General Tutorials

Updated Four-at-a-Time Flying Geese Tutorial and Sizing Tables

I have been sewing quite a few flying geese blocks lately. I use the cutting chart that I shared previously in my No-Waste Flying Geese Tutorial and Top Tips post, but many of my geese still end up a bit scant, even with all the tips and tricks I’ve learned to use over the years.

Scant Flying Geese Block

Scant Flying Geese Block

The thing with the no-waste flying geese method is that it is truly for expert sewing and is meant to really only trim dog ears, just like cutting squares for HSTs at ⅞” larger than your desired finished size (for the two-at-a-time method). I know that for better consistency, I prefer a more intermediate level sizing for HSTs, so it got me thinking, are there other sizing options for making four-at-a-time flying geese blocks that are still low waste (if not no waste)?

Raw Edge Showing on Oversized Flying Geese Block

Raw Edge Showing on Oversized Flying Geese Block

Actually, there are lots of other size recommendations that you can find out there, but many of the upsized versions can potentially lead to raw edges of the background squares showing, like in the photograph above (see spot circled in red). The good news is that when a small amount of the raw edge is visible, like in the above block, a little bit of patience and some tweezers can remove those raw edges one thread at a time prior to final trimming the block.

UPDATED TO ADD: Thanks to Cindy Pieters, who left this comment: “One thing I do instead of having to use tweezers, is in step 1 I draw a line across the points of the small squares. Then trim those small points off, and sew the scant ¼” lines as you indicate.”

Visual Representation of Cindy's Suggestion to Clip Corner of Small Squares

Visual Representation of Cindy’s Suggestion to Clip Corner of Small Squares

The graphic above is a visual representation of Cindy’s suggestion. I would recommend this for the beginner sizing method, or if you find you consistently see raw edges of the small squares showing in your piecing.

Test Samples of Intermediate Sizing of Four-at-a-Time Intermediate Flying Geese

Test Samples of Intermediate Sizing of Four-at-a-Time Intermediate Flying Geese

I set aside time at the beginning of this week, and I’ve come up with what I think are the *just right* intermediate sizing suggestions to make four-at-a-time flying geese. I tested out the first seven sizes in the table below, from finished size of 2″ wide by 1″ high (2½” by 1½” unfinished) to a finished size of 8″ wide by 4″ high (8½” wide by 4½” high unfinished), and I haven’t ever had flying geese turn out as well as these. Let’s take a look!

Four at a Time Flying Geese Table and Instructions

Four-at-a-Time Flying Geese Table and Instructions (click to enlarge / open in new window)

Four-at-a-Time Flying Geese Piecing Instructions

Step 1
Place (2) small squares on opposite corners of a large square, right sides together. Mark a diagonal line across the smaller squares.

Beginner Sizing - Small Squares Flush

Beginner Sizing – Small Squares Flush

If you cut for the beginner sizing, place the small squares FLUSH with the large square edges, as shown above.

Intermediate or Expert Sizing - Small Squares Nudged In

Intermediate or Expert Sizing – Small Squares Nudged In

If you cut for the intermediate or expert sizing, nudge the small squares IN 3-4 threads from the large square edges, as shown above.

Step 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.

Step 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.

  • If you cut for the beginner sizing, place the small squares FLUSH with the large square edges.
  • If you cut for the intermediate or expert sizing, nudge the small squares IN 3-4 threads from the large square edges.

Step 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.

Step 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.

Does It Work?

Trimming from Intermediate Size 3 x 6 Finished Flying Geese

Trimming from Intermediate Size 3″ x 6″ Finished Flying Geese

Following the sizing instructions for a finished 3″ x 6″ flying geese block, making sure to nudge in the small squares by 3-4 threads, sewing with a scant ¼” seam allowance, and pressing my seams open, the photo above shows what the trimmings look like for the block. The amount trimmed off is very comparable to the intermediate sized trimmings for HSTs (when 1″ is added to the finished HST size for the starting squares for the two-at-a-time method).

I personally still occasionally found that raw edges of the small squares were visible when I test sewed a few blocks using the beginner sizing, but as I mentioned earlier, a bit of patience with some tweezers was all it took to remove those raw edges. Be sure to use the tweezers prior to final trimming the block!

Scant ¼” Seam

It is important to sew a consistent scant ¼” seam when piecing four-at-a-time flying geese blocks. A scant ¼” seam is one thread width smaller than a true ¼” seam allowance. This is especially crucial for the expert size / no-waste version of the sizing table.

Marking Scant Quarter Inch

Marking Scant Quarter Inch

I personally like to mark the scant ¼” lines on the back of my small squares. To do so, I first mark the diagonal line from corner to corner. Then, I place the ¼” lines of my ruler one thread to the LEFT of the marked diagonal line. When I rotate my square to mark the second scant ¼” line, I also like to verify that I am marking the second line parallel to the other sewn line (which should fall 2 threads to the RIGHT of the ½” line of my ruler, as shown above).

Also, note that I always use a scrap piece of paper on top of my cutting mat when I am marking lines on the wrong side of my fabric. This allows me to mark without fear of leaving marks on my cutting mat. I think you can tell that I’ve really been busy making lots of flying geese based on the number of stray marks on that scrap paper!

Checking Seam Line Consistency

Checking Seam Line Consistency

Even if you prefer to use other means to sew your scant ¼” seams, I suggest measuring and checking how consistent your seam line is sewn. My most wonky flying geese have historically been blocks where my seam allowance wanders / wiggles a little bit. Personally, I’ve found that I have a lot more success if I take the time to mark and sew on the marked lines.


Trimming Flying Geese

Trimming Flying Geese

I personally do not own very many rulers, so I do not have specialty rulers for trimming flying geese blocks. If you do, that’s great; use them to their full advantage! To trim flying geese, I like to start with the block in the orientation shown above, making sure to line up my ruler’s 45° line with the top pieced angle. In the case of this 4″ x 8″ finished (4½” x 8½” unfinished / trimmed) block, my ruler also very helpfully has a 4¼” marking that make it easy to line up the point of the large flying geese triangle. Before trimming, I always check to make sure that the bottom of the ruler falls on the second pieced seam of the block. In this case, the 8½” line.

It is pretty common for the second seam line not to fall under the ruler where I want it. For me, the seam is usually to the left and lower. When that happens, I firmly hold the ruler at the top of my flying geese block to secure the top seam, then with my other hand, I gently tug on the lower seam dog ears to nudge the seam to the right. I then relax my hold on the ruler and reposition it. I never want to cut my fabric when it is being actively stretched or warped. But I do find that with a bit of gentle encouragement, I can usually correct the shape of the block prior to making my first trimming cuts.

UPDATE: While I have not tried this out yet, my friend Kathleen shared this post with a tip for How to Reduce Bulk in 4-at-a-Time Flying Geese that looks very promising!

Testing and Feedback

I would *love* for you to give the intermediate sizing a try. Especially if you prefer to press your seams to the side instead of open. If you do give these updated sizes a try, please let me know how they work for you. And I would be especially grateful if you want to test sew any of the sizes in the table that I have not (I have not sewn any sizes larger than 4″ x 8″ finished).

Printable Tables

And last but not least, I know that the table at the top of this post is an eye chart with a LOT of information packed into it. If you would like the free PDF printable, which has an individual page for all three options (Beginner, Intermediate, or Expert) so that you can choose which chart you want to print out, simply sign up for my newsletter! If you are already a Quilting Jetgirl newsletter subscriber, check your email (and perhaps your spam directory) for the printable.

Linking up with Tips and Tutorials on the 22nd.

22 thoughts on “Updated Four-at-a-Time Flying Geese Tutorial and Sizing Tables

  1. Cindy Pieters says:

    Thanks Yvonne for a great tutorial! One thing I do instead of having to use tweezers, is in step 1 I draw a line across the points of the small squares. Then trim those small points off, and sew the scant 1/4” lines as you indicate.

  2. lynn Bourgeois says:

    It’s true that flying geese can get wonky, even with my best efforts. I think i will try the intermediate tutorial and see if my geese become more consistent. Thanks. I’ll let you know. It might be a while as I have my sewing space torn apart trying to bring some semblance of order there.

  3. Like you, I’ve had difficulties with my flying geese units being consistent and uniform. I have the most success paper-piecing my FG units, but some day I plan to give your method a try. Thanks for the providing the PDF to newsletter subscribers.

  4. Great post. I have long made my no-waste flying geese a bit oversize and cut them to size as mine always came out too small. My tip for trimming, begin with the 45-degree line on the seam as you show, but be sure to have a quarter inch past the point, placing the height measurement minus 1/4-inch on the point. In other words, if you want a 2-1/2-inch height, put the 2-1/4-inch point line on the goose point. Trim two sides, then flip and trim the other two sides to the correct size. The seams will land in the corners each time. Detailed photos here –

  5. I’ve always struggled with wonky flying geese, but the four at a time method made them a bit better. I can’t wait to try your tutorial and see how it works for me. Thanks for this, Yvonne!

  6. Jasmine @ Quilt Kisses says:

    I have only ever used the four at a time flying geese on one quilt. I am looking forward to trying your method. Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. Hilary says:

    This is great! I’ve been making a lot of flying geese and getting that little raw edge can be so frustrating.

  8. Cheryl Smith says:

    I love flying geese blocks, but I usually have one of the four that’s just a tad small, despite all the tricks. I’m going to practice using this method this weekend and hopefully this will solve my problem!

  9. Susan Greene says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but why is it called “four at a time” when it only makes 2 geese?

    1. Nancy says:

      after your first cut you have 2 pieces onto which you sew another square onto each. You get 2 flying geese after the next step. 2 for each of the previously cut pieces so you have 4.

  10. Suzanne says:

    You put a lot of effort into creating these charts and they’re great! I’ve never made flying geese and now I’m ready to try them.
    Thank you very much!

  11. Patty says:

    Good tutorial. I always forget about nudging those squares a few threads over – it makes a big difference!

  12. Honestly, I do not care for Flying Geese. I have used them only once when I made my Property Values quilt. Since I was using a striped fabric for the flying goose units (roofs), I used the wasteful method (one at a time, snowballing corners). Those cutoff HSTs are still in some box somewhere waiting to become something. Otherwise my oversimplified logic is this – why not just make two HSTs? Making Flying geese to avoid one seam (in case of two HSTs) is too much work. I have to make one quilt now that is overflowing with flying geese. Fortunately they are 2″ by 4″ and I have the Accuquilt die for that.
    But if I have to make Flying Geese (and cannot wiggle my way out of it), I have bookmarked this page for your excellent directions :-)

  13. kathleenmcmusing says:

    WOW! Can’t wait to try the technique. I will definitely use the next time I need FG and see how it works. I hate when one is just a little short on the top 1/4″!

  14. Cocoa Quilts says:

    I have this pinned for my next FG blocks!!

  15. kimsuzj says:

    Nice tutorial. I am looking for a calculator for the one at a time method. The fabric I have does not lend itself to the 4 at a time method. I am using FQ and the largest rectangle I can get is 14 x 7.25 (my FQs are 18 x 22). I think that means a square of 7.25 by 7.25. It has been frustrating to try to confirm my calculations. No chart I could find goes that high and all the online calculators I found focused on the 4 at a time method. I also wonder is there a method where the staring rectangle is not a 2:1 ration. Say I wanted an 18 x 7 rectangle or an 21 x 6 rectangle from my FQs. Thanks

    1. Great questions!

      I think the main reason that you are having a hard time for the “one at a time method” is because it is most often referred to as the stitch and flip method. Try a Google Image search for “stitch and flip flying geese” and you will find lots of tables to help with that method. Overall, though, I agree with a 7.25″ square to pair with a 14″ x 7.25″ rectangle.

      As for non-standard 2:1 ratios. That is much more tricky. Squares will not work in that case (draw it out on paper and use other paper to test it out). The magic of the 2:1 ratio is the 45 degree angle that is created. Other angles mean other sizes, and at that point rectangles (instead of small squares) have to be used carefully and I have not seen anywhere that tabulates that out as there is an infinite number of other sizes that COULD be created. Usually I see quilters opting for paper piecing for precision at that point.

      I hope that helps!

  16. Patti says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your tutorial and chart. This is helpful information and like the other commentators, flying geese is a hard one for me to get correct. Information has been saved! Thankyou again!

  17. Elizabeth E. says:

    Fun to read through all this and recognize that some things I do, and other tips and tricks are new to me. I have a similar way to trim mine up, but have the point facing at me instead of to the side: having taught a Guild class for multiple times this seemed easier for them to remember. I have only one flying geese ruler — it was a cause for great frustration. If you don’t iron your seams the correct way (can’t remember if it’s toward the “goose” or away from it), it won’t work. So I end up just using a ruler. I never press seams open, preferring the dimension the fabric brings to the quilt, but to each their own, as my Dad used to say.
    What I love about reading your posts is the inherent precision in everything. :)

  18. Thank you for linking up to Tips and Tutorials on the 22nd!

  19. Melissa I says:

    This was amazing! The very clear tutorial helped me sew up four identical geese quickly. All my geese before this always ended up wonky and a bit scant of the desired size. But using the Beginner measurements gave me the confidence I needed. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  20. Nancy says:

    I appreciate the fact that yoyu ioncluded dimensions for beginner. intermediate and advance skill levels!

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)