The Free Motion Quilting Project: The Duchess Updated

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Duchess Updated

In the last two weeks I've linked multiple times to The Duchess, a quilt I started in 2008 and finished in 2009. Because I've linked to it so many times recently, this quilt has been on my mind a lot and I've finally taken the time to update the page written about it right here.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou can now watch a 40 minute video on The Duchess being created. Everything from marking the surface with Fine Line pens, basting, quilting with water soluble thread for trapunto, soaking the quilt, blocking, and finally attaching seed beads and lace.

Because we're working on our little wholecloth I figured it's a pretty fitting thing to share right now as you work on the outline of your Heart and Feather Wholecloth.

You'll see a lot of steps in this video that we're not doing this time around because we're not making the motifs puffier with trapunto. I figure I'll throw that technique at you sometime this summer.

It's funny to watch the video again because many things have changed in the 4 years between then and now. For one thing, I wasn't very good at making videos or lining up the camera so I apologize for the bad angles!

Also you may notice in the video, the first part of the quilting is demonstrated on a Bernina Activa 240, then I sold that machine halfway through the quilt and purchased a Juki TL-98QE.

I also mentioned using a quilting hoop and Gutterman cotton thread, both of which I definitely don't use now. It's amazing how opinions can change in just a short length of time.

I've also updated the story of how this quilt came to be totally ruined by a stupid mistake I made in caring for it.

free motion quilting | Leah DayYes, The Duchess is completely ruined. This is what the surface looked like last summer when this photo was taken. It's now so delicate it must remain in storage rolled in the top of my closet. Areas on the surface are now so brittle, the fabric literally crumbles when you touch it.

You can read what I did to ruin this quilt right here.

In truth, I don't even like hanging it on the walls because it's very depressing to look at. This is a good example of a totally ruined project.

So as you work on stitching the outline of your wholecloth, you might wiggle off the line a bit, but that definitely won't ruin your quilt.

A quilt can only be ruined if it can't fulfill it's intended function. The Duchess can't even be hung on the wall now, so it's definitely ruined. So long as your wholecloth fulfills it's intended function as a gift, a table decoration for Valentine's Day, a wall hanging, then no matter what happens, you will have a successful project.

Now it's time to go quilt, make some mistakes, and have fun. Remember - it's just fabric, thread, and batting so don't make it harder than it has to be!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. You should say stupid mistakes you made the best decisions with what you knew at the time. I can imagine how difficult it must be to look at now. But never forget you created it, put the work, sweat, tears etc into it. And learned a great deal from it. I've seen some of your other projects and they are phenomenal. The Duchess is phenomenal I've yet to put that much work into a piece and doubt I ever will. Maybe one day when you have time to reflect might do the Duchess again which all you've learned and better materials it will be a whole different outcome.

  2. Leah, you are so amazing.. And this quilt is soo beautiful. Thank you so much for the videos and tutorials.
    Wish you all the best..


  3. This post reminds me of a quote we use a lot teaching folks in the long term care environment.

    “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” (Maya Angelou)

    Some things take practice and making a mistake or two to get right. Thanks for sharing your pictures!

  4. It was very recently that I saw the movie The Duchess and I missed the beginning, but once I began watching I couldn't stop. Seeing your quilt, of course, I HAD to click on the link and read about what happened to damage it. What a remarkable story. Oh my, do I feel your pain, what you and that quilt have gone through. Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. My darling Xará (as we call here in Brasil people with the same name than you, I'm Lia, which has the same pronounce as Leah), mistakes happen.
    We have to learn with them.
    And it's even better if we pass the lesson, something you do a lot.
    So, despite the sadness of what happened to your quilt, thank you so much for your kindness sharing your good and not that good stuff.


  6. I couldn't agree with mssewwolf more....and just as we have a cycle of life from birth to death maybe The Duchess does also. She was born out of your mind and creative abilities, she was a winning show quilt and she did fulfill her purpose. Maybe it's because I'm getting older but I kind of relate to her. If we are the person we should be we honor our elderly, our infirm...she still deserves the same. If our child were maimed and no longer physically looked the same we'd still love them...perhaps they would even be more dear to us because of what they endured. You're a sweet spirit, Leah...don't grieve over her any more...and don't beat yourself up anymore. You not only learned from mistakes but now WE HAVE TOO! Peace and blessings....

  7. Leah,

    I agree with the comments. It was beautiful and you learned so much from the process and experience as you noted at the bottom of your post about it being ruined. Everything has a season and look at the birth of new things that have arisen.

  8. This truly is a beautiful quilt! I know exactly how it feels to put your heart and soul into something only to ruin it by mistakes. Heart wrenching!! Even so, all of your hard work paid off with winning ribbons. Even better, what you took away from it! Unfortunately, the best way to learn is through our mistakes, as awful as they my seem at the time. Be proud of what you accomplished, what you learned, and seeing it through!

  9. è bellissima!! ma vorrei sapere se è quiltata sui tre strati!! cioè il dietro della trapunta come è fatta???

  10. I guess if we wanted to work with a medium tht was a little more 'permenan' we would all be working with cement! Such a shame for 'Dutchess' but we do live and learn from our mistakes!

  11. I wanted to read how it came to be ruined, but when I clicked on it, it was the same page as the update about the quilt. Couldn't find what went wrong...

  12. I think it's awesome that you have a sinle quilt that you can look at and see all the lessons you've learned. And to teach the rest of us! Just think how it would have been if each of those lessons was on a different quilt...

  13. Thanks for all you share. I love the last sentence of your post. It is so freeing and now posted behind my sewing machine. It says "Now it's time to go quilt, make some mistakes, and have fun. Remember - it's just fabric, thread, and batting so don't make it harder than it has to be!"

  14. Oh my goodness. You are so tough.

    ** About hydrogen peroxide - I mixed is 50/50 in highschool to bleach my boyfriend's hair blonde in the 80's. He screamed and I burned his hair right off! o m g I forgot about that until I read this post!!!

    ~Monika in Canada

  15. Wow! I am heartsick for you! That is one amazing quilt! I agree, you made the best decisions you could at the time. At least you have plenty of pictures and were able to share her with people before she was put away!

  16. Wow Leah, despite the heartache, this really shows your greatness as a quilter. What I love about making things is that if anything did happen, you CAN make it again...if you want to. Very hard knowing how many hours are thrown away, but all that you learned about quilting, materials, yourself and your style is invaluable, not rubbish.

    I often decide I don't have time to read your posts, saying to myself that I will when they become relevant to me. Well, this one caught my eye as being relevant! I am working on a quilted item (though not a quilt), it is white, using alternative fabric and thread...and there is a plan for beading. I'm not a white person, but the theme of the competition is snow it had to be white! I've made a mistake. I used the blue pens to mark a design on one piece. I did test the pen, and after half an hour after washing it off, it was fine. So I marked the piece. Hours later the blue came back, all spread and dispersed! I've spent a whole week dabbing water on the piece to remove the blue, and it is mostly gone. Well, it looked completely gone, so I decided to start quilting, rather than recut and re-baste. As I was quilting I noticed the blue was not completely gone, plus a few other (tiny) marks have been attracted to it. It will be fine for the photography to enter the competition, but if it gets selected, I am going to have to wash it somehow. I'm thinking a soak in an eco Napisan type project like I do my partners white shirts. But after your story, perhaps I should do is before any beading, to see the results before putting all the extra work into it! If it does get ruined, I don't think it would be as devestating as your Dutchess. Oh, and thanks for the movie and book suggestions! I can't wait until I move on from my white project and onto the next one...inspired by you of course!


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