The Free Motion Quilting Project: A Wonderful Week

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Wonderful Week

Ahhhh....that is how wonderful I feel today!

I have had a TERRIFIC week off - my first week off since I started the project back in August 2009. It was long overdue and very much needed and I'm SO glad Josh convinced me to take a break.

It's not usual for me to make a big deal about my birthday or to do something as drastic as taking a whole week for myself, but today Robin from Nestlings by Robin put it the best way:

I realize it may not be proper to tell everyone how much I love my birthday but I don't care. Women diminish so many things in our lives because it isn't ladylike to sing our isn't humble to want the spotlight.
Sorry....I do want the spotlight and I enjoy having one day a year where attention is paid to me and gifts given to me. While we are at it, I love winning ribbons and making money from my art. There I said it out loud and I firmly believe there are many others just like me. I may not be very good at taking compliments (they make me very uncomfortable) but when I know they are sincere, I glow on the inside.
Robin managed to capture exactly how I'm feeling in those words! I, too, love everything about quilting and I love that I've built a business with it, but I also needed a break to celebrate myself too.

By the way, did ya'll enjoy Josh's posts or what?! I though he did a terrific job, so I'm planning on starting a new theme day just for him. It will be Josh's Recipe Thursdays and hopefully we'll start the first one next week!

As for my week off, there is something about recharging our batteries (in my case creative batteries) that needs to happen occasionally. With the weather changing, I'm going into an almost hibernation mode - taking a nap around 3, waking up late in the morning and not wanting to get out of bed because it's slightly chilly in the house.

Already I can feel the lack of sunlight in the basement where we work and I quilt. The winter is a darker time and I really needed to take a few days off to prepare for that change.

While the chilly weather is a wonderful sign that winter is on its way, I've noticed how dramatically the lack of light through the winter months effects not only my mood, but also my creativity. Maybe this effects your quilting too?

So during this week off, I decided to start displaying projects, images, and fabrics that I find inspiring or that I wish to finish / create a project with. This landscape has been on my list for 2 years now, but because it's been hanging up with my fabric stash, it's been very easy to ignore!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Getting into fall has also started me thinking about the holidays. There are many different religions and cultures that have a tradition of giving gifts during the winter months, and I've really wanted to feature a few new ideas of my own on the blog.

One of them is Furoshiki, or fabric gift wrapping. It's super easy to create (who doesn't have a bit of extra fabric?!) and can be reused year after year. The cool thing is creating these furoshiki gave me the excuse to pull out my Shiva Paintstiks and play with a few new rubbing plates:

free motion quilting | Leah Dayfree motion quilting | Leah DayThis has been one of those projects I've wanted to play with since July, but for one reason or another, I kept putting it off. It was so nice to finally ditch the excuses, pull out the paintstiks and just have some fun!

Speaking of having fun, I also spent a good bit of time doing handwork and watching movies and TV shows. One of my favorite shows is the BBC car series Top Gear. I know absolutely nothing about cars, nor have I ever driven a race car, but this show makes it fun and entertaining for everyone!

So while watching several episodes of Top Gear, I pulled out my Flower Origami book. I've enjoyed origami since the age of 6 when a sweet crafty lady taught me how to make origami boxes:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This was actually my very first business: selling paper boxes to classmates in 1st and 2nd grade! I made quite a lot of ice cream money back in the day with that venture, but now I want to see how this works in fabric.

I've found, however, that it's a good idea to try out the patterns on paper first to get and idea of how they work because fabric can be a bit fiddly and tricky to manipulate. Here are a few of my paper creations that I will soon try in fabric and thread:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I also got back to my machine and quilted, quilted, and quilted new designs. Here's a small selection of the new designs that will run in the coming months!

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It's been a while since I focused solely on creating new designs, quilting, and blogging. Writing books, creating DVDs, and traveling to various quilt guilds has taken my focus in other directions and away from this project at times.

To be perfectly honest - this really bothers me.

When I first started my business I had many preconceived notions about the quilting industry and assumed that I would be able to run my online business, blog, travel, teach, and write books and occasional magazine articles all at the same time.

I assumed that I would not only be able to do all of these things, but that I would HAVE to in order to be successful in this industry!

Reality check! I have managed to do all of these things for the last six months my stretching myself so thin, I nearly broke.

It's simply not possible to do ALL of these things GREAT. I can do them all mediocre, but I can't put my heart and soul into everything all at the same time.

I recently wrote to a quilting friend:

"This industry seems like it could destroy a person's creativity just with the abundance of it all. I have to remind myself daily what is important (my family, my normal life) and how to say "no" to all the distractions and paths that will take me away from what is truly important."

One day I had to sit down and make a decision: what comes first?

Ultimately my family has to come first. I saw so little of James and Josh during this past summer while I was crazy busy writing From Daisy to Paisley that I might as well not have lived in the same house!

I personally don't think I'm asking too much to want to see and enjoy these years of my son growing up. I think that's the least selfish desire I could have, but it does create a choice: travel and teach or stay home with my son.

