The Free Motion Quilting Project: March 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Permission to Have Fun, Responsibility for Happiness

Yes, it's Easter weekend and I am officially giving myself permission to have fun!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I often struggle with this particular holiday, and yep, today I'm going to explain the full 9 yards of why this holiday and I have issues and how I aim to fix it this year. It's kind of personal so if you're not into hearing about my silly dysfunctional childhood family today, definitely go check out my other posts on Express Your Love.

Yes, my issues with Easter stem from my childhood. My mother would go overboard every Easter with giant baskets, creative scavenger hunt, and, when we were really small, even new cute white dresses for me and my sisters.

Unfortunately as we got older, this holiday became more and more chaotic, more and more guilt and resentment attached to every action or reaction until it felt like I was wading into a mine field as I searched for those stupid chocolate filled eggs.

The last Easter my old family was fully together, James was just six weeks old, I was at an all time hormonal high and just on the crashing point of PPD, so very, very sensitive. I was hoping that Easter would be a fun memory, but it was unfortunately one of the worst.

That holiday included not only tears, but also a massive argument between my oldest sister and I devolving into a "go f*ck yourself" sort of fight that left everyone angry, resentful, and in no desire to ever get together for that holiday again. And we never did. That was the last Easter my family was ever together.

So, it's understandable that I have issues with Easter. For the last five years I've tried to ignore Easter. I wished it would go away. I wished everyone would just stop making such a big deal about this holiday. Do we HAVE to hunt eggs? Do we HAVE to make a basket? Can I not just stick my head under my pillow and let this whole holiday blow over?

Digging into my feelings about it, I mostly feel that to get into it, to go over-the-top, and make it really FUN would be to risk being like my mother.

I would make a giant mess, I would whine for help to clean it up, I would make everyone in the house suffer for what I had ultimately decided to do. Instead of fun, I would be tired and pissed off and feel unappreciated through the whole thing, which would ultimately make everyone feel edgy and unsure of what to say or do. Not fun at all.

That is, after all, what I saw and heard from my mother every single year.

But this year has already been all about learning new habits and moving towards happiness with a single minded, focused intention and expressing my love as openly and honestly as I possibly can.

I'm ready for these Easter scars on my heart to heal and disappear. I'm ready to like Easter again, but more importantly, to DO IT RIGHT.

I want to go overboard! I want to make everyone a special basket! I want to have the Easter party James described with balloons and streamers and party hats and special cookies! I want to give in to Easter and put on a show that we all remember happily for the whole year.

But through it all, I WANT TO HAVE FUN! I don't want this to be torture! I want this to be an awesome experience!

It's just so great that I've read the Happiness Project two times now and I know that creating a really happy experience takes 4 steps:

1. Anticipate - James and I have planned our party together and I even pulled out a cookie mix we're going to make together. We've talked about it every day - what we're going to do, how it's going to go, what to expect through each part of our Easter party. Anticipating and planning it together has been tons of fun because we've allowed our imagination to build up the experience as super fun and exciting.

2. Savor - Yesterday we painted magnets together to go in the Easter baskets. This could easily have been a "grind it out" sort of experience where I rush James through the project and feel irritated at the lack of perfection of his painting. Instead we took the painting kits outside for another picnic in the front yard and managed to paint most of the projects before coming in for dinner.

3. Express - At the party itself, we need to express our happiness often. It's easy to get into a mode of hostess and forget to stop for a hug and a reminder of "I'm having so much fun!" but this is an important step. James often stops us in the middle of a meal with an announcement of "This is a wonderful dinner so let's give ourselves a hand!" Experiencing the full joy of clapping and cheering for other women at Sew South made me realize just how important expressing happiness is for the moment itself.

4. Recall - We need to take loads of photos of this party, the egg hunt, the basket hunt so we can recall this great day. Having happy memories to recall of a solidly good Easter will help blot out all the other less-savory holidays.

Does all this seem like a lot of work? Yeah, but it's been fun, real, true, solid fun because I DECIDED to have fun with it every step of the way.

So much of life, I'm finding, is about attitude and perspective. I can be heavy and tired and dragged down by the long list of things to do to prepare, or I can be excited and enthusiastic and ready to have fun.

More and more I'm learning that this is a responsibility. I am responsible for my own happiness. No one can do it for me, but by choosing to be happy, I can make the people I love the most happier as well.

Following the Happiness Project has taught me that I LIKE to go overboard. I want to make a party with balloons and streamers and Easter baskets for everyone. I want to take loads of pictures and clap and cheer and smile my face off.

And ultimately what I'm learning this year is a simple fact I probably knew all along: good does not have to come with bad.

But in order to have 100% good time, you have to CHOOSE it and work for it. Doing something to make yourself happier will not always make you FEEL happy at the time.

Painting in the sun yesterday, I got both hungry and tired and when we came in, I began to channel my mother a bit when it came to cleaning up the house. I began to snapping and even yelling when James kept jumping on the couch as I tried to move it.

Waking up this morning, I realized I need a reminder to stay light, to stay focused on fun, and to make sure I remembered the price of negativity before I made a wrong choice. It is a responsibility, my happiness, my family's happiness, that I must not take for granted. So I made this funny label:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It reads "Certified SAFE! No Babies Cried in the Creation of this Easter Basket. ~ guaranteed by mgmt. Leah Day"

Making this label took only a few minutes, but every time I look at it, I smile. It's a gentle reminder to myself to be nice - that whatever I'm doing it's not worth the tears of my family.

So with that in mind, I made another one for dinner:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I might end up making labels for every holiday or event in the year!

Now when it comes to holidays, another key of happiness I've just learned is flexibility. James went to bed with a snotty nose and we all woke up this morning feeling under the weather.

No party will be fun while we have a cold, and our family won't appreciate getting sick, so we've decided to postpone our Easter for next week. Because James and I have anticipated this event so much, another week of planning will only make it that much more fun.

It might even give me a chance to sew up a new dress or skirt for the occasion!

