The Free Motion Quilting Project: I'm Ready

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm Ready

I hinted yesterday that I've finally taken a quilt down off the design wall and returned to working on it. Yes, this is indeed My Cup Runneth Over:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

A bit of back story about this quilt for any newcomers to the blog:

My Cup Runneth Over was started in February as the 6th quilt in my goddess series.

The inspiration for this quilt came in the middle of working on Release Your Light, when I really wasn't very happy because the painting was taking forever.

Finally I took a break for a few days on that quilt and decided not to go back until I really WANTED to be working on it. Within 2 days I was back with an entirely different attitude and perspective.

This perspective made me start thinking about my family: my awesome husband and chill son who bend their lives around my quilting, and how extremely fortunate I am to have them.

free motion quilting | Leah DayMeditating on these thoughts as I painted the surface of Release Your Light, I saw a new goddess, this one holding a cup that was literally overflowing with abundance. That image exactly mirrored what I was feeling during that reflective day.

But turning the image of My Cup Runneth Over into reality hasn't been an easy process.

I started this quilt in February, and I immediately wanted to rush through the whole project. If you go back and read the different parts of the quilt story, you may pick up on how frantic I was to push through the quilt. All I wanted to do was blast past that quilt and get on to the next one.

Here are the parts for easy reading:

As I learned the hard way though, speedy and quick is not how these goddesses run.

They are more than just a chick stitched on a quilt. My Cup Runneth Over represented a certain feeling, but instead of focusing on this feeling, of trying to understand it better and wrap my brain around it, I instead shut it out, shut it down, and just tried to grit my teeth and rush through the quilt.

But that method just really doesn't work. Very quickly I began to see issues with the quilting process.

I think most issues start to be seen in the quilting process because we're right there, nose to nose with the quilt for so long while free motion quilting it. Quilting on a domestic really makes you slow down and see every detail.

And the closer I got to the details, the more flaws I saw. In the nature of my mind at the time, the more flaws I saw, the more I beat myself up about it.
Have you ever done this to yourself? Used every mistake, every missed stitch, every frayed thread as an excuse to beat yourself up, cut yourself down, and generally ruin the quilting process completely?

Well, I certainly did, and this was really indicative of what my mind used to do on a daily basis. My horrible inner negative voice was just a bad habit, continually cycling my thoughts through all the bad things it could pick on.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYes, at one time I convinced myself
that this stitching looked terrible!

Eventually I couldn't take it anymore. In my mind My Cup Runneth Over was a horrible wasteland of mistakes, now terribly public because I'd blogged about it.

I was extremely tempted to chuck the whole project and all the time, money, and energy that went into it in the fireplace and watch it burn.

Thankfully I blogged about the burning idea and several quilters stepped in with better advice: wait, put it away, and come back to it when you're ready.

So that's exactly what I did. I hung My Cup Runneth Over on the wall of my quilting room where I could easily ignore her and pretend she never existed.

But the failure of this quilt really never went away. When I began designing Shadow Self, I spent twice as long in the design process, careful not to repeat the same mistakes by rushing each step.

free motion quilting | Leah DayAnd then the process of creating Shadow Self and the transformations that have happened, both mentally and physically from creating that quilt. It cannot be put into words.

My habitual negative voice? Gone. The feelings of powerlessness, fear, and depression? Gone.

It is as though I've taken a shower, but this time the water washed away all the bad feeling in my mind and replaced it with a cool, clean understanding.

I noticed recently that towards the end of working on Shadow Self, I'd stopped listening to music or audiobooks while quilting. Before creating that quilt, I would do anything to blot out the noise in my head, to drown out that cacophony with nicer sounds.

But the last half of Shadow Self was completed in utter silence. Through most of that second half, I sat in my own mind, listening to my thoughts peacefully for the first time in a very long time.

It was in this peaceful, quiet state that I looked at My Cup Runneth Over and really saw the quilt for what it was.

It was not a wasteland of mistakes as I had previously thought. It's certainly not perfect and I will probably never compete with this quilt, but it is worthy of being finished.

