The Free Motion Quilting Project: Emergence - Part 4 - Fighting Boredom

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Emergence - Part 4 - Fighting Boredom

Let's get back to Emergence and see how she's looking on the tables today:

I'll be honest - I really haven't been working on her much for the last few weeks. October is always a busy month and so far I've let that be my excuse for curling her up in a ball behind my machine.

But that's not the real reason why I'm avoiding this quilt. The real reason is - I'M BORED OUT OF MY MIND!

There! I said it! Cat's out of the bag.

Here's the deal: I've been quilting in one basic way for more than 2 years now. I pick a filler, I have a space to fill it in, and I stitch that one single design into the entire space on a tiny 1/8 inch scale.

free motion quilting | Leah DayIt takes forever to stitch this densely. I try to break up the fill spaces with pretty trapunto motifs and make them small so I can change fillers often, but for the most part, I'm spending hours and hours and hours stitching the same design over and over again.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all bad. All the monotony is giving me time to think about how I want to change my quilting style. I want to feel more free to experiment with filler designs, different threads, even different needles. What would it look like to stipple with a twin or triple needle?

Even more essential is the questions about the fillers themselves: which fillers can blend into one another seamlessly? What if one stands out like a sore thumb? What happens then and how do you deal with the unpredictability of all this texture?!

The more I think about it all, the more I realize that I'm in a rut.

I've been stitching the same way for 3 years, and while I have created loads of designs to play with, I really haven't experimented much with HOW to apply them to a quilt.

I haven't had time! I've been too busy coming up with hundreds of fillers, I haven't had time to play and experiment with them in blocks or quilts.

To a large degree, the original goal of 365 designs has kind of tied my hands to one and only purpose to this blog - new designs. I have definitely wanted to do more, to show the designs in different ways, and to experiment with them, but meeting that original expectation has always been more important.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYes, this looks beautiful, but no, it's really not all that much fun to do.

So maybe that's the lesson this quilt is teaching me. The monotony of stitching these designs is finally cluing me into what has to come next.

I've got to throw off this mantle of boredom and stop taking the easy, deeply rutted road of what I know, and start experimenting and trying new things. It won't always be easy and it won't always look great, but it will probably be a lot more interesting than stitching the same thing over and over again!

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. It is a womans perogative to change her mind.. just because you had an initial goal of 365, it doesn't mean you cannot create a new goal and go for something completely new and exciting and different. It is your life, your goals, your happiness. Go for what really makes you happy. While you have created so many designs.. how about some practice sheets for beginners :) BIG CHEEZY SMILE..

  2. Ok Leah, totaly honesty from a long time lurker here on your blog. I have never been all that attracted by the posts about different quilting motifs. And I have never been able to put my finger on it, until reading this post. I mean, I read the posts and I think "ooo that's a pretty option" but then when I sit down at my machine I get frustrated. And now I know why. My approach to making quilts is to make the top and use the quilting to accent the design. I never make a quilt with the intention of the quilt top design to accent the quilting. What I am saying is that I can identify with your rut. I really need to invest some time into learning how to use all these quilting motifs.

    I also wanted to tell you that it is exactly this kind of blog post that I enjoy reading the most. It is comforting to know that someone else shares similar struggles, has similar thoughts and asks similar questions about quilting.

  3. Creation is all about idea leads to another, and another, and so on. (If you could draw that concept I guess it would pretty much look like a tree growing endless limbs and branches, and branches off those branches, and it would never stop.) The cool thing is, we each get to decide how long we want to stay out on what limb or branch. You have just discovered that this particular branch is starting to flex because you've been on it a while and maybe it's not a huge branch. Go with the flex, and it will gently slide you onto another branch (a natural segue using your fillers), OR, hop off that branch onto a different limb altogether and start something completely different. You get to do that at any time in your life with anything you are creating! And don't let anyone ever tell you differently. Like Mommarock said, it is your life, your happiness. AND, you can always come back to a branch that has regained its strength in your absence (i.e. me taking up knitting again after abandoning it a few years back). Isn't it cool that we can go back and forth, up and down or sideways in that tree, any time we want? I love it!


  4. I don't care much for art quilts (yet) and I don't even FMQ. I've been straight-lining it since I learned to quilt last October. But I am crazy about this blog. Your talent is amazing and you are so passionate. I'm not the slightest bit surprised that you're frustrated, because you're always thinking about what's next. It's exciting!

  5. I agree with both of these ladies, Leah....move on to what interests you....take a break from the fillers if you need to...your quilting is beautiful; don't let this change your desire, please...I love seeing all the new fillers, but I'm not using them yet because I am too busy filling quilt orders to play around and practice right now. We all have our priorities dear. And your quilt is looking beautiful...keep up the great work; but do what you need to do to enjoy it while you can. There is nothing worse than doing something you don't like doing...

  6. We all grow and change... There's nothing wrong with that! Looking forward to your new adventures...

  7. I would suggest spending some time on a hand-quilting project. Take a favorite fill, blow it up to make the stitching lines 1/2" apart. Use a wool or cotton batting. Don't pre-wash your fabric. Make something pillow-sized. Wash it in hot water and dry it on high heat. Then sit back and ponder the amazing difference in texture from what you do now.

