4-at-a-Time Flying Geese

There are many different ways to construct flying geese blocks. For this tutorial, I will be showing you how to use the 4-at-a-Time method. This is the method used in my Stockinette Quilt pattern. It is also sometimes called the “No Waste Flying Geese” method and makes very efficient use of the fabric while also creating multiple blocks at once.

Anatomy of a flying geese block

Flying geese blocks are often referred to as “units” and include two “sky” pieces and a “goose” piece as shown in the diagram below.

stockinette flying geese.jpg

Tips and tricks for creating accurate blocks

Before you get started, here are some tips from my quilty friend and amazing Stockinette Quilt pattern tester, Michonne Dietrich @silverlinedstitches. If you’re struggling to get accurate flying geese blocks, trying using some of these ideas! Michonne tested the blocks for all 3 sizes of the quilt and these are the things she found most helpful:

  • Take your time and pay attention. Good piecing starts with good cutting - as the saying goes, measure twice, cut once!
  • Use starch minimally OR intentionally. Meaning know what starch does to distort your fabric and how you are planning to account for that.
  • Trim down the starched and distorted pieces at each step - if you don’t, your goose may end up wonky.
  • Carefully place your ‘sky’ pieces (small squares) so the block stays straight. (It matters more that it lines up in the center than in the corner.)
  • Make sure you are using a scant 1/4” seam. This will ensure that you have space to trim your block and it won’t be too small.
  • Iron seams open so you don’t lose fabric in the seams. It will also help create prettier points when you sew the blocks together.
  • Use finer thread. Believe it or not, thread can bulk up the seams and cause your blocks to be askew. Michonne recommends Aurifil 50 wt thread.

    Sewing the blocks

    1) For this method, you will need one large square and four small squares according to the measurements for the size quilt you are making. (Refer to your pattern.)


    2) With right sides together, place two small squares (one in each corner) in opposite corners. Pin in place and draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the wrong side of the small squares. You can draw the line before you place the squares or after — whichever you prefer. If you draw it after placing the squares, just make sure they don’t shift while you’re placing the ruler or drawing the line.


    3) Sew a scant 1/4” seam allowance on either side of the drawn line. A scant seam allowance means that you are sewing just shy of the full 1/4”. I like to sew with my presser foot barely covering the line I’ve drawn to help me achieve a consistent scant 1/4” seam. You may be able to find a trick like this with your own machine to help with consistency.


    4) Cut along the drawn line between your two seams. You will now have two pieces that look like the photo below.


    5) Open your block and press the small squares (now triangles) away from the seam. You can use an iron or a seam roller. Press the seams open or to one side.

    6) Draw diagonal lines from corner to corner on the wrong side of your remaining small squares.


    7) Place a small square in the corner of each of the pieces created in the previous steps. Pin in place.


    8) Sew on either side of the drawn line using a scant 1/4” seam allowance. Notice how the stitch line goes right into the corner of the small (yellow) pieces at the bottom of the photo below. This lets me know that all of my seams are consistent.


    9) Cut along the drawn line between the seams to create four pieces.


    10) Open the blocks and press. You will now have four completed flying geese units. All that’s left is to trim them to the unfinished size for your quilt.


    Trimming the blocks

    Many people like to use a special flying geese ruler for trimming their blocks. While such a tool can come in handy and make your trimming quicker, it isn’t necessary. You can still get precise blocks without one. (I have never used one before.)

    1) The first (and I think, most important) step is to trim the top of the block above the point. Leaving 1/4” above the point will ensure that when you sew the flying geese units into your quilt, there will be a sharp point left. I like this Creative Grids 6 1/2” square ruler for this job because it has a dotted line for the 1/4” mark.

    (Note: Ideally you would want to line your ruler up with one of the sides to make sure the top is straight. I realize this photo doesn’t set a good example for that.)


    2) Line up the side you just trimmed with the smaller measurement for your unfinished flying geese. For this block, that measurement is 3”. Trim the bottom (shown on the right side in the photo below) of the block.


    3) Now it’s time to trim the sides of the block (show on the top and bottom in the photo below). To make sure the block stays squared up, line up the diagonal seam of the block with the diagonal line on the ruler as shown.

    For the remaining sides, you will be trimming to the larger measurement of your unfinished flying geese unit. For this block, that measurement is 5 1/2”. Notice that when the diagonal seam of the block and diagonal line of the ruler are lined up, the 5 1/2” mark is at the opposite corner of the goose.


    4) For the final side, line your block up with the unfinished length measurement (5 1/2”) and trim the last side as shown.


    5) Trim the remaining 3 flying geese units using the previous steps, 1-4.


    That’s it! You just made flying geese, 4-at-a-time! If you found this tutorial helpful or have any questions, please leave a comment or get in touch. You can contact me by e-mail here or message me on Instagram here and I’ll do my very best to get back to you!

    Happy sewing! Happy quilting! Happy days!

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