The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilt Doom

Friday, March 12, 2010

Quilt Doom

The sounds of Quilt Doom are playing through my house.

It is the sound of a large fire being stoked high in my fireplace so I can burn My Cup Runneth Over into a smoldering pile of ash and never see this wretched quilt again.

Maybe I should just cut the whole quilt up in pieces and rescue the fabric for another more fortunate project.

Or maybe she's just going to get thrown out in the garbage.

I'm sure you're wondering WHY oh WHY do I want to destroy this quilt?

free motion quilting | Leah DayWell, here's the story:

When I sat down to design this quilt, I started working the way I typically work, designing the goddess's shape, her hair, and of course the water.

I got the outlines of everything in place, but then I stopped, as I have always stopped at this point, got super excited about fabric and creating and didn't finish the quilting design.


I've done this 3 times now with Balance, Life and Fire, and Release Your Light. You might assume I would have learned my lesson by now.

So what did I leave out that was so important???

I left out the quilting design, or more specifically, skipped the process where I look at the different areas of the quilt and create original motifs to fill the area and add dimension to the quilt.

So instead of looking at the goddess's body and deciding to add maybe a vine shape through this area to add more interest, I ran right back to my default: fill it with fillers! (which is synonymous with quilt-the-piss-out-of-it).

free motion quilting | Leah DayBut this is one quilt that isn't taking my typical 7,000 yards of thread very well.

Welcome to Mistake #2!

A month ago I made another royal bad choice when I decided to create the Most-Complicated-Water-Area-Ever.

Even KNOWING that I was going to cover this area gobs of thread, I still insisted on using 300 little pieces of different colored blue fabric.

I could have just used gradient fabric and saved myself a whole hell of a lot of time!!!

Of course, I couldn't piece this area, so I fused it.

Having never fused before, I didn't realize how long I needed to hold the iron on it to get everything properly fused.

So after basting and quilting the center section, I started to notice some of the water pieces pulling up. Uggh! Uggh! Uggh!

I ironed them back down again, but quilting this section really is a nightmare. I don't like the feeling of the fusible at all. It's too stiff to get a good rhythm going.

free motion quilting | Leah DayAlso, all the little pieces have little raw edges which poke out and are driving every obsessive compulsive cell in my body completely crazy. It's not perfect! The stitching looks dirty!

Which leads us to Tragedy #3:

Bad choice of backing fabric. At the last minute, and after one too many glasses of wine, I decided use this light teal instead of the navy blue batik I'd already prepared for the job.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI really can't believe I made this mistake. I KNEW better!

Light threads on dark fabric look a million times better than dark threads on light fabric. Why do you think all of my videos feature white thread on dark purple, blue, or green fabric?

When you use a light fabric as the background with dark thread, the light fabric shows through like little spotlights on all the mistakes.

And of course, since this light teal is on the back of the quilt, every single mistake is now illuminated in loving detail.

Don't believe me? Check out her wobbly chin:

free motion quilting | Leah DayAre you left in any wonder why I want to destroy this quilt so badly???

My personal opinion is 3 strikes = you're out.

It'd be one thing if this quilt was as big as Release Your Light and if I'd put more time into it's creation. After a quilt reaches 65" there's just no choice, I have to finish it.

But this quilt is only 31 x 45 inches and I've learned loads from getting it this far. Rather than bang my head against the wall any longer, I'm calling it quits.

Yes, this happens to the best of us, and you're not alone if you have quilts in your closet you KNOW you will never finished.

The only difference is I'm not willing to fold this up and put it in the closet so it can haunt me another day with pleas to "finish me...finish me...."

Maybe I will finish it. Maybe I'll quilt the rest of it and use it as a teaching tool to show everyone what NOT to do.

Or maybe it will go in the fireplace tonight...(just kidding, I'd never actually burn it in the house).

And while this quilt was a disaster, there is no law that states I can't try it again with different fabric, a revised design, and better game plan!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. You can always start over... Personally I think it will turn out well.... put it aside for a day or so and move on... maybe you can come back to it with a fresher mind!

  2. Cut it up into squares and make potholders. This is my solution to my quilting and embroidery mistakes. You are really being too, too hard on yourself. You are a great quilter and designer. Hang in there and go on to the next project. Personally, I am not happy unless I have at least four projects going at the same time. Love, love your blog.

