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Rush Hour – Swallows

This piece was inspired by the yearly visit and occupation of our outbuildings by a group of Swallows.  Every year they arrive between March and May signalling the imminent arrival of summer.

Despite their small size, swallows travel further than almost all our summer visitors.  Those travelling from the Cape have a round trip of almost 20,000 kms.


Swallows have few predators as not many larger birds are agile enough to catch them.  Occasionally Hobbies or Sparrow hawks are successful.  As they gather ready to make their long journey south they congregate on wires with swallows from as far away as Scandinavia.  The majority leave in September/October signalling the start of autumn.

Swallows migrate by day at low altitudes, feeding on the wing.  Despite building up some fat reserves over the summer the long journey south across the Sahara is dangerous.  Migration is hazardous and many birds die from starvation, exhaustion and due to bad weather.

Migrating swallows cover 200 miles/day at speeds of 17-22 MPH.


I love the selection of fabrics for this piece, they are so bold and cheerful. I selected to use a grass patterned piece of fabric as the backing, as our swallows seem to swoop low over the ground rather than soaring against a blue sky.

This piece was to be only the second time I was to do a study in flight and I decided that I would attempt two birds because they were so small.  This was a risk as I was concerned one would be successful and the other weak – luckily both little chaps worked out well.


From my initial sketches I made a template from which to cut the individual colour.

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Above you can see the two birds pieced onto the backing fabric ready for stitching.  Their bold colours and striking tail feathers gave them a very strong outline.


The selection of cottons included reds, blues, greys and a surprising number of browns which were used on the underside of the wings.

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I usually start with the eye but due to the incredibly small size of this one I decided to leave the detail to the end, using hand stitching to get the reflection in the correct place.

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I really enjoyed creating this piece and feel it captures some of the energy of these little birds during their summer visits to our garden.

A limited edition Giclee print of ‘Rush Hour’ is available from my Website shop , please click here to view.

They truly are amazing little birds!


0 thoughts on “Rush Hour – Swallows”

    1. Thanks so much, its all practice and of course they can be as good. When I look back over what I have created since the journey started the early quilts are so different. Give yourself time and some space to experiment.