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about leah day | free motion quilting

Our goal is simple: we want to educate, inspire, and empower you to create beautiful quilts and to learn and grow as a quilter every day.

~ Leah Day

Welcome! I'm so happy you're here and interested in learning about the people behind this website and the Free Motion Quilting Project that inspired it.

Below I've shared the story of this business, as well as the story of my journey as a quilter, wife, and mother. Rather than give you three paragraphs of mostly useless factual information, I've written this page the same way I create everything with my hands: with an open, honest heart.

Leah Day and family So let's get started with the basic questions I'm asked most often at workshops and via email:

How old are you?

This is the #1 question I'm asked everywhere I go for quilting events.  Quilters have guessed my age as low as 11 and as old as 19.  I guess I look much younger than I really am.

I'm actually 29 years old, a wife to an awesome husband, Josh, and mother to a sweet 6 year old boy, James.

How long have you been quilting and why did you get into fiber arts in the first place?

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve always wanted to quilt.  As a kid, I managed to teach myself how to crochet, knit, weave, make jewelry, and sew clothing by reading books and looking at the pictures. I'm a visual learner and can usually pick up new skills very quickly, and I LOVED quilts.
 
leah day | handmade quiltOne of my happiest memories is waking up on a chilly fall morning and finding my dad had wrapped me in a patchwork quilt. There's a delicious weight and softness to older, worn quilts that just feels amazing to sleep under. I can remember puzzling over the patchwork pieces of a lone star and wondering how all those shapes could fit together so perfectly.

Alas, quilting was the one craft I couldn't master from books. Mostly this was due to the books from which I was attempting to learn, which were all cheap thrift store finds. All of these books were written before rotary cutters were widely used so most of the instruction involved cardboard templates and hand cutting pieces with scissors.

This is part of the reason I believe quilting is a craft that needs an instructor. I’m not a first generation quilter because my grandmother and great grandmothers made quilts, but by the time I was ready to learn, there was no one available to teach me. I'm lucky that I grew up in a home with handmade quilts, but it was almost a tease to to enjoy them so much, but never understand how they were made.

So I tried to teach myself, but always with a crash-and-burn habit. I'd cut out about 20 pieces with gusto, attempt to piece with almost no idea what I was doing, get frustrated at how time consuming it was and how imperfect my piecing was, and eventually shove the entire project in a bag under my bed to be ignored until I got another urge to attempt quilting again.

leah day | knitting on a loomThat cycle continued through grade school and into college. Through this time I considered myself primarily a jewelry maker, and even worked at a bead store through high school. Stitching tiny little beads together did help me gain excellent skills for find handwork, but it never flowed easily. More often than not, I ripped out what I'd stitched rather than keep it.

Then I went to college and beads were suddenly impossible to work with. Living in a dorm room with 3 other girls forced me to minimize my craft horde down to one single box. For some reason I couldn't find the space and time to do beadwork, but I could find it for sewing. I dragged out my old Singer sewing machine, set it up on a small 12" x 18" trunk which contained my entire fabric stash, and when I wasn't in class, I was usually stitching something.

Then I met Josh, we dated, moved in together, got engaged, and through all that time I was sewing every day. Then around my 21st birthday I was wandering around the fabric section of Walmart and saw a small beginner quilting kit with a rotary cutter, mat, and instruction booklet. I put my foot down - it was time to master quilting!

But setting realistic expectations has never been my strong suit. I was getting married which meant I wanted not just any old beginner level quilt pattern to start with. I wanted to make a Double Wedding Ring quilt to celebrate my wedding.

At the time, I knew this was a fairly difficult pattern to start with, but I was filled with a rather insane optimism. I WANT that quilt, so I will MAKE that quilt! But remember, I still didn't really know anything about quilting so I got started using leftover scraps from my satin wedding dress. I figured this fabric was as good as any other, and I have all the scraps I might as well use them.

So I got started using scraps from my wedding dress (satin and silk), used a huge seam allowance, and...well...you probably know where that project ended up: shoved in a black back under my bed.

Unfortunately during some stint of organizing, I threw out this first attempt at quilting. I really wish I'd kept it, but at the time I mostly just felt frustrated and disappointed that my ideal, if a bit overly optimistic, Double Wedding Ring project hadn't worked out.

leah day | handmade quiltI didn't give up, but I did readjust my expectations.  My new husband Josh encouraged me to take a quilting class and even found a local guild for me to join. Joining the Asheville Quilt Guild really was a huge turning point to learning quilting. Suddenly I had access to inspirational meetings every month, I could check out books from the library that had actually been written recently, and there were monthly workshops with professional instructors where I would finally learn the basics of this craft that had eluded me for so long.

The very month I joined, I took a workshop with Sally Collins, an expert precision piecer, and finally learned the tricks of machine piecing. That night I came home and began piecing simple 9 patch blocks to create my first quilt. I still didn't know how to baste or quilt, but I was on the road to learning!

landscape quiltA few months later, a round-robin guild meeting introduced me to Ann Holmes and her No Sewing Until You Quilt It method of applique which opened the world of curvy shapes. Now I could applique the soft, smooth curves of a landscape quilt and even entered a contest for Alliance for American Quilts. Even today, I still use this No Sew method to construct many quilts.

So in short, the guild made all the difference in the world. Within a few months I had two major components of quilting down: piecing and applique, and this in turn led to my curiosity about free motion quilting. I was beginning to amass quilt tops that needed to be finished and I had to learn how to quilt them myself in a tiny apartment, on a tiny machine, and on a shoestring budget.

While the process of learning and mastering free motion quilting took many more years than learning piecing or applique, it has remained the technique I'm most curious and excited about.
 
While I still have never created that Double Wedding Ring quilt I wanted so badly as a 21 year old, it's definitely on my list of projects I'd like to tackle in the coming years. At this point it will have to celebrate my 10 year anniversary coming up in 2015!

Do you have an art degree? 
 
leah day | free motion quilting portraitNo, absolutely not.  Art degrees and other assorted bits of paper are not really needed for quilting - except to use as stabilizer.

I did attend UNC-Asheville for 2 years, but my major was biology, not art.  In the end, I dropped out because I couldn't see how that degree was going to help me with anything, except maybe strapping me with more student loans and debt that would have limited my abilities.
 
I also understand the question behind this question - the question of how I am different or what I have done that's special which has allowed me to create so much. You might see my gallery of quilts or the hundreds of designs I've created and instantly think "I could never do that. She must have this or that in order to do that."
 
I understand this very well because I used to think it myself. There was a time that I wanted desperately to create, but felt completely blocked by all the things I wasn't: I'm not an artist, I don't understand color, I've never taken a class on this.
 
The truth is, the only thing you need to do to create is to CREATE. Get out of your own way, put pencil to paper, or thread to fabric, and just DO IT.

It's now been more than 10 years since I dropped out of college. At the time, I feared I would regret that decision, that I would feel some sense of lack. In fact, the very reverse has happened. I have never once regretted that choice, never felt less than anyone or allowed my lack of degree be a hole in my life.
 
You can let an idea limit you, or you can let it set you free. Your choice.
 
How did you turn into a professional quilter?
 
Looking back, I think I wanted to be a professional quilter since my very first guild meeting where I saw a show quilt for the first time.  I wanted to make something fantastic like that quilt!  I wanted to win a ribbon and get verification that THIS was my craft. I want to teach mostly because I'd found this such a hard craft to learn in the first place.
 
I wanted to make it easier for beginners, no matter who they were, what age, or where they lived, to learn what they wanted to learn. I had been that kid craving knowledge and understanding, but I'd never found an outlet to learn. Now I wanted to learn everything quickly, make beautiful quilts, and pass this knowledge on.
 
leah day | free motion quiltingSo what happened next? Well, I started out just making quilts for my family. For about four years quilting was simply my #1 hobby which I pursued with relentless curiosity. This is such an enormous craft... You could easily spend four years just focusing on all the different forms and techniques for piecing. There's so much to this craft and so long as you maintain an open mind and heart to all the different facets, from traditional to art quilting, then you can spend a lifetime trying new techniques and materials and never, ever get bored.
 
So I was busy making quilts of all shapes and sizes, but in the back of my head I was always wondering "How do I turn this into a business? How can I make a living with this? When is someone going to ask me to give a lecture or teach a workshop?"
 
Within these questions was a lot of insecurity and a large amount of fear. I had always wanted to make a living with my craft, with the product of my hands, even since I was a little girl. But how to do it?
 
All this fear and insecurity could have kept me in place for years, but then I got a huge push, quite literally, when my son was born. Here I had this amazing little baby in my hands and I'd made him. Josh and I had made this awesome child and I suddenly realized that if I could do THAT, I could do anything.
 
So I started small and I played off of every strength I had at my disposal. I was just lucky enough to marry Josh, who had been working on websites for years with his father Chet. From Josh and Chet, I learned how to design and edit a website, upload photos, and drive traffic to the site using search engine optimization.
 
But the first site I created in 2007 wasn't for quilting, it was for natural skin care products. Partly due to lack of confidence, and partly because I has no idea what I was doing, I decided to start working with an established company as a direct sales consultant.
 
This was a great experience because I learned so much about building a website, keeping it updated, building an email newsletter, understanding social media, editing photos, and even shooting my very first (very rough) videos - all of these things took hours to master and each one was essential to building my future quilting business.
 
It also helped that I was very successful at building my skin care business and was soon the top rated seller in my tier. It's one thing to have a dream, but quite another to find it actually working out and succeeding beyond your expectations. But I knew skin care products were not my passion, but a stepping stone to get me where I wanted to go.
 
leah dayNow you might be wondering why I wanted to work online. Why not try to rent a space and open a physical quilt shop? My answer is simple: money. Josh and I had bought a house that needed serious work, had a brand new baby, and ton of growing bills. There was absolutely no way we could afford any overhead for a physical business. An online business, however, requires very little overhead, and very little upfront cost if you're willing to learn how to do everything yourself.
 
