The Free Motion Quilting Project: Hot Cast: Part 5 - Transitions

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hot Cast: Part 5 - Transitions

Sorry to interrupt our normal More Filler Monday, but I meant to post this yesterday and didn't have a chance. And yes, this will be a personal post, so if you'd rather not read further, just click here to go shop in the store or check out designs. Retail therapy is always fun.

To say it plainly - this quilt is working on me. It's pulling me through the ringer, busting open my heart, and turning me inside out. It has pulled off my blinders and jerked out my ear plugs so that I can't help but see and hear the truth.

It was so intense that I took a few days off from it. I had tons of things I could do instead: check email, organize designs, learn how to digitize designs, outline a new book, etc. I avoided the quilt, and my sewing room for a few days.

But no one was fooled. Josh finally looked at me and said "Why aren't you working on Hot Cast?" and I mumbled something about have a To-Do list a mile long, needing to check email, write a book, plan a new DVD, etc, etc, etc, and he interrupted me and asked:

"What is the real reason you don't want to work on it?"

And that made me stop. Stop everything. Stop fighting. Stop trying to make myself super busy, or so distracted I couldn't think. Just stop.

Stop and feel the pain because this is very painful.

When working on Hot Cast, I've found myself over and over asking the questions "Why? Why can't I love myself? Why is this so impossibly hard? Why can't I just decide I'm worthy of my own love? Why can't I snap my fingers and just make it happen?"

I wasn't ready for the explosion of grief that has come with this quilt. Why Why Why? I feel like a child again, hurt and broken and just asking over and over again Why Why Why?

It might seem crazy that I continue to work on this quilt. It might seem ridiculous and incomprehensible why I don't just put it away, but I know by now that this is a process, and I must see it through to the end.

My yoga instructor is also my massage therapist and before yoga or a massage, she always asks me the same thing "What are we working on today? What is your intention?"

Whatever my intention is, whether it's to release anger, sadness, or tension, to open my heart, or to find release, I continually return to this intention throughout my practice. It helps me stay focused on what I'm doing in the present, not on adding to my future To-Do list or brooding about the past.

I realized the other day that I was essentially doing the same thing while working on Hot Cast. This constant pleading and begging for answers I hope to receive while creating the quilt.

And I realized about halfway through quilting the body section that I'd been asking the wrong question.

I'd been begging, pleading "Why why why can't I love myself?"

And what I should have been saying was "Show me how to love myself. Teach me. Show me the way. Open my heart."

Realizing this has been monumental. I've learned that asking questions is half the battle - asking them of myself and others. Now I've learned that asking the RIGHT question is also essential.

So I finished up quilting the rest of the body section of Hot Cast just simply asking over and over: Show me how to love myself. Show me how to be enough.

And like magic, the teacher I needed stepped into my path.

The book was sent by a reader named Jenny, who offered it to me after reading Hot Cast - Part 4. In a way, I now see that Part 4 really was a begging for guidance, a call to the world that I needed help, and Jenny responded. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jenny.

Now that might sound hokey, but I've been on this path for 4 years now and I've experienced enough coincidences to know that things happen for a reason. Books, people, events - it's all happening all the time, but only if we're open to them, open to seeing and learning from them will they actually help us.

I can't count the number of times I've gone to my public library or bookstore only to find THE book I needed to read right in front of me on the display shelf of recommended books. It's not the book I was looking for, but it was the book I was NEEDING to read, and only because I was open and looking did I see that I needed it and was willing to check it out.

The funny thing was, I didn't see this as the step I needed. The title of the book is: "Will I ever be good enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers." by Karyl McBride

When Jenny offered it, I cringed thinking "Do I really have a narcissistic mother? Is that really me? I don't know..."

I resisted the title of Narcissistic because I didn't really understand that word and it sounded bad. Words like this are difficult because they have a weight you have to face.

It's taken me a long time, despite ample evidence, to be able to say "My mother is an alcoholic." because once I said it, I had to face what that actually meant to me and to my family.

So I had a slight reluctance to open this book about narcissism. While, yes, I have been very angry at my mother, and, yes, I have had to remove myself from her life, I am reluctant to lay more blame and heavy words on her shoulders. She is human after all, and she is my mother.

But reading through this book has been essential at answering my question of why I can't love myself, why I have so much trouble seeing and acknowledging my accomplishments, why I work like a crazy woman sometimes and it never feels like enough. Why I've felt such deep grief while working on this quilt seeking a love that I don't feel capable of.

