Sunday, March 1, 2015

making geese.

I'm up to lead this month for my circle of do.good stitches and have opted for sets of four flying geese in spring colors.  Inspired in part by the cherry trees currently in bloom and our unusually blue skies.  (This time of year it should be grey and spitting rain!)

There are several ways to make flying geese and I thought I'd summarize the four I know.  Depending on the situation, one technique may work better than others. 

A few things to note on sizing first:  A classic flying goose is 2x as wide as it is tall.  2x4, 3x6, etc.   I ALWAYS oversize my geese and trim them down after.  I've found that no matter how careful I am they never turn out quite right if I start with the minimum fabric sizes. goes!

Traditional method.  One at a time.

This method starts with rectilinear pieces to make one goose at a time.  It works great for scrappy geese and can use smaller pieces of fabric.

For the goose:  1 rectangle.  Finished width x height + 1/2" each direction
For the sky:  2 squares.  Finished height + 1/2"

For my 3"x 6" geese, I'm oversizing my fabric to 3 3/4" x 6 3/4" and 3 3/4" square.

Draw a diagonal line on the back of the each of the two squares.  (I use Pilot Frixion pens.  The ink disappears when ironed!)

Lay one square on the rectangle RST, aligned to one side, with the diagonal line running from the bottom corner to top center.

Stitch on the line.  Trim the corner with a 1/4" seam allowance.

Press the corner open.  Repeat on the opposite side of the rectangle. 

I trim my geese using a Loc-Bloc ruler, made specifically for this purpose.  This ruler has grooves on the backside that nest with the seams and keep the ruler in perfect alignment.  (A traditional ruler can be used as well, but it takes a little more care to place just right and keep the ruler from slipping.)

One at a time using a flying geese ruler.

If trimming off those corners all having little triangle scraps makes you cringe, there are also rulers with markings for cutting standard sizes of geese.  This method cuts multiple geese and sky pieces from strips measuring the height of the block + 1/2".  Assembly is essentially the same,  but instead of stitching on a diagonal line, you're sewing a standard 1/4" seam.

It is harder (but not impossible) to oversize the blocks with this method but I find my geese still can turn out a little wonky if I don't.

Four at a time, no waste method.

This is my favorite way to make multiple identical geese.  BUT each goose will be facing a different way - so if a fabric has a clear direction (and you care) this is not the way to go.  It's also possible to mix things up a bit, by substituting in different fabrics for the sky squares.

For the goose:  1 square.  Finished width + 1 1/4"
For the sky:  4 squares.  Finished height + 7/8"
NOTE:  These are minimum dimensions.  I recommend adding 1/4" - 1/2" to each to allow for trimming.
For my 3 x 6 geese, I used a 7 3/4" square for the goose and 4 1/4" squares for the sky.

Draw a diagonal line on the back of each of the small squares.  Align two small squares corner to corner as shown.  (I've found that I don't need to pin.)

Stitch 1/4" to either side of the line.  Cut on the line.

Press open.

Align a third square to the remaining full corner with the diagonal line starting in the the corner.

Stitch 1/4" to either side of the line.  Cut apart on the line.  Press open. Repeat for the second half.

Trim as needed.

Tip:  If sewing geese together tip-to-tail, keep the tip portion facing up; as you sew, the new seam line should pass exactly through the intersection of the diagonal seams.

Paper piecing.

Paper piecing can be used to piece multiple geese together in a row and get those perfect points.  It works for both scrappy geese and identical.  I will confess, this is my least favorite method for traditional sized geese.  I find the stitch, trim, flip, press, repeat a bit slow and tedious not to mention the mess of removing the paper.  However, it works great for wonky geese or any that don't rely on 45 degree angles and are stretched either tall or wide.

There are many good paper-piecing instructions out there, so I won't go into detail.  But start at the bottom with piece one, and add fabrics sequentially.  Align right side together as normal,  stitch on the line.  Fold back the paper at the stitch line to trim to a 1/4" seam.  Fold back flat.  Flip the fabric open, press.  Repeat until the last piece and square everything up.  I used my flying geese ruler to cut my starting pieces one size bigger.

Take care to always test-flip to make sure the fabric covers the template. I will also hold my pattern up to a window to help with alignments.   Even, so it's easy to be off - you'll see where I missed with the sky on the left hand side. 

Like I mentioned, I don't necessarily like paper-piecing geese, but you can download my template for four 3x6 geese here.  Print with no scaling on a legal sized sheet (8 1/2" x 14") or larger.

And here's my finished flock to start off the month:

Do you have a favorite method to make geese?  And do you know of another way not listed here? Please share!

linking this post up to wip wednesday.


  1. Your flying geese are all so pretty. I love the fabrics you've used.

  2. Love seeing all the different methods! My favorite is the 4 at a time--love the speed and the no waste. I used to hate flying geese until I learned that method. And I love all your fabric choices--looks like spring!

  3. Thanks for taking the time and effort to write up the flying geese summary of methods. I was just practicing the four at a time method and invested a bunch of time figuring out how to orient striped fabric to get the look I wanted. If interested, check out the nibbles section of my post at

  4. I was just talking with some friends about whether or not you could trim flying geese to size. I will have to try it out! Beautiful blocks!

  5. I 'll have to try each to figure out which is the most accurate for me~thanks for showing options!

  6. Thanks for a super tutorial! I am making my first flying geese every month for my sawtooth stars, and am using the four at a time far, sew good :)