The Free Motion Quilting Project: January 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Quilting Basics 10: Wash Out Quilt Marks

We're nearing the last days of January and I've seen so many beautiful Blooming Nine Patch quilt blocks posted to the Block Party Facebook Group! Here are my three favorites from Iise M, Paula W, and Sandra M:

Barbara H has jumped right into the Sashing and Cornerstones pattern and I love seeing the beautiful quilted feathers and flowers coming together!

At this point you're probably wondering how to remove the marks and basting stitches so you can enjoy your pretty quilted block. So today let's learn how to soak our blocks and remove all the water soluble pen and thread so you can really appreciate the finished design:

Click Here to find the pattern to Block #1

After soaking my block, I spread it out on my table and let it dry with help from a small fan. Once it dried, I store my blocks in a bin with a lid so they don't get misplaced or damaged floating around my sewing room all year.

After finishing a full row of three blocks, I'll begin connecting the blocks together using my favorite Quilt-As-You-Go technique so the quilt is mostly together by the time we're finishing up in December.

Of course, if you've decided to add the extra Sashing and Cornerstones, you can already be connecting sashing rectangles and the first block together as well as sashing and cornerstone rows.

That's a pretty big job and a lot of extra quilting so make sure to break it up over the year so it's not a ton of work all at the end.

Tomorrow we have a new block coming out and a few more Quilting Basics Tutorials to get you started with applique on the right foot. Click Here to find all the Quilting Basics videos shared so far.

And finally here's a sneak peek for our next block, though you can probably guess what it is - a Dresden Plate!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 30, 2017

Quilty Box Fussy Cut Frame Quilt and Napkins

It's Quilty Box time! Yep, this post contains affiliate links that help support our business. This month has been so busy that I didn't have a change to play with the materials in my Quilty Box until last week. This is always a priority because I love challenging myself to create a new, creative quilt pattern using the fabric and supplies that come in the box.

This month's box was curated by my quilting friend Stephanie Palmer, who you may know as the Late Night Quilter. She's also the creator of the Quilter's Planner, and if you got this month's box then you got a copy of the Quilter's Planner Mini! Click Here to check out the full size Quilter's Planner.

This month I added an additional challenge - I wanted to use a new fabric I designed for Spoonflower. This Home Sweet Home Needlepoint fabric was created for a Spoonflower challenge, but the cheerful designs were begging to be combined with the bright precut fabric strips that came with the Quilty Box. 

Note: If you decide to order the fabric from Spoonflower, I recommend selecting the Kona Cotton Ultra as it will work best for cutting and piecing our fussy cut blocks.

I decided to mix it up a bit this month by not just piecing a quilt top. Well, I pieced a quilt top kind of as an after thought. What I really needed was a new set of table napkins so I pieced the blocks, turned 7 into napkins, then pieced the remaining 9 into a small quilt. Whew! That was a lot of work! See what I mean in this new video:

This was such a simple design, but I absolutely love the effect with the fussy cut blocks and bright, cheerful fabrics. The nice thing is like last month and our Wonky Christmas Trees, it's not necessary to be 100% accurate or perfect with your cutting or piecing. It'll all work out in the end because you'll trim the blocks to 12 1/2 inches square at the end.

I've noticed I've been leaning towards more wonky, improvisational projects lately. What do you think? Do you like to improvise, or do you like a solid plan from the beginning? Do you like the blocks to be random and different, or all the same?

Let me know and I'll consider your thoughts as I challenge myself to create a new quilt pattern each month with our Quilty Box materials as inspiration! Click Here to sign up for Quilty Box so you can join in the fun!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sit Down Quilting Sunday #1 - Getting to Know the Grace Qnique

It's our first Sit Down Quilting Sunday and time to get this new mini series started! I'm super excited to share my new Grace Qnique in this series of videos designed to answer your questions about sit down / table mounted longarms.

In this first video I've shared my basic setup of the longarm in a Quilty Table and the most frequent questions I get about setting up the machine this way - why I like it, what in the world those clamps are for, and how this works for quilting larger quilts.

Click Here to learn about the Grace Qnique longarm.

A few notes for this week - I'm still in the Making Friends phase with the Qnique machine. It usually takes me a few weeks or a few quilts to really get to know a machine and its quirks and how we can play nicely together.

One thing I immediately noticed was how sensitive the foot petal is. Just a little pressure and I'm going from super slow to super fast. When I asked Nathan about it, he showed me how to adjust the pedal to have more speed range in the pedal. I've never seen this before and I'm super impressed - here's a machine you can customize to work better for you!

Another key I've learned is not to just practice on practice sandwiches. Sure I can play around and quilt a mess all day, but that doesn't really tell me much. I learn more when I'm quilting something REAL because then I pay more attention and focus on how to press the pedal to get the right speed, and how to move my hands to compensate.

I've been practicing on the overlapping feather design from the Sashing and Cornerstones Pattern. I need to quilt 31 of these feathers for the bigger version of the quilt so this is a great opportunity to get used to the machine at the same time.

One thing to keep in mind - this machine is simple. Very, very simple. But it does have the features I find most important - an auto needle down when you tap your heel on the foot pedal, a bobbin winder on the top of the machine, and a hand wheel on the back if you need to rotate the needle by hand

There's no stitch regulator or speed control so you have a lot of power to get used to and a lot of speed to control.

So what are you curious about on this machine? Is there something you'd like me to try, or a feature you'd like to learn more about? Just post your questions to the comments below and I may just shoot a video just for you to answer your question!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Podcast #12: Affordable Quilting Frames and Longarms by Grace Co

Hello My Quilting Friends! Today I have an interview with Nathan Erznoznik from the Grace Company and we're talking about the transition from a home machine set on a table to a longarm on a rail system. Click Here to check out Grace frames and longarm quilting machines.

I'm planning to add a rail mounted longarm to my sewing room sometime this year. This will require collapsing one home sewing machine table to have room for the frame and machine. But don't worry - I still have 2 other home machines set up!

