The Free Motion Quilting Project

Friday, February 5, 2016

Machine Quilt Fuse Fire #460

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Top Tips for Quilting for Show

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



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

Top Tips for Show Quilting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will My Quilt Ribbon?

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

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

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

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, February 1, 2016

How to Piece a Blazing Sawtooth Block

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sneak Peek of Block #2

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

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


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

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

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Quick and Easy Baby Quilt

http://leahday.com/pages/machine-quilt-baby-quilt
This past week I was sent a pack of Tonga Treats from Timeless Treasures to play with. These precut packs of batik fabrics are awesome treats for beginning quilters because each pack comes with a super easy quilt pattern. Just grab a treat and you're ready to create a new quilt!

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

Click Here to find the quilting video.

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

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

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

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How I Nearly Ruined my Favorite Craft

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



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

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

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

How I nearly ruined beadwork for myself

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

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

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

Why quilting will never be ruined

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, January 25, 2016

Practice Isn't Pretty

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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