Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Be Free! ... An interview with Leah Day

If you have read anything online about quilting on a domestic machine, you have probably at least once read the name Leah Day. Leah is the one who inspired a whole community of quilters to use free motion through her blog and her youtube channel

Recently I tried it and it didn't go so well - so I reached out to Leah to see if she had any hot tips for beginners, and thought I'd ask a few other questions while I was at it and she was kind enough to agree to be interviewed - Keep reading to find out what Leah's favourite quilt is, her tips for beginners and what she gets up to in her (limited) free time!

Leah Day from
You are recognized by the online quilting community as the Super Star of Free Motion Quilting, do you get recognized in the street?
Thank you for that very kind compliment! One thing to keep in mind is in order to share as much as I do online, I don't travel very much. Once or twice a year I'll attend a big quilt show and yes, I do get recognized at those events. It's very sweet and it really fills my bucket because I don't experience that very often. Most of my day is spent at home in my basement or filming videos in my Crafty Cottage so it's a real treat to have quilters come up and say they watch or listen to my podcast.
How did you first learn about Free Motion?
I took a basic machine quilting class in 2004 at a local quilt shop. Most of the class was focused on walking foot quilting, but towards the end, we attached darning feet and tried free motion quilting. I was hooked from the very beginning! I wasn't very good at it, but I loved the freedom of movement and ability to stitch anything. It was like drawing on the quilt!
Do you have any tips for beginners?
Lots! I'd say the first major tip is not to expect perfection or even good looking stitches at the beginning. When we free motion quilt, we're using our machines in a very weird way - in a way, they weren't really designed to be used.

So unlike all other types of quilting and piecing, you're not letting the machine do the work and feed the quilt through and make perfect stitches. Instead, you're pushing the quilt through the machine and you have to balance the speed of the machine and your hand movement in order to make the stitches.

It's just not going to be pretty in the beginning! This is a lot like riding a bicycle. You're doing a lot of different things with your body: pressing the foot pedal with your foot, moving the quilt with your hands, and thinking of the design in your head. All of this takes practice to get in sync so take the pressure off yourself. Work on practice sandwiches or smaller quilts in the beginning and don't expect glorious stitches or designs. You'll get the hang of it, but not if you judge every big stitch or wobbly design.
What do you do with Quilts when you have finished them?
These days I'm making lots of quilts to enjoy in my home on every couch and bed. I also give away many to my family. I have two big stacks I'm considering selling and I've also made several charity quilts in the last few months. I also have a collection of show quilts that I'm keeping for future exhibitions and books.
What is your favourite Free Motion Pattern?
Gosh, that's hard because I just recently shared my 501st design! I really like that last one though - it's called Undulation. I've played with it a few times on blocks and a small quilt and it creates a perfect freeform texture, kind of like an oil slick. I like that it doesn't take a ton of time to quilt too and no matter how messy and wobbly I'm quilting, it still looks good!
What is your earliest sewing memory?
I remember hand sewing with my mom when I was around 5 or 6 years old. I wanted to sew something for my Ms. Bunny doll. I think I made a pillow and I remember really struggling with the corners and not leaving a big enough hole open to stuff it. I didn't really master machine sewing until I was in high school and began sewing lots of clothes and made my prom dress.
What keeps you busy when you aren't quilting?
Writing! I really love writing and this year I published my first quilt fiction book, Mally the Maker and the Queen in the Quilt. I'm also writing a memoir and more how-to quilt books. I also enjoy knitting and crochet and hand spinning, though I go through very distinct phases with these crafts. I have a wood shop and turn seam rippers and pens on my lathe and this spring I want to learn how to hand cut dovetail joints.
Can you show us your most favourite quilt?
It's tough to pick a favorite, but I think Release Your Light is probably the one. This quilt changed my life. I made it before I started my business before I had anything figured out. I knew I wanted to build a quilting business, but I just couldn't figure out the first step. 

Leah's Release Your Light Quilt

I designed Release Your Light in 2008 and it's a combination of hand applique and fabric painting with shiva paintsticks. It's VERY densely quilted and during the quilting process I came up with the idea of starting my blog, the Free Motion Quilting Project, and sharing new quilting designs every day for a year.

So this quilt is very special because it helped me answer that question. It gave me the inspiration I needed to get started. The theme of this quilt is tapping into the creative force within you and releasing it with the world and that's exactly what it helped me do!
What do you listen to when you sew?
I listen to a variety of podcasts and audiobooks. This is a big reason why I started a podcast in 2016 because I love audio so much! I'm also planning to narrate my books so they're available as audiobooks too.

I just recently listened to Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and I absolutely loved it because it was 50+ hours long.
You are currently running a skill-building Quilt-Along – can you tell me more about this?
Yes, this year I'm sharing the Friendship Quilt Along! This is a really fun quilt because it's designed to use up all your scraps. I designed all the blocks to be cut out of 5-inch squares so you can easily use scraps or a charm pack, then cut them down into the shapes you need for the blocks. I also have designed the quilt in multiple sizes so you can make a crib, throw, twin, queen, or king-sized quilt just by changing the number of blocks you create.

Each month I share a video on how to piece the quilt block step-by-step. Then I teach you how to quilt it with a fun design on your home machine. And since I'm making a king-sized quilt, I need to make two blocks so I decided to quilt the second block on my longarm frame! This is the first year I've incorporated longarm quilting into the quilt along and that has been lots of fun.

It's been so nice to pull out my scraps and use them all up with this quilt. I have so many memories linked to these fabrics so that has been wonderful too.

Block #1 from Leah's Friendship Quilt

How can my readers get involved?
Anyone can participate in the Friendship Quilt Along! Just check out to find all of the quilt patterns I've shared so far and all of the posts are linked up on that page too.
Finally, what is your favourite quilting meme or quote?
Hmm... I have a guiding principle I heard in a documentary about Shakers: Live every day as if you have 100 years to live... and you're going to die tomorrow.

I really love that quote!

I would like to thank Leah for all her time in answering my questions! I'll have to keep practicing!
Happy Piecing Everyone!- RJ

1 comment: