The Free Motion Quilting Project

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Different Summer

Yesterday was James's last day of school and the official start to summer break - three solid months of summer fun. Yippee!

However... most likely James won't consider this summer as fun as previous summers. A few months ago Josh and I realized we needed a big change. Far less electronics, far more sunshine. Much less tolerance for tears and tantrums, far more expectation for determination and patience. We literally changed our parenting style overnight, created a list of new family rules, and began enforcing every single one with some sort of physical exercise or chore.

Does this make me sound mean? For the past few months I have felt a bit mean. I enrolled my child in karate classes, added to his daily chores, pushed him to work harder, ignored tears and punished whining. Trust me, the past few months have been tough for all three of us.

But we've seen wonderful results. Back in February James was having issues in second grade. He wouldn't focus. He couldn't sit still. He'd rush through work and not care a bit about the quality, just about being the first one done. No, James doesn't have ADD, or some other label like that. He just needed more guidance, more structure, and, apparently, a lot more experience raking leaves in the back yard.

Over the past few months I've seen James transform from a wimpy crybaby to a resilient and respectful nine year old. Yes, I cringe at the words "wimpy crybaby" because I know someone, somewhere is going to judge me. How dare you call your son a crybaby! We want men to have emotions and be empathetic!

Yes, absolutely, I agree with you. But we also don't want to raise a man-baby who melts down when his boss asks him to work on a Friday night. Or do something he doesn't particularly like. I want my son to be in touch with his emotions, but not be ruled by them. I want to raise an adult, not a child in a grown-up body.

So in this spirit of parenting, this summer is going to be quite different. Instead of so-called educational television to "keep him occupied" James will be occupied continually with tasks that build dexterity in his hands, patience and perseverance in his mind, and strength in his body.

Today James hand stitched charm squares together while I wrote quilt patterns for fall market and when he made the exact same mistake three times (looping the thread over the seam allowance instead of stitching up through the fabric correctly), I made him do 15 push-ups as punishment.

Yes, I punished my child for not just hand stitching badly, but mostly for making the same mistake repeatedly, which implies he wasn't paying attention, wasn't engaged with the task, or simply didn't care.

Up until now I've resisted this sort of parenting because it was very similar to the way I was raised. My dad would often send me and my sisters outside and lock the doors so we couldn't come back in. I can remember feeling shut-out and unloved, feelings I never wanted my child to feel.

But then again... I turned out okay. These days I'm starting to think that maybe those times being outside for a few hours weren't so bad after all. I learned how to entertain myself. I found something to make or create. I usually got pretty muddy, and ultimately I had fun.

If I don't send James outside, how will he learn this, experience this, find this for himself? He won't. If I don't push my child to pay attention to his mistakes so he will stop making them, how will he learn how to avoid them? If I don't help my child build these mental and physical muscles, who will?

So here's to a different type of summer! Far less television. Almost no video games. Lots more sunshine. Lots more chores. Lots more to learn, and way more growth. After all... isn't that my word for this year... grow?

Let's go grow,

Leah Day

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Machine Quilting Gentle Curves

This week I finally upgraded to the iPhone 6 with a lot more space so I could shoot more videos of what I'm working on at any given time. Today I'm machine quilting on my Juki 2200 sit down longarm and STILL knocking out the lines in the landscape of Dream Goddess. Check out the video to see why this is taking so long:

I admit, this has got to be the most boring machine quilting design in the world. But if you stitch rows and rows of it across beautiful hand dyed fabric, the effect is totally, absolutely worth it!

So that's what I'm quilting today. What are you working on? Has the warm weather pulled you away from your sewing machine and out to your garden, or are you quilting something special? Please share in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leha Day

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Beautiful Quilting with Matrix

Our feature machine quilting design this month is Matrix, a super easy, wiggly grid design. Yesterday I got a ping on my Instagram feed from a quilter called Ktigger2 who used Matrix to machine quilt her latest quilt:

matrix machine quilting design
This is so awesome! Matrix was the perfect design to quilt over this scrappy quilt and add movement and interest over the surface. I love the effect of this texture close up:

Of course this month we learned how to machine quilt Matrix on a smaller scale in our Flaming Pinwheel block #5but you can always expand the design and use it to fill an entire quilt on a larger scale like this. Not only is it a gorgeous design, it's also super easy to quilt with your walking foot!

Have you had a chance to quilt Matrix this month? If not, definitely jump on your machine and give this fun machine quilting design a try!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, May 23, 2016

Machine Quilting the Basket Weave Quilt

Last week I received my Quilty Box for May and designed a beautiful new quilt using the 10 fat quarters in the box. This week I've shared a new video on how to machine quilt the Basket Weave quilt with a super easy, beginner level design!

Click Here to find the video on machine quilting the Basket Weave Quilt

This is quite possibly one of the easiest quilt patterns I've ever designed, and I really love the combination of straight lines and circles I quilted over the surface.

