thursday, January 28
Heather Valentine / The Sewing Loft

Friday, January 29
Cindy Wiens / Live A Colorful Life
AnneMarie Chany / Gen X Quilters - Wrap Up

Happy hopping!

Leah Day

Monday, January 18, 2016

Expand Your Quilting Skills

Machine quilting all over style
Get a quilt top basted and learn how to quilt it with one design!
Have you finished your first block for the Machine Quilting Block Party? Are you interested in expanding your quilting skills a bit further?

What do you think about quilting a small quilt together?

Recently I asked quilters how many quilt tops you have on hand, and I was quite surprised by the huge numbers - 50 - 100 tops for some people! These tops will never be finished unless you pull them out, get them basted, and actually start quilting.

Today I'm going to share a few older videos from past quilt along projects to showcase how to quilt a design all over one quilt. Our focus filler design this month was Sharp Stippling, and this design is a great choice for this style of quilting because you can easily expand the shapes, the design doesn't require any travel stitching, and it's fairly easy to memories how to quilt it.

Here are the benefits of All Over style machine quilting:
  • Quickly fills a quilt with a design on a large scale
  • Minimal thread breaks
  • No tedious stitching in the ditch
  • Excellent practice for that design!
All Over Quilting is the style most longarmers will use to quilt your quilts because it's so quick and easy. But this style absolutely works on a home sewing machine too! Learn how to get started quilting a small quilt All Over style in this video:

You can find the rest of the videos in this series right here.

In the video I was quilting with Lollipop Chain, but this exact same process works for Sharp Stippling too. Start in the center of the quilt and break it into four quadrants with rows of Sharp Stippling quilted on a large scale.

Are you worried about quilting Sharp Stippling on a larger scale? Try quilting it on a practice sandwich first to get the hang of the design:

Does this make sense? Chances are it feels a bit fuzzy in your brain. The best way to understand how this machine quilting technique works is to actually try it.

Pull out an unfinished quilt top, baste it up, grab one color of thread, and quilt Sharp Stippling all over the quilt top. In the beginning your stitches may feel shaky and your stitch length will likely fluctuate from very big to very small - this is perfectly normal!

As you quilt more of the design, you'll gradually see improvement. You'll figure out how and where to place your hands for more control. You'll get to know the design better and begin feeling more confident the more you quilt.

But here's one thing I can promise - you will not see these improvements if you don't try it! Get on your machine today and give this style of quilting a try!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Stitch Along with Quilt Shop Gal
We've kicked off a wonderful new project this year, and I know many quilter have already completed their first block. Just in case you're looking for another project to stitch your skills up a notch - Quilt Shop Gal is hosting a terrific #StitchAlong for the next two months for the Heart & Feather Wholecloth Workshop!

Click Here to read more about this program.

Basically you'll follow along with the videos in my latest workshop, share posts on your blog or website about the experience, and link up weekly with Quilt Shop Gal to get a chance to win prizes from many sponsors.

This is a terrific way to build your skills, get rewarded for following along with the workshop, and make a beautiful quilt in time for Valentine's Day!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, January 15, 2016

English Paper Piecing Quilty Box

My Quilty Box came in this week and I've been having so much fun with this new box of fun gear currated by!

Included in the box was a pack of paper pieces, two precuts of fabric, a fat quarter organizer, and the book All Dolled Up filled with fun patterns for doll sized quilts using English Paper Piecing. Learn how to get started paper piecing your diamond shapes in this new video:

Six pointed lone star by Leah Day
No, I don't expect to finish my little quilt anytime soon, but here's the diagram for what I plan to make...eventually!

It's really fun to have a handwork project like this always packed up and ready to go. I keep the fabrics, paper pieces, a pair of scissors, pins, needles, and a spool of thread in a gallon sized ziploc bag. Whenever we're heading out on a trip I can easily grab the bag and have everything I need to make a lot of progress on a little project.

I've also found that I don't spend as much on craft supplies if I bring a project with me. This year I'm going to make an effort to spend less vacation time shopping and more time relaxing!

Have you ever tried English Paper Piecing? Do you like stitching by hand occasionally or just by machine?

Definitely give this a try and join Quilty Box if you'd like to receive a fun box of quilting gear each month. Click Here to learn more.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Bleeding Fabric Fears

Yesterday Lynda J. posted a great question on the Block Party Facebook Group:
Folks, I have to admit that I am getting paranoid here. I have a dark red and dark purple picked for this quilt. I separated them, washed them together...I just watched Leah's video on selecting and preparing fabric and she said that once the block was complete, you soaked it to remove the starch. I'm getting paranoid that the red will run then. Thoughts? Am I just being paranoid?
It's not a bad thing to be paranoid! I worry about this myself and it was very challenging to design this quilt with such light and dark colors for exactly this reason.

