The Free Motion Quilting Project: Best Quilting Retreat Ever!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Best Quilting Retreat Ever!

This week I gave myself a gift in the form of a mini quilting retreat. I didn't go anywhere or do anything special. I just gave myself permission to quilt my Dresden Plate quilt and not worry about what was happening online.

I cannot describe what an enormous relief this was. Instead of stopping to shoot photos and post to Instagram, which always leads to twenty minutes of brain freeze, I kept quilting. Instead of checking Facebook comments or sharing daily progress here, I kept quilting. I even let email hang for a day or two and didn't share a podcast this week because I just needed space and time to quilt.

Yes, we live in a social media driven world, but sometimes I wonder if all of this stuff isn't just a big distraction. Had I constantly stopped and started, stopped and started, I might not have finished this project in time.

It was also a relief to have a tight deadline. I know that sounds weird. Aren't deadlines supposed to add extra pressure and stress to a project?

Yes, but a good deadline can also force you to stop agonizing about every single detail. Three times in particular I stopped and looked at a block and thought "I really want to rip all that out."

If I'd had a month to make this quilt, I might have walked away from it. Taken a break. Let it sit on the table or the frame and pouted about it not being perfect. I might have even picked up a seam ripper and "fixed" that "mistake" I thought was too terrible to leave in.

Instead this deadline to have the quilt finished, connected, and bound by today forced me to keep quilting. I couldn't walk away. I couldn't pick up a seam ripper. I couldn't agonize about every design decision.

And now I'm looking at this quilt and I LOVE IT. There is nothing I would change about this.

Sure, some of the lines could have been better planned or lined up. Take a ruler to it and you'll find mistakes.

But I think fixing those mistakes or design glitches would only make the quilt around 5% better. Not enough to really matter. Only a quilt show judge would be able to see or appreciate the difference, and again, probably only if they had a ruler in their hand and knew where to look!

The main lesson from this is in how I feel about this quilt. When I stop and rip and agonize about everything, I slow down. It feels heavy. I want to walk away because the pressure builds and nothing feels right.

This quilt feels the opposite of all of that. It feels light, bright and challenging. I finished the last line of stitching and stepped back and had to wonder - did I make that? Did I really do that in a week?

Yes, I did, but only because I was ready and willing to accept the challenge. I quilted two blocks on my home machine and then forced myself to quilt the last two on my longarm frame. I white knuckled my way through it and I can 100% say that these quilting rulers I've designed for Grace Company are awesome!

So the lesson from this wonderful mini quilting retreat is it's okay to pull away and dig deep. It's okay to shut out the world of distracting social media and just focus on finishing the project. And it's okay to seek a tight deadline and use it to force you forward instead of getting stuck.

Whew! That was fun! What's next?

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

P.S - The curvy bias binding is a Quilt-As-You-go technique I shared in the Winter Wonderland Quilt Pattern.

P.P.S - These new quilting rulers are coming very soon! Be looking for them by the middle of April!


  1. Good to hear you had a nice weekend of quilting. Hopefully you truly didn't feel pressure to do anything. I absolutely love seeing what you worked on and I'm looking forward to learning more about your new Rulers with the Grace Coompany. I'm confident they'll be excellent and best sellers. I'm actually working on a project right now that I wish I had the ruler you shared a sneak peek on. Looks like a versatile "must have" type of ruler.

    1. I did feel the pressure, and then I told it to go away! LOL! I'll be sure to send you a set when we have them. Should only be another week or two!

  2. This is beautiful. I agree with you about the social media challenges on time. I don't know how you allocate any time for quilting any of your own projects with your commitments to Facebook, Instagram, etc. Please take the time to restore your creative battery so that you continue to take joy in your creations and your life.

    1. It's a balance that I need to restore. This week has been such a wonderful recharge and now I want more! LOL!

  3. I love it! So glad you got to enjoy the quilting process. I will be looking for your rulers next month. I own the Block Rockit which is the same as the Q Nique. Also made by Grace Company. Those are terrific machines.

  4. Looks amazing Leah! Particularly love the whale tail one -- would have another proper name I'm sure but that's what it brings to mind.

    We can all benefit from a digital detox from time to time.

  5. I love what you have done with this quilt! And I like your idea about the at-home retreat - I did this on Saturday, spending the day on a baby quilt, while watching the full set of episodes of the second series of Drew Barrymore's Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix...I was in my happy space all day.

  6. I think little inconsistencies make it look " hand made" as opposed to manufactured on a machine. People who do EPP stress about their stitches showing.... heck I want people to see my tiny stitches so they know it was done by hand. You do an amazing job at everything you set your mind to, but best of all you inspire others to have a go. I know my FMQ has improved since reading your blog, practising and not being afraid to" throw more thread at it." Love your attitude and glad you had such an awesome retreat!


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