So by 2008, I had two websites: LeahDay.com which was then a skin care site, and DayStyleDesigns.com which was my quilting site. While I knew the basics of website programming and working with photos, the one thing I didn't know how to do was drive traffic - or attract people to come to the site.
 
To sum it up simply: if you do something cool, people will come to check it out. At the time, I wasn't doing anything cool. I was really just doing what I saw everyone else doing - writing quilt patterns, playing around with designs, blogging irregularly. I didn't really know what to do, so I tried to do it all with rather lukewarm results.
 
leah day | online quilting classIt wasn't until 2009 when I started the Free Motion Quilting Project, a blog dedicated to sharing 365 free motion designs, that the quilting site began to get traffic. As the traffic came, the offers began rolling in: "Can you come teach? Are you available for a lecture?"
 
Suddenly the whole mystery of becoming a professional quilter was solved. Do something awesome that you're passionate about, give it away for free, and the world will beat a path to your door. I had wanted for YEARS to be a quilting teacher, to share and help other quilters learn what they needed to learn to make the quilts they wanted to make. I had made it!
 
But very soon I had to say "no" to those offers. With a 2 year old little boy, a fledgling website, and a seriously introverted nature, I realized that dream I'd had to travel and teach was really not suited to my life or my family. That turned out to be someone else's dream. Instead I've focused my sights on building a new definition for "professional quilter" that doesn't involve traveling.
 
I'm an online quilting teacher, plain and simple, and so far I've reached over 5 million people through YouTube. How many years and how many guilds and how many super presentations would I have to give to reach that many people through traditional traveling and teaching? I seriously doubt I would have been able to reach that many people in four years.
 
I have no plans to stop teaching this way. I LOVE it. I love being able to reach anyone in the world. I love giving my lessons away for free because that means anyone wanting to learn can watch and learn and quilt right along with me. It's an amazing world we live in, and I do feel insanely lucky to have learned how to use it to become a professional quilter.
 
I've shared the nitty-gritty here, and yes, this is still very condensed, because starting any business is never easy. Figuring out what to do and how to do it - there is no blueprint or 10 step program for it. The #1 thing I strongly encourage is to play on your strengths.
 
I wouldn't be writing this today, I wouldn't have this website, or be able to reach anyone if I hadn't first learned website construction from my husband and father-in-law. I wouldn't have shot a single video without the camcorder my father-in-law purchased to record his baby grandson. I wouldn't have had the curiosity to design 365 designs if I hadn't already been passionate about free motion quilting.
 
leah day | free motion quiltingAt this point we've now moved the quilting website from DayStyleDesigns.com back to the new LeahDay.com created by Websites for Quilters. Part of starting a business is figuring out how to do everything yourself. Part of growing a bigger business is finding the right people and companies to team up with to make the job easier.
 
Back when I was just in the dreaming phase of being a professional quilter, I can remember being told "There's no money in this" several times. If it's true that there's no money in quilting, how can so many quilters support themselves and their families in this industry?

No road is perfectly straight, and it took starting the Free Motion Quilting Project and focusing on quilting every day before I really felt comfortable calling myself a professional.  I still have a long way to go and I'm always learning. That's the way it is with all crafts though - true mastery is understanding that "mastery" is not the point.
 
There is one thing I will never do: I will never stop learning. I will never stop teaching.
 
 Where do you get your inspiration?
 
Inspiration really is everywhere.  I keep my eyes open all the time - at restaurants, hotels, parks, even in my own house.  It's easy to miss textures you've lived around your whole life, then suddenly the lines connect and it becomes a potential filler design.

leah day | goddess quilt hot castNow with over 365 designs created, the project itself is a source of inspiration.  One design can easily lead to three more.  Subtle changes in texture and shape, in the way the design is stitched can create an entirely new design.
 
When it comes to designing quilts, inspiration comes from my life.  I'm currently working through a series of goddess quilts and each one is designed to help me work through a specific issue and learn new techniques.   Most of these quilts come into my mind fully formed, all I have to do is figure out the easiest way to make them reality! 
 
 Do you sew other things or strictly quilts?
 
quilted jacket | Leah DayHonestly I'm addicted to all things fiber related.
 
I love to quilt, obviously, but about once a year I get a craving to sew a few shirts and skirts. This is usually short lived because I'm in between sizes and usually end up sewing something slightly too big or slightly too small. Lately this has gotten a lot better thanks to taking Craftsy classes on pattern fitting like Sew the Perfect Fit and The Couture Dress.
 
It is fun to combine quilting and garment sewing and so far I've made two quilted jackets, which is a fun way to combine quilting and garment sewingThis jacket was created using a Simplicity Kimono Pattern #5343 and is completely double sided so the it can be worn with either side facing out.

Beyond quilting and sewing, I still knit, crochet, make jewelry, cross stitch, and embroider. Recently I've picked up hand spinning, dyeing raw wool and cotton fabric, and wood turning. While my #1 focus is quilting, I love to create and sometimes switching between crafts is a great way to stay motivated across several different projects at once.

Why did you decide to start the Free Motion Quilting Project? 
 
release your light | goddess quiltQuite simply, I was seeking a challenge and an excuse to quilt every single day for a year.  At the time, I was already working from home online with my skin care business, but I really wanted to figure out a way to make a living with my true love - quilting.
 
I was also feeling frustrated by the lack of free motion quilting designs I could find.  I see these designs as different textures to be used over your quilt, almost like a painter using paint, only we're quilting different textures and adding movement to the surface of our quilts.
 
While I was quiltingRelease Your Light the idea for this project popped into my head and I couldn't shake it.  I thought about it for a solid month, was advised to drop the idea by several people, but in the end, I simply had to go for it.
 
I did have to sacrifice a lot to start the project, mostly in time and attention away from my family and away from quilting my own quilts for awhile. Especially in the beginning it was an enormous amount of work.
 
I knew a bit about shooting videos, but suddenly needed to be able to edit and produce them much more quickly. Eventually I found a rhythm with filming and editing that I wouldn't have found without that challenge to post designs daily.
 
 How did you learn free motion quilting?
 
I first took a class on machine quilting and the second I tried free motion, I knew it was something I was going to love.  I wasn't great at it at all (my stitches were huge and clunky), but I really wanted to learn and I kept working at it.
 
The best decision I ever made was just to jump into it and stop obsessing about every mistake.  I pieced up a huge pink quilt and broke it into 6 pieces that could each be quilted separately, then put together in a quilt as you go technique.  I was quilting in a very tiny space next to my bed in a very tiny apartment at the time, so I had to work on small pieces at a time.
 
I decided that I was ready to learn Stippling and nothing was going to stop me.  Not ugly stitches!  Not imperfect stippling!  I was just going to stitch it and not judge it.
 
free motion quilting | stipplingAt the beginning, I honestly didn't have a clue what I was doing. I didn't really even understand how the complex version of Stippling worked so I started with simple U shapes. After all these curvy lines follow the same rules: they wiggle around and don't cross the line of stitching, which is the same rule Stippling has.
 
By the end of the quilt, I was moving beyond the simple U shapes and branching out with more complex wiggles. My quilting was still far from perfect, but the entire experience had taught me a lot about moving the quilt, getting a good balance of speed control and movement, and how to flow through an area with one design. 
 
Even now I truly believe this is the BEST way to learn free motion quilting:
 
Pick just one design and stitch it all over a large quilt. 
By the end, you will have most of the basics figured out.
 
After finishing that pink quilt, I continued Stippling most of my quilts for more than 2 years. There's a lot to learn with free motion quilting and simply finding a good stitch quality and balance of your speed and hand movement can be both time consuming and challenging.
 
In the end, I knew it was time to start looking for more designs and inspiration because I was so extremely BORED with stippling I was ready to stitch ANYTHING else other than that design. So I went looking for inspiration and quickly found Karen McTavish and her four awesome books on quilting.
 
mctavishing | free motion quilting designIt was her book Mastering the Art of McTavishing that taught me a new design called McTavishing, a beautiful flowing, fluid design that appears like blowing wind or swirling water on the surface of a quilt. This design is perfect for simulating movement of any kind because the flowing lines keep your eyes moving around the space continually.
 
The effect Karen's books had on my quilting ability can not be understated. Learning the new design, McTavishing, opened a whole new world of texture and thread play I'd never seen before.
 
A great analogy is if you were born on an island that only had coconut and crab and that's all you ate your whole life. Then you got on a boat and rowed to another island that had cows and suddenly you could drink milk and eat steak. That's exactly the kind of revolution this design had for me.

What free motion quilting questions do you hear most often?

"Do you use a longarm?  Can I really do this on a domestic machine? What machine do you use?"

janome horizon 7700When quilters see my quilts for the first time, most assume I'm using a giant, expensive longarm quilting machine. These big machines have gained a lot of popularity over the years, and mostly through a very successful advertising campaign based primarily on hype, have managed to convince quilters that free motion quilting is impossible on a small home machine.

But the fact is, quilting this way on a longarm is no easier than quilting on a domestic machine. It honestly depends on WHAT you want to quilt and HOW you want to quilt it.
 
For larger scale quilting, moving a longarm machine on a rail system might feel easier. The machine itself will pull and swing around because of inertia, and your challenge is to keep it under control so you can quilt a nice design over the surface. However, this style of quilting is absolutely possible on a home (domestic) sewing machine as well.
 
For a home machine, you are moving the quilt, not the machine, so making smaller, finer movements will be easier. Small scale quilting for a wall hanging or show quilt is actually easier on a home sewing machine.
 
As for larger scale quilting, this requires being able to move the quilt through the machine a bit quicker and with smooth movements. The #1 thing that will make this process easier is to have a good quilting setup.
 
So you don't need a longarm to be a professional. 
You don't need a longarm to start winning at quilt shows. 
 
