The Free Motion Quilting Project: What Makes You Happy?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What Makes You Happy?

Last week I posted about noticing that I horde craft supplies and don't end up using them because #1 I'll use them up and #2 I might waste them or my time if the project doesn't turn out perfect.

Well this past week I've challenged myself to overcome this fear and start using up as much stuff as I can get my hands on. I spun both green and blue roving I've had sitting around forever:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I also bit the bullet and opened my epoxy clay, mixed it together and went to town with crystals, cabachons, texture plates, and ink to make pendants, a bracelet, and lots of little faces I'll soon paint and embellish:
free motion quilting | Leah Day

I learned about epoxy clay from Debbie Simmon's Epoxy Clay Artistry class on Craftsy. I absolutely loved this class and Debbie's gentle, yet reassuring tone as she plays with countless materials I would have been way too intimidated to play with before.

After watching how easy it was, I began hording supplies. But having 8 colors of epoxy clay on hand, but not actually DOING anything with it is pointless! Pulling it out made me realize again just how silly it is to buy stuff and not use it. I wanted to make pendants, so make some pendants Leah!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

As I was working on these pieces, I began listening to a new audiobook I'd downloaded when my brain had the munchies. The audio book is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Basically Gretchen set out for a year to become happier in all manner of ways, and kept track of her progress with a happiness chart where she scored herself every evening.

I relate to Gretchen in SO many ways. Yes, I snap and lose my temper too easily with my family. Yes, when I start behaving badly, I'm like a roller coaster headed straight down the mountain, I can't easily pull out of a funk once it has set in. And yes, I understand the great responsibility of my happiness - it definitely affects everyone around me.

This is kind of along those lines of that saying "if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Often my small frustrations with work or a quilt project are carried through the whole family, and this simply isn't fair. I've worked hard to overcome my familial cycle of passive aggressive verbal abuse, but even still...I could be nicer, I could be happier, I could make my home a happier place.

And one of the major tenants of this book is the simple question - what makes you happy? What makes you feel GOOD?

The point is to ask the question, then go DO IT!

So yesterday, for the first time in 5 years, I pulled out a quilt, grabbed a pillow off the couch, picked a book, and headed outside for a reading picnic. James soon joined me along with lots of his stuffed animals, and eventually we ended up napping in the sunshine.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Why don't I do this on every sunny day? This made me monumentally more happy! I was still feeling poorly from my stomach flu, but the sunshine and fun with James soon made me feel 100 times better.

I have always loved picnics on sunny days. I used to go on them all the time when I was a kid, but as an adult, I never made the effort because Josh wasn't into it. Working on my Happiness Project, I realized I needed to stop waiting and DO the things that make ME happy because my happiness and good mood will make everyone around me more happy.

Is this selfish? My mother's favorite taunt rings through my ears at those words, but I don't think so. I think in the spirit of Express Your Love, you have to first nurture yourself, give yourself that hug or that sunshine or that time on the sewing machine so you feel most balanced and happy, and that good feeling will then be easy to share with everyone else.

If anything, it is my responsibility to do these things that make me happy because to wallow in bad feeling and spread discord through my house is about the most irresponsible thing I can think of.

So here's to more sunny picnics! Here's to using up supplies to make pretty, shiny things! Here's to spinning a new thread and finding it's not so scary to use something up if it means you've had a good time.

Let's go quilt,



  1. Your necklace is so beautiful.

    I am so jealous. I would have to shovel a foot of snow to get to the ground to lay out.

    Enjoy your time with your sweet boy.

  2. Leah I'm going to try it. I'm a craft hoarder also. The picnic sounds like fun too.

  3. The photo of you and James is priceless, and your jewelry is beautiful! Your post reminded me immediately of a quote that struck me to the heart the first time I read it, and I'll never forget it. it's attributed to Howard Thurman, a philosopher, author, theologian and civil rights leader. It goes, 'Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.'

  4. Your garden picnic/nap looks lovely. Thanks for the intro to the Happiness Project, was really interested in the blog about how doing the things that make us happy takes discipline. I felt that and could never understand it. I like to pile up the little things that make me happy, the ones that regardless of whatever else is going on in my life, I can control and do (and should do more often).
    Running with my dog in the dark cool of early morning in Singapore, chuffing along together and that gentle bump on the side of my calf with her nose as if she is telling me "this is fun". Sitting on my balcony sipping that first perfect cup of coffee looking at the early morning sun coming through the trees and seeing the pretty light warm my apartment. Finishing another 15 minutes of quilting, smoothing back the quilt from under the machine and feeling proud that I've made some beautiful and real. Lying in my bubble bath reading for the 100th time Swallows and Amazons and getting lost in an English summer back in 1930. Snuggling into bed and thinking back on the day reviewing the little things I've done that help me move towards a better future, studied a little, completed something at work, ate well, exercised my body and found 5 good things to smile at. I must do this more.

  5. I read a bunch of books on happiness during the worst of my husband's dementia. I discovered that happiness is a choice. You can choose to be grateful for the small things that go right. You can choose to let joy in. And you can choose to allow yourself some small pleasures just because that too is a choice.

  6. Leah...a picture truly is worth a thousand words....I love the photo of you and James napping. I guess it's my new-found grandmother nature or the fact that nearly all of what you've said about your abuse resonates with me but I'm sending you both a big hug right now. I have three beautiful daughters and 2 exquisite grandsons...I would be so proud to call you my daughter....any one of us would! Thank you for all you do and all you share.

