The Free Motion Quilting Project: Focus, Motivation, and Honoring Feelings

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Focus, Motivation, and Honoring Feelings

This month seems to be all about motivation: how to stick with a project through thick and thin and make small progress every day.

It just so happens that I picked up another great audio book on this subject: Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence. While the book can often wind around in lengthy (a.k.a boring) ways, it's certainly been eye opening to learn about the two dominate forms of motivation: promotion and prevention.

It's no surprise that I've found myself answering a lot of questions that indicate a promotion mindset. I like setting goals, I love being creative and thinking outside the box. I constantly ask "what if" and have the end result of every project in mind.

But that also means I don't always plan for how long things will take and often overestimate my ability to finish quick projects quickly. I tend to be messy and disorganized, even though I work on that issue nearly every day.

Reading this book has been illuminating because I started this month with a clear focus to work steadily on Duchess Reigns. I expected it would take the entire month to finish up the center medallion. Turns out, it only took 12 days.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Seeing this huge section finished and knowing that I'm about 1/2 way through with the quilt definitely gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. I knew this quilt would be difficult and time consuming from the beginning, but seeing this section finished is really exciting. soon as it was finished I had no desire to work on her further. I clearly have a lot left to do, but at this moment I have absolutely no desire to work on this project.

Digging into this feeling, I find that I just need a break on this project. She's big and overwhelming and I need to honor how I feel about it. I want to work on something lighter and easier for awhile.

Please understand I'm not unhappy with Duchess Reigns by any means. This isn't at all the same feeling I had with the black wholecloth version of Express Your Love. I'm not putting her away to avoid some issue. In actuality I'm going to hang her up in the dining room just so I can live with her on the wall for a bit before stitching out the next section.


From what I'm learning about motivation, part of feeling the drive to finish something for a promotion-focused person is in imagining it done. In the past I've been so focused on finishing, finishing, finishing and grinding a quilt out that I didn't enjoy the process of actually making the quilt at all. And I ended up hating the end result.

So I think taking this time to hang her up, to live with her on the wall every day when I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, will give me the time to look at every angle and to fall in love with her yet again.

Taking this break will enable me to stop feeling so pushed to finish her quickly and allow me to savor the experience. I will know it's time to take her off the wall when my pleasure at looking at her will feel diminished by her unfinished state. It's also usually around the time when Josh starts asking "When are you going to actually finish that project?!" He's very patient, but definitely prefers finished quilts hanging on the wall.

So as I roll up this quilt and move her upstairs to hang, what will I be working on in the meantime?

Of course there's never a lack for projects to work on in my sewing room, but for right now I'm feeling an intense urge to piece, to hand stitch, and to make clothes. I want to work with many different techniques and feel pushed and stretched to learn new things. I don't necessarily want to get loads of stuff done, I just want a little vacation, a little break from the intensity of Duchess Reigns.

So here's to honoring your motivation! Whatever you feel driven to do, do it. If you're feeling bogged down with a project, instead of grinding it out, ask the simple question Why? What needs to change in order for this to feel good again?

You might need a break, you might need to change a fabric color, you might just need to find a sunny spot on your deck to relax in with a different project completely. Give yourself a hug and honor your feelings and motivation. After all, you can't do what you don't want to do!

Let's go quilt,



  1. Leah, Thanks for the insight into motivation. I find I often put a project on the shelf when it's almost done. I think for me, knowing how the quilt will turn out at that stage takes away some of the magic and excitement. Recently I've been doing a little better with finishing. Writing a blog, communicating with others on various social media sites about what I'm doing, and attending a regular quilting group is helping me to stay motivated to the end of projects. Thanks for the great thoughts. Have a super day!

  2. Wow leah the center is absolutely stunning! I think you're doing the quilt a favor by honoring your feelings as well. I had this same feeling with express your love but I felt as if I had to work on it, my fmq suffered because of this unfortunately so I've taken a break from her! I'm always amazed by what you can do with thread, you continue to inspire me every day!

  3. это великолепно, я поражен!

  4. I am amazed you created such spectacular beauty in only 12 days. You definitely deserve a break. And, I too am a firm believer breaks, changing what one is focused on and later coming back to it can really help with the creative process.

    I think she is an award winning quilt in the making. And, I certainly look forward to seeing her on display in a quilt show one day (whenever she is ready).


  5. The Duchess is stunningly beautiful.

  6. Leah, this is stunning. What an artist you are!

  7. Oh Leah....I will never get used to looking at your quilting. I am a long time hand quilter; trying to I just bought a Baby Lock Tiara long arm...and trying to learn; but I still feel out of control. I never know what I want to quilt when I sit; and I can\t draw!! lol

  8. She looks fantastic Leah. It is a most excellent decision to take a break. I almost always dislike things that I force my way through "just to be finished". She'll wait for you and be ready when you are.

  9. You have done amazing work! Being positive really helps out! I have tried the same thing this last 2 weeks!

  10. Leah... your insightful discussion has awakened my own awareness of similar thoughts and feelings I have from time to time. Thank you for sharing. And what a GREAT idea to display your Duchess, even though she is not finished! She will quietly sit in the background being subtle about reminding you that when you are ready to work on her again, she will be ready to be worked on! I don't know how you balance all that you do, including teaching your Craftsy classes. You are an inspiration to me! Linda from Maine

  11. I think this is why I obsessively have half a dozen projects on the go, all different techniques or at different stages. I need to be able to chop and change otherwise I get bored with a project, put it away and it becomes a forever-UFO

  12. Wow! Your goddess quilt is just amazing. I can't believe you have accomplished so much in just 12 days! Your ROCK!

  13. I love your insight. I too have taken a break from my quilting for the past two weeks. I am now back in Alaska, one week to settle in and company for one. Now off tho a 5 day retreat and back to quilting.

  14. Just beautiful!! I had a similar situation arise this week. I finished a quilt top (first one I have ever made from a kit), and even though I had all of these embellishment ideas, I was pressed for something to take to longarm lab on Wednesday morning. I took it, along with 2 pieces of floral fabric that I thought I'd just practice on if I changed my mind. AND yes, I quilted up the two pieces of fabric and kept my poppy garden quilt top for getting the embellishments and dimensional work done, then I'm going to do the quilting on my domestic machine. I realized that my longarming it would not enhance it nearly as much as doing it on my home machine, where the control is actually much better. AND there's noone looking over my shoulder to give there 2cents worth on it, if you know what I mean. I think I will have my son make me a special hanging device for "works in progress". I know exactly how it needs to be done so I can show off what I'm working on whether finished or not.
    I enjoy hearing what you're up to and I have totally enjoyed all of the books you've recommended. Have you ever read anything by John Maxwell, he has some great stuff out there that most of us can benefit from.
    Have a great day.

  15. Leah,

    I just wanted to thank you for giving me the permission to take a break that I couldn't give myself! You are doing such beautiful work on all your quilts. I have so many projects going that I wonder if I'll ever get some of them done. But, I find many of my ideas come to me while lying in bed relaxing and then I implement them and make adjustments as necessary. I think we all need to forgive ourselves for needing time away from something that is such an emotional and creative storm that goes through our heads before our hands can be put to work again on it. Thank you again.



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