Look in any quilt magazine and what is the #1 thing advertised now?  Longarm machines.  There's been a really long and concerted marketing campaign from these manufacturers to convince everyone that they must have a huge, $30,000 machine in order to be a professional quilter, or to make show quality quilts.

But the fact is, you can free motion on any domestic machine. The machine is a tool, just like a power drill or a belt sander. What makes one person better at it is more practice, not a more expensive drill bit. I truly believe if your machine is good enough for piecing, it should be able to free motion quilt too.
 
Now for the machines I've used over the years. Here's the list of all the machines I've used since first starting to sew around the age of 8:
 
Singer Stylist 774 - This machine appeared in my living room in a huge, clunky cabinet when I was about 8 years old. I had no idea how to use it, it didn't have a manual, and I remember my #1 issue with the machine at first was bringing the bobbin thread up to the top of the machine so I could start sewing.
 
Eventually I would learn to sew quite well on this old workhorse and stitched not only my prom dress in 2002, but also my wedding dress in 2005 on this machine. This was the machine I hauled to college with me and shared many fun hours with when I didn't want to be in class or studying.
 
Brother CS 8072 - For years I'd wanted a newer machine with more bells and whistles, but what machine to get? I researched and read reviews, but even these days it's hard to find an unbiased review of a sewing machine. I also had only and exactly $250, which is really not a lot to invest in a sewing machine.
 
So I bought this Brother machine off Amazon or Ebay and it really did have a lot of very nice features: needle up, needle down, decorative stitches, and a lot more feet than I'd had with the Singer. But while the Singer had lasted for more than 10 years, this inexpensive machine lasted less than 6 months. Ultimately the computerized guts weren't able to take much more than occasional use and once I really started sewing daily, this machine went on the fritz.
 
The lesson I learned from this was two-fold: always buy the best machine I can, and try to buy from a dealer and under warranty so if the machine does break, I can easily get it fixed.
 
Viking Prelude 340 - This was the absolute bottom of the line Viking machine at the time (2005), and my very first dealer experience. I found this machine to be an excellent workhorse and I pieced my first quilt on it, but didn't attempt quilting. My one complaint was there wasn't a stop to the bobbin winder, so it was very easy to overwind the bobbins, which sent the machine into a sputtering rage.
 
Because I was sewing around 60 garments a week at this time, I did eventually break this machine, but the dealer fixed the problem after ordering a part and I didn't have to pay for the repair. Overall it was a terrific machine and I wish I still had it, but I had to sell it on Ebay to purchase the Bernina Activa 240.
 
Bernina Record 830 - This was my very first Bernina after lusting after them for more than a year. When my Viking machine broke, I had to immediately purchase a new machine in order to finish the garments for that week. I just luckily walked into a Bernina dealership right after an old record 830 had been traded in.
 
Not only did this machine come with a huge collection of feet, I also had a patchwork foot and walking foot. I was a quilter now, baby!
 
To say that I loved this machine is an understatement. It was a super solid workhorse, and the collection of feet was enormous fun to play with. For the first time, I also had a knee lifter which allows you to lift the presser foot up by moving your knee rather than taking your hands off the fabric. This would soon become a feature I could not live without.
 
The Bernina 830 started as my backup machine that I would use for quilting and sewing when the Viking was in the shop. Eventually it took over my sewing space and became my primary machine and the Viking became the backup.

The 830 had many features that most machines just aren't built with these days: almost all metal parts, large bobbins, easily removable plates for cleaning the inside of the machine, high speed, and extremely simple controls.

Even though this machine was more than 30 years old when I bought it, it was still a solid piece of equipment. I continued to sew more than 60 hours a week for 8 months on this machine until I finally decided I'd had enough and quit that terrible seamstress job.

After quitting, moving, having my son James, this Bernina remained my #1 machine and I wish I still owned it, but it also had to go in order to purchase the Bernina Activa 240.

Bernina Activa 240 - It was around the end of 2007 when I got an insane urge to get a brand new machine with all the bells and whistles. I really wanted the needle up / needle down automatic feature from the Brother machine, plus a knee lifter, and maybe an alphabet because I definitely should monogram some cute baby clothes now that my baby was a toddler.

Then I got an ad from Bernina warning that the prices were rising on January 1st, 2008 and if you want a great deal now, come on in. So I splurged and got the Bernina Activa 240, which was the top of the bottom of the line Bernina machine at the time. It had all the features I was looking for plus 240 stitches, a cute box to put feet into, and three monogram alphabets.

But in order to own this machine, I had to sell both the Bernina 830 and the Viking. Even with those machine sold, this was the first machine I couldn't pay straight out of pocket. I utilized the in-store financing offered by most sewing machine companies and financed the machine over 18 months.

There was a time that I would never have considered taking out a loan on a sewing machine, but this experience taught me to look at them more as investments. I'd had a 30 year old machine sell on Ebay for double what I'd paid. Clearly, good machines, unlike desktop computers and laptops, do not rush down in value, but maintain their value solidly, and it's worth it to invest in the best machine you can get, pay off the loan as quickly as you can, and enjoy using a machine that will not hold you back from gaining skill in your craft.

This machine was a solid workhorse, but... it turned out that I didn't need all those bells and whistles. By this time all I was doing was making quilts, so piecing, applique, and free motion quilting was all I needed to do. Money was also super tight at this time and I was really needing a new computer, this time a laptop so we could be more mobile with where we worked.

So I sold the Bernina Activa 240 on Ebay and was able to buy from that sale both a laptop and a cheaper, industrial machine, the Juki TL 98-QE.

Juki TL 98-QE - I purchased this machine right around the beginning of 2009 after doing extensive research and convincing myself that THIS was the machine I needed for free motion quilting. But there weren't any dealers for Juki around my area, and I was impatient, so I impulsively purchased this machine online.

When I got the machine, I was very optimistic that it was going to be absolutely wonderful for free motion. It took about 3 weeks to come to terms that I'd made a pretty big mistake. This machine had tension issues. Put it simply - it didn't like most types of thread. Period.

There were memorable quilts during this time that I'd picked the thread and quilted a good section, only to find the thread breaking every 2 inches for the entire rest of the project. It was beyond frustrating.

But sometimes our biggest challenges and frustrations open the door to our best learning experiences. This machine taught me a lot about free motion quilting. Mostly how to be creative in finding solutions - like breaking the foot open by sawing the metal base so it was easier to see the needle - I wouldn't have figured that out had I not been faced with this impossible machine.

In the end, we made peace with one another and I quilted on this machine from the start of the Free Motion Quilting Project through 2010. In the end, it only ever liked Isacord thread and Universal 80/12 needles, and so long as I respected it, it respected me. Of all the machines I've owned, even the Brother that was a complete waste of money, I think the Juki was my absolute least favorite. It's just no fun sitting down and having to battle with your machine just to produce a decent looking stitch.

Bernina Activa 210 - Part of my disappointment with the Juki was finding that the 1/4" patchwork foot was a real joke. Piecing had suddenly become more difficult, to the point that I didn't find it fun anymore. I missed my Bernina's and their perfect patchwork feet.

So I decided it was time to double up on machines again, but this time I wasn't going to make the mistake of getting more machine than I needed. The Activa 210 was the bottom machine in the Activa line and it had almost no frills - very few decorative feet, no alphabets, but it did have the features I liked (knee lifter, auto needle up/down), and the patchwork foot I'd been missing.

There were even times when I grew so completely frustrated with the Juki that I'd quilt on this Bernina instead. Bernina has a really excellent Open Toe Darning Foot which is absolutely perfectly designed for free motion quilting.

So from this point, I always had two machines: one for piecing and applique and any weird techniques I wanted to play with, and one machine for free motion quilting that was always set up with bigger tables to hold the weight and size of the basted quilts.

janome horizon 7700Janome Horizon 7700 - In 2010 I taught a class at Ye Olde Forest Quilt Shop in Greensboro and met my first Janome dealer, Kelley and Joanne Jones. During that visit, Kelley told me about this new machine coming out that was going to have an 11 inch throat. Whoa.

Size really is something that quilters pay attention to. The space between the needle and the solid side of the machine is usually called the harp space or throat space. In my Bernina machines, this was around 6 inches, in the Juki it was around 9. This new machine was going to be much bigger than anything I'd owned before.

So I signed up for this machine straight away, and Kelley brought it to me after a conference. It was stunning! Not only was the machine quilting beautifully in free motion, it had super powered lights that made it so much easier to see.

This machine marked a big turning point in how I purchased machines as well. Now that I was a professional quilter, my machine was a tax deductible business expense. While I don't think a machine purchase should force someone to become a business owner, I think it's super cool that I can now excuse investing in nicer machines because I'm a business owner.

Bernina 1230 - This was really just a lucky find in my local area. A quilter emailed me about this machine and wondered what she should do with it. I've always wanted one, so I asked if she'd like to sell it to me. It was an awesome deal and mutually beneficial on both sides.

Just in case you've never heard this tip: the older models of Bernina machines: 830, 930, 1030, 1130, 1230, are all amazingly good machines. You can regularly find them on Ebay selling for the same, or higher prices than they cost new in the 1980's.

It's the quality of workmanship that sets these machines apart and their very detailed, very well designed feet. I use this machine now primarily for piecing and applique and plan to soon trade my Bernina Activa 210 for something else.

Janome Horizon 8900 - After sewing on the Janome Horizon 7700 for a few years, this newer, updated machine came out and it was an easy choice to trade in and upgrade. Both machines are equally good at free motion quilting, but I do like the wider feed dogs of this machine. This is now my primary quilting machine.

What is your favorite aspect of quilting?
 
leah day | quilt designleah day | shadow self quiltDesign. Absolutely positively. I love working with a blank sheet of paper trying to figure out how to create what is in my head and get it onto paper and then from paper into a quilt.
 
The longer and more involved I allow my design process to be, the better my quilts are. I experience an intense joy when I'm allowed to just sit at the kitchen table, spread paper and tracing velum all over the place, and just draw and plan and visualize the finished quilt.
 