Here are two tips I've picked up from creating my blocks:

1. Test as you wash - It's easy to assume that one run through the wash is enough for your fabric, especially if you're in a big hurry to start cutting and piecing your first block.

But it pays to take a bit more time and test your fabric as you wash. Cut a 10 inch square of white fabric and throw it in with your red fabric load. Chances are the first square will come out a bit pink. Cut another square of white fabric and throw it in again. Wash and repeat until you throw in a white square and it emerges from the wash 100% white.

Dye grabbers are also good, but understand that they are designed to pull dye out of the water. They will always end up much darker than the scrap of white fabric will because they have been chemically treated to pull out dyes.

2. Dry your block quickly - One thing I realized while rinsing two blocks to make the video is it really matters how long the block stays wet. I rinsed my first block, set up fans and left the block to dry. Then Josh came along and turned off the fans!

He didn't realize they were on intentionally and that block stayed wet for more than 48 hours before I noticed (it was in a really dark, damp area of our basement). I noticed immediately that the red fabric had bled a bit, even though I'd prewashed them multiple times.

The other block I rinsed out, set up the fan, and this time put a note on it not to be turned off and that block was dry in 3 hours with no bleeding at all.

So long as the block is dried quickly I think you will greatly minimize your chances of bleeding colors.

Even if your colors do bleed, it's not the end of the world. My first quilt has bleeding colors like crazy, but I still love it! Bleeding colors won't make the quilt less warm or cuddly at the end so keep that in perspective and don't get frustrated if your fabric colors decide to get too friendly.

Are these techniques new to you? Have you ever had a quilt with bleeding colors? Share your experience in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How to Wash Out Marked Lines

How to wash out pen marks
We're rolling right along with the Machine Quilting Block Party and today let's learn how to wash out the marks that helped us quilt our first block.

Why Wash Out Now

This is a year-long quilt along and it's going to be 12 months before this first Half Square Sun block gets trimmed and connected together with the other blocks. That is a long time to leave pen marks and starch in the fabric!

While I've certainly left pen marks and starch in a quilt longer than a year, I knew this will bother many quilters so let's learn how to wash out the blocks to remove all the marks and chemicals so it will be ready to connect with the other blocks in December 2016.

how to wash out pen marks
Please don't forget to erase any marks that are non-water soluble first! Any marks you put on the quilt block with chalk, a ceramic marking pencil, etc, need to be erased with the eraser on the pencil.

The reason you need to be extra mindful with this is sometimes getting a block wet can set certain pencil marks and make them permanent, or at least very, very challenging to erase.

So erase everything you can first, then soak the block in lukewarm water to remove any water soluble pen marks.

If you have a sheet of polystrene board and want to block the block, definitely do! You can find detailed instructions for blocking a quilt in the Heart & Feather Wholecloth Workshop.

The wonderful thing about washing out the marks is you will suddenly be able to appreciate the quilting design so much more.

So now that we've pieced and quilted one block, how do you feel about your progress? Have you identified areas that give you problems like matching seams or quilting straight lines?

Please let me know which areas of the block came easily to you or felt more challenging, and what techniques you're needing to focus on the most.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How to Hide Your Thread Tails

Now that we've machine quilted our first block Half Square Sun, you probably have some loose thread tails to deal with. Let's learn how to tie off and bury these threads securely so our quilting never comes unraveled!

Click Here to find cheater needles and a pin place so you can always bury your thread tails easily and quickly.
Yes, there are other methods for tying off your thread tails that may seem easier or faster. One popular method is to build up your thread with 5-7 stitches before you start your design, then clip off the loose thread tails rather than bury them in the middle layer of the quilt.

There are many reasons why I hate this thread build method. For one thing, it builds up a noticeable globby knot on the surface of your quilt. You can feel this knot when you run your hands over the quilt surface and the back.

I also don't think this glob knot method is very secure. Isacord, my favorite thread for machine quilting, is very slippery and it's very easy to slip out of the knot and begin unraveling.

I clipped off my thread tails, then ran my finger over the knot a few times, and it's already starting to unravel!
So those are the two reasons I don't like the build-up-glob-knot method! I don't like it, so I don't teach it, just like I don't teach you how to use spray basting because I hate that stuff too!

