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Quilting Through Fear - Torrent of Fear Goddess Quilt by Leah Day

Hear the story behind my art quilt Torrent of Fear in this quilting story video:

Click the photos below to learn more about my goddess quilt series and how to make one yourself!

Affiliate links: I highly recommend two books I mentioned in the podcast: The Crossroads of Should and Must and Big Magic.

Torrent of Fear Inspiration 

Have you ever been afraid of something – making a decision, taking action, having a hard conversation with someone you love? Have you been so afraid you avoided that task for months or years?

This is what Torrent of Fear is all about. That stuck state of intense fear that locks you in place and prevents you from moving forward.

I designed this quilt in 2012 after spending the entire year of 2011 completely stuck and unable to make a decision about what to do with my blog, the Free Motion Quilting Project once the original 365 designs were shared.

It’s funny now to think about worrying so much about something so simple, but at the time, this was a huge decision. I worried that changing the blog would ruin my business and that fear locked me in place for months.

As I shared in the podcast, this is a lot like treading water and refusing to make a decision which direction to swim in. I felt like I was drowning by slow degrees.

Only a week before the new year, I made a decision to host my first quilt along and committed to it. At that point, everything became simple, but I had to seriously hustle to make up for all the time I’d wasted.

Once I got out of that stuck state and began moving and making decisions, everything changed. I could think again! I could make decisions again!

Almost immediately I wanted to make a quilt to showcase how it had felt to be stuck in place by fear. Yes, this is a negative quilt, or it’s portraying a negative emotion. But in a lot of ways I find this quilt very beautiful and uplifting.

When I look at it, I stop and mentally check myself – am I in that fear state? Am I allowing something small to lock me in place? Am I refusing to make a decision about something?

I continually check in on this because fear is tricky. It can creep in on you slowly. It likes to hide in the corners of your mind and whisper bad things in your ears. You might be afraid of something and be allowing it to hold you back without even realizing it.

Torrent of Fear Goddess Quilt

What we SHOULD be afraid of

We all live on a clock. There is a certain length of time we are blessed to live on this Earth and then we will die.

To say it straight - you may not have as much time as you think.

It's easy to forget this. I honestly feel like the hustle and distraction of our modern world is designed to help us forget that we only have a short time to enjoy this life. 

There are also no guarantees. I could live for another 50 years. Or I could die in 5. There is no control group, no crystal ball to tell us how much time we have.

So doesn't it make the most sense to be living the life we want to live, and doing the things we want to do RIGHT NOW?

This is what we should be afraid of - dying before we've actually had a chance to live.

Because if fear is locking you in place, holding you back, forcing you to tread water on your dreams, that's not really living. 

Put it this way: if you were told today you had one year to live, what would you do? How would that change your life and what you do on a daily basis? Is there a book you’ve been wanting to write? Is there a mountain you want to hike? Do you want to travel or take off work to spend more time with your kids?

If knowing you’re on a time limit would change your behavior, I strongly encourage you to change your behavior right now.

But waiting? No, please don’t do that.

I’ve been waiting to share my goddess quilts for years. Every year, every month I’ve set the goal to share more, to write more, to explore these topics and be more open and honest.

And every year has slipped by, month after month like a slow trickle of sand through my fingers.

Finally I realized that this would never happen. This would never be a priority, never be shared, never been seen or enjoyed if I didn’t push myself to make it happen.

I guess I’d been stuck in that Torrent of Fear state without even realizing it.

Because sharing this way is terrifying. It brings up a lot of emotion and forces me to deal with stuff that I don't need to pull out and examine on a daily basis. I struggle with my worst fears of What Will People Think?

 What if quilters hate this? What if they make fun of me? What if they tell their friends I’m a weirdo and everyone stops enjoying our videos and classes? What if my business fails and we end up homeless and I can't feed my kid and take care of my family?

Those are the worries that come up and they absolutely have the power to lock me in place. I’ve let that happen for far too long.

The process of sharing these quilts as podcast stories is a lot of work, but it work that feels exhilarating!

I don’t get this rush when I share a tutorial on piecing half square triangles. Sorry, but no, that just doesn’t get my heart pumping the same way. I can teach you how to make a million patchwork quilts, but what I'd rather do is help you stitch yourself out of fear and towards a life of fulfillment and joy.

