Leah Day's Dream Goddess - Hand Dyed Applique Art Quilt
Dream Goddess is a simple quilt that asks a very important question: what is the life you want to live?
The lesson of this quilt that I keep coming back to again and again is the power of your thoughts. What you think about every day affects how you feel. How you feel affects how you act. And how you act affects yourself, your family, and the world around you.
So in a very real way, your thoughts shape your reality.
The design of Dream Goddess was inspired by this simple truth. Essentially she is thinking and dreaming, and the landscape of her reality is sprouting out of her head. I wanted this reminder to focus on my thoughts and the world I wanted to build.
The problem is there are so many paths to choose from.
Should I focus on teaching and travel around the world? Should I stay home and focus on my family? Should I focus on creating new designs or new quilts?
Life gives us lots of choices, but many people are so caught up in just working from day to day, month to month that it's easy to lose sight of how much time is passing.
Creating this quilt has given me a lot of opportunity to search my heart and mind for the answers. It's also been a long enough process that I've been able to test a few ideas and learn first hand if they worked for me or not.
Ultimately I found while quilting this quilt that the peaceful face of Dream Goddess held the answers the entire time: I want to live a peaceful, contented life. I want to build a life that supports my creativity and allows me to share it with you. I want to be home with my family where I feel secure and stable.
When working on this quilt, I continually tap into the question - what life do you want to live? Why are you not already living that life?
The answer is always interesting.
Dream Goddess is a beautiful combination of two things I love: goddesses and landscapes. When designing the quilt, I began with a sketch of the goddess face, but got a bit stuck on the background above her head.
It took a few weeks to complete the sketch when I suddenly saw her layers of hair transformed a landscape complete with rising sun (a continually repeating motif in my quilts).
Selecting the Fabrics and the Applique Process
For this quilt, I immediately saw bold, bright colors so I knew I would construct the quilt from multiple fabrics using some sort of applique technique. Because I was just getting into hand dyeing fabric at the time, I decided to dye all the fabrics for the quilt. I cut the pieces much larger than the applique shapes needed and hand dyed the pieces specifically for the individual area of the quilt.
In this video I was at the halfway point with hand dyeing the fabric and placed the pieces on the master pattern to check them:
Once the dye was rinsed out completely, I constructed a huge pattern from freezer paper and constructed the quilt top using Ann Holmes's No Sewing Until You Quilt It method of applique. This is my favorite method of applique for large, flowing shapes like the ones in this quilt.
Here's a video I shared at the time of the big reveal - a fun feature of this technique!
Quilting the Dream Goddess Quilt
After constructing the quilt top, I took a few weeks to create the quilting design. This design was unusual because I marked it almost entirely from the surface using quilting rulers, templates, and stencils.
This was also the first time I stopped limiting my designs out of fear of what other people would think. My rules for the design was - your first choice is the right choice. This helped me stop censoring my ideas and allow the quilting design to come together naturally.
After marking the quilting design, I basted one layer of batting on the quilt and quilted the outlines of the designs with water soluble thread. After quilting, I clipped the batting away so it just rested in the spaces I wanted puffy. This process is called trapunto and it's an excellent technique for adding drama to your quilts.
You can learn how to do trapunto like this in the Heart & Feather Wholecloth Workshop.
When thinking about the quilting design, I wanted the fabric colors to shine through, but the quilting to stand out on the surface too. Eventually I realized the best color for all the quilting was white.
Had I matched the thread color to the fabric color the quilting design would be lost in the quilt. Had I contrasted the color, the effect would have been too busy. Quilting with white thread was the perfect balance and simplified the quilting process because I only had to wind white bobbins. Simple is always better!
Long Quilting Process
Dream Goddess was constructed in only a few weeks, but the quilting process has now stretched into three years. During this time our business has changed and I've become very busy managing the Machine Quilting Block Party and creating new quilt patterns each month.
Along the way, I found my dedicated quilting time shrinking significantly. I also changed machines multiple times while quilting Dream Goddess and the process of testing and learning the machine has also been time consuming.
This has been another lesson from the quilt - to open my schedule for more quilting time every day. I originally started my business so I would have time to quilt every day.
Another thing I've discovered is the value of minimalism. I've been quilting since 2005 and collected a vast amount of fabric, quilting supplies and gear, tools, and unfinished projects.
All this stuff often gets in my way and the clutter and chaos often prevents me from quilting. It has been a hard lesson, and one that will take lots of time and energy to correct as I clean and clear out my sewing spaces.
I've learned that it's easy to buy stuff, and it does feel good. But buying isn't the same thing as creating. More stuff doesn't scratch the itch that sitting down and quilting this quilt fulfills.
I'm sure there are more lessons from Dream Goddess that I will discover as I finish quilting the sky section of this quilt. Here's one more video on how I'm quilting the feathers in this section:
This video was shot on the Grace Qnique 14, my new sit down longarm. You can find more videos about quilting on a table mounted longarm right here.
I'm sure there are more lessons Dream Goddess will teach me as I near the end of this quilting process. I'll be sure to keep you updated!