Thursday, July 17, 2014

Striving for Improvement

I've been free motion quilting (FMQ) for a long time now, and would describe myself as an experienced machine quilter.  NOT perfect; experienced.  I've taken classes with some of the BEST, sometimes even more than once with a teacher!  Harriet Hargrave, Diane Gaudynski, Sue Nickels, Sally Terry, Patsy Thompson, and recently, Natalia Bonner.  Coming up at Quiltcon, I will have a class with Angela Walters.  And in the fall, spending a week with Sue Nickels at the 1st Annual Holly Girls Camp.  I guess I'm serious about improving my skills!

But a quilter I've admire for a long time is Leah Day.  I think my friend Cathy M first pointed me to Leah's website and her 365 patterns and The Free Motion Quilting Project.  Since then, I've used her website as a resource constantly and purchased a few of her books.  She's a beautiful young quilter, maybe in her 30's? and looks about 17.  The information and guidance she gives striving quilters is amazing, and much of it is free.  So when something is offered that I can buy, I feel compelled to support her efforts.  She is so generous--even the videos on her website can be watched--FREE!

Back in January 2014, a new project began, the Building Blocks Quiltalong.  This project is a year long effort with skill-building in both piecing and machine quilting, in a block by block quilt-as-you-go technique.  Each Monday, a new FREE video is posted.  First one of the month introduces us to some piecing and we make 3 or 4 of one block design.  The next few weeks, each Monday a new video is posted with quilting demo,and we then quilt each block in a different pattern.

Not certain about committing to the project, I joined the Facebook group for the project and just watched.  Until earlier this month, when I decided I really needed to do it.  The approximately 90 page pattern is $24, and you download and print.  It contains all the fabric requirements, piecing instructions, and traceable quilting patterns for the blocks.  When you have a block set done, you can post it on the Facebook group page.  Lastly, when all blocks are done, we will learn how to join them. I've never made a quilt this way, so it will be interesting!

First up--the fabric.  Leah recommends using solids and contrasting thread.  You are not allowed to hide the quilting!  The point is to learn.  I calculated that even using inexpensive Kona cottons, it would cost $65 to buy fabric.  I have a stash---I wanted to use what I had!  I don't buy large pieces, so that was challenging.  But I decided making the quilt should not require purchasing more fabric.  Went to my solids, and pulled fabrics I thought coordinated, so it will be a little 'scrappy' (not just 2 solids). Khaki-ish on the right, for the backgrounds, and on the left blues & greens for the main fabrics.

 As it is already July, I have to CATCH UP!  You piece, then quilt.  I did that for the first 2 block sets, then one night when I just wanted to piece, I made the next three sets.  There is a solid dark grey for the back, cut a bunch of those squares.  Went to batting remnants and cut the needed 10" squares for a bunch of those---great way to use up those odd batting pieces!

Not in order of the pattern,  here is some of my work so far.

One exercise, not pictured here, was on scale.  Each block had 4 areas and the same design was used, altering the scale.  I found that very, very challenging!  Working really small is very different for the muscles.  I've also done all the lines FMQ---no walking foot!  It's surprisingly easier than I would have thought and looks pretty good.  Marked lines are necessary, though.

Leah recommends using a lightbox or window and marking the designs on the blocks.  I am not fond of marking.  If it is a line, I mark it. Bigger circles are marked.  The rest I am winging.  She says marking is easier for beginngers; agreed--but am not a beginner.  The goal for all would be at least minimal marking.  I like all over designs on some quilts, and never mark those.

The first 5 sets are done, so I am up to May.  I can catch up to them pretty quickly I think.  The Facebook group is very nice, very supportive of our efforts.  I've noticed a lot of nit-picking, even in the quilting groups, on Facebook lately.  Ugh----so negative!  But that's a topic for another day.....


  1. Your blocks look great - not just good but GREAT. I admire your willingness to constantly push yourself to new heights. You inspire me. Oh look....a squirrel.:)

  2. Thanks Cathy! You have inspired me in so many ways, and I thank yu for that too!