So it's really scary, but it’s also amazing. I’ll take the good and the bad and happily move forward living the life I choose and have wanted to live for years.

Fear Exercise

I believe identifying your fear is the first step to being free of it. Know who your enemy is and then you can begin working on it.

I most often figure out what's bothering me within a 20 -30 minute free writing session. Just open a new word document and begin writing. Write everything that comes up and flows through your head. Everything thought, criticism, and discontented feeling.

Fear is good at hiding so you may find it lurking within your anger, resentment, or just the thing you feel Blah about. What is stopping you from feeling excited? Happy? Most likely you’re afraid of what is coming next.

The second step is to face your fear. I will often do this by thinking about what I’m afraid of and writing down the worst possible thing that can happen. In many cases for me, this is a negative exchange online or a negative review.

My brain likes to blow this negativity way out of proportion. I will tie myself into knots about it when it’s in the abstract. I will shoot extra videos, write, then re-write tutorials in a panic to make it perfect, and spend countless hours agonizing over my work because the fear is never satisfied.

To face the fear, I write myself the worst possible review I can think of. What is the worst comment someone could leave on this post? What is the most horrible thing someone might say to me?

I'll write my worst, most terrifying ideas down and in a journal and set it aside for a few weeks. I get back to my work and try not to let the fear drive me crazy. Often just the act of writing down my worst fears is enough to lessen its stranglehold on my work.

Then when I’ve gotten a little distance from it, I go back and check what I’ve written. Eventually, when I’ve gotten enough space and worked on my feelings about the issue enough, I find it funny.

It’s funny because no one will ever be as mean to you as you can be to yourself. It’s funny because your brain and your fear likes to punch below the belt, but that’s rarely something a stranger can or will do.

Here’s what I find even more fascinating – when I actually do receive a negative review or we get a rude email, my reaction is 100% business and not ruled by emotion at all. I’m sorry you didn’t like the book. I’m sorry you didn’t like that free tutorial. I’m sorry you didn’t like the podcast. Go find something you do like!

Torrent of Fear Construction

This goddess quilt marked a turning point in my goddess quilt construction and is one of the most creative and decoratively embellished of all the quilts in this series.

I began with my usual method of drawing a small image on paper, then scanning it into the computer to blow it up to the size I wanted. I printed out the drawing on paper, then transferred it to freezer paper and constructed the quilt using Ann Holmes’ No Sewing Until You Quilt It applique method.

The quilt top came together in just 3 days and it included a fun reveal as all the pieces of freezer paper were pulled away. You can watch this video to see how this worked:

After constructing the quilt, I basted it and began quilting. I also wanted to add extra embellishment in the form of chunky gray and black yarn to the surface. I couldn’t seem to find the exact right yarn in any yarn shop so I decided to make it myself and learned spinning.

Torrent of Fear Goddess Quilt

Spinning art yarn is still one of my favorite hobbies and it provided a wonderful addition to this quilt. It feels awesome to be able to add embellishment to a quilt, and even better to make it yourself!

I did make a mistake in the embellishment process – I added it too soon, right at the beginning before I’d quilted the quilt.

This was a mistake because the prongs of my darning foot continually caught on the yarn, making it very difficult to quilt up to and around the chunky yarn. I ended up using my walking foot to quilt around the yarn instead, something I rarely did at the time.

Another technique I tried in this quilt was hand quilting. I struggled to find a design to stitch in the blue water section behind the goddess body. Every design I tried in this area either felt too densely quilted or conflicted with the other designs around it.

Torrent of Fear Goddess Quilt

So I pulled out some glittery thread and decided to hand quilt that space with big, chunky stitches that showed up with a little bling and glitter in certain areas of the quilt.

I love how this looks and couldn’t be more pleased with the results! The lesson I took from Torrent of Fear was to keep pushing the envelope and try new things with this quilt. There is no right or wrong way to do it and there really is nothing to be afraid of.

Even with the hand embellishment, Torrent of Fear was one of the fastest and easiest goddess quilts I've ever constructed. Just looking at it makes me want to make more quilts with this open style and mix of artistic techniques.

I hope you enjoyed this quilt story. Click the photos below to find more stories about goddess quilts to enjoy:

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


Hi Ann – Thank you so much for your kind comments. Yes, I realized early in my business that I had a choice as to how I could act and be perceived. It’s easy to put up walls and boundaries and only show the good stuff. But I’m just not that kind of person and I believe in sharing it all – the process, the journey, the less than perfectly, and definitely not pretty process. I’m so glad you appreciate that about me and took the time to share your kind words!

Leah Day,

Wow! What a great podcast! I’m so used to listening to music while I quilt, and today I just wanted to try the podcast idea because whenever I listen to something I learn a lesson or two. I love that your podcasts are not just about your craft, but also about how all of that fits into your personal life, and how things in your personal life affect your craft and your business. You are so genuine, and I find that so refreshing in today’s world of superficiality and competition and judgment. Your podcast would be valuable to anyone at all whether they quilt or craft or not! As humans, we are so broken, and we are so easily swept up my fears, worries about the future, things happening in our society, and I’ve always believed in “seeking counsel” from every wise man or woman who has something to offer, and you certainly are one of those :-)

Ann Walsh,

Your podcast was what I needed to hear today. Thank you.


Thank you so much for sharing your experience Maureen! Yes, I know what you mean – worrying about how the person next to you will make you look can cause a lot of anxiety. But I do think a big part of loving the people in our lives is accepting them exactly as they are. Try to get to the point of loving that stain, or that crazy thing that came out of your husband’s mouth. It’s what makes him unique and interesting and no, I don’t think that reflects on you a single bit. And besides, you can’t control what anyone else thinks of either of you, so why worry?

Leah Day,

Hi Marcia – You’re completely right. Unfortunately it took me 6 more years to realize that connection and stop drinking for good, but now I’m so very thankful and proud of myself for that decision. When I feel fears creeping in, I have to deal with them. Not mask them, not mellow them out with a substance but actually DEAL with them.

Leah Day,

I’ve been waiting to hear about your Goddess quilts -and am happy you have the courage to share. I think they are some of your best art work. You said you were immobilized by fear in 2011 – which was causing you much anxiety. Many people turn to alcohol as a way to self-medicate their fear. I’m so pleased that you were able to find a better way to cope with your fears – instead of alcohol. Alcohol works well – but causes other difficulties. I look forward to hearing about the rest of your Goddess quilts.



Okay, so I have a couple of ‘monitors’ in my life – people who monitor how I look, what I do, what I say etc. As an adult, I found myself doing it to my husband (“You aren’t wearing that ratty shirt are you? Change into a nice one” or “Shhh, don’t say that…He didn’t mean that.”. When I began to see that I was doing the very thing I hated, I asked myself “Why?”. The answer was that I was afraid o how HIS actions reflected on ME. He liked the stained shirt – he would have been fine wearing it – but I didn’t want people to think he was unkempt. He wasn’t uncomfortable asking an unusual question, but I was embarrassed by it. I realized that my family members had the same motivation – they were concerned about how what I did would reflect on them. Insulting me in the name of protecting me just doesn’t hold water. So now I am working on letting my husband do his thing – I think he and I will both be happier!
I do find it interesting that when you are talking about sewing, an area where you have strong skill and knowledge, you seem very comfortable with putting yourself out there. Your”Quilty debates” are all about what you think, and you do a great job of stating your opinion and backing it up. For me, the further the topic is from me as a person, the easier it is to not feel judged. It is probably a life-long goal for me to just focus on doing what feels right to me and not filtering it through others’ eyes.
I really hope that you find these personal videos are a helpful and positive experience. You are telling your story, on your terms, and I think that is a tremendously empowering act. You are surely impacting many more people than you know…

Maureen Nevers,

Hi Shoshana = Thank you so much for your kind comments and for sharing these words! I love that one about complaining all day. It’s SO SO SO easy to let a single, small thing throw off your whole day or week or month. I like your idea about not visiting those places that pull us down. Thank you for sharing!

Leah Day,

thank you for sharing, we don’t know each other really, but i can totally relate to what you’re saying, and absolutely appreciate your courage in sharing it up front, in public, scary, but exhilarating!
i once saw a poster that had a huge picture of a baby on it, the caption was, “be who you is, cause if you be who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is”.
i also recently saw on the computer, and i just don’t remember where or i would link it back to the correct person, a quote that said, “was it really a bad day, or was it a bad few minutes that you complained about all day?” so much of where we “are”, is only imagined in our own heads, why waste going places, scary places, fearful places, sad, down places, that we don’t have to visit in the first place. i love what you’re doing, thank you

shoshana ,

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