So that is my resolution for this year. I'm giving myself permission to have fun, and I'm taking on the responsibility for my happiness on this special day. Here's to a very Happy Easter!

Let's go have fun,

Leah Day

Friday, March 29, 2013

FMQ Friday - Sneak Preview on the Month Ahead

It's Free Motion Quilting Friday and I know we have tons to catch up on! What am I doing today? Shooting videos, editing, and quilting up a storm on Express Your Love:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

When will you be caught up on all this fun stuff? Somewhere around the end of April!

I'm feeling the need to get ahead a good bit because this time of the year always gets crazy with James in and out of school, work on the house being done, designing a brand new website, and of course, spring fever and the desire to get my hands dirty in the garden!

So what are you up to today? I hope you're quilting something gorgeous!

Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, March 28, 2013

19. How to Rip Out Quilting Mistakes

I know, I know, I might be sending shock waves through the quilt world with the title of this post. For years I've told you to just keep quilting and not stop to rip out every little mistake.

But there are SOME times that you just have to. I accidentally quilted Zigzag Spiral into a space clearly set up for Wiggle Wiggle Spiral and despite the fact that both designs are super similar, this is definitely a mistake I will rip no matter how long it takes.

 Why? Mostly design. If I plan for a design to go in a particular space, that is what must go there, nothing else. Now if it was a HUGE area, I might try to find an alternative like covering the area in a creative way. So understand that I am ripping this section BECAUSE it's so small and won't take an enormous time to rip out. Now without further ado, let's watch how to do it:


So after 10 minutes of ripping, my space is once again empty of that incorrect design and it's time to fill it properly with Wiggle Wiggle Spiral.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The moral of ripping is simple: take your time when planning, take you time when quilting, and design mistakes like this won't happen so you won't have to rip. The trick is to slow down and not get in a rush to "finish it! finish it! finish it!"

Now that this space is ripped out, it's time to quilt it correctly and move on to another orange space and play with another spiraling design!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

18. Learn How to Quilt Wiggle Wiggle Spiral - #383

I'm sure by now you're all wondering just when I'm going to get my act back together again and start posting videos! So rather than show you the giant mess I'm cleaning up today (what I'm really doing this Wednesday), let's instead catch up on a new design combining simple shapes and spirals to create Wiggle Wiggle Spiral!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now this design is a straight up variation of Zigzag Spiral and will pretty much read the same. This means if you put both these designs in the background of your quilt, and stand back 10 feet, you probably won't be able to tell the difference.

So what's the point of learning a variation? This one might work better for you! It's all down to how your brain works and sometimes wiggles feel more natural than zigzags. It's worth giving both designs a try to see what happens!


Difficulty Level - Beginner.

Design Family - Independent

So that's it for today! I'm headed back into the sewing room to hang up more fabric and clean up more tools. Ugh! Creativity sure is messy!


Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fun Chat with Pat Sloan

I'm still getting in and catching up with a pile of work I left last week, including taxes (uggh) and hopefully will find some time today to get into my sewing room and clean it up enough to FIND my table underneath.

But yesterday I had a wonderful chat with Pat Sloan on her American Patchwork and Quilting Radio Show all about batting and how much this effects your finished quilt. You can listen to the broadcast right here anytime!

What's really interesting about batting is it hardly ever gets the credit it deserves. This weekend at Sew South, Kim swung by my table to show an AWESOME quilt she'd quilted very densely with a lot of fills from this project.

But the coolest thing was the quilt wasn't stiff. It was super soft!

What was the secret? The batting!

So don't ever feel like you must quilt super big on a wide scale (which can feel very difficult on a domestic sewing machine). Go on ahead and quilt densely, get as many repetitions as you can within the space you're working with, and just be sure to use a batting that will take all that thread, suck it up, wrinkle into a soft rasin-like texture around it, and still be cuddly in the end!

And how to you KNOW what battings will do this? Test it!

Anyway, all this and more is in my chat with Pat, so definitely check out the podcast and listen in.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, March 25, 2013

Amazing Sew South Retreat

It is a rare thing for me to miss posting for more than 2 days in a row, and to leave our FMQ Friday quilt along hanging, but I have to say, the Sew South quilting retreat was absolutely worth going MIA for a few days!

I've been to many retreats, but this one was in it's very first year, which meant we were all walking in not knowing many people, a bit unsure of how things would go, but prepared to jump into several projects over the 3 days of sewing.


All I can say is out of a room of 50 people, I feel like I've made friends with every single one of them. Everyone was SO nice and SO amazingly themselves and SO creative and giving. We were pretty much all in tears leaving, which might sound weird, but it was just such a powerful event of sharing and learning that none of us wanted to leave.

So what did we make? The first day we tackled paper piecing and stitched this pretty star designed by Jennifer Mathis of Ellison Lane Quilts, the show organizer:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I have a craving to paper piece about once a year and this little star definitely fit the bill. It was a lot of fun and fairly easy to put together. I think I'll use it to start a foundation pieced a version of Express Your Love!

Next, we began a duffel bag which was kind of the star of the whole retreat. The pattern was challenging - 2 zippers, pleats in a pocket, and one super, super long strap to work around the bag. EVERYONE struggled, cussed, got frustrated, got a drink, came back to it and fussed with it some more.

The awesome quilter teaching the duffel bag was Lindsey Rhodes of LR Stitched who must have the patience and soul of a saint because I would have ran out in a fit of tears, but she stuck with it and literally sat down and talked 50 people off the ledge and through the pattern step by step.


It's funny, working on a pattern like this perfectly exemplified the Happiness Project rule that what makes you happy doesn't always make you FEEL happy. We were challenged, 200 needles were broken in the process, but every time someone finished, they held it up and we all CHEERED for them, which made us want to finish that much more. That will be a memory that makes me happy for YEARS, if not for the rest of my life.

How often does a group of women cheer one another on? How often do we fearlessly ask questions and equally fearlessly give any help that's needed?

