The Free Motion Quilting Project: A New Jacket and Overcoming Design Block

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A New Jacket and Overcoming Design Block

free motion quilting | Leah DayToday is What's Leah Working on Wednesday and I'm extremely happy to report that I've finished the design and have roughly cut out all the pieces for my new quilted jacket!

This is pretty exciting because creating this new coat hasn't been an easy process. Isn't it funny how some projects go really easily while other projects get stalled out for years on end? Well, this has been one of those projects.

If you'll remember back to last year, I created a beautiful quilted jacket out of grayish blue and off white fabrics. That's a photo of me from last year modeling it in the front yard. Click here for an article on the full process of creating this jacket.

It was perfect in every way, but as I finished it up, I realized that I wasn't very satisfied with the quilting design.

I wanted a jacket that was "my style," but actually defining what this is or coming up with another concrete quilting design has been a challenge. The original coat was the perfect style of a friend so I gave it to her and set out to create a new jacket just for me.

Last January I cut out the pieces of a beautiful red fabric and set out to create a red coat, but as soon as I started the design process, I hit the Brick Wall of Design Block.

If you've experienced Design Block the usual symptoms are feelings ranging from dejection to rage over the offending project design. Something is wrong with it, it doesn't feel RIGHT, but you can't quite put your finger on what exactly is WRONG.

If you've ever gotten angry at a fully finished quilt or a quilt that hasn't been started yet, chances are Design Block was the culprit. It's the biggest cause of UFOs in my studio!

I often make the mistake of taking Design Block personally. As soon as I hit a snag in a design, I start doubting my abilities across the board. Disillusionment quickly follows which is why the project is eventually folded up and put back on the UFO shelf.

But this time, I was determined! I pulled out the pattern sheets and set to work creating a new design for the back of the jacket.

Very quickly, I hit another brick wall. I wanted a sun shape on the back of the jacket, but I didn't want it to be huge and ostentatious. How to balance these two ideas together in a garment that is going to be dark red?

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe answer is to play. Play and play and play and don't take anything personally or too seriously. Just keep playing with shapes and angles, drawing, erasing, and drawing until the design begins to take shape.

Even if you don't draw designs for your quilts, the same rule holds for quilting your quilts. As soon as I start taking everything too seriously and personally is the instant I start hating the project and wish I'd never started it.

So this quilted jacket has become a lesson in patience and overcoming Design Block. It's taken the better part of 3 days, hours of playing with shapes and angles until I've finally settled on the following design:

free motion quilting | Leah DayWhile it doesn't look like much now, the long spirals are actually going to be the base for Tongue of Flames filler which will fill the entire front and background areas of the quilt. I wanted the spines to be symmetrical which is why they are marked, but the leaves will be quilted free hand so they organically fill the space and take much less time to complete.

Way back in January I'd marked the sleeves with one of my Swirling Flames stencils and rather than cut out new fabric or try to erase all the lines, I'm just going to leave it and quilt along all of the marked design:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI'm really pleased with the simple design and excited to get started with it. Cozy quilted jacket here I come!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Sometimes you just have to push through the block and make a decision. Then you can decide whether you like it or not, and carry through with the next idea.

    I HATE Design Block. It's the nagging feeling that you've lost something and you are just not "fine" until you find it again.

    I'm having the same problem with a quilting design on a guild challenge project. I need to make an overlay to try out my quilting ideas. I need some tissue paper STAT!

  2. Oh yeah, this jacket is going to be terrific...first of all it is red! and with your talent, the design will be stunning....don't be so harsh with yourself! ;) sandy

  3. Leah, your jacket is so lovely and you made it so quickly!!

    I keep struggling to do free motion, I like to blame the fact that I'm left handed....


  4. This is going to be awesome, Leah! Can't wait to see the finished jacket!


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