Thursday, January 29, 2015

Spring Rain in Quiltmaker Magazine

Yes, I'm writing for Quiltmaker Magazine! I met the awesome team behind this magazine at spring quilt market and began writing articles last year. For the March / April issue, I challenged myself to design a super simple throw sized quilt and find an easy way to free motion quilt it as well.

I LOVE how this turned out! This is honestly one of my most favorite quilts because the piecing and quilting are such nice companions. Here's a short video to learn how to quilt one of the marked tear drop motifs:

Would you like to make Spring Rain too? Find the pattern and template to mark the tear drops in the March / April 2015 issue of Quiltmaker Magazine!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Design #441 - Love Butterfly

Time for a new design today and my inspiration is none other than...butterflies! For this design I wanted to create a really simple butterfly shape using other simple shapes. This ended up being more of a motif than a filler design, but it's still going to look great on your quilts wherever you put it!

This design fits into the Center Filled family because you start in the center and fill outward. It's also Beginner Level because this cute little design is formed from super simple heart shapes and echoes.

The antennae added to the butterfly effect, but also created a weird spot in the texture...hmmm...stick with it or scrap it, that's totally up to you! Let's see how it's quilted:

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned realizing that this design works more like a motif than a filler design. Fillers literally "fill" the space on your quilt, like Sharp Stippling in the background of this butterfly block:

Motifs are designs that stand out as their own unique statement. Yes, they also fill space on a quilt, but most often they are a design that is placed first, then a filler design is quilted around a motif for emphasis.

So here's another take on Love Butterfly, but this time placed on the quilt as a motif, surrounded with three rows of echo quilting, then filled around with Stippling. See the difference?

Don't worry if you don't understand the difference between motifs and fillers. The terminology isn't important, but what you choose to do with the design is! Where are you planning to use Love Butterfly?

I think this design would look super cute placed randomly over a girly baby quilt. If you used bright, contrasting thread they would really pop and look so cheerful on the surface!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Three Finished Quilts from Dancing Butterfly

Josh here, and today I have several pictures of some amazing, finished quilts from the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along! These photos were shared on our interactive facebook group where you can share photos and make friends with quilters all over the globe. Yes, people have already finished the Quilt Along, but many more are just getting started--you work at your own pace and leisure, no rush, and the Quilt Along will always be available.

First is Jennifer D. M.'s quilt, which is actually two quilts as she split the twelve butterflies into six apiece in order to make dual quilts for two friends:

Next we have Seaside Quilter's finished Butterfly quilt, with an extra butterfly pillow:

And here is the front of Karen A.'s quilt:

And here's the back, with some more wonderful colors:

Wow, weren't those just incredible?

If you haven't started on your Dancing Butterfly quilt, today is the perfect time as the pattern is on sale from now until Friday.

Let's go quilt,


Monday, January 26, 2015

Decorative Antennae Designs

We're nearly finished investigating all the creative ways we can play with the butterfly designs from the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Pattern. Today let's explore some creative ways to stitch the butterfly antennae!

In the pattern, you'll learn how to mark and quilt the antennae shapes using satin stitching. The one challenge is this adds the thin, tricky shapes to the block surface BEFORE the quilting. As you fill the background space, you will have to stitch carefully through the area to keep the design consistent and not stitch over the antennae lines.

I frequently stopped and marked my way through this space to plan my entry and escape. It worked well, but it was a bit time consuming and many quilters have reported just ignoring the antennae and quilting all over them just to make it easier.

So the first way to change up the antennae is to wait to add them until AFTER the block is quilted. Jodi J on the DB Facebook Group free motion quilted her antennae shapes in place with a contrasting thread color so they stood out against the quilted background.

Another idea is to skip stitching all together! In this block I added the simple shapes using 20 mm hot fix crystals:

I've wanted to play with hot fix crystals for years, and horded the supplies, but never actually put heat to rhinestone until now. They're surprisingly easy to use - just place the crystals, then press with a heat tool like Cheri's Cool Tool and the glue on the back of the crystal heats up and bonds with the fabric.

