Be sure to check out my UPDATED Four-at-a-Time Flying Geese Tutorial and Sizing Tables. I think you might find a lot more success with the intermediate sizing I suggest there!
Over the years, I’ve learned a handful of tips that have added up to having a lot more success and confidence when piecing flying geese blocks using the no-waste method (also known as the four-at-a-time method). Today, I thought I’d put all of my current top tips and best practices together into a blog post in case there is something new here that will help you. And if you have a tip that works really well for you when you piece flying geese using the no-waste method, be sure to share it in the comments!
No-Waste Flying Geese Table and Basic Instructions
When making flying geese, I prefer to work with the block sizes listed in the table above. If, after using all the tips that I share in this post, your flying geese are ending up too small, you can cut the smaller squares ⅛” larger and the larger squares ¼” larger than listed in the table. However, I’m confident that like me, once you give these tips a try you’ll find that you are making flying geese that need minimal trimming!
1. Place (2) Fabric small squares on opposite corners of a large square, right sides together. Mark a diagonal line across the smaller squares.
2. Sew a scant ¼” seam on either side of the marked line. Press to set seams. Cut on the marked line. Press seams open. This will create (2) intermediate units.
3. Place a small square on the exposed corner of an intermediate unit, right sides together. Mark a diagonal line on the back of the square.
4. Sew a scant ¼” seam on either side of the marked line. Press to set seams. Cut on the marked line and press seams open.
5. Trim to the unfinished size as necessary, removing dog ears and making sure there is ¼” between the point and edge of the flying geese block.
For this tutorial, I am going to be making flying geese that will finish at 2″ x 4″, so I will be using (1) large square that measure 5¼” and (4) small squares that measure 2⅞”.
Tip #1 – Cut Using Rulers
The best tip I can offer anyone working to improve piecing precision is to begin with cutting precision. For years, I cut everything following the grid on my rotary cutting mats, but once I committed to changing how I cut my fabric and instead cut using my rulers, I saw a huge improvement in my piecing accuracy.
In the photo above, I have already made my first cut of the fabric I plan to use for the large 5¼” square. Because I am right handed, I then rotated the fabric to put the cut edge on the left. By aligning the 5¼” marks of my ruler with the cut edge, I’m ready to make my second cut on the right-hand side of the ruler.
As you can see in the photos, it can also help to purposefully not line up the fabric with the grid of your cutting mat if this is a new way of cutting. In the photo above, after making the second cut which was set up in the first photo, I rotated the fabric 90-degrees and then lined up the top and bottom straight cut edges of the fabric with the grid on the ruler. I then trimmed just a little off of the right-hand edge of the fabric and rotated the fabric 180-degrees to set up for the fourth and final cut (shown above). Just like in the first photo, I am making sure to line up the 5¼” lines of my ruler with the left hand edge of the fabric while keeping the top and bottom straight cut edges of the fabric aligned. After trimming the fabric on the right-hand side of the ruler, I will have a 5¼” square ready for piecing.
Tip #2 – Scant ¼” Seam Allowance
In a lot of my patterns, I call for a scant ¼” seam allowance to be used. A scant ¼” seam allowance is about a thread width narrower than a true ¼” seam allowance, but what does that really mean? For the purposes of this tutorial, I drew lines on the back of all the 2⅞” squares to help illustrate. As you can see when I place my ruler on the back of the marked 2⅞” square, the line I drew that I will sew on is inside of the ¼” lines of my ruler by about the width of one thread of the fabric.
Tip #3 – Nudge Small Squares IN 1-2 Threads
When placing the small squares, nudge them inside the larger square by 1-2 threads prior to sewing them. I know this can feel very strange, and it certainly seemed unintuitive to me, but it’s a trip I tried and I’ve been really amazed at how it helps!
The trick here is to find the sweet spot – don’t nudge the small squares in too far! Sewing a few test blocks will help you find what works best for you when making this alignment.
Tip #4 – Use Positioning Pins (As Needed)
Which leads to Tip #4: I have found that using small pins to keep the small squares positioned on the large square when you take the unit to your sewing machine to sew the first diagonal seam can keep things in position as desired. This tip becomes especially important if you are making larger flying geese units.
Tip #5 – Check Your Seam Allowance
Once you have sewn the first two seams and cut the large square in half along the diagonal, it’s a good time to take a quick measurement to check in on your scant ¼” seam allowance. Because you likely won’t need to mark the seam lines to sew on like I did for this example (many machines allow you to nudge your needle to the right one position or you can use a laser to help track in to your ideal seam allowance, etc.), it’s good to sew one test unit and measure to make sure that your seam allowance is falling on the scant side. It’s easier to adjust now than after chain stitching a whole lot of blocks!
Tip #6 – Press Seams Open and Don’t Forget to Nudge IN
I have found that pressing seams open has made a big difference in the size of my flying geese units. Going along with this tip, I suggest sewing seams that are going to be pressed open with a smaller stitch length of 2.0. I also recommend pressing with a dry iron and not using steam.
And don’t forget to nudge the next small square in by 1-2 threads when positioning it to sew!
Tip #7 – Trimming & Lint Roller
You all know that I’m a minimalist (and doing my best to live and work in a small space), so I don’t have a lot of specialty rulers. Because I don’t use specialty rulers to trim my flying geese, I like to make my first two trims of the flying geese blocks with the flying geese block pointing to the left (if I were left-handed, I would point it to the right). In this orientation, I can align the 45-degree line of my ruler with the top half of the flying geese block, check to make sure that I will be able to maintain a ¼” beyond the point of the flying geese triangle when the block is trimmed, and make sure the the trim size of the flying geese block (2½” x 4½” in this case) falls at intersection points of the sewn seams. As you can see, I will mostly be cutting the dog ears off of my flying geese block along the right-hand side and across the top after working through all of these steps and tips. Once the first two sides are trimmed, simply rotate the block and align the trimmed edges with the trim size lines on your ruler and trim the remaining two sides.
I keep a lint roller handy when I am trimming up flying geese blocks because there is often just a small amount of fabric fuzz created in addition to trimming off the dog ears. By using my lint roller to clean up my cutting mat between each flying geese block trim, I am helping to extend the life of my cutting mat by keeping the small fibers from being forced into the mat with subsequent cuts as I trim through my stack of blocks.
Feel free to pin the image above so that you can come back and reference these tips the next time you need to make no-waste flying geese.
Fractures Pattern Release
Today is the final day that you can get the Fractures pattern in the Quilting Jetgirl pattern shop for the introductory sale price of $10. And don’t forget to use the code “TWOPDFS” for $2 off 2 patterns or “THREEPDFS” for $4 off 3 patterns.