Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Inspiration from Nature

Josh here. In case you've been away, Leah and I are now combining our Building Block progress together in the same post to better contrast the pieced fabric and my cheater Spoonflower cloth, as well as my interpretations and unique stitching of each design.

Here is our most recent block in our final Slash Star series, Pebbles & Spiral.

http://www.leahday.com/shop/product/building-blocks-download-quilt-patternIf you haven't joined us for our Building Blocks Quilt Along, it's never too late! The project and pattern will always be available--you receive the entire pattern immediately upon purchase, no monthly installments, so you can quilt at your own pace and leisure.

If you already have the pattern but need to catch up on our videos, click here to see all of the accompanying posts for the project here.

Now onto today's topic... finding inspiration from nature for free motion quilting designs.

Today I'm going to be more specific when it comes to "nature--" I recently set up a 12 gallon saltwater aquarium, so we'll be talking about captive nature in an artificial environment. In a controlled venue, with glass walls and clear water, you can often appreciate the finer details of fish, rocks, sand, corals, and the water movement effect on the sandbed as the artificial sunlight hits the substrate.

No, the dark ripples on the sand above are not algae as the tank is only four days old but the visual effect of the blueish light as the water movement breaks the surface. The lighting is very, very blue, a little too much for my taste, but it does offer a very unique look, almost of a strong moonlight.


So what does this beautiful tank have to do with quilting? My reef tanks have actually been inspiration for many designs for Leah over the years. The designs above are Brain Coral and Ocean Currents which were both inspired by my past reef tanks.

See the pink holey rock at the far bottom left?
That's the central rock in my new tank, currently lifeless
for the most part but over time will color out again. The
beautiful green coral at bottom center is an open brain
coral, which inspired Leah's Brain Coral filler.
Right now the new tank is "cycling," which means I'm letting the beneficial bacteria and microorgamisms take hold of the live rock and sandbed. I have kept a reef tank before--the rocks you see above were actually in a freshwater African cichlid tank for several years.

Assuming one can be extra patient, this is extremely helpful in starting out as you get absolutely zero "hitch hikers" (bad algaes, cyanobacteria, undesirable invertebrates) and you can load the tank with only the good stuff; I purchased a bottle of live cultured microorganisms which, over time, will populate the tank with everything you need for a successful marine system.

In a few weeks, once the obligatory diatom brown algae starts to show up on the glass, I'll add some snails. In a couple more weeks, I'll introduce a fish. Then finally, the coral life will come in.

A green mandarin dragonette, a very challenging yet rewarding
species. His coloration and patterns are a quilt waiting to happen!
What are some things from nature that inspire you to quilt?

Until next week!


Monday, October 20, 2014

52. Quilt a Slash Star with Pebbles and Spiral

Are you still with me? We're down to the last three blocks to quilt and many quilters have already finished their Building Blocks Quilts. Make sure to click here and share a photo or blog post about your experience!

Today we're free motion quilting our second Slash Star with pebbles and a big spiral to create this cool effect:

As with all the Slash Stars, the quilting guides don't really fit exactly with this imperfect quilt block so make sure to watch my video to see how I fit the designs so nicely within the star:

Josh decided to mostly stick with the design for this block, but made it a bit easier for himself by quilting Underwater Rocks instead of Pebbling. This is a great variation because Underwater Rocks doesn't require careful, perfect travel stitching so it's faster and easier to stitch.

You can really see the difference between these two designs below. Personally I love Underwater Rocks these days because it's so carefree and easy to quilt and doesn't require as much focus and concentration as Pebbling.


So which way will you choose to quilt your Slash Star? Make sure to share it with us on the Building Blocks Facebook Group!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dyeing Experiments!

I've got a craving for color that only dyeing fabric can satisfy! Here's a few of my "before" shots. I'll definitely update this post tomorrow after these have been rinsed out:

UPDATE - Now it's time to see the "after" shots:

When dyeing fabric, I always find myself slightly disappointed when the dyes are washed out and the fabric is dried. This came out pretty good, but my red and purple piece really faded which let me know I didn't have enough soda ash mixed in my pre-soak before dyeing.

I added a bit more soda ash and a cup of salt and all my later pieces finished brighter:

For some reason this green fabric is really calling to me. I think I'll die one more green fabric and quilt these as a 3 part series. I've already got the perfect Halloween themed name: Poison Study.