I'm absolutely NOT sorry to say - my son wins, hands down.

And ultimately this blog - this project - this connection with all of you wonderful quilters from all over the world - this is the thing I absolutely, bar none, love about quilting.

I love the connection the internet has given me to so many wonderful, inspiring quilters just like you! I can't stand that other obligations have taken my focus, time, and attention away from this project, and I mean to rectify that situation as soon as possible.

Ultimately I've made the decision that I'm not going to travel anymore. I'm also not planning to write for magazines for a long while, or create any new books or DVDs for at least another year. I simply want to devote myself to one thing - this blog and online business - and do it not just great, but AWESOME.

Of course, the quilting industry being what it is, I'm booked to travel in advance, so it will be a few months before I'm able to settle down completely.

I think ultimately everyone has their niche. Some quilters travel really well. Some quilters write awesome books or magazine articles.

And some quilters like me work best online.

I'm just so happy that I'm lucky enough to do this and share it all with you.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Leah, it's funny but I've been pondering the same thing this past week. Do I want to design & sell patterns, make stuffies, connect with quilters on line, write magazine articles ...? You're absolutely right: we can't do it all - well. So, I, like you, am deciding what really fulfills me (besides my family) and will be focusing on that. Still having trouble making that decision, but I am working on it. My problem is that I get distracted very easily and want to try all kinds of new things. I am working on narrowing my focus and just getting things done. Glad to see you moving forward. I always enjoy reading your blog posts and seeing what you're working on. Also looking forward to more recipes from Josh.

  2. I'm so glad you recharged your batteries with the week "off". It's great you could think about your priorities and decide what's most important. Congratulations for taking your dream through hard work and into a way to make your living as a quilter and artist.

  3. Leah, The only thing you cannot do later in life is be with your young family.
    Your blog has been an inspiration to many I am sure, on many levels both quilty and personal. I wish you joy wherever your life takes you.Liz X

  4. Good for you you for knowing what is best for you!

  5. Hi, I'm glad you hade a good time off. Best of luck with your work - it is wise to focus on the important stuff even though you want to do everyting. Hugs!

  6. Spooky muzak time!!! Last week at my Embroiderers' Guild we made origami boxes, the idea being to either put stitchy gifts inside or to embellish the tops with fabric art, as making in fabric is a whole different genre.
    From what I've seen many creatives start off making wonderful art, then get sidetracked by talks or shows and there isn't time to make the art any more. Those who teach perhaps end up just making the samples or the projects to demonstrate. Likewise those who sell via events, end up fully occupied by that, perhaps only making samples to demonstrate a product. Few, it seems to me, can make for the "business" and make art for their enjoyment. As you say its very possible to do all things, but very much on the OK at everything, but not brilliant at something. Such a learning curve, and can be a shock to realise what you thought you'd enjoy becomes a chore, or what you're good at isn't actually what you thought would be your forte. The clever thing, though, is to recognise that and not to slog on with something just because....

  7. Maybe what I need is a week off. Glad you enjoyed it - love your new projects!

  8. well said Leah. Sometimes a little focus and clarity makes all the difference.

  9. There's a season for everything and sometimes (or a lot of the time)we have to say no to the good to focus on the best for us and our families. There is no guilt or shame in that! No matter what 'everybody' else is doing.

    You (and your family)are so young compared to most professional quilter-teacher types! I am in a similar position, though not in a professional way; we got a late start with having children. Most of my friends have teens or are empty nesters already!

    I've been trying to exercise my creativity while raising my kids, ages 4,5, and almost 1. I have discovered free motion quilting is a great outlet---thanks in part to you and your videos!

  10. Yes, Leah, put your family first. Children grow up so fast. It doesn't seem like it while you're going through it, but before you know it, James won't be a little boy anymore, and you'll never be able to get back all those wonderful times.
    You do beautiful work, and are teaching so many people, but quilting and traveling and writing books will be waiting for you when you have the time in your life for it. The blog and your business are enough for now.

  11. Your comment regarding the reality check...."family first" is where we all end up eventually. Whilst we all love being in our workrooms and being creative, it's often to the detriment of the family unit.

    Take some time to cuddle the ones you love, they grow up and move on so fast themselves.

  12. Your priorities are perfect. I for one am gratful you will continue to share your creativity with the rest of us!!
    Best wishes in your life choices.

  13. Being a young mom and raising your family is a season; a special one you can never get back (like many things in life). I am sure you won't regret that, and your heartfelt desire to live, grown and build a business will take fruit once you've taken care of the rest! I too, have had to understand this, although my boys are grown men now, and learning to "let things happen in God's time" is what I have personally needed to tell myself, and that His plan is really the best one, when I listen to what He wants me to do FIRST!

    All the best, and I look forward to seeing what you can do in the future! I look forward also to sharing your site with my students as I teach Free Motion Quilting. NICE job!

    Leslie ( or Facebook MarveLes Art Quilting.

