Flying geese blocks, combined with the unique vintage motifs in the Eclectic Elements fabric collection, are what give this beautiful quilt its name. The variety involved is a quilter’s dream. You can isolate and piece together these interesting little bits into a wonderful collage. All the great shapes are also an inspirational bonanza for the final quilting. Sew4Home seamstress team member, Michele Mishler really went to town on our sample, outlining the clock faces and butterflies, and doing some great free-motion stippling in the solid areas. This is not a beginners quilt. If you have little or no quilting experience, you might want to first browse through our Project Index and start with some easier options. You could also review our five-part series on quilting basics that begins here with Tools, Notions and Other Stuff You Need to Start.
But if you’re already into quilting, this is a design you’re going to want to put on your list along with the Eclectic Elements fabric. We found a good selection of this delightful collection at Fabric.com, Fabric Depot and Hawthorne Threads.
There are a number of details that elevate this project to an intermediate skill level. As mentioned above, the design is based on a traditional block called “Flying Geese.” This block requires very accurate cutting and precise ¼” seams to avoid cutting off the points when sewn into the final arrangement. The flying geese units create complex corners where multiple seams come together. The finished size of the quilt requires a seamed backing, and finally, the quilting is done sampler style, using a variety of techniques for each fabric within the quilt top.
The fabrics we used are from the original Eclectic Elements collection of 23 designs, all of which are still being produced. This past spring, Tim Holtz and Coats debuted an additional 13 designs in Phase Two of Eclectic Elements.
The quilt finishes at approximately 45″ x 56″.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any sewing machine (we recommend the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900 QC)
- Quarter Inch Seam foot
- Walking Foot with Quilt Bar
- Free Motion Quilting foot
- Ditch Quilting foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
To get the look of our quilt, you need to use the same or similar fabrics to what we selected. Throughout the instructions, we will refer to the fabric by name. Below is a key to the fabrics.
We used the following NINE fabrics from the original Eclectic Elements Collection by Tim Holtz for Coats. Use our exact cuts or experiment with your own selections.
- ½ yard of Measurements in Taupe (you could also use a Fat Quarter)
- ½ yard of Subway Signs in Neutral
- ½ yard of Timepieces in Taupe
- ½ yard of Butterflight in Taupe (you could also use a Fat Quarter)
- ½ yard of Stamps in Neutral
- ½ yard of Travel Labels in Taupe (you could also use a Fat Quarter)
- ¾ yard of Documentation in Taupe
- 1¼ yards of French Script in Taupe
- ¼ yard of Ticking in Blue
We used the following TWO 44-45″ wide cotton fabrics from the Designer Solids Collection by Free Spirit Fabrics:
- 1½ yards of S29 Winter White
- 2¾ yards of S98 NuGray
Additional supplies needed:
- Twin size (72″ x 90″) pre-cut of low loft batting (what we used) or enough low loft batting yardage for a 47″ x 58″ minimum cut; we used Poly-Fil Low-Loft® Quilt Batting by Fairfield
NOTE: Batting comes in numerous sizes and shapes in packages and by-the-yard; we always give you notes on what we used as well as the minimum size needed should you wish to purchase yardage.
- All-purpose thread to match fabrics: we used ivory and medium gray
- 6″ x 24″ quilter’s ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- For quilt basting: large safety pins, basting spray or needle and thread; we used needle and thread
NOTE: For all the pieces, both the main cuts and all sub-cuts, take the time to fussy cut your fabric to center the motifs. If you are new to fussy cutting, check out our tutorial.
Remember, check the swatch guide above to identify each of the fabrics within the Eclectic Elements collection.
- From the Measurements in Taupe, cut ONE 9½” x 9½” square.
- From the Subway Signs in Neutral, cut ONE 5″ x WOF (width of fabric) strip, then sub-cut this strip into:
TWO 5″ x 14½” blocks
FIVE 5″ x 9½” blocks
- From the Timepieces in Taupe, cut ONE 9½” x WOF strip, then sub-cut this strip into TWO 9½” x 14½” blocks.
- From the Butterflight in Taupe, cut TWO 5″ x WOF strips, then sub-cut these strips into:
TWO 5″ x 14½” blocks
TWO 5″ x 9½” blocks
- From the Stamps in Neutral, cut ONE 9½” x WOF strip, then sub-cut this strip into:
TWO 9½” x 14½” blocks
ONE 9½” x 9½” square
- From the Travel Labels in Taupe, cut ONE 9½” x 9½” square.
- From the Documentation in Taupe, cut FOUR 5″ x WOF strips, then sub-cut these strips into SIXTEEN 5″ x 9½” blocks.
- From the French Script in Taupe, cut FOUR 5″ x WOF strips, then sub-cut these strips into:
SIX 2″ x WOF strips for the binding
SIXTEEN 5″ x 9½” blocks
- From the Ticking in Blue cut TWO 2″ x WOF strips, then sub cut these into:
ONE 2″ x 36½” strip
ONE 2″ x 9½” strip
- From the Winter White solid, cut EIGHT 5″ x WOF strips, then sub-cut these strips into SIXTY-FOUR 5″ x 5″ squares.