I'll still be shooting videos on my home machine as that remains my main focus in quilting and teaching. I want to explore longarm quilting because I'm curious - this is a whole different side of quilting and it works in a very different way.

Right now I'm focusing on quilting on the Grace Qnique machine that's set up as a sit down machine in my Quilty table. Because this is set up in a table I'm still moving the quilt to make the designs, not the machine.

To learn how to use the machine, I'm starting a new series of videos on the Qnique called Sit Down Quilting Sunday that will share how to get started, the major differences between quilting on a longarm verses a home machine, and answering any questions you have about quilting on a sit down longarm. Be looking for the first video in this series tomorrow!

The sponsor for this show is our new Dresden Plate Template Set! You can use it to cut dozens of Dresden Plate quilt blocks, tumbler shapes, circles, and even use them for ruler foot quilting on your home machine. We're running a sale on the set until January 30th so if you want to get the absolute best deal of the year on them, click here to check the Dresden Plate Template Set out now.

Now for some links to things we discussed in the interview:

Grace Company makes many types of quilting frames and they first got into this
by manufacturing hand quilting frames, and they are still one of the few companies that still create these frames, and they also make hand quilting hoops as well.

They got into creating machine frames in 2001. These frames are designed to take your home machine - like the Babylock Jane or the Juki 2010Q - and set it up like a longarm on a frame so the machine moves over the quilt.

During the podcast Nathan explained that these frames can grow with you. So you can get a GQ Frame (Grace Quilter Frame) and put your home machine on it right now.

Then in a few years, you could purchase a longarm machine like the Grace Qnique and place it on the same frame. You don't need to buy a new frame because it will grow with you.

I love that feature because these frames and machines are big and heavy and once you get it set up, you really don't want to have to tear it down to put in a new one in a few years.

Grace Company currently makes two longarm machines - the Qnique 14+ which is a 15 inch longarm and the Qnique 21 which is a 21 inch longarm.

Just in case you're confused about this terminology, here's a video I created a few years ago to help explain the difference between a home machine, sit down, table mounted, rail mounted, and longarm machine:

When I started quilting in 2005, I remember longarms being very rare and very expensive. The high price and size is what put me off for years. A lot has changed though and now we can find longarms at affordable prices.

Speaking of price...

You can find prices of the machines, frames, and bundles of machines and frames easily on the Grace Company website!

The Grace SR2 (Start Right 2) Frame is a queen sized frame that retails for $1000. Here's a list of the machines that are compatible with the Grace stitch regulator which makes using this frame much easier.

You can bundle the Grace Qnique 14+ machine with the SR2 frame for $4999.00. This is cheaper than many home sewing machines and will give you a big space for quilting big quilts, M sized bobbins, stitch regulation, and a lot more speed.

If space is an issue for you, as it is for me, all of the Grace frames can be set up at half size. Instead of 87 quiltable inches, you will have 37 inches to work with.

You can also bundle the Grace Qnique 14+ machine with the new Qnique 14 Frame for $6199.00 which has a quiltable area of 110 inches for king sized quilts or be built at half size to quilt up to 50 inches.

Grace Company wants to create a QVE - Quality Value Experience - products that have features and functions of the professional machines, but at a reasonable price.

Click Here to find the Grace Company website. Click Here to learn more about the Qnique longarm machines. You can also call to request a catalog Monday Friday through 1-800-264-0644.

I'm super excited to be working with Grace Company and quilting on my Qnique 14+. I'll be sharing a video tomorrow with details about my quilting setup in our first Sit Down Quilting Sunday video! If you have any questions be sure to post them in the comments below and I'll answer your questions in this new video series.

Let's go quilt

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Collaboration: Machine Quilt Straight Lines with Quilting Rulers

Machine quilting with rulers on a home machine
Collaboration Time! Stephanie Soebbing has pieced a gorgeous mini quilt called the Strippin' Mini and she's sent it to me for quilting.

Click Here to find Stephanie's Tutorial on piecing this mini quilt

Obviously when you look at this quilt, the fabric is the absolute winner. These beautiful hand dyed fabrics are created by Wendy Paskus from Stipples Etc.

Stephanie has created a pattern and kit for this mini quilt so if you'd like to make one too click here to find the kit and pattern.

So I had a few challenges with this quilt - I wanted to add a bit of texture with the quilting design, but I definitely didn't want to distract from the star of the show - the beautiful fabrics and awesome piecing. Watch this video to see how I worked with both challenges:

Click Here to find the quilting ruler I used in this video. It's apart of the Dresden Plate Template Set which also cuts Dresden Plate blocks, tumblers, circles, and can be used for ruler work quilting!

Machine quilting with rulers on a home machine
To make the quilting easy, I stitched in the ditch between the gray spaces throughout the quilt first. I did this with my walking foot mostly for speed, but I could have done this in free motion or with ruler assistance as well. There's no wrong way to ditch!

When it comes to quilting with rulers, this is something that looks like it shouldn't be done on a home machine. The first time I saw it, I thought "no way, that looks crazy!"

But then I tried it with a small ruler and found it actually works great. It's almost a mix of the precision of walking foot quilting with the freedom of movement of free motion quilting.

However, you must use a ruler foot. This is not something you can do with a regular darning foot because the rulers will not have a safe surface to slide against and you'll end up quilting over the edge of the hard acrylic and CRACK! SMASH! BANG! There goes your needle, your ruler, and probably the timing (or something more expensive) on your machine.

When it comes to the design, I just lined up the edge of the ruler with the ditch lines on the quilt. Because my needle was in center position in the middle of the ruler foot, it gave me exactly 1/4 inch spacing between the needle and the ditch line. So long as I kept the ruler foot sliding along the edge of the ruler, and the ruler pressed to the edge of the ditch, the line remained straight and perfectly spaced.