So on Sunday I returned to this quilt, not out of duty because it needed to be finished, but because I genuinely want to see her finished and because I need to celebrate the amazing changes to my life over the last 3 months.

More importantly, I finally feel ready to feel the feelings that this quilt was designed to evoke: love, abundance, and compassion. There's a wonderful song called "I'm Ready" by Tracy Chapman that describes this feeling almost perfectly.

I have decided to make some changes to the background section and spent most of the ride to Asheville yesterday ripping out stitches.

Thankfully it wasn't a huge amount of quilting that needed to be torn out and this morning I created a new background to surround this goddess:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I've always felt she needed a landscape behind her and so I created a new design called Landscape Fill to fill in the background. I may paint over the thread with green paint, or I might let the stitching do all the work.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI also completed her hair section last night with a combination of metallic and polyester threads. I like how some sections are lighter than others and this effect is one I will definitely play with again.

free motion quilting | Leah DayI'm still trying to decide which filler to use in the sky. I want to create subtle movement, but again I will probably paint over the thread.

Now it's time to go back upstairs and finish her off. I'm ready...

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Leah, yay! for you and for 'cup runneth over' . It's wonderful that you do blog so personally, its why we love you. And its a wonderful story about how quilting has helped you learn more about yourself. You are an inspiration to us all. I can't wait to see the end product and I love the background thread work.

  2. I'm so glad you came back to her! She's beautiful. I do alot of my sewing without background noise too.

  3. I love the whole metacognative aspect of your blogging/quilting. These interior dialogues are necessary to the creative process - it's what makes an artist (in my humble opinion). I have to quilt. But I also have to blog about my quilting. That the two processes are so intertwined for you draws me to your words and your art!

  4. She is amazing and so are you. I love your goddesses and all the meaning they symbolize.

  5. I have been waiting for you to return to her! Her concept is one of my favorites. Happy quilting!

  6. Oh, Leah, I'm so glad you are back to working on Her. She is beautiful and I love the landscape quilting behind her. It's wonderful that you are growing into the creative, confident, loving woman that God intended.

  7. What a beautiful job you did.

  8. Two thumbs up - for the great blog and sharing with us -- now I don't feel so strange for the feelings I went thru with my quilt.....
    And for going back to the quilt with a renewed outlook. :-)


  9. Wow! So glad you came back to this quilt which I've loved from the beginning. Love the quilting on it and can't wait to see how you finish her up.

  10. Wow. How amazingly personal - thank you for sharing and hitting some of the feelings we all go through while quilting right on the head. I agree that if you are not in the right mental state, then only the imperfections speak to you. But do it right, and the hum of the machine, the feel of the fabric and the silence is downright theraputic.

    I always work with quiet. It clears my head.

  11. I adore the landscape background. It totally sets her off in the perfect way.

  12. That is really beautiful and the amount of planning and preparation that you put into it floors me - each of the quilts I've done in the past has literally been wrestled onto the bed of my Bernina and then I've put pedal to the metal. Thanks for this - I'm really looking forward to reading your back-posts.

  13. More power to you - I personally think she's stunning now with the landscape behind and feel that you'll find the right form for the sky stitching - but hold off on the painting, paint with threads first and live with her again - I feel she needs to be 'light' just like you are now - well done

  14. Congratulations on beating those dreadful feelings and thoughts. Now you can realy embed your love and passion into your quilt. I love the design - it is beautiful!!! May you enjoy working on her.

  15. Hy, Leah. I would say to you in my bad english that I love your blog and projects so much! So georgeus are theY1 So I dedicated a special post to you on my new blog, I hope you'll appreciate it!

  16. I ma pretty new to quilting and have begun studying quilts online to really get a better idea of how stitching can alter an art quilt and, wow, your landscape quilting is amazing for how it transforms the background. Just beautiful, of course, but also I love the dimensional depth it gives the image and the texture, too. Thank you for showing this process in its various stages.

  17. I agree, the new landscaping in the back of My Cup Runneth Over makes a huge positive difference. And the hair came out beautifully!


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