The Free Motion Quilting Project

Friday, March 23, 2018

Best Quilting Retreat Ever!

This week I gave myself a gift in the form of a mini quilting retreat. I didn't go anywhere or do anything special. I just gave myself permission to quilt my Dresden Plate quilt and not worry about what was happening online.

I cannot describe what an enormous relief this was. Instead of stopping to shoot photos and post to Instagram, which always leads to twenty minutes of brain freeze, I kept quilting. Instead of checking Facebook comments or sharing daily progress here, I kept quilting. I even let email hang for a day or two and didn't share a podcast this week because I just needed space and time to quilt.

Yes, we live in a social media driven world, but sometimes I wonder if all of this stuff isn't just a big distraction. Had I constantly stopped and started, stopped and started, I might not have finished this project in time.

It was also a relief to have a tight deadline. I know that sounds weird. Aren't deadlines supposed to add extra pressure and stress to a project?

Yes, but a good deadline can also force you to stop agonizing about every single detail. Three times in particular I stopped and looked at a block and thought "I really want to rip all that out."

If I'd had a month to make this quilt, I might have walked away from it. Taken a break. Let it sit on the table or the frame and pouted about it not being perfect. I might have even picked up a seam ripper and "fixed" that "mistake" I thought was too terrible to leave in.

Instead this deadline to have the quilt finished, connected, and bound by today forced me to keep quilting. I couldn't walk away. I couldn't pick up a seam ripper. I couldn't agonize about every design decision.

And now I'm looking at this quilt and I LOVE IT. There is nothing I would change about this.

Sure, some of the lines could have been better planned or lined up. Take a ruler to it and you'll find mistakes.

But I think fixing those mistakes or design glitches would only make the quilt around 5% better. Not enough to really matter. Only a quilt show judge would be able to see or appreciate the difference, and again, probably only if they had a ruler in their hand and knew where to look!

The main lesson from this is in how I feel about this quilt. When I stop and rip and agonize about everything, I slow down. It feels heavy. I want to walk away because the pressure builds and nothing feels right.

This quilt feels the opposite of all of that. It feels light, bright and challenging. I finished the last line of stitching and stepped back and had to wonder - did I make that? Did I really do that in a week?

Yes, I did, but only because I was ready and willing to accept the challenge. I quilted two blocks on my home machine and then forced myself to quilt the last two on my longarm frame. I white knuckled my way through it and I can 100% say that these quilting rulers I've designed for Grace Company are awesome!

So the lesson from this wonderful mini quilting retreat is it's okay to pull away and dig deep. It's okay to shut out the world of distracting social media and just focus on finishing the project. And it's okay to seek a tight deadline and use it to force you forward instead of getting stuck.

Whew! That was fun! What's next?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

P.S - The curvy bias binding is a Quilt-As-You-go technique I shared in the Winter Wonderland Quilt Pattern.

P.P.S - These new quilting rulers are coming very soon! Be looking for them by the middle of April!

Monday, March 19, 2018

That's a really bad sound!

How to clean and oil your sewing machine
Ever turn on your sewing machine only to find it sounding more like a meat grinder? Yeah, that's what happened to me this weekend!

I've created a new tutorial on cleaning and oiling your machine and you can find it right here.

I push my machines hard on a regular basis and in order to keep them running smoothly, I regularly service them myself. I take the base of the sewing machine apart, then brush out all the parts and apply oil.

The most common questions I get about this are about the little details: how often do you clean the machine? How often do you change needles? Where and how do you oil it?

Find all of the answers you seek right here.

This weekend was a whirlwind of ruler quilting and I've had a blast quilting my new Dresden Plate sunshine blocks. I'm still not sure about the name of this quilt. Here's the first block I finished:

Sunburst Dresden Plate Quilt Block

Sunburst? Sunshine? Sunny Day? What do you think? Please share your suggestions in the comments.

The quilt is going to be 4 super sized Dresden Plate blocks and I'm going to put the quilted blocks together like the Winter Wonderland quilt with curvy bias binding.

That's IF I can get all the blocks quilted. These are taking a LOT longer to quilt than I expected. Mostly because I start quilting in one section, then I get an idea for another section, and that takes another few hours, then I get another idea for the center...and you get the idea.

Sunburst Dresden Plate Quilt Block

But I couldn't be more in love with this gorgeous texture! Who would have thought you could do all this with 3 quilting rulers?

Just in case you missed my other post, I'm designing a set of quilting / cutting rulers with Grace Company and they will be available in April!

I plan to make this quilt all over again and shoot videos of each step, but right now the push is on to get this quilted, connected, bound, and finished by Friday so I can take it with me to a show on Saturday.

Cross your fingers! It's going to be tight!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Saturday, March 17, 2018

New Walking Foot Quilting Tutorial and Late Night Quilting

This has been one crazy week! Changing the location of quilting tutorials doesn't sound like a big deal, but yeah, it's a big deal.

Click here to find the new tutorial: How to Quilt Desert Sand.

I find that just being on the site and working on one page makes me want to work on another, then another. This is great because a lot of updating needs to happen there and it's high time I get it done.

Click Here to find a set of pages I updated with lots of new goodies!

The downside is I felt literally chained to my computer yesterday. As one page update fed into another, I kept putting off my quilting projects until...where did the day go?!

I ended up quilting until midnight, something I rarely do because I love to sleep. I went through a phase of staying up super late to quilt and it was completely unsustainable. Last night I was caught up working on my ruler quilt for Grace Company and just lost track of time.