  3. hmmm me thinks you are being too hard on yourself too. Is the quilt going to be a wall hanging? Is the backing really going to be visible? Or is it just the fact that you know it isnt perfect?
    Life is never perfect and if it was it would be boring! Great blog!

  4. Leah .. all is not lost if you really want to keep her. Finish the first round of quilting on the teal with all your filler designs then back her again with the dark blue (use another thin layer of batting as well) and use a brighter shade of thread to quilt the lovely flowy designs you have now thought about . You will have to outline her major design elements as well but she will come up lovely with layers of interest!.

    It works ... trust me!

    Alternatively .. consider finishing the first quilting and then layer the top with a coloured organza and requilt. This will keep all the tatty ends of the water in place and hide a multitude of sins.

  5. I think this quilt just needs a little more wine. Or, maybe a little bourbon.

    At some point in the quilting process I hate every quilt I've ever made. I put them away and somehow, the inspriration comes to finish. Finish her when she inspires you again.

    Go back to the post you wrote on the day she first appeared to you. Remember how you felt that day? Maybe she's trying to tell you that she's not a perfect goddess. After all, not every goddess can be perfect.

    Don't do anything you'll regret. You can always throw her away tomorrow. Lane

  6. I think it's beautiful! Please don't burn it! You could always finish it and donate it to a charity to use as an auction quilt! We may not love everything we make, but there are tons of people who would cherish a quilt like that, or any quilt for that matter.

  7. Leah, I think she is very pretty but understand your frustrations. I have found that sometimes some things were meant to be finished. You learned something new, your skills grew, maybe you even had fun and that was the important part. It's OK to not finish and say out loud - I don't like this and I am not spending any more time on it.....

  8. Well, as a Recovering Perfectionist, I can certainly relate to your frustration, but your quilt is fabulous! I love your concept, your design, and your stitching! If the back really really bothers you, could you slap a different back on it with spray adhesive? Maybe prequilt it like you want it? Or state with great authority that its current incarnation, warts and all, is exactly how it's supposed to be! I say it's wonderful work, and I'm so glad I got to see it.

  9. I've been where you are-- in fact, I just finished taking a lot of bad hand quilting out of a twenty year old quilt so that I can machine quilt it-- took me four nights with a seam ripper, tweezers and embroidery scissors. The poor thing's been waiting since 1992 for me to finish it.

    I think Dot has the right idea. For what it is, it's beautiful, but it will never be your goddess, you'll never feel satisfied about it the way it is. So cut it up, make other beautiful things out of it and start over. You are being hard on yourself, but it's hard the way a true artist has to be to achieve her goals.

    I was just reading a book by Velda Newman. You could try her method of self-grading the "water" batik with a spray bottle of bleach solution and some patience.

  10. Well Leah. I love it anyway, but I get where you are coming from. Get to a stopping point and start again when you are ready to approach it with a rested mind. If you must do it over, don't do it out of frustration. Wait until you are calm and enjoy the creative process along with the new lessons you have learned. I can't wait to see what comes of this project. Happy Day! Tina

  11. Tracey's idea is great! But I'd use a colorless, irridescent organza on the water area. It will really add some sparkle, like sunlight dancing on water.

  12. I forgot to mention Velda Newman has extensive safety rules for that bleach method, so don't try it without researching it.

  13. Walk away from the quilt. Wait a few days, and then see how beautiful it looks!!!! You are the hardest critic. It looks great to me, and you can always do another one with the lessons you learned on this one. But I think you will see the beauty in this one in a few days, I already see it.

  14. All the time you were making it I was impressed at how detailed and clever it was. Your thought processes and patience are incredible. I can see why you hate it now but couldn't you just put it down to experience and put it away. Go onto to something else for a while. IT'S ONLY A QUILT!! Don't stress - life is too short.

  15. So with lessons learned that fill your arsenal with needed amo...go on and start a new one... you'll know what not to do this strengthened by what you've learned.

  16. I totally understand,and I feel for you. but don't do anything rash until you have put it away for a while, cleansed your pallet with something else and thought it through.
    I have "sat" on a project for as long as 4 years, then one day it all came to me! And I was thrilled with the solution.
    I guess my skills grew and that helped me.
    take a deep breath and a walk, but don't do anything rash yet.

