The Free Motion Quilting Project

Friday, December 8, 2017

Pick Your Fabrics for the Machine Quilting Party

It's that time of the year again - time to buy fabric! The new Machine Quilting Party will begin on January 1st and we're going to start the year with a bang making two quilts: Rainbow Log Cabin and Marvelous Mosaic. Check out these two quilts and find tips on picking your fabrics in this new video:


Click Here to find the schedule and materials list for the quilts we're making together.

Remember, to follow along with this Machine Quilting Party, all you need is a copy of the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day. 

Yes, we have a ebook version of this book too!

I've been getting a lot of questions about extra fees and charges, but just like all of my quilt alongs in the past, all you need to do is purchase the book of patterns and the videos will be shared for free.

Selecting fabrics for the Rainbow Log Cabin Quilt

The Rainbow Log Cabin is the oldest quilt in the book. I designed it in 2008 and struggled to decide on the quilting design. This quilt remained simply stitched in the ditch between the quilt blocks until last year when we finally decided to quilt it for this book.


When selecting the fabrics for this quilt, I went to a local fabric store and picked the brightest, most cheerful prints I could find. To create the widest variety, I selected multiple fat quarters for each fabric color.

What is a fat quarter? Fat quarters are 1/4 yard cuts of fabric, but instead of 9 x 42 inches, the usual way fabric is cut across the selvages, it's cut differently. Quilt shops will cut a 1/2 yard of fabric first, then slice it in half to create an 18 x 21 inch rectangle. It's also a quarter yard of fabric, but cut "fat" so there's more usable fabric for quilting.

So if you're looking for a great way to use up lots of fat quarters and you like this mosaic effect of lots of different fabric prints and blenders, this will be a great choice for you!

If you're looking for a faster and simpler way to buy fabric, consider buying yardage in the seven colors needed for this quilt. This is the option I took for making my new Rainbow Log Cabin quilt for 2018. I tend to get obsessive about the same fabrics being next to one another. Rather than spend a day arguing with the fabric arrangement, I just went with seven colors of beautiful Island Batik blenders:


I also used a giant piece of 108" wide backing fabric for the back so I wouldn't have to piece the backing together. Call me lazy! I just didn't feel like messing with it on this project.

Picking Colors for Marvelous Mosaic

The fabrics in the Marvelous Mosaic Quilt can also be a scrappy mix of fat quarters or cut from yardage. For the quilt version in the book, I used cheerful fat quarters for the front and several yards of Kona Cotton Ocean for the back. This creates an awesome two-sided quilt effect!


But you could mix it up even more and use fat quarters for the front and back, you could use one color for both sides, really it's entirely up to you.

I decided to change things up for the Marvelous Mosaic Quilt I'm making in 2018. I'm using solid fat quarters for the right side of the quilt, but minky squares in red and black for the back to create a dynamic checkerboard effect.

Minky is a very different fabric to work with and I shared some tips on quilting with it here.

Before cutting the minky fabric, I stabilized it with French Fuse, then cut it into squares. It feels very different to quilt with this fabric on the back of the quilt. It likes to really STICK to the sewing machine and table so I increase my stitch length from 1.5 mm (my usual walking foot quilting stitch length) to 2.5 mm.

So please only take a minky backing fabric on if you're wanting a bit of a challenge. I handed Dad two squares to quilt when I was in a hurry this summer and...well...we had to cut more fabric later that day!

I love it because it's so soft and cuddly, but I can't deny just how much it can change the feel of quilting even a medium sized square on your home machine.

So I hope you'll pull from your fabric stash for these quilts. All of the quilts for 2018 are fat quarter friendly so you'll be able to use up dozens of fat quarters with these quilts!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Is Polyester Thread Evil? Podcast Episode #38

Hello My Quilting Friends! Today I'm taking on a new Great Quilting Debate: is polyester thread evil? Is it bad for your quilts or is it the most awesome thread in the world? Listen to the episode and hear my side of this debate with a bit of quilting history sprinkled in for fun:


Or you can watch the episode and see me spinning black wool on my mini spinner here:


Click Here to find all the episodes of this podcast!

So the Great Polyester Thread Debate can be summed up pretty simply: I think this is a myth, a rumor, and just like using starch, a potential great product being demonized for no reason.

Pretty strong words? I'm just getting started!

