The Free Motion Quilting Project: Further on the Journey of Express Your Love

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Further on the Journey of Express Your Love

It's Wednesday and for the past three days I've been working through more tree and landscape sections to the point that today, right now, I have just 2 trees and 1 landscape left to finish.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I'm so incredibly happy about this section. In just 12 days I've nearly completed this inner ring which means I can officially say this quilt is 1/2 way quilted. The borders will likely be very complicated and time consuming, but for now, I'm super pleased with how this has worked out.

Just like in May, I plan to hang Duchess Reigns back on the wall for a few days just to have a good look at her and get motivated for the next step. The pause I took in May was absolutely perfect, allowed me time to work on other things, and wrap my head around the enormity of this project. She really is overwhelming, even to me.

Once Duchess is out of the sewing room tomorrow, I plan to begin construction of 3 new Express Your Love goddess quilts. Each quilt will be constructed in a different way, and I'm especially wanting to challenge myself to stop running straight back to my default stitching scale of 1/8 inch or less. It's time to try other things!

I'm feeling the need to dig into Express Your Love and really get immersed in several different ideas that have been floating around my brain for awhile. It seems making this quilt has been a journey that is less about saying "I love you." to James and Josh (that's actually the easy part), and far more about working on self love and finding the strength and space to say those words to myself.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

At the beginning of the year, the very first words I wrote into the first version of the quilt was "I am Enough." It's been 6 months since that first video and unfortunately I found myself yesterday saying the exact opposite. Why am I struggling with this all over again?

But it seems like my journey in the last few months has been heavy on self understanding. Reading books like Quiet and Focus and The Happiness Project and The Power of Habit have taught me so much about myself in such a short space of time, my brain is a bit overloaded trying to make sense of it all.

The fact is, until only very recently I've been a bit too flexible in my own definition of myself. This might sound a bit weird, but I regularly take on jobs and agree to do things that I don't want to do, some things that are actually very uncomfortable to my introverted nature, but because I CAN do it (I can grit my teeth and muscle through anything. Literally, I have a will of steel), I tend to say yes. I'm starting to see that my tendency to agree is more than a liability to my happiness, it's downright destructive to my whole family.

So I want to practice saying "No" and dealing with the waves of guilt and fear that rise up like a tidal wave anytime I say it. I also want to practice figuring out exactly what I WANT to do, not just what I feel compelled to do because I obligated myself. I also want to relearn how to quilt for me and only for me.

What do I mean by that? I Quilt for Me was a phrase I began saying more than 2 years ago, but I continue to struggle with it. Between the pressure to compete at quilt shows and make quilts for various people, companies, or classes, I find my personal projects always pushed to the back of the line.

I know I'm not alone with this issue, but whenever I give voice to it, all I can hear is my mother's words rebounding in my head, "It sounds to me like you're being selfish."

Maybe it is selfish, but I'm tired of putting myself last and I don't think this issue of self love will go away until I take a serious stand for who I really am and what I actually WANT to do.

Until May, Duchess Reigns was always on the back burner, always shunted to the side the second something "more important" came into the studio because I couldn't say for sure if I ever wanted to show her or not. The first Duchess was ruined after showing. It would absolutely break my heart to see this quilt damaged or lost in the mail.

But when Josh asked last night why I couldn't just work on Duchess Reigns for myself, only for me, never to show, not really to teach with, my instant gut response, which made me cry even as it came out of my mouth was, "I'm not enough for that. I don't deserve her."

My response was so incredibly ridiculous I think it finally snapped my attention to this very real need to change my mentality. It also helped that Josh's eyes nearly bugged out of his head and he made me repeat what I'd said three times until I saw for myself how ridiculous it was.

Through all this rambling and seeking, I find myself wanting to make these new versions of Express Your Love simply to dig further in. I feel like lately I've been standing on the edge of the diving board with these quilts, hesitant to dive in. What if I get overwhelmed and bogged down under so many various versions of the same quilt?

But on the flip side, what more will be revealed if I just give myself permission to make as many quilts as I want to make and to quilt them however I want?