You do have to hold the tool on for awhile, particularly for the larger crystals. I held it on for 25 seconds per crystal to secure these big guys in place.

The one downside to the crystals is the question of washing the quilt. Will the glue on the crystals stand up to a run through the washing machine? I didn't have time to test it yet, but I'll update this post as soon as that block has gone through the ringer!

Now for another creative idea - hand embroidery. You can hand embroider the antennae shapes either before or after quilting. In this case, I marked the placement for the antennae and then quilted around them as if they were really there.

Now for the hand embroidery. I decided to use a decorative metallic thread called Razzle Dazzle and cut a short length and tied a knot at the end.

I inserted the needle about 3/8 inch from the tip of one antenna, sliding the needle just under the surface of the fabric, not all the way through to the back of the block. I pulled the thread through until the knot popped into the fabric so it was hidden in the middle layer of the quilt.

Now for the first stitch. I inserted the needle about 1/4 inch from the start and slid it through the middle layer of the quilt another 1/4 inch:

For the next stitch I inserted the needle in the hole at the end of the first stitch, then rand the needle another extra 1/4 inch through the quilt. So in this way, the second stitch is doubling back on itself. 

All the remaining stitches are made this way - by stitching back through the second hole of the previous stitch.

This forms a nice line of decorative stitches all the way to the top of the butterfly body. To jump to the other antenna shape, I just traveled through the middle layer of the quilt and brought my needle up right at the start of the marked line:

I repeated the same stitch on the other line, then ran the thread through the middle layer of the quilt about 1 inch, then tied a knot, then ran the thread another inch, making sure the knot popped into the quilt to hold the thread securely inside the quilt.

I love this option because it's so subtle, but also clearly a little extra time and effort was made to add the little antennae lines to the quilt surface.

Ultimately it doesn't matter if you add your antennae before or after the quilting, or with satin stitching, hand embroidery, or a surface material like hot fix crystals.

Whatever you use, make sure it fits with your goals for the quilt. Obviously if you're planning to give the quilt to a baby and it will receive heavy use and washing, adding crystals, buttons, or beads might not be the best idea. However, if you're planning for the quilt to hang on a wall or show, these additional elements will really stitch it up a notch!

One thing I've learned is to stop being so afraid to try new materials. Buying new stuff is the easy part, and it feels so good to have a stash of cool materials to play with at any time. But hording materials and never using them is as silly as baking a cake and not eating it!

So what materials have you been stashing away? Pull them out and play! The only way you will learn how to use them is to USE THEM in a real project and what better quilt than one that is all about experimenting and learning new designs and techniques?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
Helpful links: 
Check out more posts for the Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along right here.
If you haven't picked up your pattern yet, find a download version here, and a printed version here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Store-wide Sale

Josh here for our weekly Feature Friday.

Starting today and going through next week, we are putting everything (except our quilting tables and acrylic inserts) on sale for 15% off orders of $20 or more.
This is the perfect time to try our new Quilting Back Support.

Leah writes, I've been crafting and sewing since childhood and unfortunately never developed good posture habits. I'd frequently hunch over, straining the muscles in my upper back and neck for long periods of time.

This has resulted in a lot of pain and headaches as an adult, especially after quilting or working on a computer extensively. When I found the Quilter's Back Support, I was skeptical that adding weight to my back would really help my posture, but after trying it on and getting the size adjusted just right, I found immediate improvement.

Have you had trouble finding Lite Steam a Seam 2 for our Dancing Butterfly Quilt Along? We now have the fusible web back in stock and can easily get new supply within a matter of days, instead of the previous period of weeks!

Quilters have been reporting this product is very difficult to find; in fact, it's only recently come back on the market.
And don't forget Leah's newest book, her spiral bound 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs, on sale this week for $33.96.

You will find a high quality of photo of each meticulously stitched design; every single one of the 365 filler designs have been stitched out in painstaking detail, no computerized images here.

Challenge yourself to memorize--not mark--a new design every day for a year. Stitch the designs exactly as shown or mix it up by creating your own variations. There is no limit to the possibilities.

