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.
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)?
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.”
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.
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 Piecing Instructions
Place (2) small squares on opposite corners of a large square, right sides together. Mark a diagonal line across the smaller squares.
If you cut for the beginner sizing, place the small squares FLUSH with the large square edges, as shown above.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.