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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 2012 FMQ Challenge Tutorial, by Leah Day

I am happy to introduce Leah Day, as our May FMQ Expert, for the 2012 Free Motion Quilting challenge.   I've found Leah to be a beautiful young woman, who loves to share and inspire others to quilt.  She may not realize it, but she also is an excellent Angel on Earth, as she continually touches the hearts of others, as she shares her enthusiasm for life, love of quilting, along with her core value of being a good person that strives to always do good!

SewCalGal is truly honored to have this busy woman as one of our FMQ Experts in this challenge and I hope you too fall in love with Leah Day.

Leah Day

Leah caught the quilting bug, about 8 years ago, when she got married and decided she wanted to make a Wedding Ring Quilt, using scrap fabric from her wedding dress.  On her quilting journey, she  learned about free-motion quilting through the internet, as well as from books & DVDs by  Karen McTavish and Sharon Schamber.  With practice, and her enthusiasm to learn FMQ, she quickly mastered free-motion quilting and the ability to learn, as well as create new designs easily.

In her effort to share her insights, teach and inspire others, she launched the The Free Motion Quilting Project where she created video tutorials and shared insights on 365 different free motion quilting designs, over a period of 365 days.  Shortly after this project, she launched a FMQ Quilt-Along ,which SewCalGal definitely recommends to any quilter interested in learning/improving their FMQ skills to participate in.  Each Wednesday a Leah publishes a video lesson, and you have an opportunity to try out the ideas, then link up your progress on her blog.

Free Motion Quilt Along

Leah has written and published some excellent books and DVDs, which SewCalGal highly recommends.  These include:
 From Daisy to Paisley: 50 Beginner Free Motion Quilting Designs

"Feathers to Flames: 60 Intermediate Quilting Designs"

"Beginner Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs" DVD

These books and DVDs, as well as various combo collections, and many other great products for those doing free-motion quilting, are available for purchase at Day Style Designs online store.

Lastly, sign up for Leah's newsletter and receive two free downloadable designs, plus you'll hear insights on Leah's teaching schedule and when new products are released.

Leah can be found at:

blog: http://freemotionquilting.blogspot.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Leah-Day-Quilting/108034899216421
Leah Day
P.O Box 386
Earl, NC 28038
Don't forget you can also find new tutorials on free motion quilting every week on Leah's excellent Free Motion Quilting Project blog.


Welcome to May and congratulations for practicing free motion quilting for the last 4 months!  It is super exciting to see so many quilters learning and practicing free motion quilting, and if you haven’t already, I’m sure you’ll soon start seeing a noticeable difference in your free motion quilting ability.

Let’s get started with Part 1 of this month’s tutorial.  In this video I share many tips for getting started, along with the tools and supplies I use for free motion quilting every day.

Click here if the video does not appear
Click here if you need a transcription of this video, to translate to another language.

Of course, it’s important to remember that every teacher is going to have a different set of tools and a different opinion as to the materials that work the best for free motion quilting.
As I mentioned in the video, it would be a great idea to get together with a group of quilting friends to play and experiment with all the different tools and supplies each teacher recommends.

That way you’ll be able to see what tools work for your machine and set up, and what is worth it to invest in. 
It’s a simple, honest fact: nothing works 100% for everyone!
So play and experiment with a variety of tools to find what works best for you.

Here’s a short list of the tools mentioned in the video.  You can click the links to learn more about these items in detail and how they can help with free motion quilting:

1.       MachingersQuilting Gloves – These nylon lightweight gloves have grippy tips which help you move and manipulate the quilt on your machine.  By gaining more control over the quilt, you’ll be able to stitch out specific designs easier and find better looking, more even stitches.
machingers quilting gloves

2.      SupremeSlider – This Teflon coated sheet is super slippery, which makes your quilt much easier to move over your machine.  The easier your quilt is to move, the better your stitches will look and the less strain you’ll feel in your arms and back.
supreme slider | free motion slider

3.      LittleGenie Magic Bobbin Washers – These little Teflon washers go inside you bobbin case to help your bobbin thread glide and feed as smoothly as your top thread.  This will result in fewer thread breaks, fewer birds nest, and better looking stitches all around!

These three simple tools can make a big difference for your free motion quilting because the easier it is to move the quilt, the more control you have over the surface, the better your stitches will look.

Always remember that with free motion quilting, your machine is not doing the work to create balanced, perfect stitches.  You are!

Short Feed Dog Explanation:

Whenever you piece or applique fabric, you’re allowing the machine to feed the fabric forward, evenly placing each stitch and balancing the top and bobbin thread by whatever stitch length you’ve set your machine.
The mechanism responsible for these even stitches is your feed dogs, or the little teeth under the foot of your machine.