In short, I grew up not feeling true love from my mother. Please understand that I do know and understand that my mother DID love me, but she had issues SHOWING and SHARING this love freely or in a healthy manner.

To exacerbate this foundation was my two sisters who were also stuck in the void. Lack of love, excessive competition, and family dysfunction combined together to create a very abusive mix. No wonder I hid behind a chair and no wonder I've lived with a monstrous voice in my head for so long - it was all their voices, their combined criticism, sounding off inside my head, tearing me down.

But also with this book is the realization that I carry narcissistic traits too. From mother to daughter, this cycle has repeated itself over and over through our family. Just as my mother would shut us out of her world, so too can I shut down and turn away, blinding and deafening myself to the pain of the others around me.

I didn't know this when I created Sinkhole, but I can think of no better image or representation of this cycle than that quilt. The words are all narcissistic in nature "You're not good enough, you're not pretty enough, I have nothing to give you, I don't want you." They are the words I grew up hearing on a daily or weekly basis.

So how does this help me create Hot Cast? How has this answered the question "Why why why can't I love myself?"

Thanks to reading "Will I Ever Be Good Enough" I now realize that this is very normal. I can't love myself because I never felt truly loved or accepted as a child. I was never seen for ME, but as an extension of my mother.

This lack of love I felt from my mother has created a void within myself. When thinking about the past, I see a goddess figure stabbed through the heart with a giant sword.

Making Hot Cast has allowed me to take the sword out. The pain caused by continuing my relationship with my mother and sisters is over, and the wound is healing, but it will leave a scar I will have forever.

When sketching down my current feelings, I've drawn multiple goddesses with a hole in their chest where a heart should go. Is this what I should make next? A scarred goddess healing?

It's hard to know what to make next because I'm still so entirely focused on Hot Cast. Working through the body and landscape portions of the quilt, I've come to terms with my past and the cycle of narcissism that has run through my family like a inherited disease.

Working through the sky section, I'm also coming to terms with my own narcissism and selfishness. The scar I bear can cause me to lack empathy or truly SEE the pain of others, particularly those I love most. To break this cycle, I will have to change.

But this is a change I am absolutely willing and ready to make because I refuse to pass this abuse down to my son or inflict it upon my husband. I refuse to create a mother-centered household where all participants circle around me like a train around a Christmas tree.

So I think the ultimate point of Hot Cast is finally revealing itself. This quilt has been a transformation taking me from a girl carrying a giant sword of throbbing pain in her chest to a scarred, but healing woman, free from the sword, free from the fresh pain, and slowly working to knit the wound closed.

And I'm so enormously grateful that I've taken the time to create Hot Cast before finishing Sinkhole.

I never, never in a million years would have known what I was getting into when I created Sinkhole. I didn't see this grief or anger coming or where it would lead. I certainly didn't see the my own blindness or deafness, and it's as though I see everything and everyone around me more clearly and distinctly.

Is this transformation over now? No, I don't think so.

I've still got a few more weeks of quilting left on Hot Cast, then painting, and if I feel she needs it, I may add couched threads and beads to her hair by hand. This is not a speedy process, and I want to take my time - take the time to think, the time to heal, and the time to see all that I need to see.

I've had another goddess on my mind lately: a mother and child, two distinct figures embracing and sharing love. I struggled to find a title for this piece until yesterday. I think the perfect title will be "I See You, I Hear You, I Love You."

It will be a quilt about my love for James, but it will also be a quilt about my love for my childhood self - that little girl that didn't get shown true love. Maybe if I make this quilt next, I will be able to see, hear, and love her so that we can both heal together.

To love, shown and shared openly and freely,



  1. So much of what you have written rings true for me. I am inspired by your ability to work through past history to make (both literally and figuratively)something fresh from the hard work.

  2. Oh, Leah! You are welcome. I'm so glad the book got to you and spoke to you. I'm so surprised you've gone through it so quickly and happy that you were in exactly the right place for it. When you are finished, you should lend it to your sisters and keep the chain of healing going. Always know you are very loved. Much love and thought, Jenny.

  3. Leah take your time with hot cast, she is obviously working her magic on you and helping you through some very difficult issues, the cycle needs to stop.
    You so deserve to love and like yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin.
    The new quilt sounds lovely and pure with love and acceptance, James is a lucky little boy.