It may be that this journey with this quilt takes longer than 1 year, and I need to hope and trust and cross my fingers that I won't bore you all to tears with it. The fact is, I need to make these for me, to work out some lingering shadows of self doubt, denial, and neglect that are still lurking in the back of my closet, and maybe, just maybe, it will be a journey you can share too.

That is one thing that makes this year feel very circular and solid - sharing Express Your Love on this blog was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It might not have the flair and instant appeal of the original 365 quilting designs, but to me at least, it is far more satisfying.

Let's go quilt,



  1. I hope you find the peace you seek. I think you are on the right path but for what it is worth I think if you add God into your daily equation things will get better for you. Nothing serious, just talk to him like you do your husband, friends, etc. I would suggest in your head so people don't think you have lost it. But you will be amazed at how much He will give you if you only ask.

  2. Well, I know you won't bore me with more Express Your Love quilts. I have enjoyed your different versions so far, and always feel like I'm learning. Do what is right for you. :)

  3. Leah I'm proud of you for taking charge of your world and your power to say no. It is just as important as saying yes and sometimes more so. I am glad you are making your quilt for yourself. There is glory in that and beauty in that and making something beautiful for the pure joy of making it, because it makes you happy, is the best way to honor yourself. :) There is goodness in finding happiness within yourself because I think it shines out of us like a beacon when we are happy and believe in our selves and our worth.

  4. I really enjoy your blog. I especially appreciate your willingness to share your emotional journey. Thank you.

  5. your work on this quilt is amazing. thanks for the periodic updates.

  6. Leah, many quilters work on series. Express your Love is one of yours so go for it.

  7. Leah, this post breaks my heart, but I also very much understand what is going on. Been there, done that only own issues. Sweetie, I hope you figure this out and can fully enjoy what you do so well and love so and quilting.

  8. As someone who speaks from experience----when evidence of our abusive, programmed, self-loathing,"I'm not enough" talk sneaks out, isn't it nice to have a grounding, voice of reality to throw cold water of truth in our face? Way to go, Josh! Blessings, Leah....

  9. The 365 days may have been but you are now showing how to actually use these designs in a quilt or wall hanging. This is much more beneficial to everyone including yourself. Thanks for your willingness to share.
    Cindy N.

  10. Listen, Leah, I am a psychologist and I often have to work very hard to get women in particular to recognize the difference between SELF-FISH and SELF-FULL! Get it? If you are not FULL you can't give to others well at all. Think on it, GF, and thanks for all you do for us in the quilting world.

  11. I sure hope my fist comment made it through. I don't see it.

  12. I can relate to the not being able to say no. I have gotten better and better at saying no over the years, and it DOES help to say no... keep at it. I don't understand the last part as well, but don't worry about people getting bored. This blog is for you too :-).

  13. The very best work I have ever done was made for myself. Some of these quilts have gone on to win at quilt shows and art shows. That is besides the point. When I make something just because I want to make it I am free to experiment and express myself.

  14. I think it's one thing to want to show and share your work with others, and it's entirely another to feel obligated to do so.

    We'd love to continue to see the journey of this quilt, but it's not up to us. It's entirely up to you. You dreamed her. You drew her. You are quilting her....and don't forget: you are in charge of you!

  15. Leah -- you are such a delight.Love your videos, love your book and like your journey with free motion quilting. Think you are doing quite well as a young women-- you already have direction, skills to get there and I bet your husband and boy really love you--think you have lots of balance in your life for one so young. I know lots of older women -- who are afraid to do anything for themselves-- and they are timid or bitter because they deny the positive in themselves. You are just fine-- don't beat yourself up with criticism -- there are always others walking around to do that for you :)
    Hey-- you bought a good machine-- which you more than deserve because you put it to good use-- but-- you know-- you deserve it even if you could barely even sew because you owe it to every woman who has lived in the past who sewed on mechanical machines, by hand, and crank and pedal machines-- who would have grabbed that Horizon in a NY minute-- to sew for pleasure and art instead of sheer necessity. Since you live in a time and place where you can express your art with high tech tools-- you owe it to those women to enjoy it for them :)

  16. oh leah,
    go on with yourself and express your love
    i learn soooo much and i hope one day to be able to say: i quilt this only for me!!!

  17. I love your work
    happy weekend


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