When planning the quilting design, I looked closely at the quilt and asked myself what I wanted to emphasize. The woven lines of fabric are my favorite part of this quilt pattern, so I knew I wanted to quilt a simple design into those spaces.

The simplest machine quilting design in the world is straight lines so that became an easy choice for the printed fabrics.

The background spaces were nice open spaces and could have been quilted with a wide range of designs. If you wanted to challenge yourself to try lots of different designs in one quilt, this would be a great space to try it!

I decided to fill those background spaces with rings of concentric circles that I quilted in free motion. However, you'll have to watch the video to see how I cheated a bit to make machine quilting these circles much, much easier!

Another idea I had while filming the video was to combine some big stitch hand quilting as well. If you didn't like the circles, or they were too challenging for you to quilt in free motion, you could always stitch them by hand instead. I've marked a handful of spaces that I will stitch by hand just for fun.

So what do you think about combining different forms of quilting? Do you feel most comfortable with walking foot quilting or free motion quilting? Have you ever tried hand quilting?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Back Home, Getting Back on Track

Dad is nearly 100% recovered and feeling great after his hip replacement so this weekend I came home and today I'm getting back on track, checking in with the various projects I have in progress around the house. I actually got a lot done at Dad's house, but it was always in a "make-do" sort of way. Like sewing at his coffee table:

Dad's coffee table is actually a pine and cedar blanket chest, so the sides are solid. This makes it really uncomfortable to sew with the foot pedal because the angle it puts my leg. So instead of fighting cramped calves, I stuck the foot pedal between my legs like a Thigh Master and mashed it to control the speed of the machine!

Once I got the backing of my quilt pieced, I was ready to mark the top. Dad and I managed this together on his tiny kitchen table:

And the final step was basting the Basket Weave quilt on the floor. I don't think I've basted a quilt on the floor since 2006! I definitely missed my big folding tables at home, but it wasn't so bad because the quilt was only 46 inches square.

While it was a bit hard on my knees, I enjoyed every step of working on this quilt at Dad's house.

Now that I'm home, I'm headed out to the Crafty Cottage to machine quilt it. I figure since the Basket Weave quilt was such an easy patchwork design, the quilting should match the piecing and be super simple as well.

Be looking for the quilting video coming out this week!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How to Test Decorative Sewing Machine Stitches

I've been living with Dad for a week after his hip replacement and decided I couldn't live for an entire week without a sewing machine. I popped home and grabbed my Viking Ruby, a vintage cherry red cam sewing machine.

Vintage Viking Ruby sewing machine
While I love her color and beautiful decorative stitches operated by the cam system, I haven't had the time to get to know Ruby very well. First I couldn't find feet at any Viking dealers, then once I found the feet online, I just got too busy with other projects to really put Ruby through her paces.

But this week I've had a lot more time to kick back and stitch in between running errands and cooking meals for Dad. I decided the best way to get to know Ruby was to make a stitch sampler of all her decorative stitches. Check out how I tested the decorative stitches in this quick sewing tip video:

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How to test decorative sewing machine stitches
The cam system is super cool and it's been lots of fun to play with the different stitches and to see how changing the stitch length and width change the appearance of the decorative stitch.

I learned to make a stitch sampler like this from Carol Ann Waugh's class Stupendous Stitching. She uses the decorative stitches to make fantastic art quilts, but it all starts with knowing what your stitches look like and how they can be changed in creative ways to create different effects.

Trying out every single decorative stitch on the Viking Ruby is definitely helping me get to know this machine and the nuances of sewing with it. This was really useful because yesterday I put her to the test at James's school. I helped work the sewing station at Pioneer Day and worked with kids and other moms to finish 33 9-patch pillows!

Leah Day Viking Ruby sewing machine

I also brought my Essex hand crank machine for fun so the kids could crank the handle while I positioned their pillow under the foot. The kids LOVED hand cranking and seeing all the parts of the little machine move.

So that's what I've been up to this week!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, May 16, 2016

Easy Basket Weave Quilt Pattern

#Affiliate - This article and video share this month's Quilty Box, a subscription box of quilting gear you can receive every month. Click Here to learn more about Quilty Box.

This past week I received my Quilty Box, filled with fun gear selected by Anne Marie Chany, the creator of Gen X Quilters. Anne Marie selected a beautiful set of 10 fat quarters of fabric for us to play with this month and I designed this easy Basket Weave Quilt pattern to show off the fabrics beautifully:

Click Here to find the video and free quilt pattern at

This month I've published the free quilt pattern in an easy-to-print PDF you can download, print, and share to your heart's content!

All that remains is the usual question - how do we quilt it? I have a fun plan for machine quilting this quickly and easily with my walking foot, but first, I need to piece my backing fabric. Stay tuned for more videos on this fun project!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day
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