I often find the quilts I have the most trouble with are the quilts I rushed through the design process.  This is very easy to do because I get so excited to see the finished quilt and want to hurry, hurry, hurry.
 
It's been a hard lesson to learn to just take it slow and easy and allow a design to fully take shape before moving to fabric.  I even plan out which quilting designs I'll use in each area of the quilt because these designs really are like paint - they cover each section with a specific texture that can dramatically change how the fabrics look.

How has the Free Motion Quilting Project changed your life?
 
Starting this project has changed my life in every single way you can think of.
 
Quilting wise, my skill doubled within the first six months.  By focusing on quilting, by giving myself permission to quilt daily, there was no way it could not get better.
 
Business wise, the project put me on the map.  It was only after starting the project that I started to get tons of emails and comments from supportive quilters asking for the tools and materials I recommend.  I launched an online quilt shop that now supports my family.
 
online quilt shop
In 2010, my husband Josh left his job to start working with me so I could quilt and make more designs while he packs the orders. We all work together in a basement office, Josh and I on computers, and James on the floor with blocks and Legos.
 
Personally, being good at something FEELS good.  It's true I've had a talent for fiber arts since I was a child, but it was only after starting this project, connecting with and teaching so many people that I really began to feel good about my abilities.
 
Really I can link it all back to my very first quilt ribbon.  Holding that blue ribbon, it felt like someone was saying "Yes!  You're good at this!  Keep doing it!"  I'm just so thankful I was able to listen to that voice and kept quilting, even when it sometimes seemed like just an interesting hobby that was never going to lead anywhere. 

How big is your studio / what is your studio like?

Right now my studio takes up 2 rooms in my basement: a full kitchen, and a small bedroom.  The kitchen is an odd space because the ceilings are low and the cabinets take up a good portion of space, but I make the best use of the area I can. Here's a studio tour I shot in 2013 to show how this space has been used most effectively to hold a wide variety of quilting supplies and machines:
 
Click here if the video does not appear
 
While my studio might look large and expansive now, it hasn't always been so.

When I started quilting, I had a much, much smaller space.  We were living in a 500 sq foot apartment in Asheville, NC and my sewing space could only fit in a cramped corner between the bed and Josh's computer desk.

All of my quilts had to be quilted in pieces to work in such a tiny space.  It just goes to show that you really can quilt in any space you have.

Wow, I’m impressed you’re still here!  

Here’s even more info about me (my official bio):

leah day | free motion quiltingI grew up in a small town called Asheboro, North Carolina.  The youngest of three girls in a small house, I spent a lot of time keeping myself out of sight and entertained behind a big reclining chair.

I didn't have access to a lot of materials like fabric or yarn, but I did have a lot of paper and scissors, so the first thing I learned was origami.  My dad has always said he knew which table was mine in school because it was the one surrounded with a mess of paper clippings embedded in the carpet.

I spent a lot of time with my dad, who was a blacksmith and woodworker.  My earliest memories are sitting in his shop, watching him shape metal at his forge, or sitting in my spot on the steps of his wood shop, smashing my fingers to bits as I tried to nail boards together. 

It wasn’t long before I realized that I could make money with the things I created. My very first business started in 1st grade when I sold origami boxes to kids in school for $0.05 each.  I can remember the first time I had enough nickels collected to buy not just ice cream, but also the hot pizza lunch - I felt rich!

As I got older, I gained access to better materials like fabric and yarn and began crocheting and knitting in class.  While some teachers didn't like this, I explained that keeping my hands busy actually allowed me to concentrate better and not get sleepy in their boring classes.

While I was a good student in school, I never felt smart, probably because my "best" friend always had the highest GPA (and liked to rub it in).  For college, I wanted to go to Haywood Community College, a community college that had the best lapidary (jewelry metalsmithing) program in the US. Looking back again, I wonder if I would have ever gotten into quilting if I’d gone to that college.  It was one of those big decisions I look back on in my life and wonder about.

But my parents really wanted me to attend a four year traditional university, and maybe even be a doctor one day, so I ended up at UNC-Asheville, totally undecided about what I wanted to do.

I took a variety of classes and ended up as a biology major because it was easy and I vaguely liked it in the beginning.  But during this time, I was always sewing in my dorm room, knitting in class, and making jewelry on the quad.

Leah and Josh DayI did meet my husband, Josh, at UNCA, and for that alone, my college experience was worth it.  Josh graduated in 2004 and began working online for his dad, Chet Day.  It was seeing Josh work online that really got me thinking about what I wanted from my life and how I wanted my days to run.

I began to see that a biology degree wasn’t going to get me anywhere; in fact, it was going to set me back and pile on loads of debt.  So in 2004, I dropped out of college and began working from home.  This remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, and I strongly encourage all high school seniors to take a year before running off to college.  It’s just not all it’s cracked up to be.

Working from home, I focused first on making custom garments for kids, like christening gowns and princess dresses.  I never had a demand for these garments, and never sold even one of them.  I think I was just blindly going into it, and focused entirely on what I thought would sell, not what I really wanted to make, or what I was passionate about. 

Josh and I got married in March 2005 and it was around this time I learned about a company in my area that made clothing for women, but contracted the labor to sewers working from home like me.  I thought this was my ticket to working from home successfully, and this would be the way I could make a living with my craft.

leah day | free motion quiltingIt’s sad to say, but that company was every nightmare come true.  Have you ever seen The Devil Wears Prada?  That is how hard I worked, every day from 7 am until 10 pm, sewing 10-12 garments a day.

As you can see from this photo - I wasn't happy.

It wasn’t just the number of garments, but the level of detail that went into them. I had to make sure every seam was perfectly serged, then top stitched. A mis-snip with my scissors or an incorrectly stitched seam would result in a totally ruined garment.

I learned a lot during this time.  I learned about sewing fast, but with high quality workmanship.  I learned loads about my machines as I broke two machines and two sergers during the year and a half I worked this job.

The most horrible thing about it is I didn’t even realize how bad it was, how much I was killing myself to succeed with it, until after it was all over. I lived in a daze of fatigue, driving myself to work faster and more efficiently.  It makes me so sad that I don’t remember much of the first two years of my marriage because I spent so much time working, working, working.

By the end, I could stitch a short sleeved top in 45 minutes, and a pair of jeans with pockets in 1 hour with intense concentration.  I had it down to a science, but I was still only making about $4.00 an hour.

Experiences like this are so important, though, and I don’t regret taking that job or working at it for so long.  I worked harder than I ever had in my life, but when it was over, I had learned an enormous amount about myself, my strength, and how I wanted to live from now on.

I knew that I didn’t want to sew garments for a living. I loved sewing and working on the machine, but I really didn’t like trying to make garments fit perfectly.  I’d gotten into quilting during this time, and I loved the flat simplicity of a quilt.  No darts, no pleats, or fitting in collars on a quilt.

I also knew that selling the items I made was not the best way to make money with my craft.  I’d watched my dad struggle to make a living as a blacksmith and wood worker, and I had struggled to make a decent living at sewing garments, and the combination of those lessons taught me to never sell my work. I can sell a book or DVD, I can teach anyone in the world how to make one too, but I will never sell the original.

After quitting that sewing job, Josh and I moved to Shelby, North Carolina and bought our first house.  We moved here to be closer to his parents for the business, and because we knew we’d never be able to afford a house in Asheville, NC.

leah dayWhile looking at houses, I began to think about how much space we would need.  I wanted a room of my own for sewing and quilting, Josh needed an office, and oh yeah, I’d gotten pregnant right about then, so we also needed a nursery!

It became obvious that we needed something bigger than a typical 3 bedroom, two bath house, and luckily we were able to find it.  We bought a house with a partially finished basement, which we could renovate and improve to make enough space for an office for Josh and a sewing studio for me.  I was done sewing in a 3 ft corner.

Over the next six months we worked on the house, and I finally had the time to focus on quilting exclusively.  I also began practicing yoga every week and this helped me adjust to my body being pregnant.

james dayIt was during this time that I also began to see and acknowledge my issues of low self esteem and a toxic inner negative voice (INV).  I began to work these issues out with my first goddess quilt, Life and Fire, which I completed right before James was born in February 2007.

To say that James changed my life, well, that is an understatement.  It’s like I could see my life, the long string of decisions and choices I’d made to get me to that point, but I could also see just how far I wanted to go.  I held my little boy in my arms and I vowed right then that I would become someone my son could be proud of.

But life after having a baby is never easy.  I sunk into a deep depression after James was born, mostly because I kept looking at the past, all the mistakes I’d made and all the ways I’d failed.  I was at the lowest point of my life, and could not pull myself out of the darkness.

Finally I saw that the only way to dig myself out of that horrible place I was in was to start working again.  I decided to start my first official business as a beauty consultant for L'Bri Pure n' Natural skin care products.

I’d been helping Chet out with his L’Bri customers for about a year, so this was a good fit for me.  I made it clear from the start that I wasn’t interested in holding shows or parties or doing anything in the traditional direct sales way.  I was going to build a website and sell products online.

This worked out very well and Chet helped me establish my business and taught me basically everything I know about internet marketing.  Within one year, my business was ranked as one of the top ten in the company, and it remained there for more than three years.

But selling skin care products, while it did bring in extra money, was just not what I was passionate about.  Pretty soon I realized that all the extra money I was making with skin care was going straight into quilting.

By 2008, I knew I wanted to focus on quilting full time and figure out a way to build a sustaining business.  I decided the way to do this was to make show quilts and to compete for the top prizes of big quilt festivals. The only problem was - I really didn’t know how to make a show quilt!

leah day | the duchess quiltSo I set about learning exactly what it took to win a ribbon in a quilt show.  From Google searches I eventually found Karen McTavish and her four excellent books which basically taught me all I needed to know to get started show quilting.