Sure, there may be a basis for polyester thread having a bad reputation in the 1970's when there wasn't a lot of great quilting materials on the market. The American bicentennial created a resurgence of interest in traditional hand crafts and many people were jumping in, but manufacturers and stores just weren't prepared for the demand.

So could there have been a situation where the cotton fabric of a quilt was shredded by strong, brittle polyester threads? Sure. I'm not denying this situation could have happened. I wasn't alive back then so I can't (and wouldn't want to) defend the polyester threads of the past.

Which brings me to my second point - that was over 40 years ago! 

Manufacturing has changed, new products have been invented and the polyester threads we have to work with today are just plain awesome. My favorite polyester thread is Isacord which is available in over 300 colors, comes in 1000 meter spools for around $6 and is strong, thin, and stitches beautifully.

But it really doesn't matter what thread I like or what works best for me. The most important thing is to try it yourself.


When I stumbled across Isacord thread, I was in the middle of quilting Release Your Light, an 80-inch densely quilted art quilt that was driving me crazy because the thicker cotton threads I was using kept breaking.

I remember buying almost every type of thread my local quilt shop carried in orange and yellow. Isacord just happened to be one of the spools I grabbed that day. I didn't ask for permission, I didn't ask anyone's opinion. I was desperate for a thread that could quilt more than 2 inches without breaking so I could stop tearing my hair out in frustration. Isacord worked and that was enough for me.

So I don't believe in listening to the rumor mill or what Betty Sue at quilt guild says about using polyester thread being evil. Had I listened to that kind of thing, I might have been convinced what I was doing was wrong, even though it worked.

Ultimately all we have in any craft is personal experience and personal opinion, and the only way you can build this is by making quilts with lots of different materials and deciding what YOU like best.

This summer I learned photography on a DSLR camera so I could take the pictures for the book Explore Walking Foot Quilting. I found this very intimidating and kept searching online for the correct F-stop, shutter speed, and ISO to shoot pictures on a home sewing machine. I wanted to know the RIGHT way to do it. I didn't want to make any mistakes or do something wrong.


Needless to say, I never found a blog post or video with that exact information. I had to figure it out myself, play with settings, play with the single kit lens I had, shoot a lot of photos and develop my own opinion about what looked good. To a different photographer, they might have picked entirely different settings and achieved a very different look.

Developing your own opinion and being willing to experiment is hard and risky. It takes a lot of patience to make an entire quilt and ultimately decide you don't really like the effect of that batting, or you wish you'd stitched in a different color of thread. That's frustrating, but so long as you keep some record of your progress, you'll never have to do that again. Your opinion is strengthened and you can move forward with at least one material, one thread, one color, one fabric type scratched off your list.

And eventually you'll find the happy place where you know exactly what works for you.

For me, that's solid fabric or solid reading batiks, Isacord thread, and a strong contrast between my fabric and thread color. It's also using polyester or wool batting, prewashing and starching my fabric too. That's what works for me.

Now the question is - what works for you?

Go out and try lots of things to answer this question and try to ignore the rumor mill. Most rumors are based on some story someone heard years ago from someone else. There's no actual, hands-on experience in rumors, and just like ghost stories, they're probably not true.

Now a few quick updates from around the house:

Make sure to check out my video on piecing a total crazy quilt, which includes a Y-Seam piecing tutorial. Yep, I'll probably write a post on this at some point, but for now this is just on YouTube.

I'm also gearing up for our 2018 Machine Quilting Party! Are you ready to piece and quilt three quilts with me next year? Make sure to check out the materials list and schedule right here.

That's it for this week! Make sure to check back on Friday for a video on picking your fabrics for the two quilts we'll be starting the first week of January!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, November 30, 2017

New QAYG Experiments

QAYG is short for quilt-as-you-go, the quilting term we use for connecting quilted blocks together. I've been playing around with machine embroidery this week and decided it was also time to experiment with some new quilt-as-you-go methods.


I'm giving myself permission to play and not worry about turning these into real finished projects. I've played around with these quilt-as-you-go techniques before, but never really gave them a chance.

Either I'm very practical or super lazy because once I found my favorite quilt-as-you-go method, I pretty much stuck with that ever since. But I've gotten a lot of requests lately for more techniques, specifically for connecting blocks together without binding.

