The Free Motion Quilting Project: Goddess Journey

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Goddess Journey

Last night I saw (experienced?) a new goddess quilt.

I've never really described how this happens, but it's pretty interesting so I figure I'd share it today.

It sounds really hokey, but here's how this works: I'll be thinking about something, quilting, or designing a new design, and suddenly I get a vision for a new quilt almost completely formed in my mind.

Have you ever seen a quilt design that you just HAD to make? It's like a punch to the guts! It's just an overwhelming desire to create exactly that image in fabric and thread.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI saw my first goddess when I was around 14. I did beadwork instead of quilting and designed this little figure to be stitched in beads.

Until, of course, I decided that stitching beads on fabric wasn't beadwork, it was cheating (I was a little limited by my own mind back then!)

So instead I stitched this little goddess in cross stitch, which doesn't really do her justice. The name of this goddess is Mother Earth Weeping.

I don't really remember what was going on in my life to make me design this particular figure, but I do remember that I'd been reading a book "The Darkangel Trilogy" by Meridith Ann Pierce that had gotten me thinking a lot about our world and the polluting effects of a modern society.

I've actually redesigned her for a quilt, but went a bit crazy with the scale and she ended up being about 9 feet long! I don't know about you, but I don't have any walls that tall in my house, so she will have to be redesigned to a smaller scale in order to become a quilt.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering why I call these female figures "goddesses".

In truth, there's no better way to describe them. These figures are most definitely women, powerful, and not limited to any one race, religion, or cultural theme.

I fought for a long time for a good word to describe my women until I finally settled on goddess as the most appropriate term.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe next goddess I saw was years and years later. I was 23 and around 8 months pregnant with my son. For a long time my husband just called her "Pregnant Chick Quilt", but her actual name is "Life and Fire".

I was going through a pretty nasty bought of insomnia and feeling pretty sorry for myself and she just popped into my head - the embodiment of power and life flaming into my mind.

I'm not going to go into all the reasons why I needed to see this figure right now, but suffice it to say seeing this image helped me tremendously through the next couple months of my life.

Working on the quilt and focusing on something other than my insomnia was a wonderful distraction as well.

Seeing how easy it was to translate an image in my mind into a physical quilt, I did some brainstorming and immediately saw another goddess.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis one was also in the process of creation, but more balanced with it. I ended up creating a quilt with this figure for one of my best friends and yoga instructor.

Looking back, I see my early 20's as being all about the search for balance and yoga allowed me to find my feet so to speak.

Even now I still practice yoga once a week and see many goddess figures in the different poses we stand in.

The next goddess is the biggest one I've created so far, the most powerful, and also the most life changing.

Release Your Light was originally named Light in Me and she didn't just appear in my head one day, she whacked me upside the head and then consumed my mind with a desire to create her!

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis goddess came to me while I was in the middle of the most boring part of The Duchess - quilting the borders. I REALLY hated my life through those borders and was wishing for any distraction.

Feeling sorry for myself I was lying in bed wishing I could be more creative, like it was some limited resource!

The image that appeared in my mind was overwhelming. It wasn't just an image this time either, a big feeling came with it. This time I saw the goddess and knew that the amount of creativity within my body, all bodies, is overpowering, limitless, and eternal.

At first I called the quilt Light in Me because it had appeared that way originally as the light (creativity) within me that I must release to the world and share.

After getting halfway through making the actual quilt, I changed the name to Release Your Light, so that it would be more than just about me, but speak to everyone.

The fact is, creativity really is limitless and we are ALL creative beings. No matter if you've never drawn a straight line in your life, no matter if you've never quilted a single stitch!

This was the first time that I really saw how powerful these goddesses could be. While working on her I learned loads and was inspired to start this blog, almost like creating the quilt also helped me to achieve my goal of sharing creativity with the world.

Before I'd even finished this quilt, I saw 3 more goddesses. I think I have my work cut out for me!

So far I have 2 roughly sketched out on graph paper, but some design issues are stalling the project. Sometimes it just takes putting a design on the wall and staring at if for a few months.

The next goddess I will probably make is a small piece called "My Cup Runneth Over"

This is a very simple figure holding a cup of flowing water. I'm having trouble getting just the right look to the cup and flowing water for the design to work.

The feeling or meaning of this quilt is a reminder to appreciate what I have. Sometimes it's easy to get blindsided by all the "stuff" of life and lose track of what is really important.

Sometimes I need a little reminder to stop, go play with my son, go on a date with my husband, and realize that these are the things that make life sweet and fulfilling.

After this small quilt, which should only take 2-3 weeks to create, I'll start my next big show quilt "Emergence"

This goddess came to me about a year ago and she's clamoring to be made! This quilt has also been hard to design. It's a goddess quilt splitting a traditional wholecloth quilt literally in half.

This quilt signifies for me the love of traditional quilting, but the need to evolve beyond and embrace where this art form can go.

I still hear people say "If it isn't made by hand, it isn't a real quilt." This seems a little limiting, don't you think?

In truth, I LOVE traditional quilts and consider myself a traditional quilter. Hard to believe, right?

