The Free Motion Quilting Project: Casual Cam: Quilting Duchess Reigns

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Casual Cam: Quilting Duchess Reigns

Have you ever gotten so bogged down with a project you had to put it away?

I did exactly that with Duchess Reigns, a huge show quilt I've been working on since 2012. When I reached the border section of this quilt, the quilting was so time consuming, and I was so busy and frustrated that I had to put her away.

For more than a year she sat folded on a shelf in my studio, and I honestly didn't have much desire to get back to it. For awhile I considered cutting the quilt in half, or somehow finishing it with only half the border quilted. I was looking for ANY way to get out of this project and get off the hook.

 Finally I realized the best thing to do was just ignore her. I stopped obsessing about an easier or faster way to finish the quilting, and I stopped planning ways to change the design. I focused on other projects and allowed myself the space and freedom to come back to Duchess Reigns only when I really, really, REALLY wanted to.

This is a big deal because it's really hard to stop and take a break on a project and not feel like a total failure. I felt a lot of pressure to work on this quilt, even when I didn't really want to. Had I kept trying to plow through it, yes, I probably would have finished her a year ago, but I would most likely hate this quilt.

So I strongly support taking a break on projects that aren't working. I also support the idea of throwing away projects you never intend to finish. I've even burned quilts that weren't working for me.

Yes, some people have strong opinions and they like to share them and demand that you finish that project - Think of all the time you put into it! Think of the cost of all those materials!

This is just a guilt trip wrapped up in a pretty little package of well-meaning advice. No thank you!

 Ultimately giving myself space and time was the best decision I could make because one day I woke up and suddenly WANTED to work on Duchess Reigns. One day I realized that I had the time and the energy to finish this quilt and ENJOY the process.

That change in attitude has been the key to this project. I didn't want to finish her when I was angry or overwhelmed. It took more than a year to turn my attitude around, but now that I have, I'm loving every second of this quilt!

So here's a video about Duchess Reigns and how my perspective and attitude has changed over the last two years:

No, I'm not leaving glaring mistakes in my quilt, but I'm also not obsessively picking out every single missed stitch. There's even more thread painting as I near the last corner because that's a handy way to hide thread breaks.

Will I still show Duchess Reigns? Yes, I plan to, but I have no illusions about her perfection. I know she has issues, and I've done my best to hide the worst of them.

Ultimately I'm finishing this quilt for ME, not for a judge or a show. When I finish her, she will always remind me of the lessons I've learned and the importance of enjoying the journey, not the finishing line.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. My husband says all good things take time so don't beat yourself up. Looks fantastic. Chris

  2. Leah,

    She is looking spectacular! Glad you are enjoying working on her again. Thanks for all you do.

  3. I've burned UFOs in the past, too...very liberating....
    This quilt will win ribbons for sure, it is amazing!

  4. This quilt is absolutely amazing! Really enjoy following the progress!

  5. I call it putting it in timeout. Or glad that you've been able to get back to working on her. She is gorgeous. I'm curious to see which parts of the design you've changed. Have you covered that in a previous video I missed?

  6. Thanks for sharing your feelings about this quilting project. It will be fabulous when finished even with thread breaks showing whether the judges agree or not. It was interesting to see it as you work on it now and I look forward to seeing it when finished.

  7. Stunning, simply stunning! Wow...

  8. One tip I came across was adjusting my presser foot tension for FMQ. I take it to almost zero along with the top tension and have not had a thread break since. It was an immediate difference for me.
    Love your work!

  9. Your project is absolutely fascinating but I understand the feeling of overwhelm. This particular quilt must require so much patience, it is so beautifully detailed.
    I too have 'abandoned' quilts, only to pick them up some years later with great gusto and inspiration. I just finished a Xmas quilt started 2 years ago; last year I finished my 1st handmade quilt started in 2010. The day after I finished it I offered it to the Governor of this island who attended one of my emotional coaching session to young boys with challenges.
    We call those quilts UFOs (UnFinished Objects) and I understand that this term comes from a professional quilter. Wishing you great success with this one, it will be an eye catcher for sure.

  10. Wow...I love the FMQ foot! I quilt with a Juki 2010Q. Do you know if it would fit this machine? If so, do you have a model number?'re so inspiring!

  11. You needed the break away from this labour intensive quilt Leah. You are now refreshed enough obviously to get back on it as the song goes. This is going to be amazing when completed.

  12. Absolutely beautiful! You make it look so easy. I would love to see this pattern before you began it. Did you trace it onto your fabric? It looks like you stitched the whole pattern before filling in. You are such an inspiration to me. I am 65 years old and a 3 year hand quilter. I am definately collecting squares of fabric to begin learning this. Keep up the great work

  13. Beautiful quilt. Thanks for the insight on being happy with your work. Have fun finishing your beautiful project.

  14. Looks absolutely amazing. Would love to see the progress photos side by side!


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