Don’t Let the Process Overtake the Purpose

Narrow Mountain cliffside road

So here’s a dream story. I was driving someone home on a cliffside road, maybe it was the side of a dormant volcano or something–things are awfully hard to pin down in dreams.  The road was carved into the side of a mountain and kept getting more and more narrow until I felt I had only about two wheels on the road, but somehow didn’t fall down the mountain.  I could see the village in the valley below, and the person in the front seat kept yakking on and on like there was nothing unusual, and I’m like, “Hey! There’s no road here!”

Leap of Faith Indiana Jones

And as only dreams can do, it suddenly got worse when a car was coming the other way and I’m like “Are you nuts?  I’m not pulling over. . . I’ll grind right into the mountain.” And the oncoming car got closer and closer and I was sure I was going to be killed–because it was a dream, and that’s how dream things go.


I woke into that lucid dreaming sleep place, where you are half in and half out, and thought of that scene from Indiana Jones, where he had to take a step of faith, and then discovers that the land bridge is there, only he couldn’t see it.  I focused on that, trying to stop being so frightened about there being no road, when it suddenly dawned on me that this was all about The Quilt.  The one that has been done since MAY and the one that’s been hanging in the closet, as I was too frightened to start quilting it.  I just didn’t know how, didn’t know if I was up to it.  I had already purchased all the thread in two separate trips up to Utah’s Superior Threads, so it wasn’t like I didn’t have my supplies.

Colorwheel Blossom Quilt Top

I did this-and-that all morning, still avoiding The Quilt.  And at lunch I was reading the New York Times and found an interview with Janet Elkin, with the words from this post’s title: “Don’t let the process overtake the purpose.”  She went on to say that when she motivates her employees, instead of focusing on the negative, she says “Let’s talk about how we’re going to get better.  Let’s get started.”  I ripped out that article and went right upstairs and pinned it to my design wall where I could see it.  It was time to get started.

Quilting Ideas

When I’d taken my class this summer at San Diego, Sue Rasmussen, the teacher, recommended finding ideas even in clothing.  I had drawn up a small sketch of an idea some time ago, and in another “ah, ha” moment, recognized it as being from the skirt I was wearing that day.  So I pulled out that skirt, traced a quarter of my quilt onto tracing paper and started sketching some ideas in pencil, going over them in ink when I liked them.

Colorwheel Quilt_sketch

Although it took me a while to realize this, a lot of free-motion quilters use drawn shapes to help them get the quilting done, so I made some templates of repeated shapes and laid them out on my quilt.  I used a blue wash-out marker to trace them, as I wanted them to stay on the quilt for while, giving myself a road map. I kept saying to myself that I had let the idea of quilting this quilt — the process — get in the way of my vision of a finished quilt — the product.  The universe had delivered two strong messages to me, so finally it was time to get going.

Colorwheel Quilt_petals1

I drew on the design with a purple disappearing marker for the inner petals, found the threads, and stitched those.  Big breath. Keep going.

Colorwheel Quilt_petals1a

I have NO confidence whatsoever in my ability to free motion quilt feathers, even though I have drawn them out about a billion times.  So I drew on that next set of petals, found the threads and quilted those and before quitting for the day, I buried all my threads, using the new method taught to me by Sue Rasmussen.

Colorwheel Quilt_petals2

I matched up the colors for the outer petals this afternoon, but even though I’d made a sketch of what I wanted, I needed another road map.

Colorwheel Quilt_petals template

So I made  another template, and drew that on.

Colorwheel Quilt_petals3

Tonight before I stopped, I had finished up all the colorful petals of my Colorwheel Blossom.  Of course, I’m not out of the woods yet, because I feel like another cliffside road is coming up for the quilting of the white part, but I will go forward in faith, trusting that I’ll figure it out as I quilt.  I appreciate all the encouragement I’ve received from the IG crowd; their enthusiastic comments help to propel me forward.  Lastly, I don’t know if any of my quilts  will ever be “show-quilt” worthy, but I will have tried something hard for me, and traveled down a new road.

driving into the sunset

Sometimes that’s enough.

16 thoughts on “Don’t Let the Process Overtake the Purpose

  1. It’s going to be fantastic….i just know it! Keep going! I loved this post….oh, and i have been on a road like the one in that first picture….somewhere in the Rocky Mountains!

  2. Your quilting is looking amazing. I can really identify with your fears. The possibility of ruining a quilt with my FMQ, that I have spent months making, can make me feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights! Can’t wait to see yours finished!

  3. I can totally relate. My post for tomorrow is such a quilt!! It’s been sandwiched for months. Clients’ quilts came and went as did many other projects. I NEED to get at this one……START TODAY and just do it!!!! Yours looks amazing!!! Judi Madsen put out a book “Quilting Wide Open Spaces” (and others have similar)……breaking down those large areas. BUT the question remains “how”? Experience and practice! I needed your post!!!! LOL!!! Way to go………

  4. I think that fear is what keeps many of us from making that leap. I’m so glad that you have started and it is looking fabulous. Each section is unique and so detailed. Very nice!

  5. Well done! Like what you have done so far. So many of us never start something for fear of not doing it “right”. But once started, somehow it all comes together. Will be eager to see what comes next for the outer areas.

  6. After seeing your opening picture of the car on the cliff, I wasn’t sure I could read this post. Yikes. However, I’m glad that I did. You have some great insights into quilting/life here, and though I’m not really a quilter, your message applies to me inn many ways. Thanks for sharing, and good luck with mapping out the finished product. It’s AMAZING so far!

  7. There is such a road, the “road to Hana” on the island of Maui, and we traveled it totally by mistake and will remember it forever! And we built a house, by ourselves, and 20 years it’s still standing and centering us and we got it done “one foot in front of the other”. I love the process you’re following, one petal at a time, one section at a time and with each one gaining more confidence. It looks grand so enjoy the process and when it’s done, I’ll hear your “whew!!!” from the East Coast!

  8. Most of my projects hover in that state half way through. I think the attraction of an unfinished quilt is that it still has the potential to be perfect. Sometimes it’s the attraction of the never started quilt! It’s much easier to keep the image of the perfect quilt in your head than to be brave enough to risk trying to realize it. Yours is turning out so beautifully, good on you for powering on!

  9. Great going, Elizabeth. My heart is still beating rather fast after that opening picture. Have not driven on a road like that, but I was reminded of a train trip through the Austrian and N. Italian Alps when I was in college. All of the compartments were on one side of the car; the other side was corridor with windows from about hip level up. I could look out the window and see nothing except what was waaaayyyyy beneath me. An experience I’ll never forget. But, back to quilting. Love what you are doing, one bit at a time, drawing maps where you need them, gradually reducing to landmarks by your farthest, largest petals. Having gotten this far, I’m quite sure you’ll confidently do the background, with just a few high points and landmarks noted. And it will be grand!

  10. A further comment on burying threads. Would like to know what method you use. I use the self-threading needles (with a slit in the top you just slide the thread down into). I leave all the threads on top, I can just put the needle in right where the stitching ends, pop the thread into the needle, and bury.

  11. Such good counsel. You made groundbreaking progress when you created the quilt top. Instead of being afraid you might ruin what you’ve done so far, and staying stuck in the unfinished, keep forging ahead! I get it!
    I think what you’ve done so far with your FMQ is lovely, and that it complements the quilt top design very nicely.

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