With free motion quilting, we don’t want to move just forward and backward, we want to move in all directions, so we no longer use those feed dogs to feed the quilt through the machine.
So rather than the machine producing perfectly even stitches, it’s now YOU producing the stitches by balancing the speed of your machine with the movement of your hands.

Finding this perfectly balanced ratio will take time and practice. You’ll need to get used to using all the speeds within your machine, and manipulating your foot pedal much like the gas pedal on your car (ex: slow down for a turn, speed up for the long stretch, slow down again for a stop). Once you get the hang of it, it will be like riding a bicycle – you’ll never lose the ability to produce even, perfect stitches.

But it’s no exaggeration to say that free motion quilting is using your machine in a totally different way!
Many quilters will use a button or lever or machine setting to drop the feed dogs and stop using them completely.
Personally (and this is another of those opinion thingys!) I find dropping the feed dogs also disengages a necessary component of most machines.

For some reason, when the feed dogs are dropped, many machines react badly, and finding perfect, balanced stitches can become very difficult.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to try free motion quilting both with the feed dogs UP and the feed dogs DOWN to see which works best for your machine.

If you leave the feed dogs UP – simply reduce your stitch length to 0.  On this setting your feed dogs will still move up and down, but they will not actively feed the quilt in any direction.
If you’re really worried about it, you can also cover the feed dogs with an index card or a Supreme Slider so the feed dogs won’t come in contact with your quilt at all.

Now let’s discuss the materials used for free motion quilting in this video:
1.       Isacord thread – this is a high quality polyester embroidery thread.  It’s very thin, super strong, and very affordable. 

Whatever thread you use, just make sure to use the exact same thread in the top of the machine and in the bobbin.  Especially when you’re first starting out, tension issues can drive you crazy and using the same thread (same brand, same type, and same color) can sort out most of those issues.

Once you gain more skill and confidence in free motion quilting, THEN start experimenting and see what threads produce the right finish for your quilts.
Play with a variety of sizes and go with the needle that works best on your machine.  If you notice your thread breaking or skipping, always change your needle first as it may be bent and not catching the bobbin thread properly.

3.      Quilter’s Dream Polyester Batting – In the video I mention poly felt which can also work too, but for quilts you want to finish flat and hang smoothly, this polyester batting is a great choice. 
Of course, cotton batting is the most traditional, but please understand that you’re not limited to just cotton materials for your quilts. Experiment with many materials to find the right look and finish for your quilts.

Now let’s start the quilting tutorial and learn about Foundational Designs!

To start, you might want to practice stitching the designs into a scrap quilt before quilting them on your challenge quilt.

Take two 10 inch pieces of fabric and sandwich them with a 10 inch square of batting to create a quilt sandwich. 

Mark an 8 inch square within the quilt sandwich to give you plenty of room along the edges to grip the quilt as you’re working. Now free motion quilt along the marked lines of the square.

Yes, you could stitch this outline with your walking foot, but it’s great to practice stitching straight lines in free motion, and to practice stitching on a marked line. Now let’s watch the video to see how our two Foundational Designs work.

Click here if the video does not appear
Click here if you need a transcription of this video, to translate to another language.

To quilt Double Stippling, first start by stitching a very big, wiggly line.  If you need to think of anything, think of a very large scale Stippling.

Scale refers to the size of the design – the distance between the lines of quilting.  For this foundational line, aim to leave 2 to 3 inches between the lines of quilting.
Remember to turn your quilt whenever you need to so you can easily see where you’re going.  Never stitch in a direction that feels uncomfortable or doesn’t allow you to see clearly.
Now let’s double this Stippling to create a new design!

From wherever your foundation line ended, begin stitching back over it, wiggling back and forth across the foundation with a slightly tighter version of stippling.
Your aim here is to fill the space with more lines of wiggly quilting, using the foundational line as a base.
Here’s what the block will look like when complete:

 The cool thing about this design is it can wiggle anywhere on your quilts!  So long as you can fill the area with your foundational line, you can then stitch right over that line with a second line to double the design.
Just to see the different textures this family of designs has in store, let’s learn a variation of Double Stippling called Railroad Tracks!
As before, start with a large scale wiggly line of quilting.

Now begin your overlap stitches, only this time let’s keep all the lines straight and angles sharp.  Instead of wiggles, you’ll now have boxy tracks running along your foundational line.

When you finish quilting, you’ll end up with two loose threads to tie off. 

Rather than clipping these threads off, slide a cheater needle (self threading needle) into the middle layer of your quilt sandwich, tie the threads in a knot and pop them into the top of the needle.

