The Free Motion Quilting Project: The Duchess Reigns #5 - Gut Feeling Adjustments

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Duchess Reigns #5 - Gut Feeling Adjustments

Having finished Emergence last week, the #1 quilt on my mind has become The Duchess Reigns, and boy is she looking pretty these days:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Still, I'm not going to rush this quilt.  I'm not going to rush this quilt.  I'm not going to rush this quilt.  Maybe if I say it enough times, it will not rush through this process!

Part of this whole not-rushing policy is learning how to proceed in small steps.  I'm in the habit of taking giant leaps - finish x,y,z part of the design and let's print the full sized quilt!  Let's go! - and this often gets me in trouble.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Why?  Because even when a design that looks perfect on paper, changes might have to be made. 

Take the photo above which a is a close up of the star surrounding the center goddess.  This looks great, but when printed full size, marked on fabric, and quilted, it didn't come out very good:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
What's wrong here?  Well, for one thing the tree was the most obnoxious thing I've had to quilt in 2 years!  The tiny, spindly branches were just too thin to have a nice impact and the itsy bitsy spaces left where the branches wove together were a real pain to quilt into and fill.

If there was just one tree in this quilt, I might leave this alone and simply deal with the frustration in this area.  However, there are 16 trees in this quilt!

I really want to fill the background of these trees with Swirling Water, but obviously it's impossible with the trees designed as they are.  Rather than cling to the design and force it to work (yes, I have done this in the past and it sucks), I simply went back to the original design and redesigned this element of the quilt.

The same was true for the goddess's hair:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Here again there were loads of thin lines to outline, then lots of tiny channels to fill with Channels and Paths.  Again, I could have left this as is, but my guts says I don't like it.

I also don't like using Swirling Water over the goddess's face.  It makes her face look all blotchy.  And I could go on.  Some places are easy to pick fillers, others are quite tricky and my first choice is not always the best.

What is the point of all this highly opinionated nit-picking?

Ultimately who will have to spend hours quilting this quilt?  Who will have to stare at it day after day?  And who ultimately needs to feel happy and satisfied with this creation?  ME!

For almost all of my previous quilts, I'd reach this stage of design and just start rushing, rushing, rushing through to the end.  I love to design, but as soon as that stage feels finished I just want the quilt to be done.

This time, however, I'm trying a totally different approach - no surprises.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This sounds boring, and to a degree it is kind of dull.  I'm experimenting with multiple filler designs for each section of the quilt.  I'm experimenting with multiple thread color choices.  No option, no choice, no element will be left in the air.

This way, there will be no surprises in the finished quilt.  I will not stare at her face wishing I'd covered it with Stippling instead of Swirling Water.  I will not stare at the background sun wishing I'd filled the rays with a darker color of orange.  No surprises, no regrets.

This is what I have a tendency to do with my finished quilts and it's absolutely no fun.  When I set out to create 365 designs, I never realized the possible downside to so much choice: too many options.  Sometimes it's impossible to pick or know what will work, what will look best, and what color anything should be.

So what is the solution?  Test, test, test.

Know what things are going to look like and if they don't look good, adjust, change, fiddle, and redesign until things get the way they should.

So that's what I plan to do today!  I have a fresh new full sized print of this goddess design that needs to be taped together.  Once that's solid, I'm going to mark up another bunch of fabric and try again, and again, and again until the right fillers and the right colors are obvious.

Let's go quilt,



  1. Leah, I couldn't agree more. While in the beginning testing seems like such a big chunk of time. But picking out things that didn't work takes a heck of a LOT longer and you run the risk of tearing a hole in your quilt which then takes LONGER to fix. Plus, testing gives you a chance to try out those cool threads you've been wanting to try. To see if they work and get the tension adjusted correctly. I can't tell you how many times I thought something would work out only to run a test and find out it didn't. Saved ma a LOT of headache down the road.

  2. She is going to look spectacular! I admire your ability to look at your designs in such a practical way. Yes, the trees look outstanding, but I'm sure they are a total pain to quilt - 16 times no less. Being able to step back and realize you can redesign those for an improved look and process means that you have an extraordinary ability to be objective. It's a great talent to have developed and I'm certain it will serve you well over the years.

  3. Your stamina and persistance are awesome. You will have a masterpiece in the end!
    Have a great day.
    Always, Queenie

  4. Those sun's rays are amazing! I also love the design behind the tree branches, but if you've taught me anything, it's that if it doesn't feel right when you're quilting it then it definitely isn't the way to proceed. Can't wait to see more of this quilt.

  5. This design is blowing my mind. I just love it. You're right not to rush, and I admire your taking the time to sample. We should always remember to honor our work with such care!


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