And speaking of being fearless, I was absolutely bowled over by the amazing efforts of the sponsors of the show. This was the FIRST year of the show, but they still trusted Jennifer completely and sent her TONS of stuff for us to use and gifts to take home.

Pellon, who cut tons of stabilizer for every single one of us, and sent us home with fusible batting to play with, Dritz, which provided mats, rotary cutters, and rulers for every single one of us, and Oliso, which provided the coolest irons for us to use in class, WhileBabyNaps, which provided clutch frames for all of us to make our awesome clutch purses:


That class on Saturday was terrific! Diane Stanley created this pattern to fit inside an 8" x 3" clutch frame and has it posted for free on Craftsy right here. The steps to make the bag were so simple, with the gluing the hardest part by far, but even still, we ALL ended up with gorgeous clutch bags:


What next? Oh! The yoga pants! I haven't sewn a pair of pants since 2006, but this was a super fun, super simple pattern taught by Jennifer Roycroft from We're Sew Creative in Concord, NC. We even stopped by her super cool shop on Thursday and I unfortunately got to spend some time on a Babylock Tiara (it's unfortunate because I liked that machine a lot!)

The pants pattern was fun because so many women in class had never, ever sewn a garment before so we all helped one another cut them out, fit them so we didn't look baggy in the butt, and sew in the elastic waste. It was easy and fun and so nice to create some new pants for yoga class. I ended up making two pairs, one from the fabric I brought, and one from free fabric from the overflowing free table:


Still more sponsors donated awesome gifts for a huge bag we were all given at the end to take home:


Jennifer said she wanted it to feel like those episodes of Oprah where she starts yelling "You get a car! and You get a car! and You get a car!" and it felt absolutely like Christmas to see all these wonderful goodies, so completely unexpected at the end of such a wonderful event.

At this point all I can say is I'm so completely overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of so many wonderful people. In the last hour together, we went through the room to say what we loved about the retreat and overwhelmingly it was the connection with other sewing, creative women, the friendships that have formed at this event, the memories we made sewing, eating, and creating together for three days.

Jennifer Mathis started with a vision for what she wanted this event to feel like and be for everyone there, and she worked tirelessly for a full year to create something special and amazing for 50 people. I feel so lucky to have been part of this first, special year.

I started this year with three phrases, stitched in Express Your Love:

I am enough
I have an open and willing heart
My cup runneth over.

This event brought these words back to me in clear focus and with a stronger focus to live this way, to support other women freely, to be kind and friendly, and overflow the world with love. So let me express that just one more time:

To Jennifer who put it together and did so much work to make it so spectacular - YOU ARE AMAZING! You have done something amazing that I will never forget. I'm literally in awe of your calm, generous nature. If you ever need help with anything, just ask.

To everyone who trusted the event would be a success and sponsored it - YOU ROCK! I'm definitely going out of my way to use your stuff more now than I did before because it takes balls to send out so much free stuff with no strings attached for an event in its very first year.

To everyone who attended - I LOVE YOU SISTERS! STITCH ON! My door is open, so if you're coming through NC, you'd better stop by and sew with me. Don't forget to ask help when you need it, and listen to our cheer every time you finish something. Remember most especially that you are not alone, and a friend is always just an email or phone call away.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, March 22, 2013

FMQ Friday - Go play!

It's FMQ Friday, but today I'm definitely not free motion quilting because I'm too busy playing with paper piecing and sewing a giant duffle bag!

I'm having so much fun at Sew South, meeting so many wonderful people, and stitching up a storm in my little corner of the room.

Unfortunately I can't show you any pictures right this second due to technical difficulties in getting my photos to post, and also I'm not able to grab our usual linkz code so we're just not going to be able to link up this week. Sorry about that but well just link double next week.

I'll definitely be posting an update on Sunday when life is back to normal and I'm back home with my normal Internet access and can share loads of photos about the wonderful weekend we're having here in Charlotte!

Lets go quilt!

Leah

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gearing up for Sew South!

Sew South Retreat starts tomorrow and I have a lot of work to do to get ready! Yesterday I spent hours layering fabric to make two silk scarves, one for me, one for my secret sister:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Then I pulled fat quarters for the fat quarter swap and simple spiral blocks for my stuff swap:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I think I'll exchange these for all RED fat quarters. I seem to be needing to expand my selection in that color. You can never have too much red.

So today I still need to pull and cut fabrics for the various classes on paper piecing, bag making, and yoga pants. I turns out it's a lot of work to be ready for a retreat, and a bit messy too!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

The thing about getting ready like this is you have to keep it all in perspective. I'm a bit stressed, a bit frazzled, and slightly frustrated with myself. I should have / could have done this a lot sooner, but it didn't happen and is now all last minute, exactly what I didn't want to do, but that's life!

As I've learned from the Happiness Project, what makes you happy doesn't always make you FEEL happy at the time. I know I'm going to have a great time this weekend and that's what counts. Here's to pushing beyond your comfort zone!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Monday, March 18, 2013

17. Learn how to Quilt Zigzag Spiral - #382

It's high time we learn a new design! I'm wanting to fill in the orange rays to make these areas of the quilt make more sense and read as solid orange in the background.

Looking at the different textures already playing over the surface, I've decided to play with some simple Independent Designs created by mixing simple base designs like Zippling, Sharp Stippling, and Loopy Line with spirals. This first one is called Zigzag Spiral:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It's a pretty simple mix of zigzaggy lines and curving spirals, and despite the fact that these two shapes are nearly opposites of one another, this worked out really well!

Now let's learn how to stitch it:


Difficulty Level - Beginner.

Design Family - Independent

Now I have 6 orange sections on my quilt to fill and logically I could easily fill all of them with Zigzag Spiral, but that would get a bit boring wouldn't it? Instead I've decided to stitch a different design into each space with one challenge - all the designs need to read (i.e have the same thread intensity) the same from a distance.

So definitely swing by later this week when we learn another design along this same theme stitched out within Express Your Love!


Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Makes You Happy?

Last week I posted about noticing that I horde craft supplies and don't end up using them because #1 I'll use them up and #2 I might waste them or my time if the project doesn't turn out perfect.