I decided then and there that I was going to create a white whole cloth quilt and compete with it.  I had just seen the movie The Duchess with Keiran Knightly and read the biography of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, and I was obsessed with the idea of creating a quilt with all the frills and glitz and glamor the costumes had in that movie.

I set about creating a design using Georgian wall paper designs for inspiration and hand drawing all the motifs on large scale graph paper. 
 
During this time, I fought an important road block - one of my sisters had always been the “artist” of the family and it felt weird to be drawing and designing this way.  Finally I realized I had to give myself permission to be an artist too.  It sounds like a simple thing, but it really was a pivotal shift in my thinking.

Once The Duchess quilt was designed, it took several days to transfer the design onto white fabric.  Already I could tell this was going to be one amazing quilt!

But I was also making mistakes I would regret later.  Josh and I had absolutely no extra money for this quilt, so I scrimped on the fabric.  I used white backing fabric, which is cheaper and lower quality than normal cotton. I also ran out of water soluble pens in the middle of the night while marking the quilt surface, and rather than wait and get a new pen, I grabbed another marking pencil, and without testing it, I marked the rest of the quilt.

leah day | the duchess quiltThe next steps went easily.  I layered the quilt with batting, stitched the surface with water soluble thread, and soon discovered one of the greatest loves of my life - clipping batting away for trapunto.  I swear, if I could clip batting every day, I would be the happiest person in the world.

Once the trapunto was in place, all I had to do was baste and quilt it.  This was the hard part - quilting The Duchess took months.  It was agonizing.  I got bored and soon found that quilting white thread on white fabric is a great way to go completely blind.

It was during this time that I attended an excellent local guild meeting where Mary Ray gave a lecture on her beautiful quilted garments.  I went home with my head buzzing, filled with a crazy creative energy.

release your light | goddess quiltI felt very frustrated and I remember laying in bed that night wishing I could share my creativity and my quilts with the world.  Suddenly I saw the image for Release Your Light pop into my head: a huge goddess, surrounded by a ring of flames.

I visualized my creativity as a small ball in the center of my heart, all wound up and tucked deep inside.  But once released, it’s not a small thing - it’s an explosion!

I got out of bed that night and sketched Release Your Light on a piece of paper.  The next morning I hung her on the wall next to my sewing machine and I knew that would be the next show quilt I would make.

The next few months I focused entirely on The Duchess and I have to say, making an all white wholecloth quilt with an 18 month old in the house is a great way to go insane.

Eventually the quilting was complete and it was time to soak the quilt to remove the markings.  Forgetting about the extra pencil I’d used, I dumped the quilt into a bath of steaming hot water.  All the water soluble pen marks immediately disappeared, but the pencil marks were now heat set into the quilt.

Devastation doesn’t describe the feeling I felt.  I just couldn’t believe the marks wouldn’t come out, but no matter what I tried, the light blue and pink lines remained.

I’d always planned to go over the top with this quilt, just like the costuming in the movie The Duchess, so I started by applying beads and lace around the center circle.  Once that was complete, I felt the quilt still needed some bling, so I tried iron on rinestones.

The only problem was, I didn’t bother to buy the right tool to put the rinestones on, and ended up singeing the center of the quilt.  Ugly mark #2 in the smack dead center of the quilt.  The judges would have to be blind to miss that one.
 
Again, I tried everything to cover this second mistake.  No matter how much paint, ink, pen I applied, this singe mark would not come out.

Still I continued to add more beads, lace, and crystals to the surface, hand stitching everything in place over the winter months while my family had a cold.  I must have been running a fever myself the night I decided to stitch a single bead into the center of every crosshatch square in the middle section of this quilt.

Eventually The Duchess was entirely done and despite the mistakes, I was very proud of this quilt.  I packed her up and sent her off to Denver National Quilt Festival in the spring of 2009.

I was on pins and needles to know what was going on at the show, but no news was published, and it wasn’t until I received the quilt back and found a blue ribbon inside that I realized I’d won my very first quilt ribbon.

I can’t explain exactly what this ribbon did for me.  It was validation in its purest form.  I just finally felt like I’d found the right craft, and I was doing the right thing.

Unfortunately The Duchess wasn’t reacting very well to traveling.  The cheap cotton backing fabric I’d used to save money was showing every smudge of dirt.  I asked around and several quilters told me to use oxyclean to clean the surface of the quilt.  Then they would immediately say “Well, you could always use hydrogen peroxide since it’s basically the same thing.”

So I tried it.  I soaked my quilt in hydrogen peroxide, and once dry, I packed the quilt off to go to North Carolina Quilt Symposium where she won a second ribbon!

But at symposium, I could already tell something was seriously wrong with The Duchess.  Certain areas were starting to discolor, and the beads were starting to pop off in certain places.

Concerned for my quilt, I took her home and stupidly treated the discolored areas with more hydrogen peroxide, not knowing that this chemical was the reason for all the problems.  It turns out that this chemical weakens cotton fabric and thread.  Since the cotton was already low quality, it wasn’t long before the chemical ate through the surface completely.

The Duchess showed one more time at National Quilting Association show, but this time the judges caught every mistake, every flaw, and wrote a critique that made me cringe.  Looking at the quilt, I knew she could never show again. The surface was breaking, the cotton so weak and brittle it will literally crumble under your fingertips.

To have this happen to my first show quilt was crushing.  I almost stopped quilting because of it.  I had to put The Duchess in storage because looking at her is really upsetting.  It just makes me very sad to see that quilt and how I ruined it.

But I didn’t stop quilting.  I dug myself out of that hole by jumping into Release Your Light.  This time I decided to appliqué the body of the goddess over a white background, but then quilt in all the other details.  Since I’d learned my lesson with white quilts, I also planned to cover the whole quilt with paint.

Working on this quilt was also a marathon session.  Everything seemed to take months, rather than days or weeks.  Everything was time consuming and meticulously done.

During this time I began focusing entirely on quilting.  My L’Bri business was established to the point that I really didn’t need to focus much on it.  James was attending preschool for a few hours each day, and would happily play next to my sewing machine while I quilted.

It gave me a lot of time to think about the quilt I was working on and the major issue I was grappling with - connecting with quilters.  I knew I wanted to focus entirely on quilting, but I didn’t know how I would be able to do this if it wasn’t making at least some form of income.

When I started Release Your Light, I only knew about four free motion quilting designs: Stippling, McTavishing, Pebbling, and Paisley.

I could really only quilt Stippling and McTavishing because I was still using thick cotton thread for quilting and it kept breaking every time I attempted to quilt Pebbling or Paisley. So I used just two designs through the center of the quilt until I reached the outer ring of flames.  By this time, I was so extremely sick of these two designs that I wanted to stitch ANYTHING else.

I complained about this issue to a quilting friend and she mentioned using Paisley and I explained that I didn’t think that texture matched the overall design of the quilt.  She responded with “Why don’t you change it a bit so it works?”

My instant thought was, “Is that allowed?”

leah day | free motion quiltingBut I immediately tried it.  I took paisley and elongated the design into a flame shape, changed it up a bit, and created my first design: Flame Stitch.  I then quilted this design throughout the flames of Release Your Light.
 
I still had a month of quilting left to go and that gave me plenty of time to think about that design and how easy it was to create a new design.  How many designs could there be?

It was around this time I was listening to an audiobook called Free: The Future of a Radical Price. This book explains how people have used the price of $0.00 to establish such huge brands as Jello, Gillette razors, Google, and YouTube.

The more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to create more new designs.  And I didn’t just want to create 50 or 100, I wanted an excuse to focus on quilting for an entire year.

I wanted a reason to come downstairs and quilt and do what I loved rather than get on the computer to sell skin care products.  I needed an excuse, a goal, because blogging irregularly without a purpose had really not worked for me. I also knew I wanted to do it all for free.  That was a sticking point that a few members of my family didn’t understand at first.  Why give something away that could be sold?

But I knew better.  I was entirely unknown. I had NO traffic. No one knew Leah Day, and who would publish such a crazy idea, especially when it wasn’t even done yet? The ONLY way to do this was to share it all for free, and not just photos but videos as well.

I’ll be honest - I didn’t know if this was going to work.  I didn’t know if anyone would care or even pay attention.  I just knew I had to do this, I had to start it, I had to try.

I thought about the idea for almost a month.  It worked on me and I worked on it, until finally I launched the project on August 14th, 2009.  I just wrote the intro post, then the rules, then posted the first design.

shadow waves free motion quilting designWhen Josh came downstairs, I told him what I’d done and he looked at me like I’d grown an extra head.  He still didn’t really think it was such a good idea, but I’d started the project and it was too late to worry about that now.

In the beginning, I just posted photos, but soon found that writing out a description of how to quilt a design was far harder than just editing and posting a video on YouTube.  I also really didn’t know what I was doing as far as fabric or thread goes.  I just used whatever fabric was in my stash that I didn’t have a plan for, which meant that many of the first designs were really difficult to see.

After only one week, I could see that I need to start working ahead of myself.  I started the project with only 7 designs stitched out and ready to go, and it was a scramble to make more quickly.  I had a few very crazy days where I shot a video, edited it, uploaded to YouTube, and wrote the blog about it all in one day.  It was crazy and chaotic, but I quickly learned to always have at least a week's worth of designs.

Since I was posting new designs daily in the beginning, the project grew very quickly. By September, I was getting emails from quilters asking about quilting, watching the videos, and sharing the project with their friends.

The thing that blindsided me the most was request for books and DVDs.  I just never considered the idea that readers would want books or DVDs when the designs were all posted online for free.

But the request kept coming in, along with questions about what tools and materials I was using for my quilts, and with the economy taking a nose dive, Josh and I were already seeing that Chet’s business might not be in the position to support both of our families for too much longer.  It was time to open our online quilt shop to run alongside the project.  This would be what funded the project and ultimately, would soon support my family.