  17. this is why this goddess came to you - to be created and have you learn from her. And, she is absoulutly beautiful - I do not see a a wobbly chin, or ugly thread on the back. I see beauty. Magnificence, and a real work of art. I do not want to even think of her being in a fire. She is beautiful, flaws (if there really are any!!) and all.

    I love the organza idea, and the new backing if it really is botherig you that much, but she is a wounderful creation. And watching her come to life through all your post, it's like I was there with you!!! she is - how many times can I write beautiful before you punch me??? lol!! I hope you change your mind on her, and see how wounderful she is. ((hugs))

  18. Gee..what a shame. I think she looks gorgeous but I know what it's like when a project is just not up to your own standards. Thanks for sharing with us what you've learned. I vote to finish and keep her. In 5 years, you will see the progress you've made and she will have a room in your art and growth history. A lot of the great artists made several versions of the same painting, each time changing and perfecting the process. Personally, I wouldn't do that becuase I have quilter's ADD- too many projects, too little time. But just a reminder that a lot of masterpeices are sometimes the 5th, 6th or 15th version of the same piece.


  19. That's too bad Leah. I thought it looked cool. But I understand your frustration about the fusing, it's a bugger to work with.

    If it's going to be a wall hanging, don't worry about the back. Leave it for a few days and see what you think then.

    Good luck.

  20. OUch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Well, it wasn't time wasted. We learn from our mistakes. Not only did you learn lots, but we all did, too. As Dot said, you can cut it up. There are organizations that collect fabric postcards for soldiers birthdays and holidays. Any pattern or partial pattern welcome. And start over. Definitely start over.

  21. Leah you have received some super ideas from your 'fans' here already - please don't, yes don't, destroy her - she is the product of your dreams, has already kept you going through your tough days, given you challenges you've accepted and dealt with (and it dosen't matter if they actually worked to your satisfaction), they've been challenges you've researched and tried. Like all things in life it's a HUGE learning curve with peaks and troughs. If you don't finish the quilt keep it, use it as a teaching tool and a reminder of what you've tried, what works, and what doesn't work. But can I suggest you look at her again in a few days and see the things you like and love about her - the areas that work and are a success - the design, the water piecing (even if you don't like how it's done and now feels), her hair, and your FMQ designs. Maybe you should try out a section of water (if you want to keep with piecing) with the organza on top, or a graded fabric, but if you do set her aside just now, I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks you'll revisit and restart her again when everything feels RIGHT, but, she's given you a lesson, a hard one yes, but one just the same, and it's a lesson that can be shared and will be appreciated by many I'm sure, you've given us one here in this post already, remember that please.

  22. I have recently started following your blog and your work is just amazing. I know that you are not happy with the quilt but I think it is wonderful. I hope you can save it I hate to think of it being destroyed. ( you could give it to me hahaha ).
    Keep up your great work.

  23. Don't be to hard on your self. I personally think she is beautiful. Maybe just let her rest somewhere until her muse call you to start crating on her once again???? Thank you for your wonderful blog, you truly are an inspiration to all. I added you to my blogroll, would you like to exchange?

  24. you made some mistakes ...big deal! It could be worse!
    It is nice to see that even the experts are human and goof up :-)
    I would keep quilting it...quilt the crap out if it ...quilt it till it looks beatiful! You have enough wonderful quilt designs to make it work. I believe in you!!
    P.S I go with the galloping horse rule...if it looks good from sitting on a galloping horse then its perfect!

  25. You're too close to it right now to see as others will. I think the chin looks beautiful and makes it more realistic. The dark threads on light backing could end up making it a two-sided quilt. Organza will tame the raw edges, but there are other alternatives or embellishments that could also work on this quilt like beading, paint, or just more stitching. Have you ever tried using some of the fancy machine stitches on areas of your quilt?

    I personally, think it's coming out very lovely, and am anxious to see how you choose to finish it.

    BTW, I have hated many of my quilts when they were in progress, and remember the Amish, who intentionally put in a reverse block or other "mistake". Today many people like the unperfect, as it shows the hand of the maker, instead of the perfect, looks like a machine made it.

