The Free Motion Quilting Project

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Episode 27: Quilting Along with Margaret Leuwen

Hello My Quilting Friends! Today I'm chatting with Margaret Leuwen the business owner behind MissMarkersQuilts.com. Margaret is a longarm quilter, shares YouTube videos, and hosts fun quilt alongs throughout the year. Listen to Margaret's interview here, or download to your computer:


We also have the podcast on video now so you can see what I'm working on through the introduction!


Click Here to find all the podcast episodes shared so far.

For the past few years Margaret has shared quilt along projects online. This year instead of one massive quilt along, she's sharing Quilt of the Quarter - four different quilts which take a quarter of the year to create and are made with fat quarters! Her last Quilt of the Quarter will be this beautiful Christmas tree quilt using Kaffe Fasset fabrics:



Click Here to check out the videos for Olivia's Quilt, the first Quilt of the Quarter.

Click Here to check out the videos for Lyon's Quilt, the second Quilt of the Quarter.

All of the Quilts of the Quarter are projects Margaret designs herself to tackle her fat quarter stash. She designs the quilt patterns so you can make multiple sizes depending on how many fat quarters you start with. This is great because fat quarters are often something I collect, but find hard to use up!

Margaret shares the How-To information of her quilt alongs on YouTube and shares any written directions on Facebook. She has trouble with the written directions, but can easily show you how to do something in video.

She learned how to do this when her daughter was in Idaho and wanted to learn how tie a quilt. Margaret tried to write out the directions, but that didn't work so she grabbed a camera and shot a video of Margaret, her sister, and her mom teaching her daughter how to tie a quilt.

Margaret started a blog and kept it going for awhile, but just didn't feel like it got traction. She was focusing more on her longarm quilting business and her YouTube channel and her fans kept asking for a Facebook Group which really took off this year. Click Here to check out Margaret's Facebook Group.

She is also a longarm quilter and recently built a beautiful studio to hold her Gammill longarm. Click Here to watch the video series on how she and her husband built her studio.


This building is shared between Margaret and her husband, but she is using more of the space for her longarm quilting machine and storage loft upstairs.

She's been longarming for five years and her customers are split between local customers and mailed in quilts. She's attracted more customers from her YouTube channel and Facebook group. She doesn't film videos on her longarm because she rarely is quilting something for herself and doesn't feel comfortable showcasing an issue or mistake on a customer's quilt.

Margaret does a lot of edge to edge patterns, but also does custom quilting as well. She will often look at the quilt and pick something to focus on with the quilting design. When she bought her longarm, she knew it was going to be a business and wanted a professional machine. She still loves her Gammill machine and uses it for both free motion quilting and the automated system for edge to edge quilting.

Another way Margaret interacts with quilters is a Youtube Livecast every Sunday at 2 pm. It's become a relaxed time when Margaret shares her real life and hangs out with her quilting friends online. Her family will often pop in during the video and she flows with it and shares the projects and events that have happened through the week. Click Here to check out Margaret's videos.

Margaret is most looking forward to watching her grandchildren grow up, being apart of her loving family, and continuing to teach and share quilting. Click Here to check out Margaret's website.

Podcast Sponsor

We have a new helpful quilting tool available this week! We have a new set of Microtip Bottles which will be very useful for sewing and quilting. This set of empty bottles are available in a 2-pack so you can fill one with fabric glue for applique and fill the second bottle with sewing machine oil to keep your machine running smoothly.

Click Here to check it out.

Now for news from around the house:

I've finally gotten back to my mini tree art quilts. I got a bit stuck with this project and set the quilts aside when things got too busy this summer. While I talked through the intro I was clipping away the batting on the back around the tree shapes so after they're quilted the trees will stand out extra puffy on the surface.


This technique is called trapunto and you can see a step-by-step tutorial for this technique in the Heart & Feather Wholecloth Workshop. Clipping batting from the back of a quilt is one of my favorite things to do and a big reason why I've made several wholecloth quilts over the years.