Starting a business is surprisingly easy.  In order to purchase wholesale from a quilting distributor company all I had to do was list my business with my state and request a resale tax ID number.  Once I had my number, I could then purchase wholesale products to sell online.  I specifically look for products that were lightweight and could be packed in bubble mailers rather than boxes so it wouldn’t cost as much to ship.

It isn't an exaggeration to say that I started the quilt shop with around $300 I'd made from my skin care business.  This money paid for just 9 products, and I would only buy 10 of each item (sometimes less) at a time, so our inventory stayed low.  Being online, it didn't matter that we only had a few items on the shelf.

leah day | online quilting classDuring this time I also produced my first DVD, Volume 1, which contained the first 20 designs from the project.  I really wanted to include more, but the disc only had space for 20 videos, which taught me a huge lesson about just how much volume I was going to create with all 365 designs.  Suddenly the size of the project was starting to sink in…

Along with Volume 1, I decided to create a workbook of the designs with graphs so quilters could practice drawing out the designs on paper. Unfortunately I didn’t know anything about graphic design, so all the graphs were hand drawn on paper, then scanned into the computer. 

The results were pixilated and, truthfully, not very professional, but it was the absolute best I could do in such a short space of time and with the limited resources we had.  When I think back to those months in September and October 2009, all I remember doing was either stitching designs, editing videos, writing, or working on the book or DVD.  I’m not even sure I slept much during that time.

Free Motion Quilting Fillers Volume 1 launched around Halloween and the response was really overwhelming.  Going from being virtually nonexistent in July to having a business bringing in real money to our family was unexpected and quite overwhelming at times.

leah day | online quilting classEven with Volume 1 launched, the requests kept coming for more books, more DVDs, more information about free motion quilting.  I began working on Free Motion Quilting Fillers Volume 2, again working almost entirely on my own as Josh was still spending most of his time working for Chet.

Again, I didn’t have the greatest software, or the best idea of how to do this, but I used what I had and made do.  Volume 2 launched before Thanksgiving and the two workbooks and DVDs together were a great success.

While I might sound critical of these workbooks and DVDs, I was actually very, very proud of them when they came out.  They were absolutely the best I could do at the time and I learned so much by creating them.

But by this time I was utterly exhausted.  I never expected the blog to take off like it did.  I expected I might get book requests at the end of posting all 365 designs, not right at the beginning.

It was overwhelming and the fact is, I wasn’t ready for any of it.  I had to take some time, slow down, and try to get ahead of myself on the project. 

leah day | winter wonderland quiltSo by November 2009, I stopped posting daily.  I had to admit to myself and everyone else that I just wasn’t Superwoman.  I took the entire month of December off from posting new designs and focused on getting ahead of myself so the project wouldn’t be so stressful. I decided I’d put off making more books and DVDs for the time being and spend the winter relaxing. During this time I kicked back and designed 13 snowflake blocks that would eventually become Winter Wonderland.

What I’ve learned since this experience is the fact that I have a very hard time saying “No” to anyone who wants me to do anything. I’m like a little puppy that’s bubbling with enthusiasm: “You threw the ball for ME!  I LOVE YOU!  I MUST go get it for you!  Will you throw it again, PLEASE?!”

My self esteem and self worth was so tied to what other people wanted, to what made everyone else happy.  My happiness, well, it just didn’t matter as much, wasn’t as important.

Over and over as I’ve worked on this project, I’ve had to return myself to my original focus.  I’ve had to remind myself “Why did you start this project, Leah?  Who did you start it for?”

I started it for myself, so I could have an excuse to quilt every day, but it’s so hard to keep that in perspective.  So few people have wanted me or valued what I could do, that it’s really hard to not agree to everything that’s handed to me just because it makes me happy to be wanted and be useful.

about leah day | free motion quiltingIt was even harder to keep the original goal in mind when I began getting requests to lecture and teach in guilds.  By November I’d been asked to teach in California, the Bahamas, North and South Carolina. 

I agreed to do almost every single local workshop or lecture I was request for.  I signed contracts booking months through all of 2010 before that year had even started. But it was when I was asked to book into 2011 and 2012 and beyond, that I finally started to think straight.  James was not yet 3, how could I know what was going to be going on with our family in two or three years? 

I had to return to my original focus and intention to work from home, online, and to quilt daily.  I can’t quilt when I’m on the road.  I can hand piece or hand appliqué, but I can’t quilt, and I have to admit I’m a really terrible traveler.

I’m not terrible in the sense that I get sick or anything, I just have bad traveler amnesia.  I easily forget how much I hate it, how much it tears up my stomach, stresses me out, and really wrecks my style for about a month straight.  I forget how it makes me feel until the day before I go somewhere and then I’m a total mess until a week after I come home.

I absolutely love to teach.  I didn’t realize how much until my first lecture for the Concord Quilt Guild in January 2010.  I was nervous getting up in front of a full house of quilters, but as soon as I opened my mouth, I knew this for me.  I like to tell my story and I love to show my quilts.  It’s fun and hearing people laugh - that is just plain addictive.

It was around this time that I found the polling feature on the blog and began to run polls asking different questions.  One that totally threw me off was the question “Rate your level of quilting” in which I expect that most quilters following the project would be intermediate to advanced - quilters who wanted to quilt show quilts like me.

Oh, I was so wrong!  More than 55% reported being Beginners and another 18% reported being Utterly Clueless.  That changed my perspective on who was reading the blog overnight.

Suddenly I saw that beginners really needed more help, more information, and more guidance to getting started.  I ran a few more polls and every time the answers came back requesting more information about free motion quilting and how to use the filler designs in actual quilts.

Eager to please, I immediately started filming Free Motion Basics For Beginners, a DVD that would cover all the basics to free motion quilting.  Again I was running off on a tangent, like a chicken with her head cut off.

It took a month of filming which was much more difficult than the other DVDs because I filmed a lot of myself speaking directly into the camera, which made me fanatical about how I looked.

Halfway through the filming, I got sick, but rather than take time off like a normal, sane person, I instead set up my laptop in bed with my external hard drive connected so I could edit the videos for the DVD and rest at the same time.

That is, until I needed to get out of bed and forgot about the external hard dive, which happened to contain all of the videos I’d created up until that point.  You know what happened next - it crashed to the floor and took all the videos with it.

It’s a very good lesson to learn - when you’re sick, just go to bed and stop working.

Luckily I only lost three videos for the new DVD, but I lost all of the videos for the free motion quilting project.  I’d already edited videos for Volumes 3, 4, and 5, but after the crash I pretty much decided I was not going to continue to publish the designs in volumes.  It was too expensive and way too time consuming.

Eventually the new DVD was ready to launch and I was so happy when it was met with a good response from quilters.  I was less thrilled when the reports started coming in that the DVDs were faulty.  Actually a better description would be crushed.  I was utterly crushed that this happened.

My DVD manufacturer, which had previously been great, suddenly ran through a batch of very cheap, faulty DVDs, which corrupted half the discs of the first batch.  My sample had worked just fine, so it totally blind-sided me when the discs started having problems.

Immediately I began looking for a new company to produce the DVDs, and alerted everyone to the issue on the blog.  It was embarrassing and humiliating and made me feel terrible for months. My inner negative voice (INV) was always strong, especially when I was down, and took on a whole new edge that spring.  It just wouldn’t stop cutting me down, glorifying my failure, and reminding me of my every flaw.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore.  I sat at my dining room table and I looked at Release Your Light, a quilt that symbolizes creativity and freedom and the power of sharing.

I looked at this quilt and I wondered if it was possible to design a quilt about my INV, and by symbolizing it, I could make it less powerful.

leah day | shadow self quiltI decided it was worth a try so I began designing Shadow Self in the spring of 2010.  This quilt would mark a huge change in my design and quilting process as I designed the entire quilt on a small scale, then blew it up to the full size, and then quilted it using over 40 filler designs.

During this process I found many books that helped me understand and see myself better.  Two of the most important were "I know I'm In There Somewhere" by Hellen Brenner and "Truth Heals" by Deborah King.

By reading these books I finally began to see the truth about my INV.  Truth heals, but it also hurts. While reading these books I made a list of all the thoughts that ran through my head the most often. After reading over the list, I was finally able to confront the real source of all this suffering.
 
My mother was largely the source of my inner negative voice.  About 90% of the destructive and abusive things that rattled through my head on a daily basis weren’t my words at all, but hers.

And the other 10%?  Those words came from my sisters or toxic childhood friends.  It’s like I was some kind of negativity sponge and I’d soaked up every bad word said about me and stored it in my head to come out and haunt me at the worst times.

about leah day | free motion quiltingAs I worked on Shadow Self, as I explored the light and dark sides of my mind, I suddenly found more space, more peace, more quiet than I’d ever had before.  I could hear the difference between my thoughts and those negative voices.  I literally quilted the power of the inner negative voice out of my life, out of my mind.

I gained so much freedom after finishing Shadow Self that I celebrated by creating My Cup Runneth Over, a quilt I’d started, but not finished in the winter.  This quilt was a celebration of light, love, and life, and it felt wonderful to work without the constant negative drone buzzing in my ears.

But the underlying cause was still my abusive mother and sisters.  Around this time, my mother left my dad after 30 years of marriage.  She then attended a quilting function and behaved so outrageously badly, and treated me so terribly, I finally had to draw the line.

I began making a list of all the words that hurt so much, all the phrases and sayings that had cut me for years.  I designed a new quilt called Sinkhole to hold all of these words, to trap them where they couldn’t hurt me anymore.

about leah day | free motion quiltingWorking on this quilt forced me to face many truths.  The truth that my mother was an alcoholic, a prescription drug addict, and abusive.  I had never put those words to my mother before, but as soon as I made the connection, I knew it was true.

I also knew that I didn’t have the space in my life for an abusive alcoholic.  I lost my mother in 2010, not because she died, but because I knew it would kill something in me to keep our relationship going.