Machine quilting with rulers on a home machine

The straight lines through the gray areas were very easy, but the borders offered a challenge. How do you quilt this little space? I could have done something more adventurous, but I really liked the lines. I kept the lines straight and continued them over the border, just echoing the piecing shapes or the previous quilting lines, always spaced 1/4 inch apart.

This created an asymmetrical, angular design that's very pleasing. It looks just a touch more complex in this area, a bit like a maze, and I really love that effect.

Thank you again Stephanie for a wonderful week of collaboration! You can learn more about Stephanie by listening to our podcast episode about tracking your business income.

Learn how to piece this beautiful Strippin' Mini quilt in Stephanie's Piecing Tutorial right here.

You can also check out the Sit and Sew Radio podcast with me and Wendy Paskus and learn a bit more about all three of us!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I've been Nominated Teacher of the Year!

Thank you all so much for nominating me for MQX Teacher of the Year! This is such a wonderful surprise and I'm so touched by my students nominating me in 2016.

If you'd like to vote for Teacher of the Year, Click Here to cast your vote. One tip - votes are only counted when you share a comment in the last box of the form and explain why you think I should win.

It is always an honor to be nominated for this award because I'm not a normal quilting teacher. I teach online exclusively through YouTube videos, Craftsy classes, and video workshops on my website. This is very different from the traditional travel-and-teach model that most quilters use to reach students.

For a long time, this made me feel somehow less than everyone else. I hate to travel (it makes me crazy) and I'm happiest when I'm home playing with fabric, designing pretty quilts, and making dinner with my family. For many years I felt that I wasn't a legitimate teacher because I didn't have a system for hauling two suitcases through an airport or three years worth of contracts and places to go.

Then I won Teacher of the Year 2014 and I believe it was the students in the Building Blocks Quilt Along who rallied for me. It was such an amazing experience to win, and it's still a memory that makes me feel happy, honored, cherished, and loved all at the same time.

That award proved to me that teaching online is not just a valid way to teach, it is MY way to tteach. It is how I connect with you and how I'm the absolute best teacher I can be. It also seems to be working great for you too because I see amazing new quilts and blocks posted to our Facebook Groups each day. I know I'm making a difference and helping quilters learn and master this beautiful art of quilting.

But, of course, not everyone agrees with this method. After winning in 2014, I ran into another quilting teacher and her comment was straight in line with my limiting beliefs. She said, "I was really surprised you won. You never teach in person and you've only taught here (at MQX) once."

I laughed her comment off because I suddenly understood - what does travel have to do with anything? What does it matter HOW I teach? The only thing that's important is my commitment to teaching my students how to make beautiful quilts.

If I taught at shows or traveled across the country, you would not be getting me at my best. You'd be seeing me at my worst. If I taught at big shows, you'd be seeing a smiling face, but an exhausted spirit. That is just not me.

Here's the thing I've learned - there is room for everyone and you are free to do things your own way.

You may even find that if you have the strength and confidence to do things your own way, the world will love you more for it. That has been my experience at least.

Thank you again for nominating me! I'm so happy to be here, teaching this craft, and sharing it with all of you.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 23, 2017

I'm on Sit and Sew Radio with Stephanie Soebbing

This is a big collaboration week with Stephanie Soebbing! I kicked off the fun on Saturday with a Hello My Quilting Friends podcast episode with Stephanie all about tracking the income of your quilting business.

Today I'm on Stephanie's podcast Sit and Sew Radio and we're chatting about all sorts of things from how this blog got started to what I'm most passionate about quilting. Click Here to find the episode now.

If you've listened to me before you know I'm not afraid to talk about emotional stuff so don't be surprised - it's all in there!

As I said in this interview, we all have painful memories, everyone has painful stuff. I choose to share it openly and work through it with my goddess quilt series and my goal this year is to share even more by finally starting a book about that quilt series.

Stephanie also has an interview with Wendy Paskus, the dyer of the beautiful fabric you see in the quilt above. Stephanie pieced this little quilt and I quilted it with rulers so all three of us had a hand in creating it! We'll be sharing video tutorials on how to create this beautiful quilt on Wednesday.

What did you think of the episode? Are you ready to learn how to create this cute quilt with us? I can't wait until Wednesday!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Podcast: Track Your Income with Stephanie Soebbing.

Hello My Quilting Friends! I have an excellent episode for you today with Stephanie Soebbing. She's a blogger, runs an awesome website, and also hosts a podcast - Sit and Sew Radio! Click Here to check out Stephanie's website.

Today we're talking about tracking your income and Stephanie shares lots of details and the tools she uses to track her income so she knows what projects and products are the most successful.

This is super important because it can often feel like there are millions of possibilities for how to build your business. Should I write a pattern next or a book? Should I turn this project into a workshop or pitch it to a magazine? Tracking your income and traffic on your website can shed light on the best things to focus on at any time.

Now this is something I really haven't done up to this point. Thankfully when we switched to Shopify a year ago we suddenly had lots more information and data about our site, but I've never gotten into seriously tracking traffic so Stephanie's information is definitely going to change the way I do business...if I can ever find the time to learn how to use Google Analytics!

Stephanie and I are also collaborating next week to teach you how to make a super cute mini quilt. Stephanie will be teaching you how to piece a million pieces together to create a super scrappy mini quilt on Wednesday.

Then I'll be sharing a video on how to quilt this little quilt with rulers on Wednesday as well so we're going to link up those posts really nicely so you can learn from both of us on one day!

Just a quick reminder about the Machine Quilting Block Party - if you want to see the entire quilt, you can find images of the whole quilt in the new Sashing and Cornerstones Pattern available here.

This coming week we will be releasing the new Dresden Plate Template Set, a 10 piece set of templates that will cut dozens of Dresden Plate quilt blocks, tumbler / wedge shapes, circles, and you can use them for ruler work quilting on your home machine. I'm thrilled with how many things these templates can do and the hundreds of potential quilts you could make with them.

Now here's a few links to the things we talk about in this podcast episode:

Stephanie's 2014 Block of the Month project and free patterns.

Stephanie learned how to track her income from listening to the Perpetual Traffic Podcast and watching tutorials on 

 She tracks her website using Google Analytics integrated into her Wordpress website.

She uses a free plugin from Woo Commerce that works with her Wordpress site and Google Analytics to see how customers arrive and what they click on.

In 2016, 80% of Stephanie's sales came from email and she knows this because of tracking the traffic on her website. There is a difference between broadcast emails and followup emails and both can be used to generate income on an automated system.

Stephanie recommends looking at your data once a month just to see trends and check up on how things are going.

She has found launching a kit along with a pattern is very successful, but you do need to be careful not to over-order and have too many kits on the shelf. This can tie up your income over months and get you into a serious cash flow issue.

Her podcast, Sit and Sew Radio, has been super helpful for building her newsletter list. By interviewing other quilters, she's getting shared to new audience each week. She uses an email popup box on her website and the podcast website to greet quilters and encourage sign ups.

Stephanie's advice is to test everything with simple tests so you know what is happening on your website. She has found Facebook to be the most successful for driving buying traffic to her website.

She uses the Facebook Business Manager App and sets the ad minimum at $10 per day for the campaign and she looks at overall revenue from the ad and clicks from the ad. She recommends just breaking even on the ad (spending as much as you make) because the new customers you've gained will now be in your conversion funnel.

A conversion funnel is a series of steps like signing up for an email newsletter that connects with the customer and encourages them to take another step like buying a kit or a pattern.

Stephanie is going to do a lot more testing on ads in 2017. When you test an ad, just change one thing to know what is successful. Don't assume an ad is unsuccessful the first time you try it. Change the image or change the text and try it again.

Stephanie is looking forward to raising her daughter and building her business so her husband can maybe quit his job too and be able to buy a bigger house so they can grow their family.

Let me know if you have any questions about this podcast! I'm always open to new quilting interviews so please contact me if you'd like to be on the show!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Quilting Basics 9: How to Tie off Loose Quilting Threads

We're finally on the last part of our Quilting Basics Series! It's been really fun to share all the basics to quilting from preparing your fabric to piecing to machine quilting over the last two weeks. Click Here to find the complete playlist of all the Quilting Basics video tutorials.

For Part 9 in our Quilting Basics series, we're learning how to securely tie off your thread tails and then perfectly hide it in the fabric.

 Hide quilting thread
Click Here to find the Cheater Needles I use for this technique.

Now I know tying off and burying your thread tails might seem like a lot of work. It takes extra time that you could be quilting.

However, I encourage you to give this a try because it looks so amazing on the front and back of your quilt and it's 100% secure. If you bother to tie  your thread tails together this way, they will NOT come out of your quilt.

Many times quilters will build up threads to start and stop quilting, which creates a noticeable knot on the surface of the quilt. This knot both looks and feels unsightly and, even worse, it's not really secure. This type of knot can easily unravel, allowing your quilting stitches to come apart.

The best way to deal with loose thread tails is to tie them off and bury them in the middle layer of the quilt. This technique comes from hand quilting and it's very secure, completely unnoticeable, and with a little practice it will become a quick habit to grab a cheater needle, hide your thread tails, and get back to quilting.

The trick with making anything a habit is to make it easy and accessible. You're never going to want to bother with it if you always have to hunt down your cheater needle every time you need to bury your threads.

Keep your cheater needle always accessible by placing it on a Pin Place, the smallest magnetic pincushion so it's always handy and won't get lost in a massive pile of needles.

When you start quilting, get a few inches away from your starting point and tie off and bury the thread tails. This way you're not building a large supply of threads you have to tie off all at once.

By incorporating this technique into your routine and keeping your cheater needle close by your machine, this step will be easy and quick to accomplish, and your quilting stitches will be more secure as well!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 16, 2017

Let's Quilt Sashing and Cornerstones!

This year I decided to supersize the Flower Festival quilt with an extra pattern that will increase the size to 65 x 85 inches and give you a lot more space to practice free motion quilting. Click Here to find this new pattern!

To create the bigger version of the quilt, you're going to free motion quilt lots of sashing rectangles and cornerstone squares. Let's learn how to quilt the beautiful feather sashing design together:

The nice thing about this design is how much practice you're going to get quilting feathers! As you quilt pay attention to the direction, angle, and style of feathers that feel most natural for you to quilt.

Once you quilt your sashing rectangles, it will be time to tackle the cornerstone squares which are cute flower designs. Let's learn how to free motion quilt this easy design together:

In addition to the sashing and cornerstone designs, you'll also learn how to Quilt-As-You-Go or connect the quilted pieces together to make your Flower Festival Quilt. This easy technique will securely lock together with binding strips that look as good on the back as they do on the front.

Click Here to find Quilt As You Go Part 1 Video

Click Here to find Quilt As You Go Part 2 Video

You may want to watch the Part 2 video all the way to the end. I got the worst case of the giggles ever and could barely film the intro. I decided to include it because it still makes me laugh out loud!

This Mystery is a Little Less Mysterious

Is the mystery part of the Machine Quilting Block Party irritating you? Do you wish you could see the entire Flower Festival Quilt right now?

Now you can! I've also included pictures of the whole Flower Festival Quilt in this new Sashing and Cornerstones pattern.

Just please don't post the pictures online. Many quilters like the mystery aspect so we don't want to ruin the surprise for them!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Podcast #10: Finish Your Quilts with Patty Dudek

Hello My Quilting Friends! I have a great episode for you today with Patty Dudek from Elm Street Quilts. Patty runs many fun quilt alongs throughout the year and this year she's sharing a really cool quilt along called OMG - One Monthly Goal. Learn how it's going to help you finish your quilts in this new quilting podcast episode:

Click here to find all of the podcast episodes so you can listen while you quilt!

Click Here to check out Patty's site and the new OMG (One Monthly Goal) quilt along. I'm super excited to be the featured designer in March!

Now for a few links to the things mentioned in the podcast.

Click Here to find the Machine Quilting Block Party and learn more about this new monthly quilt along. This is a mystery quilt along, but if you'd like to see the entire quilt a few pictures will be included in the new Sashing and Cornerstones Pattern that will be launching on Monday.

Click Here to find the Quilting Basics Tutorials and learn all the basics to quilting from preparing your fabric to free motion quilting. This is a playlist with all the videos shared so far

A huge surprise that I've been bursting at the seams to share has been my new Dresden Plate Template Set! I've been working on this set for months and I can't wait to teach you how to use them. They can cut dozens of different Dresden Plate designs, circle shapes, tumblers, AND they can be used for quilting with rulers on your home machine. These will be ready for you to check out just as soon as I've finished the first batch of tutorials so you know how to use them!

On the quilt gallery I haven't made any progress on fixing this part of my site this week, but I have been designing new goddesses in fabric. I'm forcing myself to design faster and with less perfection as I enter the Spoonflower Fabric challenges each week. Here's the super cheerful Home Sweet Home Needlepoint Rainbow fabric I designed this week:

Home Sweet Home Needlepoint Rainbow Goddess

Click Here to find the Needlepoint Spoonflower Challenge and vote for your favorite fabric. The deadlines for Spoonflower Fabric is actually Tuesday each week so if you're interested in designing fabric and need a push to get started consider challenging yourself to join in the fun!

The South Park movie I mentioned is actually 6 Days to Air and I highly recommend it if you also struggle with perfectionism and getting things done verses perfect.

The sponsor for the show this week is my website and I'm running a sale on the Stitch n' Paint Love machine embroidery design. So use the discount code E10 from the podcast to save $3 on this design.

Now Patty Dudek mentioned a lot of things in her interview. Click Here to check out her patterns on Craftsy.

Click Here to find Patty's Bargello Quilt Along from last year.

Patty's word for the year is Brave and she's working on new patterns, building traffic on her blog, and writing a quilting book. Click Here to find Podcast #1 about publishing books.

Patty also runs the Bag It quilt along each year. You can make any bag from any tutorial and link up to show off your progress. I love Patty's goal with this - to give you something easy to make for gifts for the holidays!

Next week Patty's going to launch an Improv Quilt Along which sounds terrific. This is piecing with prompts rather than a pattern. So no precise piecing. No rules. 100% fun!

Patty is the best at finishing quilts so she's the perfect role model for the One Monthly Goal project. If you need a push to get projects done this year definitely start linking up with Patty each month.

Make sure to listen for Patty's tips on storing quilts and keeping track of them. Hint: never fall off the wagon when it comes to labeling your quilts!

Click Here to find Patty's Eat, Quilt, Sleep, Repeat quilt pattern.

Click Here to find Patty's Chunky Alphabet quilt pattern.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, January 13, 2017

Quilting Basics 8: How to Pick Quilting Thread Colors

Welcome to Part 8 in our Quilting Basics series! This week we've learned so much about machine quilting with a tutorial on stitching in the ditch and free motion quilting basics.

Today we're talking about color choice when it comes to thread for machine quilting. Thread color is critical for free motion because they show up in different ways depending on how you machine quilt. We're going to learn about "auditioning" colors to find the right match of color for your fabric and free motion quilting. See what I mean in this new Quilting Basics video tutorial:

Which thread color did you like the best? Do you plan to use multiple thread colors in your quilt?

The reason why I usually stick with one thread color is because of time. The more times you change thread color, the more time it takes to finish your block because you'll have more thread breaks and bobbin changes with each thread color change.

So I'm a big lazy and I'm always short on time so sticking with one thread color simplifies the process and gives me one less thing to think about or obsess over. Remember the Paradox of Choice - sometimes too many choices can actually make it harder to decide!

If you decide to test different thread colors, I'd limit it to 3 different colors just so you don't get overwhelmed with different options. I don't think there is ever a WRONG choice when it comes to thread color, but I do encourage you to contrast your thread color at least slightly so you can see what you're doing as you quilt.

If you match thread color completely, it will be like quilting in the dark. How can you improve your quilting or skill making that design if you can't see what you're doing?

One other tip - always match your bobbin thread color with your top thread color. This will save you many hours of headaches and frustration as you try to balance the tension with the top and bobbin thread perfectly.

Been there. Wasted time on that!

No matter how much you fiddle, the top and bobbin thread are never going to be in 100% perfect tension all the time, especially while free motion quilting. Save yourself the time and headache and just wind your bobbins from the thread you're using on the top of the quilt.

Have you picked your thread color yet? What color are you planning to use? Share your choice in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Quilting Basics 7: Free Motion Quilting Tips

Yesterday we learned how to stitch in the ditch with our walking foot and I mentioned you could do this with free motion quilting too. Today let's learn some tips on free motion quilting and how this cool quilting technique works on your home machine.

Click here to find the Stippling worksheet in the Block #1 pattern.

I can't emphasize enough how weird free motion quilting is. This quilting technique uses your machine in a totally different way so that most of the things you can usually depend on like consistent stitch length and the fabric feeding evenly through the machine no longer happen.

So that is what makes free motion quilting feel so odd when you first get started - the machine is no longer doing the work for you. This means that the stitches you produce in free motion are entirely up to you and created by balancing the speed of your hands moving with the speed of your needle bouncing up and down.

In conclusion, your stitches aren't going to look perfect when you first start free motion quilting. They're not going to look consistently sized and evenly spaced the way they look for walking foot quilting. You may have a spot of itsy bitsy stitches, then a massive chunky stitch.

Until you learn how to maintain a steady speed between your hands and your foot pedal, your quilting isn't going to look very pretty. I call this the ugly stitching phase and it's something you just have to plow through in order to become a skilled free motion quilter. Quilt a whole lot of ugly stitches and eventually your hands and feet will figure out how to work together to make pretty stitches.