- The backing (the NuGray) and the batting will be cut during assembly.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Flying Geese Units
- Locate the thirty-two 5″ squares of Winter White, the sixteen 5″ x 9½” blocks of French Script in Taupe, and the sixteen 5″ x 9½” blocks of Documentation in Taupe.
- With a fabric marking pen or pencil, draw a diagonal line across each of the 5″ squares.
- Place one 5″ square on top of one 5″ x 9½” block, right sides together, carefully matching the top, bottom and side raw edges of both layers. The diagonal line should be oriented from the upper left to the lower right. Pin in place.
- Adjust your stitch length down to 1.80 mm.
- Stitch along the drawn diagonal line, taking care not to stretch the fabric as you sew.
- When this seam is stitched, return to your cutting mat and trim away the corner ¼” from the line of stitching.
- Press the seam as sewn, then press the corner away from the block.
- Place a second 5″ square on top of the opposite end of the block, again carefully aligning the outside raw edges of both layers. The diagonal line on this side should be oriented from the upper right to the lower left. The square will overlap the previous seam at the center.
- Sew along the marked diagonal line. Again, trim away the corner ¼” from the line of stitching.
- And as above, press the seam as sewn, then press the corner away from the block.
- This completes the first flying geese block.
- Follow these steps to create the additional 31 flying geese blocks – sixteen blocks in the French Script in Taupe and sixteen blocks in the Documentation in Taupe.
- The 32 finished flying geese blocks will be assembled into units as follows:
Two units of two flying geese
Four units of three flying geese
One unit of four flying geese
Two units of five flying geese
- When assembling the blocks into units, notice the point on each unit. It should be ¼” from the edge of the block. All the geese should be flying in the same direction and all are sewn with a ¼” seam, taking care not to sew into the point.
- Place a flying geese unit right side up and flat on your work surface. Place a second flying geese unit right sides together with the first. The point of the second unit should be facing the base of the first unit.
- Sew the units together with a ¼” seam. The line of stitching should go through the intersecting lines of stitching at the point but not into the point itself.
- The seam should be a needle’s width toward the seam allowance.
- Press each seam as sewn, then press the seam toward the base of the first unit. From the wrong side, all seams will be pressed in the same direction.
- Continue adding flying geese units to make the NINE units listed above.
Assembling the blocks
- The quilt is assembled by creating 12 large blocks, sewing these blocks into four quadrants, then joining the four quadrants and the one bottom strip to complete the quilt top.
- All seams are ¼” seams with a stitch length of 1.80 mm. Our Janome studio machines have an excellent Quarter Inch Seam foot, and most models have a similar presser foot. This specialty foot makes it much easier to keep the many ¼” seams precise and consistent.
- As stated above, assemble the large blocks, then join the blocks into the quilt top. Don’t forget to add the final Ticking strip along the bottom of the quilt. You will first need to stitch together the 36½” strip and the 9½” strip end to end, using a ¼” seam allowance to create the proper length for the finished Ticking strip.
- Press each seam as it is sewn and then press the seam in the desired direction.
- The direction in which the seams are pressed is VERY important when working with flying geese, because there will be intersections where the points of the geese come together with the intersections of the blocks. If your pressing is not precise, it can result in lumpy, mismatched intersections instead of crisp clean corners.
- The diagram below has arrows showing the seam allowance direction for each of the seams. This pattern of pressing will allow most of the intersections to “nest” into one another, which means the seams are pressed in opposite directions, allowing you to “push” them together as you sew and create perfectly matched intersections.
- The general rules for this method are: 1) press all seams away from the flying geese. There will be a few exceptions, but this general rule will create the smoothest seams, 2) press all 90° intersections so the seams lie in opposite directions, 3) for those few intersections where both seams lay in the same direction, carefully pin the intersection, making sure no points are cut off in the stitching.
Layering and basting
- The next step is to create a “quilt sandwich” with the backing, batting and quilt top.
- Due to the size of the quilt, our backing fabric has a horizontal seam; the length of the fabric will run across the width of the quilt. This width and length is important to remember if you choose to use a patterned fabric for the quilt back, especially if the print is directional. We chose a solid gray so it wasn’t really a problem.
- Cut the backing fabric (NuGray in our sample) into two 47″ lengths: one WOF (width of fabric or 44″ in our sample) x 47″ and the other 16″ x 47″. Remove the selvedges from each panel. Pin the panels right sides together along one 47″ edge and sew with a ¼” seam allowance to create a large panel 47″ x approximately 58″. Press the seam allowance open and flat to reduce bulk.
NOTE: Below, we show you our backing alternative, which included trimming each panel by approximately 4″ to allow a 9″ inset panel, which included leftover block fabrics as well as a Label Block.
- On a large work surface (sometimes just a clean patch on the floor is your best bet), place the backing fabric wrong side up. The next layer is the batting. Place it over the backing, keeping the layers as square and smooth as possible. Finally, add the quilt top, right side up. There should be at least 1″ – 2″ of batting showing around all the edges.