  14. Glad you had a relaxing time on your week off. It is hard prioritizing when your mind goes in so many creative directions.
    To everything there is a season. One day, far in the future, your son will be grown and you will have plenty of time to travel and teach. As for now, I'm pleased to see your list of priorities and that your family comes first :-D.

    I'm not sure what type of lighting you have in your basement, but if you can find "daylight" bulbs to put in the fixtures try a few. I had a very dark kitchen in FL (yes the sunshine state). I put a daylight bulb in the 24" flourescent fixture above the sink and when it was on it looked just like sunlight streaming through the window, since the light spectrum is the closet to natural light. It also makes colors look natural, without the expense of the name-brand true-light type bulbs. It's a little more expensive than regular bulbs, and i think it comes in both screw type and tube type.

    My suggestion for your orgami fabric projects is to try BoPeep starch. If you use it full stregnth you can make your fabric quite stiff, much stiffer than the premixed you used in your recent video series. It's very inexpensive too. Looking forward to more of your creative projects and processes. Thanks for sharing!
    Blessings :o)

  15. "Recharging" is necessary, remember not to burn the light in both ends! Take care! Hugs!

  16. Welcome back Leah! So glad to hear that your "r and r" week has gone well. You are so right that family comes first. Jobs may come, and jobs may go, but in the end, it's family that matters the most.
    I'm looking forward to seeing just what comes in the next year.
    Happy quilting!

  17. I totally agree, my little boy comes first. That makes you a good mom! I love your filler design project! You're blogging has inspired me to start sharing my projects as well. Anyone interested in learning how to take your bobbing/shuttle assembly apart and clean and oil it??? Check out my blog at

  18. It is lovely to hear you had a great rest. It is all to easy to get involved with things you enjoy - only to get swamped by them.
    That phrase - 'all things to all men' comes to mind. It is good to be able to take stock of things - jump out of the hamster wheel, and decide where your priorities lie. It is even better when you work out what those priorities are and can then do something positive to improve your life - whatever it may be.

    Congratulations on a fantastic blog, on wonderful art and your thank you for you kind and generous nature. Your family (and your quilting 'family') are very lucky to have you.
    Best wishes

  19. Welcome back, Leah! You have made a great decision both for your business and your family. Don't miss a minute of these "wonder years." My babies are almost 17 and 20 now, and I have no idea where the time went. I miss having a little one to snuggle up with!
    Bravo to Josh for the great job he did as your stand-in! I am looking forward to more recipes!

  20. Leah,

    I hear you about the darkness of winter. Check into Blue Max lighting. It is full spectrum lighting and you can use it on your work (amazing the difference on fabric colors), or as in my case, I sit in front of it in the mornings for about 20 mins from Sep-Mar and it helps regulate and improve mood. Takes a couple of weeks to feel the impact, but I love it and have been using it for a few years. Good Luck.

  21. Well, I for one am glad you will still be here with your blog, as I just found you! I have just started with quilting at my old age, and I have a love for it, but a LOT to learn.

  22. this is my all time favourite post!

  23. I love Top Gear! Those guys crack me up!

  24. Leah--you are a very wise lady! Family does come first. I've found myself saying that just a few short months and my boys are grown. The quilting world will always be there. Family needs have to be tended to and it's the most important job you could ever take on. Thank you so much for sharing your talent. We love your work no matter what form it takes. Your new book is excellent!!!

  25. Congratulations on defining your priorities. It is difficult to balance working with being a wife and mother. Natural lighting is important in your work area, especially a basement, with few or no windows. Winter lack of sunlight is called "sunlight deprevation" & is a major cause of depression. On summy days, your whole family should bundle up and go for a nice walk to a park or playground. The exercise will help to warm you up no matter how cold outside. & the sunlight & exercise will invigorate you and spart more creativity.

  26. Leah spend as much time with your little boy now as they grow up too fast. Also you will be making good memories now to remember when he's a teenager and not so pleasant! The more time you put in now the better they will be as teenagers too!
    (I have 2 boys 20 and 16) The 20 year old only had about 6 months being a pain, and the 16 yr old is just starting to be annoying now.

  27. I am so glad that you are not giving up on this blog. I feel that you frequently express my own frustrations and my joy in what is most important in life. Thank you so much for this link to creativity on days when I am bogged down with making a "living" to support my beloved family.

  28. I'm glad you're back, and I also enjoyed Josh's posts and recipes. I do think that every moment with your little one is very precious, so letting Josh share the load so you can spend more time with him is a great idea.

    By the way, I don't get seasonal affective disorder (depression in the winter due to lack of light) since I started taking vitamin D3 (2000 IU per day.) The lighting suggestions are good-- I have a full spectrum lamp in my sewing room so I can tell what colors I'm working with and it also cheers me up.


    Make your fabric as like paper as possible before you start ie make up a saturated starch and then press it to death. Scoring lines with a hera also works with fabric just as well as with paper. [Thimblelady has a pen with a metal point that is brilliant for scoring folds]

    Helen from Hobart

  30. Ah. I appreciate your sentiments.
    This time at home with our families is precious, indeed!


Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at