Birds of a Different Color: Copyright  1999 Caryl Bryer Fallert Birds of a Different Color
Printable version

AQS 2000: Best of Show, $18,000 Purchase Award

  • Copyright 1999 Caryl Bryer Fallert
  • Size:  93" x 74"
  • Techniques: Hand dyed and painted, machine pieced, and quilted
  • Materials: 100% cotton fabric • batting: 80% cotton / 20% polyester
  • Owner:  The National Quilt Museum of the United States , Paducah, KY 

See details of quilt, design, concept, and construction below
Larger image


Design concept

This is one of a series of quilts about birds as symbols of freedom and the joy if life. In this quilt the birds are very abstract, and function as graphic design elements. The forms are intentionally ambiguous, so that each viewer can use her/his own experience with birds to guess their species. Even the number of birds in the quilt is subject to interpretation.

The colors represent the spectral colors of refracted light The darker values of red and purple begin at the bottom of the quilt, and graduate through orange and yellow in the center to blue and green at the top.

The machine quilting was done with over 100 different colors of Madeira Poly-Neon thread. In the feathers of the birds the quilting is reminiscent of the traditional "Feathered Plume" quilting pattern.

On the back of the quilt is a single piece of cotton fabric, hand painted in a rainbow of colors, echoing the colors of the birds on the front of the quilt.

At the AQS show in 2000, the most frequently asked question was "How long did it take?"  This is not a simple question to anwser.  It took approximately two weeks (8-16 hours per day) to do the machine quilting.  It took approximately four weeks, full time, to piece it.  It took approximately one week to draw the design, and ten years to figure out how to draw the design.  Learning to make the quilt in this amount of time took twenty years of practice.

Click pictures for larger images
Birds of a Different Color:  Detail #3
Birds of a Different Color:  Detail #1
Birds of a Different Color: Detail #2
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Process and technical details:

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I began this design by drawing a number of abstract birds on paper. 

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Each bird drawing was scanned into the computer, and I spent several hours playing with various combinations of birds.  In addition to overlapping each other, the birds were mirror imaged, rotated, and resized to find a harmonious arrangement. 

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The arrangement I liked the best was printed out, and I continued the drawing by hand, filling in negative spaces, removing lines I didn't like, and adding connections.

The line drawing was rescanned and converted to a vector drawing using Adobe Streamline.  In Corel Draw, I colored the spaces between the lines in shades of black white and gray.  I used this value study as a guide as I chose the colors and values for this quilt. 

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The line drawing was printed onto acetate, and projected onto a large piece of paper (72" x 93") using an overhead projector.  Using a pencil, I drew the major design lines. 

The big drawing was then put on the floor of my studio and I spent several hours refining the drawing and making any changes necessary due to change of scale. I used this one original drawing as my actual pattern.  I don't make a second copy.  I feel that by using only the original I get very precise accuracy in piecing the templates together, and my quilt tops lie absolutely flat when they are complete.

I also drew in all the little orientation marks that would be needed  to accurately piece together the curved lines.  I used a permenant felt tip marker for this.  The marker soaks through the paper pattern, so the lines are visible on both sides.  The permenant marker (unlike a waterbased marker) does not transfer to the fabric when the pattern pieces are ironed to the back side of the fabric.
Here are the orientation lines on
the front of a section of the drawing
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Here  the orientation lines show through on
the back of the same section of the drawing
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spraytemplates.jpg (9294 bytes)The front side of the paper templates was sprayed with 3M Photo-Mount, a temporary, repositionable, adheasive. This allows the templates to cling to the back side of the fabric while they are being cut out, and pieced, and is easy to remove after the piecing is complete.  Since this product smells very toxic, and gets all over everything, I spray the templates on my dye table in my garage/outdoor, summer dye studio.   I'm very careful not to inhale any of the spray.


Constructing the Quilt:

Once the big drawing was complete, I hung it back on the wall, and began cutting it apart in sections.  Each shape was cut out with scissors and used as a template for cutting the fabric.  The fabric is cut " larger than the paper template.

The pieces were sewn together in each section as I went along, so they didn't get confused. When two or three sections were complete, I sewed them together into larger sections.

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I'm using my hand-dyed fabrics in every color of the rainbow and every value from very light to very dark. I  also pulled out lots and lots of multicolored painted fabric, and it's all in a jumble on the floor of my studio.  I need to have visual contact with it as I work.

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  Here are several of the fabrics I used to create graduated templates and visual texture in the quilt.

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Click here to see how the quilt grew on the wall of my studio from begining to end.

click pictures for larger images

Main gallery of the National Quilt Museum, Paducah KY

Permanent Home:


  • Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, (juried) Feb. 23-27, 2000, Williamsburg Marriott Hotel, Williamsburg, VA  (Third Place)
  • American Quilters Society Show 2000, (juried), Paducah, KY April 2000 (BEST OF SHOW)
  • Caryl Bryer Fallert: A Retrospective, New England Quilt Museum, Lowell, MA, August 20 - October 31, 2015
  • National Quilt Museum exhibition at Yokohama Quilt Time Festival 2019, Yokohama, Japan


  • The Paducah Sun, April 13, 2000, pp. A1 & A18
  • Southeast Missourian, April 15, 2000, p. 1A
  • American Quilter, 2000: Fall, BOTH COVERS, pp. 2,7,26,27
  • Hancocks Fabrics Catalog, Summer 2001
  • American Quilters Society Quilt Show & contest Video: BOTH COVERS
  • SOUTHERN LADY, 2000: Summer, pp. 85 & 87
  • American Quilters Society, Wall Calendar, AQS Books, 2001: BOTH COVERS
  • American Quilters Society, 2001 Show Poster (to see this poster, click here)
  • Weaving New Rhythms: Diary 2002, Rubicon Publishing Inc.,Ontario, Canada  (to purchase contact: contact@rubiconpublishing.com)
  • Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature, Baylor University Press, 2007, Cover & page 18
  • Skywest Magazine, September/October 2010 p. 22
  • American Quilters Society 25th Anniversary Show Poster, 2009
  • Textile Fiber Forum, 2015, #119, p. 19
  • AQS Catalogue of Show Quilts, 2019: Spring, p. 113, 117
  • Art Quilting Studio, Summer 2021, p. 51, FEATURE
Here are step-by-step pictures of the quilt top going together.
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Progress in August 1999

Scroll down for September update

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When I reached this point in mid-August, I sewed together several large sections. I'm about halfway finished with the piecing.  The process was interrupted at this point by a workshop in my studio, and another small project that needed to be completed by a September deadline.  I began working on the piecing again on September 9, 1999.

newbirdl12.jpg (4948 bytes) newbirdl13.jpg (4905 bytes) newbirdl14.jpg (5307 bytes) newbirdl15.jpg (5383 bytes)
newbirdl16.jpg (5677 bytes) newbirdl17.jpg (5698 bytes) newbirdl18.jpg (5951 bytes) New Bird Quilt - Finished quilt top Copyright © Caryl Bryer Fallert
click for larger image
Center of quilt top was finished on September 15, 1999. Quilting was completed in December, 1999.
Web Site Design by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry 1997-2022 All Rights Reserved
Bryerpatch Studio • 10 Baycliff Place • Port Townsend, WA • 98368 • USA
360-385-2568 • caryl@bryerpatch.com

Updated 05/17/2021