The Free Motion Quilting Project: March 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sneak Peek of Block #4

The month of March has flown by and tomorrow we'll be launching the pattern for the fourth block in the Machine Quilting Block Party! Here's a little sneak peek of this beautiful block:

As you can see, we're going to be tackling Pebbling in the month of April! I promise the piecing will be simpler so you can spend more time focusing on machine quilting and mastering this versatile design.

Click Here to find your blocks, but remember to wait until April 1st for the best deal!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Stitch and Paint Machine Embroidery

Two weeks ago we launched our first Stitch n' Paint Embroidery design and already we can see this is a very popular idea! Not only is it super easy to stitch out this little landscape design, it's really fun to paint each space with different colors and fabric paints.

I received a lot of questions about fabric painting after launching this new design so I decided to make a video on how I work with Fabrico markers:

The #1 key here is to Test, Test, Test! You really won't know what a marker will do unless you use it and check out the color first. And the last place you want to do this test is on the embroidery design itself.

Cut a 10 inch square of white fabric and create a little sample swatch of each color you plan to use. In the case of the Fabrico markers, you'll need to test both tips as one side is usually much darker than the other.

Once you have a sample swatch of your colors created, jump right into creative color combinations and play with all the ways you can paint your mini landscape quilt.

If you mess up, who cares?! Your embroidery machine can stitch out another design in no time and you'll be ready to try again. Click here to find the Stitch n' Paint Landscape design and jump into fabric painting today!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, March 28, 2016

Back Home after Easter

Happy Easter! I hope you had a wonderful holiday! We had a terrific time in Charleston, SC celebrating not just Easter, but also our 11th wedding anniversary.

It's really hard to believe we've been together 11 years! We've come a long way from our early twenties, learned a lot, cried a lot, laughed a lot, and weathered many storms together. I know for a fact that I wouldn't be where I am now without this awesome guy.

Here's to another year, even better than before!

Leah Day

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why is My Thread Suddenly Skipping?!

Since January I've been teaching Dad how to free motion quilt so he can help me prep quilts for filming, or finish quilts that I don't have time for after the video is complete. He's been doing really well and I'm loving the finished quilts that have both of our stitches together.

Dad is also helping me identify common beginner issues with machine quilting. As he stumbles onto a problem, we discuss the issue and I help him find a solution, then we talk about ways to make learning machine quilting easier.

One thing Dad discovered this week was really interesting so I've shot a quick tip video to share our experience:

When Dad was quilting the Polka Dot Parade, he didn't run into any issues with direction changes because the machine was only quilting in any particular direction for 3-5 stitches or so.

When he switched to the long wiggly lines, he was quilting in a particular direction for several INCHES. This might not seem like a big deal, but it was enough to make Dad think he'd broken my machine! The machine didn't like stitching in one of the directions he was using, and reacted with skipping stitches and shredding thread.

Free Motion Quilting is a Beast

This is why you may sit down to quilt one day and feel like your machine is suddenly broken. Why does it keep breaking thread or skipping stitches? It quilted that other design just fine for days and days?!

This is one of the most complicated and challenging things to explain about free motion quilting. It's simply not FAIR. Theoretically we should be able to strap on a darning foot, plop a quilt on the machine, and free motion quilt in all directions. Theoretically.

Unfortunately in reality our machines can be far more picky, still preferring particular directions like straight forward rather than quilting in reverse.

So if you suddenly wake up one morning and your machine suddenly wants to eat your thread, this is most likely the culprit. Try a different direction by shifting the quilt slightly within the machine. Also spend some time identifying the directions your machine doesn't like.

Yes, this can be really frustrating. When I explained the issue to Dad, he looked at me like I'd grown two heads. He couldn't believe that there wasn't something broken in the machine because it was acting so different when he began quilting the wiggly design.

But as soon as he started rotating the quilt around instead of quilting backwards, the issue cleared right up and the thread stopped skipping and shredding.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? Do you find certain threads skip and break more than others? Share your experience in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

MOST Amazing Present Ever

Josh just got back from the post office with a big box marked "return" which is never really a good thing. But then I opened up the box and... oh... my... it's an incredible quilt. As you can see from this video, I'm totally overwhelmed:

This is an amazing quilt created by quilters from all over the world who first joined me for the Building Blocks Quilt Along. Many of the blocks are house blocks and most are signed on the back with sweet messages from the makers.

I honestly cannot look at this quilt without crying! I'm so greatly touched by your kindness in creating this and letting me know how much our work means to you. Many of the blocks include creative details that make each and every one super special.

