Free Stylin', Spiralin' & Flyin' Geese

In addition to the Michael Miller Our Yard Fabric Challenge, QuiltCon West 2018 will feature another fun quilt challenge:  The American Patchwork & Quilting Flying Geese Challenge!  MQG members were challenged to modernize a traditional flying geese block by creating a quilt of any size that uses modern quilting elements (modern color palettes, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, alternative grid work, scale, etc).

Improv piecing spiral squares & rectangles proved to be lots of fun and my brain was definitely spinning with new spiral design variations including triangles.  I raided my basket of ombre fabrics and chose Pointillistic Palette 2 collection designed by Debra Lunn & Michael Mrowka for Robert Kaufman.  These fabrics feature selvedge to selvedge gradient color changes which are beautifully brilliant against a solid black backdrop!
Technicolor Triangles
Constructing the triangles was lots of fun, especially as I explored using different ends of the ombre fabrics.  Once I had amassed a collection of 10 triangle spiral units, it was time to start working out possible layouts.  My design wall proved to be invaluable as I explored a range of layout possibilities.  Some were fairly traditional flying geese designs but needed a more modern twist, whereas others were quite exciting but didn't quite reflect the flying geese tradition.
Triangle Tryouts

With less than a week until the entry deadline, I desperately needed to finalize the layout and complete the construction of my quilt top (and complete the remaining phases of quilting/finishing!)  One of the layouts that appealed to me most was when I interlocked the warm & cool colored triangles into a vertical row, so I began to refine this design.  A rainbow confetti print was swapped out for a more modern solid black background.  Ombre strips were chopped up and transformed into improv pieced flying geese units that march from the edges into each of the large triangle spirals.  Oh and did I mention that I had a limited amount of solid black fabric available to work on two concurrent quilt challenges?!?
Triangle Transformation
So let's review the modern quilting elements checklist:

  • Modern Color Palette...check!
  • Improvisational Piecing...check!
  • Minimalism...check!
  • Expansive Negative Space...check!
Yikes!  That sure is a lot of wide open negative space in need of a quilting plan!  Immediately I knew I had to break up the space and began by stitching in some large spiral triangles.  Here is where I learned firsthand that for whatever reason (chemistry, physics, or possibly astrology for all I know?!?) that solid black fabric seems to repel my trusty blue painter's tape!  After carefully marking my triangle design, I would return to the sewing machine to find all the tape had completely lifted up off the surface!  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  It was time to break out my bright green roll of Scotch Masking Tape for Hard-to-Stick Surfaces 2060, perfect for concrete, brick, grout or solid black fabric!  Careful handling was still required but I was able to use the tape over and over to mark out three large floating triangles.  Aurifil 50 weight threads were used to stitch out the triangle spirals and fill in with pebble quilting:  Spring Green (1231), Turquoise (2810) and Fuchsia (4020).  I still had a lot of background area to fill in so I sketched a few flowing wavy lines that were then stitched in with metallic threads adding in some sparkle.        

Triangle Textures
In addition to running low on solid black fabric, I was also playing a game of chicken with my remaining spool of Black Aurifil (2692) and I had less than 48 hours until the QuiltCon entry deadline!!  So I continued to add some more bling to my background by adding five smaller triangles that were also stitched in metallic thread with smaller escargot spirals.
Breaking Up the Background and Running Low on Black Thread
As I added more stitched designs to the background space, I had to be careful not to detract attention from the pieced triangle spirals or flying geese units.  So after 3 large triangle spirals, 4 sets of wavy trails and 5 small silver triangles, it was time to tackle the remaining background area. Only a 1/5th of the background had been quilted before I ran out of the black thread.  A phone call to the nearest quilt shop to confirm they had some in stock, followed by a quick road trip, lunch break with my small quilt group and 2.5 hours later, I was back at my machine stitching pedal to the metal!!  After 4 hours, I took a much needed break to attend an evening appointment.  Shortly after midnight I managed to complete the last of the quilting, much to my aching body's relief.  I proceeded to trim up my quilt, add a label & sleeve and binding before heading to bed around 3:30 AM!!  I managed to squeeze in a few hours of sleep before waking up around 7:30 AM to take pictures in the morning light.
Detail of Quilted Textures
Free Stylin', Spiralin' & Flyin' Geese, Finishes 47" x 52"
While the photo shoot went well, writing my Artist Statement was a real struggle!  Hmmm...could my inability to hold an idea much less articulate a coherent sentence have anything to do with sleep deprivation?!?  Luckily I had some moments of clarity after a much needed nap to draft my statement and submit with 6 hours to spare!

Artist Statement:
Triangles take flight, twist, twirl and twinkle in this technicolor flying geese remake.  Beautifully brilliant ombre fabrics are improvisationally pieced into spirals and flying geese units that radiate against the black backdrop.  Free-motion quilted triangles dance throughout the negative space adding another pop of color, sparkle and texture.


  1. I love this design, the spiral triangles are awesome and the quilting adds the perfect extra detail.

    1. Thank you Cheryl--I am hoping to spend some time in the studio today making more free stylin spirals as they are sooo much fun!!

  2. Mel, I didn't realize you made this quilt from smaller triangles. Wow. What a masterpiece.

    1. It is entirely pieced...improv pieced using a variety of techniques and shapes. I had no idea how it would evolve but really happy with the end result!!

  3. Brilliant combination of design and color! Very complimentary quilting. Love how you got there. Great job.

    1. Thank you Sharon. In this case, running low on black thread really pushed me to find creative ways of breaking up the negative space and add some exciting quilted elements. So glad I got there and happy with the finished result!!


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