Yes, so much of this is based on my opinion based on my habits and what I like to see in my quilts. You'll need to develop your opinion for what you like and how you like to make your quilts. Try both methods and see which one works best for you.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 11, 2016

How to Machine Quilt Block #1

Machine Quilting Block Party with Leah Day
Are you ready to machine quilt your first block? Half Square Sun is going to be such a fun block to quilt because it incorporates lots of skill building techniques - quilting the sun motif on the lines, filling in spaces with Sharp Stippling, and you're going to get lots of practice stitching straight lines and flame shapes.

To make quilting all of these designs easier, make sure to mark your block with the quilting diagram included in the Block #1 pattern.  

Quilting on marked lines will feel a lot easier because you can focus completely on moving the block smoothly over your machine and matching the speed of your hands with the speed of your machine. This can be a bit of a struggle when you're first getting started so take it slow, mark the designs, and your block is sure to turn out great!

Watch the entire block being machine quilted in this video:

Are you wondering how to hide your thread tails? Click Here to find a video on how to tie off and bury your loose threads securely.

As you can see from the video, there's a lot of different designs within this block and you don't have to mark everything. I didn't mark the spaces with Sharp Stippling, and only minimally marked the outer border.

However, if you're just getting started with machine quilting, you'll probably want to mark everything so you have a line to focus on as you quilt over the block. This will make it much easier to focus on moving the block (which can feel a bit out of control) and matching the speed of your machine with your hands (which can feel even more out of control)!

Why Marking Makes Quilting Easier

In the Quilting Thread Test video I explained why free motion quilting is hard to master - it's one of the only sewing machine techniques that doesn't use the feed dogs.

The feed dogs are the little teeth on your machine that feed fabric forward at a steady, even pace to produce perfectly spaced, even stitches. Unfortunately feed dogs only move forward and backward, which can be a bit of a hindrance to free motion quilting because we want to move in ALL directions.

So we either drop the feed dogs or limit their movement by setting our stitch length to 0 (click here to learn more about free motion machine settings) so we can move the quilt in all directions, but it comes at a price. Now that the feed dogs aren't doing their normal job of making perfectly even stitches...we have to make the stitches even ourselves by matching the speed of our hands with the speed of the machine.

Now everyone does this differently. I know some quilters that quilt super quickly with the foot pedal mashed down to the floor. Other quilters quilt very slowly. Personally I like using my foot pedal like the gas on my car - I speed up and slow down depending on what I'm quilting at any given time.

No matter what speed you like on your machine, you'll need to learn how to continually match that speed with the movement of your hands. Sometimes this works great, sometimes you'll feel like a toddler learning to walk with wide stitches giving way to tiny stitches in a drunken wobble across your quilt.

Yes, this is NORMAL! We all go through a certain amount of ugly stitches in the beginning, just like most of us fell off a bike a time or two before we got the hang of balancing just right. You just need to stick with it, keep quilting, keep practicing and you will get the hang of balancing the speed / movement of free motion quilting eventually.

As for how long this takes - it's really different for everyone. If you practice every day you should see great improvement in less than a month. If you quilt once and never try it again...well, I don't know of any skill you can build that way!

Just keep quilting. The more you do this, the better you will get and the more confident you will feel!

Now that block #1 is complete, I'd love to know what you think of this project so far! Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Tomorrow we'll learn how to wash out the marks from our block so they can be stored safely until the end of the year.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Quilt Top Count!

Yes, I'd like you to count your quilt tops for me! I'm really curious to know how many quilt tops you have on hand. These are patchwork quilts you have pieced completely, but not basted and quilted.

No, I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. I'm just curious to know how many tops you have and why they are not quilted. What is the #1 reason why you have not quilted all these tops?

I ran a count of mine today and it's over 20 quilts in sizes ranging from small table runners and tote bag fronts to twin / throw sized quilts.

The main reason these tops are not quilted is they are not a priority. I have other quilts that need to be finished for work or that mean more to me to finish, and these tops just weren't as important.

Now for an even stickier question - do you WANT to quilt all  your tops? What makes one more desirable than another? 

Please share in the comments below!

Leah Day

Friday, January 8, 2016

Machine Quilting Thread Test

Are you ready for machine quilting? We've pieced block #1 and learned how to mark the quilting design, then basted the block, so today let's focus on machine quilting and learn some basics to get started on the right foot.

