Release Your Light

Machine quilted quilt Release Your Light

Completed July 2009 - 77.5" x 77.5"

Release Your Light began with a dream.

In November 2008, I was laying in bed, feeling pretty sorry for myself and (I'll admit it) wallowing in self-pity. I can't quite explain WHY I was feeling so bad at that time simply because I'm not really sure myself.

I think the main reason I was upset is because I felt frustrated and limited by what I had designed in The Duchess. It was in a difficult stage and I was bursting to try something new.

I felt so filled with creativity, but couldn't use it because I was in neck deep with a quilt I wouldn't finish for 3 more months.

Suddenly I saw this image of a woman bursting with light and creativity. In her hands, she held a ball of light: her creativity. Her light was so bright, it blocked out everything.

I began to hum the song "This Little Light of Mine" that I often sing to my little boy, and I began to get chills! I was so overwhelmed with the image and how much love and power was surging through my body while I thought of it.

I began to change the words of the song until they felt just right:

This little light in me,
I'm gonna set it free,
This little light in me,
I'm gonna set it free,
Set it free,
Let it be,
Set me free.

While this whole experience may sound very weird, it was one of the most powerful and dramatic of my life.

I see the figure as a representation of all people. We are all so creative, it's bursting to get out of us! Set it free by trying: sing, dance, paint, quilt - whatever you need to do in order to live a more open and creative life.

I wanted to start this quilt immediately, but I knew that if I stopped working on The Duchess, I might never finish it. I drew the design and hung it in my studio so I could look at it every day.

After completing The Duchess, I began to design Release Your Light. My method of designing is a little odd. I use large graph paper that I tape together with masking tape until it feels the right size. This can get me into trouble, and it certainly did in this situation!

I wanted the central figure to be the dominate aspect of the quilt, so I started with a very big piece of graph paper. This became a problem because I kept having to tape more and more paper to the quilt as it expanded. Pretty soon, my paper design was covering every inch of my 8 ft x 9 ft table and this was only 1/4 of the quilt!

I knew I needed to resize the quilt then, but didn't want to. Call it laziness, call it being stubborn, I knew I wanted this quilt to be BIG!

I decided to hand appliqué the body and hair of the goddess to the center of the quilt.

Production on Release Your Light slowed to a crawl as I worked on other quilts and projects and hand appliquéd only when I had nothing better to do.

It took 2 months to finish the hand appliqué and by that point I had realized that I really didn't like the effect it gave to the quilt. The next time I try an appliqué project, I plan to try machine applique with invisible thread.

Regardless, I was at a point where I had to decide whether I was going to appliqué the rest of the rays or not. I decided that would probably not see this quilt finished before my son (who's 2) graduated from college if I hand appliquéd all the flames and rays.

So I made the huge leap in judgment to forget appliqué and instead just paint the quilt top with Shiva Paintstiks! I'd gotten the idea from the book "Quilts of a Different Color" by Irena Bluhm and really wanted to try the technique.

Another lesson I learned from this quilt: ALWAYS TEST YOUR TECHNIQUES.

I didn't test how long it would take or how much paint I would need to cover this gigantic quilt with paintstiks. I just assumed (wrongly) that painting would be easier than appliqué!

So the quilt top was sandwiched and I began quilting. Because I was going to paint the top, I chose not to use trapunto.

This means that the whole quilt, almost every inch of all 77 inches square had to be quilted with dense filler stitching.


Here is a photo of the quilt before it was painted, but after more than 400 hours of dense filler quilting:

I found myself using Stippling in the body center, McTavishing in the circle background, Stippling again in the first set of red triangles.

By the time I got to the outer set of flames, I was so sick and tired of these two designs, I wanted to stitch anything else!

I spoke to a quilting friend about it and bemoaned the fact that I really couldn't stitch the other two designs I knew, Pebbling and Paisley. I struggled to quilt these designs and besides, they didn't really match with the them of the quilt.

She responded with the question "Why don't you take Paisley and change it a bit?"

This single question changed this quilt and my life! I immediately started playing with the Paisley design and eventually came up with Flame Stitch.

Here is a close up of the dense microstippling and flame stitch used in the ray before it was painted.

I also decided to make Release your Light my very first 2 sided quilt. This is a photo of the back side of the quilt: