The Free Motion Quilting Project: Forged & Welded - Part 1

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Forged & Welded - Part 1

Yes, it's time I officially started a new goddess quilt. This one has been on my mind so much I think it's eaten a hole in my brain! Why else would I be starting this while I'm working on a new book, dvd, designing 150 new designs, and writing the big book all at the same time?!

Either I must be a glutton for punishment or I've finally given into my greatest desire through the summer - to quilt, quilt, quilt through the heat.

And just a disclaimer before I get going - this will be a personal post so if you'd rather not read it, click here to check out new designs on the project.

free motion quilting | Leah DayBut it's more than just the urge to be quilting right now. This design has been working on me since the middle of Hot Cast. The two were really dreamed up around the same time and both embody the same theme: finding the ability to love myself.

Hot Cast was all about the transition and learning process. How to find that compassionate, loving voice and how to listen to it, rather than all the negative monsters in my head.

Through Hot Cast I've been working to believe the words "I Am Enough" and to live them. Maybe that quilt was too small, maybe the design was just not quite right, but I find myself still struggling to fully accept the fact that I am Enough, and more importantly - that I Am DOING Enough - that I don't have to work like a mad woman every day just to feel good about myself.

Forged & Welded takes on this second step with a study of strength, power, stability and endurance.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
While I'd originally planned to make this quilt small, around the same size as Hot Cast, this week I've changed my mind. Yes, I know I'll regret designing this so large. Yes, I know I'll hate my life when I'm half way through, but I think this is necessary.

Sometimes it takes 80 inches of dense stitching to work something out. While I'd love to say that all my issues with my inner negative voice (INV) were worked out with Shadow Self, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I still occasionally struggle with short bouts of depression and utter misery.

Maybe it's how my brain is wired. Maybe it is simply something I'm doomed to deal with for the rest of my life. Maybe I should stop bitching and go get a therapist to drug me up with Prozac. The thing is - I REFUSE to believe any of these "maybes."

I believe that it is possible to live a healthy, balanced life. I don't think this is something special or rare, only given to a chosen few. I HAVE to believe in my ability to resolve, heal, and grow beyond these issues.

So I refuse to believe that my brain chemistry or my dysfunctional childhood are marks on my soul that I will never recover from.

I also refuse to drug myself up, dope myself out, and ease away into a state of pharmaceutical oblivion. That is NOT my idea of a solution - that's simply a medicated band-aid that will cover and conceal these issues, but never make them permanently go away.

You can probably tell by now the emotion I'm mostly channeling right now - anger.

Red hot and fiery. I'm taking all my sad and I'm turning it into mad.

For once though, I'm not turning this anger outside to lash on the people around me, or turning it inside to burn my self esteem into ash once again.

Instead I'm turning this rage into pure fuel - hot and strong - with enough power to blast out this INV (inner negative voice) once and for all.

What I've found over the last year is that my INV hates it when I'm strong. It really can't stand it when I feel good, confident, and relaxed. It hates me to feel comfortable.

So what better way to totally and completely irradiate my inner negative voice than a quilt that channels all my strength, all my stability, all my emotion into one place?

A quilt that will not just symbolize power, but will also scream down in every stitch - I AM ENOUGH!

I'm done being a wimp about it. I'm done showing the dark and light sides of my mind together in some sick cohesive body. I'm done showing my body full of darkness with only a glimmer of light from my heart. I'm done allowing my INV even a toe hold in my brain. I won't give it an inch.

And it's high time I stop saying MY inner negative voices - the truth is these words were never, ever mine. They were the words of every abusive person I've allowed in my life. They were words designed to make me feel small, ugly, unwanted, stupid, and unworthy.

These words aren't true, were never true, so it's high time they stopped sounding off in my head!

There's a saying in business "Fake it until you make it."

While I don't really like this saying and it's potential implications, I do believe there's an element of truth - if you believe and act like something is going to happen, chances are it will.

I may not have all my issues sorted out, but I'm designing this quilt as though I do. I'm designing this goddess not as a symbol of how I feel right now (that is Hot Cast), but of how I WANT to feel right now.

I want to feel strong, stable, powerful, and beautiful. I want feel confident in my ability to provide for my family and to no longer stress and fret that I am not doing enough.

Quite simply - I want to be free from the INV for good.

So that is why this quilt is being made. Now let's talk about design, my favorite part of every quilt.

For this quilt, I had the flash of inspiration back in January to combine a goddess figure with a sword. I sketched this very rough drawing several months ago to nail down the general idea:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

It's an interesting coincidence that both Hot Cast and Forged & Welded are largely inspired by my dad, someone I've become much closer to over the last several months.

My dad made me a small sword when I was pregnant with James. I've been into fantasy and science fiction since high school and always wanted a sword to wear to Renaissance Festival. I used a photo of this sword to serve as a template for the design:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Then I shot a picture of myself standing on a box to get the general shape of the goddess. I knew I wanted her hands to be outstretched with large circles in each, and one of James's kick balls worked out just the perfect size as a prop!

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo that is how the core goddess body was designed. I work with pencil and paper simply drawing the outline of the photograph, then simplifying it. I've come to respect my own need for simplicity - it is my style.

I probably will never include fingers or toes, eyes, mouth, nose, or ears to my goddesses. I tried incorporating a face with this one and I just couldn't get it right.

I find it difficult to not judge the face, and then loose connection with the goddess herself and what she represents. Better to leave those elements blank rather than put them in and struggle with them.

Now the goddess is nearly complete, but there's a few elements missing.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I've learned from past quilts that I get bored easily when I have to stitch the same design over 60 inches of open space. I simply hate it. I always finish and look at it and wish something more was there.

So learning from this experience, I know that something needs to go into the bottom of the quilt, something to frame the goddess/sword, maybe even tie in with the theme of elemental power and stability.