Well this past week I've challenged myself to overcome this fear and start using up as much stuff as I can get my hands on. I spun both green and blue roving I've had sitting around forever:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I also bit the bullet and opened my epoxy clay, mixed it together and went to town with crystals, cabachons, texture plates, and ink to make pendants, a bracelet, and lots of little faces I'll soon paint and embellish:
free motion quilting | Leah Day

I learned about epoxy clay from Debbie Simmon's Epoxy Clay Artistry class on Craftsy. I absolutely loved this class and Debbie's gentle, yet reassuring tone as she plays with countless materials I would have been way too intimidated to play with before.

After watching how easy it was, I began hording supplies. But having 8 colors of epoxy clay on hand, but not actually DOING anything with it is pointless! Pulling it out made me realize again just how silly it is to buy stuff and not use it. I wanted to make pendants, so make some pendants Leah!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

As I was working on these pieces, I began listening to a new audiobook I'd downloaded when my brain had the munchies. The audio book is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Basically Gretchen set out for a year to become happier in all manner of ways, and kept track of her progress with a happiness chart where she scored herself every evening.

I relate to Gretchen in SO many ways. Yes, I snap and lose my temper too easily with my family. Yes, when I start behaving badly, I'm like a roller coaster headed straight down the mountain, I can't easily pull out of a funk once it has set in. And yes, I understand the great responsibility of my happiness - it definitely affects everyone around me.

This is kind of along those lines of that saying "if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Often my small frustrations with work or a quilt project are carried through the whole family, and this simply isn't fair. I've worked hard to overcome my familial cycle of passive aggressive verbal abuse, but even still...I could be nicer, I could be happier, I could make my home a happier place.

And one of the major tenants of this book is the simple question - what makes you happy? What makes you feel GOOD?

The point is to ask the question, then go DO IT!

So yesterday, for the first time in 5 years, I pulled out a quilt, grabbed a pillow off the couch, picked a book, and headed outside for a reading picnic. James soon joined me along with lots of his stuffed animals, and eventually we ended up napping in the sunshine.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Why don't I do this on every sunny day? This made me monumentally more happy! I was still feeling poorly from my stomach flu, but the sunshine and fun with James soon made me feel 100 times better.

I have always loved picnics on sunny days. I used to go on them all the time when I was a kid, but as an adult, I never made the effort because Josh wasn't into it. Working on my Happiness Project, I realized I needed to stop waiting and DO the things that make ME happy because my happiness and good mood will make everyone around me more happy.


Is this selfish? My mother's favorite taunt rings through my ears at those words, but I don't think so. I think in the spirit of Express Your Love, you have to first nurture yourself, give yourself that hug or that sunshine or that time on the sewing machine so you feel most balanced and happy, and that good feeling will then be easy to share with everyone else.

If anything, it is my responsibility to do these things that make me happy because to wallow in bad feeling and spread discord through my house is about the most irresponsible thing I can think of.

So here's to more sunny picnics! Here's to using up supplies to make pretty, shiny things! Here's to spinning a new thread and finding it's not so scary to use something up if it means you've had a good time.

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Friday, March 15, 2013

FMQ Friday - Go with the Flow

Lol. Life is a total paradox. I'm struck by how funny this is today because I agonized for days over whether to be open about my disappointed feelings about Express Your Love. What will people think? Will everyone hate me now?

In the end, as I have found time and time again, being open and honest and going with the flow that feels most natural and right is...well...right! Thanks a bunch to all your support and kind words as it wasn't the easiest thing to be honest about.

Today is FMQ Friday and I have to admit that my flow has a limited range between the couch and bathroom thanks to an interminable stomach bug that is making me crazy in more ways than one.

To say it simply: I'm not a person that takes to bed rest easily. I can count 4 times in my life I have been bed ridden for days on end, and every single time, I found some form of stitch work in my hands.

I don't naturally do a lot of hand work these days, and sitting here, forced to be still and patient, I'm wondering if I should start making time for a bit of hand work, even just 10 minutes, in my daily life. Right now it's more "fits and spurts" and that's no way to really enjoy a task, always picking up and dropping it and picking it up again.

There is something simple and healing is the act of stitching thread through cloth, or knitting yarn into a sock. It's not necessarily the end result - the sock, the quilt, the embroidery, but the act itself can be soothing.

For me, it stops the endless munch of my brain espousing on all the stuff I "could" be doing if only I wasn't sick. Somehow having something in my hands makes it easier to just be still and stop the endless circle of questioning of WHEN I will be well again and WHY did this have to happen RIGHT NOW and isn't this SO UNFAIR!

As luck would have it, I had prepared this little single page version (8 x 10 inches) of Express Your Love marked on beading interfacing called Lacy's Stiff Stuff back before my stomach began flowing in reverse.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'd originally created this as a project far in advance to work on when Josh and I drive to Paducah for the AQS show in April. Just having it prepared and ready to go has made it so easy to pull out some beads and begin stitching over the surface. Earlier this week I'd been keeping my promise to use materials I'd been hording, which is where the pretty heart shape comes from - epoxy Crystal Clay embedded with crystal chatons.

Of course, there are so many other projects I could pull, but this one seems right today. I have no idea where this project is going to go, but it's definitely making me feel better to have something pretty in my hands to work on and keep my flow with this goddess moving.

So what are you working on today? Have you free motion quilted something beautiful? Please share!

Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect!


Let's make something beautiful today!

Leah

Thursday, March 14, 2013

16. Overcoming a Quilting Rut

Super thank you for all your support yesterday with the launch of my newest Craftsy class! It's been a hectic week, but your kind compliments helped me put some lurking fears to rest and feel great once again about teaching online and sharing as much as I can with everyone who wants to learn.

Now speaking of fear, it's time for me to bite the bullet and admit something I've been far too afraid to say for far too long:

I'm not happy with my quilt.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is a super hard thing to admit because as the leader of this project, even though I'm not doing a paint-by-numbers quilt along, I still feel pressure to show everything perfectly, as though I have it all figured out, in a solid plan that can be explained in bullet points step by step.

