The Free Motion Quilting Project: Emergence Part 8 - Returning

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Emergence Part 8 - Returning

Wasn't this quilt finished back in December?  Wasn't this project declared closed 6 months ago?

Short answer: No.

Emergence is a quilt I started last September which was designed to combine elements of a terrible dark quilt called Sinkhole and a bright, beautiful goddess design called Emergence.  Today I'm taking a look back at this quilt and the reasons why I slapped it on the wall unfinished in the middle of the night in the dead of winter and have mostly hated it ever since.

Yep, this is one of my emotional, TMI posts so if you'd rather not read on, please feel free to catch up on your modern quilt project today instead!

So why have I hated this quilt?

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Way back in September when I was planning this quilt, I made one serious mistake: I rushed the design.

Rather than stand back and allow ideas and plans to flow, rather than test some samples of fabric and thread, rather than challenge myself with new techniques, I instead rushed the process.

I'm not sure what I was in such a giant hurry for.  Maybe I was in a hurry to learn this lesson!

Because this quilt has been a very big lesson.  Looking at it on my wall every single day for every single meal (it hung in my dining room), by now I've pinpointed exactly what I don't like about this quilt:

#1 - The goddess - she was meant to be the brightest, most beautiful goddess emerging from that sinkhole of darkness.  However, without a sample to test thread color, she ended up bleeding into the background.  Even stitched in light silver thread, the big feathers that fill her body are simply not as dense as the heavy quilting filler designs around her.

Her face is the only area the really shows up well, which is unfortunate because I wasn't brave enough to stitch in her actual face (eyes, mouth, nose), so she's more of a feathered monster than anything else.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It doesn't help that the hair I choose to add isn't really hair, but couched threads.  These look nice, but again, they just didn't have the visual impact I was going for.

In truth, this goddess should have been appliqued.  Her body and her hair should have been appliqued to the surface of the quilt before quilting so she would have actually shown up after all that thread was stitched on the surface.

#2 - the background - Another rushed aspect of this design was the background.  Yes, I fiddled with the design a bit, but for fear of distracting from the goddess, I didn't fill up the background with motifs and designs.  Instead it's wide open, stitched to the hilt, and personally I find it very boring. 

About the only thing I actually like on this quilt is the Sinkhole and the Sun, which are two polar opposites.  The sun admittedly does need work.  The rays really do need to be secured down to the surface so they don't flop about.

Looking at all these complains, you might be wondering if it wouldn't be easier to just start over from scratch.

But here's another lesson that I'm learning from this quilt: it's one thing to not like something, to feel unsatisfied by the finished quilt.  It's another thing to be ready to do something about it.  Not scrap it and start from the beginning, but a willingness to return to the problematic quilt itself, to rip and stitch, and take the time required to make it right.

Way back at the end of December, I knew I wasn't satisfied with this quilt.  I sat on the couch for several days hand stitching the binding and mostly felt apathy for this project.

So in the middle of the night, with the binding only half finished, I hung it on the wall.  I had a feeling that night that it wouldn't come off the wall until I was ready to fix the issues that bothered me, and I left it unfinished so I would have to come back to work on it some day.

It may be that I needed these 6 months, that I needed distance from this project and all that it represents.

In a purely symbolic way, this quilt represents my emergence from my past: from my abusive childhood and the three people - my mother and two sisters - who made me feel stupid, worthless, ugly, and unwanted.

It is the feeling of being unwanted that has been the hardest to overcome.  I was the third mistake, the icing on the cake, between two people that should never have stayed together for 30 years.  I was not looked for, sought out, or wanted.  I was a mistake.

While this may seem like a simple, silly thing to worry about, it has caused me to question my right to exist. It has never helped that I grew up with three abusive women who never missed a chance to put my unwantedness into clear perspective.

But recently my perspective has started to change. Maybe it's having 2 years of space from those who hurt me.  Maybe it's my dedication to yoga and living in the present.  Or maybe I'm just tired of trying to prove my worth and I'm finally ready to accept a new line of thinking.

Because that's something I've learned: you can change your thoughts.  You can decide to stop thinking a certain way, to make up your mind in another direction, and to let go of the negative thoughts that dig and destroy.

Last night I thought about Emergence and what this quilt is meant to represent and I returned to that feeling of stubborn dissatisfaction.