I got a bit stuck on my tree quilts which I talked about at the beginning of the podcast. When you've made something pretty and unique it's really easy to start looking at it and think "I'm just going to mess this up." That's what I was doing and it was silly! My goal is to push past those negative thoughts and get at least one of these further in the quilting process.

I've also been working on the quilts in the book as well as photography, which is coming along great. There's a lot I still don't know, but that's okay. I'm feeling a lot more confident about my abilities and less worried that the book will look bad or low quality. I know I'm trying my best, and that's the most important thing!

James went back to school this week and I'm really happy to be getting back to a schedule and having a nice block of quiet time in the morning. In just two days it feels like my energy level is through the roof and that's largely because I'm an introvert - I rebuilt energy by being alone.

I really, really, REALLY like to be alone most of the day, and that's just not possible in the summer. Now that we're back to school I'm feeling energized, relaxed, and super happy for James starting 4th grade.

So that's it for the updates from my neck of the woods! Make sure to check out Margaret Leuwen's website right here and join her for a live cast on YouTube every Sunday.

By the way, would you like to be on the show or recommend a quilter you'd like to learn more about? Please contact us and let's set it up! I can never have enough quilting friends!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Quilting Crazy Curves on a Wonky Christmas Tree Quilt

Today I'm finishing my Wonky Christmas Tree quilt with a super simple quilting design called Crazy Curves in the border. This beautiful texture is the perfect contrast to the Swirling Water design we quilted last week.

Learn how I quilted the border of this quilt in this new tutorial video!


Yep, I noticed the lights on the machine were too bright in this video. I'm taking steps to fix that for the next video. Sorry about that!

Click here to find all the videos shared so far on this machine.

Just in case this is first post you've found on this Wonky Christmas Tree quilt I have a few more videos for you to check out.


Click here to find the free quilt pattern for the Wonky Christmas Tree quilt. It's a super easy, free form piecing design that makes super cute trees!

For this quilt, I pieced three blocks together and surrounded them with a white border. This turned out a bit ho-hum with the gray background fabric, so I decided to really stitch it up a notch with extra special machine quilting.

The first step was to secure the layers of the quilt together so I stitched in the ditch on the Grace Qnique 14+ around the trees and outlines of the blocks.


Have you ever stitched in the ditch with free motion quilting? While it is a little easier to stitch in the ditch with walking foot quilting it's absolutely possible to stitch in the ditch with free motion quilting to. Just need to slow down to keep better control over your quilting stitches.

After stitching in the ditch I flipped the quilt over and quilted the background around the Christmas tree with Razzle Dazzle thread in the bobbin. This technique allows you to quilt with thread that's too thick to pass through your needle. Click here to find that tutorial on the bobbin thread work.


After filling in the background of each block, the quilt was really looking good, but I wanted to fill in the borders as well so it would hang well on the wall and have a balanced, beautiful quilting design. I decided to quilt this space with Crazy Curves using Magnifico thread.


The best thing about the Crazy Curves quilting design is its free-form forgiving nature. The lines get closer together and further apart doesn't matter at all. In fact the more irregular the curving lines are quilted the prettier this design will look on your quilts.

Even the Christmas tree block that I didn't like looks great when surrounded completely with Crazy Curves. Some people say the quilting makes the quilt but I think in this case border design made the quilt and it's my favorite part of this wall hanging!


What do you think of this Crazy Curves design? What designs would you have quilted in the border of this quilt? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Friday, August 18, 2017

Learn how to Quilt Super Wobble! Design #485

Thank you all so much for sharing your sweet comments and love over our 8th anniversary! It's wonderful to hear from you all and know that our videos are helping you master machine quilting. Today I have a new free motion quilting design tutorial that's super easy and fun. It's Super Wobble!


I really love SUPER designs like Super Wobble because it can quickly secure the layers of your quilt together with simple, open lines of quilting. If you're looking for more designs like this make sure to check out the quilting tutorials on Super Spiral, Super Triangle, and Super Star.

Learn how to machine quilt this design in this new quilting tutorial:


Would you like to see even more inspiring free motion quilting designs? Click Here to check out the Quilting Design Gallery which includes links to the 485 designs I've shared online so far.

Be inspired as you stitch with the book 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs. This beautiful picture book is filled with hundreds of designs that will help you finish your quilts with amazing texture.

Now let's learn more about quilting Super Wobble:

Difficulty level – Super Beginner. This is a very easy design to machine quilt. Begin in the center of your quilting space and quilt a simple amoeba-like shape. If you have a specific shape in mind like a flower, consider marking a few lines to guide you right at the beginning. After you quilt the beginning shape, all you have to do is echo around it as you spiral from the center.

The one thing that's kind of a pain when starting in the center is the thread tails. Make sure to keep the tails long so you can tie off and bury them in the middle layer of your quilt. Sometimes it'll take a few spins around the Super Wobble spiral before you're far enough away from the starting point to tie off and bury the thread tails.

Click Here to find a tutorial on securing your thread tails.

Design family – Center Fill. Designs like Super Wobble begin the center of your quilting space and radiate out. Filling from the center like this is nice when quilting a real quilt because the more you quilt, the easier it will feel because you'll have less and less quilt bulk in the arm of the machine.


Where do we quilt it? Designs like Super Wobble are made to fill blocks or quilts. I think this would look great quilted over an entire quilt to create a massive Super Wobble over the entire surface. This is very similar to how I used Super Spiral to quilt the Mega Star Quilt:


Imagine a huge Super Wobble stitched over your whole quilt! The best thing is you could quilt this entirely with walking foot quilting. This is one design that will work with both types of quilting and easily expand to fill your quilt quickly to simple, flowing texture.

Where do you think Super Wobble will look best? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Happy Anniversary! 8 Years and Counting!

Happy Happy Happy Anniversary! Yes, it's been 8 years since this blog began and this week we're celebrating with a huge Anniversary Sale!


Almost everything in the quilt shop is on sale this week and you'll find all downloadable patterns, books, and quilting workshops are 50% off! If you've been wanting to dig deeper into quilting and take a class with me, now is your chance to jump into a class at a great price.

Click Here to check out all our quilting workshops.

We've also discounted quilting tools and supplies 15% off as well so you'll find great deals throughout the quilt shop. Click Here to shop now!

It's hard to believe it's only been 8 years - sometimes it feels like a million and sometimes it feels like it couldn't have possibly been that long. All I know is I feel so thankful that I took a chance, followed my gut, and took the first step on this incredible journey that night in 2009.

Here's to another awesome year of quilting!

Leah Day

Monday, August 14, 2017

How to Quilt a Super Sixteen Dresden Plate Block

Time to quilt our Super Sixteen Dresden Plate quilt block! I think this design is one of my favorites because it's almost like there's a second set of petal shapes quilted over the Dresden Plate petals filled with Pebbling and Echoes.

How to quilt a dresden plate quilt block

For this design I marked the feather wreath and the petal shapes that overlap the Dresden Plate petals. I always mark feather wreaths because they are very hard to quilt freehand. Without marks, angling the first and last feather in the circle is almost impossible. See what I mean in this new quilting tutorial video:



How to quilt a dresden plate quilt block
Click here to find the quilt pattern for this Super Sixteen Dresden Plate quilt block which also comes with the full size printable quilting design so you can mark your block and easily quilt on the marked lines!

What did you think of the feather wreath design? I love this shape because it's so simple and elegant, but it can be tricky to machine quilt. Take your time quilting around each feather shape and please don't hesitate to mark it.

No matter what anyone says, marking a quilt is not cheating - it's the only way to quilt a symmetrical shape and certainly the only way to quilt a feather wreath that doesn't have an obvious beginning and end point. Just be sure to use a marking pen or pencil that you've tested so you're sure it will come out after you're done quilting.

I use a Ceramic Marking Pencil for marking medium to dark fabrics and I like the Fine Line Water Soluble Pen for marking light fabrics. I've used both for years and the marks are reliable, they stay in long enough to quilt the quilt, then erase or wash out completely when the quilting is done.

It's such a delight to see your pictures and beautiful quilt blocks in the Block Party Facebook Group! Sue C has already quilted her Super Sixteen Dresden Plate and changed up the design a bit to create heart shapes over the Dresden Plate petals. I love it!