You can see what I mean in this video with Josh from the Building Blocks Quilt Along:

A few tools can definitely make free motion quilting easier. I always wear Machingers Quilting Gloves because they help me grip the quilt surface and move it smoothly over the machine.

However, Dad has found the Quilt Grips to work better for him because they put less pressure on his fingertips and don't aggravate his arthritis. It's good to try a few different grippy tools to see which works best for you so you get a better grip on the quilt and have more control over where it's going.

I use a Queen Supreme Slider on my machine to make the quilt easier to slide smoothly under the needle. This is a Teflon sheet that has a pink grippy side that clings to the machine surface and a smooth, slipper top side that helps reduce the friction between your block and your machine.

When I'm not free motion quilting, I move my slider to the front of the machine off the feed dogs for quilt piecing to help the pieces slide over the table surface. When walking foot quilting I usually position it to the left of the machine to help the quilt move evenly as the walking foot chugs along.

To improve my stitches many years ago I found Magic Bobbin Washers which help to reduce thread breaks and backlash. These washers work for both top loading and side loading bobbin cases and are really nice in older machines that don't have the new springs that stop the bobbin from rattling around.

When you free motion quilt, you're really managing three things at the same time:

1. Moving the quilt under your needle with your hands.
2. Controlling the speed of the machine with your foot.
3. Thinking of the design and how to quilt it on your quilt.

This is quite a lot to do all at the same time! This is why I strongly advise you to quilt on marked lines. When you have marked lines, you don't have to think at all about the design and you can focus entirely on moving your hands to form the design and balancing that speed and movement to make pretty stitches.

Now a lot of quilters ask me about quilting on marked lines and if this is cheating - it's definitely not!

In the world of free motion quilting we have two types - free hand quilting and marked quilting. Both are equally important skills to build because you will use both techniques to create amazing quilts.

Marking a design ensures it will be placed where you want it on your quilt and will look exactly the way you want it to look. Marking is the only way to guarantee a symmetrical or evenly spaced design.

If I didn't mark this goddess quilt, how in the world would she have finished so symmetrically?

In short - marking your quilting design is NOT cheating. It's another tool in your toolbox and one I strongly advise you pull out and use from the very beginning.

The other type of quilting - free hand quilting - doesn't include marking your quilt because you memorize the design. This is exactly like memorizing how to sign your name in cursive - you don't think about that anymore, right?

This type of quilting requires memorization and practice and a basic understanding of the rules for each design. All of the free motion filler designs I've created for the Free Motion Quilting Project are free hand designs that are quilted without marking.

So I hope you can see that we have lots of different techniques to learn with free motion quilting and there isn't a wrong way, or a cheating way, to learn. It's all good if you're learning how to quilt your own quilts!

What do you think of free motion quilting so far? Have you created a lot of ugly stitches yet? Make sure to share your pics in the Block Party Facebook Group. Don't worry - this is a super supportive group and members are always cheering one another along. It's definitely the best part of the Machine Quilting Block Party!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Quilting Basics 6: Stitching in the Ditch

We can't run through the basics of quilting without a tutorial on stitching in the ditch! This is an important step in the quilting process that secures the layers of the quilt together and adds a nice outline between designs.

There are many ways to stitch in the ditch, but by far the easiest is with your walking foot. The walking foot uses the feed dogs on your machine to feed the quilt smoothly into the machine so you can take one stitch at a time and stay right in the ditch.

See what I mean in this new Quilting Basics Tutorial video:

Click Here to find all the Quilting Basics Tutorials linked together in one handy playlist.

I set my stitch length to 1.6 mm when walking foot quilting because it produces a nice, tight stitch that looks great on the front and back of the quilt.

I use ditching primarily as an outline between designs. I don't want the Gentle Flames in the vase to look like they're floating in midair. By stitching in the ditch around the vase, the wiggly lines of the design have a nice outline to contain them. The ditching lines also give me a line to travel stitch along so the block looks as good on the back as it does on the front.

Stitching in the ditch is also a very easy way to quilt your quilts. Don't ever feel like ditching is a cheap way out. When you're first getting started quilting sometimes it's the only design you can "see" on the surface. By following the quilt piecing lines, you're enhancing the overall design of the quilt, securing the layers together, and moving one step closer to finishing your project. None of those things are cheating!

As you get more experience with quilting, your mind will naturally start poking you with inspiration and ideas to innovate. You may create a quilt like a log cabin that would be a total beast to stitch in the ditch so you naturally look for new designs to avoid that headache.

Regardless of how your quilting skills develop, stitching in the ditch is like learning how to properly mix cement to a brick layer. It's a foundation step that must be mastered to move on to the next step. In short, everything builds from here.

Now if you're looking for more challenge, you can always stitch in the ditch in free motion. Yep, that's right - you don't have to ditch with your walking foot. You can ditch AND fill in free motion.

This is a bit more challenging because the machine is doing less work for you. You have to push the quilt under the needle, and work to stay in the ditch, AND produce nice even stitches.

Whew! I did say challenging right? This is a tricky technique and I admit even I hop out of the ditch when quilting this way, but it's a very useful technique to master.

Have I inspired you to try stitching in the ditch? Are you ready to tackle Block #1 with gusto? Share any questions you have in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Quilting Basics 5: How to Baste Your Quilt

How to baste a quilt block tutorialI know I'm posting a bit out of order this week because we've already learned how to free motion quilt our Blooming Nine Patch quilt block, but I still had a few tips to share about quilt basting so our Quilting Basics tutorial series will continue this week too!

With quilt basting, the most important thing is making sure the layers of the quilt are layered flat together without any extra fabric puddling up in the middle. The second challenge is securing the layers together temporarily so they don't shift as you machine quilt.

In this video I share my favorite method for basting a small quilt block. If you would like to learn how to baste a much larger quilt, the method is a bit different. You can learn my method for basting larger quilts in the workshop Quilting a King on Your Home Machine.