Run the threads a short distance through the middle of the quilt, the n clip off the ends.  This will perfectly hide the thread end inside the quilt and finish off your quilting line as securely as possible.
Give both designs a try and see how they feel on your machine.  One nice feature is even if the foundational line isn’t perfect; the design is complex enough to cover many mistakes!
If you really like the way these foundation designs work, check out the entire family of designs posted to the Free Motion Quilting Project right here.
Enjoy playing with these designs and feel free to print this tutorial, share it with your friends, and even teach with it!  You’re welcome to use this tutorial and share it however you like.

Thank you Leah for providing us with the above tutorial.

While this challenge is focused on learning and/or improving our free-motion quilting skills, you also have the opportunity to win prizes. To be eligible to win a monthly prize, simply complete the current months' tutorial in the month it is released and get your entry submitted via the linky tool, at the bottom of this page, no later than May 31st. But do remember this challenge is more about learning and improving your FMQ skills, so don't rush thru the exercise just to enter. Take time to practice and embed this design to your muscle memory, before you enter.

To clarify, DO NOT just add a link to your blog, but to your post that shows that you have completed this tutorial. You get one link, so keep practicing until you feel you are finished with this tutorial. For bloggers, please post your entry on your blog. To clarify, you can include as many photos of this tutorial exercise in your post, but you can only add one link to the linky tool below. You may also want to include insights in your post about your past FMQ experience and thoughts about this tutorial. Totally, optional, but you may also want to let everyone know that you have taken the Pledge and you did this exercise to enter the the challenge this month, where randomly selected winners will win a prize. You may inspire others to want to join this challenge too!

For non-Bloggers:
1) You will need to have a Flickr account (www.flickr.com).
2) Upload your photos for this month's challenge to Flickr, batch organize, send your photos to groups, select "2012 FMQ Challenge". While Flickr, limits the amount of text you can share in your description, feel free to share your perspective on this exercise and/or your past FMQ experience, if you wish.
3) After your photos have successfully been loaded to the "2012 FMQ Challenge" group, click on your best photo in that group, ideally one that shows the stencil and how you quilted using that stencil. Copy the URL link to your particular photo entry. Add that link to the linky tool above, to officially enter this show.

note: While there was a unique group for the January challenge, based on feedback a Flickr group has been created that will hold all your photos for the remaining monthly challenges, so you will not need to rejoin a group on Flickr every month.

A lucky winner swill be randomly selected and announced on the main page for this event the middle of June.  A monthly prize bundle will be provided with items donated by Aurifil, SewSlip, Sewline, and Quilters Touch.  Remember only one link (entry) per person that has taken the pledge to learn and/or improve their Free Motion Quilting Skills, on a home sewing machine, in 2012.
Dana (Stormy Days) has also written an excellent tutorial for using linkies, so please take time to read her tutorial if you are not familiar with linkys or have any questions about linkys, in general. Please read the rules above, before you enter by way of adding a link below.

To officially be entered in the 2012 FMQ Challenge please take time to fill out the "
Pledge Form" . Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out an easy way to get the email addresses collected in the Pledge Form to automatically load to my MailChimp mailing list, as originally planned. While I apologies, I do ask, if you want to receive email reminders when new FMQ tutorials are released each month, please also sign up via the special mailing list for this activity. And, don't forget that the page labeled "2012 Free-Motion Quilting Challenge" is the main page for the FMQ challenge and will be updated throughout the year, to provide a summary of current info and appropriate links. There are two "optional" groups that you may also want to join to network with others participating in this challenge:

  • Those on Facebook, may also want to join the "2012 Free Motion Quilting" group.
  • MyQuiltPlace is a free forum hosted by AQS.  There are a number of fun reasons to join this forum, but for those participating in this challenge, the group "Free Motion Quilting on a Domestic Machine" has recently been created, as an option for those that do not want to use Facebook.
  • If you have not yet completed the previous tutorials:
    • The January tutorial, by Frances Moore, will be available for you to complete anytime.
    • The February tutorial, by Diane Gaudynski was originally planned to be pulled at the end of February, but Diane has approved that her tutorial be left on line for an extended period. To clarify, a date to remove Diane's tutorial has not yet been determined. But, if you have not yet had time to complete the February tutorial I want to encourage you to take time to take advantage of having her excellent tutorial being currently available.   
    • The March tutorial, by Ann Fahl was only available during the month of March. To clarify, this tutorial will be removed shortly, in keeping with the condition by this FMQ Expert. 
    • "Bonus" tutorials will be released, this summer, that will also be options for those needing to complete 12 FMQ tutorials anytime in 2012 to be eligible to enter to win a Grand Prize.