But this isn't that sort of project! It never was supposed to be that kind of project! I'm supposed to make mistakes!

This project is all about finding NEW ways of doing things: new designs, new techniques, new colors, new spontaneity of creative process.

But trying new things doesn't always look good. Sometimes it looks messy and chaotic, which is why I'm struggling to even look at this quilt right now. It feels like a mess!

I also have to admit that I've never tried making multiple versions of a goddess before, so while I know in my heart I can always make another one and likely will end up with 3 or 4 finished quilts by the end of the year, my brain is still screaming that I suck and this quilt is a total failure.

Okay. Breathe. I am enough. I can fix this.

I could lie and hide the fact that this quilt is upsetting me. I could continue to stitch pretty things on Duchess Reigns, but that would be avoiding a very big elephant in the room, and my goal this year was not to make any more UFOs. I must finish what I have started, which means fixing what bothers me, and that always starts with just being honest and admitting This Bothers Me.

So how do you do this? When I finally got up the guts to be honest, I had to ask myself that very question - How do I fix what bothers me in this quilt?

And that lead perfectly into Step 1 - Identify what is wrong.

I can't fix anything until I know exactly what is the problem. If I stumble blindly into this, I could easily make the quilt look worse and wind up hating it even more.

So to identify the problem, I shot that picture above and printed it out and every time I was sitting down on the couch, riding in the car, making dinner, I'd pull out the picture and STARE at it.

I've been avoiding this quilt for weeks so this wasn't very comfortable. Every time I looked at it, my brain would first want to berate me for all my mistakes and the failure of the project.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

But very quickly I found that both tiresome and pointless. Beating myself up isn't going to make this better! I forced myself to just ask the simple question over and over: what is wrong?

And surprisingly quickly I got an answer! I think I carried the photo around for about 8 days, but I had a pretty clear idea of what the major issues were in 4.

#1 - I don't like the words. I love their meaning and I definitely want words in my quilt, but these aren't working for me. They're too big, and because they twist around with the swirling "breath" areas they're very hard to read, which defeats the point of them being there in the first place.

#2 - I need to fill the orange rays. All those large empty spaces are bothering me. We need more fills in these spaces so the background is complete.

#3 - I want less chaos and more color. I don't know exactly how I'm going to achieve this, but I do see a need for more bold color to balance out the multiple thread colors I used in the background.

So that's really it! 3 issues, and honestly not very big issues are what's causing my bad attitude about this quilt. Now that I know the problem, finding a solution will be a lot easier.

But getting here - getting to this point of understanding and accepting the problem was uncomfortable. Sitting with that photo, staring at it, trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with it - that wasn't much fun, but it was a necessary step and it allowed me to break out of this rut.

And just in case I wasn't clear in how to bust out of a rut above, here's a short video on it as well:


I must say there's something cathartic in admitting I make mistakes in this video! It's important for you to realize that this year is a big learning experience for me as well, and this isn't going to be the only time I make mistakes.

But the one thing I don't want to do is to rip out my mistakes.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I have 2 lines of words thread painted into my quilt. At this point ripping out this stitching would take hours and hours of time, and that would be a total waste of effort in my opinion because the fabric probably won't stand up well to the abuse.

Also these words are so wonderful and powerful. Stitching them felt wonderful, but ripping would feel very bad. So rather than rip a single stitch, I'm going to investigate ways of covering these sections instead of ripping.

But first, let's finish up these orange background sections! I have a few new designs in mind for these spaces that will be fun to learn in the coming week.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So here's to imperfection! I've made mistakes, but we will learn so much more in fixing them than we ever would have if I'd just shoved this quilt on a shelf and walked away from it.

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Craftsy Class! Free Motion Fillers Volume 1

Yay! It's finally time to announce my new Craftsy class: Free Motion Fillers Volume 1! Click here to enroll in this class for 50% off the regular price!

As you might remember, I was super busy this winter working on two projects that I kept rather secret. One is this beautiful throw sized (62 inches square) and covered with 50 beautiful designs:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

In designing this quilt, my goal was to provide a simple pattern that would be easy to piece so you could quickly create the top, then quilt from the center to the outside edges with multiple designs on a larger, bed quilt scale.

Now you might be wondering - are these designs different from what has been posted to the project?


The answer is yes and no. Yes, there are 11 new designs taught in this class that are brand new and have not been taught before! But that does mean 39 can be found somewhere online, either in a video or photograph I've posted in the last 4 years.

I figure it's best to just get that question answered right up front because one of the most hurtful reviews I've ever gotten of my first Craftsy class was "As Seen on YouTube" where I was criticised for teaching designs and techniques that I'd previously shared in blog posts.

Well, there's two ways of looking at this issue. On the one hand, I'm not twisting your arm to buy my class! Sign up if you want to make the quilt above, if you'd like to get to know 5 families of designs better, and if you'd like personal contact with me on a daily basis.

On the other hand, how many teachers teach class in person? How many share the same designs and ideas in class as they do in a book, a video, etc? The way I practice teaching is to shoot a video and post it for free, and the last thing I want is to feel BAD about teaching this way!

So you know the deal! 50 designs, 11 of them new, and if you click this link, you can get the class for just $19.99.

Hope to see you in class!

Leah

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

15. Quilting Cat Hairball Filler / Thread Painting

It's time for a new free motion quilting video! Today I'd like to push the boundary between free motion quilting and thread painting.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

What is the real difference here? Why is one considered one thing and the other distinctly different? Can they be combined together in one quilt?

I have to admit, I didn't think much about thread painting before Duchess Reigns or before taking Cindy Needham's Craftsy class: Design it, Quilt it. 

In class she shared these amazing samples of gorgeous wholecloth linen quilts and at times her stitching was so dense, it was nearly thread painting. The wall in my mind between free motion and thread art suddenly collapsed and I remember thinking "OOOO! I want to do THAT!"

