Do you even KNOW how much I love linen fabric and flying geese quilts? It is a true, undying love. From the depths of my heart. For real.
So it shouldn’t have taken this long to combine the two into one fabulous, epic quilt. But in truth, it took me forever to decide to make a linen flying geese quilt. First I had to be inspired by some of the many fabulous, similar quilts out there. Meghan’s Jawbreaker quilt was a good catalyst, as was this one. But then I saw the most perfect linen flying geese quilt on Instagram, and decided to model mine after it. I would love to insert a link here to show you this amazing quilt, but to my incredible frustration, it seems to have completely disappeared from the Internet. Gargh!
Starting from scratch
Given that I had no pattern to work from, I had to make some decisions. I had to decide how big I wanted the quilt to end up as well as the size of the FG blocks. I chose to make bigger flying geese blocks (so there would be fewer of them), and landed on a block size of 3″ x 6″. The layout is 24 x 11 blocks, which means the quilt finishes at 72″ by 66″. To me, this is a great size of quilt for cuddling on the couch. It’s big enough for one person, but not so big that you feel you have to share! 🙂
I’m good at math and enjoy the puzzle of figuring out how best to use my fabric in order to minimize waste, but these flying geese blocks were a challenge. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t quite fit an extra set of FG blocks into my fat quarters. I resigned myself to the fact that there would be some leftover fabric at the end, and decided I’d use it for a future project. It remains to be seen whether I actually make this quilt or not!
Finding the right fabric
Wanting to create one similar to the one on Instagram, I searched Canadian online fabric shops for bundles. I knew I wanted it to be very linen-heavy, and immediately fell in love with the Mountain Lake bundle from Stacked Fabric Company. Then for some reason, I also bought the Lady Lavender bundle. Guys, I am not a purple person so this was a bit weird for me. I guess I really liked the grays and lighter coloured fabrics?? In any case, there were a variety of Essex linen fabrics which added oh-so-much texture.
I also bought a PILE of quarter yard cuts from Thread Count Fabrics (lots more linen and some coordinating prints). After all my shopping, I ended up with 36 FQ / quarter yard cuts. That’s a lot of fabric! 9 yards! It killed me that I had to buy so much, but I was very happy with the variety of prints and textures. And don’t forget that I tried REALLY hard to make the cutting as efficient as possible.
I will admit that I wasn’t in love with this fabric pull in the beginning. It wasn’t exactly what I was picturing in my mind when I began the project. I was worried it was “too purple” for my tastes. But I bought a bunch of purple fabric, so I’m not sure what I thought was going to happen – that it would change colour when it arrived at my house? Not wanting to buy MORE fabric, I decided to carry on with the project, despite my reservations about the palette.
Flying geese method
My favourite method of making flying geese blocks is the four-at-a-time, no waste method. If you want to see the math I use to make slightly oversized blocks (and then trim down), you can check out my post about the North Star Quilt I made last year. With this method, you need one large square for the “geese”, and four smaller squares for the “sky”. This produces four flying geese blocks. I find this method works really well for me because it minimizes waste, while ensuring I get precise results. Win win!
From each FQ / quarter yard, I was able to cut enough fabric to make eight flying geese blocks. And here’s where I normally struggle in my quilt making process. I often doubt my ability to pair fabrics in a way that will create an impactful quilt top. You know how some people have really mastered this skill? And their quilts just knock your socks off when you look at them? That’s some thing I’m trying to improve on. I’ve even signed up for a class (or two) on this at QuiltCon 2020.
Maybe one day colour play will be more natural to me, but for now I’ve developed some strategies to help me take a more systematic approach to colour management.
For this quilt, I sorted my fabric into five “colourways” (dark greys, light greys, blues, purples, and pink / browns). Then I arranged them according to value (dark to light). When it came time to pair up the “goose” and “sky” squares, I approached it in this manner: I picked a large goose square and paired it with four sky squares from a different colourway, trying to have different values (ie if I picked up a dark purple “goose”, I would pair it with a light “sky” in a different colourway – either gray, blue, or pink). Does that make sense? I hope so. My goal was to have enough contrast between the goose and the sky so that each block would pop. I think I did pretty well with this linen flying geese quilt, which I’m very proud of!
Piecing 264 linen flying geese quilt blocks
Then the sewing began. Wanting really precise results, I chose to do all my piecing with my Juki TL 2010-Q sewing machine. I diligently pieced my many MANY flying geese blocks using chain piecing method. I’ll admit that while chain piecing is very efficient, it can get a bit boring at times. Especially when you’re dealing with 264 of the SAME block! In order to keep my motivation up, I would sometimes pull a block out of the production line, finish it, and tape it to the wall above my sewing machine. That’s my secret to getting things done without becoming so bored that I to want to stop working on a project.
As per usual, I trimmed my linen flying geese blocks with my Bloc Loc ruler. This tool makes it so EASY to get precise results, plus the resulting fabric confetti is pretty to look at!