Machine Quilting Practice Exercise:

Using scraps from Block #1, cut a square of each color you're using in the quilt. For me this was 4 1/2 inch squares of Cherry, Nasturtium, Lemonade, and Cream. I pieced up the squares to create a 4 patch block:

Make 3 of these blocks. This is not for the Sunshine Surprise quilt. This is for practice and an experiment in thread color so you know what to expect if you use that thread on your quilt block.

Now watch the video to learn about the tools and settings I use for free motion quilting, and how to quilt Sharp Stippling over this little practice block:

Click Here to check out the Queen Supreme Kit which has all the tools I use for free motion quilting.

You can also find the three thread colors I experimented with: Brick, Pumpkin and Wild Iris right here.

Finally, I always forget to mention the needles I use for machine quilting. I use Schmetz Universal 80/12 needles, but this is something that WILL be different for everyone. Please use the needles that your machine likes best.

Now for the only rule on picking thread color - I always match the same color thread in the top and bobbin of the machine. So whatever color is going on the top needs to match with the color on the back of the quilt.

Otherwise you get these pesky little dots of color pulling up on the side of the quilt you don't want to see it. No matter how much you fiddle with your tension dial, this is not likely to disappear:

So just save your time and your sanity and use the same color thread in the top and bobbin of your machine!

As for the color I plan to use in my blocks - it's going to be white. I got into the habit of using white thread on medium to dark fabrics when I first started making quilting videos so you guys could see what I was doing. Then it became a habit. Then it became my style of quilting. I love using white thread!

I also like picking one color of thread and using it throughout a project. Changing thread colors is time consuming and it adds extra thread breaks to the project. I ended up with 2 of all blocks due to filming step outs so I may stitch an extra block with multiple colors just for fun, but my main block will be quilted with white thread over the whole thing.

Developing Your Quilting Opinion

As for the WHY I've made this decision - it's just my opinion that it will look good and be visible enough for you to see in the video. It may look terrible to you and that's okay. This is the nature of opinion.

I really want you to develop your opinion about thread color this year. This is something that I hear over and over - What thread should I use on this quilt?

This is SO subjective! Everyone is different and the colors we pick will always reflect our opinion on what looks good to us. The best way to develop your opinion is to try everything and to ask yourself with every practice block - do I like this?

Practice and Testing is NEVER a Waste of Time

When you stitch something out and you like it, most people tend to feel pleased. Yay! I love what I've stitched.

When you stitch something out and you hate it, most quilters feel disappointed. You may feel that your time, materials, and energy have all been wasted on a pointless project. Uggh! I hate those colors!

But it was not a waste! Figuring out what you DON'T like is just as important and beneficial as finding out what you DO like! When you try something you don't like, sit with it for a minute and ask yourself why you don't like it. Listen and try to discern exactly what you are feeling.

So often in the heat of disappointment we chuck the project in the trash and move on too quickly to learn from the experience. A failure is not a failure if you learn something from it, even if it's a lesson to never mix orange and purple again.

So take the time to piece up at least 3 of these practice 4 patch blocks and quilt Sharp Stippling over the surface with three different thread colors. Try two colors you think you may like and one color that seems crazy. Remember - it's not a waste of time if you learn something new!

Please share a picture of all your thread tests in the Block Party Facebook Group as well as your opinions on what looks best and why. I can't wait to see your stitching and learn what you like best!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How to Baste Your Quilt Blocks
I can't believe we're already basting our first block! Quilt basting is the process of layering the patchwork block with batting and backing fabric and securing the layers together temporarily so we can quilt the designs.

Some quilters love basting, but it's probably my least favorite part of quilting. Over the years I've developed methods and tried many different tools and securing devices to find the absolute fastest way to knock out basting quickly and efficiently. Learn how to baste your blocks in this video:

Click Here to find a Baste Your Quilt Kit with flower pins and Pinmoors to baste your blocks!

Yes, I do prefer to use pins to baste my quilts, not basting spray, which I believe is harmful to our health and the longevity of our quilts. Click Here to read more about dangerous chemicals in quilts.
I mentioned in the video that I don't tape my backing fabric down to the table when basting a large quilt because the tape doesn't hold large pieces of fabric very well. If you'd like to learn how to baste a king sized quilt on a regular dining room table, check out the workshop Quilting a King on Your Home Machine to find a detailed video on my super sized basting method.

For this quilt, I'm quilting with Hobbs Heirloom Wool batting because I wanted the quilt to be soft, squishy and lofty to showcase the quilting designs.

