Thursday, April 24, 2014

#432 - Free Motion Quilt Fish Fins

It's been awhile since I posted a new quilting design, and this one is perfect for the start of fishing season!

This pivoting design is pretty similar to Swirling Petals and Spike Paisley, except the outer echo is pointy like a fish's fins. I admit, this pointy echo doesn't come naturally to me, so I had to concentrate a bit more while quilting around the spike shapes.

Let's watch the video to see how this pretty design works in free motion!

When quilting like this, it's important to have both control over the quilting square, and the ability to move it smoothly and evenly over the surface of the machine. Here's a few tools that I'm using in the video that might make this process easier for you too!

Now WHERE will Fish Fins work best in a quilt? Because this design works in single clusters (stitch the spikes, pivot, echo to expand the shape) you can pretty much fit this design anywhere! Stitch it through your sashing to add a funky, fish theme around blocks, or shrink it down a bit to quilt around appliques. The sky (or should we say sea?) is the limit with this fun design!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Testing Batting and Fabric

I'm testing batting today!

I've been wanting to do this for MONTHS, but haven't found the time, or the project to do it with. I've had this huge stack of batting in the corner of my sewing room and I've wanted to test each one to know how they will feel and look after quilting.

At this point it's just too risky for me to go throwing some random batting into the middle layers of my quilts. I certainly did this in the beginning when I first started quilting, and I rarely thought anything of it.

These days I know that it's not the piecing, or the quilting that truly determine the feel and look of a finished quilt - it's the BATTING.

This super important squishy layer determines the warmth, weight, drape, shrinkage, softness or stiffness that your finished quilt will feature. There's no getting around the batting - quilts must have it to be a quilt, and this is also something that you really, REALLY don't want to screw up.

I've had a stack of small battings to test for awhile now, but no time or project they would work with. Because each batting will shrink differently, I can't really make this into a quilt. I also need to write down the names of all the battings so I remember which is which, which will probably not look so great.

 Finally I gave myself permission just to test for the sake of testing! When all my squares are quilted and washed a few times, I'll pop them into a binder to store them for future reference. This way when I'm looking for a super lightweight batting that creates a cute crinkly effect on the quilt surface, I won't have to guess and wonder which batting is the best for that purpose.

And since I love killing multiple birds with one stone, I'm also testing the limits of my Quilt Me! Fabric line.

Making fabric that could be quilted on the lines has been fun, but I didn't understand some limitations that this would create. Like the difficulty (or necessity) of matching straight lines together in the corners...definitely didn't see that one coming!

Also when two fabrics that are the same quilting design are next to each other, it might look a little weird after the block is quilted...

Orange Pebbling right next to Blue Pebbling? Hmmm....
I didn't account for these issues when designing the fabric, but now having cut it and pieced with it, there's definitely some considerations to be made. Like for borders and sashing, instead of carrying this fabric to the corners and trying to match it together, you'd probably need to insert cornerstone instead to break up the print / design.

Here I've added cornerstones so the lines in the sashing fabric don't have to match perfectly.
Finding out these little tips has been fun! The point and purpose of the fabric was for teaching quilting and helping students practice, but I'm getting to learn a lot through this process and it's both exciting and challenging at the same time.

Once I'm through with all the testing and playing with both the fabric and different battings, I'm going to pick a new batting I like to go into the little feature quilt above. This quilt combines both some Building Blocks Cheater Cloth blocks and Quilt ME! fabric to make a bright, beautiful throw sized quilt.

So that's what I've been working on today! I've finally let go of my worries of "wasting time" with this batting test idea. It's definitely not a waste of time if these squares help me make better batting decisions in the future. After all this work my motto has truly become - Don't Guess - TEST!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Josh's Gridlines

Josh here for my crack at "gridlines" in a modern Building block.

Once again, we have some dense 1/8" scale stitching. This is a great practice block! No curves, no circles, no stippling--just basic straight lines, and a whole lot of them. We have 1", 1/2", 1/4", and 1/8" scales. The key here to find a good path and minimize travel stitching, and since everything is broken down in grids, this comes pretty naturally without having to plot a complicated course beforehand.

That said, this one took a lot of time, so if you're a beginner like me, make sure you have a good 30 minutes to an hour.

The diagonal lines in the corner mixed things up a bit, especially as you had to maneuver around the edge and my fingers didn't have enough room outside the block.

Because I'm using Spoonflower cheater fabric, I elected to skip every other line in the 1/8" section as the lines were already on the block. As I write this and watch the video, I can see I now have a lot more experience under my belt and if I had to stitch this dense area now I think I'd flip over the block and stitch by freehand on the 1/8" scale.

Here's how the block came out:

And the back:

I'm proud of this one. Once the quilt is assembled, the dense travel stitching and errors on the edges will disappear, and I hope this block will really stand out.
Until next week, let's go quilt!


Monday, April 21, 2014

16. Quilt a Building Block with Gridlines

Is it just me or is this month just flying by?! We're already on our second block, quilting Gridlines in multiple sizes so you're going to get loads of practice quilting straight lines in free motion!

For this block we're again getting experience quilting with the lines 1 inch apart, 1/2 inch apart, 1/4 inch apart, and 1/8 inch apart.

For marking, I found the 1 and 1/2 inch grid sections to be easy enough to mark with a ruler over my lightbox. For the diagonal 1/4 inch section, I marked a single line in the middle of the space, then used a rotary ruler to mark the remaining lines within the space. That's one nice thing about lines - they can be easily marked with a ruler!

For the 1/8th inch section, marking is quite tricky because the marked lines could easily get so wide they all bleed together. See how I worked around this issue in our weekly video:

Remember you can still join the Building Blocks Quilt Along any time! Hop into this project by either purchasing the pattern, or the Cheater Cloth, now available in multiple colors!