I also decided to sever my relationship with one of my sisters, and the other quickly followed a few months later.  I took a stand by saying, “This will not be tolerated.  You must treat me with respect and kindness” and they couldn’t deal with it.
 
While I know it may be hard for you to understand why I made this decision, or why I absolutely don’t want anything to do with these members of my family, all I can say is I tried.  I tried for years to be what they wanted, but I realized in 2010 that what they wanted was for me to be unhappy, broken, and utterly dependent on them.

Abuse continues because cycles exist that allow the abuse to perpetuate.  By severing the contact with these members of my family, I have stopped this cycle of abuse, and saved myself from teaching it to my own son. This was one of the hardest, but also one of the most important decisions of my life.

beginner free motion quilting filler designsI also made a hard decision in June 2010 to discontinue Volume 1 and Volume 2 and replace them with a new DVD Beginner Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs.  I did this for a lot of reasons, but the biggest was the quality of the DVDs.  By this time I had a learned more about making videos, and I knew I could do a much better job.

Almost as an afterthought, I decided to self publish a physical book of 50 designs to go along with the DVD.  This project suddenly was twice as big, twice as complicated, and I basically spent the entire summer of 2010 on the computer working, working, working.

Finally, just as things began to take shape and the book Free Motion Quilting From Daisy to Paisley and the new DVD were ready to launch, I reached the end of my rope.  Luckily Josh was ready and willing to step up to the plate.  He stopped working for Chet and within a week took over the customer support email and packing all orders.

Looking back, I am a little surprised I got through 2010 with my brain still intact.  Traveling each month, dealing with the emotional turmoil of cutting off half my family, blogging daily, writing my first real book, creating two DVDs, and running an online business - that was a lot!

I am a strong person.  I've known this since I made it through that first year sewing for a living, but I don’t always make life easy for myself.  I try to do too much, I work too hard, and I have trouble keeping everything in perspective. This time was an especially hard one because I could be a brutal task master, and accept no less than perfection in everything I did.
 
One pivotal experience was in the middle of piecing the rings of Sinkhole. I was turning the fabric easily with my hands, sliding one piece into another to layer the fabrics together and for some reason I asked myself the simple question - Why am I so good at this?
 
This is an important question because most twenty-seven year olds are not particularly good at manipulating fabric. Most women my age could care less about making anything. So why do I have this ability?
 
Many years ago I'd read the book "Outliers" by Malcome Gladwell, which outlines WHY the Beatles got so popular, why almost all major league hockey players are born in January, and why Bill Gates was so good at computers. The answer for all of them is simple: practice.
 
Innate talent does not set one musician apart from another, though that certainly is what most people like to think. No, it's the time you spend practicing and honing your ability that makes all the difference. But I already knew I'd had a lot of practice since childhood. I'd been sewing since I was eight, I'd been stitching tiny stitches, either in fabric or stitching beads together for years and years. I had practiced a whole lot, that is why I was good at it.
 
But this time I asked a second question - why did I practice so much? Why did I spend countless hours hiding behind a chair cutting paper and fabric and stitching doll clothes? Why did I pursue hobbies like crochet and knitting all on my own and with no extra incentive from school?
 
The answer was quite simple: it was my escape, my only refuge. I hid from the time I was four until I was around twelve behind a chair and crafted just to give myself a peaceful place within my chaotic household. I learned multiple crafts not because I was innately interested in making sweaters (none of which I ever finished), but because it gave me something to do that was quiet, inexpensive, and kept me out of sight.
 
about leah day | free motion quiltingThe moment I realized this was a moment of intense pain because I realized that my mother and sisters could take credit for at least the foundation of my abilities. Without their nagging, bullying, and abuse, I might never have picked up a pair of scissors, I might never have read the Encyclopedia of Needlecraft, I might never have built any skill with my hands.
 
I stood at my table and looked at the quilt I was making for a long time and wondered if I should finish it. I wondered if I should ever make another thing again. If creating for me started as an escape to abuse, shouldn't I stop doing it now that I'm no longer being abused?
 
Ultimately I decided to accept my beginning. It is what it is. Should I stop quilting or playing with any fun hand craft just because of this connection? No. To do that would allow those monsters to win all over again.
 
Instead I picked up those fabrics again and resumed working on that quilt, but this time knowing that I do not quilt as an escape from an abusive person. I quilt because it makes me happy. I quilt because I find expression and peace by doing it.
 
In the end, I realized I didn't need to create Sinkhole, a quilt to capture all the negative words of my childhood. I realized that I'd designed a huge quilt, blowing up the proportions of my pain to a gigantic scale. That wasn't the right image, and it certainly wasn't going to help me feel better.
 
leah day | handmade quiltSo I shelved that quilt for several months and in the winter of 2011, I decided to start a new quilt called Hot Cast because that’s exactly what I wanted to do to myself - cast myself anew.  When I was in high school, I worked with my dad at a bronze foundry where we cast bronze sculptures using the lost wax casting method.
 
That idea, being cast again with new metal, was on my mind a lot during this time and I designed quilt to symbolize casting your body with love, allowing it to infuse every section with molten heat.

Working on this quilt was really hard.  It’s not easy to go from hating yourself to loving yourself overnight. Mostly it just felt false, pushing for love and acceptance when it wasn't naturally forthcoming.
 
At this point those toxic members of my family had been cut off for nearly six months, but I was finding the memories they'd ingrained in my head were far harder to cut off. I was plagued with self doubt and fear. Should I make this a show quilt and compete with it? What if it doesn't win? That section isn't perfect, what if  it gets criticized?
 
Eventually I stumbled across the element I was missing while working on this quilt: compassion.
 
Compassion is having the ability to hug and comfort yourself. It's the ability to be gentle, to take a break, and to accept that whatever you did and however you did it was enough. This was the first lesson in compassion, but would not be the last.
 
Ultimately I finished Hot Cast and immediately felt dissatisfied with it. I'd rushed through the design and felt like the background was uninspired and boring. Yes, I'm very critical of my own work, and this was the first goddess quilt I'd created that didn't fill the need I'd made it for.
 
Only now, several years after, can I look at that quilt through different eyes and accept what was going on back then. All the fear and self doubt swirling around was making it hard for me to try anything new, to branch out in any way. I'm not the type of person that can make the same quilt over and over. I get bored very easily and I need a challenge to stay focused and excited about a project.
 
free motion quilting from feathers to flamesSo I took a break after creating Hot Cast and bounced around a bit on the Free Motion Quilting Project trying new things. I wanted to incorporate trying new techniques into blog posts to share on the project, but it wasn't gelling with the original focus of the blog to create 365 designs. When I posted something off topic, I usually got lukewarm, or worse, critical response. I decided to wait until the original 365 were done before making any changes to how I was posting content to the blog.
 
Instead of working on more goddess quilts I'd likely have been disappointed with, I decided to write a second book, Free Motion Quilting From Feathers to Flames, and publish it as a second mini book of 50 designs from the project. This again coincided with the summer and again I found myself inside, stuck on the computer while my family enjoyed the warm weather in the pool without me.
 
However this was an easier book to write because I wasn't trying to produce a DVD at the same time. I also contacted a graphic designer and got a lot more help creating this book than the last. With each book written and published, the process gets easier and easier.
 
Around this time I did decide to start shooting the videos for a DVD: Free Motion Quilting from Flames to Feathers that would be a companion to the book. Instead of quilting in small squares, this would be the first DVD showing how to quilt within the blocks of the Squares and Sashing Quilt.
 
Unfortunately life got super busy during this time and while the videos were shot, I didn't get around to editing them until 2012. Now, more than 2 years later, this DVD has finally been released in both physical DVD disc and online download editions.
 
After quilting Squares and Sashing, I had a moment of clarity about Sinkhole. This quilt had been rolled up and shoved under my quilting tables where I wished it would just go away. One evening I was cleaning up the studio and decided enough was enough. I took the quilt outside, covered it with eco-friendly kerosene, and lit it on fire.
 
Click here if the video does not appear
 
 leah day | emergence quiltBurning this quilt was a powerful experience, a release, of a lot of negativity that had been lurking in my sewing room. All those dark words stitched within it had a power of their own, and getting that quilt out of my space was the best decision I'd ever made.
 
At this point I remembered a quilt design I'd sketched years and years before, and even named Emergence. What if I could take the original design for Sinkhole and combine it with Emergence to create a goddess emerging from all that darkness?
 
This was a great idea on paper, but again, I rushed through the design process, so eager and excited to get to the quilting and construction. Just like with Hot Cast, I worked for many months on this quilt, only to finish feeling bored and frustrated.
 
This might sound like a boring story. It's a bit boring even to myself, and it was certainly boring to live it. I kept making the same mistakes over and over, and nothing is more frustrating than an endless cycle of disappointment.
 
But things were changing. Around this time the year ticked over from 2011 to 2012 and the original goal of 365 designs was complete. All of the designs had been posted to the project and I could finally decide where to go next. Should I continue quilting out 4 inch squares of each design? Should I try quilting real quilts?
 
What I wanted to do most was dig into teaching via online videos. I wanted to figure out how to more effectively teach and keep up with students and do more than quilt out 4 inch squares. I wanted us to work on real projects together and see what it was like leading a formal quilt along online.
 
heart and feather wholeclothI can't really explain how scary this idea was, but it was the direction I wanted to move into, needed to move into, and luckily it was met with wonderful enthusiasm from the first quilt along post #1 Let's Wiggle! I wanted to teach so I started with the absolute basics and we focused on Stippling for several weeks.
 
Through the entire year I branched out to teach multiple designs in real quilts, we pieced and quilted a modern quilt together, dug into a wholecloth project, and by the end of the year were finishing UFO projects with a dedicated focus.
 
I love the experience the Free Motion Quilt Along gave me, not just in a focus on how to make videos more clear and professional, but how to plan a project out so it flows easily on video. Sometimes you don't need to show every single step, other times you need to be super clear and meticulous with detail.
 
