The Free Motion Quilting Project

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
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