    Copyright exemption:  While posts (photos & content) on SewCalGal are copyright protected, whereby you need permission from SewCalGal, and from other sources, such as the FMQ Expert/Designer, this individual post, aka "May 2012 FMQ Challenge Tutorial, by Leah Day" has the approval of Leah Day and SewCalGal, for you to print, share, and teach using this tutorial, as you like.    For SewCalGal, this Copyright Exemption applies to only this post.


    Janet O. said...

    I have been following Leah for some time and have learned so much from her. I am glad that many months ago I read what she had to say about feed dogs. My machine is one of those that does so much better at FMQ with the feed dogs up, and I never would have considered that if she hadn't written about it. I do appreciate her generous nature in sharing her designs, her skills and her knowledge gained from experience.

    Quilt Junkie said...

    Wonderful video! Thanks for posting!

    Anonymous said...

    Having just completed her recent QAL, I can attest to the fact that she is a marvelous gifted quilter and teacher. She has the patience and clarity of expression to convey her wonderful skills resulting in her students/followers gaining much. Above all, she is a wonderful sweet "gal next door" we all wish we had!!! Hugs, Doreen

    teachpany said...

    Wonderful post Leah! Thanks for the info. I enjoy your videos on your blog, as well. I look forward to this practice.

    Carol said...

    Great videos and information. These FMQ designs are my speed. I love them and can't wait to give it a try.

    jackie said...

    Hi Leah: I love the double stippling as I am doing lots of donation quilts now (baby size, lap size) and this would be a great way to do these really quick. My question is if I am doing a quilt of that size do I do the entire quilt with the first pass and then go back with the second?
    Thanks, Jackie

    Leah said...

    Jackie - Yep! If you want to, mark the wiggly foundation line starting in the center of your quilt and curving around and down to fill in each section in rows. Once that foundation is set, all the pins should be removed and the quilt mostly stable so it will be much easier to go over the surface with the second step of the design. Play with the idea bit and make sure you're comfortable with it before trying it on your quilt.

    Good luck!

    Leah Day

    MalinisQuilts said...

    Wow! Love the rail track design. Wow, its amazing what we could do stippling designs.

    Snoodles said...

    This is wonderful...I'm jumping in here a little late, but so happy to be learning a new skill. Thank you Leah, and all of the other teachers, too. I, too, make small quilts and I am so happy that my question was already answered above....I was wondering how to do the double stippling on one. I'll practice and then try it out! Thanks again!

    Anonymous said...

    These look like they'd be fun and easy to do! I can't wait to try them! Thanks, Leah!

    Valerija Mezhybovska said...

    I´ve been waiting sooo long for your tutorial, Lea! It´s really wonderful, you´ve made a great job for all us! I love this pattern, it´s a kind of fractal so we can all use so much math in our quilts!

    Anonymous said...

    Thank you, Leah
    You so generously.

    Terry@ a quilting blog said...

    What a fun way to learn, and practice, free motion quilting...thanks Leah!

    June D said...

    Fabulous Leah! I have already made my first test pieces - these were both easy to do - but look very nice on the fabric. Thank you for all your guidance.

    Marjorie's Busy Corner said...

    Leah.....thank you for this video. You explain everything so nicely and easily to understand.

    Bouts Choisis said...

    A brilliant and inspiring tutorial from Leah - can't wait to get started on this one! Many thanks, Leah!

    Anonymous said...

    I too have been following Leah's blog for a long time, but very seldom did I try out any of her designs. I'm so glad I found out about this challenge of yours. I've learned so much already, and am much more confident in my ability to actually do fmq, thanks to your challenge. I just quilted a tablerunner using what I've learned from this challenge and Leah's blog. THANK YOU!!

    Mary Ann said...

    Counter-sinking the ending stitch with a needle is a great idea - thank you!

    Bobbie said...

    I linked my blog back to you! I am having way too much fun with FMQ! Thank you!!!!

    Jeanne said...

    Leah you are a great teacher with a great way of explaining the process so a beginner like me can understand & follow along. I am excited I found you & now am following your blog too. Thanks for this inspiring video.

    quilter99755 said...

    This was a good lesson, but then since I've been following your 365 days of quilting I would have expected no less of you. Keep up the great work...I have no doubt that you will be listed as one of the 21st century's best and brightest.

    Luz2Quilt said...

    Leah is an outstanding teacher who can articulate and demonstrate with such ease. Above all, her generosity is examplary with her FREE FMQ Project. I can't get enough of her blog. Thank you Leah, I thorougly enjoyed this tutorial and all your others.

    Sue Halter said...

    This was a fun challenge! Thanks Leah, for a great, informational tutorial.

    kbgrenier said...

    Loved the tutorial! So much information. I especially needed the hint about how to quilt with the feed dogs up by setting the stitch length to zero. Never thought of it - but my machine is much happier and almost no tension problems this way! Thanks so much!!!