But the fact is, trapunto and densely quilted motifs ARE very traditional for areas of France where wholecloth quilting was once a huge industry. If you're interested in learning about this definitely check out the book "Quilts of Provence" by Kathryn Berenson and you'll learn all you need to know!

Again, the issue with designing Emergence has been balance. How do you mix a bright, in-your-face goddess with a traditional off white wholecloth?

After playing with many wholecloth ideas I suddenly realized that the wholecloth design I needed to be using was The Duchess. This is my most traditional design, therefore the one most meaningful for me.

I am planning on making some changes to the design to make the borders quilt up faster and with much less fuss.

Finally, the goddess I saw last night is very much a product of what books I've been reading lately.

It seems like every book I've listened to lately has been about a woman fed up with life, leaving her family, traveling far and wide, and then fixing all her problems.

It's not that there's anything wrong with this type of book, in fact I've thoroughly enjoyed listening to "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, but it concerns me that every book I turn on has the same chuck-your-husband theme to it.

Personally I believe that I can change and become a totally different, healthier person, and still remain happily married and faithful to my husband. I know this because I've done it once before after my son was born.

In the 6 months after James was born I went through one of the hardest times of my life, but emerged a totally different, motivated person. Seriously, if you had met me back when I was 21, you wouldn't recognize me!

But listening to all these books has made me think about those things that I've given up to be a wife and mother. Some things are small, like not being able to sleep late on the weekends.

But some things are big. I recently decided to turn down several offers for lectures and workshops in far away places.

When my friend scolded me for turning down an offer to go to Florida and California, I had to explain that there's no possible way I can travel that far right now in my life.

It's not just that I don't want to leave my family, I also don't want to stop quilting or make commitments before I know if I'm truly capable of fulfilling them.

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo this goddess came to me while I was thinking of these things, of what we give up, but also gain from love.

What I love about this goddess already is how very plant like she looks. For some reason she reminds flower bud right before it blooms.

Keep in mind this is just a sketch of the starting point of the design, but it will give you a basic idea of what I'm taking about.

Her name will be "Bound by Love" and I think it will probably be one of the most beautiful goddesses so far. As for size, I really have no idea!

It'd be nice if I could design these girls to be small wall hangings, but as soon as I get started drawing the design gets bigger and bigger until they're around 80" square.

I guess that's just my natural pallet size. Maybe in a past life I was a muralist!

So that's the journey of my goddesses so far. They're definitely a vibrant, interesting bunch!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Awesome. I love how they come about, what they mean to you. I know what you mean about changing, yet staying where you are. I've done it too. A caterpillar doesn't need the world to change into a butterfly, and neither do I. Though it's always fun to travel :) You don't need it to change your self. You are You where ever you are.

  2. Wow. What a post. Funny, I am one of those women who is ready to chuck my family and move on.... so the fact that you are reading books about what I am feeling I am heading for, kind of scares me a little.
    I love your goddess'. I love the very powerful one that you have created 'Release Your Light'. And the one you thought was cheating if you did it on fabric in beads - uh, no. that would have been, done in beads, stunning. I like it in the cross stich, but the beads would have created a light in it that floss just doesn't give.

    I love that you have these insights into the goddess' and that you make them come to life so others can see them too. And creativity is in all of us, although we do forget. but it does show up in so many differnt ways. Thank-You for this post. Just thank-you.

  3. It struck me as a was reading your post that I have a "goddess" from my university days. I think I will root around and try to find her. She would make a great wall hanging.

  4. What an interesting post Leah - I love your latest design and look forward to seeing her emerge. I also agree with you about not taking up the offers to meetings further afield, when you are ready and when it 'feels' right for you it will be right and you will get the awards/response due. As I keep telling my DH trust you gut instincts they are rarely wrong.

  5. Beautiful post, Leah. Thank you for sharing with us.

    The last Goddess? Her hair reminds me of a Morning Glory before it unfolds... Don't know why, but I just had to share that.

    And I don't believe one has to leave her husband to "bloom" either. Because no matter where one goes or who she's with, there SHE is. ...if that makes sense. A lot of the time, we allow others to "hold us back", when, in actuality, *we* are really the only ones holding us back.


  6. Loved the post, loved the goddesses. It spoke to me - thanks!

  7. Leah,
    Love the first Goddess even if she is not beaded! The new one promises tobe something wonderful and shows a lot of growing since the first, along with mariage, family and all that brings.
    Wendy got it right in her comment .... we hold ourselves back, but let's not forget that sometimes it is for the right reasons. Watching over a little boy grow is fleeting, soon it will be your turn to fly.
    Judy B

  8. Thank you for sharing the intimate details of your creative process. It is very illuminating. I love your goddess figures. The power of the female is so amazing. I hope you continue expressing yourself through many more goddesses!

  9. What a moving post, thank you. I held myself back for years because I wanted to be there for everything. Now my babies are grown and I am branching out. I know I am meant to be something great..I am just taking the slow way there.
    It will all come in time and your goddesses are showing you the path.


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