I've also been dyeing samples for Dream Goddess:

By hanging up the fabric on the wall I can get a better idea if it's actually going to work and be the right color. It think the green is good, but I need to keep working on the hair colors. I want to transition the colors from bright, fire red near her face to deep purple and then black. 

I've never made a quilt out of completely hand dyed fabrics, unless you count Duchess Reigns, which was a dyed wholecloth. I don't count that quilt because I only used one color...and I haven't finished it yet. I'm mostly just trying to forget it exists! 

For Dream Goddess, I'm using the entire rainbow and planning to applique the pieces together using No Sewing Until You Quilt It to create the top quickly. All around, it's a fun challenge and I love the different fabrics I'm creating!

Let's go dye!


Friday, October 17, 2014

#437 - Free Motion Quilt Unloaded Boxes

It's new free motion design time! What happens when you combine Lightning Bolt with Cubing? These two quilting designs are very masculine with lots of straight lines and sharp angles. Put them together and you will have a free motion quilting design worthy of any Sci-fi themed quilt.

I've decided to call this free motion quilting design Unloaded Boxes because of the empty cube shapes that stand out against the rows of echo quilting.

Does this look super intense and complicated? It's actually pretty simple when you break the design down in the most basic steps: stitch a zigzag, stitch a box, echo quilt repeatedly around it. See what I mean by watching the free video below:

Yep, this design was featured in the Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers Volume 1. In this cool class you can learn how to quilt all of the designs on a larger scale in a throw sized quilt.

This beautiful version of the quilt was created by my Craftsy student Smiles_alot. She had this to say about the class:
Thoroughly enjoyed this class. This was an eye-hand & mental challenge. It was very helpful to watch the videos of the individual designs & how to stitch them. It surprised me that some designs I felt I wouldn't like before I stitched them became my favorites. I learned a lot with this class. Thanks Leah Day!
Would you like to learn how to quilt 50 designs on a larger scale? Click Here to get 50% off Free Motion Fillers Volume 1.

So now that you know how to free motion quilt Unloaded Boxes, where will you use this design? On a small scale or a large scale?

Personally this is making me think of all things science fiction - space ships, time machines, and aliens. Hmm...sounds like a good enough excuse to turn on some Dr. Who!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, October 16, 2014

51. Free Motion Quilt Super Star in a Slash Star

Earlier this week we learned how to piece an improvisational slash star block and today it's time to quilt it! The official pattern design calls for a Super Star, but again Josh has decided to break the rules completely and fill his with Super Spiral. Which do you like best?

 Let's watch Josh's video first to see how he quilted this Super Spiral:

So why did Josh completely change the rules again? With the Spoonflower fabric, he was able to see the lines marked on the fabric and felt that a spiral stitched on top would look better. He was super proud of this block after quilting it and I have to admit it looks pretty cool in the finished quilt.

Of course, you might be partial to the Super Star design instead, so here's my video on how to mark and quilt it, even if the design worksheet doesn't quite fit with your star block.

I'm sure you're wondering when we will learn how to connect all the blocks together Quilt-As-You-Go style to make the finished quilt.

We'll be learning how to connect the blocks in 2 weeks so you'll definitely have your Building Blocks quilt finished in time for the holidays!

And don't worry, we're definitely planning to quilt along again next year with this beautiful Dancing Butterfly Quilt. Keep your ears peeled for news of the launch of this new pattern coming in December!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Challenging Core Beliefs with Abstract Art

This week I've been reading a great book about writing called Everybody Writes and it got me thinking. A big chunk of the beginning of the book was all about doing the work - carving out the time to write for 30 minutes every day.

Hmm...Could this apply to quilting? What if I set a timer and just quilted...whatever...for 30 minutes every day? This quilt would not be preplanned or prepared for so I couldn't make it complicated.

I decided to try it and pulled out fabric I'd dyed a few years ago, grabbed a scrap of batting and fat quarter for the back, and sat down to quilt.

And that's where the trouble started. Here's the problem with quilting verses writing: it's far more time consuming! I can type up a fairly nice blog post in 30 minutes. But I cannot quilt anything in such a short space of time.