So how did you like this Gridlines design? Easier than last week's Stippling on multiple scales?

Josh had pretty strong opinions about both designs so definitely stop in tomorrow to see his take on this block!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

I hope you're having a wonderfully relaxing Easter day! We've had a wonderfully laid-back holiday, full of all of our favorite things. Of course we had to start the day with a big mug of hot chocolate (really it's just hot milk and Ovaltine):

We've had a lot of wet, rainy weather lately, so we decided an egg hunt in the yard would probably be too messy and gross (mud + chocolate = gross). Instead we did a little egg trail down the hallway to James's Easter basket, which included some candy, but also books and markers.

James was super happy and has declared this day "the BEST day ever!" many times. But he sort of broke my heart when he asked "So, is the Easter Bunny real or did you put all these eggs out?"

The days of fooling my sweet boy are over! I came clean honestly that nope, the Easter Bunny isn't real, but he's a fun idea to play with and make-believe. So far this hasn't translated over to "Is Santa real?" but I have a feeling that will be coming this December. Oh well...I always knew that would be a short, sweet ride!

Speaking of sweet, don't these eggs look beautiful?

Josh threw that one brown egg into the bunch so you can see just how blue and pretty these eggs are by comparison!

These are eggs from our backyard flock of chickens, and many are so bright blue we don't even need to dye them. These come from chickens called "Easter Eggers" which are hybrids of South American Ameraucana chickens. Josh has had only one Ameraucana chicken, but he's kept the blue egg gene alive by incubating eggs and hatching dozens of baby chicks over the years.

One of our other favorite things to do on Sunday is to make a big breakfast or brunch. Josh and I both love to cook, and we cook really well together as a team almost every evening. This morning we tried a new recipe from Gordon Ramsay's Home Cooking show. Josh made the beans and I made the potato cakes:

I was so proud of this meal I took a picture of it! I've wanted to make potato cakes for YEARS, but every time I tried, they would literally melt in the pan into a gooey mess of potato and oil. The trick - add flower until the potatoes feel more like dry cookie dough and fry in only a little oil and butter. YUM!

After this wonderfully relaxing morning, I'm headed downstairs to do more of what I love - quilting!

Happy Easter!


Friday, April 18, 2014

FMQ Project Link Up

It's Friday and time to share what we've been quilting this week. This week I've been working on a new book! I'm not ready to spill the beans completely on this project, but suffice it to say it's going to be BIG with loads of information, pretty photos, and a few fun projects to try out! I go into writing mode, I tend to spend a lot more time on the computer than usual, which means my sewing machine is feeling a bit neglected. Rather than fall too deeply into this rut, I'm making an effort to get downstairs and piece or quilt SOMETHING every day.

This week I received samples and some yardage of my Quilt Me! Fabric from Spoonflower and had loads of fun cutting and piecing with it. It's interesting to find the limitations of this fabric - like how the Gridlines are tricky to match: didn't even attempt to match the lines here, thinking it would still look okay. After the final seam and press, however, I could literally feel my grandmother's spirit cringing at the sight of the mismatching lines. She was a stickler for matching strips and lines and this would have made her very unhappy!

So back to the drawing board...or rather the cutting table! I found if I filled the corners with little squares instead, matching the lines of the design wouldn't matter a bit:

It's really interesting to play with these fabrics and figure out what works and what doesn't. Because this fabric has such big designs, I think it's going to work best when cut into larger pieces. My third attempt at a block was my favorite - an 8.5 inch square surrounded with 3.5 inch strips and 3.5 inch corner squares.
Working in this freeform way was fun, but it wasn't always this way. I used to get really bogged down with my inner negative voice when working like this, mostly if my first attempt at something didn't come out perfect the first time.

These days I try to remain mindful that design is messy and never perfect. It doesn't always work out the first time, and yes, there is waste of fabric and time to figure out what works and what doesn't. It's all part of the process!

So how about you? Do you give yourself a break when you're trying something new, or do you demand perfection with every block and every seam?

It's your turn to share what you've been quilting this week!

Simple rules for the FMQ Project Link Up:

1. Link up with a post that features something you've learned from the Free Motion Quilting Project.
2. Somewhere in your post, please link back here.
3. Comment on at least 2 other links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect with other quilters around the world!

Grab a button to easily link back to the Free Motion Quilting Project!

Free Motion Quilting Project
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Colorful! Cheater Cloth

Yes! After a lot of fiddling with colors and fine tuning of designs, we have our Colorful Cheater Cloth!

Building Blocks Colorful Cheater Cloth on White

This collection of all 42 blocks in the Building Blocks Quilt Along as been quite a lot of effort to plan and color, but it's so colorful and cheerful - it was worth every second!
I have to admit, I never really understood the appeal of fabric design before because it just seemed really fiddly and complicated. Well, it is fiddly and complicated, but man, there's nothing like the feeling of slicing into my fabric and piecing it up into beautiful blocks.

The blocks here are from my Quilt Me! Fabric line, which was designed with the same colors as the Building Blocks Cheater Cloth. You can mix and match the two together to create some really neat blocks:
This is the Spinning Square Block in green from the Building Blocks Colorful Cheater Cloth

The idea behind this fabric and the cheater cloth is the quilting design is printed on the fabric making it easy to quilt on the lines and get loads of practice for free motion quilting.

No, the lines on the fabric won't wash out after quilting - they're permanent - but isn't this a cool way to practice and make a beautiful quilt at the same time?!

Looking at all the designs I've created over the years, I'm a bit excited and overwhelmed with all the possibilities for new fabric designs. I know I'd love to see fabric printed with feather filler and swirling water...What designs would you love to see in fabric?

Let's go quilt,

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