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Goal Setting and Quilting

L'Bri Pure n' NaturalWhen I’m not quilting, I’m a skin care consultant for L’Bri Pure n’ Natural. From my training with L’Bri I’ve been setting goals and working towards them regularly for the last two years.

When I want something, I’ve found that if I think about it enough and work towards it hard enough, I usually get it.

But for some reason, I’ve not been doing this with quilting.  Not regularly at least.

Last October, I did create the goal to become an award winning quilter, and did with the creation of The Duchess.  But after this goal was reached, I didn’t sit down and plan out a new strategy.

Upon realizing this today, I’ve added 2 more lists to the 3 lists I write each day in my journal:

1. Love list – Write a list of 10 things you love about yourself.  This was a really hard list for me to write at first.  I’ve struggled with low self esteem and a monstrous negative voice for much of my life. Starting each day with a clear focus and love in my heart is making a HUGE difference.

2. 5 Reasons I work L’Bri – There’s no point in working a job or owning a business if you don’t know WHY you do it.  Every single day I write down the top reasons I work my skin care business.  These reasons change on a daily basis because my needs change constantly too.

3. 3 Goals for L’Bri – Continually working towards a goal is extremely important.  If you aren’t working forward, you’re either standing still or going backwards.  Three goals work better than just one because again, needs and desires change on a daily basis.

4. 5 reasons I work Day Style Designs – Today is the first day I put this list on paper and I was delighted with the results.  I like skin care, but I LOVE quilting.  Understanding why I work this business on a daily basis will make a huge difference in what I accomplish each week and month.

5. 3 goals for Day Style Designs – Just like with skin care, having a focus is extremely important.  I’m realizing that setting goals with quilting is just as important as setting goals in skin care.

Many times I get distracted and unfocused, unclear what I really want from any of my businesses or my life for that matter.  Starting the day with a list of what I want is the first step to actually getting it.

Before I learned about business training I thought that my inability to finish even the smallest projects was my fault.  Now I realize that to finish a big project like The Duchess or Light in Me or even How to Piece Perfect Quilts requires more than just tools and materials.  It requires dedicated thought, planning, and determination to see the project through from start to finish.

Writing a list might not seem like the first step to finishing a quilt, but I’m going to see if it makes a difference for my life and my quilting business for the next few weeks.

After all, what do I have to lose?

Happy quilting,



Sewing machine…on vacation?

So here’s a question for you…can you honestly relax and enjoy yourself on vacation without your sewing machine?

Yeah, those hand piecing and hand quilting quilters have it good for vacations. All they have to do is stuff their work in a bag and their packed.

I’m reduced to taking almost my entire studio, enough fabric to clothe an empire, and more gadgets that I will ever use – just in case I might need them while hanging out on Oak Island, NC this weekend.

Here’s my full list of supplies and goodies for my vacation:

  • Yo yo makers and precut fabric – still chugging on with my yo yo appliqué wallhanging. I hope to get all the blocks finished while stitching on the beach.
  • Scraps, scraps and more scraps – I hope to make some maverick stars and reduce my stash so I can buy more fabric this fall.
  • Cutting board, rotary cutter, and crappy iron – I don’t bother bringing a pressing mat because a folded towel works just fine and means one less thing to bring.
  • Clover bias tape maker, fusible webbing, and fons and porter’s triangle trimmers – these are all items I’ve purchased here and there but never opened. A vacation is the perfect time to pull them out and give em a go!
  • Yardage of black fabric – I’ve learned from experience that no matter what I bring, I almost always want to put the pieces together. The most tried and true color that usually ends up in all of my quilts is black.

My parents are bringing my spare Viking sewing machine back and that’s what I’ll use to stitch while I’m hanging out at the beach house with my family. It’s definitely no the same as my Bernina, but for piecing it works pretty well.

I needed the sewing machine back for the library window display I’m setting up in late August. Can’t believe I used to need two sewing machines and two sergers a couple years ago, but then again, I can’t believe I used to sew 40+ garments a week either. Here’s some photos of the old apartment and the corner of the room I used to sew in:

Anyway, back to vacations…I’m hoping it will be a full moon while I’m at the beach.  I’ve always wanted to get some photos of the moon reflecting on the water.  That reminds me, I’ll need to pack my digital camera too!