But this time rather than allow that feeling to depress me, I asked myself one question "What can you change about this quilt so you will like it again?"

What can you change?  What can be ripped out or stitched over?  Can anything be done to improve this situation?

Six months ago, tired and frustrated, my answer would have been no.  No, I'm tired.  No, I don't want to work on this any more.

Today, however, I'm not tired, I'm not frustrated.  I'm not even angry at this quilt for not living up to my expectations.

Instead, I feel energized and excited - I have the power to change this quilt.  I have the skill to rip out stitches, to applique new fabric over the surface, and to quilt it again if that's what's needed.  I have the ability to turn this project around and create something I'm proud of.

So maybe this was all meant to happen.  Maybe this is what Emergence is all about: a lesson to change my thinking, and from that simple alteration, to find the space and ability to restitch my world.

Let's go make something beautiful today,



  1. You glad to hear that you are growing and healing. Life does get better. Thanks for sharing, soul sister.

  2. Good for you Leah. I hope you continue to heal and realize that you are important and worth more than you know. Thank you for bringing the FMQ Project to all of us.

  3. I'm so sorry you had such a rough childhood. I'm so glad your mother still chose to have you though. You are an amazing woman and extremely talented and definitely NOT a mistake.

    I am sad when I think about all of the wonderful artists and thinkers like yourself who do not exist in this world because their mothers chose it.

  4. So glad to hear about your Emergence. I have to at almost 60 changed my way of thinking (negative thoughts due to abandonment issues)to try and find the positive things in my life and just accept and work on the negative. I think sometimes it takes something symbolic to make us realize just exactly what is going on. Keep up the good work. You are a awesome person to a lot of people and an inspiration. Go Girl!!!

  5. I've always found it impossible to return to things I don't like or which won't work, so well done. Just let it be positive and not a cause to relive things.
    The sun, simple way to hold the points down would be to stitch them down with beads, adding a bit of life and glow to the sun at the same time.... unless you want it purely fabric and thread.

  6. Repeat to your-self, "All I want is to feel good." Then go on about your day. Any time I notice I'm feeling a bit punk, that's what I say to me. Works like magic. How sad for your old family that they have missed the blessings of your creative being, by being jerks...

  7. I've been following your project for a couple of months now thinking how attractive, clever and articulate you are. Stupid and ugly, I don't think so. I also appreciate your sharing your design process. Keep up the good work.

  8. Leah - I am glad you are seeing your life and your quilt in the same light. You can't change the past - you can make the future better. Sometimes, like the two years or six months, you need some time to recoup all that energy lost. I look forward to your progress on Emergence in fabric and life. TMI isn't always a bad thing :o)

  9. I have had many a projects that have left me feeling unsatisfied. I usually tuck them away never to be finished. Maybe I should rethink that old habit. As for feeling unwanted, I sure hope you realize you are wanted. You have self worth. Just look at your little guy, James. Not to mention all of us in bogland. If you were to fall off the face of the blogosphere, I for one would miss you. Don't let the doubt creep in your mind for one second. You are valuable, smart, giving , appreciated. Yes we don't know each other personally, but I look forward to hearing from you every week. And for the record, I DID wonder what the heck happened to Emergence. I thought maybe you finished and I just missed the post. Now I know what happened. You got stumped. It happens to all of us. I have begun to realize that if I take my time, sometimes ideas will morph into something totally different than when I started. Usually for the better ;)

  10. BRAVO!! You are EVEN more AMAZING than I ever thought~~~BLESS YOU and all you do. You encourage others... You touched my heart, you brave soul~~ May Peace , Energy, Fulfillment and Joy Reign at your home and in your heart.

  11. Leah in years to come you will be able to look at this quilt with a smile and see your journey and personal growth in each stitch. I'm sure no other quilt will ever mean more to you - so glad your passion and remarkable talent has helped you to heal.

  12. Good for you, Leah, to have the guts to change your life and your quilt.

  13. I'm glad you haven't given up on her! She will be beautiful when you are done.

  14. Leah ~
    So sorry to hear of such a painful past from family who failed you; they were entrusted to love you and shelter you from storms, instead caused you such deep heartache and pain.

    So glad you have such wisdom, and take these quilt projects and use them to help you face what happened to you, and move forward.

