The Free Motion Quilting Project

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sew Darn Cute Longarm Quilting with April Wells

Hello My Quilting Friends! Today I have a great interview with April Wells, the longarm quilter behind Sew Darn Cute Quilting.

April is a professional longarm quilter and can cover quilts of all shapes and sizes with beautiful quilting. She offers multiple levels of quilting to fit any budget. Check out April's longarm pricing here.

However, April didn't start out as a longarm quilter. She wanted to make a quilt for her son and learned the basics making that baby quilt. She was a stay at home mom and quilting made her feel good and was something she could do while taking care of her children.

The turning point for machine quilting came with Cindy Needham's Design It Quilt It class on Craftsy which helped her master free motion quilting. She had lots of quilt tops to quilt so she bought her first frame, a small Grace wooden quilting frame from Craig's List and a Brother 1500.

She quilted on this small frame for quite awhile and even began quilting customer quilts on this setup before investing in a used Gammill 22 inch machine with steel frame.

April did feel the need to create a successful business once she purchased the Gammill simply because of the size and expense of the machine and frame. April loves quilting for others because she doesn't have to piece the quilt tops.

If you decide to try a quilting frame with a home machine, April advises you to find a steel frame because wood frames tend to bow in the middle as the quilt gets bigger and heavier. She also found using a stitch regulator really helped keep her stitches consistent.

Longarm Quilting by April Wells of Sew Darn Cute Quilting
April quilts using three different tiers of quilting to fit your budget and add pretty designs to the surface:

All Over Quilting - Covers the quilt with one single design and ignores the piecing design.

Mid Custom Quilting - A blend between full custom and all over quilting. She plays off some details from the piecing design to enhance the quilt.

Full Custom Quilting - Much more detailed quilting with dense designs and intense ruler work.

April mentioned that quilts seem to come in waves with lots of new quilt tops right around Christmas for gifts. She home schools her kids so she's able to take a break from school work and focus completely on quilting during the holidays to manage the extra demand.

This is one of the many ways I've found longarm quilting to be a great business for working moms. Learn more about April and check out her longarm quilting services on her website right here.

Our podcast sponsor this week is my website where you can find quilting tools and supplies to make quilting on your home machine much easier. Come check out the Machingers quilting gloves which I wear in every video because they help me grip the quilt and move it smoothly over the machine.

My dad prefers Quilting Grips which allow him to grip a small disc and reduces the pressure on his fingertips, which tends to aggravate his arthritis. Click Here to find more quilting tools from

Now for a few updates around the house:

It's officially summer and James and I took off for a short trip to Charleston just the two of us to visit with my sisters and their kids. I ended up keeping all four kids at once which was an adventure! James being 10, I really haven't been around little kids much recently and it was a fun challenge to keep them all entertained.

Thankfully we had stopped by a Tandy Leather store on the way down in Columbia, SC and picked up a few kits for the kids. If you've never tried leather work, it's very simple (at least from a quilter's perspective) and I've found many designs from quilting can be carved easily into leather.

I kept things simple with the kids and let them stamp and bang shapes into leather as much as they liked and helped James and his oldest cousin stitch projects together.

I love learning new crafts and I got into leather this winter after realizing it's much easier to nail a costume together with leather and rivets than to try sewing it together. I plan to experiment with this even more as I've been continually getting an impulse to make some small art quilts.

I've mentioned this before I think, but when your brain fires off a message like "Hey wouldn't it be fun to try..." it's a good idea to follow that nudge and see where it leads. I'll be sharing a post about this maybe over the weekend to share a new art quilt I'm working on and the many crafts I'm combining in the process.

Several quilters wrote in to ask how things are going with James and transcription this summer. I've found so long as I keep the audio files short - so under 10 minutes he does really well. Any more than that and it's really hard to keep him motivated.

I haven't been giving him much on that project because I've been 100% focused on my book on walking foot quilting. This has been in progress since last summer, but had to be put aside and now it's crunch time! I'm getting up earlier in the morning and setting aside the first two hours every day to writing.

I plan to keep this up even after this book is complete because I've realized I have so much more I want to teach and share and books are a great vehicle for that. So my goal is to have the text of this new book nailed together by Saturday July 1st so I can hand it off to my editor, Janice Brewster from Creative Girlfriends Press.

A block from a quilt in the book. Yep, this was quilted
with a walking foot!
Josh and I are debating whether to do the layout ourselves or to have that done by a professional as well. This is one of those things that I can do, but I don't like to do it because you have to be very consistent - each quilt arranged the same way on the page, getting the bleed just right, the text arranged properly. All that is highly detailed and it can eat up days and days of time.

So I'm going to hand off the rough layout to Josh first and he's going to get started, then I'll go back over and polish, then hand it back to Josh and I think we'll bounce back and forth like that until it's done. We worked this way together on the Mega Star Walking Foot workshop we recently released and it worked really well.

I want to do this myself because if we increase our speed with books, getting one layout down and solid will be like a template for other books. Also it's a lesson in keeping things simple, making it easy. The more I complicate it, the more time it takes so this will be a challenge to simplify the process.

Speaking of simplifying, I've read a great book this week - The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It's a very short read, but super helpful for any creative person wanting to make something scary. So if you've been thinking about writing a book, making a very different quilt, trying a new craft, please read this book.

I've listened to it twice (I got the audiobook) and identified many ways I've let resistance beat me down. Listening to this book really fired me up and I think you'll like it too.

I think the key is slow, steady work. Working on the book every morning for two hours is not going to get it done in a day, but it will make steady progress. This has also worked on my evening project. Every evening I watch a show like Legends of Tomorrow with James and work on his puff quilt. Don't worry, I will be making a video on this puff quilt soon!

The steps to making this quilt are complicated and time consuming, but by working at it for just 30 minutes every day, it's nearly done and I know I would never have sustained this interest if I'd been stitching it in fits and bursts.

All in all it's been a great summer so far and I love working on all of these projects. I'd also love to hear from you! Please let me know if you'd like to be on the show or you have a special quilter in mind. I'm always eager to meet new quilters and make new quilting friends!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, June 26, 2017

Machine Quilting Adventure on the Road Work Quilt

Last month I collaborated with Sheri Cifaldi Morrill from Whole Circle Studio and quilted her mini Road Work quilt with a very simple design using ruler foot quilting. Click Here to check out that post.

Now it's time for me to fess up - Sheri actually sent me two Road Work mini quilts! Now it's time to hit the road and quilt this block with a totally new design.

As you can see, I really went for it this time! For the first mini Road Work I got stuck on it being a ROAD, but for this version I decided to completely ignore the road effect.

In fact, I ignored almost all of the pieced shapes except for the tiny pieced triangles. That was the only shape I stitched in the ditch. because my goal was to quilt free form and allow the quilting design to take shape and flow across the quilt surface. See how I quilted it step by step in this new video:

Click Here to find Sheri's pattern for the Road Work quilt which includes instructions for the mini, throw, twin, and queen sized quilt.

This quilting design looks really intense, but it started very simply. I marked a mixture of curving lines and straight lines to break up the space and make it clear to my brain - you are not quilting a road here!

Then I thought about one of my favorite designs, Tree Roots, and drew the lines branching out from the triangles to hit the curving line. Then I just kept drawing curving lines and a few straight lines until the space felt broken up into small enough pieces.

After breaking it up, I picked a few more designs to quilt including Pebbles in a Stream, Modern Weave, and Garden Maze. I wanted a lot of high contrast with straight lines and sharp angles juxtaposed to soft curving lines and stitched circles.

I also intentionally travel stitched to create bold thread effects on the quilt surface. I've used this technique a lot since Duchess Reigns and I think I need to experiment with thicker threads!

This takes awhile and I have to quilt multiple passes when quilting with Isacord so maybe I should try some 28 wt thread. It's on my list to experiment with more types and thicknesses of thread next month.

Overall I'm delighted with the results! Yes, this is very, very different from the first version of Road Work. I set myself free from the pieced design and focused on the filler designs I love best. The ultimate test is to check the back and yep, it's just as pretty as the front:

Don't forget to check out the first video quilting the Road Work quilt with ruler foot quilting. Click here to check out that video.

What do you think about this quilting design? Do you like this take on the Road Work quilt better than the first or less? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Machine Quilting Cool Leaves on a Baby Quilt

We're continuing with our baby quilt project and this week my baby has provided the inspiration for the design! James had an idea for this corner of the quilt and I asked him to draw me a picture.

After a bit of work, we came up with this new Cool Leaves quilting design. Learn how to quilt it on a baby quilt in this new video:

Would you like to learn more about the machine I'm using in this video? Click Here to find more videos on the Grace Qnique 14+ longarm machine.

quilting a baby quilt
They key with quilting Cool Leaves is to quilt your initial leave shape nice and big so it covers 2-3 inches of space on your quilt.

You want the shape to be big to start because you quilt inside and add two lines within the shape. If you quilt the leaf shape too small to start, you may not have room to fit these extra lines.

