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New You Tube Video

How to Piece Perfect QuiltsI’ve just gotten a new You Tube Video uploaded.  This video is special because it’s actually a sample video from my new Ebook and Video set “Stitch it Up a Notch: How To Piece Perfect Quilts.

This set is devoted to all things piecing!  I pieced 15 blue and white 9 patch quilts, over 100 9 patch blocks for the making of this project.  I don’t think I will ever look at a 9 patch block the same way again.

But making all of those quilts was necessary.  I really wanted to show not just how to piece, but how to plan and design a quilt from start to finish.  I focus on sashing, or the space between your quilt blocks, as an excellent area to create designs in the quilting process by widening this area and leaving more space between your blocks.

Quilting Beyond the DitchThe great thing about having 15 quilts, is that now I have to quilt them all!  My next ebook and video series will be “Stitch it Up a Notch: Quilting Beyond the Ditch.”  It should be finished by November 2009.

So here’s the newest video:  This is a sample video on Paper Piecing.


Leah Day


Thread Painting Disaster

Thread painting is wonderfully fun and can produce really amazing quilts. It can also produce pretty time consuming disasters.

Unfortunately my latest thread painting foray ended in total disaster.

Here’s the specs:

Thia project was originally started because I wanted to have a quilted portrait of myself to use as an avatar online and maybe even on my business cards.

My husband snapped the photo for me with our digital camera and I loaded it into the computer and blew it up to more than 300 times the original size. The project was going to end up making a medium sized wallhanging.

So my first mistake started when I selected the materials. I used white 100% cotton muslin that had been prewashed.  I had not, however, starched my fabric, or stabilized it in any way.

For stabilizer I was only using one layer of scrap batting that was just big enough to cover the fabric.

So after sketching the lines from the printed photograph onto the fabric using my lightbox, I immediately started thread painting.

The first part I started on was the flesh tones of the face because I figured this was the largest area to start with and I wouldn’t have many thread breaks.

So after painting the whole face, my lips and eyes were now bulging out of my head! I had extreme problems already with the non-painted areas puffing out and distorting the painted areas.

Rather than stop here while I was ahead, I forged on and did another 6 hours of thread painting on this disaster waiting to happen.

And to no avail.  This portrait is really not going to work out.  The distortion caused by incorrect stabilizing has lead to really sever problems with the whole piece.

This is a big lesson in when it’s time to let go and call it quits with a piece.  I have no qualms about putting 8 hours of work and more than $10 in thread into the trash because I know the alternative is to put another 20 hours into it and still not get anywhere.

I might try this project again because it’s really a good idea, but not for a while. I learned a lot of tips about thread painting from this disaster project, which is more valuable than any spectacular thread portrait avatar photo.

Check back soon for photos!

Wholecloth Quilts

Wholecloth quilts are quilts made of one single piece of cloth, hence the name “wholecloth.”  The design of these quilts is created entirely from the dense quilting stitches that form patterns and motifs across the surface of the quilt.

I must admit that just 6 months ago I would never have considered creating a wholecloth quilt.  They appeared way too difficult, stuffy, and a little too girly for my taste.

But then I met Karen McTavish.  Well, I didn’t technically “meet” her, I just stumbed across her website and bought bought all of her books (all of them are absolutely worth it) and finally learned the truth about wholecloth quilting.

You see, the only wholecloth quilt I’ve ever seen was a pre-printed panel at a quilting shop.  I hated the design, so, of course, I hated the quilt.

But now I understand the ease and simplicity of designing a wholecloth quilt. Unlike traditional pieced top, your totally open to pick any designs, and you have no limitation of fitting the motifs into spaces around blocks or appliques.

Take a design you like such as the scroll pattern over your fireplace.  Draw that onto a piece of large 1″ graph paper.  Now place that under a large piece of white fabric with a lightbox beneath and mark the design on your quilt.

Rotate the design, alter it slightly for borders, and you’ve got yourself an absolutely beautiful wholecloth quilt!