How to quilt a dresden plate quilt block

Here's a really cool variation of our Triple Tulip quilt block created by Cindy H. I love the thread painting she added to the flowers and the small feathers in the border!

How to quilt a flower quilt block

And a super exciting quilt was posted by Denise B. She entered last year's Sunshine Surprise quilt in a local quilt show and won first place!

Sunshine Surprise Quilt

It's so wonderful to see all your photos and how much everyone grows throughout the year with machine quilting. Whenever I question whether teaching online is working, all I have to do is check in on the Block Party Facebook Group and see the beautiful photos to know we're on the right path. I've seen so many quilters go from terrified of taking a single stitch to knocking it out of the ball park with award winning quilts!

So what did you think of our Super Sixteen Dresden Plate block? Do you like more petals on a Dresden Plate or less? How did you quilt this fun block? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bobbin Thread Work on the Grace Qnique Longarm

Ready to add some bling to your quilts? The best possible way to do this is with bobbin thread work - a super cool technique where you quilt upside down with thicker threads in the bobbin. Sound tricky? See how I quilted with thick Razzle Dazzle threads in this new video:


Click Here to find all the videos on the Grace Qnique 14+ I've shared so far. This is a terrific machine for free motion quilting because it's simple, sturdy, and has a 15-inch harp so you have a lot more room to quilt bigger quilts.

Click Here to find the Wonky Christmas Tree free quilt pattern. Dad and I have pieced three blocks together to create skinny wall hangings / table runners for Christmas gifts. Maybe this year I'll be on the ball and have nice handmade gifts ready to give!

Now for the bobbin thread work technique: I set my machine up a bit differently when quilting with thicker threads.

First I stitched in the ditch around the trees and between the edges of the blocks and the border. Last week I received a lot of questions about why I quilted in the ditch on the longarm instead of with a walking foot on my home machine.

The reason is simple - the quilt was on the longarm! I also like showing that you can stitch in the ditch with free motion quilting. You just need to slow down a bit and take your time quilting along the lines.


When setting up for bobbin work, I threaded the top of the machine with Superior Threads Magnifico thread and cranked down on the top tension to pull the thread tight to the quilt.

I wound a bobbin filled with Superior Threads Razzle Dazzle, but I didn't adjust the tension of my bobbin case. I don't like fiddling with my bobbin case tension because I don't have a second case yet for playing around.

It's nice to keep a case set at the correct tension for the thread you use most often so you don't have to keep fiddling and adjusting the tension which can sometimes be a pain to reset.

After setting up the machine, I tested the threads to make sure it looked good on the front and back of a practice sandwich, then I began quilting the Wonky Christmas Tree quilt with the back of the quilt face up.

I did have to remove all the pins and Pinmoors in the area so they wouldn't catch on the machine or table. With the stitching in the ditch I'd already established, I didn't really need the pins in the quilt anymore anyway.

Now a few things I learned:

For the first block I tried stitching right in the ditch along the lines I'd quilted last week, but this looked really weird. I ripped out that stitching and tried again, creating a wobbly line about 1/8-inch to the inside of the ditch and around the trees. That was my second mistake. The wobbly echo is just too busy on an already busy quilt with blingy thread.


I finished that first block and nearly threw the quilt in the trash. I really, really hated that effect!

But I must practice what I preach so I threw more thread at it and tried a straight line echo and that turned out much better.


The only difference here is the echoing line. The designs are the same and filled to the same amount. Which do you like better?

Bobbin thread work is going to be chunky and thick, particularly when you travel stitch over an area more than one time. I was quilting with Swirling Water and sometimes I'll travel stitch three or four times to fill this design into a space and that wasn't a good choice.

A better choice would have been a design like Basic Spiral which has minimal travel stitching and is much more open, plus it's faster to quilt. I'll give that design a try in the next Wonky Christmas Tree quilt and see if that works better.

Quilting is a continually learning, growing process. I could have chucked the quilt in the trash, but I wouldn't have learned anything from the experience. By continuing with the project, I learned more about what I like, more about what I don't like, and how to move forward even when a quilt isn't perfect.