  26. Leah, no matter what you decide with your quilt (which I think is lovely, btw), I appreciate so much that you are honest in sharing your triumphs and your frustrations when working on your art. I can relate to your feelings and it helps me to remember that everyone has a quilt day that stinks sometimes!

    Keep stitching!!!

  27. I agree with Becky. When our faces are two inches from the quilt, all we can see are the mistakes. Put it away, pull it out in a couple of days. Lay in on the floor or couch, stand back a couple feet, if you still don't like it, then you can give it to me :) kidding. I think it looks fabulous and that you are being to tough on yourself. I love the swirly quilting you did on it.

  28. I also think that you are too hard on yourself, she looks fine. Everything happens for a reason. Think of it as an opportunity instead of a mistake. Example: If you don't like the backing fabric, paint it with a darker color and a roller, or put a false back on.
    Your commitment to the quilting designs is amazing and I'm really glad you have chosen to share it with the world.

  29. I've been reading your blog and have been fascinated with your talent and "sticktoitivness". Keep her as a teaching tool and start her again. I think she's beautiful and would hate to see her destroyed. If you don't finish that's not the end of the world. I've got a boxfull of UFO's that may or may not ever get done.

  30. Leah:

    Use the 3 foot rule. Most works of art (and your's is one of them) are viewed from at least 3 feet away. If you can't see the problems from there - then they are not problems. Think of yourself as an "art quilter" and give up on all the preconcieved quilting rules you have learned in the past. Do you think Jackson Pollack worried about those first drips on the canvas? Experiment....experiment......experiment and then learn from that. The quilt looks great - keep going!

  31. I read a few of the other comments, and agree with the idea that you may be seeing every mistake and being too hard on yourself. They may only be mistakes to you because you have a perfect picture of it in your mind, and it's just the way it is to everyone else. I don't like perfect because trying to get there makes me miserable. I use to be such a perfectionist and often angry or unhappy. Now I accept nicely hand made, and am thankful for the lessons I am able to take away from the process of creating. Personally I think she's beautiful...and my chin is crooked too, :).
    I don't think I have ever finished a quilt the way it started in my mind. They seem to grow and evolve. Wow, to the other commenters. Many of you have come up with some awesome solutions, which I call on the fly design alterations.
    Let her rest for a short while, and maybe she will speak to you. If not you can make that decission later.

  32. Leah, I think the quilt is absolutely beautiful! No matter what you do to her, she will still be perfect. Little flaws I believe is what makes a quilt unique. I would be proud to hang that quilt on my wall and am sure would receive multiple ooohhhs and ahhhhs over it.

    Don't be so hard on yourself, you are an inspiration to me as well as I am sure thousands of others!

  33. {{hugs}} I am so sorry, and I can completely understand your frustration. But your work is Art, I bet there is not a single artist who couldn't pick every piece apart and find things wrong with it in their own art. I think its beautiful beyond belief. You have many many things on your plate right now, take a breath and go with the flow, follow the path your quilt leads you on.

  34. Oh, Leah; please do not destroy her. Your friends here have lots of great ideas and encouragement. Art is a lesson. Listen. Maybe you need to step away for a bit? Even godesses are not perfect.

  35. send it to me - I can finish it.

  36. There is a book called Simply Stunning Woven Quilts by Anna Faustino that may be the solution to your problem. Her technique is simple and eliminates all those millions of pieces.

    But I love your piece no matter what! It is beautiful.


  37. I agree with everyone here! But I'm also struck by how much your comments reveal about how much easier you are letting go this time around. From your first sense of loss on a major project to've relaxed quite a bit and are even joking about her! That's amazing progress from how much something like this would have meant a year ago! That's what we love about you. You're real AND you're willing to grow and let go and try again! And you're willing to share all your trials as well as your successes. That takes a lot of courage, and inspires the rest of us who don't come anywhere near your talent!

    I think it's a lovely quilt, and no one sees the mistakes you claim are there. I promise! There are lots of great suggestions here too! Maybe you could finish her and then "auction" her off and donate the proceeds to a women's organization somewhere...allow this goddess to bless the lives of others. Nothing says "my cup runneth over" more than allowing some of what God has granted us to spill over into someone else's life.

    God bless you kiddo! You teach us all daily-and about far more than just fabric!


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