I've began researching different signs and symbols - what could go in this area and maybe even be a harness for the sword that will add to the overall design?

On Sunday I posted that question and had loads of fun reading through all the comments. Most people had the same thought I did straight off - a big rock.

But how do you quilt a rock? How do you get it to look right on a quilt without looking like a big, black blob?

I considered the issue for awhile, and knowing how the columns gave me fits in Hot Cast, I also ruled out any plinth, stone columns, or similar ideas. They're just too challenging to get perfect.

After ruling out the rock, I began thinking of the design more - what signs to I personally associate with strength and stability?

It didn't take me long to think of the sun. This is a symbol I've used before and will continue to use in my quilts. I love the sun and how light makes me feel more creative and awake.

So I started playing with sun designs at the bottom of the quilt design:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I also saw the sun needed something to make the flames look connected, so I created a swirling surface. The hair of the goddess also changed. She is rising from the surface of the sun after all, she's bound to have some pretty wild hair:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis worked okay, but it still wasn't perfect. While I like how the flames come up around the goddess, I still found the large amounts of open background space frustrating. There would need to be another layer or layers added to the design for it to be complete.

For the first time I decided to work on the computer to create this layer. Using a simple drawing program I created a sun and rays. This is just a placeholder that will allow me to design rays and flames to hit certain points:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I created another layer to place behind the first set of flames. I haven't sketched it all out together yet, but here's how things look lined up on the light box:

free motion quilting | Leah DayNo, it's still not quite right, and I'm enjoying fiddling with it so much I'll probably continue to work on it for the rest of the month.

A lot of planning and thinking still needs to happen in terms of how this quilt will be constructed and then quilted. If I decide to piece or quilt sections of the quilt top, it will take longer and be more time consuming.

Personally I'm leaning towards a simple wholecloth with no pieced or appliqued elements, but my mind tends to change whenever I wander into the studio and see all the beautiful fabrics hanging up begging to be cut up for this quilt. The jury is still out on that regard.

Overall it feels like this quilt is moving in the right direction, at the right time and I can't wait to get started!

Let's go quilt,



  1. I find all of this fascinating, because I can't do personal things with my art - its far too intimate. But I do know all about the nagging negative voices... I've had to learn how to turn down the volume on the negative and turn up the volume on the positive. Believe me that one negative can shout louder than a room full of positives. Its like a stitch skill, you do have to actually practice it, and it does get easier the more you do it, again like stitching!
    I was going to mention spirals on your other post, see you have then on the sun in one pic. Spirals have much symbolism,including the ability as you travel around them to see your past and also to see the future ahead. I always see a spiral as starting in the centre and moving out, but others see them the opposite way around. Looking forward to seeing the venture unfold... but don't exhaust yourself in the process.

  2. Thanks so much for this post! It just so happens that my own INV was attacking me particularly hard today, and I was surfing random sewing sites to try to distract myself, and your words made me feel better - I don't believe in coincidence and the fact that I landed in a sewing site I'd never visited before but where the top post happened to say exactly what I needed to hear feels like an answer to pray.
    Oh, and nice quilt design too!

  3. Leah, GOOD ON YOU!
    This goddess is looking great already!
    Don't go down the path of depression drugs - you will have no creativity, everything will be bland and life is tedious. Rather fight, cry, laugh and struggle until you win, because then you will win on your terms!
    Hugs xx

  4. What a great procedure to create a new design! I love your new blog background . It looks fabulous :O)

  5. Leah, when I saw your post I immediately thought of my mom's tarot cards and The Queen of Swords. Perhaps tarot card pictures will give you some insight into your design. Your goddess quilts are always beautiful! Hot Cast is no exception. Great Job!

  6. Leah you are so right - you have the strength to continue on your journey of healing and wholeness. You can use the destructive issues and 'voices' to fuel your drive to a positive future - without drugs without negative voices, without any applologies of who you are and what you want to do. Follow those inner positive voices, the ones that come from the real you. God Bless Caroline

  7. It's amazing to see both your personal growth process through your quilts and the fascinating process of design. I really like your new design and I'm very much looking forward to seeing her develop.

  8. This is an amazing piece and I love the way it's developing
    This piece also speaks to me in many ways - I'm always looking for inspiration for a piece to reflect the meaning and history of my christian name - little fire and from a celtic faerie queen, this is the first that is really addressing many of the things I'd want and expect to be in my ideal image - well done, and look forward to seeing her grow


    Laurel Mellin has developed a program called Emotional Brain Training. She originally developed this to help people with overeating issues, but found it had wider benefits. Her newest book is "Wired for Joy", and it is about developing new neural pathways, much like your own journey from negativity.

  10. Wow, I love reading through your process. The design looks awesome. Keep on forging ahead!

  11. Wow, this is so great and fasinating on how your work pops up. You are so talented :-)
    Love to follow this prodjekt.

  12. Leah, Your design and the thought process behind it absolutely rocks! I think the sun is a perfect symbol to use in this quilt. Steel (or character) is forged with intense heat. It's what makes us strong. You're an inspiration! xo

  13. While reading an article recently, the artist being interviewed said, "It is about progression, not perfection". I have glommed onto that phrase and use it on a regular basis now in my life; in my art, my faith, growth as a better person. Thank you for sharing your progression. Hugs.

  14. I think you are wonderful. I learned about your videos through a friend who was teaching herself how to quilt on her sewing machine. I wanted to learn more and she suggested I look up "Leah Day" on YouTube. I am 61 and started learning about quilting when I had to retire early a couple of years ago. I love the whole new world of blogs and especially Quilting and crafting blogs. You are a wonderful voice out there and we are listening and learning! Have fun, life is short!


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