Sunrise of a New Day

Hand Painted Sunrise Landscape Quilt

Hand Painted Sunrise Landscape Quilt

I made this quilt for my mom for her 50th Birthday. She always liked sunrises and had a big bare wall just screaming for a quilt to hang on it.

The sky was painted with Setacolor translucent paints. I get these paints online at Dharma Trading Company. I’m really tempted to buy some of their dye ready outfits and experiment with them too.

The landscape portion of the quilt was created using a technique I learned from Ann Holmes in Asheville, NC.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out and plan to make more painted landscapes soon.  Learn more about this quilt and how it was designed here.

Sewing Room Compromises

This past year, my husband and I moved to Shelby, North Carolina. Our new house had plenty of room to grow into, but needed a lot of work for the basement to be a usable space. Over the past year we have scrubbed, sawed, nailed, and painted our way to a new office, den, and sewing room.

I admit it, I love projects. I love to start something completely new with a big giant step towards the finish line. Unfortunately with this basement, the finish line has become more and more distant the longer we work on it. Remodeling an entire basement (about 1400 sq. feet) is a huge ordeal, and sometimes you just have to call it quits and make do with what ya got.

My sewing room was left to last, as sewing rooms typically are in the grand scheme of things, but I still want to have that perfect room. Since I just don’t have the energy, time, or money to put into finishing it off completely I’ve decided to work with what I have and make do. The nice thing about this space is the ample room. I’ve got plenty of space for large tables, storage shelves and my ironing board. I know that most crafter’s don’t have this kind of space usually so check out my other article on working with small spaces.

Despite the large space, kitchens are awkward and funky by nature. Here’s a photo of the horrible tile floor that serves no purpose except to hide dirt, and it doesn’t even do a good job at that! Eventually I will scrape all this up and install a floating laminate wood floor. For now I’m just going to wing it with a green rug.

As my sewing room is going to reside in a former basement kitchen I’ve decided to keep the sink and stove (as they might come in handy for painting or dying fabric later!), but the cabinets have seen better days. I’ve compromised by pulling off all the old contact paper the former owners put on and giving them a good scrub. I’ll keep my extra sewing machines and batting in the cabinets while the counter will be used for books and a new cutting surface.

For my sewing station, I use two 3 x 6 ft plastic banquet tables that I bought at Lowes. I’m eventually going to get a third one so I can put them all together and baste anything I want. I think there about $50 a piece, but transporting them is tricky. Make sure you have a big enough car BEFORE you go shopping! I set them up perpendicular to each other for general use (piecing), but will set them up parallel for quilting so I have more space off the back of my machine for the quilt to rest on.

For storage close at hand (like scissors and feet and what not) I use plastic drawers that I bought at Kmart. I don’t really like them at all, but they get the job done. Eventually I will replace them with something nicer that maybe works better, but for now this is okay.

I use this cubbyhole book case to house my fat quarters, miscellaneous fabric, and magazines. During the next remodel I will install a shelving system along one wall for my fabric. I also use plastic storage boxes to house more fabric in another room. I wouldn’t put unprotected fabric into the kitchen cabinets. It just seems wrong….

So there you have it. No, my sewing room is not exactly what I want, but when will it ever be anyway? We quilters are a resourceful lot and can make do anywhere. I love my space and will fix it up nice when I have the chance, but for now I’m just going to go with it like it is.

Happy Quilting,

Leah Day

Machine Stitched Binding

Binding is the last step, the final hurdle to finishing any quilting project. The way you choose to do it is completely up to you, but this is my method for binding a quilt using machine stitching to finish it off.

First cut your strips. I cut mine 2 1/4 inches wide. I like a nice tight fitting binding so that the edges of my quilt are plump and rounded. This also is important if you plan on entering a quilt into a show. Some judges look at binding in particular because a nice plump binding means that the edge won’t form a sharp crease and wear out faster from being drug around.

So how many strips should you cut? Well, I employ the very scientific and mathematical process of hold it up and guess. I cut a strip or two and hold them against the side of the quilt. If you can pretty much eye ball how many strips you need to cover two sides (ex: 2 strips along the top and 1 strip along the side) then just double that number and add one and you have the amount of strips to cut (7 strips). I always like to add one so that way I’m sure to have a lot of room at the end to play with.

So once the strips are cut, they need to be sewn together. Honestly I seam my binding together with a mitered seam, but I don’t see what is wrong with a straight seam if that’s what you’re comfortable with. I’m not sure that they will wear any different at least. Fold the binding in half lengthwise and press so that the seams are to the inside.