  4. Leah, you're so much stronger than you realize, facing this head-on! Go, girl! And you're creating beauty while doing it, both in your amazing goddess quilts and in your own family's life. Fifteen years from now, you will look back and be forever grateful that you went through this process so that you could build healthy relationships in your own family. Traveling those years together in healthy ways are more healing than you can dream.

    Finish Hot Cast with all the beauty you can give her, because you deserve that, for sure. Next, make that quilt of you and James, and then live it. Your relationship with James will heal your relationship with your child self over the years. It's a special kind of magic. :)

    And remember this truism when you're evaluating the "goodness" of your parenting: Children don't need perfect parents to feel loved and to grow up well-adjusted. They just need Good Enough parents.

  5. Wow, did this speak to me! I've never labeled what was wrong with my mother but now I have one because this fits perfectly with my experience. I used to rock myself a lot which I later found out was an attempt to nurture myself.

    Good luck on your journey.

  6. Thank you for sharing this story and the book title. I think you've just had an epiphany. What a great place to be and evolve from. And, you have your art to help heal you! Awesome, Leah!

  7. Yes, Yes, Yes! Make it! Work through it - you're already mostly there, love!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Thank you once again for sharing what you are going through. I have a friend that has an alcoholic mother and has been through much of what you are describing. You are facing it all with such bravery and honesty. You will get stronger and wiser, you will heal and move forward in freedom.

  10. Hey, Leah,

    I've been following these Hot Cast and Sinkhole posts for a while now on "lurk mode." I am 47 years old, and my kids are nearly grown now. I just want you to know that this journey you are on, is, I believe, a very healthy one. I know that it can be bitterly painful at times, but if you keep on with the "work" you are doing it will get better! You will arrive at a point one day when you can say, "I'm not perfect, but I'm OK with what is wrong." That is a huge moment!
    So many people just kind of go through their lives on auto pilot with little or no thought about the decisions they make. You are taking a very thoughtful journey through your life. You are analyzing what is good, and what may not be so good, and you are working to change what must be changed. You are doing all of this for the most noble of reasons, your husband and your child!
    Try to remember, every once in a while, to take a break from the repair shop, so to speak, and congratulate yourself for taking the job on at all. Many do not, and are left wondering why their lives are so broken. You, my dear, have a great life. You are working hard to keep it that way. Brava!

  11. leah, your journey of healing has been and inspiration to me. Thank you for making it known to all of us who need to feel we are not alone.

  12. I forgot to say when my aunt asked me about my mom her comment back was she was glad that I was changing the cycle because there mother was like that and that is why my mom was like she was.You don't have to post these if you don't want to I understand.

  13. ok, I just left a comment and I think I spazzed and hit the wrong button.

    Anyway, you are so on the right path. You are doing something at a young age that many people struggle with for a life time - trying to be the best you can be without growing up with the role model. My husband once told me that: the best teacher is seeing something done wrong. So, even if you didn't have a good role model, maybe you are learning from what you did experience.

    On quilting, I have watched the DVD's I ordered from you many times and I am still scared to machine quilt.

    Anyway, sending positive thoughts your way.

  14. It is sad that we often see ourselves through others eyes. Especially when theirs eyes are blinded by their own pain. I am glad you received a book that seems to help you. Know this also God Love You and knows you and hopefully you will be able to break the cycle.

    God bless you!

  15. Leah - how sweet and vulnerable you allow yourself to be! I'm so glad your journey is continuing. Know that you are already a good mom and wife - celebrate and enjoy that part of your life daily! My prayers are with you - be encouraged!!

  16. Thank you for sharing. I am reading the same book right now, after reading Children of the Self-Absorbed, finding both very helpful along with 12 step family recovery work.
    Hope that you find peace.

  17. Thank you for sharing your journey. What a blessing you are giving your family by working on this now. You will learn to love yourself. You are worthy... I am sure your husband and little boy think so!
    I have always felt that life journeys end up helping others. I am sure your story will touch someone. Through your healing you will touch someone else and help them to heal too.

  18. Leah, your words and work are remarkable, inspirational, difficult and wonderful. I also am the daughter of a narcissistic mother and found the book "Trapped in the Mirror" by Elan Golomb to be incredibly helpful in opening my eyes and finding my way. Best of luck to you on your continuing journey.


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