The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilting with Your Whole Heart

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quilting with Your Whole Heart

For some reason I seem to be turning into a quilting / motivation coach! Half my posts are about quilting and the other half are about overcoming obstacles that stop us from quilting and enjoying this wonderful hobby.

Still, I think it all works together nicely, particularly with the Quilt Along, and today I'd like to talk about putting your heart into it!

I attended a morning yoga class and the instructor led the class with the theme:

Practice with your whole heart.

Working through the poses, she continually brought our attention back to this mindfulness and I loved the way it kept my attention on my mat and in the pose and not wandering off to the millions of things I had to do today.

But we can apply this same less to more than just muscle stretches.

When you quilt, when you are creating something, where are you? Are you actively focused on the task in front of your, or is your mind stumbling through the past or daydreaming about the future?

The next time you're at your sewing machine, try bringing your awareness to your hands and the delicate movements they're making.

Focus on taking a stitch, finishing a seam, or completing that block, and instead of rushing off to the next step, take a minute to touch the stitches you just made. Look at them closely and see their perfection and imperfection. Don't use this as an opportunity to criticize yourself, but to appreciate what you can do. Relish your abilities!

When you get frustrated with a difficult task, take a deep breath and thank yourself for being a creative person. How many people refuse to even TRY a creative hobby out of fear, laziness, or apathy? You are awesome simply because you create.

As you work, bring your heart into your stitches. Think about the person you're making this quilt for, even if it's for you! Think about the gift that it is to receive a handmade quilt, and the gift that it is to be able to make one. Quilting is all about wrapping someone up in the loving warmth of a comforting blanket. Quilting is an act of love.

Back in that yoga class this morning, I kept returning to the idea of love and practicing with my whole heart flowing into each pose, each movement, each breath.

As I left that class, I began thinking about all the different ways this applies to my normal routine. I began to see that every task, even washing the dishes, is an opportunity to work through your heart - to put your whole being into the job and focus on absolutely nothing else.

It's actually a comforting thing, as I found working through this day, to play with James with my whole heart, to clean the kitchen with my whole heart, to drive to the grocery store with all my thoughts focused solely on one thing - going to the grocery store.

Very soon I began thinking about quilting and why this project feels so very different now.

When I dug into this feeling, I began to see that this year, more than any other, I have returned to quilting with my whole heart. I'm following my heart by teaching this way, by trying every idea that pops into my head, and by sharing it all openly here on the project.

Often the ideas for the next quilt along post come only after writing a Question Thursday post, which means this project is literally happening in real time.

For the last two years I've created videos far in advance which means by the time they were posted, I was already quilting something else. This was an extremely stressful way to create and it always left me feeling a bit unbalanced. I always want to talk about what's happening right NOW, not what happened 3 months ago!

After realizing all of this, I know exactly why the project feels so much lighter, so much more fun and more exciting than ever before: because there's so much love here!

I love to teach, I love to share, and I love that all of you are here to enjoy it.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being here and for quilting along with me.

Now let's go quilt!



  1. Leah, thank YOU with all my heart! You are awesome for sharing all you do, from the heart!

  2. Hi Leah, I, myself, love the process most when I'm mindful of whatever step I'm at, be it cutting, piecing, or FMQ; the end result truly becomes incidental. It grounds me when I'm off-kilter, cheers me up when I'm feeling sad, and quite simply, makes me smile. Quilting *does* spread love; it brings color, joy, and an unexplainable contentment to my life, and I, in turn, am fortunate I can pass these pleasures along. I am grateful for your orchestrating this safe and lovely quilting haven.

  3. thank you for refreshing my interest in quilting and to remember why I started in the first place.

  4. I am enjoying your Free Motion Quilting Project very much. I have been practicing the designs on paper but haven't stitched them yet. Can't wait to start though--the instructions and motivation are excellent.

  5. I have been reading a book "the four agrreements". It talks about much of the same thing. 1 never assume anything 2 be true to your word 3 always do your best 4 I will not take anything personnel
    it is sometimes hard to follow but I am a much happier person when I do.
    I love your blog and your project. You are doing a wonderful job.

  6. Thank you for your very inspirational post. I was so inspired that I also posted a link at my blog

  7. Thanks Leah - a challenging post. I've been trying to practice "being present" for some time now. I still forget most of the time - and reading your post, I realise that I'm not often doing it when quilting - but it's both grounding and calming. I hadn't realise how living in the past or future or lala land, letting my thoughts go where they will,robs me of energy and focus,as I deal with the emotions and reactions triggered by my random thoughts. Instead, that energy and focus can go on the task of the moment, whether that's a quilt or the washing up. And that helps me to maintain equilibrium. Today I'll try to apply it to my quilting!

