Thursday, January 3, 2013

1. I Am Enough and Other Positve Words

It's time to get started on Express Your Love! I've decided to number these posts this year simply because it's easier to refer back to and list everything in order. I will also be numbering designs starting from 381 and adding them to the original design pages right here as we learn new ones. I hope it's not going to be too confusing, but there's a lot of content here and it's hard for even me to keep track of it all without numbers!

So today I want to share with you some very powerful words that I'm learning to live.

I Am Enough.

I first saw these three words on the front of an Artful Blogging magazine and bought it simply for those small words in the left hand corner of the cover. It's like those words shouted at me - Hey you! This is what you're searching so hard for!

The article in the magazine showcased an amazing blog project started by Tracy Clark, which shares the stories of people finding the power and acceptance in the simple words I Am Enough.

At the time I found these words, I couldn't say them honestly to myself. In every area of my life I could only see where I wasn't measuring up. I worked hard every day, but I could always work harder. The joy I found in work was always tainted by my slave-driver mentality.

It's been two years since I first found that magazine article and in that time I've learned how to practice compassion and empathy. I say "practice" here with exactly the same meaning as practicing free motion quilting - I had to learn this from the ground up, and in the beginning, I totally sucked at it.

Compassion is accepting how you feel on a given day, giving yourself a place to rest, comforting yourself with a warm hug. Sometimes I would take a nap and wrap my arms around myself and say "I'm here, I love you, please rest now." Come to think of it, those would be good words to have in this quilt too!

Slowly I learned how to let go of that long list of all the ways I was lacking and began to accept myself for exactly who I am. I am enough.

The other words I've stitched on this quilt came to me the day I stitched them:

I have an open and willing heart.

These words popped up in my journal the morning I made the video. Basically I was writing about how I wanted to be more open to my husband, willing to listen and hang out the way we used to. At some point in the last few years, I just started working all the time, to the point that even when we watched a movie together, I'm always stitching on something.

James was the one that clued me into this behavior. You never PLAY. You're always WORKING. Why can't you hit the X button and come play with me? (James already knows that the way to close a computer program is to hit the X in the upper right hand corner).

I never realized it could be a problem to always be working, particularly when my work is creative and portable and can be taken along with me anywhere in the house. I didn't realize that if I'm stitching on something, that means half my brain isn't clued in to what is really going on, meaning I'm not really ALL THERE. My body is physically sitting there, by my mind is concentrating on the next stitch, not on interacting with my family.

So after being clued into my behavior, I started journaling every morning about it. It was honestly hard to put down my work. I love to be stitching on stuff, and it's comforting to me so how can this be bad?!

But my family needs more from me. So those words "I have an open and willing heart." that is really a reminder to be open and willing to change my behavior. Over Christmas, Josh began playing a new video game and I sat down and watched him play.

We used to do this together all the time, just sit and chat over the game and laugh at the story. At some point in the last few years, I began seeing this as a waste of time and stopped watching. Sitting down again, taking the time to BE THERE without anything in my hands was awesome. It's surprising to me just out separate I've felt, how lonely and distant, and the issue all along was my compulsion to be stitching all the time.

Finally, there is one last set of words I stitched this morning:

My Cup Runneth Over.

Growing up, my mother often said: "I have nothing left to give." to explain why she didn't want to participate in our family or really care what was going on. I guess I learned my distant behavior from someone!

While I have hated this phrase my whole life, the idea behind it somehow still managed to worm its way into my brain and give me a mental picture that all my love fits into a giant glass of milk. And this glass is half empty, and one day it will run out.

This idea that there is a limit to my love, a limit to my caring and compassion for my family - I HATE THIS IDEA!

So stitching these words was another step away from that mentality, away from that horrible, soul corroding belief that I will one day be empty because I love and care for my family. My heart is open and my love is so deep and overwhelming my cup runs over with it. I will never be empty. I will never be not enough for this.

Reading back through this space, I love how the three messages work together:

I Am Enough.
I Have An Open And Willing Heart.
My Cup Runneth Over.

So enough talking about all of it! Let's learn how to quilt / thread paint these positive words into our quilt:

That's it for today! I hope you will give this a try. If you have a message you like better, just draw it into the space with a fabric pencil, then quilt right on the line and build up around 4-5 layers of thread over the surface.

In our next video, we will learn how to echo around each letter to fill in the space completely and add more texture to the quilt:

Let's go quilt,



  1. This is PERFECT. I know someone going thru something and though she is not a quilter I have forwarded this post to her.

  2. Hi Leah,
    I have several phrases that will be perfect in addition to the ones you suggested! I'm just getting started transferring the design to my fabric today. I have two pieces--one black and one muslin. For the black one, my light table is just not working. How did you draw the design on your black fabric?

  3. Hi Liz, I used a light box and found the best way was to turn off all the lights in the room so that only the lightbox is on shining through the fabric. It was a bit of a challenge. A bright window on a super sunny day might also work.