Here’s the fun part. Put on a walking foot and let’s stitch on this binding. Now for hand stitched binding you need to attach the raw sides of the binding to the right side of the quilt. This way, when you fold over the fabric it will be on the back of the quilt. This way you will have a nice smooth look on the front and the hand stitches will face the back. When you start, leave about a 10 – 12 inch tail of binding above your starting place. Also try to start in the middle of the quilt. You want to try to avoid having a seam fall right over a corner.

Stitch on the binding, sewing through all layers to 1/4″ before the corner. Take the quilt off the machine and finger press the binding up into a 45 degree angle.

Now fold the binding strip down along the next side. It took so long for me to get my brain around all this folding! You want these edges to match up perfectly, with the fabric straight and crisp. If the miter is sewn sloppy then it will only come out crooked.

Start stitching again 1/4″ from the edge. Repeat again for each corner. You are going to have a triangular flap of fabric that seams to wave in the wind after you sew each corner. This is correct! The folded triangle will open up and fold over the rough edges to form the mitered binding. When you get 10″ from the binding tail you left at the beginning stop sewing and reverse to lock. Take the quilt off the machine.

Now this is the tricky part and I still get a bit turned around with it sometimes. Lay the two ends of binding over each other and smooth it flat so that they are straight with the edge and even. Gently take the right hand piece and open it up on top of the left hand side so that the two pieces are open and right sides together. Run a pin through the middle where these two pieces cross. Now hold this carefully in place and move the right hand piece so that it is perpendicular to the left hand piece (like and upside-down ‘L’). Stitch a miter seam across this binding. Finger press the seam open and then fold binding back into place along side.

Reattach your walking foot and sew through all layers to finish.

At this point you would ordinarily take the quilt off the machine and hand stitch on the binding. I like to machine stitch it sometimes though if I’m in a hurry or can’t find my needles or there isn’t anything good on TV to watch while I stitch. To get started you need to fold over the binding to encase the raw quilt edge. I finger press and pin the binding down so that when I stitch over it the seam will be straight and clean looking.

Set up your walking foot and a zigzag stitch. For normal thread I have the width set at 2.0 mm and the length at 0.25 mm or whatever width you use for making buttonholes. Sometimes I use invisible thread and in that case I use a normal stitch length. Start stitching in the middle of the side of the quilt. As you stitch you want to make sure your needle is falling right along the edge of the binding. Go slow and maintain an even stitch all the way to the corner.

At the corner, fold the miter and stitch right up to where the fabric overlaps. Reverse to lock and cut your threads. Reposition your quilt so that the next side is ready to go and start stitching over the previous end. Stitch all around the quilt in this way slowly and carefully. If you make any mistakes or start to get off then just cut the threads and pick it back out. Machine stitched binding takes skill to look good, but with practice and patience you can achieve the look you want. If you ever get frustrated with using the machine you can always try hand stitching the binding on. It’s slower, but safer!

Leah Day

Starting Your First Quilt

Starting your first quilting project can be a daunting task. There are so many questions, and many of them can’t be answered until you have just sat down and gotten started. My biggest ones were:

How do I baste a quilt top without getting the back all bunched up?

How do I piece so that the blocks are the same size and the corners match up?

What the heck is a miter?

Can I machine stitch my binding?

Why do I have to pick a simple design?

Is there any way to make this go faster?

The list went on and on. Before I knew it, I was spending more time worrying about the next step than actually doing it. My first quilt is a testament to how limited we can be by our own head. First I decided that basting a whole big quilt top was just too difficult so I quilted each block separately.

Unfortunately I didn’t think too much about what I was going to do to put them together. After much tedious playing around with the blocks I ended up satin stitching them together. The result is a quilt that is not very durable or well put together. I also didn’t prewash my fabric and the darker colors bled into the white sashing.