Working through the Quilt Along also gave me time to step back and take a hard look at my habits. I had a habit of rushing through a design, even though designing was my favorite part of the process. I had a habit of making split second decisions with very little planning or foresight.
 
It was after reading the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I not only understood my habits a million times better, I actively began to build new, healthier habits. I began waking up and going to bed earlier. The extra hours in the morning were my special time to journal, design, plan my day, and enjoy the silence of the house.
 
craftsy leah day | free motion quilting a samplerAnother remarkable thing about this year was the collaboration with Craftsy.com. This is an educational site entirely focused on crafts: quilting, knitting, spinning, crochet, and even cake decorating. I was contacted by a producer about teaching a class on free motion quilting a sampler quilt designed by Amy Gibson for the free class she taught in 2012.
 
At first, I was very cautious, as I have always been when dealing with any legally binding contract. But after Josh and I both discussed the contract and went over the fine print, we ultimately agreed it would be a great step for our business. For the entire month of May I worked on quilting the demo quilt and preparing step outs, worked on the outline, and planned every aspect of what would be taught in the class.
 
I'd never worked methodically like this before to plan everything out step by step. It was definitely a learning experience to get all the ideas out on paper and clearly outlined far in advance. In July I flew to Denver, Colorado and had an amazing time shooting in a real studio, complete with props, super bright lighting, and two cameras to capture two angles at once.
 
The class itself ended up being super long and very detailed, with over nine hours of video in the finished class. It was a ton of work to create, but in the end, I knew I'd finally found a way to teach that was even better than teaching a workshop in person. Craftsy classes really are the perfect bridge between traditional workshops and creative exploration at home. You can watch the lessons and participate in class as much or as little as you like, work at your own pace, and ask questions at any time.
 
A side benefit of the Craftsy experience was the confidence it gave me in my ability on video. After years of making videos at home, I'm not afraid of the camera and I can usually get my point across quickly and succinctly. While in Denver I was showered with wonderful compliments from how pretty I was to how smooth on video, and that was an enormous boost to my self esteem and confidence.
 
365 free motion quilting designs bookYet another thing in the works that summer of 2012 was the book 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs. After publishing the 365th design right before Christmas, it was time to compile them all into one big book. After a lot of consideration on the best way to compile so many designs together, I eventually decided to list each one in the order they were posted online. Since all the designs have videos online, this is the easiest order to reference them by.
 
Another hard choice was the decision not to include any step-by-step instructions in the book, which would have doubled the page count and made it a lot more time consuming to produce. Instead this book was published as an inspirational picture book, something to flip through while looking for the perfect design for your next quilt.
 
On top of the book, the Craftsy class, and the Quilt Along, I was also learning a new way to design. At this point it had been four years since I started the original Duchess quilt and in that time I'd learned loads about quilting and design. It was time to design a new over-the-top wholecloth.
 
Up until this time, all of my quilts had started as hand drawings on a small scale. I'd scan in the finished drawing into my computer, blow it up, and print it out on multiple sheets of paper. For this quilt, the design was so complex and the size so large, the entire quilt would have to be designed on the computer.
 
leah day | duchess reigns quiltOf course, with so much stuff going on, this quilt design, which eventually became known as Duchess Reigns, was not something I could work on continually. I'd work on it, think about it, drop it, pick it up again, fiddle with it. Months of constant tinkering finally resulted in a finished design. I knew it was done because there was absolutely nothing I was unsatisfied with. Every aspect was pleasing to my eye, and the quilt had challenges built in: this wholecloth would be hand dyed halfway through the process and have a loopy corded binding on the edges.
 
In order to ensure that Duchess Reigns would be a success and would work out from start to finish smoothly, I began running small tests. I'd mark a small section on fabric, follow the steps I'd planned to use, dye it, quilt it, hang it on a wall and step back to see what I thought. Sometimes the filler designs had to be adjusted. Sometimes the size of a line or width of a space.
 
These were small changes, small choices, but all of them combined together is what makes the finished quilt. After many months of design, and more time spent testing, the actual quilt was ready to be started!
 
This has been a time consuming process. It's a very large quilt with lots of intricate details. There are times that it feels like this process will last forever and it will never get done. Other times it feels wonderful to see the design and planning play out so easily without a question left unanswered.
 
The one thing that I've learned about this experience is how important it is to slow down and take your time. Careful planning and consideration are necessary skills that I'm only just now starting to develop. While the "fly by the seat of your pants" method works for some people, it definitely hasn't worked for me!
 
But remember how I said I easily get bored? I think if I had just been working on Duchess Reigns all year, I would have gotten so bored I would have fallen asleep at my sewing machine! Quilting repetitive designs and shapes through 70 inches of quilt is very, very boring!
 
So how can I balance these two passions: the desire to dig in and make a huge, beautiful, complex project that will take many months, and the desire to experiment and explore and create something cool very quickly?
 
express your love | leah dayThe solution was found right in front of me in the Free Motion Quilt Along! As the year ticked over from 2012 to 2013, I designed a small goddess quilt that was simple in nature and had a positive theme I wanted to share with everyone: Express Your Love.
 
This quilt was designed specifically for me to teach designs, experiment with new techniques, explore new color combinations, and generally work quickly and fluidly within this one simple design.
 
Beyond the quilt itself was the theme: express your love. I wanted to work on expressing my love to myself, my family, and everyone that reads the Free Motion Quilting Project blog. I wanted to spend at least a year figuring out what stops me from being a loving person all the time, what gets in my way, and how to tap into and express love more openly.
 
To add to the fun, this quilt along differed in a big way from the previous year. This time I didn't want to trap myself into a box with any single project worked through step by step. We're working on this quilt design together, but I didn't want anyone to feel like they had to make EXACTLY the same quilt I was making. I also didn't want to feel obligated to step through every tiny detail in order, which can be very difficult to shoot on video if you don't have a plan for where things are going in the end.
 
In essence: I wanted the freedom to teach anything I wanted, anytime I wanted, and exactly how I wanted. I basically gave myself a license to just DO IT! Do whatever you want! Just go do it and have fun!
 
This was a very new feeling and it honestly took some adjustment to get used to. Suddenly I could stop dreaming of playing with that piecing technique, I could go try it out, and shoot a video on it, AND be honest if some aspect of it didn't work out.
 
Looking back on it, honesty was the biggest key to this quilt along. The very first version of the quilt I created, I didn't like! I felt very frustrated and even stopped posting about it and shared videos on Duchess Reigns instead, until finally I realized I was in a rut and I needed to face up to the issues. I did this on video, shared my mistakes, and then how I was going to fix it.
 
This type of honesty and transparency is super cool. I never would have thought that would feel so liberating.  Mostly it's such a relief say: I'm human, I made a mistake, and now I need to figure out what to do next.
 
Sometimes the sheer volume of response and the knowledge that thousands of people are reading and watching my work puts a pressure in the back of my mind to be perfect, to show only perfect videos, and only perfect results all the time. This series of videos and shared experiences has taught me that I don't have to be perfect - I just have to be honest and try my best.
 
As I work through multiple versions of this quilt, I know I've finally stumbled across the perfect balance of sharing and learning. We now have multiple versions of Express Your Love in progress, and I know this journey is far from over.  It’s only just begun.
 
Now the last question I often get asked is how and why I share so much personal stuff about myself.

Most professional quilters have About Me pages that are only a few paragraphs, if that.

I find these condensed biographies very frustrating to read.  When I'm interested in someone, I want to know more about them, and if we have anything in common.  More than anything else I want to know WHY someone quilts and if it is similar to the reasons why I quilt.

I also find it difficult NOT to write and share about myself.  I feel that if I gave you only new designs and happy, smiling photos, you might leave thinking I'm some kind of superwoman freak of nature who does it all, never gets overwhelmed, never gets frustrated, and never has a bad hair day.

But that isn't ME.  I regularly get overwhelmed, frustrated, and annoyed with my own limitations. I wasn't raised to be gentle, compassionate, or kind to myself, so I've had to learn it the hard way. I make quilts to help along the way, and with each project completed, learn a bit more, and move a bit closer to living a fulfilled and happy life.

I just can't be fake.  Life isn't all flowers and sunshine all the time, and my blog isn't either.

I figure if you're interested enough to read this entire long post, then chances are this is exactly what you wanted to find here - a true connection with a real person. 

I do appreciate your interest and if I haven’t covered something here, and you have a burning question to ask, please feel free to click here to contact us.

Let’s go quilt,

Leah Day
 
 
Extra note about forgiveness: I'm often emailed with questions regarding my mother and sisters and if I'm in contact with them or if I will ever forgive them and let them back in my life. Some of these emails are kind and considerate. Most are demanding and argumentative.
 
The answer is no.
 
No, I have not spoken to my mother or my two sisters since 2010. I have absolutely no plans to speak to them ever again.
 
about leah day
There was never much room
for me between my big sisters.
This was not an easy or quick decision, but it was one made with the clearest logic, not anger, to guide me. Logically I looked at the relationship I had with these three individuals and realized the relationship we had was false: it depended on me to be small, quiet, subservient, and agreeable all the time.
 
When I stepped out of that role even slightly, fights would erupt immediately, one even violently.
 
So before you send your email to demand I forgive my mother and sisters and welcome them back in my life, consider what you are asking. Would you encourage a battered woman to go back to her abusive husband?
 
Women do not usually use their fists to hurt and maim. Abusive women use harsh words that can cut deeper than the sharpest knife.
 
It is not for lack of forgiveness that I will never speak to these people again, it's for self preservation. I took a stand before my 27th birthday that I would never again be treated with disrespect, never again be made to feel small, ugly, stupid, and unwanted. It was my birthday present to myself.
 
So if you really want me to feel that way again, if you really want me to return to an abusive relationship with three unchangeable narcissistic women, by all means contact us and let me hear your wonderful reasoning behind your insanity. I will happily delete your email without reading it.