I have three more Wonky Christmas Tree quilts ready for machine quilting so I expect to learn a lot more about quilting with funky threads and interesting designs while quilting these projects!

What do you think of bobbin thread work? Have you ever tried this technique? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Running Two Quilt Shops with Amy Johnson

Hello My Quilting Friends! I have a very fun interview for you today with Amy Johnson from Amy's Free Motion Quilting Adventures. Amy runs TWO quilt shops - her online quilt store and a brick and mortar sewing machine dealership in Lynchburg, VA.



We have new video versions of the podcast where you get to see what I'm working on through the beginning of the podcast. The interview section will just be a still image of Amy and I, but soon the entire podcast will be video!


Note: I have included affiliate links in this post that helps support this podcast.

Amy is well known for sharing tutorials for quilting with rulers. She's was one of the first quilters to try longarm rulers on her home machine and she's taught two Craftsy classes on this topic as well: Quilting with Rulers on a Home Machine and Creative Quilting with Rulers.

She started by simply blogging her quilting adventures, then taught the Craftsy class and opened an online store to carry the tools, rulers, and feet that support the classes. I send everyone to Amy's website for ruler feet because she will know what foot will fit your machine the best.

Amy was a stay at home mom, but then her husband was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and this changed their lives completely. Now he works repairing the sewing machines at Sew Simple, the machine dealership they own in Lynchburg, VA. They've just recently moved the shop to a new building that has a separate classroom so Amy has space for teaching and machines.


We worked together last year on the Tunic Challenge. Each week we shared our progress on a tunic from The Tunic Bible in blog posts. Come to think of it, I need to make another tunic for the summer!

We talked a bit about the challenges brick and mortar quilt shops are going through with competition from online stores. Many store owners feel like people are "show rooming" the shop and looking and checking things out, but then buying online to get a better deal. That trend is driving brick and mortar shops out of business because it is VERY expensive to run a physical quilt shop.

Amy is working so hard to manage her two businesses and we talked a bit about burnout. Working super long days, taking care of three kids, a household, and a storefront is so much to manage. I've struggled with burnout myself and I know there's only so long you can run fast and hard before something breaks.

Moving forward, Amy wants to focus more on her online business, be able to spend more time quilting and be able to step away from cutting fabric in the quilt shop. I keep telling her she needs to write a book, but as you'll see from the intro - that's a lot of work too!

Sponsor for the show:

The sponsor for the show this week is April Wells from Sew Darn Cute Quilting! April is a long arm quilter and she can finish your projects with simple edge to edge quilting or spice it up with full custom work. Her favorite thing to do is mid custom quilting that allows your piecing to shine. Click here to check out April's website and learn more about her long-term quilting services.

April has also been a guest on the show. Click Here to find her podcast episode so you can learn more about her.

Now for news around the house:

It's been a very busy two weeks as I finished the text of the book, gotten edits back from my editor Creative Girlfriends Press, made lots of corrections, and now I'm neck deep in photography.

If you watch the video intro you can see how I am shooting photographs in my backyard by pinning the quilt to the back of my house. I've learned so much about photography in the last two weeks as I shoot the photos for this book.

But along the way I've been struggling with feeling like I don't know what I'm doing or I'm doing it all wrong. I realized I need a new word for the second half of this year and that is trust. I have to trust that I'm doing a good job and it will be good enough for this book.

I'm using the Nikon 3400 camera and cheap tripod from Walmart. Dad screwed polystyrene boards to the back of the house and I've pinned a white sheet on top, then used a level to pin the quilt straight and square to the wall.

I also mentioned some ways that I'm speeding up my writing and working process. I'm writing using dictation with the Dragon Naturally Speaking app and also walking and writing on my makeshift treadmill desk.


What I hope you can see from this intro and sharing these photos is that my setup is not perfect, but I'm still able to get the job done even if I get a few bug bites along the way! I have to trust that it's going to be good enough.

I hope you enjoyed the podcast please go check out Amy Johnson's website and learn more about ruler for quilting and her awesome tutorials.

Also don't forget to check out April Wells's website and contact her for her long arm quilting services.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day
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