This might be intimidating for some people, but for me, this is true freedom! Since learning about wholecloth quilting I’ve transformed my entire quilting space. I now have a lightbox table the exact same height as my sewing tables so I can draft quilting patterns and easily mark tops.

I’ve even started my first wholecloth quilting project inspired by the movie The Duchess.  It’s so much fun to finally appreciate the quilting process as an art into itself!

Pictures and videos of The Duchess Quilt are soon to come!


Braided block tote bag

Green Border

Green Border

I’ve been hankering to make a really fabulous quilted handbag. I’m not particularly fond of the quilted bag patterns commonly found in quilting stores. They just look too much like diaper bags to me, though maybe I have that association because I still have an 18 month old in diapers, who knows.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to think up a pretty simple pattern that looks complex. I want the bag to be fairly large, but not so big people think you’re hauling the kitchen sink. It also has to have fabulous quilting, but that goes without saying.

Blue Border

So I start playing around with fabric and end up cutting up a favorite fabric I’ve saved for quite awhile.  Unfortunately, once pieced back together, I couldn’t quite figure out what border color to use with it.  As you can see here, the green clashes horribly with the orange fabric.

Now let’s try with blue – NO!

I realized by this time that the original fabric I choose was probably a bad choice. I always liked it because I could see the little purple dots, but overall, it reads just orange, orange, orange.

Now I try it to pair my orange disaster with other similar toned colors. Ah! Now this works much better.

It just goes to show that often the color you like in your fabric isn’t necessarily the color that is super apparent when you look at if from a far distance.  A great tip for being able to truly “see” a particular fabric or color is to take a photo of it.

Even if it’s in poor lighting, a color picture will minimize the image and allow you to judge the color value.  It might look odd to walk through your local fabric store taking photos of random fabric displays, but quilters never seem to care what other people thing anyway…

I’ll post up the end result of this bag whenever it manages to get finished!

Quilting for Charity

Tonight I joined with other members of Foothills Quilters Guild to make quilts for charity.  It was a really wonderful evening of fellowship.

The quilt that I made was creating using a stitch and flip method of construction.  Instead of using my sewing machine, I serged the whole quilt.  I love this technique because it’s so quick and by the time the piecing is done, the quilt is finished too.

The quilts we made are donated through Kosy Kwilts, an organization that arranges to have the quilts placed in police cars.  When a young child is picked up by the police, he or she can be wrapped in one of our quilts.  It may not do much, I think that the quilts have to extend some measure of comfort.

I rarely quilt for charity, but when I do it does make me feel really good.  It’s also an excellent opportunity to try out new quilting designs or techniques.  A child will not judge your work, nit pick your knots, or hold bad stitches against you.

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening and I even finished this little Christmas quilt while I was there.  I think I will stitch the binding on by hand so that it wears well for the child that receives it.

To warm, loving quilts,

Leah Day

Christmas Stocking Project

I’ve had a particular stocking design on my mind for quite some time.  I have this secret love of the movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  I especially love the swirled stockings that all the Whovilles have hanging on their chimneys.

So I’ve been thinking of a design for my own Whoville stocking.  The problem was most stockings, unless they are very large, don’t hold very many presents.  I wanted my stocking to be both cool looking and have practical purpose when Santa comes around at Christmas time.

To make the stocking fit more stuff, I created it with three pieces rather than the customary 2.  There is a triangular shaped piece along the back that acts as a sort of spine for the stocking.  If you wanted to fit more or less presents, all you have to do is modify the size of the triangle.

The body of the stocking was heavily quilted with dense stippling, or meandering lines.  On the top, I left space for a drawn letter “L” (my initial) and then went back and traced over it.  The result is a very nice trapunto like monogram.

Binding this sucker is going to take awhile.  I machine stitched the bias binding on, but the rest will have to be done by hand.  This is one project that can look great if you take your time, or look like crap if you rush it.

Overall I think this will make a terrific pattern for intermediate quilters.  I’ll see about having the template shrunk down and then digitalized so that I can made a PDF version available on my website.  This may be the start of a whole series of Christmas patterns, who knows!

