Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The amazing science of a Flying Geese

Hi all! How was your Thanksgiving weekend? I bet it was great, mine too! We were only four at our table this time but happy to be together and to count our blessings; and right now my biggest blessing is to still have my mom alive and living with me. Didn't I tell you that she will be 87 in a few days? Thanks Jesus for this privilege!! My son Alex took these 4 days off to upstate Florida for an amazing skydiving weekend. 

I spent most of these past days creating projects for my upcoming line Etno; it was a perfect weekend! I was looking at magazines for inspiration, to see what kind of quilts suit the line better. Looking at one Fons & Porter old magazine I saw a project using flying geese and how to do them quickly. Triangles could be perfect for Etno quilts, don't you think? 

Speaking flying geese, I've seen a few traditional construction methods over the years but it was the first time I saw this one, and I was sold the very first second! To get 4 flying geese units from 1 big rectangle and 4 small is... science; well, at least for me! LOL. 

My amazement was such that I started working right away to try it! I've posted some crafty pics on my Instagram account last two days and I couldn't wait to share with you this quick photo tutorial I took with my phone while doing them (sorry if the pictures are not perfect) However a quick tip, if you ever run out of memory on your phone, you can store your pictures on Shutterfly.

To start, I cut 1 big square of a print and 4 small solid squares that will be the background of the goose. In my case, it is 6" (for the print) and 3 1/4" (for the 4 white). I'll tell you why the 1/4" extra later below.

Draw a line across each of the white squares corner to corner with an erasable marker.

Position 2 of the 4 white squares on top of the big square (right sides together) aligning the edges. You can see that the squares overlap each other. It is ok to have them like this, they must overlap.

Stitch one seam on each side of the blue line 1/4" away. TIP: the edge of the presser foot has to be touching the line, to get a scant 1/4" seam. 

Cut (with a rotary cutter or scissors) the unit by the blue line. You should now have 2 separate pieces. Press open each of the pieces towards the solid fabric. You should have now 2 pieces that look like hearts.

Place on these "hearts" the remaining 2 white squares (one on each), aligning edges.

Sew again a seam on each side of the blue line 1/4" away (remember to place the edge of the presser foot on top of the line). Cut away both pieces by the blue line. 

Press seams open towards the white fabric and just like magic, you will have 4 flying geese units! 

I couldn't believe my eyes, because typically a flying geese uses a rectangle and two squares and are made one at a time. I found out that this way we don't waste the fabric we have to cut away when we place the squares on the rectangle (main method) and, you can see how much faster it is!

Now, to the numbers. I'm really so bad with math, but I wanted to figure out a way to calculate the sizes of the final geese if I wanted to make them in different sizes, or if there was a rule that help me to know ahead of time. Once more, I realized that math is not a thing for me! But I was cutting and sewing different sizes, and this is what I could figure out:

  • You need to cut the small squares half size of the big square plus 1/4" (to overlap). So, if the big square is 6", the four small squares have to be 3 1/4". If you cut a 10" big square, the four small squares must be 5 1/4" and so on.
  • The width of each of the resulting flying geese will be 3/4" less than the original big square size. In the case of a 6" big square, you will end up with a goose measuring 5 1/4" wide. 
  • I still couldn't figure out a rule for the length (how tall). I'm still experimenting, because some of the measurements are in eights of an inch. In the case of a 6" big square, it ended up measuring 2 7/8" tall. I'm sure that there are very math smart friends that can help us with this issue. Any volunteers?

There is no doubt why math is a science. I can also see that, at least in this case, quilting can be called a science as well... so hurray for flying geese -- many at a time! Hope you like it and let me know if you tried and what you think of this method. These flying geese look adorable with my Etno collection, but you can also play around with my other fabric designs. Can't wait to read your comments!

XO, Pat


  1. The first time I saw Patti Anderson's method I thought it genius. I always return to her calculations http://www.patchpieces.com/files/settingtriangles.pdf BTW, I was happy to see all the AGF now on Fabric.com It's great to have such a huge selection at hand.

    1. Oops - My previous link was incorrect. Please try this Geese link

    2. Hi Anita! Thanks very much for visiting my blog, it's such an honor. I went to that link and I was reading the instructions and diagrams. Fantastic! I'm so glad you could get my fabrics online now... hope to see one of the beautiful quilts you teach on Craftsy made with my fabrics. Send me a pic! xo,

  2. I am thinking your height (the length from the middle of the base to the tip of the geese is the length of one side of your small square before you sew it in and that length minus the two seam allowances (top and bottom), or minus 1/2" after it is sewn into a quilt, unless you decide to trim the goose and then it will depend how much you trim off. I use a different method and trim my geese a little to the size I want.

    1. Hi Leanne, I was reading a bit more about the subject after reading your comment and... surprise! It seems that the hight of the goose is always half of the width size! Such a discovery, right? Now I can see this is correct measuring the blocks on the sizes I've made. Thanks so much for visiting!

  3. Oh, this is great!! I always struggle with quilty math. Thanks for the tutorial :) Your new Etno line is beautiful ♡

    1. Thank you so much Lisa! Etno will be hitting stores at the end of January, and I guess it would be a great opportunity to make them into a beautiful quilt :)

  4. Thanks for sharing! I love the look of flying geese but it seemed like there was so much work involved that I had written them off for the moment. I'll have to try this method.

  5. Formula here http://piecemakers4life.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/how-to-construct-flying-geese-four-at-a-time-no-waste-method/

  6. Looks like a great way to do the flying geese. Math stumps me too. I am in awe of people who understand it. :). And thank you for the link for the calculations @Just Sew Sue