I love, love, love this beautiful texture! This is the first quilt I'm making 100% with quilting rulers and planning the design as I go. I have kind of an idea of what I want for each block, but then when it comes to quilt it, sometimes that changes and has to adjust based on how it feels on the machine.

Yes, there will be videos! Yes, there will be a pattern!

But no, I'm not filming them right this second because this quilt needs to be Done with a capital "D" by Friday. I'll just have to make this quilt again and shoot the videos as I go. That's not my favorite way to work, but the good thing is if I mess up, I'll know what not to do for the next one.

And yes, this ruler is coming soon! This is the Mini Slide quilting ruler and it's honestly one of my favorites. It makes a very gentle curve, but it's identical on both sides which makes it so wonderful for stitching repeating lines like this without wobbling.

Be looking for this new quilting ruler, which can also be used for some very unique cutting and binding techniques too coming very soon to!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Just Wanna Quilt!

I shared the podcast today, yes, a day late, but it's up! Click Here to find Episode 49: Quilting and Copyright with Elizabeth Townsend Gard.

Elizabeth is the host of the Just Wanna Quilt podcast which is about understanding the quilting industry with a bit of copyright and intellectual property business mixed in for fun.

I've certainly gained a different perspective on the quilting industry as a whole by listening to Elizabeth's podcast and I think you'll like it to. Click Here to find Just Wanna Quilt.

Around the house today, I was really dragging. Yesterday I thought I had food poisoning. Today I realized I just had a weird cold that included bonus GI issues. Ew!

But that seems to have leveled out now and I started feeling better about halfway through the day. I pushed myself to get out to the Crafty Cottage and finish the quilt block I was working on and start the next one.

I've also reset my upstairs sewing machine to the Juki Exceed F600. Yep, still had it hanging around downstairs for backup. I don't have an insert for it in the Quilty Table so I had to improvise a bit:

Surprisingly, this is working okay and I'm making more progress on my Twisted Squares quilt. I probably won't have it all finished by next Monday, but I'll have a lot more quilted than I did last week.

I'm going to turn on a Vampire Diaries episode to play in the background and quilt at least three blocks on that quilt to finish out the day. What are you working on this evening? I hope it's something that makes you smile!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Updating the Header! Whew!

Whew! I just changed out the header for this blog and it gave me fits getting the sizing and spacing just right. It's always scary to upload a new photo and hit "publish" only to find the image way smaller than you expected, shifted off center and looking really weird on the top of the page.

Just in case I ever need to come back and do this again: size the header a bit smaller than the width of the total blog (1200 pix worked good), then if needed wiggle the width in the advanced settings to get it just right.

I also made a new FMQ Project square logo. Again, just something that needs to update every couple of years.

I decided to use a picture of the 365 quilt I created with the first 365 free motion quilting designs shared here. I've been feeling a bit nostalgic today, just looking at some old designs and playing around with a few ideas that are taking me back to 2009.

I do have a podcast coming today, but I'm waiting on photos so it might be a bit late. It might not go up until tomorrow. I dropped the ball and forgot to ask for photos last week and didn't realize they weren't in the folder until late last night.

But that's okay! I'm glad I had a chance to do this little update and tool around a bit on the blog. I'm not feeling well (unhappy stomach) so I think it's time for a break, a cup of tea, and some time drawing at the kitchen table.

We also released the Super Squares and Sashing Workshop today. This quilting class is all about learning how to quilt designs into different spaces in your quilts. Click Here to check it out.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Sock Darning Tutorial and Sneak Peek

Whew! It's been a really long filming day. I shot the podcast intro for tomorrow and began working on new videos for a quilt along I'll be sharing this fall with Sheri Cilfaldi-Morrill. Here's a little sneak peek of the block I was working on:

I love these beautiful batik fabrics! Can we just skip the next 5 months and go straight to August? I'm really looking forward to sharing this project and showing you more sneak peeks as it develops.

Now for something that's up and ready for you to enjoy. Click Here to check out the sock darning tutorial!

I'm so happy to be able to fix the holes in my socks so I can keep wearing them. It makes no sense to throw away a perfectly good sock just because the heel has a hole in it.

Now I'm off for a cup of tea and a tiny bit of Zelda playing before dinner. I hope you've had a beautiful day!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Uggh...time changed...

Today was like this ugly darned sock.
It's fixed, but it's still ugly.

Well, maybe it wasn't THAT bad...
Daylight Savings Time began today. Uggh! I hate losing an hour in the spring because suddenly it feels so much harder to wake up early and get the day started.

On the weeks I take James to the bus stop I get up at 5:45 am. Yes, I like my sleep, but I also love to write and by waking up that early, I get to write at the kitchen table for around an hour before anyone else wakes up.

I already knew it would be an Uggh Day because one of my machines broke last night. I was quilting along happily, playing a silly Vampire Diaries episode in the background and suddenly the needle stopped catching the bobbin thread.

I broke thread and switched the machine to piecing. Still no go. The needle would drop, but didn't catch the bobbin thread at all.

Then the needle stopped going down. Umm...what???

I pulled on it and like a loaded spring, it just jumped back to the up position. This happened once before on this particular machine, but the glitch only lasted for a minute or so. I gave it a stern talking-to and it magically stopped glitching and went back to being an awesome machine.

Well no matter of yelling or sweet talking got her working again this time. To the shop with you!

Other than losing an hour and my upstairs machine, the day was nice. I shot a sock darning tutorial I'll share tomorrow, played a good bit of Zelda, and hung out with my guys. Give it a week and the time change won't matter a bit.

Let's go quilt (or go reset all your clocks),

Leah Day

Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at