Blocks become columns become a top!
When I had allllll the flying geese units made, I sewed them into blocks of four (stacked four high), and then began the challenge of laying them out into columns. Do you see how I arranged the blocks so that the sky of one set of blocks bleeds into the goose of the next block? That made for some interesting layout challenges. I had to not only balance contrast and colours, but also not run out of any particular blocks! Magically, the layout worked the first time, and I was able to make 11 columns no problem. If I tried this again in the future, I would make some extra blocks in order to have a bit of wiggle room.
I sewed my columns together, and and then arranged (and re-arranged) the layout in order to maximize the impact. I tried so many different combos that I couldn’t tell you if I ended up with the first layout I tried, or the 25th. In the end I was happy with how it looked, and that’s all you can really hope for. I think it’s good for me to realize that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” layout, and that I could potentially keep rearranging for the rest of my life and never be completely happy. It’s best for me to just be “happy enough” and move on to the next step.
The next step for me was longarming this beast. Did I mention that I chose to back it with an extra-wide (90″) Minky? I wanted this to be a heavy quilt that would hold me down when I snuggled under it. Boy, did I succeed! Paired with a layer of Quilters Dream Blend batting, this was a THICK quilt. So thick that it turned out to be quite difficult to longarm.
Since purchasing a long arm in 2018 and starting my business in 2019, I have learned a LOT about my machine and how to handle different types of quilts. Prior to this linen flying geese quilt, I was feeling great about my skills and how to get great results. But thennnnnnnnnnn I tried to quilt this thing, and holy moly did it kick my ass.
I had so. many. thread. breaks. So many that I was starting to think that I knew nothing about longarming. So many that I was contemplating setting the machine on fire and walking away. ? It was dark days.
I took PAGES of notes as I tweaked a setting, tried it out, saw that it didn’t fix the problem, experienced another thread break, fixed the thread break, tweaked another setting, and repeated the cycle. There was a period of three days when I had to step away from the machine. I was too mad. I refused to even go into the basement, because it would mean I’d have to see the quilt, and then I would get angry. In the end my stubborn nature prevailed and I was able to find a solution to my problems, but it wasn’t easy.
Keeping it real
Why would I bother telling you about these difficulties? Because I’m pretty honest and open and I want you to understand that life is not all sunshine and roses over here. While the finished product is beautiful, it doesn’t tell the whole story. This experience was painful and I had to work really hard to figure it out. I’m proud of my problem-solving abilities, and I feel that I’ve grown as a person, quilter, and businesswoman as a result of this challenge. I’m now prepared to deal with this kind of quilt in the future, and have the confidence that I can figure out any problem going forward. Maybe it won’t be pretty or easy, but it can be done.
Anyways, back to this beautiful linen flying geese quilt. Once I had conquered the long arm quilting, I set about binding it in another Essex linen fabric. I attached the binding to the front of the quilt by machine, then hand-stitched it to the back for a more heirloom look. This is one of my favourite parts of the quilting process. I love to sit with the quilt and stare at all the pretty fabrics and textures as I stitch away. I’ve discovered that it’s particularly enjoyable to sit on our deck and stitch while I enjoy a glass of wine. Thank you summertime weather!
After spending so much time making this quilt, I wanted to capture a pretty picture of it. I asked Ian for some help in taking a photo in a nearby canola field that was blooming. You may remember that I took my first-ever outdoor quilt photo last fall with my Perfect Autumn Quilt, and it turned out to be quite an adventure. This experience was a little more tame but we did learn some valuable lessons. Namely: it helps to have a step stool and some strong muscles when holding up a quilt of this size (and weight!)
Ian was a really good sport about holding up the quilt “just a little longer”! 🙂 He really is my favourite human.
Since fishing it, this linen flying geese quilt has been living life to the fullest and has been getting some heavy use on the couch. It’s everything I dreamed it would be and more because I had to work so hard to get it to this point. I’m also really happy with the colours, and am glad that I stuck with the original fabric pull.
Moral of the story
Don’t give up just because something seems difficult / frustrating. Your hard work will make you appreciate the end result that much more. Also, it can be fun to work with colours that are not part of your normal repertoire. Who knew I would like this purple quilt so much?
As an aside: I never learn the morals of any of my stories are until I type them out here. Isn’t that funny? Writing these blog posts gives me time to reflect on my experiences and take a big-picture look at my process.
The joy of longarming
One really good thing about owning a long arm machine is that I was able to get this quilt finished (relatively) quickly. If I only had a domestic machine at home, I doubt I would have tried to quilt a project this thick or that was backed with slippery minky. It might have lingered in a closet for a long time (maybe forever).
If you have similar quilt that you’re concerned about finishing yourself, I’d love to help you out. Please check out my long arm services page to learn more about my process and to see if we might be a good fit. I’d be especially happy to help you with a minky-backed quilt (even if the the top is made out of thick linen), now that I know the secret to success!