The Free Motion Quilting Project: No Comfort Zone

Sunday, March 4, 2012

No Comfort Zone

You know those No Passing zone signs shaped like a pennant? I want to make a NO COMFORT ZONE sign!
free motion quilting | Leah DayWhy? Because it's always nice to have a reminder to shake things up a bit every once an while.

It's very easy to get into a rut of what you know and what you can do well. Why change anything when you can make a quilt quickly using x technique, and y fabric, and z pattern?

It's certainly true that sticking with one thing will definitely teach you loads about it. That's a large reason why we've spent 9 solid week son Stippling - we've learned more about it, experimented with it, and challenged ourselves to see it in a new way.

But after the learning phase is over, sticking with the same thing, day after day, quilt after quilt, can get rather tedious.

Personally I've recently realized I have a huge comfort issue when creating Goddess Quilts, specifically in the fabrics - all batiks that read as solids.

I also can't seem to help myself from stitching the snot out of these quilts. At least with my last quilt, Torrent of Fear, I avoided this tendency and for once stitched on a larger scale and ended with a much softer finish.

Part of this challenge to create 12 goddess quilts is to drive myself out of this comfort zone rut. I'd really like to challenge even the notion that a goddess quilt can't also be a bed quilt, or a lap quilt, or a baby quilt. That one of these girls could also be used and useful, not just a pretty girl on the wall.

So partly from this desire, and partly because I've been watching Top Gear UK a lot recently, I decided to force myself out of my comfort zone and into a whole new world of fabric....

free motion quilting | Leah DayI've been collecting prints since I started quilting, but for the last 3 years a better description would be HORDING, since I haven't used them at all.

I've purchased gorgeous prints, collected a drawer of fat quarters, and splurged on lots of yardage with the idea that ONE DAY I'll use these pretty fabrics to make skirts, pants, shirts, quilts, and many other fun projects.

Yet all I've done is collect and wait...collect and wait...collect and wait...

I'm tired of waiting! I'd like to USE these pretty bold, crazy, wild fabrics in an awesome quilt so it's time to bust out of this comfort zone and go DO IT.

So I did.

Pretending a bit that I was a Top Gear presenter with a quirky production team sending me rules for a challenge, I decided to cut and piece a Giant Dahlia quilt top this weekend with the following rules:

- No batiks.
- No fabrics that read as solid, even prints look busy up close but that read solid from far away.
- No buying new fabric.

I can't tell you what a challenge this was! For one thing, while I've collected a lot of prints, I seem to have mostly focused on green and blue, and many colors like purple I had barely enough to cut from.

But I made do! No buying new fabric or trying to micromanage this! Every time I felt the need to run to the quilt shop, I'd grab the loudest, most garish, clashing print I could find and force myself to cut a big ole' piece of it for the dahlia!

free motion quilting | Leah DayAt first I wasn't very optimistic. This can't possibly look good, can it? All these different colors and shades, and busy, complicated prints - they're just going to make a bit mess!

But slowly the quilt took shape and I have to say, it's probably the prettiest quilt I've made in several years:

free motion quilting | Leah DaySo where does the goddess go in this quilt? Right in the center where she belongs! I'll be using the second goddess sketch in this post right in the center of the quilt, then squaring the whole thing up and adding a border.

In the end, this won't really look like a giant dahlia as much as it does right now, but I definitely plan on making another one with a different color layout.

It's a terrific pattern and surprisingly easy to put together. I used Marti Mitchell's Giant Dahlia templates and so far they've been perfect to cut out, mark the matching points, and it's piecing together very easily.

So now I'm needing to head back into the No Comfort Zone to finish up this top, piece the goddess center, and get ready to quilt it nice and open so it can be used as a throw on the couch!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. IT IS BEAUTIFUL!! I Absolutely LOVE it...nice to get out of your comfort inspire me!

  2. I know what you mean! I need to get out of my comfort zone! I'm starting to get bored sewing!

  3. Great thought Leah....I've done many many Giant Dahlia quilts...This one stands out more than all of them!!
    Love it.

  4. Very nice...and the fabrics look wonderful together. I did ONE giant dahlia about 25 years ago...back when using cardboard templates and scissors was the norm. I said "never again" but after checking out Marti's website I'm saying..."well, maybe"...thanks once again for the information and inspiration. Blessings....kathy

  5. Gorgeous! And you're right, it isn't something that I would look at and identify as yours. You got a twofer -- beautiful quilt and out-of-comfort.

  6. Wow! It looks amazing - way to go!

  7. I love it! I don't know how you haven't touched those beautiful fabrics for so long! I love the range of green ones you put up. You've got to let that beauty out into the light where everyone can see them. Let your fabrics fly free! (or send them to me and I'll help you out!)

  8. As I started reading about "No Comfort Zone," I thought, "Ooh, I wonder where she's going with this train of thought..." and then the actual quilt top was revealed in all its glory, and I thought, "Holy crap! I could never have predicted how gorgeous that would be!" - The hope of that kind of ridiculous, unexpected beauty is of course exactly the point of going outside one's comfort zone in the first place!

  9. Yay ,I love prints! Your dahlia is beautiful! I can't wast to see it in a goddess quilt!

  10. It is very beautiful. I love all colors coming together.

  11. Good for you!We all need to stretch a little. You are constantly an inspiration.

  12. It literally made me gasp when I scrolled down and saw the finished Dahlia! You definitely have a winner her, and I need to get those templates and make one of these...after my DD's wedding!

  13. Leah you're my hero! That was very brave of you and it came out AWESOME! I Love Marti Michell's templates. I can't recommend her drunkard's path and hexagon set enough!

  14. I get in that comfort zone rut too. I totally get it!

  15. Leah,
    You've proven that beautiful things happen when one moves out of their comfort zone :)

  16. LOVE THIS! It looks great! You should go out of your comfort zone more often because it looks amazing!

  17. I am so relieved to find I am not the only one that has fabric hoarded and its too pretty to cut. I had thought maybe I had some special sickness. I get it out fold it and put it back. Might need it more for another project. ect.....I must declare war on my stash as well and USE those beautiful fabrics. Thank you for the reminder.

  18. I am a new long arm quilter and I am following your posts and trying to adapt your designs and techniques to longarm as much as possible. Your quilting is beautiful.

  19. Leah, how neat!!! Iknow we all have the stash that is waiting to be used...what a great idea to just grab from there...I am also getting to that point but this is so inspirational and I have never tried a dahlia yet...makes me want to do one soon...add to my list. Thanks so much for the show and tell. Sincerely, Denise


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