American Patchwork and Quilting’s Challenge for QuiltCon 2018 was Flying Geese. The prompt asked participants to modernize a traditional flying geese block with any variation, and make it into a modern quilt using modern quilting elements. Finished quilts could be any size. That is a generously open challenge!

As artists, we often stare at blank canvases or design walls and think, “I want to create, but where do I start?” I love prompts like these that have a clear starting point, where a solution and a finished quilt are required (and a deadline is attached!).

For those of you wondering what “modernizing” could mean, here is a non-exhaustive list that the challenge suggested:
  • Using modern color palettes including high contrast and graphic areas
  • Improvisational piecing
  • Minimalism
  • Expansive negative space
  • Alternate grid work
  • Scale

To me, in the broadest sense, modern quilting allows you to break any and all of the rules you might associate with the craft. I used what could be considered a “modern colour palette” – a monochromatic neutral scheme in grayscale. For the challenge, I wanted to create flying geese without constructing any flying geese blocks. I have always been fascinated with origami and how two-dimensions can become three through folds. Pin tucks achieve this in fashion but, not being a garment sewist, I never had a reason to try them. When you pull pin tucks in a certain way, you can get triangles that look like a flying geese.

For months, I had it in my head to make flying geese this way and even did some test in June. But with the busyness of the following months, I didn’t have time to work on it. On Instagram , some of you saw bits of the quilt come together at the eleventh hour. I started it 10 days before the QuiltCon deadline. I hemmed and hawed about starting it so late in the game, but I decided to take the plunge. There were many pieces in 2017 that I made for clients, or out of obligation, or in servitude to a pattern design. But this one was just about exploring new ideas, trying out some new techniques, and developing myself as an artist.

I didn’t have time to take the exploration much further than a very regular rhythm of geese in a row, but the final design was about flying buttresses in Gothic cathedrals with referred to another fabric manipulation in quilting — cathedral windows. I looked at a lot of historic architectural drawings of cathedrals and the design of the Flying Buttresses quilt reflects that aesthetic.

I tried to keep the overall layout simple. This was my first attempt at quilt-as-you-go panels. I constructed a row of geese in a strip with batting and backing attached right away. Then using strips of darker fabrics, I joined the panels together. It was a bit messy, but I ventured forward anyway, being mindful of my time.

I’m happy to say that this 25” x 24” piece will hang in the Flying Geese Challenge category at QuiltCon 2018 in Pasadena.