Thank you so much Janet Wright for coordinating this project and putting it together! I know what a big job it must have been and I want you to know that receiving a gift like this is better than winning any award in the world. Thank you!

With love,

Leah Day

Monday, March 21, 2016

Quilting on a Home Machine Versus Longarm Machine

I found a great question in one of my Craftsy classes this week about telling the difference between quilting done on a longarm verses a home sewing machine. Is there a difference in the designs you can do on either machine? Find out in this short video:

Josh is machine quilting on a regular home sewing machine.
One of the most confusing things to beginners is our terminology so here's a list of all the ways you can describe a home sewing machine:

Home sewing machine
Domestic machine
Midarm machine
Sit Down Machine / Sit Down Longarm
Table Mounted Machine / Table Mounted Longarm

This can obviously be confusing when you start talking about longarm machines, which are typically just called longarms or rail mounted longarm.

It's even more confusing when a quilter takes a home sewing machine and mounts it onto a rail system. Technically even though the machine is small, when it's mounted onto a rail system it becomes a longarm.

So what is the difference? As I demonstrated in the video with my silly stapler and Post-it note puppets, the difference is what moves - the quilt or the machine.

Here I'm quilting on a table mounted longarm,
moving the quilt, not the machine.
When the machine is stationary, you move the quilt under the needle for machine quilting. When the machine is on a rail system, you move the machine over the quilt.

Regardless of which is moving - the quilt or the machine - the goal of machine quilting designs are the same:

We want to fill our quilts with designs that flow continuously with minimal thread breaks. A quick name for this type of design is Continuous Line Design, which simply means the design flows without stopping in a continuous line.

So how can we tell the quilting on a longarm apart from the quilting on a home sewing machine? Theoretically we can't! If I quilted Stippling on my home machine and another quilter quilted this design on her longarm and if the two quilts were placed side by side, you wouldn't be able to tell how it was quilted.

However, the path that we use to fill a quilt can be quite different. For quilting on a home machine, we must baste the entire quilt, then machine quilt it starting in the middle of the quilt and working our way steadily to the outside edges. This way any extra fabric or batting will be free to shift outwards as needed.

For a longarm, the quilt is mounted onto a rail system that's a bit more like a typewriter. The quilt is fed up onto rails so you begin quilting at the top of the quilt and fill it in rows as the quilt is advanced onto the rails.. The size of your rails and your longarm determine how much space you can quilt at any given time.

So why do some quilts look so obviously longarm quilted?

Yes, there is one tell for longarmed quilts that's very obvious - pantographs and digitized designs.

Longarms are designed to quilt a path horizontally across the quilt and many quilters take advantage of this by using simple pantograph patterns to quilt a repeating design from left to right or right to left across the quilt. The pantograph is printed on a roll of paper and spread out behind the longarm. Using a stylus, you can move the machine from the back, following the design marked on paper.

This design is being stitched automatically by
my embroidery machine.
Computerization has made this even easier with systems that will automatically move the machine through a pantograph pattern. Much like an embroidery machine stitches out a design automatically, a longarm can be set up to quilt across the quilt with a repeating design with no assistance other than the occasional check for tension and thread breaks.

Both types of designs appear obviously longarmed because they are repeated identically across the quilt. Your eye can easily catch that same heart or leaf shape repeated in the same pattern over and over.

Why doesn't this happen with home sewing machine quilting?

It's far less common to see a pantograph quilted on a home sewing machine because it's really hard to quilt like this when you're moving the quilt, not the machine. The only way I can think of quilting a repeating design across the quilt is to mark it entirely over the whole surface of the quilt, which is both time consuming and tedious.

It's also not a very natural way to quilt on a home machine because it's harder to move the entire quilt from edge to edge through the machine. It's far easier to machine quilt from the center instead.

Which type of quilting is better?

Neither! No matter whether you machine quilt on a home machine or a longarm, you're quilting and that's what really matters!

The awesome thing is you can use the exact same designs on both longarm machines and home machines so the best thing you can do is dig into designs and start quilting - no matter what machine you own.

Click Here to browse our gallery of over 450 continuous line free motion quilting designs.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, March 18, 2016

Quilted Zipper Organizer with Quilty Box

My Quilty Box just arrived for March filled with awesome gear from! They have included all the materials you need to create this super cute zippered organizer:

I decided to challenge myself to make this organizer this month because the Quilty Box came with all the supplies I needed. All I had to do was grab some green thread for quilting and piecing the bag together.

I don't make a lot of bags and this little project packed quite a punch with 3 mesh, zippered pockets, and one clear vinyl pocket, plus a strap and buckle. Oh, and did I mention the bias binding around the edge?

This little project is SO nicely finished, and I have to hand it to Annie Unrein - she really knows how to write pattern! Each step was clearly listed and included check boxes to keep yourself organized. I never once got lost or confused, even though there are a lot of little pieces to cut and steps to sew.

The first step of the bag is to quilt the main panel so it's a stable base for the rest of the bag. Check out this video to see how I free motion quilted my bag using the design on the fabric for inspiration:

Yes, you can still find this month's Quilty Box right here for a limited time and get this box of fun gear too!

I know I probably wouldn't have tried making this organizer if I hadn't had all the materials so conveniently provided. Now that I've made one, I see how easy it is and I'll definitely be making more!

Let's get quilty!

Leah Day

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Stitch n' Paint Embroidery

My terraced pathway project hasn't been the only landscape I've been working on this week! I've just released this new landscape design for machine embroidery:

This is a Stitch n' Paint Design, which means it's designed for you to stitch it on your embroidery machine, then paint the surface with fabric paints or markers. You could also add extra texture and embellishment with beads, buttons, and decorative threads!

The inspiration for this new series of designs (yes, there will be many more) was adult coloring books I see popping up everywhere. While I love the creative designs in these books, I always prefer to work with fabric. Because it's so easy to hoop and stitch the design with your embroidery machine, you can always have a cute mini quilt ready to color or embellish anytime.

Now for the nitty gritty - this design measures 5 x 7 inches (127 v 178 mm) so you'll need to double check your hoop size to make sure it fits. We're also releasing designs in all the major embroidery file types: ART, ART USB EXP, DST, EXP, HUS, JEF, PCS, PES, SEW, VIP, VP3, XXX.

I decided on the 5 x 7 size so you could easily frame the design in a standard sized picture frame. Simply trim the extra fabric and batting from around the design and pop it into the frame so it can be easily hung on the wall or displayed on a table.

So what do you think? Are you ready to stitch and paint a beautiful landscape quilt with me? Click Here to find this new design!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Another Step On the Path

Time for a landscaping update! This weekend I found several hours to work on my terraced pathway and added another step up the hill:

I think it will only be 3 more steps before this project is complete. It's still hard to say and the plan continues to evolve as I work my way upward.

The most challenging thing lately has been keeping track of all the tools required for the job. Tomorrow I plan to find a big box to keep everything so I can pull it all out at once. It will also make for a faster pack up time just in case it suddenly starts to rain.

In the backyard, the chickens are back to laying strong after a slow start this year. Josh has been collecting some MASSIVE duck eggs that likely have double yolks:

Isn't that huge?! It's actually too big to close the egg carton!

So what about you? Do you have big gardening or landscaping goals this year? Is it still snowy where you live or warming up beautifully like NC? Share your plans in the comments below!

Let's grow!

Leah Day

Monday, March 14, 2016

How to Machine Quilt Block #3

Are you ready to machine quilt your next block for the Machine Quilting Block Party? We're going to be stitching our Sun Star block up a notch with many beautiful designs and, at least in my case, multiple thread colors!

How to machine quilt a Sun Star block

I decided to use both white and pumpkin Isacord thread so my lines should show up a bit better and this beautiful quilting design would get more attention!

My favorite part of this block is the echoes and wiggly rays in the yellow sections of the block. When split up with the orange sections, it ends up looking like a split sun. Make sure to use a thread color that stands out in this area because you don't want to miss out on this cool effect!

Click Here to find the pattern for Block #3

How to machine quilt a Sun Star quilt block
When using multiple colors of thread, it really pays to think ahead and plan your path. Minimizing stitching in the ditch is especially important because going over the same area in 2 colors of thread is really a waste of your time. It's already secured once so move on and quilt over something else!

I like that I was able to plan a path that didn't involve double ditching. The orange sections were easy to knock out in white thread when I started in the center. Then I changed colors, ditched the block once, and began filling each section from the center.

As I mentioned in the video, there's no right or wrong way to fill a block like this. Sometimes I'm in the mood to repeat the same steps over and over so I'll break thread intentionally just to return to a similar starting point for the next area.

Other times I'll just flow in to the next closest section and avoid thread breaks at all costs. Again - no right or wrong way to do it, just whatever you're feeling at the time!