You also want to quilt the leaf designs big so they take up lots of space on the baby quilt and cover the surface quickly.

The hardest part of this design is getting the leaves to fit together nicely through the weird areas that often pop up while quilting. In the video I ended up with a very weird spot that I could have handled better if I'd marked the design or thought through it a bit more.

But at the same time, who would notice it if I didn't point it out!? No one!

quilting a baby quilt

I've loved quilting this baby quilt with these larger quilting designs. It's so nice to be finishing a long unfinished project and knowing it's going to be finished very soon. Next week I have another video quilting this baby quilt with rulers.

I have a little bit of space between the Clouds design we quilted before and the edges of the quilt and it looks like the perfect space to quilt straight lines with rulers and transform the Clouds into Rainy Day! Be looking forward to this video tutorial coming next week.

Learn how to quilt Rain Clouds on a baby quilt

Click Here to find all of the videos we've shared so far on the Grace Qnique as well as all the videos on this baby quilt project.

Of course I'm always open to more suggestions for new videos so please share your ideas in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, June 23, 2017

How to Machine Quilt Under the Stairs, Design #479

Wait, is this a tutorial for quilting under the stairs, or a new machine quilting design Under the Stairs? Lol!

I actually have a little Harry Potter style closet under the stairs in my house. It's a cute little space and I think I could cram a sewing machine inside if Josh didn't use it for all of his fish tank equipment. Instead of trying to quilt under the stairs, let's learn how to quilt the new design Under the Stairs.

Are you needing even more quilting inspiration today? Find an entire year's worth of quilting designs in my book 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs.

Now let's learn more about this new machine quilting design:

Difficulty Level - Beginner. This design is very easy because you're just quilting zigzaggy lines. However, a few times I caught myself going in the wrong direction. Partly that's from trying to talk and quilt at the same time, but sometimes I'd just forget what I was doing.

So as you're quilting just repeat the steps of the design - up, over, up, over, travel back, and if you make it a chant as you quilt, you won't forget what you're doing.

Design Family - Edge to Edge. Under the Stairs is based on the same idea as Left Turn Right Turn, Curvy Turns, and Angle Turns. Basically you stitch a shape in one direction, then stitch it in the other direction, back and forth to form a column of the design from one edge of your quilting space to the other.

The cool effects are created when the columns of the design interact together. If you aim for a completely random arrangement and don't pay attention to the shapes at all, you'll get something like my design in the video.

But if you do pay attention to what you're doing and intentionally quilt a repeating pattern of lines, here's what will happen:

Under the Stairs will form a chevron effect across your quilt when quilted very evenly in each column. This is challenging and I found myself breaking the rules of the design a few times in order to quilt this so evenly.

Now when you force the lines to mesh together from one column to the other, here's what you get:

See the cool grid effect? When quilting this version I focused on stitching the stair steps into one another and created the little boxes within the design as the lines came together.

The only thing that is changing between these different effects is what you focus on as you quilt the design. Does this sound complicated? It's actually really easy. Jump on your machine and see what works best for you!

Where Do We Quilt It? - Edge to Edge Designs are great for quilting in blocks, sashing, and borders because they easily fill from ditch to ditch.

They're also a great choice as an All Over Quilting design. The straight lines and sharp angles always makes a design feel more masculine to me so I think this would be a great choice if you're making a quilt for a guy.

Where would you like to quilt this design? Do you like angular designs like this or prefer curves better? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Monday, June 19, 2017

How to Piece a Flying Geese Border

flying geese border quilt pattern
It's Quilty Box time! Note: this post will contain affiliate links that help support our business. Quilty Box is a subscription treasure box filled with fabric, thread, and a quilt pattern created by a different designer. Click Here to learn more about Quilty Box.

Each month I open my Quilty Box, plan a new project, and share how to make it with you. I love the challenge of writing a new quilt pattern, shooting videos, and creating a new quilt and I hope you will join in the fun too! Click Here to find all of the free quilt patterns I've shared so far.

In this Quilty Box I was delighted to find a beautiful collection of fabrics and supplies selected by fabric designer and quilter Masako Wakayama, a Japanese quilter who designs traditional American-folk style quilts. That's just plain cool!

We received lots of Masako's beautiful fabric, including a cute printed fabric panel with flowers, houses, birds, and more printed on the surface. Learn what I did with this fabric panel in this new quilting tutorial:

Click Here to find this free quilt pattern.

