The Free Motion Quilting Project: Diving Back into Sinkhole

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Diving Back into Sinkhole

I mentioned yesterday that I was pretty sick of seeing Sinkhole on my dining room wall. The truth is, I'm tired of looking at it unfinished.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI started this quilt in the fall and if you want to read the back story, feel free to click the links to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. WARNING: This is pretty heavy depressing stuff. Read with caution.

So why have I waited this long to finish this quilt?

The quickest and easiest answer is I needed space and time. I also needed to look at the quilt for awhile to figure out how it should be quilted and ultimately what more it needed before it could be called "finished."

It's now been on the wall since October where I could see it every morning as we ate breakfast, every afternoon as we ate lunch, and every evening as we ate dinner, and anytime I cooked as well.

Living with a quilt top on the wall is a terrific way to figure out how to quilt it, or if anything needs to be changed. There have been many quilts that have ended up with different borders and / or quilting designs simply from looking at it on the wall for a few weeks. There's something about looking - really looking - at the design every day for a few weeks or months can be very helpful for figuring out the next step.

In Sinkhole's case, I already knew what the next step would be: quilting the rings of the hole with all the words of my past, literally the negative phrases that I heard as a child that I allowed to define me and sew up the seams of my personality and psyche for way, way too long.

Looking at this quilt would make me really angry sometimes, other times it makes me very sad, but lately every time I see this quilt I just see what remains to be done. But I continued to wait and wait and just stare at it wishing I could finish it, get these awful words out, and get on with my life.

Finally I realized last week that I was just waiting around for the "right" time.

Usually for me this is the week after Christmas, the last 7 golden days of the year that, for the last 2 years, has been some of the most glorious quilting time of my life. Quilting Sinkhole during Christmas? That just seemed wrong...

But what is a "good" or "right" time for this kinda of thing? The quilt needs to be finished, and I'm ready to work on it now.

So what is left to be done?

Well, the very first step was to figure out the next step with the design. What in the world is going in the background of the Sinkhole?

For that I decided I needed to see the new movie Tron. I'd seen previews for this movie as far back as August and I knew that I wanted to incorporate some of the imagery and design into this quilt.

Yesterday I finally went to see this movie and had high expectations for the design inspiration I would find there. I was not disappointed (note: I said "design inspiration" not "deep and thoughtful plot" or "well rounded, 3 dimensional characters").

I came home finally ready to design the background, but as soon as I looked at the quilt top, I knew I had a problem.

Most of Tron is very dark in shades of black and gray that match perfectly with Sinkhole, but there were also sudden electric bursts of white, silver, or neon orange that stand out boldly from the rest of the colors.

When piecing the quilt top, I had major issues finding decent gray fabrics in a variety of shades. I pretty much had to make do with what I could find and unfortunately, what I could find was just not good enough.

Looking at the quilt last night, I finally accepted the limitations of what I could find in fabrics.

And this got me thinking. What if piecing the colors was the wrong approach? Haven't I been saying over and over for the last year that thread can do more than just stitch the layers of a quilt together? What if the thread can provide the color that the fabric cannot?

So I've decided to start over, almost entirely from scratch.


Not completely from scratch. I do love my double sided quilts, and since I already have this whole thing created, why can't it just be used as the back?

Yet even as the back, it's still not right. The lighter rings are too light, even some of the dark rings are too light. This is a hole of all my darkness and it needs to look the part.

So today as the quilt comes down off the wall, it's going straight onto my tables to be painted, darkened, and (hopefully) completely changed.

Originally I was going to carefully paint each ring with Shiva Paintstiks or colored pencils, making sure to stay in the lines and keep everything neat and tidy.

But I'm not feeling neat or tidy anymore.

There is another type of paint I use occasionally for landscape quilts called Setacolor. The translucent paints can range from very dark to very light, depending on how much water you dilute them with.

You can do some really cool things with this paint, like salt effects and sun printing. I've used these paints before on Torn Tree, so I know I can get the effect that I want. The nice thing is that if I totally screw it up, I can always soak it in water and get all the color out. Water based paints rock!