So I readjusted my goal, turned off the timer and challenged myself to quilt without planning. Here's what happened:

After quilting this section in blue I had to walk away. James had come home from hanging out with his grandparents and I needed to make a grocery list. The honest truth is I was also so completely uncomfortable by this quilting process that I wanted to chuck the whole thing in the trash.

Where did all this negativity come from? Was I really so dependent on planning and designing that I couldn't stitch some random fillers over some fabric for fun? I posted this photo to Instagram and immediately got positive feedback. Clearly this looked good to a few people, but why did I feel so uncomfortable about it?

I returned to quilt more on this piece and attempted multiple times to clear my mind and stop trying to judge what I was doing. Because it's an abstract piece, that means there really isn't a right or wrong choice or a good or bad design. I knew this, but I kept wanting to pick it apart and judge it.

It has taken a few days of space and reflection to figure out why this process was so difficult - it tripped up against a contradictory core belief that I am not an artist and not allowed to make things like this.

Core beliefs are things we believe deep down about ourselves. Most start in childhood thanks to the things we see and hear repeatedly at home.

My issues with art come from my sister who decided around the age of 6 that she was the family artist and there wasn't space for more than one. Anytime I drew or painted, she would jump down my throat with criticism. I realize this was much more to do about her - her jealousy and inadequacy and need to control others - but it still formed an indelible barrier in my mind. I'm allowed to be a quilter, but never an artist.

This core belief is completely illogical - every person in the world has the ability to speak, and that is a form of expression. Drawing, painting, quilting - these are all just different forms of expression that we all have a right to as sentient human beings. We all make art every day!

While this experience was painful and challenging, it's something I definitely need to do weekly. I need to quilt without thinking and judging myself constantly. I need to learn how to use the word ART without cringing. This illogical core belief will not last if it is continually challenged on a regular basis.

I know from reading many books on art, writing, business, and quilting that skill is not gained by obsessive planning, but by doing the work. Sheer volume is the key because the more you create, the easier everything becomes.

So here's to embracing uncertainty and challenging negative core beliefs. The process might not pretty or fun, but someone has to do it!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Announcing Our Cook Book

Josh here, and today I have an exciting announcement about a new book both Leah and I have been working on.

If you've been following our blog for any length of time, you'll know we are fond of home cooking and love to share our recipes with you. Currently, our recipes are not organized at all--there is a messy stack in a kitchen drawer, with no rhyme or reason to the order.

The recipes range from handwritten pages, to computer printouts, to index cards we scribbled on nearly ten years ago, to ancient onionskin family recipes that date back centuries preserved in museum-grade laminate (kidding). The recipes clearly show use with rough edges, tears, and food and oil stains.

Some time ago we decided we needed to get organized. It just wasn't efficient digging through a hundred or more pages to find the recipe we needed. Ultimately, this need to declutter and organize our recipe system led to the idea of writing a cook book.

This Sunday Leah and I sat down at our dining room table and went through nearly two hundred recipes. We had a great time digging through everything as we culled recipes we hadn't made in years, found lost treasures, and recalled old memories.

Ultimately, we pounded out the foundation for our upcoming cookbook: ten chapters, nearly 150 unique and individual recipes, and, the best part... ten fun quilting and sewing projects which accompany each chapter. These range from napkins to table runners to hot pads.

We'll also be including recipes for spices, sauces, and marinades, as well as tips on outdoor grilling, how to use salt and pepper properly, and something which gives people the most trouble... how to cook rice perfectly every time!

We hope to announce the publication date of our cook book by the end of the year.

This project started out as something we needed to make just for our household but evolved into a full-scale cook book we hope everyone can enjoy. We love cooking and appreciate a recipe that's been fine tuned for years and years, so there will be no "filler" recipes in our book. Every recipe is something we have frequently made and are confident in sharing.

Our book will also not be pretentious, with the recipes split among "seasons." No, we're doing our best to keep things simple, with recipes divided among headings like Breakfast, Sides, Sauces & Marinades & Spices, Soups, Mains, Desserts, Beverages, and Comfort & Colds--a chapter where we share some passed-down home remedies for colds.

We also try to minimize processed and mass-produced ingredients, like seasoning packages, soup "mixes," bottled sauces, and unhealthy items. Fresh, locally grown meats and produce are what we strive to use in our cooking because flavor and health-wise, these make all the difference in the world.

In conclusion, I hope you're as excited about this project as we are!

Related Posts with Thumbnails