  8. Gracias a tí Leah por compartir con nosotros tus pensamientos y tu experiencia. Un beso.

  9. Thank you for this post! I was doing just that yesterday. Noticing where I was when I was quilting. I found my mind thinking about what value is there in what I am doing.If I was not careful my thoughts would have diminished the what where when how.And what if it is just for pure enjoyment! If the quilt is for me and i am trying something new just for fun. I think our culture is always pressuring us to do. What if someone else has a different "value" system then me. Am I going to let that dictate my life? I spent the whole day quilting! It was great. Planning on doing that today too.
    Thanks for your honesty. I pray that your post will give the encouragement that people need to enjoy the gifts and opportunities that are within arms length.
    Have a good day of quilting and creating. Teaching and sharing!

  10. Amazing post, Leah. I've been thinking the same thing....being mindful in each each second of the day. I've found when I am mindful the moment's of my life are filled with joy regardless of what is going on around me. It's funny, though, that I've never applied this to my quilting or sewing. It's as though instead of being mindful when I'm creating I'm mindless. When things crowd in I will go to the machine to get away---to go mindless for awhile. I'm anxious today to sew mindfully....and to actually practice the presence of Spirit as we create together. Thank amaze me sometimes that such wisdom and insight comes from one so young. I think you're an old soul. Blessings....

  11. LOVELY post! I don't know if you are aware of your quilting guru status (your name pops up in reference in several forums I'm a part of) and we THANK YOU for your guidance, support, and encouragement! I enjoy reading of your 'regular' activities: grocery shopping, yoga, motherhood, cleaning - because it calms me to know one is not required to stitch 9 hours a day to be a good quilter!
    - Angie

  12. Leah,
    Thanks for the inspiration! I have been reading your FMQ-along posts for a week or so, and you have pushed me to dive in. I am new to quilting (less than a year), and have only "stitched-in-the-ditch" and straight line quilted until now. Well, I did try fmq'ing a couple of months ago, but that experience wasn't a good one!
    Anyhow, after a few practice sandwiches, I felt brave enough to try a small baby quilt. I posted some results on my blog. Not perfection, but I am just proud because it wasn't a disaster!

  13. Thank Leah for reminding me of the process of doing anything and everything from the place of love. I feel that is what life is about, feeling first the love and sharing it with others be it through quilting, housework, chores, or helping others.
    I will try to especially carry that love today when I sit down to quilt and look at all the wonderful stitches I'm creating and stepping away from fear into faith that "I can do this".

  14. Leah, thanks from me too! And that new machine is so awesome - so happy for you!

  15. Wonderful post. I have been working on staying in the present since reading the 4 Agreements and The New Earth a few years ago. It does make life better! So happy for you to "get it" at this time in your young life! When I am in my garden or my sewing room is when I am most at peace.

  16. You mention teaching at Ye Old Forest Quilt Shop but I can't find anything about it on their website or FB. I will call them but I am wondering at which shop? and what are you teaching? Maybe you don't need to advertise your class but I got all excited and it is evening and I can't find out anything tonight. I'm suffering severe machine frustration. I have 3 machines Janome 6500, Janome 6600 and Bernina 730 Artista and none are functioning. I need help and since they all do the same thing wrong, somehow I think it just might be me. Would love to take a class but it would be 4 hours for me to drive. Let us all know about the class unless it is filling fast, then just let me know!

  17. You really are a very good teacher. You can express yourself clearly, solve problems when they come up and and have the love in your heart to teach us. Most of all, you enjoy doing it. Gloria

  18. I love your posts and the FMP. So nice to have the instruction for "finishing" a quilt, instead of the usual "quilt as desired". I've only been quilting (or should say quilt top making) for 1 year, 3 tops completed and have been unable to find a class on finishing a top. Seems everyone sends them to a long armer. Ugh, how can I call it "MY" quilt if I don't quilt it?

    I took a FM class but instructor said dont bother trying to quilt anything larger than a crib size quilt. Even she recommeneded sending to Long Arm. So its so nice to find you and your wonderful videos. Can't wait to get my machine back to start the FMP drills. 0 stitch without dropping feed dogs sounds like the answer to my tension issues.


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