The simple use of a checkerboard worked into this FLYING SQUARES pattern is very similar to Japanese traditional patchwork design styles, for instance, Yamato kasuri igeta ("Yamato curb well"), as illustrated in JAPANESE QUILT BLOCKS TO MIX AND MATCH (p.48) by Susan Briscoe. (A "curb well" is a slab or grid, placed over the top, so as to prevent objects from falling into a well). The heightened-awareness color combinations here and the swirling black and white faux-fabric background are likewise Japanese.
The lone squares at the top and bottom of FLYING SQUARES would seem to represent the head and tail of a bird-form. The outermost squares, right and left, are its wings. Nevertheless, in order to create a sense of transcendence and flight, we need some sort of terrain beneath the squares, suggesting motion (see tiling below, like birds above water).
Most illustrations of FLYING SQUARES use a white or light-tinted ground, so these examples are a slight departure. There is no consensus in the quilt design compendiums as to which squares need to be dark vs. light, however. With FLYING SQUARES, in keeping with the name, just let your imagination soar. The basic pattern is dated back to the Ladies Art Company Catalogue, #233, 1897. The block was later reproduced in Nancy Cabot's column in the Chicago Tribune on July 7, 1933 (illustrated left). Cabot's remarks (the ellipsis is hers) are as economical as is the design itself, she says:
"FLYING SQUARES is a born and bred Midwesterner...claimed as a native by Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana. The credit cannot be placed more definitely than that. The pattern is a relatively new one in quilt history and an easy one to piece, even for the inexperienced."
CUBE LATTICE and
SQUARES UPON SQUARES, also
ON THE SQUARE and
More Japanese design-related blocks at this site include:
HANDCRAFT / HAND WEAVE,
and for some gorgeous and fun, Japanese fabrics, see AUNT PATSY'S PET.