I'm also trying to come up with methods that require less...precision. That's kinda tricky since cutting and piecing accurately is a cornerstone of quilting, but stitching a quilted project together makes that a lot more challenging.

Quilting shrinks the quilt, sometimes in inconsistent ways that make trimming down the edges a real chore. Dad and I were comparing methods yesterday and no matter what we did, the results were always a bit squishy. Mostly because the quilt squares were squishy! LOL!

So I'm hoping to figure out some new QAYG methods to share with you soon along with a new embroidery collection with the designs in the pictures above. A faster connection method will definitely come in handy if we want to make something in time for Christmas!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Highs and Lows of Business Transformation with Stephanie Soebbing, Episode #37

Hello My Quilting Friends! Today I'm chatting with Stephanie Soebbing once again about the amazing transformation her business has undergone in the past eight months. Listen to this new episode right here:


You can also watch the episode and watch me whipping up Zuchini Ravioli in the introduction here:


Click Here to find Quilt Addicts Anonymous, Stephanie's website. Stephanie recently expanded to create a full scale quilt shop which is open five days a week and carries a wide range of beautiful fabrics.

Stephanie was a bit tired during this interview because she just got back from fall quilt market. She drove to Texas, set up a booth, then drove back home and had to immediately get back to work in her quilt shop. Talk about exhausting!

She also had a lot to share about her business transformation, the hardest part being a terrible mistake her accountant made with filing papers for her business and incorporation. I completely agree with Stephanie - paying for the excellent help of a bookkeeper and tax accountant is worth the money. As soon as you can afford to take those tasks off your back, do it!

Stephanie loves using data to help her make decisions in her business. Her earlier podcast episode was about using Google Analytics to track your income.

She and her husband signed a 2 1/2 year lease on the building she's renting for her quilt shop. In 2018, she will be able to calculate the profit of her online business, wholesale sector, and brick and mortar quilt shop and decide if keeping the physical store is worth it.

Opening the storefront requires much longer hours, plus several employees. Stephanie mentioned in the podcast her worry that her shop is just a pretty warehouse - meaning it's mostly a holding space for fabrics and merchandise that are selling more online.

No matter which way you slice it, running a quilt shop is a lot of work so make sure to support your local quilt shops during the holiday season!

Now for a few updates around the house....

You have just two more days to preorder a copy of Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day. This book comes with seven fun quilt patterns you can piece and machine quilt with the thirty walking foot designs shared in the book.

Three of the quilts from the book will be our projects for the 2018 Machine Quilting Party! Click Here to check out the schedule and materials lists.

This book was an awesome experience to write  and I challenged myself to learn photography for this project so we could include dozens of in-progress photos so you can see the real quilts on the machine. I'm so pleased it's finished and ready for you to learn more about this wonderful form of machine quilting.

Click Here to preorder the print edition which will begin shipping out on December 1st.

Click Here to preorder the ebook edition which will email out on December 1st.

During the introduction I was making Zucchini Ravioli, one of my favorite dinners when we have leftover spaghetti sauce to use up. Here's the recipe:

-------------------------

Zucchini Ravioli

Ingredients
2 Large zucchini
2 c. Ricotta cheese
1/2 c. Finely grated parmesan cheese
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c. Fresh mint or basil leaves, finely sliced into ribbons
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 c. Spaghetti sauce
1 c. shredded mozzarella

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the zucchini. Next cut ribbons: position the peeler at the top of one side of the zucchini and pull down to create a long, thin ribbon of zucchini. Repeat peeling layers of zucchini until you reach the seeds.

Rotate the zucchini and slice it into ribbons along the other side. Aim to cut steadily and slowly so you end up with a long slice of zucchini. Repeat with all sides of each zucchini so you have a nice stack of zucchini ribbons.

Mix up the ricotta cheese, parmesan, egg, mint or basil, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Arrange two zucchini ribbons vertically together on a plate. Arrange two zucchini ribbons horizontally center on top. Place a scoop (around 2 tablespoons) of the cheese mixture in the middle of the zucchini. Fold the top and bottom zucchini strips to cover the cheese, then the side strips to fully encase the cheese.

Set the ravioli in a buttered dish. Top with the spaghetti sauce and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the whole dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 - 30 minutes or until the cheese is fully melted and lightly brown on the edges.

