The Free Motion Quilting Project: UFO Sunday #4 - Quilting Through Fear

Sunday, September 16, 2012

UFO Sunday #4 - Quilting Through Fear

It's hard to believe, but Sundays are becoming my favorite day of the week!

It seems this UFO project began as a small pebble being thrown into a pond - not a very big deal or a huge initial splash.  But now the echoes of that ripple have begun to move out and expand and they are changing EVERYTHING in my life.

It's hard to believe a small choice like finishing what I make can have had such a profound change to how I feel and what I do on a daily basis.  It's a feeling of being UNBLOCKED, free and open.

This summer while reading the book The Power of Habit, I realized I had a habit of feeling anxious almost all the time.  It felt like an enormous weight rested on my shoulders and was always crushing, crushing, crushing down.

I didn't understand at the time where the feeling came from, so I just worked on releasing the habit.  Only now after deciding to finish all my UFOs and working through several projects did I realize where all that anxiety was coming from - the crushing weight of so many projects left undone.

And it's not just things I need to stitch.  I have huge business UFOs - books I'd like to write, DVDs that just need editing, patterns that just need to be put together coherently.  The combination of so many quilting UFOs, business UFOs, and even personal UFOs like my goddess series is definitely a source of anxiety and stress!

The solution is simple: finish the things you start.

But sometimes finishing is difficult.  As we've discussed before, a project can get blocked for many different reasons.  This week my project was blocked with fear.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I've had these two goddess faces created since the spring when I created them as alternatives for the face in the Power of Now (yes, another UFO I'll be getting to soon).

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I strongly considered chucking them in the trash once I realized they wouldn't work for the quilt center.  Why keep them?

But the work involved and the fact that they were goddess faces stopped me.  I just couldn't throw them away.  So they sat on my floor and made me feel guilty until now.

What was the problem?  I wanted to turn them into a bag or small quilts, but I was scared to quilt over them.  The dark one wasn't really a problem, it was the lighter face that was intimidating.

You see, I teach largely with dark fabric and stitch with light thread.  I like this combination because you can see what I'm doing, I can see what I'm doing, and the texture really pops beautifully.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

But the lighter face couldn't be quilted with light thread, it would just disappear into the fabric.  I would have to quilt this with darker thread.

While this seems silly now to obsess about, it really threw me for a loop. At what point did my choice of materials become so limited with fear?  At what point did stitching dark fabric with light thread become ALL I could do?

As soon as I realized my major issue with the project, it was far easier to stitch through it.  I was still afraid of totally messing it up, but that fear was less powerful than my desire to get the faces done.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Once quilted, two beautifully filled faces were ready for a new home.  Somewhere off my sewing room floor!

So I quilted a long strap and sewed the two up into a new tote bag:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Now I have a beautiful bag that reminds me not to let fear stand in the way of finishing something beautiful.  I absolutely love carrying this bag because it's like carrying a goddess quilt around with me.  THIS is what I do and THIS is what I can make.  There's no more powerful statement that a handbag can make!

Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog or online photo:

1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.  If you're linking up a photo, first upload it to Flickr or Facebook.

2. Copy the link of the specific blog post. This is not just the link to your blog itself (, but the link to the specific post:

3. Click the blue link up button above and paste your link into the box.

If you have any questions about finishing your UFO, make sure to post them clearly within your post.  5 questions will be selected and answered on Monday or Tuesday's UFO Followup article.

By the way, if you'd like to share this program on your blog, grab a button below!

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project
Let's go quilt!



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. A great post about clearing your demons, so to speak. I understand completely what you mean. I'm currently in the middle of clearing some things off my desk. I do tend to try to finish stuff off at certain times. Or the 'chuck it' rule applies. You can only keep so much 'leftover, ready to be used for something else' stuff for so long, although unfinished projects are quite different.Sometimes you need to be very strict with yourself, for your own benefit :-)

  3. Ahhhh the combo of dark thread on light fabric. I find myself avoiding that combo;) Love your Goddess bag!

  4. Its not just about learning to do FMQ or taking time to finish old projects.

    Leah, In healing yourself, you are helping so many others heal. You have touched my life in a very powerful way. I am so glad I found your site.

  5. I LOVE the handbag!! What an awesome way to turn something that could have been chucked out into something that you love and can use! That's seriously awesome! I have a few UFOs that have been haunting me as well, so I should get them out one of these days.

  6. I love, love, love those goddess faces, they are soooo devine.

  7. Love the bag - it's beautiful AND meaningful!

  8. I nearly gulped when I read the "chucking them in the bin" comment and had my hand raised to say "Pick Me, Pick Me".

    I know that low grade constant angst and clearing all those UFOs will help. I call it the "what if the clutter in my wardrobe meant I was cluttering my design thoughts, or the ability to write that book" or whatever. I cleared out everything, letters, books, paperwork, clothes, towels, kitchen stuff (no I don't need 10 saucepans) and it felt great going through the process so I thoroughly endorse it.

    What I have found though as I come to the end of the list, is a new anxiousness that it is very tempting to try to stop by filling it with loads of new projects. I think we are very unused to having clear decks and space/time to work on a few but important things (and this goes for everything in our life) and maybe feel guilty, being busy=being useful/productive, so we have to be firm not to fill up the void with new projects. I'm slowly getting comfortable with the space of time.

    Isn't it sad that we can get so uncomfortable with space of time?

    Keep going Leah, you will conquer and help us all along the way.

  9. I absolutely love your quilts. I love the Goddess ones! So beautiful! I am kind of proud to say, I don't have any UFO's except maybe to take all of my scraps and do a crazy quilt. I'm also learning different embroidery techniques by cutting out religious symbols from felt and emboridering them on more felt. It's all practice, I am nowhere near as good as you. Be blessed.

  10. Leah, you always seem to get to the heart of the matter. Clutter can hold us back, whether physical, mental, etc. Great post.

    Oh, and be prepared, when you carry that Goddess bag, to be stopped in the street and complimented! It's so unique and really beautiful.
    Tina in San Diego

  11. Leah -- thanks for the great feedback on the projects! It's always inspirational to know that others struggle -- and that there are answers. I continue to learn and grow on my Janome -- some days better than others but still completing those UFO's.

    Much appreciated.

  12. With your help I won my first LQS challenge I would not have been able to do this without your help I do have it posted on face book .but I can't figure out how to post a picture here ,Any way I just wanted to tahnk you for the great tutorials . Barbara Rickman


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