I found Cindy's class so very inspiring and quickly began running samples of stitching Cat Hairball Filler very dense and overlapping to the point of thread painting. It is possibly one of the easiest designs to stitch in free motion, but it comes with a warning: once you start building up layers of thread on your quilt, it's hard to stop!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So let's learn how to do this in the center breastplate of Duchess Reigns, where I wanted the thread so dark and dense, it became a white shield for my girl to wear:


As far as thread density / intensity goes, this is absolutely the most intense, darkest thread texture you can add to a quilt top. This weekend I had some time and worked through many feathers in the goddess so she's starting to take better and better shape on the surface.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

And yes, the more feathers I fill with this stitch, the bolder they become! At this point I might have to travel back into the original feathers to add more thread texture just to balance it out!

Now if you're interested in taking Cindy Needham's Craftsy Class (which I highly recommend!) you can click here to get a 25% discount off your class enrollment.

I promise you will learn amazing things and be inspired to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. If you're right now looking at Duchess Reigns and thinking "I can never do that." just remember that all this is just thread and fabric and batting and yes, you absolutely can do anything you want, so long as you're willing to try!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fear of Time Wasted

I think I touched on a thread many of us share in yesterday's post about hoarding craft supplies. One thing that has been nagging at me all day was brought up in a comment from Allison Reid:
My biggest fear is experimenting with a new technique and it not working to my satisfaction. And then it becomes a 'waste of time' and I so fear wasting time on something that doesn't work! I need to get my head around experimentation not being a waste of time but being an opportunity to develop creativity!
I'm with you Allison! I actually suffered this EXACT set back last night with my pretty felted soap:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I believe I worked on this little sucker for about 1 hour following this excellent tutorial on felting soap "rocks" though I was using green wool instead of natural gray. The tutorial is excellent. The idea is very clear and the steps outlined thoroughly.

But I can't felt a soap to save my life! This is what it looks like right now:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

My soap isn't passing a "pinch" test of any kind. The roving easily pulled right off again and is bunching up around the soap shape like a weird lumpy sock. This does not look good, and as Allison mentioned, I feel like I wasted a solid hour of my life rubbing the stupid thing for no purpose.

Maybe I'm just not patient enough for this technique? Maybe the merino wool I'm using is the wrong stuff for this job? I have no idea!

Another punch to my creative ego is with the green roving itself. I dyed this wool in a crock pot and rinsed it thoroughly and thought for sure it was color fast. Again, I am wrong.

I saw my beautiful green roving start to bleed. And bleed. And bleed. If anyone washes their hands with this soap, they're going to end up with a nice green afterglow to go with it! I don't know about you, but that is a side effect of soap that not many people are going to like.

So what's a girl to do? I had the wool, I had the soap. Should I continue to try making this project work and learning how to felt soap or should I chuck this project in the trash and wash my hands of it?

Speaking in terms of fear - how much soap and roving am I willing to waste in this process? How much time am I willing to devote to this silly project?

I decided not to give up and continue playing with felting soap. There's just too many options I haven't tried. It could be the type of wool, it could be my patience level, it could be how hot the water was. I decided to give this 1 more hour of my time. In 1 hour, I will be able to say if felting soap is for me or not.

This was an easy decision to make - 1 hour investment because I asked myself a single simple question: how much do I want to learn this?

Do I want to one day be able to felt soap in my sleep and sell it by the truckful? No. Do I want to become a master soap felter (if there is such a thing)? No.

I would like to know how to do this so I can make some presents for friends. That's really it. This is not a lofty, ambitious goal, but it is important enough to me to give it 1 more hour. I'd like to be able to give someone something nice that I've made that isn't a quilt that's taken hundreds of hours to complete. A bar of felted soap seems to fit the bill.

So I pulled my materials together, plopped down at the kitchen table and here's the mess I've made:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Soap-wise, I pulled off almost all the green merino wool and replaced it with some very rough white wool (no idea what kind or prep) which instantly felted nicely. So I've answered one important question - it's not me, it's the wool!

Good to know! I'm really glad I stuck with this project. Had I given up after the green failure, I would never have realized it was the type of wool I was using that was the problem. Lesson learned!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

After felting the soap properly, I decided to try felting other shapes - balls and long twisty shapes too. These were less successful, but fun to experiment within that 1 hour time frame.

When it came down to it, this project leaves me really pumped to work with more new techniques. Instead of blowing up the whole project out of proportion, I'm now going to approach everything as a 1 hour investment.

See what happens in 1 hour. Is the project done? Has the technique worked or utterly failed? Do I like it or not? How can I improve?

At this point, I don't feel that I've mastered soap felting at all. I've managed to cover one soap bar passably well with white roving, but it's not very pretty. The thing I'm most happy about is the wool actually seems to be holding this time rather than falling right back off again.

But it will take another investment of another hour to make another soap, then another, then another until this is a technique I can trust to make decent felted soap for friends and family. This time will not be wasted, but I really can't logically expect my first 10 or 15 soaps to be all that great.

Ultimately I think we have to honor the spirit of learning. Time is never wasted if you have learned something new.  Materials have not been wasted if they have helped you understand what works and what doesn't.

So here's to the process! Life is hardly perfect and rarely pretty, but with time and patience, you will find what works. Or at least end up with very clean wrinkly hands in the process!

Let's go play,

Leah

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Rather be a Quilter Than a...

It's the Sunday after the time change, which means everything feels off kilter and weird. No it's not 12 pm, it's 1 pm, no it's not 6 am, it's 7 am, and so on.

Yesterday I had a great day going to a local quilt guild show and wandering the rows of beautiful quilts and even more fantastic booths. I kept stopping to touch packets of embellishments, soft yarn in beautiful colors, dyed embroidery threads of varying thicknesses, buttons of every shape imaginable.

But as I wandered through, an unsettling feeling crept over me. Over and over I saw something that caught my eye, that drew me closer, only to realize I already have that thread, that fabric, that yarn, or that fiber in my stash. It's home on x shelf in Y bin, in z corner. I already own that beautiful thing. 

