The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilting Meditations

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Quilting Meditations

Today I woke up extremely early to start stitching a new set of designs. I know it appears like I'm Wonder Woman on this blog: able to quilt, film, edit, upload, and write about 1 design each day.

The truth is that that would be really insane!

Instead I stitch 10 - 12 designs in one sitting, usually while listening to audio books or music early in the morning or very late at night when the house is quiet and no one will disturb me.

Making these 4" squares has started to turn into a sort of meditation. Quilting in general can be very relaxing, to the point that I looked out the window and suddenly realized that several hours had passed without even realizing it.

I decided that I really wanted to share this experience with you today.

Sometimes I look at my show quilts and I worry that what quilters see is the tiny dense stitches, but not the process: the peace and calming that comes from making those stitches.

In this process there is no judgment. I don't stare down at my 4" squares and nit pick every mistake, every mis-traveled stitch, or every wobbly circle.

I would be really insane by now if I did!

Of course, I would be lying to say that I've never judged my own work harshly, but I've learned over the last 4 years that usually it doesn't help.

Also knowing that I need to have 365 of these little squares by the end of it all, I know for a fact that a few missed stitches are the least of my worries.

And I hope that you will try out this line of thinking yourself as well. No judgment, no criticism, just STITCH!

It sounds really simple and it actually is! Throw on some music you like and stitch to enjoy the process.

Quilt just to quilt for yourself.

I've heard from many quilters over the last six months who are intimidated by free motion quilting. Some are even so intimidated they won't even TRY it.

So to try to encourage you to just quilt and play and have fun, let me share with you this story from when I first started quilting:

When I started quilting guess what I was intimidated by?


I really thought about it and came to my own conclusion that basting could never work. The backs of my quilts would get all pleated up and be a bit mess and I would just have to seam rip all of those stitches out.

The more I thought about it, the bigger and nastier the problem got.

So for my first quilt, I quilted each block separately, so convinced that if I put them together I would be in big trouble when it came to basting.

The only problem was: I didn't know how to put the quilted blocks together either!

So you see, fear of trying something can often times lead you down a path of more frustration and heartache than if you just suck up your gut and TRY IT!

And what happened to my first quilt? I ended up zigzag stitching the blocks together. It worked, sort of, but taught me an important lesson about quilting:

Whenever you're afraid of something,
stop thinking and do it anyway.

Chances are it's not nearly as scary as you thought!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. LOL I've been working on this fear things for a while...especially after I oopsied my first attempt so bad it end up in a heap. But eventually I learned...DH is always saying I'm my worst critic, which is true, and I'm always surprised how much my family etc love my work, when all I really see are the mistakes. But I'm getting better. Fear can't rule our lives, any part of it, but especially the ones that are supposed to give us peace.

  2. Enjoyed your chat today Leah..and oh so true!

  3. love this post!!!
    It is so true that we can over-think something to the point where what we are thinking is not even close to the real thing!!
    And how can trying something hurt??? Its so do-able, you show us everyday!! So, just give it a try.... and yes, I could see it as a great meditation.... now I really want to learn this skill!! Thank-you!! Again!!

  4. AMEN Girl! I needed that, Thank you.

  5. You are SO right! Every time I start second guessing myself or the technique I am learning very harshly, I will make silly decisions that make my quilting so much harder!!!

    It's much better to just sew and let go!

  6. Since your post on the 14th and reading some of the comments made, plus your comment 'TRY IT' in todays post I'm wondering if a Flickr group should be started showing the FMQ sampler works of your blog followers - I've now got many ideas for either sampler block/s (for a wall hanging), or querky arty panel or now even a top (size depending on how far the limited fabric goes) - so I'd give it a go and as you say just start and starting with something small should help chase the 'fear' away


  7. I've heard from many quilters over the last 6 months who are intimidated by free motion quilting. Some are even so intimidated they won't even TRY it.

    I free-motioned the VERY first quilt I made. It was mine start-to-finish. No fear here. I gave up the need for perfection. Once I tackled that I did fine -- better than I thought.

    And that first quilt? I think it's the best one I've made so far ... mistakes and all!

  8. I'm going to get serious with my small blocks free motion quilting this year so that I can practice my "fear" ........ binding !!!!!!

  9. That's really good advice Leah, thank you.

  10. I'm a perfectionist... but I'm also a miser. I can save hundreds of dollars on professional long arm quilting (which I was tempted by, but never got done) by figuring out this stuff on my own. And... to me if your aim is to make a quilt, and you don't quilt it... then you haven't really made a "quilt" have you.

    You're right. Just give it a go. I think you inspire confidence to do that with your videos showing people like me how to do it. I don't know anyone local that can show me what to aim for.

    I never thought you did one every day. I think a lot of people don't really know a lot about computers. I'm running a weekly block quilt along at the moment and I've got myself a few weeks ahead so I don't have to panic every saturday. lol

    What I did because of you:
    And then I've gone on to do free motion quilting all over a wall hanging with not too many "mistakes". I am sure I'll be the only one who knows where they are.

  11. Leah,
    I don't have a problem with free motion ....... but have HUGE problems with in the ditch! But with straight lines close to seam lines and free motion who needs to fall in the ditch anyway!
    Judy B

  12. I guess that is why I don't get much done, I criticize my own sewing too much! Great advice!

  13. You sure hit the nail on the head with the hangups to machine quilting. First you have to baste!!! and I have not gotten past that as I can not think how I would ever get the back so that there would be no pleats?????
    I am going to go piece. :-)

  14. So well said Leah! I am in the midst of preparing a quilt top, lap quilt and I am going to machine quilt it myself. I already have a few ideas for it, some straight lines to get me started but then I am planning to dabble! :) A big thank you to your optimism!

  15. My solution to getting past the learning curve has been to make simple lap quilts for young and quilt clueless relatives. It is a win- win. I get lots of practice in all parts of quilt building and free motion quilting, the recipient gets a handmade quilt stitched with love. They never notice my mistakes, they just enjoy the warmth and comfort and fun stitching that they enjoy and are amazed at. Remember that so many NEVER get anything handmade any more that anyone who gives a gift from the hand to a non-sewer is greatly admired, not examined and critiqued.

    I considered a Bernina attachment but decided i had more time than money and after putting in many hours I have found that my hands are now "regulated" to my machine an i am doing fairly ok at many stitches, others still need more practice. Again and again I realize that time is the key to free motion quilting- the more I do the better I get at it. Also the gloves, silicone mat and washers that you sell have been a HUGE help in making free motioning all a bit smoother than without them.

    Leah, thank you again and again for your inspiration and your discussion of the process, not just the product. My quilting continues to improve in new ways because of your blog.

    Ladies, give it a go, and give yourself 6 sessions, 6 hours or 6 week goal to see how much your stitching changes in that time period- it will encourage you that it is DOABLE- happy stitching


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