  8. Keep us posted as you experiment, Leah. I love the designs! Would be so interested in how you use them on art quilts or traditional designs (if you do those). I have brain block lots when my top is finished and have to pick what would go where. I make quiet a few quilts for little people who need them but they are perfect for practice. Oh and love the pea gravel design. It reminds me of how ferns look when they first come out of the ground in the spring. Thanks for letting us be part of you thinking and growth process. It gives us premission to have our own processes. It is so easy to get "caught" and not even realize it. D

  9. I can relate to your post...I have been following for some time and these motifs are great for my small projects. But as you say, tedious and boring to do over a large size quilt (ie queen size). I would love to invest some time in some larger scale designs. Possibly some to fit and complement a 12 inch block. That way a larger quilt can be done quickly and easily.

    You really are a quilting inspiration to me...I love coming to your site and just browsing to get my "quilting" on. I also like your fresh and honest ideas about life...sometimes makes me laugh...sometime a bit sad, but really honest and open! Bravo...just keep forging ahead and we will be right behind!

  10. Leah - I think for some, with mastery comes boredom. It may be what you are missing is learning and challenging yourself. I have to keep my quilt projects small because for me it's all about learning something new, and once I "get it", I want to move on. I recently taught myself machine appliqué and now have 13 lovely blocks, and no interest in putting them all together and quilting them, because I already know how to do that. Create a new challenge for yourself even if it's on a different quilt, to "treat yourself with" as a way to get through finishing this very lovely quilt. Some people master one thing and make tiny incremental changes over time and love the comfort of really knowing one thing well. Others need the constant challenge of moving on to something new. Go for it girl, I can't wait to see what you come up with !

  11. I'm sorry to hear you aren't enjoying the quilting process on this one (but man is it gorgeous!).

    Although I came to this blog to learn more about free motion quilting, and I love the ideas for filler designs, I'd also love to hear about what you do next in quilting. So wherever you go with it, I really hope you blog it!

  12. Thanks for being honest and admitting the 'rut' exists for you too.
    I can't wait to see how you develop and merge the designs together broadening everyone's quilting horizions.

  13. I am so loving her and I can't imagine how long it takes to just do one section in that tiny quilting. Hope you get some fun mojo back. We all love watching and learning with you.

  14. I can relate to where you are right now in relation to quilting - I have had a inforced break from the sewing machine due to ill health but found myself delaying getting back to it because I was bored with the project I was working on. It has been hard but I have put it away for a little while and started a fun project to get me back in the saddle. I am very planned with my projects and often wish I could just go with the flow and experiment and have fun - I'm not there yet but I look forward to seeing what you come up with as you progress through your quilting journey.

  15. I am a lurker also…
    One who has loved many of the quilts and been fascinated with the quilting techniques you have shared.
    I do understand about the level of mind numbing boredom you mentioned… but I would like to suggest that with that depth of boredom you have all so created a depth and foundation for your quilting that will allow you to go to the heights with techniques and design ideas…. And at the same time opened up so many possibilities for the rest of us….thank you and hang in there….Becky

  16. Leah, glad to hear i'm not the only one bored to tears while quilting. Try getting an MP3 and listening to books. Works for me.

  17. your Emergence is much bigger than I thought. That is a lot of tiny stitching to cover the areas. Part of the fun of quilting is to enjoy the process. Hope the boredom ends soon.

  18. When I was at MQX-west, I noticed several quilters who interwove various quilting designs into one another. It had a very interesting effect.

    I check into this website daily. I'm looking forward to seeing what emerges next from your creative soul.

  19. I was wondering when this would happen. Follow your muse, you're about to take a quantum leap in creativity, and wow! it's fun to watch!

  20. Leah,
    I have found your blog incredibly inspirational. You are very talented. I am still very new to quilting and FMQ but have found it a real challenge to try to figure out how to attempt a style of FMQ in an area that will enhance the overall feel of the quilt versus just filling in space. I decided to look for inspiration on the web in relation to stars. I have really only stumbled on one quilt artist that seemed to be thinking about design in a similar way to me. You are a true artist and growth can be painful. Georgia O'Keefe said "I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty." maybe it is time to Make it BIG!
    Just do not quit quilting on us. You have touched many more lives than you could even imagine!
    Good luck!

  21. I would love to see how you actually apply your designs to a quilt top. I think you even started a YouTube series "How do I Quilt This? (or something along those lines.) While I love the art quilts, I do more practical quilts that can be used. That doesn't mean I don't want beautiful quilting on them. I do, and I want more than quilt-in-the-ditch, or edge-to-edge pantographs. But, I can't do the dense quilting since my cuddly quilt would then feel like cardboard. So in addition to seeing how you would apply your designs to a quilt, I'd like to see how you'd modify them to be used on a bigger scale.

    Obviously, it's your blog, your craft, and you've provided so much inspiration to myself and countless others. Let your talent and inspiration take you where ever it wants. Boredom can be a good thing! It's what leads us to make changes, and push on to new levels of creativity.

    No matter what you do or where you go with it, I know you are going to continue to be an inspiration and great teacher to all of us!


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