Now let's learn how to baste a flower quilt block together:

I only recently began machine basting my quilts and this is one of those things about quilting - it's okay to change. It's okay to adjust and adopt new methods when you find something that works better.

How to baste a quilt block tutorial
I found while working on several quilts for our new walking foot quilting book that pin basting alone just wasn't cutting it. It wasn't a huge problem, but I noticed small pleats on the back of my quilt and had some issues with shifting fabric on the front as well.

Then I began machine basting with water soluble thread and found this extra step 100% solved those issues. It also removed all the pins from the quilt so it felt easier and faster to machine quilt.

Is it absolutely necessary? Nope. I've basted quilts for years and not taken this extra step and they turned out just fine too. Yes, it's definitely a slower process with a walking foot, but these blocks are so small it really doesn't add tons of time to the project.

I have discovered a way to speed it up machine basting for bigger quilts. I've been spending time at a local quilt shop that rents time on a longarm quilting machine. I can rent a few hours on the longarm machine and baste several quilts at once. The rail system ensures the backing fabric is flat and straight and the layers of the quilt will be basted tight together.

This is faster because many longarm machines have a basting preset stitch which stitches automatically every 1/2 inch.

Ultimately machine basting is just like prewashing your fabric and pressing seams open. Give it a try and see if it works for you. Keep what works. Scrap what doesn't.

What do you think of this basting method? Have you ever worked with water soluble thread before? Share your experience in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 9, 2017

How to Quilt a Blooming Nine Patch Block

Are you ready to free motion quilt your Blooming Nine Patch quilt block? This block features many fun free motion quilting designs that will really stitch your skills up a notch. We're going to quilt a feather wreath in the flower, some simple curving lines in the stem, Gentle Flames in the vase, Stippling in the background, and Echo Rainbow in the border.

Click Here to find the quilt pattern for Block 1 including the printable diagrams and templates used to mark this quilting design.

My favorite part of the Machine Quilting Block Party is seeing your version of the Blooming Nine Patch Block. Many quilters have already finished piecing and shared a pretty picture in our Block Party Facebook Group. Here's block pictures shared from Patti S, Gabriele T, and Michele B:

Isn't it cool how much the block changes depending on your fabric choice? There are going to be lots of cheerful flowers blooming throughout the year!

Now the next step after piecing is to mark your quilt blocks with the quilting design. Designs like the feather wreaths in particular can be challenging to quilt so be sure to mark the design on your quilt block. I absolutely cannot quilt a feather wreath free hand (without marks) because of the way the feathers nest together as they swing around the circle. I decided to try marking with freezer paper for this space just to see how it would feel and I really liked it.

The last step before quilting is to layer your quilt block with batting and backing fabric and secure the layers together. Click Here to find a tip video on basting your quilt block.

Now for the machine quilting! I began by stitching in the ditch with my walking foot. This secured the block and created a pretty outline between the designs on the front and back of the quilt.

I decided to ditch with my walking foot simply because it's easier and faster. It's also possible to stitch in the ditch with free motion quilting, but it takes a lot of practice and it's super easy to wobble out of the ditch. So keep it simple and get some experience with walking foot quilting at the same time.

After stitching it the ditch, it's time to free motion quilt our Blooming Nine Patch Block! Follow along with the video as you quilt each design over your flower block:

I've received a lot of questions this week about the Sashing and Cornerstones pattern and how it works with the blocks. This extra, optional pattern will be released hopefully this week.

Yes, you should quilt all your quilt blocks normally. We will quilt all the sashing and cornerstone pieces separately and then connect them together so adding the sashing and cornerstones will not change the process of piecing or quilting your flower blocks.

Do you have any questions about free motion quilting your first block? Please share your questions in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Podcast: How to Start Quilting

Hello My Quilting Friends! It's the first podcast episode of the year and since this entire week has been about Quilting Basics and learning how to make a quilt from the ground up, that would make a perfect topic for this podcast as well.

Click Here to find all the podcast episodes so you can binge listen while you quilt!

Now for a few links of the things I mentioned in the post. Click here to check out the Machine Quilting Block Party and pick up the pattern for quilt Block 1.

To begin this new project, I've shared a big batch of Quilting Basics Tutorials which will guide you through the process of creating a quilt step by step. Click Here to find this playlist of all the video tutorials shared so far.

As I was uploading this new series I realized we reached the 1000th video! So much has changed since my first videos went online and I know I've become a better teacher and quilter thanks to YouTube.

Yes, I will be revealing the finished quilt in the new Sashing and Cornerstones Pattern that will be out on Wednesday. If the mystery aspect of this Block Party annoys you then you can pick up that pattern and see the overall design for all 12 blocks.

The sponsor for the show this week is my website I mentioned in the podcast that we're low on stock, but our boxes came in yesterday evening so we're back in stock again! Yay! Click Here to check out the quilt shop.

We are open to other quilting sponsor for the podcast. Please contact us if you're interested in learning more about sponsoring the show.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, January 6, 2017

Quilting Basics 4: How to Mark Your Quilt Three Ways

How to Mark Your Quilt Top Tutorial
Whew! We've made it through all the basics of quilt piecing with a Quilting Basics tutorial on 1. preparing your fabric and cutting, 2. Quilt Piecing Tips, and 3. How to Piece Half Square Triangles

We've also learned how to piece a Blooming Nine Patch quilt block so you've been able to put these new quilting skills to the test. 

Today let's learn how to mark our quilt block so it's easy to machine quilt. This will help you machine quilt each design easier so you can focus on balancing the speed of your machine with the movement of your hands.

When it comes to marking the most important first step is to find some marking pens or pencils that mark thin lines you can see and follow while machine quilting. Equally important is that these marks wash out of your quilt after you're finished quilting. Always test your fabric marking pens on scrap fabric to be sure they wash out completely. Click Here to find my favorite fabric marking pens.

For this quilting basics tutorial I've shared three different ways to mark your blocks so try all three to see which works the best for you:

Click here to find the quilting design in the video in the Block #1 pattern.

