The Free Motion Quilting Project: My Cup Runneth Over - Part 1

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Cup Runneth Over - Part 1

The wonders of winter weather have struck again! We got 5 more inches of fluffy, white snow, perfect for making snowmen of all shapes and sizes.

Leah Day | snowJames got outside with Josh, but quickly decided "No snowman, no!" because we couldn't find his mittens and his poor little hands were freezing off.

But they managed to get this little infant sized snowman built together and I rangeled a smile and picture of it since I'm trying to make up for all the hundreds of pictures we've lost with the hard drive. *Sigh*

Since the bad weather was predicted yesterday, my workshop in SC was canceled. This was kind of a blessing in disguise because now I can have even more samples, examples, and cool stuff for the rescheduled class in March!

It has also given me a great weekend to start "My Cup Runneth Over".

In case you're just tuning in, this is my latest Goddess quilt. The design came to me during the summer while I was neck deep in Release Your Light and the idea has stuck pretty firmly ever since.

I want to share the process of creating this quilt from start to finish. I've never tried actually documenting a quilt's progress through blogging simply because I'm always in such a hurry to finish.

But I really want to take my time with this quilt, and I think I will HAVE to take my time because she's going to be pretty complicated.

So here's the design process so far:

free motion quilting | Leah Day1. Create the sketch - I'm doing something totally new with this design and starting with a fully formed sketch first.

Usually I'll sketch an idea, then draw the bigger design on graph paper. This can get pretty time consuming and annoying since it's so much paper to be constantly shifting around.

So instead I tried creating the perfect sketch first. I drew, erased, drew, and erased until I got very close to the finished quilt I was looking for.

I knew I needed to work on the water lines a bit more, but it's tough to do on a small scale. Next time I'll continue to draw the sketch until every aspect is perfect because this has ended up costing me time already to fix the lines.

2. Scan and resize - Going from a little sketch to a full design pattern is actually very simple. I just scanned the sketch into my computer and opened it in Paint.

Yes, it's a mark of how little design stuff I do on the computer that I don't yet have any of the big design software. I know it would have made this job a bit easier, but I'm still on the fence due to both the cost of the programs and time it will take to learn how to use them.

I resized the sketch 400% roughly and printed out the whole thing on regular paper. The size is somewhere now around 3 ft x 4 ft.

free motion quilting | Leah Day3. Clean up - Because of Paint's limitations, as the design re-sized, so did the marking lines. When the design printed, the lines ended up really thick, definitely not what I could use for firm piecing or applique.

So I used large sheets of graph paper laid over the original to create another copy with thinner lines and began the process of fixing the curvy lines I didn't like in the water.

This proved to be more time consuming and difficult than I thought because once you start fiddling with something, sometimes it just gets worse and worse.

I crossed out a lot of lines, resized some spaces, and then made a second, hand drawn graph paper copy.
free motion quilting | Leah DayEven with this one, I'm not fully and completely satisfied. Maybe I should have been tracing with pencil rather than permanent marker, another lesson learned.

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with the goddess herself and her hair. I'm not sure that I'll really use her hair lines as I just plan to do some very random free motion in that area.

But the water is continuing to not be right. What is it I am really wanting?

Well, I want the pieces to go from small right around the center, fanning out into larger pieces towards the edges.

I don't want the pieces in the center to be so tiny they're a pain to piece, but I also don't want all the pieces to be the same size and not appear to flow the right way.

Maybe I'm over-thinking this. Maybe I should just go with it.

But I know I'll probably draw 1 or 2 more large scale graphs until she's just right. Even though these lines are not going to be glaringly obvious (it's just going to be piecing lines for graduated blue fabrics), I still want them to look a certain way.

Even though this seems really complicated and time consuming, it's really been very quick in comparison to designing Release Your Light and The Duchess.

I learned with both of those quilts that the more time spent in the design process, the better the whole project will go. When I rush and ignore my gut feeling, I end up wanting to change things later and that is a HUGE time waster.

I think this has been easier because of starting with the small sketch and working from there. I think this will be my preferred method of design from here on, especially because it was so easy to resize the design and get her to the exact size I wanted.

One thing I just realized is how helpful looking at smaller photos of the quilt is. Looking at the photos I've just added to the post, I'm wondering what I'm complaining about!

The water looks fine from a smaller perspective so maybe it's just me being obsessive compulsive.

Now I'm off to go shop for fabric for this quilt. Despite the snow, the roads are clear and I'm ready to start seeing this girl in color!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Hi Leah,
    You might look at Barbara Olson's book - Journey of an art quilter. She has a process about drafting spirals in it. Also her website is:
    if that is helpful. I think I understand about what you say about not wanting it to be all the same size. I think this is going to be an awesome quilt:)
    Laura T

  2. I'm in SC. Where are you teaching in March? Can you direct me to the person who can give me info about the rescheduled workshop.

  3. External hard drives (to store/backup your files) aren't all that expensive and hold an awful lot of stuff! Time to invest in one!

    I've been enjoying all your designs - you're doing a great job.

  4. External hard drives are a good investment to back up files, esp. photo and video, and they aren't too expensive for what you get. Time to invest in one!

    I've been enjoying all your designs and videos. Keep up the good work!

  5. I think she's beautiful. Have you thought about trying curved pieces for the water. Like Vikki Pignatelli?

    Just been reading your blog for a week or so and finding it great.

  6. I am so excited to see how this comes to life! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Hi Leah

    Ican really relate to you about getting all the detail right. When it is just so you will know, so don't go rushing into it, ( like I need to tell you that !) I so wish you where much closer to guide me through my learning process.

  8. If you have a Staples nearby, you can bring your small drawing in and have it blown up quite large--I think most of the Staples stores have copy machines that make blueprint sized copies. I've had this done several times, and it costs less than $5 to get a couple of very, very large copies that I've used for quilts and for stained glass designs.

  9. Hey Leah,
    It's looking gorgeous. Looking forward to reading how you put it all together.

    You might want to look at Inkspace. I use it for some things. It reminds me a lot of Corel Draw from way back when (oh, before you were born!! haha). Free and open source.

  10. Hi Leah, I thoroughly enjoy your blog and read it daily. In regards to the godess, the lines going counterclockwise are very regular and circular wheras the ones going clockwise are wavy and not as regular. I suggest trying to make both wavy and see what the does.


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