    Without having met you in person, I sense your generous, beautiful spirit. Despite the bad things, you have such love and care for your own family, pouring love into your husband and son.

    At difficult times in life, I cling to this verse...
    forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, Philippians 3:12-14. It helps me rise above the pain, and turn it into something of beauty from the ashes.

    Thank you dear ~ will be praying for you tonight.


  15. I just read this post this evening, but I must say, I have been thinking of you and have been thankful for you all day today. I am a beginning quilter and recently subscribed to your Piece Perfect Quilts Ebook. I was having a lot of trouble cutting strips and blocks from fat quarters this morning, so I sat down and watched your video. Wow, what a difference it made once I learned to square up my fabric! Please know that you are greatly appreciated!

  16. Boy does this resonate with me.

    After doing many different kinds of creative things for most of my life, the one thing I know is that you can't force things.

    For me most of my work has involved a blinding vision of something beautiful that lasts a very short time--and then trying to recreate it--and often missing the details.

    Sometimes you just can't see it--and you have to sit with it until you are in the right place --and it comes.

    I have a quilt right now that has been sitting unfinished for over 6 years. Hours and hours of work--and I love it--but there is one step left to finish the blocks and put it all together--and I am just not there yet on that final step. About once a year I pull it out and try some ideas---and as of now....none of them are the one....but I keep trying. And each time I get a little closer.

    I used to do creative work for a living--and at some point, I took other work to make money--and I do my other creative things for pure pleasure. I try very hard to enjoy the process and to enjoy the doing--not just the product. I used to be very harsh on myself and on my work due to a lot of old personal "stuff" but making things is too important to me--it is the source of most of the pleasure in my life--to do that to myself anymore. It took a very long time to get to that place and I often slip, but I keep trying to maintain that thinking.

    I really enjoy your posts about your creative process, Leah. YOu are very inspiring to me. Thank you.

  17. I remember hearing Carolyn Myss say, in so many words, that when we are attempting to abandon the ego-programmed, group mindset, we enter this lifetime having chosen a family to whom we will never feel we belong. After hearing this, I felt a little more benevolent towards my abusive mother and sister. This is a radical idea for some people, but it makes sense to me and even allows me to feel grateful to people that I once felt were victimizing me. Delusional? I don't know, but it sure feels better.
    That said, you are AWESOME, lady!

  18. I have found that since I have turned 40, found the one person in the world I am most comfortable and completely love good and bad (got remarried), my family is growing (have a grandson), and I am no longer rushing here & there thru my life (I no longer work due to chronic pain), I have grown considerably & for the good. My brother died 3 years ago, my dad 6 months after along with 2 other close family members, my mom no longer speaks to me & has nothing to do with me or my youngest daughter or her grandson. I feel it's because my brother was her love & she would have rather it was me who passed. Long story... Through it all my life is good & I'm seeing things I never took time for before and I'm seeing old things different and I love it. No matter who doesn't want me or love me, I love me and I'm there for me. I'm so glad you are noticing your growth too. It's a surreal experience.

  19. Leah, you might consider the existing goddess as a milestone in your on-going growing transformation and then create your new goddess overshadowing the goddess already on the quilt. Just a thought...

    Many others have eloquently expressed the worth that we all place upon you, and I am certain your husband and son show daily how you are valued. Obviously, I don't know you personally, but I feel the same pride in your accomplishments as I do my daughter's.

    You are an amazing inspiration to many people, including me. Your contribution to the wonderful world of quilting is outstanding.

    Emma (San Antonio)

  20. Leah,this is an absolutely Beautiful post!!
    This post makes me want to start a "Women's Circle" or something, and have *you* be in it! (We don't live *that* far from one another.)
    This post also makes me have the need to tell you... i think you're becoming a Yoga instructor, and i think one day you'll see it too, and then! Then you will be an inspiration to your students, just like you're an inspiration to all of us who read your blog!
    (There's a new studio opening soon in Belmont; would you be interested in hearing about it? If so, email me.)
    Love and Light to You!

  21. Leah, your post today reminded me of the reasons that I enjoy your blog and your quilting so much. Our lives and our quilts are influenced by the people and the world around us. I hope that your life now is surrounded by people who love you. I feel the love you put into your quilts every time I read your blog.

  22. I think it's beautiful. :)


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