This is most definitely not a dry medium like paintstiks or colored pencils. The whole surface will get very, very wet, so I've protect my tables with a plastic shower curtain. This is Sinkhole with the first layer of paint:

free motion quilting | Leah DayOnce the paint dries, I can heat set it to make it permanent, though painted fabrics will never hold color as perfectly as dyed fabrics. For this reason, this is one quilt that will never get wet again after it has been quilted and bound.

So that's what I'm up to today. I wasn't planning to get back into Sinkhole until after the holidays were over, but when it's time, it's time. This quilt is ready to be finished and I'm ready to be done with it for good.

Let's go quilt (or paint!),

Leah Day


  1. You made this quilt to come to terms with your past with the intent of putting the hurtful things of the past out of your mind forever. It is nice to see you viewing Sinkhole as an unfinished quilt. But if you find yourself thinking of the negativity, please put it aside until after the holidays. The holidays are stressful no matter how much you try to simplify. Good luck with the re-make, and keep us posted on the progress of Sinkhole and the filler designs you use. How is the Australian shadow quilt coming along? I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. I do not like the politically correct "Happy Holidays".

  2. Would it help to put a sheer layer of tulle or similar on top? Kit at did a quilt which had a similar feeling to it a while back, including the black background and looking back at her childhood, and that worked well for her.

  3. Laying the way it is on your table, I was impressed at ho it really looks like a hole - so UI think you are headed the correct way.

  4. I am so glad to hear you're ready to finish Sinkhole. I too struggle with depression, along with other things. What I have learned over years of therapy is how to put things into perspective. Yes, terrible things happened to me, but I don't have to let them define me. Hopefully by finishing Sinkhole, you too can close Pandora's box and get on with living a wonderful life - depression behind you. Blessings.

  5. I think its a good idea to get it finished in this time period. A New Year always, to me, means new start. So to hang over into another year with the negativity isn't a good idea. I think you'll find once its done, a freedom, liberation.
    I think finishing the quilt would draw a line under so much. And if the emotions are not quelled by the quilt - why not consider making a little quilted book, with what still needs to be said. You can literally close the book on the thoughts... or open to a page to let the emotion out.

  6. It would seem that you are coming to terms (in a fashion) with the past and now making what you've 'learnt' from it work to your own ends. This is very apparent in your new approach to 'Sinkhole', you haven't ditched it, or threatened to burn it, you've taken it and manipulated it with your craft to 'work' for you in being able to express your desires in the fullest richest form you know how, that pleases you and gives you 'release'
    Bless you all at this Christmas time, enjoy your time sharing at home together.

  7. Out of curiosity, Roberta, what do you say to people who aren't Christian, especially if they belong to another faith? I'm an atheist of Jewish extraction myself, and I'll quite happily say "Happy Christmas" to people and have even exchanged Christmas cards with my devoutly Muslim neighbours! I don't generally bother with Christmas cards, but when I do I use the vague ones that don't make a reference to religion. I did get a slightly disapproving, "And happy Chanukah to you," from the former president of the synagogue I used to belong to when I unthinkingly wished him "Happy Christmas", though!

  8. I don't think it is a good idea to quilt Sink Hole with all the negative phrases. I suggest that you read Eckhart Toole's book the Power of Now. "You may think that you need more time to understand the past or become free of it,...that the future will free you of the past. This is a delusion. Only the present can free you of the past."....Quilt Sink Hole with postive prases that define you now. Phrases that should have been said in the past but were not. They can be said now.

  9. I agree with Amber about not quilting the negative words and phrases from your past. Don't set these in to be viewed again and again. You've already endured the auditory version. Since you're trying to climb out of a terrible hole, take the opportunity to pull yourself up with all of those positive and loving words you have found in the joy of the wonderful family you have created.

  10. You are very mature for your age! I was always told I was much older than my age as well...a difficult life can bring that about early. It is important for you to hold on to those "new" inner voices of positive words for yourself as well as your lovely immediate family. Those negative thoughts will come out as poison to your baby; I can see that you have seen this for yourself. From what I see on your blogs, you are a very positive person & doing wonderful things. I think you have put yourself in a good environment for your family too. The country life is more healing than the hardness of a city; & offers time for contemplation & appreciation of nature. Best wishes for your completion (& hopefully "graduation") from the sinkhole! I love your quilting, it is very inspiring to me!


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