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I would have taken a nice picture of it, but it's really not a very glamorous dish. By the time I thought about it, we'd already dug in and made a mess of the pretty ravioli. Oh well!

Let me know if you liked seeing me cooking or you found it too loud for the audio. So far I've found spinning and hand stitching to be the quietest things for me to do while filming the introduction, but it's fun to mix it up.

Now a few links to things I mentioned in the intro:

Click Here to find my longarm quilting video when I moved the Grace Qnique to a quilting frame. I'm really excited about quilting on this machine on a frame and sharing the learning process. We're still working on getting the cameras set up so we get good shots of both the designs and my arms moving.

Yes, I will continue to make videos quilting on a home machine!

Click Here to find the curved seam piecing tutorial for this month's Quilty Box. You'll learn how to piece the Soft Edges Quilt really quickly and easily and learn a super fast way to piece curves with glue basting.

I got a great email from Colleen from Canada and here's the picture she sent me:

Yep, lots of Leah Days in the world and I'm happy to see we have a wide range of skills! LOL!

I love hearing from you so please share a picture of what you're working on as you listen to the Hello My Quilting Friends podcast on Instagram and tag me @LeahDayQuilting so I get to see it!

Whew! That's it for this week! I'll be back with another quilting debate next week - polyester or cotton thread?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cylindrical Piecing? Adventures in Quilting Upholstery

Yesterday I shared a tutorial on curved seam piecing and it must have gone to my head! For some reason I thought it would be a snap to piece a quilted slipcover for this cylindrical foam footstool:


Um...no. This is like curved seam piecing on crack. Plus it needs a zipper so I can occasionally (never) take the cover off the wash it (ha ha, yeah right!) or just to change out covers for different seasons (that's more like it).

At least my first try ended up being too big rather than too small:


Too big is better because I can slip this back off and take a rotary cutter to it and try again without having the cut it out all over again.

So that's what's on my table and machine today! How about you? Made any awesome mistakes today? Epic disasters? That's all part of the fun!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, November 27, 2017

Curved Seam Piecing Tutorial - Soft Edges Quilt Pattern

It's Quilty Box time! I have a new quilting tutorial for you today with tips on piecing curved seams. Do curved seams give you heart palpitations? They're really not that hard so long as you use a well-designed template to cut the curve and glue to stick that sucker in place and show em' who's boss!

Learn how to piece perfect soft curves in this new Soft Edges Quilt Tutorial:


Click Here to find the free quilt pattern for the Soft Edges Quilt.

Curved Seam Piecing Tutorial
Do you like my squooshing and mooshing technique? Seriously high tech! LOL!

I can definitely see many ways to mix up this technique and use to curve the corners of rectangles, play with placement and spacing and make a lot of different quilt designs. My goal this month was to give you a very simple pattern with a handful of curved seams so it wouldn't be too overwhelming. I think the Soft Edges Quilt fit the bill!

Ad - Latifa Saafir has also created an 8 inch and 12 inch version of the Clammy template which will create an even larger, softer curve through those corners. The bigger the circle shape you cut, the easier it will be to fit and piece the seam because your fabric will have more space to ease together.

Make sure to check out Latifa's website here to learn more about her modern fabrics and cool templates!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Moving the Grace Qnique to a Frame!

It's finally time to share a new video on the Grace Qnique 14+! Early this month I moved my sit down longarm machine to it's new home on the Grace Continuum Frame. I shot timelapse videos throughout the build so you could see how this changed my basement sewing room:


Click Here to learn more about the Grace Qnique 14+. Currently Grace Company is offering a terrific sale on these machines, but make sure to call the company and mention Leah Day said Hello My Quilting Friends in order to get bonus accessories with your order!

Initial Feelings about Longarm Quilting on a Frame

I couldn't be happier with this machine set up on the Continuum Frame. It's so easy and fast to move the machine and far less effort on my shoulders to move the machine rather than a quilt.

I originally set up the frame low, but after watching Jamie Wallen's video on Longarm Machine Height, we adjusted the legs to the highest setting. I can clearly see what I'm quilting and all around the needle and my shoulders and back are staying straight instead of hunched forward.

As I said in the video, I feel a bit silly for not making this change sooner. It's not that quilting on a home machine is so much harder. I've been quilting on a home machine for years and I still love it and think it's a great way to quilt your quilts. I wouldn't have created so many designs or spent so many years teaching this method of quilting if I didn't think it was awesome.

