The Free Motion Quilting Project: February 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sneak Peek for Block #3!

It's hard to believe that February is almost over and our third block for the Machine Quilting Block Party is about to begin! I really love this new block and shot a few sneak peeks for you to enjoy:

When I posted this picture to the Block Party Facebook Group someone commented that it looks like we'll get a lot of practice with triangles this year. Yep, we definitely will be working on triangles in every single block this year!

It's been two months and Josh and I have been thrilled to see so many quilters join in this project and share blocks on the Facebook Group. So far this feels like the best paced quilt along we've ever done and this will likely be the model we use for all future block parties.

It also seems the best set up for beginning quilters. With only one block per month, the time commitment is small, but you have the opportunity to build awesome skills for both piecing and machine quilting - the best of both worlds!

So even if you didn't get started in January, you have plenty of time to jump into the fun of this skill building block party. Click Here to find the patterns for Blocks 1 and 2 and be looking for Block 3 on March 1st.

Remember to pick up your pattern on the first 5 days of the month so you get the very best deal!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sensational Snowflake Embroidery Designs

Dad and I have been working hard on a new collection of embroidery designs and they're finally ready to go!
snowflake embroidery designs

This Sensational Snowflake embroidery design collection features these six snowflake designs that will stitch out around 3.5 x 3.75 inches so they will fit nicely into a 4-inch (100mm) hoop. This is my first foray into fancy fills and satin stitches and we learn so much about stabilizer, underlay, and stitch density while creating this collection!

We've also finally mastered exporting the designs in all major file types, including ART. From now on all of our embroidery collections will be released in the following formats: ART, ART USB EXP, DST, EXP, HUS, JEF, PCS, PES, SEW, VIP, VP3, and XXX.

You can now find our Reflections of Nature embroidery collection available in both .ART and USB .EXP formats for Bernina machines.

I plan to share new videos and projects featuring these designs with lots of inspiration for how you can use them in creative ways! Be looking for new videos and posts on machine embroidery soon.

Let's go embroider!

Leah Day

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Quilting with Jessica Marks

Today we have a super helpful video from Jessica Marks, an excellent quilter who has been quilting along with the Machine Quilting Block Party:

Jessica Marks's beautiful Blazing Sawtooth
I loved watching Jessica's video and hearing her perspective on the block and designs. Jessica is working outside her comfort zone and quilting on a larger scale than she's used to, which can feel really challenging if you're used to quilting on a tiny scale.

Quilting outside of your comfort zone is always going to feel scary and...well...uncomfortable!

Like Jessica, I love to micro-quilt and found it very easy to hide mistakes in extremely dense stitching. Making bigger shapes requires a different movement with your hands and arms and it's easier to wobble out of control. You're going to make mistakes because it's something different, and yes, some of them may show.

But you've got to risk it! Risk your blocks being imperfect, trust the experience of making them, and that by the end you will have gained new knowledge and ability from the journey.

Thank you so much, Jessica, for bravely sharing your block with us and your journey to becoming a better quilter. You're already amazing, and I can't wait to see where this project takes you!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Series of Experiments

I've been laughing maniacally a lot this week (Mwahahahaha!) as I play Mad Scientist with my yarn and stabilizer stash. I'm trying to find the perfect recipe for Free Motion Weaving, a new technique using yarn and free motion quilting to simulate the look and feel of a woven / knitted garment, but in far less time.

Free Motion Weaving |

To keep the experiment results easy to judge, I've been using one type of yarn with each experiment, arranging it as evenly spaced as possible over a piece of stabilizer, then topping with another piece of stabilizer. I've also been quilting over the yarn with simple straight lines spaced 1/4-inch apart for one half and 1/2-inch apart on the other half.

Free Motion Weaving |

I posted this picture to Instagram with the comment that I was trying to combine as many obscure techniques as I could at once: heat dissolving stabilizer, free motion weaving, and ruler work quilting on my table mounted longarm. This really is a pretty esoteric technique to play with!