Let's go quilt!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happiness and Show Quilting

Yesterday I received the wonderful news that my quilt 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs has won a first place ribbon at Road to California!
 I'm very pleased with this award and how well this quilt is doing in shows so far. It's an odd quilt because it doesn't really have a true pattern or design other than all the different filler designs, which you have to get pretty close to the quilt to see.

Winning this ribbon this week made me stop and reflect on how competition quilting has changed for me over the years.

When I first began show quilting, I NEEDED a ribbon. I needed the validation and confirmation that I was good enough. I just didn't have the self esteem to believe it on my own. Most of my thoughts ran in circles around feeling inadequate, but always with the hope that another quilt, another ribbon, another prize would make me feel better about myself.

Then as I won more ribbons, I began to feel like my quilts were being hijacked. Was I designing them for me, or to make a judge happy? Judge's opinions can vary so greatly from show to show. Once a quilt won an honorable mention at one show, then turned right around and won Best Machine Quilting at another. I couldn't deal with this inconsistency, and when I "lost" I was always absolutely devastated.

When making the quilts, my thoughts were a swirl of negativity. It has to be PERFECT! Why did you make that STUPID mistake? WHY are you even trying this technique? You're not good enough.

Eventually I got so frustrated with myself and my unrealistic need for perfection, I had to stop making show quilts. I just burned out and stopped competing in 2011. I just couldn't take the negativity it was generating in my life.

It took me a few years and reading several good books to finally pull out of that funk. The Power of Habit was one of the most helpful books for identifying the negative thought patterns that were causing me so much trouble.

I realized that winning couldn't make me happy in a sustainable way. It's a brief surge of pleasure and excitement, then back to the regular pattern of thoughts and feelings from before.

If I'm feeling depressed and sad, winning might bring out a smile for a day, but more than likely I'd be right back to thinking sad, depressed thoughts again. The most important thing I've learned in the last three years is that happiness, security, and contentment are a choice. 

I can choose to be kind to myself and accepting of my abilities, or I can choose to be my own worst enemy. I used to expect to feel elated for WEEKS after a big win, but it just doesn't work like that. More quilts, more ribbons, more awards - none of it matters if I don't feel good about myself to start with.

So now it's 2015 and I'm competing again, but this time, winning isn't my goal. I can't explain how I turned the corner except to say that my new goal is far more important and achievable than just winning.

Instead I show this quilt out of a desire for her just to be seen and appreciated.

I show now just to share. I want to show up and put my work out there and for everyone to see what I can do, but I could care less what a one or two judges have to say about it!

I don't travel much and quilters rarely get to see my quilts in person. By entering shows, many more people will get the chance to see my quilts and appreciate them close up and personal. I much prefer to keep this quilt moving from show to show rather than rolled up in the closet.

This transformation of attitude has been such an amazing relief! I can truly say that winning a ribbon is just the icing on the cake. It's not my purpose to enter, but a nice side benefit. I much prefer to receive emails and comments from quilters who have attended the show and loved seeing the quilt I entered. That is the whole point!

So if you're going to Road to California this weekend, make sure to keep your eyes out for 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs. I'm not sure where she's headed next, but I know for sure she's not done yet!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Design #440 - Paisley Pile Up

It's new design time! I promised I'd get back on track with new designs and this morning I sat down and filmed five new videos before breakfast so we're definitely going to get back to a regular schedule of design posts from here on out.

Today I'm sharing Paisley Pile Up, which kind of looks like a lot of Paisley's got in a fist fight. It's a bit of a mess!
This is a Super Beginner design, which means it will be very easy to quilt no matter what your skill level. Most Overlapping designs are very easy because they just involve overlapping shapes and you can hide any mistakes in the rather chaotic texture. Check out the video to see what I mean:
This design was also featured in my Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers Volume 2, which is an excellent class if you're interested in learning more about Overlapping, Edge to Edge, Edge to Center, Stem Centered, and Foundational Designs.

You'll learn 10 designs from each family and see them stitched in a cool tote bag project!

Click Here to for a 50% discount for Free Motion Fillers Volume 2!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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