  4. I'm sure there are many out here who will relate very strongly to this post because of their own life journeys. I do hear what you say about always working and another word that I am trying hard to bring into my world is... Balance. Ten hours of productive stitching every day is not always a good thing. :0)

  5. After just finding this blog, I AM DELIGHTED!! Being self-taught, I have been at a stand still on creativity lately, and am so inspired today! Can't wait to dig through this blog until my head spins :p

  6. I am so happy that you showed the technique for lifting the bobbin thread to the top. Someone online taught it to me and it is such a timesaver!!. Good job.

  7. BEFORE, I go out and purchase a lot of fabric for my version of this quilt, I had a quick question: Do you plan to fill in all the space on the black quilt with thread, applique of fabric, or a bit of both?

    My husband has been asking me to make a life-size portrait quilt of myself for him. We call it his (for someday) nursing home quilt :-) I think I can take the concept with the black and turn it into the 'me' my husband sees.

  8. You are enough. Absolutely. This video is outstanding and is exactly what I am looking for today. Perfect timing. Thanks so much for all you do.

  9. What a fun project this will be. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

    Thanks for such a great tutorial and inspiration. Love it!


  10. Thanks so much for the tip, Leah. By outlining the design with a black sharpie, I was able to see it through the light table and get it done. Yay! Two pieces fully marked and ready for playing. Even my grandson cooperated and played in his bouncer so I could keep working. Life is good!

  11. I am going to be a little behind everyone on this wonderful project. I am in transition between home and vacation. I won't have fabric ready for a few weeks. But I will be working really hard on getting caught up.

  12. I am having a hard time thinking of phrases to quilt! It is very personal, so I don't feel I should copy yours- thankfully, my quilt is not quite together yet, so I have some more time :)

    I have a question- if we are piecing a quilt (I'm doing raw edge fusible applique) should our first step be to outline all the parts like you've done on this wholecloth, or is that not necessary? (Actually, I guess that applies to the cheater cloth as well- do the sections need to be delineated?)

  13. What a beautiful project this is! I ordered the panel from Spoonflower and I'm excited to give it all a try

  14. Paula B - I'm actually going to fill this particular quilt with quilting designs, some paint, and maybe some beads. It really depends on where the month takes me. Keep in mind, I will be making several versions of this top to showcase many different techniques so please feel free to go with this however you want. There's no real hard and fast rule to this project, so make it for you!

  15. Jessim - Feel free to use these words! I AM Enough seems to be pretty universal to me!

    As for the method of construction, no matter how you put it together, I would stitch around each section to secure the layers of the quilt together.

    Even the cheater cloth quilt top will be easier to work with if each section has been outline quilted before you start to fill. This way you can work in any area at any time without too much issues with the quilt shifting around.

  16. Thanks Leah. I figured I'd get that answer :-) I want my quilt to be how my husband sees me (and remembers me from when we were younger) which is very different than how I see myself. You have inspired me to finally start on this. I remembered this morning that he wrote a poem for me on our 25th anniverary. I am going to digi it up and use some of his words for this.
    Yes, we will see where it takes me.

  17. Leah, I have no idea how you find the time to do all that you do, but I am really glad that you do. : ) I have been wanting to try FMQ for a long time. You make it look so easy. I know it takes practice. I can see so many possibilities with this project. I am just getting back into quilting after being away from it for a long time. I used to make baby quilts and always hand quilted them. When I started having problems with carpal tunnel and couldn't hand quilt I stopped making them because I didn't want to machine quilt them. Life was busy with 5 children, so it was put on the back burner. As I've grown older my thinking has changed. I really loved making those baby quilts, so I need to learn to machine quilt them. I have done a little, but not much. Thank you for sharing your expertise. I look forward to seeing the next video in this series. Best wishes, Barbara

  18. Hi Leah
    What type of thread and needles are you using on this project, the outlining thread is a bit thicker looking than anything I have used in the past

  19. Hi Leah, I always learn something from your posts, especially from your writing about yourself and the way you are using your art to outgrow the ways in which you were brought up.

    Maybe a book someday -- an autobiography of a quilter would be stupendous.

  20. Leah - I have many, many wonderful quilting friends and from reading your posts, I feel that you are one of them. Please keep sharing your ideas and skills. You are an inspiration!
    Our guild challenge for the annual show involves selecting 3 words that describe you or your life. Your technique comes just in time to get my creative juices flowing.
    I looking forward to each of your emails. Here's a hug from me!

  21. I just loved this post, truly inspirational....

  22. Leah,

    You have such a kind, sharing, and generous spirit. Thank you for the right message at the right time for the start of this new year!!!!


  23. Brilliant, Leah. Just after seeing this, I read another article that said that self-compassion is increasingly regarded as essential for well-being. "I am enough" removes so much striving and struggling. Just reading the words brings a sense of relief. So I am enough even if I'm still only up to June in last year's Quilt Along and haven't even got to UFO Sunday yet!!

  24. I wondered how you did your words on your quilts! I just love the Isacord thread and have had no problems with it breaking. I had been using it for sewing for a few years now because it is strong and fine and the bobbins last so long. Like your new hair cut too.


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