The Free Motion Quilting Project: Duchess Reloaded #1 - Pulling Out an Old Friend

Monday, June 11, 2012

Duchess Reloaded #1 - Pulling Out an Old Friend

This weekend I finally dug around in my collection of large quilt designs to pull out The Duchess's original drawing:

This design was created back in the fall of 2008, back before I knew anything about graphic design or drawing on the computer, and way before I started working on these skills.  Back then, I would draw my quilt designs entirely by hand on very large pieces of graph paper all taped together.

It worked, but it has created a very large collection of paper patterns that are hard to store.  Here's my favorite storing method so far:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This is around 50 designs are suspended off the ground using 2 inch strips of fabric screwed into the top of the table.  It's effective at getting these patterns out of my way, off the shelves, but still organized so they're not a total mess.

Looking back at The Duchess pattern, this is the real mess:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This is the pattern used to mark the fabric and only covers 1/4 of the full quilt.  When designing something like this symmetry is your best friend.  There's no need to design or draw the quilt at full size when each quarter is identical and your fabric can simply be rotated, the lines matched up, the fabric secured, and the marking process continue.

Originally I wanted to fill the bands within the scallops with circles, but lacked the skill.  I also slapped together the border design very quickly which made it quite piece-meal and ended up being the bane of my existence when quilting.

Looking back at this design, I feel an odd wave of emotions.  In a lot of ways, I'm still very proud of this pattern.  It was a mighty accomplishment back when I knew almost nothing about show quilting or design.

In other ways, I hate this pattern.

I hate that I got so stuck on the idea of Georgian designs that I refused to think for myself and design motifs I'd actually like.  I dug myself a deep rut with this quilt, and looking at it, I feel that rut wanting to suck me back in.  The rut sounds something like "The motifs MUST be perfect Georgian designs! YOU cannot change ANY aspect of this design!  The motifs MUST be exactly like THIS!"

I think this is the reason I've always put this project away after looking at it.  It's got a lot of baggage that likes to shout at me. ;-)

So I'm going to take a deep breath and ignore all that nonsense.  Last time, I designed this quilt not for myself, but simply to impress judges and to look like a costume out of the movie The Duchess.  To be perfectly honest, it was a rather soulless way to design a quilt.

This time I'm sticking with the original size and layout of the design (the scallops, the center circle), but changing the design to fit my personality.  I want an over-the-top amazing wholecloth, but I want it filled with motifs and designs that speak to me.  Heck, I might even stick a goddess in the center, who knows?!

So the first step on this project is to get the quilt scanned into the computer.  I no longer work with large scale patterns and having this quilt design in the computer would be a good start to getting the new version designed.

Another benefit to getting the design into the computer is size.  I might have designed this thing around 80 inches (it finished 65, which let's you know how much trapunto and dense stitching can shrink a quilt), but that doesn't mean the new version has to be so big.

As for the actual process of getting it INTO the computer, I believe I'll transfer sections of the quilt to graph paper, then scan them in.  From the scanned images, I'll start reconstructing the quilt piece by piece.  Things like the center circle will be easy.  Things like the scallops or woven knot corners will be difficult.

Still, I'm in the mood for a challenge.  The summer always makes me want to dig into a big project and zone out for hours behind the machine.  I think I've definitely selected a project that will allow me to do just that!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Very cool! Can't wait to see what you "re"-create with the quilt pattern.

  2. I have missed your daily posts. Even though we have never met, I feel like I know you and your precious family. I am happy that you are tackling this project. The original was beautiful; but considering the skills you have gained, I can only imagine what this one will look like. I have missed your daily posts. However, I hope you had a wonderful break that has energized you to continue this wonderful blog.

    Emma in San Antonio

  3. You have the freedom to do whatever you are led to do!! The "voices" need to be boxed up and thrown out with the trash!! Put those circles in the bands....Yay!! Put a 'goddess' in it...Yay!! More importantly, put your heart and soul into it and it will come forth a 'new' creation, unique to today;-) Am excited to travel with you on this journey....hugs and blessings, Doreen

  4. I love that you will remake this quilt to be YOUR quilt. It's a great way to remake memories that aren't so great.

  5. Hi Leah all this talk of the duchess has made me want to do a wholecloth so have printed your hearts and feathers pattern and am going to give it a bash thanks Leah x

  6. Is this the whole cloth you are going to be doing in red fabric with red thread? Can't wait!

  7. Hi Leah ~
    Thank you for sending me the link last week to your story about :Duchess"
    What an incredibly sad story! I had tears in my eyes when I heard what happened after all your hard work! I learned so many things from your story, and am delighted you are going to give it another go! Looking so forward to hearing about your journey with Duchess 2 :)

  8. I can't wait to see what you come up with. What program do you use to desing your quilts? (I'm still in the sketching on paper stage of quilt desining quilts) I know exactly what you mean. I used to draw a lot. I would tend to reference myself to death to get the exact true to life replica of whatever I was drawing. Realism is great, but can hamper your originality a little bit. I have to remind myself to interpret, not copy.But it is amazing when you see one single thing that speaks to your heart and has your brain storming and inspired. That is when you really come up with something great.That is what you did with The Dutchess. I still think it was VERY original, but I can't wait to see what you come up with next;)

  9. Truth fact, if you designed this quilt while your skills were so-so, that's pretty awesome. I am for a lot of sad reasons dropping out of my guild. Tonight I ran into a friend at the local pub and she asked about my unicorn quilt. I planned to keep it secret but accidentally told another member of said guild. She was vehemently against the unicorn puking a rainbow and it made me so sad I put the project away. And ya know what, tonight in talking to my friend I got back on track. You have to do what makes YOU happy. For me, happiness is quilted unicorns spewing forth rainbows. Good on ya, Leah, do what makes YOU happy.

  10. Necessity is the mother of all creations and brings us to learn more and more ... I love your work, but I admire your generosity more ... Thanks for your help...


  11. Hill Bill - A unicorn puking a rainbow sounds to me like the coolest thing since sliced bread! I want to see it!

    I once loom beaded a rainbow with clouds scene with psychedelic shrooms in raindrops. I SO get where you're coming from!

    Don't sweat the haters in your guild. No, not everyone is going to "get" it, and you can always explain that you don't necessarily "get" the idea of some other form of traditional quilting craziness (extremely tiny hexie piecing for example). Live and let live in my opinion, but if you're not being fulfilled by your guild, find another. There's more fish in the sea!


  12. Eh, small town, small guild. I've found community outside of there anyway. I recall a children's book where a little bear cub paints a picture of his mom and on the way home he meets other animals who say "that's not how my mom looks" and they edit his painting until it has an elephant trunk and all sorts of stuff. Naturally mom still loves it, but it's not his painting anymore. I kinda feel like that bear sometimes. That's why I'm now trying to travel stitch with black thread on black fabric when I wanted to use purple. Hmph!

    So absolutely I will show you the unicorn when I get working on him. Or her. It's my damn quilt and I will rock that sparkly trapunto applique whole cloth unicorn so hard!

    For now I'm focusing on this crazy idea someone gave me to sell patterns.

  13. Good for You Leah, we all learn from each quilt we make, some more than others. I love the way you share all the thoughts doubts and victories you go through. I am confident that you will come up with a fabulous Duchess 2


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