But longarm quilting on a frame scratches an itch for speed I didn't know I had until this machine was set up in my basement. I can quilt faster, with big open designs that get the job done quickly. This isn't glamorous show-style quilting, but it is adding texture, simple designs, and getting the project finished so it can be used and enjoyed.

I knew longarm quilting would be faster because I've rented time on a longarm at a local quilt shop. But there's a difference between showing up once every few months to use a machine and actually having it in your basement. I can slip into the room first thing in the morning, click on the machine and quilt half a quilt in half an hour. I can jump back on the machine after watching a show with James and Josh in the evening.

Lately I've been eyeing the stack of Quilty Box quilt tops and wondering just how many I could quilt in a day, or a week. Because now it's no longer a question of when that quilt will be done, it's a question of what do I want to finish next?

The Frame Quilting Experience

Longarm quilting on the frame does feel very different from quilting on my home machines or the Grace Qnique when it was a sit down / table mounted machine.

I spent a few days after we set up the frame trying to put my finger on the difference in feel and flow from these two styles of quilting. What I ultimately realized is quilting on a frame just feels lighter and faster. I'm standing up, moving my body and arms with the machine, and with very little effort I'm stitching a 5 inch path of Zippling from edge to edge across a quilt.


That same 5-inch section would have taken a lot more time on a home machine because of all the shifting, scrunching, bunching, and smooshing required to fit the quilt through the arm of the machine.

It's also faster because I can run the machine as fast as I can think of the design. I've been critical of stitch regulators for years because on a home machine, they tend to be clunky and can limit the speed you can stitch.

With the machine on the frame, I'm regularly running the machine at full speed and the stitch regulator keeps the needle bouncing up and down to produce perfectly spaced stitches. It's easier for the stitch regulator to work because it's just the machine moving over the quilt.

There are little encoders attached near the wheels of the carriage which keep track of how fast you're moving and adjust immediately when you change speed. I found I liked the Cruise setting best and usually set my stitch length to 16 stitches per inch, which looks almost identical to the quilting stitches I make without a regulator on my home machine.


As for the best designs to get started with, I'll have more videos on that coming very soon. I have found my understanding of quilting filler designs and how to use them has translated perfectly over to longarm quilting on the frame. 

If you know how to quilt a design by heart on your home machine, you'll also know how to quilt it on the longarm. That doesn't mean it will look perfect, but you will still understand how it's stitched!

But What About Your Home Machines?

Of course this is the point where lots of quilters are going to start pointing fingers. But you've said for YEARS home machine quilting is just as good? Weren't you the girl that wrote 7 Reasons Why I Don't Want or Need a Longarm?

Yes, and Yes.

Most of the reasons I listed in that post were about money and at the time I didn't feel like the juice was worth the squeeze.

I also wrote that post more than 6 years ago and the machines and prices have changed a lot. The cost of larger, higher end sewing machines have also increased rapidly. Yes, you can get a home machine with a 11 inch harp space and all the bells and whistles, but it will cost more than the Grace Qnique!

So prices have changed to the point that a small longarm machine on a small frame no longer requires you to go into business. It's still a chunk of change to shell out all at once, but so are the larger home sewing machines.

It's time to think about what you want out of your machine and what you plan to do with it most so you get the most bang for your buck.

And NO, I'm not switching full time to quilting on a longarm! I will still be making videos, quilting workshops, and books on quilting on my home machines!

Next year we're going to quilt along with walking foot quilting, a quilting style you can only do on a home machine. Click Here to check out the schedule and materials lists for the three quilts we'll be making together.

I do want to share videos on quilting on the longarm and I've been thinking a lot about how to incorporate them into our weekly schedule. What I'm considering right now is to combine our weekly new design video so we quilt half of the design on a home machine, then switch to the longarm and see how it works there.

It will be cool to see how the designs are quilted on two different machines, plus helpful to see which style of quilting is easier for particular designs. I know already that travel stitching and hitting exact points will be much harder on the longarm than it is on my home machine.

So that's what I'm thinking about right now. Please let me know what you think of this new video series idea and any other suggestions for new videos quilting on the longarm frame. I hope you're as excited about this new quilting adventure as I am!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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