- The three layers of the quilt sandwich must now be basted together. Many quilters use temporary spray adhesives to layer their quilts. Another popular method is to pin the layers with safety pins. We chose a third option: hand basting. This makes the quilt layers very easy to handle, guarantees the layers will not shift while quilting, and removes any danger of accidentally breaking a needle where you’ve forgotten to remove a safety pin!
- Use a large hand sewing needle and thread in a bright contrasting color. Baste through all the layers with large stitches. We basted a line of stitching through the mid-section of the quilt in both directions, then midway across the upper and lower half of the quilt, midway along the left and right halves of the quilt, and finally, around the entire outer perimeter of the quilt, within the ¼” seam allowance.
- When the basting is complete, use a ruler and rotary cutter to trim away the excess batting and backing so there is just an even 1″ extra all around the quilt.
- We found a “kitty weight” was a good way to keep all your layers flat.
- Our Time Flies Quilt is machine quilted in a sampler style. The majority of the quilting is done with a Walking foot and straight line quilting, switching to free motion quilting in just the smaller, easier-to-manipulate areas.
- There are many styles of Walking feet available and well as Ditch Quilting feet. We used the wonderful Janome Horizon Memory Craft 8900 QCP for this project, which has the built-in AcuFeed Flex™ feeding system and a great open-toe Walking foot that allows you to see exactly where you are going. It also has a Quilt Bar, which can be added to the Walking foot to keep grid stitching even.
- Set the stitch length to a longer 2.80 mm length and stitch in the ditch until ALL the seams are quilted.
- We used an intersecting diagonal line grid on the Travel Labels in Taupe block. First mark a center line diagonally in both directions.
- Add a quilt bar to the walking foot and adjust the position of the bar 1¼” from the needle drop. Stitch along the marked center line, then continue adding parallel lines, using the quilt bar for spacing. Repeat for the opposite direction.
- Here’s a close-up of the finished Travel Labels in Taupe block.
- The Measurements in Taupe block comes with its own built in grid, so no marking is necessary. Quilt this block following the lines of the print.
- Here’s a close-up of the finished Measurements in Taupe block.
- The Subway Signs in Neutral blocks also have distinct parallel lines built in to the print. Quilt parallel lines following the dominate lines in each strip.
- Here’s a close-up of one of the finished Subway Signs in Neutral blocks.
- The Stamps in Neutral blocks also have dominate lines, but they are staggered. Quilt the horizontal parallel lines first, then quilt the vertical lines, jigging and jagging as necessary to match the printed divisions.
- Here’s a close-up of one of the finished Stamps in Neutral blocks.
- The blocks with the Timepieces in Taupe print are quilted by stitching circles around each of the clock faces. To minimize breaks in stitching, start at one end of a row of clock faces, stitch around half of the first clock face, then switch to the opposite side of the second clock face. Stitch half way around the second clock face, then switch to the opposite side of the third clock face. Stitch around the entire fourth clock face until you complete the circle. Continue stitching the remaining half of the third clock face, then the second clock face, then the first clock face, ending back at your starting point. Repeat for each row of clock faces.
- Here’s a close-up of one of the finished Timepieces in Taupe blocks.
- We changed to a Free Motion Quilting foot and lowered the feed dogs of the machine to complete the final blocks.
- Stipple quilting is used in all of the solid background triangles of the flying geese units. These are small areas, and you can plan your stippling so it starts and stops at the corners, allowing you to move on to the next area without breaking the line of stippling.
- Continue until all the background triangles are quilted. Here’s a close-up of one of the finished Flying Geese blocks.
- The last areas to quilt are the Butterflight in Taupe blocks. We free-motioned quilted around each butterfly shape, following the outline, then added loops and swirls between the shapes.
- Here’s a close-up of one of the finished Butterflight in Taupe blocks.
- Remove all the basting threads from the quilted areas, leaving the line of basting around the perimeter of the quilt. Place the quilt on a flat work area. Slide the cutting mat under the edge. With a quilter’s ruler and rotary cutter, trim the batting and backing even with the edge of the quilt top.
- Our sample quilt is finished with a ¼” French binding.
- Collect and assemble your 2″ binding strips end to end.
- Fold and press into finished binding and attach to the raw edge of the quilt.
- Stitch in place with a ¼” seam allowance…
- … making a pretty miter at each corner.
- We folded our binding to the back and hand-stitched it in place – the most traditional finish.
NOTE: If you are new to binding, we have an excellent tutorial: Complete Step-By-Step For Binding Quilts & Throws.
- Quilts are treasured gifts, and are frequently passed from generation to generation. As an heirloom, it’s nice to add a label to your quilt. For our sample quilt, we used blocks of the leftover fabric to make a 9″ pieced strip and incorporated an embroidered label into the pieced strip.
- The strip was sewn between the two lengths of backing fabric and aligned to the seams of the quilt top using a stitch and flip technique. If using this alternative, make each of your backing panels 4″ narrower. Their length remains the same (47″).This pieced strip was added before quilting. Then, all excess batting and backing is trimmed to 1″ of excess all around when sandwiched, then trimmed flush prior to binding as described above.
- The back view also shows our intricate quilting. The quilt is almost as pretty from the back as from the front!
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Quilting Stitch Design: Michele Mishler
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler