Flying Geese quilt blocks are rectangular-shaped quilt blocks. They are useful in many quilting designs, and even entire quilts can be made up of these handy little rectangles. They are always twice as wide as they are high and are made up of a central triangle with smaller triangles on either side of it.
What are Flying Geese quilt blocks?
Traditionally the larger center triangle is made in a dark color to represent the goose with outstretched wings. The smaller triangles are made in a lighter color to represent the background sky. Of course, you can create your blocks in any color of your choice, but the two smaller triangles should always be the same color for maximum effect.
These flying geese are particularly useful for borders but can be used as bands of color across an entire quilt. They can also be used to piece Sawtooth Star blocks. This is done by placing them with the points of the large triangles facing inwards around a large central square and then placing four smaller squares in the corners.
History of Flying Geese Quilt Blocks
As with Log Cabin blocks, these originated in the USA in the 1860’s. According to folklore, there was a “Quilt Code” used by the settlers who were helping escaped slaves. This route from the South to the free Northern States and Canada was known as the “Underground Railroad”.
The story has variations as far as the Flying Geese quilt blocks are concerned. Some say the settlers placed their quilts outdoors with the triangles forming arrows to show the escapees which way to go. Others say that the slaves were simply told to follow the actual geese which were migrating Northwards. These live geese would also be useful as a guide to finding water and resting places.
Flying Geese Quilt Blocks - Supplies
- Fabric- Tightly woven cotton is best.
- Thread- If using cotton fabric, it is best to use cotton thread. If it is possible, match your thread to your fabric, but if you have many different colors in your quilt, use a neutral thread that matches the tone of your background. For example, grey or cream.
- Marking pen - One which gives a clear line, but is easily removable.
- Cutting tools – Rotary cutter, self-healing cutting mat, quilters ruler.
- General supplies - Sewing machine, pins, iron, and ironing board. Long, fine pins are the best to use, as they can go through the layers of fabric easily, and don’t cause any bunching up of fabric.
How to make Flying Geese Quilt Blocks
It is useful to be able to draft your own pattern pieces for any quilt, because this means you do not have to rely on patterns which may not create the quilt size you are wanting. It also allows you to mix and match various quilt blocks in your own creative way.
There are three ways to go about the Flying Geese block:
Method 1 - Traditional Method (1 Block)
This method of sewing flying geese quilt blocks is also known as the stitch and flip method.
This makes one block at a time but is really simple to create.
Pros of this Method:
- simple to create.
Cons of this Method:
- working with bias edges
- can be inaccurate
- slower to make many blocks
- wastes fabric.
To produce a 3 inch by 6-inch block, you will need:
- Two light-colored, 3 ½ inch (8.9 cm) squares
- One darker-colored 3 ½ inch by 6 ½ inch (3.9 cm by 17.8 cm) rectangle.
This will give you a dark goose against a light sky, but your color choices are completely up to you! It also assumes a ¼ inch seam allowance.
Draw a guideline on your squares diagonally from corner to corner. Place one square onto your rectangle. Line up the edges as neatly as possible.
Sew along your guideline.
Using your rotary cutter and ruler, cut off the bottom triangle you have formed with your seam. Trim your seam down to ¼ inch.(0.6 cm)
Press towards the darker side.
Repeat on the other side, with your other square, and your diagonal guideline going in the opposite direction. It is important to get the direction of your guideline correct so you end up with a triangle in the center. Study the photo below carefully.
Trim the corner off the triangle as before.
Press open the seam and you have your first flying geese quilt block.
Be sure to overlap your squares slightly to give yourself a seam allowance when sewing all your geese together. If you omit this step, the points of your flying geese will be lost inside your seam.
If you want to be really economical with your flying geese quilt blocks, you can save the triangles you have trimmed off, and create little half-square triangle blocks with them!
Method 2 - No Waste Method (4 blocks)
These are a little more complicated to produce, but once you get the hang of this method of making flying geese quilt blocks you will find it worthwhile. You will need a square of fabric the size of the width of your intended block.
Pros of this Method
- No fabric wastage.
- Speed. You are making four blocks at a time!
Cons of this Method
- Markings may remain on your fabric.
- It is not as accurate as the traditional method.
For example, if you want your block to be a 3 inch by 6 inch block (7.6 by 15.2 cm):
- Cut one square 7 ¼ inches. (18.4 cm) in the dark fabric. This is 6 inches plus 1 ¼ inch (3.2 cm) seam allowance (in total, not on each side).
- Cut four squares 3 ⅞ inches (9.8 cm) in a light fabric. This is the height of your finished block, plus a ⅞ (2.2 cm) inch seam allowance.
Note that your seam allowance will always be the same, no matter what size block you are working on. Your large square must always add 1 ¼ inches (3.2 cm) to your desired finished size. You four small blocks will always add ⅞ inch (2.2 cm)to your finished size.
To continue with our 3 by 6 inch example:
Place two light 3 ⅞ inch (9.8 cm) squares on opposite corners of your contrasting 7 ¼ inch (18.4 cm) square. Draw a guiding line from corner to corner.
Sew your ¼ inch seam on BOTH sides of your guideline.
Using your rotary cutter, cut the square apart along that line.
Press your seams. Your piece should now look like this:
Repeat with your other small square on the corner of the large dark triangle.
Cut apart to create four flying geese quilt blocks.
You will have to do this on both pieces. Press all four blocks. Magical!
Method 3 - Half Triangle Square Method
This is the least effective way of creating Flying Geese blocks but can serve its purpose. It does not allow you to create that little seam allowance at the top of the point, so your geese will not look as precise. You will also have a seam line in the middle of your goose.
See previous post on how to construct half square triangles.
Then simply sew two of these blocks together to form a flying geese quilt block.
Flying Geese Quilt Blocks - In Conclusion
Whichever method you choose, remember to trim your dog ear corners (quilting terms) to reduce bulk, and remember to square up each block to be sure each side is straight and all corners are 90 degrees before joining all your blocks together to create your final quilt.
This a handy little block with a large number of applications.
Your color choices and placement decisions can create many different effects with the same block. When you have made a few, play around with them to see how the placement will affect your final piece.
One Last Tip for Flying Geese Quilt Blocks
When putting your shapes together, and also when piecing your blocks together, remember to trim your sewing threads every time. It is easy to say ‘yhey won’t show, they will be hidden at the back of the quilt’, but they do have a sneaky way of creeping through your seams and showing up!
This then involves more trimming at the front of your quilt, which is difficult to keep completely invisible. When I was learning to sew, our teacher would make us buy her chocolates whenever we forgot to trim our stitching threads! All the pupils were in the same boat, we often forgot, but after buying chocolates every week, we eventually changed our habits!
What to Make with my Flying Geese Quilt Blocks?
Because they are already rectangular, they lend themselves to rectangular items. Rectangular cushion covers, table runners, bed runners, and ubiquitous tote bags are good places to start. You can then move on to quilts of any size. A wall hanging size quilt is a lot less intimidating than a full-size one. I have also seen a wonderful example of these blocks being made into a quilted jacket. Now there is a challenge for anyone!
More Quilting Articles
- Quilting for Beginners
- Quilting Tools
- Quilt Sizes
- How to Make a Baby Quilt
- Half Square Triangles
- Quilting Terms
- How to Bind a Quilt
- Log Cabin Quilt Blocks
- Flying Geese Quilt Blocks