In the past I've also used Quilters Dream Poly batting when I wanted a very flat quilt with virtually no shrink. If you really want to hide your mistakes, try using a 100% cotton batting as it will shrink up a bit at the end and hide your quilting stitches within a crinkly surface.

What batting do you plan to use? Do you have a favorite batting that you pick for almost all projects? Why is it your favorite?

So now that our blocks are basted up, it's time to quilt! Check back tomorrow to learn how to audition your thread colors AND get some free motion quilting practice at the same time!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How to Mark Your Quilting Design

On Monday we learned how to piece our first block, and now it's time to think about the quilting. The first step to getting your block ready for quilting is to mark it with the quilting diagram.

Looking for the first quilting diagram? Find it in the Block #1 Quilt Pattern!

Why are we marking the design?

In machine quilting there are two ways to quilt: on a marked like or free hand (without marks). Free hand quilting requires a lot more practice and repetition. It's a lot like learning how to write in cursive - you have to memorize the rules of the design, then fill in the area by following the memorized pattern.

Quilting on a marked line is much much easier because it doesn't require the practice or memorization. You just quilt on the marked lines!

This machine quilting method is also easier because it will allow you to focus on moving the quilt and balancing that movement with the speed of your machine. This is how you create even, consistent stitches, and this is the challenging part of free motion quilting because balancing this speed / movement is different for everyone.

So having the marked lines will make your life much easier and make quilting the blocks faster. Learn how to mark the blocks with your quilting design in this video:

When you print the pattern, make sure to check the box for "actual size" in your printer dialog box so the pages print properly. You can check by measuring the 1 inch box on those pages. When taped together the diagram should measure 14 inches.

The marking pencil I'm mostly using is the Fine Line Water Soluble Pen. It produces a bright blue line that looks pretty ugly on my bright fabrics, but it's definitely easy to follow! After quilting our block, we will rinse out these marks so we can see the quilting.

Ways to save marking time

No, I didn't mark every single area of my block. I didn't mark the darker area filled with Sharp Stippling because I've memorized this filler design and I know I can quilt it into this area without the marked lines.

I also skipped marking every single individual flame in the outer border. I marked dots instead to mark the points which was both faster and will result in a more unique design in that area.

So you're welcome to skip marking areas if you don't need them, but it's a good thing to have if you're just getting started.

Are you planning to mark all the lines in your block? Do you have a lightbox to mark or plan to use a bright window? Click Here to watch a video on marking a block using a window.

Now that our block is marked, the next step is basting! Come back tomorrow for tips on basting your block securely and the batting I've chosen for this project.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Monday, January 4, 2016

How to Piece the Half Square Sun Block

Machine Quilting Block Party
Wow! Josh and I have been totally blown away by the response to the Machine Quilting Block Party! We're so excited to be teaching so many excited quilters how to piece and machine quilt this year!

This weekend I shared a special tip video on how to prepare your fabric and cut it accurately. If you've been debating whether to use scraps or buy yardage, definitely check out this post for extra fabric cutting tips.

Today we're jumping right in with piecing our first block - Half Square Sun. This block is created almost entirely with half square triangles so you're definitely going to get a lot of practice piecing and cutting precisely.

Learn how to piece the block in this video:

Click Here to find the pattern for Block #1.
Extra Tips for Pretty Patchwork

When working with half square triangles, I have added extra fabric to the squares so you can cut the shape down accurately after the triangle unit has been pieced.

To trim the half square triangles properly first make sure to align the 45 degree diagonal line on your ruler with the diagonal seam on the block. Rather than trim a large bit from two sides, instead trim a small amount from ALL sides of the block so you're sure that all the edges are straight and square with the diagonal line.

Arrange and Piece Carefully

I got a bit turned around while piecing Half Square Sun so make sure to lay out all the pieces on your table, then piece the units together carefully into rows, then the rows into your center block.

As I mentioned in the video, it's a great idea to develop a system of pinning so you always know which edge you need to stitch next. I can't count the number of times I held two pieces together and in the time it took to walk from the cutting table to the machine I'd forgotten which edge I was supposed to stitch!
The Seams Pressed Open Debate

Yes, we're pressing our seam allowances open for this quilt along because it will make the block flatter and easier to machine quilt. Trust me, you don't want to hit a layer of 6 seam allowances with your needle!

Many quilters have expressed concern that this could weaken their quilt because batting could poke through the seams, or the seams could be damaged when we stitch in the ditch later.