Simple Upholstered Bench

benchfin1Don’t you just love those front window benches in houses with all the matching pillows? I always loved the look of those cozy little nooks. I guess I just like the idea of having another place to sit in the sun and read a book.

I really wanted to create a window bench, but I didn’t want it actually built into the wall. I wanted a bench that could be moved around and used as extra seating at the table for instance. To take these desires into consideration, I decided to create an upholstered bench that would sit at normal chair height, but be very deep so it would have that desired window bench feel.

These were my materials for creating the bench:

  • 1 – 4 ft x 8 ft piece of OSB plywood 1/2″ thick
  • 2 – 2 x 2 boards 8 ft long
  • Four 6″ legs
  • Four sets of leg mounting hardware
  • Nails or screws
  • Wood glue

Fortunately, I had some left over plywood paneling from our basement remodeling project. If you wanted to make this from scratch though, just use the 1/2″ OSB plywood I listed.

To get started, I cut the plywood to the desired length and width. I’ve included my measurements so you can see how it all went together:bench3

Top and Bottom – 20″ x 48″
Front and Back – 11″ x 48″
Sides – 21″ x 12″

Then I cut the 2 x 2 boards into 48″ lengths (your basically cutting the 8 ft boards in half to make four corner supports).

I then took the top and bottom boards and nailed the 2 by 2s to each long side. You can use wood glue to get a better hold, but I forgot that step until halfway through so try to remember it at the beginning! I fastened the front and back in place next by nailing into those 2 by 2 boards I just fastened to the top and bottom. The plywood should overlap at the corners. At this point my bench just looked like a rectangular box. You can see what the side view of the box would look like in the diagram below.bench11

I nailed both sides in last into the place where the boards overlap and I double checked that the box was sturdy and could support a couple peoples weight. It wouldn’t be fun to get the job done and then it all fall apart!

I fastened the hardware to the box corners and screwed in the legs. I spaced mine about 1 1/2″ from the edge so that it would take a good deal of the weight and also give me room to upholster without having to take the legs back off.

It was now ready to upholster! To do this part I collected:

2 – twin size pieces of 1″ foam

1 – Full to Queen sized polyester batting (the bigger the loft the more cushy your seat, but also the more difficult to staple)

4 yards thick muslin

Heavy duty Staple gun and Staplesbench2

I cut my pieces of foam so that they would overlap nicely:

Front and Back – 11″ x 48″
Sides – 11″ – 22″
Top – 22″ x 50″

I didn’t cut a piece for the bottom as it didn’t need to be upholstered. I started with the front and back and laid the foam in place and then stapled it in place. I tried using quilting basting spray to glue it in place, but that didn’t work too well so I just stuck with the staples. I then did the sides and finished with the top. You can see how it looks in this picture. To capture the size of my bench I threw a paperback book on top.

Now it was ready for batting. I laid the batting out like wrapping paper and basically wrapped the bench in it. I wanted it nice and smooth across the top and sides so I took a good bit of time smoothing and stretching the batting into place. I folded the ends in just like a gift and then stapled it all into place on the bottom. I didn’t put any staples on the top or sides over the batting because they might come through the fabric later on (besides it’s not too comfortable to sit on staples!)

At this point I could have upholstered the bench with any fabric. I decided to go with cheap, durable muslin and then use slip covers to give the bench a different look. I cut my fabric to the following dimensions:

Front and Back – 15″ x 51″
Sides – 15″ – 23″
Top – 23″ x 51″

I was calculating a 1/2″ seam allowance and then sewed the cover together using a poly/cotton blend thread. I sewed each seam twice so they would be very strong. I made the sides and front and back so long so that the fabric could stretch down underneath the box and be stapled underneath.

So I slipped on the cover, stretched it into place and then stapled away. When I’m ready to change the look I’ll just create slipcovers using the same dimensions I used for the main cover. Overall I think the project was very fun and really worth the time and energy it takes to create. It took me about three hours to put together my bench and upholster it. Now you could save time by getting the cut wood for you. Most home improvement stores will charge after the second cut, so this is a good way to save time and cost, especially if you didn’t have the proper tools. The bench really turned out great and has made a wonderful window seat for my house.