Flying geese border quilt pattern

I decided to piece a flying geese border using Masako's fabric to surround the printed fabric panel. Piecing a border from multiple pieces is a lot more tricky than just piecing a plain fabric border with fabric strips and I admit - this is one of my least favorite things to piece because it has to be so EXACT.

Make sure to watch the video to find many tips on piecing a flying geese border and you can find all the exact cutting and piecing instructions in the free quilt pattern.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Machine Quilting Flowing Lines in a Baby Quilt

Happy Father's Day! I hope you're having a wonderful day celebrating the Dads in your life. We got the day started right with a big breakfast and later today we're going on a hike through the woods, one of Josh's favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Now for our Sit Down Quilting Sunday tutorial, lately I've been quilting an unfinished baby quilt with many simple quilting designs. So far we quilted Clouds in one corner and filled it with a fluffy sky design.

Quilting a Baby Quilt

Then last week we quilted Ocean Currents in another corner so we have a bit of a organic / earth theme going on in this baby quilt.

quilting a baby quilt

The main design you see running through the center of the quilt is Swirling Water and I quilted that more than 3 years ago for a Craftsy class Free Motion Fillers Vol 1.

So this baby quilt definitely has a lot of personality now with many interesting designs. Let's add one more as we quilt Flowing Lines into another corner of the quilt:

Would you like to learn more about the machine I'm using in this video? Click Here to find more videos on the Grace Qnique 14+ longarm machine.

quilting a baby quilt | flowing lines
They key with quilting Flowing Lines is to remember which type of line you're quilting.

You have echo lines that just echo the previously quilted line, and you have gap lines that travel along the line and branch out to form the interesting gaps and spaces between the lines.

If you want the design to be very simple, quilt simple gaps. Quilt a very gentle curve and return to your starting line to keep the design flowing gently.

If you want a more interesting, organic look, stitch a wild and wiggly gap! This will add extra texture to the baby quilt and make the next echo lines even more interesting.

quilting a baby quilt

I'm really enjoying quilting these larger designs on this baby quilt. It's so nice to be finishing a long unfinished project and knowing it's going to be finished very soon. Next week I have another video quilting this baby quilt with a new design James has named Cool Leaves. I think you'll definitely like this new design.

Click Here to find all of the videos we've shared so far on the Grace Qnique as well as all the videos on this baby quilt project.

Of course I'm always open to more suggestions for new videos so please share your ideas in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, June 16, 2017

How to Machine Quilt Cut Ribbons, Design #478

This week I was cutting ribbons for a present and thought hmm...this could make a neat free motion quilting design. That's all it takes these days to make me jump on the machine and quilt something new!

You've probably noticed by now that a lot of my designs are based on previous designs. How this works is subtle variations in shape, how the lines connect, touch or don't touch, whether the lines are straight, curved, hook, or point all play a roll in how a design appears on your quilt.

So many designs can look completely different, but be quilted almost exactly the same way. In this case Cut Ribbons works like Flowing Glass, Wiggly Tentacles, and Basic Maze.

If you looked at all of these designs together like in the image on the left, they all have very different quilted effects, but they are all quilted the same way. Learn how in this new quilting video:

Quilting a design in a little square is one thing, but what about a real quilt? What about a really BIG quilt? Learn how to machine quilt the biggest quilts in the quilting workshop Quilting a King on Your Home Machine.

Now let's learn a bit more about Cut Ribbons:

Difficulty Level - Beginner. Cut Ribbons is a really easy design. Like last week's design Fire Flow, this is a great skill builder for echo quilting.

In this case I quilted my ribbons and left 1/4 inch of space between the wider ribbon lines and only 1/8 inch of space between the ribbons themselves. It can be harder to quilt lines spaced different distances consistently, but this design will give you lots of practice.

Design Family - Edge to Center. Remember how I said how several designs are quilted similarly? They are all members of the same Design Family which means they are quilted the same way, even if the lines are shaped differently.

In this case Cut Ribbons is quilted from the edge of your quilting space into the center. If you're quilting the sashing between your quilt blocks, the edge of your quilting space is the ditches. So you stitch along the ditch, then quilt the Cut Ribbon shape into the middle of the sashing.

Where Do We Quilt It? Designs like Cut Ribbons work great in quilt sashing and borders because you can quickly quilt through the space using the ditches, or seamlines between the blocks as the edges of your quilting space.

What do you think of this Cut Ribbons design? Where would you like to quilt it in your quilts? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Don't forget you can always find hundreds of quilting designs to quilt on your quilts in our Quilting Design Gallery.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day
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