What was unsettling about this realization was not that I was attracted to these beautiful things, but the simple question - WHY am I not doing something with all this stuff? Why am I not USING these beautiful fibers? Why do I buy storage drawers and reorganize my space to hold more and more STUFF when I'm not using it at all?

It's an unfortunate fact that "Quilter" could easily be synonymous with "hoarder." I have bins of hand dyed fabrics, buckets of soft wool roving, a closet of beads and embellishments just waiting to play with. Why do I buy this stuff if I don't plan to use it?

But I DO want to use it! I love these rich decorative threads and packs of sparkling beads. They bring to mind hours of peaceful hand work where gorgeous fibers are stitched over more gorgeous fibers in a riot of color and texture - this is what I LOVE about quilting.

So why do I never do it? Why am I hoarding supplies for some magical free time in my future? Why am I not doing this NOW?

Tapping into this problem and trying to root out the underlying cause, I'm finding a deep seed of fear. If I use up that roving, I won't have any left! If I stitch that pretty thread, I might not be able to find more! If I use those beads in this necklace, they won't be available for the next necklace!

Is it just me, or is this completely irrational?! Leah, you buy that stuff SO YOU CAN USE IT!

So this Sunday I'm making a stand:

I'm not allowed to buy anything new: no fabric, batting, wool roving, beads, embroidery thread, or inspirational books until I actually USE the stuff I have on hand.

If I'm scared of running out of red thread, well damn, I'd better feel the fear and get over it and start stitching out the thread I have on hand!

No, I won't ever have an empty sewing room, free of every scrap of fabric. That isn't the point. I do believe that inspiration does come in part from having materials ready to hand, so I will always have a stock of supplies to work with.

But there is a balance with this stash. It needs to flow in, but it also needs to flow out in the form of finished projects, or at least some testing and sampling of new materials. If I don't know how to use something, stuffing it in a drawer isn't going to make it less mysterious, it's going to make it that much harder to pull it out and play with it.

So I'm off to play. I don't have anything to show for my efforts quite yet, but by this evening I should have SOMETHING to show for meeting the fear, then taking a rotary cutter to it's face and carving a new shape.

UPDATE!

It's one thing to talk a big game about busting out of this rut of hoarding nice materials, but quite another thing to actually step up and DO SOMETHING about it. I got off the computer today and sliced up yards of my hand dyed fabrics to do this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

What will this be? Another quilt featuring over 400 free motion quilting designs. I've been stalling out on this decision for months, but the fact is, I miss my little 4 inch squares because they're so easy to keep track of, photograph, and stitch through quickly. What stalled it mostly was the question - what to do with all of them???

Answer: design a quilt and make it. Easy peasy. What next? What else can I use up?

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I love hand spinning on a spindle, but for months I've wanted to "put a motor on it" so I finally broke down and bought a Hansen Minispinner back in January. I love this little thing, but it hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves, so I pulled out some green roving and spun some yarn.

But I also had these little soaps left over from my trip to Denver. Could I try covering the soap with felt like I'd been wanting to do for months?

free motion quilting | Leah Day

What's the risk here? Spinning the yarn didn't scare me, cutting up the hand dyed fabrics made me feel a bit of loss because they were pretty to look at in the bin, but that was fleeting because they were even more beautiful on the wall and will be even BETTER in a huge quilt, but covering this stupid little soap seemed super scary.

Why? Because I'm not good at it. I don't know what I'm doing. I have never felted anything in my life and I might actually mess it up.

But what is the RISK? What will I lose by trying something new? I can always dye more wool. I can always use another soap (I have 5 of them!)

In the end, this turned out great! Taking a risk, pulling out these materials, using something UP feels great. Now what else can I play with today?

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Friday, March 8, 2013

FMQ Friday - My Brain has the Munchies

It's Friday and time to link up with whatever you've free motion quilted this week! Today I'm back on the machine after several days spent sawing, hammering, and vacuuming. I must say it's nice to just sit and get lost in Duchess Reigns again:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

A quilt like this is one part pleasure, one part intense boredom. I'm literally sitting and stitching the same design for 30 minutes or more and it's an effort to stay focused and not start thinking about the long list of other things I could / should be doing instead.

Like dyeing fabric, cutting fabric, washing dishes, organizing all the junk on my cutting table, putting away clothes, building that IKEA cabinet...as you can see, my brain has been busy today reminding me about all the things I could be doing instead of enjoying my quilting time.

So what's the best thing to do? Turn on an audio book and drown out the noise. I'm off to find the right book so my brain will go munch on the story rather than on my guilt button.

Now what have you quilted this week? Simple rules for the FMQ Friday link up:

1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ).
2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back here, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar.
3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect!


Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, March 7, 2013

14. Quilting Hair With Channels and Paths

With the Pipe Room fixed and four shelves built and already holding hundreds of books and DVDs, I'm ready to hop back on the machine and share another design I've used in the hair section of Duchess Reigns:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This back and forth arching design is called Channels and Paths and back in the design phase of Duchess Reigns it popped out at me as the perfect choice for her slightly weird hair area.

I had always planned to use something more wiggly and freeform, like McTavishing, but after multiple samples turned out disappointing, I realized this busy area didn't need more busy chaos, it needed more simplicity.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

So here's a super simple design that works great in narrow channels! Let's watch the video to see how this works on the machine:


free motion quilting | Leah Day
One of the things that is making this process SO much easier, or at least not horribly painful and frustrating, is my Queen Supreme Slider. 

This Teflon sheet is stuck to the machine and table surface right under the quilt and that is allowing me to make the small, controlled movements right in the center of the quilt.

Is it possible to quilt without the slider? Yes! You can absolutely free motion quilt without this tool in place, but that is kind of like going back to cutting out hexagons using cardboard templates and a pair of scissors - this tool makes the process easier.

So that's it for today! I'm off to get lost in more of Duchess Reign's feathers!