The problem is I have several different stabilizers and it's hard to know what will work best. So far I've tried Floriani Stick Wash Away stabilizer and Iron off Stabilizer. Both worked...sort of...but didn't seem the best choice when I'm considering making a large sweater with this technique.

I've also tried water soluble stabilizers which have worked much better, but I wonder how great they will work with the more chunky, knobbly art yarn I'm planning to use next? More experiments are required! Mwahahahah!

Working on something like this is fun, but it can also be frustrating if you seem to get the same bad results over and over. That's why I only do one experiment a day, and I've been recording the results in a notebook so I don't forget the materials and methods I've tried so far.

Free Motion Weaving |

This type of experimental stitching and recording your results can be super helpful for all forms of quilting. If you're challenging yourself to get better at piecing, try different ways of creating a 1/4-inch seam allowance. You're going to get different results depending on the foot you use, seam guide, stitch length, thread, and whether you move your needle or not.

Regular free motion quilting downright requires experimenting to know what exactly will work with your machine. I can't count the number of times I've heard from frustrated quilters saying they've "Changed everything and nothing works!" Instead of changing everything, change only one thing at a time, and stitch out a small sample so you can see what effect each change has on your machine.

So give yourself permission to pull on a lab coat and play Mad Scientist this week! You never know what you'll discover, and you may just find the exact combination of things that works perfectly for you!

Let's go quilt EXPERIMENT! Mwahahahahah!

Leah Day

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Duck and Sausage Jambalaya

Jambala recipeJosh here today with one of our favorite recipes, jambalaya! This is a rice-based Creole dish with Spanish origins (a younger cousin of paella), a signature recipe in New Orleans and along the American gulf coast.

I grew up just outside New Orleans so the cuisine of the city has always stayed with me. In fact, I introduced Leah to red beans and rice after we married in 2005.

What's special about today's recipe is we used duck meat. And not just any duck meat--I keep a small flock of ducks and we process the young drakes once or twice a year, and I can tell you true farm-raised duck is no comparison to factory-raised duck meat. In fact, the first time I tried duck was on a cruise during our honeymoon, and it was simply just not any good--greasy, fatty, and the meat had not-nice aftertaste. I couldn't believe the difference when we first roasted one of our ducks.

We had a lot of fun making this dish and filming this video and really hope you'll give this simple recipe a go.

Click here to watch how we prepare our jambalaya and get the full recipe.

Jambalaya recipe
Let's go cook!

Josh Day

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

New Quilty Box and Free Quilt Pattern!

I just received my Quilty Box for February and it really is like getting a surprise gift in the mail! I love opening up the box and checking out the fun materials and challenging myself to make something quickly and easily with the supplies.

This month I received a Kona Roll Up of white and black 2 1/2 inch strips so I decided to piece a funky white and black quilt...except I was all out of white background fabric!

I ended up using Island Batik Cherry and Snowcone which creates a really funky background. While this quilt looks pretty complicated, the piecing is super easy, especially when using precut strips.

Click Here to find the free quilt pattern and video for this Infinity Knot Quilt.

Do you like piecing with precuts, or do you prefer cutting from yardage? Have you ever designed a quilt on graph paper entirely yourself? It's lots of fun and very easy to do, and best of all, you end up with a beautiful, unique quilt that's entirely your creation!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, February 15, 2016

What do I do with...

With the crazy upheaval of my sewing room, cutting room, and office, I've been pulling out old projects, fabrics, and supplies and wondering what should I do with all this stuff?

A lot of these are "someday" fabrics. Someday I'll create a shirt from that special yellow fabric I purchased on vacation. Someday I'll make a skirt from the blue stripe and the red stripe has been set aside for YEARS for stockings or the trim of a Christmas quilt.

Most of these fabrics have a special memory or vacation attached, but I've never prioritized these projects so they've never been created.