I learned a bunch from that experience and thought I would share the things I wish I could have done differently:

  • Find a quilting friend – they don’t have to have all the answers, but having a mentor really helps with your first quilting project. If you don’t like that idea, then do your research. Read, read, and read some more about any aspect of the quilt making process that is keeping you up at night. You might even consider taking a class on beginning quiltmaking. This is a great way to meet new people and learn a lot at the same time.
  • Start small – I know you might not like this, but making a Gargantuan Monster Quilt is very hard and the experience will be anything but fun. I think 50″ x 50″ is a good starting size. It’s just big enough to cozy up with on the couch, but not so large that you’ll be working on it for a year.
  • Design it yourself – I know this might strike some people as crazy, but I’m serious. I think designing your first project is a great way to see just how big the world of quilting is. I designed the block layout of my first quilt and am still very happy with how it visually turned out.
  • Quality control – This is your very first quilt. You want it to last right? Work hard then to make sure it won’t fall apart the first time you wash it. This is where I feel I messed up the most. My first quilt is still in one piece, but eventually I will have to sandwich and baste it again with a new batting and backing so that it all stays together. Also if you don’t wish to prewash your fabric (and I completely empathize with you), make sure you use a dye-grabber so that your white areas stay white.
  • Be Okay with Simple – Quilting is a challenging hobby to get into. Most people assume wrongly that if they can sew, then they can quilt. Quilting is not sewing, there are many more rules involved, so do yourself a favor and be okay with a simple first quilt. These first few quilts will really teach you a lot so that later you can create the more technically challenging designs with ease.

Quilting is so much fun and it really is a wonderfully rewarding hobby. It can be intimidating to get into, but as long as you take the time, and maybe even a few classes, your first quilt will be a big success!

Happy Quilting,

Leah Day

Speedy Quilted Gift Tips

Quilts are terrific gifts. Our friends and family love to receive something that we’ve made just for them. We love the creative process and knowing that our gift really says “I love you” like nothing else.

There is always a catch however and with gift quilts there are several. The first and most important is time. Depending on the design, you could be working for a whole year just to make one quilt. This is fine if that is what you want to be spending your time on, but for those of us who want more bang for our buck we need to be a little faster.

And this leads directly into another downside – a quilted gift shouldn’t be cheap. What I mean here is you cannot sacrifice your workmanship, design, or quality of the quilt just because you need to get it done fast. Would you feel good to receive a quilt with loose binding or god awful fabric? Please remember: we can always pick up a nice candle or picture frame and give it as a gift instead. A quilt should be special – it doesn’t have to be the next ark of the covenant, but it should be something we would feel touched to receive.

So here are some tips for simplifying without sacrificing:

Budget your Time – From the very beginning of the project decide how much time you want to spend. Use this estimate to determine several decisions such as: quilt top design, hand or machine stitched binding, hanging sleeve, thread color, and quilting design. Keep in mind what overall look you want to achieve, but make sure that you’re not biting off more than you can chew.

Divide the Design
– Decide on a design that is either very simply pieced or very simply quilted. I find that the simpler the piecing designs are better as the quilt top doesn’t take much time to get together and then it can all be punched up a notch with the quilting. Remember – the quilt HAS to be quilted, but it doesn’t have to be pieced. You might even consider doing a very simple whole cloth quilt. It will give you nice practice on quilting techniques you might be wanting to master.

Fabric Choice – You can take a beautiful fabric and do almost nothing to it and it will still make a fantastic quilt. The same holds true for ugly fabric. There is some cheap, ugly crap out there in the quilting world, but no matter what you add to it, no matter how small you cut the pieces, it’s still going to be ugly. Well, I take that back, you could thread paint over it and maybe it wouldn’t be ugly anymore!

Think Big Strips
– Okay, so maybe you just have to create that log cabin quilt for you mother. Yep, I committed this sin too. Log cabins are gorgeous, but that’s quite a few pieces to be cutting out and then stitching all back together. The solution is to think big. Making your blocks 10″ with 2″ strips (9 pieces) will piece together a lot faster than 10″ blocks with 1″ strips (19 pieces). You do the math. Trust me, the look will be the same, and the quilt will go together so much quicker. Unless of course you are hoping to get a medal for Most Ridiculously Pieced Quilt Ever, but you wouldn’t be reading this article if you were, would you?

Size Does Matter – You can follow all of the guidelines above and still spend a year in the making if you haven’t taken overall size into account. Most everyone will be thrilled to receive a cozy lap quilt to cuddle with on the couch. Yes, they would also love to get the Gargantuan Monster Quilt for their king sized bed, but is it really necessary? I actually think that I get more bang for my buck with wall hangings than anything else. They may be small, but they can still bring warmth and love into any room.

There you have it! Keep these simple rules in mind and you will never find yourself running out of time to create that special gift.

Happy Quilting,

Leah Day