The Free Motion Quilting Project: Hot Cast - Part 2

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hot Cast - Part 2

Ah! I have had a truly wonderful week working on this goddess quilt design. Many readers wrote in asking for a video on my design process, interested to see how this quilt is going to take shape.

The thing about making a video on design's impossible. I literally sit at the dining room table for hours on end, drawing, erasing, drawing, erasing, and really it would make for the longest, and most boring movie in the world!

I've also found that I really can't design while I'm on video. Trust me, I tried back in November to redesign The Duchess on video and ended up erasing everything I'd draw in the 2 hour shot. Talk about a waste of time!

But I do understand the desire to learn more about design, and especially how to take a basic idea and turn it into a quilt.

So allow me to write about the process instead!

If you've read last week's post on Designing Hot Cast, then you'll have seen the very first sketches of this goddess:

free motion quilting | Leah Dayj
free motion quilting | Leah DayOne thing I learned while designing this quilt was to use more paper and make more individual sketches as the elements of design come together. Usually I will make one sketch and simply erase and draw, erase and draw, and I don't actually have a record for all the different mutations the design went through.

Up until now I didn't realize that it would be nice to see the stages of the design, but the lesson has been learned so next time I will definitely work with more paper and spend less time erasing!

Looking back at this heavily erased and corrected copy, I believe this goddess went through at least 6 major revisions before her body finished looking like this:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI did eliminate the "tail" through the middle of the piece. That was mostly and idea I was running through based on the way bronze is poured into a sculpture using sprue bars. Eventually I realized that the real source of the molten metal going into this piece is through the heart, so for the first time ever, I'm using a heart shape in a goddess.

The next step after working on her body was to fix her hair. It was just a bit big for the piece which will be very long and narrow. Also from working with My Cup Runneth Over, I'm really wanting to experiment with hair that is more tangled or braided rather than just flowing straight from her scalp.

So I played with that a bit and her hair became shorter and a bit more wild:

free motion quilting | Leah DayAnd that is pretty much the finished version of the goddess! But what should go in the background?

This stumped me for a few days. I kept seeing Hot Cast in a rather tight frame and kept wanting to draw a box around her body, but I didn't want to just piece a regular border on the quilt and call it done. She needed some sort of frame...

When I hit walls like this sometimes I struggle with following my intuition. My intuition said she needed a border, a frame, that was almost as complicated as she was. I struggled with that idea because I was scared it would get TOO complicated and that my drawing skills weren't up to the challenge.

This struggle didn't last long. Finally I realized what I really needed was visual inspiration. If I can see an example of what the quilt needs, then I would be more able to draw it. And I didn't even have to draw the whole thing! A border is symmetrical, so all you have to do is draw half, then fold your paper over to draw the other half.

So I started pulling out my design books. My Dad gave me many of his design books a few years ago and I've amassed a collection of my own so that I have examples of most types of design, ornamentation, and architecture.

The first image that my brain jumped all over was this printer's mark 1213 on page 197 of Symbols, Signs, and Signets by Ernst Lehner:

I love the columns and arch, and especially the feeling of depth the border gives to the whole design.

Once I had the columns in place, I realized the goddess needed to be standing on something. Every other goddess before now has been free floating, kind of suspended in air. Hot Cast needs to come down to earth!

So I drew a platform and suddenly started thinking about stairs. I checked a book on symbolism and yes, stairs or ladders symbolize a shift in understanding or consciousness, the perfect symbol for this quilt.

Stairs are not easy to draw though and I was struggling with that until I remembered a book on Freemasonry I bought a few years ago. I've always wanted to make a quilt showcasing symbols from the masons and this suddenly became the perfect quilt to do it in!

I found two inspiring images in The Freemasons by Jeremy Harwood. On page 88, this apron design served as the perfect inspiration, plus drawing guide for my stairs.

Then on page 60-61, I found another perfect inspiration for a blazing star.

Putting all those elements together, here is Hot Cast with her new frame:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI really, REALLY love this design. It's the most complex, the most ornamental, and the most symbolic goddess I've ever designed. While I sometimes worry that she's a bit busy, I think this is just where my design is leaning right now and I'm going to run with it.