Are they really a priority? When I made a list of each fabric and the project I'd planned and most were garments. But I don't do that much garment sewing anymore! I certainly love to make myself something new to wear, but I never think to start one of these projects because my plate is always filled up with quilts.

So what should I do? Scrap the memories and sell the fabric, or prioritize these projects and start getting them done?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lessons from a Star

This fall I pieced four six pointed stars from the materials in a Quilty Box. I machine quilted one block with rulers for fun, but the other three star blocks have been floating aimlessly around my sewing room for months.

This week I pulled out one star block and jumped on the longarm for some much needed quilting play in between moving furniture and fabric and making a giant mess in my studio.

But...I hit a snag. I began quilting the block with a variety of rulers and made a very big mess of one corner. I didn't like what I'd quilted and I didn't know how to keep going without having to rip.

Ripping is SO not an option this week. I'm ripping shelves off the walls, reorganizing everything, and dealing with a huge mess of my own making. I don't have the patience or brain space for ripping out stitches, no matter how bad they look. I. Just. Want. To. Quilt!

So tonight I did just that. I kept going. I didn't rip, and I didn't worry about the bad design choice I made in the corner. I just kept stitching and I kept trying different rulers and I knocked out more space in the block.

And a funny thing happened as more designs and more stitching filled this star - I began to like it again.

I ended up finding many lessons within this little block:

1. I hate scallop rulers because they're a b*!@# to line up evenly, and extremely noticeable when they slip.

2. It's better to keep going and ignore the mistake. The longer you stop and agonize about it, the bigger the mistake appears, the more space it takes up in your head, and the more tempting it becomes to rip.

3. Everything looks better with more designs and more stitching. I already new this - it's one of my favorite things to tell you to "Throw more thread at it." but even I need a reminder occasionally.

It's also good to keep things in perspective. Will this little six pointed star block be the end-all, be-all of my quilting experience?

NO! It was a learning block and largely used to check the tension on my machine. It was never MEANT to be a masterpiece, and I should never have let some wobbly stitches and ugly design choices stop me in my tracks.

In short - you learn a lot more by doing more. You won't learn anything when you stop. So keep going, keep quilting, keep moving. There is always something new to learn, but only if you're willing to keep trying.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Redesigning the Studio...Again!

It's been about six months since I realized the house was no longer big enough and built the Crafty Cottage in the back yard. Installing and renovating this little barn has made such an enormous difference for filming videos easily without interruption.

But my space issues haven't gone away inside the house. Dad and I still work together a huge amount in the basement sewing rooms and lately they've been feeling overwhelmingly cluttered and chaotic.

We've also been focusing more on machine embroidery, but both embroidery machines were set up in Josh's office. Between the embroidery machines running, Josh trying to pack orders, and Dad and I trying to talk over design edits, these rooms are feeling positively claustrophobic.

One of the first steps I take in a remodel is Identify the Problem.

What is the main problem with the basement rooms? Why does it feel like it's not working, and how can it be better arranged for everyone to work easier and more efficiently?

Running through this question, I came up with three things that needed to change:

1. Embroidery machines need to move - They're badly positioned in Josh's packing office and we're constantly in Josh's way. We also can't run the machines while Josh is editing videos because they're too loud to hear over.

2. Less clutter, more peace of mind - I went overboard a few years ago with shelves. It seems like every flat wall that would stand still long enough got a shelf screwed to it and piled with boxes and bins of quilting stuff. How much do I use this stuff? Hardly ever! The things I'm not using daily need to be put away in another room. Less shelves and clutter on the walls automatically make the rooms feel larger and more peaceful.

3. Repurpose unused spaces - When analyzing my space I found two areas that were relatively unused - the table mounted longarm and a large desk in my upstairs office. Why weren't these spaces being used? Could they be repurposed or combined and become more useful again?

Quilty Table specifically designed for sit down longarms
With the longarm, I finally admitted that I hated the table it came in. No matter how many modifications I made to it, the table never felt right and quilting always felt awkward with the head of the machine facing me.

So I did some research and found a new table! Arrow Sewing Cabinets has just created a new Quilty table that's designed for table mounted longarms like my Juki 2200, but it sets the machine up like a domestic, which feels much more comfortable to me. Yes, we will be carrying this new table in our store soon because I absolutely LOVE it!

I also decided to move the longarm to my upstairs office. The large desk that was not being used (except to hold piles of clutter) was dismantled and the new Quilty table fit perfectly into this space.

What I love most about having the longarm upstairs is it's so easy to jump on the machine and stitch a bit at any odd time of the day. Last night while James got ready for bed, I quilted another hexagon star panel with rulers.

One move leads to another

So now with the longarm table out of the basement sewing room, I have the space to move both embroidery machines! Moving that one big machine out of the room, and removing the cluttered shelves has made a huge difference for how the sewing room looks and feels.

Of course, all the random shelves, lights, and camera mounts I've screwed to the walls have left their mark. I've decided to patch and paint these walls before the machines move so the room really will feel brand new.

While I wish I could say there is a one time fix for studio space, I've come to realize that there isn't. This is always going to be an evolving process.

If you've been struggling with space issues too, try identifying the problem. What is the area that bugs you the most? Do you have a guest room that's not really being used for guests? What is the #1 thing taking up your space? Is it worth that space or can it be moved or repositioned so your quilting area is more efficient?

Yes, it may take some work and planning, but taking control over your space and building the quilting area of your dreams doesn't have to be expensive or outrageous. It starts with identifying what you want, and taking one step at a time to make it happen!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, February 8, 2016

How to Machine Quilt Block #2

It's quilting time! Last week we learned how to piece a beautiful Blazing Sawtooth block and this week let's learn how to machine quilt it together with straight lines, Zippling, Fuse Fire, and more wiggly flames in the borders.

Machine quilting patchwork block

Click Here to find the quilt pattern for this block. The pattern includes a printable template so you can mark this quilting design on the surface of your block!

Now let's learn how to machine quilt this Blazing Sawtooth working from the center:

Did you catch my machine running loud at the beginning of this video? It was really grinding and grumbling because I hadn't cleaned it out in awhile. Click Here to find tips on cleaning and oiling your machine if this is happening to you!

Machine Quilting Patchwork Block

This month we're going to focus on two filler designs: Zippling and Fuse Fire. Zippling is a variation of Sharp Stippling, the design we focused on last month. It's a bit more masculine with straight lines and sharp angles and looks great on quilts for the guys in your life.

Fuse Fire is a new design we learned last week that will add a beautiful flame-like texture to your block. Click Here to find a video on machine quilting Fuse Fire so you can get more practice with this cool design.

I've been seeing so many awesome blocks posted to the Machine Quilting Block Party Facebook Group! Make sure to join in the fun on Facebook and share your pictures and questions with a group of supportive quilters from around the world.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, February 5, 2016

Machine Quilt Fuse Fire #460

Each month we're going to focus on a specific machine quilting design to build new skills and get more comfortable free motion quilting. We'll also use the design within the month's block for the Machine Quilting Block Party.

This month let's learn a new machine quilting design called Fuse Fire:

machine quilting Fuse Fire
This beautiful pivoting design will help you build skills for two essential quilting techniques: travel stitching and echoing. Learn how to quilt this design in this new video:

machine quilting Fuse Fire
We're going to use this design in Block #2 for the Machine Quilting Block Party. Click Here to pick up your block pattern today

The best way to learn a new design like this is to quilt it as much as  you can. Your first try at a design probably won't look very good, but the more you quilt it, the better you'll get to know it.

So pull out some fabric and scrap batting and try quilting this design on a small practice sandwich this weekend.