Note: I've included some affiliate links below to help you mark your quilt blocks successfully.

I found an interesting question on the Block Party Facebook Group last week about marking our blocks. Here's a paraphrase of the question:
If you mark the design, is that still free motion quilting?
The answer is yes! Free motion quilting only refers to quilting with a darning foot and moving the quilt in all directions. Whether the quilt is marked or not marked doesn't matter. If you're quilting with a darning foot you are free motion quilting.

Free hand quilting refers to quilting without marks. In this case you're quilting without marks to guide you so your quilting designs are based on memorization rather than marking. This is a bit more challenging, especially for beginning quilters so that's why I always emphasize marking the design for the Machine Quilting Block Party.

Which method of quilt marking did you like best? My favorite by far is lightbox marking because it's fast and easy. Turn on the lightbox, tape down the pattern and quilt block and start marking.

One downside to lightbox marking is they are expensive and can be big and clunky. My favorite lightbox is a Light Master LED lightbox that's super thin and comes in a box with a handle. I pull it out, plug it in, mark my block and then put it away. It's thin enough I can stash it between two desks in my office so it's out of the way when I'm not using it.

Another downside of lightbox marking is when you're working with particularly dark fabrics that even a lightbox can't shine through. Areas of seam allowance are always tricky to mark through and it's not always possible to see your lines through multiple layers of fabric.

How to Mark Your Quilt Top Tutorial
In cases like these, template or stencil marking from the surface is usually a better option. This way you're marking from the surface and it doesn't matter what color the fabric is. You can see and mark your design right on top.

The last method that I shared in this video is freezer paper marking which is something I haven't used a lot, but plan to try more this year. Basically you print the design full size onto the paper side of freezer paper, then pin it or press it to your quilt top. Stitch on the lines through the paper and the quilt, then carefully tear the paper away.

The one challenge with this form of marking is removing the paper after the design has been stitched. The first time I tried this, I pulled too hard on the paper and it tugged my stitches a bit so I had some long loops left on the surface of the quilt. This balanced back out again after I soaked the block, but it still wasn't nice to see.

So make sure when you mark with paper on the surface to stitch with really tiny stitches and tear the paper away very carefully. You may still end up with little bits of paper between your stitches which will likely wash out after your quilt is complete.

As you can see, none of these methods is 100% perfect, so by using them together you're bound to find something that will work well for you. Do you have questions about quilt marking? Feel free to ask in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Quilting Basics 3: How to Piece Half Square Triangles

This week is all about Quilting Basics and starting the year with a solid foundation as we begin a new Machine Quilting Block Party. Earlier this week we learned how to prepare our fabric properly and cut the pieces accurately.

Yesterday I shared a video of piecing tips to help you match seams just right and today let's learn how to piece half square triangles in this new Quilting Basics tutorial:

Half Square Triangles are going to be a big part of this year's Machine Quilting Block Party. Click Here to find the pattern for Block #1 and get started making some half square triangles right now!

Today I decided to challenge myself to explain half square triangles in the simplest way possible with an info graphic. An info graphic is an image that contains all the steps to a process in one place.

Obviously you have to keep the pictures and steps simple because there isn't a lot of space. This is part of my goal to simplify this year. How do I streamline a process and take out all the clutter and fluff to leave just what you need to know?

It's not easy for me to condense information because I want to share ALL of it with you at once. That's a bit overwhelming and sometimes not helpful. Sometimes it's nice just to see the steps in the simplest format and go from there.

I think I need a bit of work on the lettering sizes because I had to super size the image to be huge in order for you to be able to read the text. So if this blog post looks a bit weird - that's why!

I had a lot of fun creating this little image and I'd love for you to share it on Pinterest if you like it too.

Now back to creating half square triangles - I prefer this method because you never have to fuss with cutting and piecing actual triangle shapes. That's really nice because it seems like every time I cut a triangle it ends up going wonky.

So this method just uses squares and you stitch to both sides of the center, then cut them apart and viola! you have two half square triangles. It's like magic!

I know this isn't the only method to make half square triangles though. Do you have another method you like better? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Quilting Basics 2: Quilt Piecing Tips

Yesterday we learned how to prepare our fabric for quilting by prewashing, squaring, and cutting it into strips in the Quilting Basics #1 post. Today I want to share some tips for piecing your quilt blocks accurately and with perfectly matched seams.

There really isn't a single, universal trick or tip to quilt piecing. They key is consistent improvement with each seam you stitch. Here's the list of techniques or steps I consider most important to quilt piecing:
  • Developing a system for pinning fabrics so you know what seam to stitch when you get to your machine.
  • Piecing with a short stitch length (1.5 mm) so your pieces are locked together.
  • Press seams open 
  • Always start and end with a scrap charger so your machine doesn't gag on the back of your actual quilt pieces.
It's a short list, but can make a world of difference! See what I mean in this Quilting Basics #2 video on quilt piecing tips:

Would you like to improve your quilting skills each month this year? Click Here to learn more about the Machine Quilting Block Party.

One thing I receive questions about a lot is pressing seams open when making a quilt block.

I believe pressing seams open is very important because it makes the block flatter and easier to quilt over. It also makes joining seams more consistent and faster because you don't have to constantly plan ahead to know which direction both seams should press towards.

The main concern with this technique seems to be from seam strength. How can we press seams open, then stitch right in the ditch? Won't this make everything weaker?

This is why I piece with a very tight stitch length of 1.5 mm as mentioned above. With that tight stitch length, the patchwork pieces are locked together securely and will not come unraveled or allow batting to poke out after the quilt has been finished.

I also find that pressing seams open creates a more accurate quilt block. All quilts build on simple units and math. If you create small units and they are all 1/8 inch off and you require 8 units to make a block, your block will measure 1 inch off by the time it's pieced together. See how much that can add up over time and space?

What do you think about these piecing tips? Do you like pressing seams open or to one side? Why? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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