I've never seen an issue in my quilts created by pressing the seams open because I lower my stitch length for piecing. Lower your stitch length to 1.5 mm so the stitches are tiny, tight, and extremely secure.

I also think your piecing thread plays a roll too. I used Aurifil 50 wt. mako cotton to piece my blocks because it's super thin, very strong, and has virtually no lint.

Now it's your turn! Piece your block and share it with the Block Party Facebook Group! Post any questions you have about the piecing process either to the group or in the comments below.

Up Next - Tomorrow I'm planning to share another extra tip video on how to mark your block with the quilting diagram so it's ready for machine quilting. Click Here to watch all the videos posted so far about this project.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Fabric Colors for the Machine Quilting Block Party

Our Machine Quilting Block Party has kicked off to an amazing start! Over 700 quilters have joined the party and a few have already jumped into piecing the first block. Click Here to pick up Block #1 to get started!

Today I have an extra tip video for you on how to select colors and prepare your fabric for cutting and piecing:

Yes, you can use scraps or yardage with the Machine Quilting Block Party. Here's some extra fabric buying tips depending on what you choose:

Cutting Blocks from Yardage
I've provided a calculation here for the total yardage for the entire quilt so you can buy all the fabric you need at once if you like:

Fabric A (red) - 1 yard
Fabric B (Orange) - 1 yard
Fabric C (Yellow) - 1 yard
Fabric D (Cream) - 3 1/2 yards
12 - 18-inch squares of batting
3 yards of backing fabric

The background fabric D is calculated to cut the background color, border fabric, connecting binding, and outer binding of the quilt.

When working with yardage, you can cut the amounts down into smaller pieces to make them more manageable. For example, I would cut the 3 1/2 yards of background fabric down into 1 yard amounts to make it much easier to wash and press.

When cutting pieces, cut an entire width of fabric strip the width you need (example: 3 1/2 inch strip) then cut the strip down into the pieces you need (example: 4 - 3 1/2 inch squares).

Place the remainder strip in a bin with a sticky note indicating the width so if a future block uses a similar size you can easily cut more pieces from that strip.
Cutting Blocks from Scraps

You can also cut each block individually from scraps. For the most part, I will call for 1/4 yard of fabric for each color because that is the minimum sized cut that quilt stores can cut. You will likely be able to cut each block from less fabric.

I would advise purchasing 3 1/2 yards of background fabric simply because it will provide a cohesive background for each block so they all coordinate together nicely. Even if all the fabrics you use for Fabrics A, B, and C are different, using the same background fabric throughout will tie all the blocks together perfectly.

So what colors are you planning to use? Many quilters have already jumped in and are posting beautiful pictures of their fabrics on the Block Party Facebook Group. Click Here to join and share your fabrics today!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Machine Quilting Block Party Kick Off!

Are you ready to party?! It's time to get our Machine Quilting Block Party started with Block #1 - Half Square Sun!

Machine Quilting Block Party with Leah Day

Machine Quilting Block Party with Leah DayThis beautiful block is fun combination of half square triangles and squares. We're going to brush up on our triangle piecing skills this year and master lots of machine quilting techniques as well!

A full sized quilting diagram is included in the pattern for you to print, cut out and tape together to mark the quilting design on your block. Within the quilting diagram you'll find a fun sun motif, Sharp Stippling, skill building straight lines, and Hot Path in the outer border. 

Why we mark the quilting design

When you're first learning how to machine quilt, you have to do so many things at once - move the quilt under the needle, maintain a matching speed with your machine, and quilt the design smoothly over the quilt.

After guiding thousands of quilters through quilt alongs for the past 5 years, I've learned that having a marked design is essential. It takes the guess work out of the design and allows you to focus completely on moving the quilt and balancing your speed to create beautiful stitches.

Machine Quilting Block Party with Leah Day
Where are the videos?

The videos for the Machine Quilting Block Party will be posted on the 1st and 2nd Monday of the month.

Next Monday we will learn how to piece the block step by step, then the following Monday we will learn how to machine quilt the block together.

I'm planning to also share a variety of tip videos to help get you started on the right foot! Many quilters have had questions about fabric preparation, marking the block, and free motion quilting basics so I will be sharing extra tip videos on these topics over the next few weeks.

Learn more about the project in this intro video:

Make sure to join our new Machine Quilting Block Party Facebook Group so you can share photos, ask questions, and make friends with quilters around the world.

Of course you can also post any questions you have in the comments below. We're here to help you build amazing new skills for patchwork and machine quilting this year!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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