Another great idea would be to quilt it All Over Style over a small baby quilt. That will definitely give you tons of practice machine quilting this new design.

What do you think of Fuse Fire? Does this design look easy or hard to quilt? Are you excited about quilting it in our next block?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Top Tips for Quilting for Show

I received an interesting message on Facebook this week about quilting for show - how to enter, what judges are looking for, and how to make a quilt that competes well. So I've shot a quick tip video for you today with my top tips for quilting for show:

If you're really interested in competing successfully I highly recommend Karen McTavish's book Quilting for Show. I believe this book is out of print now, but I found a few copies here on Amazon.

Top Tips for Show Quilting

1. Create a New Design - How many times have you seen a Dear Jane quilt at a show? I've seen at least five, which means a quilt show judge has likely seen hundreds. Creating something new and original is one of the best ways to get more attention at a show because it will be something different that the judges haven't seen before.

Express Your Love Goddess Quilt
2. Compete in a Smaller Category - If you throw a rock in an average quilt show you're going to hit at least 100 pieced or appliqued quilts. How do you stand out from the crowd? Make something different!

Duchess Reigns  - Hand dyed wholecloth quilt in progress
Wholecloth quilts are far more unusual because they specifically focus on machine quilting. Most quilters get into patchwork first and machine quilting second so it makes sense that there will always be fewer wholecloth quilts in a show. Because wholecloth quilts are so fascinating, they also get a lot of attention, which is never a bad thing.

3. Construct Carefully - Even if you don't want to create an original design or make a wholecloth quilt, focusing on your construction is essential. If there's a glaring mistake in the middle of your quilt, the judge is probably not going to miss it.

When I first got into show quilting, I honestly felt like I was learning how to create quilts from scratch. All of my previous "good enough" methods had to go so I had 100% control over the fabric and could make it do exactly what I wanted.

If your quilt is pieced, the seams need to match. If it's hand appliqued, your stitches need to be tiny to the point of invisible. You want to make sure to tie off and hide your threads properly as this is something judges can easily see and feel on the surface of the quilt.

This focus on perfection may feel tedious and frustrating at times. Remember to take breaks with easier, simpler projects so you don't get burnt out obsessing about every stitch on a big, time consuming project.

Will My Quilt Ribbon?

You may follow these steps and win tons of ribbons. Or you may not win anything at all. One of my most successful quilts won an Honorable Mention at one show, then Best Machine Quilting at the next show.

Judges are all looking for different things and have different opinions for what makes a great quilt. So you may not get very consistent results. Rather than try to read the judges mind, remember to make your quilts for YOU. Who cares if your quilt is a winner if you loved the process of making it?

Enjoy the process, take your time, design something amazing, and most importantly - have fun!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, February 1, 2016

How to Piece a Blazing Sawtooth Block

Are you ready to piece our next block in the Machine Quilting Block Party? Click Here to pick up the pattern for Block #2 and get ready to piece a beautiful Blazing Sawtooth block!

Patchwork Blazing Sawtooth Quilt Block
I really love this block because a Sawtooth Star was one of the very first blocks I mastered piecing precisely. Flying Geese have remained one of my favorite shapes to piece and I think combining them with Half Square Triangles really makes for a fantastic patchwork block.

Let's learn how to piece this block together in this video:

Remember to find the exact cutting sizes you will need a copy of the quilt pattern available here.

Patchwork Blazing Sawtooth Quilt BlockNext Monday we will be quilting this block with a variety of beautiful designs. The center of the sawtooth is filled with Zippling, which is a straight line variation of Sharp Stippling we focused on last month.

We'll also be learning a new design called Fuse Fire. Be looking for an extra tip video on quilting this new pivoting design on Friday! It's a beautiful design that will fill your quilt with flowing, fiery texture, which is just perfect for another Sunshine Surprise patchwork block.

Don't forget to share your photos on the Block Party Facebook Group. We love seeing your progress and the beautiful blocks you're creating.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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