So now that we've tackled this third block are you feeling more confident for patchwork and machine quilting? Have you noticed a difference in your skills? Are you ready to start using these designs in your quilts in progress?

If not, what's missing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Epic Fail Woodturning Project

Happy spring forward day! We've had a gorgeous weekend working outside and cleaning up the house for spring. It started raining in the middle of my landscaping project, so I pulled the tools into the barn and decided to work on a woodturning project I've had in progress since before Christmas.

This project has been a PROBLEM. It was The Pen That Would Never Be Finished because I kept screwing it up! Today I finally finished it after a lot more mishaps and shot a video this evening to share it with you:

So the two little bits of wood in my pen cost less than $5, but for the die hard way I fought to make them work you'd think they cost $50! I could have chucked them in the trash at any point and started over and saved myself an enormous amount of time and effort.

But sticking with this little project did feel good. While it's far from perfect, it taught me so much about putting pen projects together (ALWAYS read the instructions), and what not to do from now on.

So understand I wasn't pursuing perfection with this project - I was just seeking a finished result that would function. I finally got there today and despite the very obvious flaws, I couldn't be happier! Sometimes sticking with a project in spite of the difficulty is the whole point and actually can make you like the finished thingy better.

Let's go create,

Leah Day

Friday, March 11, 2016

Extra Practice Quilting Echo Shell

This month our feature quilting design is Echo Shell, one of my favorite designs based on a traditional Baptist Fan:

I've included an extra practice worksheet in your pattern for block #3 so you can get more familiar with this design and stitch a few practice sandwiches with it. Echo Shell is a very simple design based on a half or quarter circle shape that's expanded with travel stitching and echoes to create clusters of the design.

Echo Shell is such an easy, beginner level design that it's one of my favorites to teach to beginners. Learn how to quilt it in this video from the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along from last year:

Take some time to practice Echo Shell this weekend and get familiar with how this design works. On Monday we'll be learning how to machine quilt this designs into the corners of our Sun Star Block!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Path in the Snow Quilt Block

A few weeks ago we published a new collection of snowflake embroidery designs and this week I'm playing with them to create a cute embroidered snowflake quilt block:

You can find the pattern for this beautiful quilt block right here at

I've also shared a free video on how to machine embroider and piece the block precisely. It's a bit tricky piecing with machine embroidered fabric so make sure to check out the video to find my tips!

Later this week I'll be sharing a video on how to machine quilt this block too. It's never too late to enjoy the snow!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Building a Terrace Pathway

building a terrace pathway
My word for this year is Grow and starting today I've decided to start sharing a weekly update on my gardens and landscaping projects. My goal this year is to spend more time outside digging in the garden and landscaping the yard.

This is quite a challenge for me because I'm kind of a wuss when it comes to outside work. I really hate getting hot and sweaty, I don't like dirt getting under my nails, and mosquito bites drive me crazy!

No, I'm not afraid of pulling out a drill and saw and going to town on a home renovation project, but generally if it's outside work, I'm usually not interested.

Until this year. There are a lot of things in my yard that have been annoying me for a very long time, and this year I have the desire and energy to tackle them. I also have set a big goal for growing more vegetable this summer and maybe even adding meat rabbits to our mini farm of chickens and ducks.

But none of these goals will come to fruition if I don't start building a habit for working outside every day.

The project this week: building a terraced pathway.

building a terrace pathway

Josh and I put in this series of small terraced gardens the first few years we moved to this house. We put one garden in a year to mark the time we lived here...until we ran out of wall and lost count of the years!

For the last two years at least, I've wanted to level this slope and create a terraced pathway in front of the gardens so they're easier to work in. I always planned to build this path out of similar stone, but after considering the cost and with Dad's help on the plan, I decided to use 4 x 6 treated lumber.

Cutting this lumber has been an adventure! I tried both a hand saw and electric saw, but it took more than 20 minutes to cut one board. Today Dad showed me how to use the chainsaw instead. Now we're cooking with heat!

building a terrace pathway

I've been pleasantly surprised at how easy this path has been to build. I cut the boards to the right size, then dig out the ground and level the board. To secure everything in place, I've been drilling a 1/2 inch hole and pounding 3/8 inch rebar through the wood and deep into the ground.

While it would be better if I was using 1/2 inch rebar, remember I said I was a wuss? I'm not strong enough to hammer the thicker rebar without totally messing up my nicely leveled and squared boards.