  7. Thank you Leah! I am working on my happiness as we speak. (?) I mean write. I have gone and gotten my cute little kitchen table from my old home and brought it here to my Dad's house, so that I can put my new sewing machine on it in the front room along with my computer, so I can get back to sewing and quilting and smiling! (My plan is to follow along with your FMQ techniques...YEE! I can't wait!!!

  8. I'm jealous, since I don't have a yard! But I do have a patio! And a chair in the sun!

  9. You are so right about making yourself happy! Selfish is not always a bad word...everything in moderation, right? You are so talented, you should definitely make time to do the things you enjoy and that make others around you happy. I love the idea of "reading picnics." How relaxing!

  10. Leah, I've read The Happiness Project. It is a great book. You need to take care of yourself because you help so many others. You don't want to get burned out or sacrifice your family for this.

  11. I think you are right. After reading your post I can look back and remember feeling that way. I would always pile on the " chores" for myself. There was always so much to do and so many places I needed to take the kids and I pushed myself and was miserable. We can do it all and if we try we just become unhappy and make everyone else unhappy.
    So it's great you just pushed that all aside and went out and sat, read and napped under that happy sky.
    Time to recharge your batteries and get a fresh start.
    Have a great week Leah and take a break no and then. Glad your feeling better.

  12. Thank you so much for this picture. Maybe, just maybe I can find a spot in our back yard to lay down and enjoy the warmth of the sunshine too. Of course, with two West Highland Terriers, we must go on "Poop Patrol" first, your know (clean up the poop out of the yard). Then I can enjoy this.

  13. thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, and for the book recommendation. You are absolutely right about how important your mood is to those in your household! thanks for reminding me how much I love picnics altho my kids don't (and it's snowing right now!). have a great picknicky day! Anne

  14. On nice days I like to grab a book and take my kids to the park or to the library/park.

    I don't think it's selfish at all....

  15. I love this post! I just got that book yesterday at the library, I'm eager to read it! Have you read Eat, Pray, Love? Every time I'm feeling bad I pick that book up, I've probably read it a few hundred times. I feel like you'd relate to the author.

    As women (mothers, wives, daughters), we spend majority of our time making other people happy because it's our job. Often times we forget to make the most important person in our lives happy, ourselves. If we are not happy then the people around us cannot be happy. It is so crucially important to take care of yourself and bring yourself to a good place. I forget this more often than not.
    Stay happy, Leah!
    Alyx @ Hoppipolla Quilts

  16. Soaking up the sun! What a great way to become happier!

  17. What a nice happy post! I really enjoyed your "hoarding" post. I am like that too. Sometimes I love a fabric soo much I don't want to cut it but have finally gotten over that. I mean I bought it to make a quilt so make it!!

    and family time is so important especially with little ones. reading picnics sound fabulous

  18. I was forty something before I learned that the present is more meaningful than the future or the past and we owe it to ourselves to seize the moment and feel the joy. But some days I forget...thanks for the reminder! When I read your post I had just finished making a quilting wish list - what would I really like to do if I didn't have all these 'have to do's'...

  19. I am a craft hoarder too! I have recently set out on the same track of using what I have! :) Though right now, not a lot of time as everything is in boxes from a move! :)

    I will have to look into that book! I started following because of her Friday Felicity's. Every friday she posts what makes her happy. She got it off Tedx and it is called the Happiness Advantage.

    I think taking care of yourself first is important though sometimes the demands make it seem impossible! :) Good for you for fitting in what you love and what makes you happy! :)

  20. I realised a few years ago that I was doing the same thing. I had cupboards full of fabric, wool, yarn, thread, beads, whatnots and doohickeys - 'just in case'.

    And I wasn't using any of it. So I started. I joined Craftsy and made my first quilt. I started the Art Quilting course and rediscovered all the fabulous textured threads I already had.

    It was like a new dawn.

  21. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

  22. Rosemary B here:
    Leah, this was a great update. I live in Northern Virginia and we had winter last week and on Monday but it is Spring-ish now.
    Your photo reminds me of when my girls were little, we have picnics almost every day inside or out. It was fun. We also used to set up the tent and pretend to camp haha
    I love your new project. I love doing and trying everything. I have piles of crafts. Luckily my girls are crafty too.
    Right now I am making some cute jackets out of sweat shirts for my mom. She is 90 and had a stroke. She is in rehab and my dad is so devoted. I will surprise her tomorrow with a cozy sweater!
    I hope you have a lovely Easter
    Love, Rosemary

  23. Thanks Leah for your wonderful posts over the years, both personally and professionally. When I first started following your blog, I had no idea you were anything but an incredibly together, well-balanced, happy,talented professional quilter. Over time I have realized your courage and selflessness in sharing your journey to become who and what you aspire to be (and what I thought you were from the beginning!)

    I was recently at a quilt show workshop, listening to a well-known quilter answer the question: "where can I get more information on how to free-motion quilt"? and the answer from the quilter and several others in the room was a simultaneous "Leah Day!"

    I never knew how much I would gain from your personal journey as well. Again, thank you!

  24. One challenge I have taken to heart is to try to do one courageous thing a day, and it can something as simple as saying hello to a passerby when I, myself, am feeling overcast. So know that you have a wide group of online friends who send you their appreciation for every creative idea you share.


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