I'm still fiddling with a few elements of the design. The columns and arch have been giving me fits since the beginning. Here's all the little sketches I've created of just the decoration on the tops of the columns. It took drawing all of these to come up with the one I finally liked!

free motion quilting | Leah DayThe quilting design within the columns has also had many revisions. Eventually I had to realize last night that the sketch is done. I have an idea for what will work in the columns and it will just have to be worked out in full scale, probably with the help of a few quilting stencils.

So now that Hot Cast is designed, what next?

Last night I transferred the drawing on to fresh graph paper. This goddess had never been properly squared, so I squared her up on the graph lines and drew her again in pen. I've left out a few elements, like the feathers and column quilting designs, that have to be worked out in full scale.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNow I'll take this drawing and load it into my scanner and get this small scale image into my computer.

From there all I really have to do is resize it and print it out! This goddess is ready to go and by the end of the day, I'll have a master copy finished and be working in fabric. I'm so excited!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Thanks for sharing your design process. Your drawing and sketches are amazing! Look forward to seeing this quilt come together.

  2. That was really GREAT to read.. it is good to see the erasing marks.. I draw my things and see that they aren't as great as what I see on the web by oher designers.. and scrap it because the flower petals aren't perfect etc.. so i just stop. Well, maybe I just need to keep working at the little sections and picking at them until they are what my mind is wanting it to be.. even when my hand isn't quite cooperating.

  3. Very beautiful design!!! Bravissima!

  4. I love to see the progression in your sketches! Very inspiring Leah! I've always wanted to make my own queen of pentacles or strength card wall hanging - my faves.

    Monika in Canada
    Quilt Maker & Fibre Artist

  5. This is so great, good luck with the rest :-) It is inspiering and nice to learn how you work.

  6. Hi Leah. Just have to let you know how much I love your new design. Can't wait to see the finished product.
    I was happily surprised to see your picture in the Singing Quilter article in our The Canadian Magazine. Congrats.
    Not to brag or anything(lol) check out the top left corner on page 58 of the same magazine. I'm assuming that you've received a copy.
    Thanks again for sharing your creativity with us!

  7. Gorgeous design, you are so gifted!!!

  8. Wow! I love it. Looking forward to seeing your progress. Have fun.

  9. It really is an awesome design Leah. Can't wait to see the quilt made.
    Cheers from
    New Zealand

  10. From someone who can't draw to save her life, all I can say, Leah, is WOW, you are one very talented lady. I look forward to seeing her develop. Anita (Melbourne, Australia)

  11. Leah, you are so talented and quite an inspiration, Someday I would love to be able to design the way you do. Something to strive for....

    Chester NY

  12. Very beautful, and fun to see the various incarnations as you worked through the process...

  13. Fascinating! You really used your inspirations and references to create an even more unique and symbolic quilt.

  14. I love the way this design has developed - are the veins going to be quilted or are they fabric pieced? Have you even made this decision yet.

  15. Even lovelier than before! You know how I suggested an asymmetrical hemline? I'd been thinking of a straight diagonal line, the sort you get in some clothing these days, but I love the way you combined that idea with Roberta's tail suggestion, and the leg tops continue the classical statue look and really add movement without looking oddly amputated.

    Something I find useful when designing is to get to a stage when I can see a framework, and then make several copies of that and take it in different directions, without having to redraw the basic framework over and over again. It gives me a record of the different stages as well, so I can go back to them. Sometimes I realise what the framework is when I'm already past it, in which case I photocopy that design, then take an eraser and rub out the additional lines on the original so that it turns back into the framework stage instead.

  16. Do you have a place to view all of your Goddess quilts? Each on is so inspiring. Such wonderful work.

  17. Ethne - I've been on the fence about the construction process, but I'm really leaning toward hand applique. I need some slow, peaceful handwork to work through this winter.

    KTMae - You can see all the goddesses in my quilt gallery at:

    Off to work more on Hot Cast!


  18. This really brings home for me that there are quilters, and there are artists who quilt. You are most definitely in the latter category, Leah!
    She is really really sensational!

  19. Leah: If you are having problems with columns, try contacting Susan Brittingham through She teaches a class extitled "Viewpoints" and includes design and construction of columns.

  20. <3 It is so surreal. The way this is coming together is absolutely stunning. I'd love to see some bright colours based off some of the surrealist artists tastes when you're piecing :)

  21. Wow! Framing her with the column and arch really makes a powerful statement. Isn't it wonderful when inspiration comes through and works like that? I look forward to seeing her progress.


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