Getting outside, enjoying the sunshine, and working on a project I've wanted to do for years feels really great. Yeah, I got hot and sweaty, but it was totally worth it because I feel great and I'm really proud of this project.

Let's go garden!

Leah Day

Monday, March 7, 2016

How to Piece a Sun Star Block

Ready to piece our next block for the Machine Quilting Block Party? This month we're creating a beautiful patchwork Sun Star created entirely with half square triangles:

How to piece a patchwork Sun Star Block
We've gotten a lot of practice with half square triangles over the last two months, but this month we're going to really dig into the shape and learn how to piece and trim it very accurately. Find many patchwork tips in this new video:
As you can tell from the video, the most important thing to focus on with half square triangles is the trimming. Slow down and take your time trimming each piece to the exact size needed for this block and everything will come together easier.

Are you needing more tips on piecing the rows together and matching seams perfectly? Click Here to find extra tips on that technique in Block #1.

If attaching the outer border is giving you trouble, click here to find tips for attaching the borders in the video for Block #2.

With our Sun Star pieced, the next step is to quilt it! I've decided to quilt my block in two colors of thread, so be sure to get your block pieced and basted so you're ready to start machine quilting next Monday!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Little Quilt for Me

Swiss cheese anyone? I've been goofing around with turning edges this week and working on a small art quilt wall hanging. Yes, the holes will go all the way through the quilt once it's finished!

Playing with artistic techniques like this is a real treat. I find when I don't push my edge and try new things, I start feeling really bored quilting the same thing over and over. Lately I've been quilting a lot of large scale quilts and the blocks for the Machine Quilting Block Party. While I love all of this work, I need to occasionally quilt something drastically different just for myself:

I'll be sharing more about this quilt, and I may turn it into a workshop as well, but for now it's a delightful creative escape just for me to enjoy. Make sure to quilt something for yourself today, just for the fun of it, just because you can!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Don't Wait 30 Days

Leah Day
Whew! I caught a cold right after getting back from Charleston last month and everything has felt like an uphill battle since. I just didn't feel like doing much of anything, even though we have tons of fun stuff going on!

Then a few days ago I stumbled across a terrific YouTube channel called Yoga with Adriene and it's making me feel SO much better. I started doing yoga when I was pregnant with James, but fell out of the habit of attending classes a few years ago. Thanks to Adriene and this awesome channel, I feel like I can take a yoga class anytime that fits my schedule.

Now what does this have to do with quilting? Not much, but I did want to share something spectacular Adriene said in the first video in her series. She said "Don't wait until 30 days to start loving yourself. You can start now."

In yoga, you show yourself love by knowing your body and respecting your limits. Forcing your body into a deep stretch you're not used to, or hurting yourself to hold a pose is not self love. And I agree with Adriene - the time to love and accept yourself is right now.

This means accepting your skills at where they are instead of ripping and berating yourself for not being able to quilt perfectly. I've been watching the posts to our Block Party Facebook Group and I see many quilters share beautiful photos of their blocks, but usually with a warning that it's not perfect or that a lot of ripping happened in the process.

Leah Day
I've seen this for years and it always makes me sad. I used to be the worlds worst perfectionist - constantly nitpicking my stitches and ripping out every tiny mistake. I know how crippling this habit can be, and I also know the source is always a lack of self love and acceptance.

So let's take Adriene's advice and start loving ourselves and our imperfect stitches right now rather than waiting until the end of the year. Start now with a deep breath and a big wide arm stretch to create new space around your heart. Then give yourself a big hug because you're already awesome just the way you are, with the skills you have right now.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New Pattern for Block #3: Sun Star

It's March 1st and time for a new block pattern to be added to the Machine Quilting Block Party!

Machine quilting block party Block 3

Machine quilting block party Block 3
This new block is called Sun Star and quite honestly I think it's my favorite so far. This block is entirely created with half square triangles so we're definitely going to be building awesome new skills for this patchwork unit.

Next Monday (3/7) you'll find a video with lots of new tips for piecing and trimming half square triangles to create this new block.

On the following Monday (3/14) you'll find another new video showcasing how to quilt this block in two colors of thread. Yes, I finally decided to use both white and pumpkin Isacord Thread and I'll be sharing extra tips for quilting with multiple colors of thread.

Another bonus added to this new block pattern is a practice worksheet for Echo Shell, our feature quilting design for this month. Use the extra worksheet to practice quilting this design on scrap fabric. The more practice you get, the more comfortable you will feel quilting this design over your Sun Star block.

Ready to get started? Pick up your pattern for Block #3 right here!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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