The Free Motion Quilting Project: The Duchess Reigns #3 - Full Design

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Duchess Reigns #3 - Full Design

It's been a few weeks since I updated you guys about The Duchess Reigns and the progress I've been making on this huge wholecloth project.

Last time I posted, I'd just solidified my design for the center medallion.  This pretty goddess / griffin / bird:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Going along with the griffin design, I created this lion head element:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I was also pretty hung up about suns being a major element of this quilt.  I started trying to fit them into the borders as well as the center:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Here's the hard part about design: what to keep and what to chuck.  The first series of drafts of this quilt were like Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, though I might have a sink in there somewhere, I'm not really sure!

It's really easy to go overboard with a design, especially when you've had a few years to really build up a supply of signs and symbols you're dying to use.  At one time I was trying to cram a triforce from Zelda, spirals, flames, Celtic knots, and tree symbols all in the same quilt.

Obviously, all these things are pretty, but they can't all work in one quilt.

So I began pulling elements and picked just two to fill the borders with: the lion heads and flames.  Even with things simplified down, it still had to go through several editions.

True, any one of these quilts could be finished and be beautiful, but I didn't really LOVE them.  This might seem picky or ridiculous, but in order to spend several months on a quilt, you really do need to be passionate about the project, and really love every aspect of the design.

Finally I pinpointed the problem with all of these designs: they shrunk the goddess too much.  She needs to be bigger and actually scaled so the lion heads aren't monstrously bigger than her.  A bit of resizing and things suddenly began to work:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
A bit more fiddling was still in order to make the design right.  With this quilt, I'm not rushing this design process.  I've learned by now that rushing just leads to a disappointing experience, and I'd rather take the time at the beginning to really think this whole thing through before taking the first stitch.

As for the design process itself, I've used a combination of drawing on paper and computer design using Serif Draw Plus.  At first, I worked with the design on a large scale in the computer, but eventually found this to be too difficult.  Even the computer program gets glitchy when working with 80 inches of wiggly designs!

So shrunk down to a smaller scale, everything works better and then can be resized to the final pattern size, which can be whatever I feel like.  This quilt could easily be 45 inches or 400 inches.  I've settled on 80 inches and hopefully it will shrink a bit in the process:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Even after printing out the full sized drawing, I still see areas that I need to change.  I also see a need to plan the colors and fillers for this quilt, as these two elements could make or break the final effect the quilt has.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
While it might seem like a slow progress, it's actually very fun!  The trick is not to get too bogged down with the millions of choices (we do have 365 + free motion fillers after all), but to instead pick the designs and colors that will fit and fill most effectively for the area.

So what's the next step?  I believe The Duchess Reigns needs a few more design tweaks, but I think I'll be able to make these on the large master pattern rather than printing her out all over again.  Sometimes things are easier to work with on a larger scale anyway because they're easier to visualize.

Once the design is 100% solid, it will be time to start playing with fabric and thread.  I can't wait!

Let's go quilt,



  1. I know what you mean about having a a lot of great ideas that you want to use at once. They don't always mesh. You want them to, they just don't. Give yourself the time you deserve to mull over it and get it just right for you. That's what I do, sometimes taking weeks to make those tweeks. But, woah! What you have so far is G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S!!!!

  2. I'm curious Leah, are you planning on doing those beautiful (but painfully time consuming) embellishments on this quilt like you did with the original goddess?

  3. Leah, your goddess quilt design looks awesome. The goddess reminds me of our Indian god "Ayyapan" especially how the goddess sits.

    I love the entire design. Awesome job!


  4. Michelle - No, I'm definitely not planning on covering this quilt with 1000 crystals and a million seed beads. I think Josh would kill me if I suggested it!

    However, I am planning to play with other forms of embellishment like couching thicker fibers over her hair and within the feather sections. I might also do beads...really I'm leaving it open for what it needs at that stage.

    One thing I'm excited to try is a new binding with piped cording loops on the edges. Check out Sharon Schamber's quilts to see a reference. I'm still not quite sure how it will work, so it's definitely going to be a fun challenge!


  5. Oh man, it's going to be awesome!

  6. Leah, looks amazing! Your blog is so inspiring. I've got a few yards of pink fabric I may practice have to try whole cloth quilting on (small scale to start!). I think my work is too sloppy yet to really do a whole cloth well, but I'll be trying!!

    Your goddess quilts all are beautiful. And the messages/intentions behind them make them all the more beautiful. Thank you for sharing them with us!!

  7. Will this quilt be made like with the technique of no sewing until you quilt it? And are you going to use the paint after to give it color? I have really enjoyed watching it come together, the bad and the good!

  8. Absolutely amazing design Leah.


  9. I love that you're sharing the design process. It is so cool to see the progress. You are so talented.

  10. ciao desidererei sapere che programma usi per i tuoi disegni????

  11. Just a quick question. Someone wants me to make a quilt from their wedding dress. I have never taken on such an important task! I don't even know how to guess what to charge for this. I will have to hand quilt it or do free motion on my regular sewing machine. What do you think would be a fair price?

    1. My first question is - do you actually like this project? If you like the idea of it and it sounds like fun to you, then the first step is to buy some bridal satin and start playing. No, you will not be able to piece it. It's going to be too slippery to piece precisely, unless you did hand paper piecing and that will take FOREVER.

      As for what to charge, I would suggest charging based on the size of the quilt they want. Queen or full, I wouldn't charge less than $4000.

      That might sound insane, but you will have to do a LOT of work to transform a dress into a quilt, test your materials, try out different block styles, etc. Your time is worth money, and if they aren't willing to spend what you are worth, they can find someone else to do it.

      Personally I refuse to work on commission or to sell quilts in any way because I hate to put a price tag on my work. How could I sell a quilt that took more than a year of work? That's just my opinion though! Think about it and decide if you like the idea or it feels like a burden. If it's a burden, the simplest, easiest answer in the world is No, thank you.


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