Let's go quilt,

Leah

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I Need Another Crowbar...

It's Wednesday and time to check in on the sewing machines and see what I'm really working on:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

While this looks great, there hasn't been any new progress over the weekend or this week. I got home from my workshop on Saturday and the urge to pick up my power tools was just overwhelming!

I believe this has something to do with my typical pendulum swing of creativity. I swing wildly in the direct of creating and quilt until I drop for a solid week and make huge amounts of progress, then when the house is so far out of whack, when the junk piling up just cannot be ignored, I swing wildly to the other side and my organization crazy comes out in full force.

So yesterday I took a crowbar and saw to a room that has been driving me insane since we moved into this house 6 years ago: the Pipe Room.

I unfortunately don't have a "before" picture of this room, probably because it would be like taking a picture of your kitchen sink when it's full of dirty dishes (completely illogical). This room was basically designed to house all the major pipes in my house and it's always been three things: badly organized, dimly lit, and absolutely filthy.

A few months ago we finally broke down and had all the pipes in this room replaced from the old cast iron pipes to new PVC. This was an expensive change, but it had to happen because all our drains were continually clogging and the cast iron was beginning to leak.

Ever since, Josh and I have been planning to rip out the old, nasty shelving and install decent shelving, clean up the room, and use this space for storage of books and DVDs for the quilt shop. I decided it was high time to stop waiting and just get on with it!


So at this point we have nicely finished walls (polystyrene insulation sheathing makes for a simple, lightweight, and easy to install wall material), and a nicely covered floor (cheap carpet cut to size and finished edges with duck tape), and the shelves are ready to go up!

Not all remodels need to be expensive or perfect. This room will never be perfect because of the pipes and hot water heater, but it can still find a solid function as a better designed and organized closet.

What was the holdup with this fix? Mostly I just needed to push myself to start it, but I also needed Josh to at least be on board to see the benefit from this remodel. Yesterday the entire office was filled to the brim with all the junk tools and odds and ends that moved out of the pipe room so I could tear out the old boards. It made for a chaotic afternoon for everyone to say the least!

But I'm never one to need to wait for my husband to pick up a power drill or "do it for me." I really can't stand that line of thinking, mostly because I saw it play out so much between my parents growing up. When something irritates ME, I should be the one to go work on it and fix it!

Would I rather be quilting today? Absolutely. But there is a certain satisfaction in knowing I've made a great improvement to my home that I will enjoy using on a daily basis.

Now I'd better put down my crowbar and pick up a mallet to get these shelves together!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Let's go build something useful,

Leah

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Scratching Several Itchies

This weekend I've managed to pull myself away from my sewing machine and Duchess Reigns to scratch several other itches that needed a bit of attention.

While I don't travel and teach very much, I do like to get in front of a class of real people at least once a year. Luckily this winter I was able to team up with Sew Much Fun in Gastonia, NC to teach a fun workshop on free motion quilting.

In the perspective of time and energy, teaching online definitely makes more sense to me. I love being able to make a video in 10 minutes that all of you - everyone in the whole world with an internet connection - can see and watch as many times as you like.

But there's a certain energy to teaching in front of a group of people that I just can't tap into alone in my basement studio. Questions fly fast and the instantaneous feedback is always a wonderful exchange.

I like to teach this way occasionally mostly to remind myself of what the major issues and questions are for beginners. It's easy to forget how tricky and intimidating free motion quilting can be and to remember what those earliest stitches felt like. Helping 23 people get started, breaking multiple feet, and talking through many families of designs was a great reminder of what is most important and essential to learning machine quilting.

But before you ask - no, I don't plan to do this more than once or twice a year, and never beyond NC. The main reason is simple: I need to be home making videos, making quilts, and loving my family. I will likely never be a traveling / teaching quilter because that lifestyle just doesn't sound like it would fit my life very well.

Being at home also let's me scratch other itchies that have cropped up lately. I've been dyeing and spinning wool all winter, mostly with no idea what I'm going to do with the finished yarn. Today I finished up this little UFO basket:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This is a little Clover basket form woven with yarn I first dyed, then spun, then plied, then wove through the form. Working on this little project I felt a bit like the Little Red Hen: I dyed the fiber and I spun the yarn and I wove the basket so it's MINE!

Once the glue is dry, this little project is going downstairs to hold my empty bobbins as they come out of the machine. It seems I'm always needing little baskets like this to organize my drawers and it's a wonderful project to highlight art yarn I'm enjoying spinning.

With spinning, I've had to learn a new way to create. So often I micromanage my projects with so much planning that everything has to be figured out before the project gets started. This works great with projects like Duchess Reigns, which needed all the questions answered before the project got started.

With spinning this would mean not spinning any yarn or dyeing fiber without first planning the project that is going to be woven, crocheted, or knitted from the resulting yarn.

But this gets tedious very quick. I don't love knitting or crochet like I love quilting and designing garments or even following patterns and getting good results has always been a struggle for me.

In the past few weeks I stopped spinning, mostly out of a desire to have a clear idea of what I'm going to do with all this yarn I'm creating.

Today I realized that this is a problem. I want to spin just to spin. If that means dyeing 10 ounces of wool blue with no clue what is going to happen to it, that's fine! If that means spinning up some yellow, orange, and red yarn with no planned scarf or sock project in line, that's okay too!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I believe more and more that being truly creative means scratching itches as they come, as you feel a desire to walk down that path or try that idea. I have to admit that I struggle with truly following my inspiration. It's hard for me to create with absolutely no plan and to trust that I will actually make that experiment make sense in the end.

But more and more I'm learning just to enjoy and appreciate whatever I'm craving. If I want to spin, it's not for the finished blue yarn, but to feel the raw wool slide through my fingers.

If I want to weave a basket, it might be for the end result that will hold my bobbins, but it might also be to see my pretty yarn find a home.

I guess the point of all this rambling is to find that place of acceptance of what you want and to actually be willing to act on it. Spin, quilt, paint, draw. Whatever you crave to do, do it.

Cheers,

Leah
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