Tip Jar: Goose Goose Geese!

You didn’t really think that I would forget about Flying Geese.

Into-The-Wind

Really?  This is Into The Wind – it’s made with Larkspur by 3 Sisters.

Flying Geese – three triangles that form a rectangle with a 2:1 ratio.  All three triangles have one 90-degree corner and two 45-degree corners.  The two small triangles are often called the “wings” or “sky”, and the large single triangle is generally called the “goose”.  Except when the flying geese units are used for a Sawtooth Star, then they’re the background.  Sometimes.

As it was with half-triangle squares, I used to avoid quilts with flying geese.  They never “flew very straight”.  Over the years, I got better at making them and as it is with most things, the more you practice, the better you get.  I also started seeing and trying different methods, many involving new rulers.  Some worked well for me, others… not so much.  It truly is about finding the method that works for you – the method that factors in your idiosyncrasies, skill set and missing tools.  (That sounds so much better than “things you can’t do well.)

I also believe that it’s important to know as many ways as possible to do something because sometimes, you don’t have the fabric or tools to use your regular method.  That’s when you reach into your MacGyver-bag of tricks and figure out what will work to get you the piece you need.

So here are a few ways to make flying geese.

The “Old-Fashioned” method.  No, I’m not going to ask you to trace and cut out a cardboard template – that’s the Really Old-Fashioned method.  (It was before my time but I’ve read about it in history books under Ancient Rituals.)

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Join the long-sides of the two small triangles to the short-sides of the large triangle – using a scant 1/4″ seam allowance.  Press the seams toward the small triangles – or you can press them open.

This is a good method to know when you only need one or two geese… and you have perfect seam allowance.  And your pieces always come out perfectly – every single time.

The math for a pieced-to-size unit is fairly simple:

  • Determine the finished size of the flying geese unit – e.g., 1 1/2″ x 3″, 2″ x 4″, 2 1/2″ x 5″, etc.
  • For the small triangles, use the smaller number and add 7/8″.
  • For the large triangles, use the larger number and add 1 1/4″.

If you’d like to trim the geese to size using a special ruler – add more.  And be patient… that’s coming.

EZ’s Easy Angle & Companion Angle Rulers. The process of joining triangles is the same but the cutting is different.  Instead of cutting squares, triangles are cut from strips and you don’t have to worry about 1/8″ increments.

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The Easy Angle comes in three sizes – 4 1/2″, 6 1/2″ – and 10 1/2″.  The Companion Angle comes in just one size – large.

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I have used these rulers and I like this method, but it’s not my favorite.  But if you’ve got a lot of strips – Jelly Rolls? – this the way to make geese.  It also allows for making scrappy geese mixing backgrounds and prints – which I do like doing.

Flying Geese Ruler.  This terrific single-ruler from Marti Michell does the same job as the Easy Angle and Companion Ruler.  The pieces are also cut from strips and lined up using notches and flat edges that make it all a bit easier.

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As with the EZ Angler-Companion Angle, the benefit is being able to cut both goose and wing pieces from the same width strip, making designs like this terrific Pow Wow quilt by Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew a bit easier to cut.

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Flip-n-Sew – or Connector Corners.  Two squares and one rectangle, diagonal stitching lines, trim and press.

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This is another terrific method to know when you only need a couple of flying geese – and you’ve got a little bit extra fabric.

The math for this method is a little different, finished sizes get 1/2″ added.  The rectangle is the goose – for 2″ x 4″ finished, the cut rectangle is 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″.  The “side triangles” are cut as squares using the smaller measurement – 2″ becomes two squares – 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″.

This is not my favorite method – mostly because I have issues with getting the finished unit to bear even a passing resemblance to a rectangle.  But it is the tried-and-true method for many people, most of whom are seriously skilled quiltmakers.  It can have a bit more wasted fabric – unless you take the time to put a second seam on the “wings” and make the trimmed-off triangles into a half-triangle square.

If this method appeals to you, there are a couple of tools that can help a lot.

Clearly Perfect Angles by New Leaf Studios – this cling-template adheres to the base of your sewing machine so that you can stitch straight across the square perfectly every. single. time.  (It also helps some folks maintain – okay, find – that perfect scant 1/4″ seam allowance.)

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The other tool that helps with this method is the Folded Corner Clipper by Prairie Sky.  In the picture of the geese – second row on the left – instead of drawing the line or using the Clearly Perfect Angle cling, I trimmed the corner using the tool.

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The squares are layered – then trimmed.  Instead of following a line – drawn or otherwise – you just stitch your regular scant 1/4″ seam allowance.  Basically, you’ve trimmed before you’ve stitched.

And yes, I always trim both layers.  It’s not required and some folks don’t.  To-may-toe – to-mah-tow.

No-Waste Method.  I don’t know who first dubbed it that but the name stuck.  You’re probably seen it – it makes four matching geese units at the same time.

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The pieces required are simple – 1 square for the geese and 4 matching squares for the wings-sky.  As for how big to cut the pieces, the math is the same as it is for the “old-fashioned method” – add 7/8″ and 1 1/4″ to the finished size of the geese and cut squares.

Or you could make it much easier and use a ruler that does the math for you -like this Flying Geese x 4 – No Math Ruler by Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs.

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The only thing you need to know is the finished size of your flying geese – Joan has done all the rest.  We love her for that.

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I used this method for many, many years and it’s still a good, tried-and-true method that provides good results – great results if you have a super-accurate seam allowance and your cutting is spot-on.

Just remember to trim all those little “ears” and “tails”.  Always.

Flying Geese Paper. If you like paper-piecing and you’re making a strip of geese, this Sew & Fold On A Roll from the folks at Triangles on a Roll is a terrific option.

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If you like braid-quilts, this paper works for that too.

I like paper-piecing and I’ve made several quilts with flying geese borders or long strips of geese… but this isn’t my favorite method because it seemed to take me longer to do.  But the results are very good.

Now there are the trim-it-down methods.  There are two types that most of us are familiar with.

Eleanor Burns Quilt in a Day Flying Geese Ruler.  This was one of the first trim-it-down methods to come on the market, I think it debuted in 2001 or 2002.

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Only two squares need to be cut – different sizes, of course.  After that, the squares are assembled in much the same that a quarter-triangle square is, except the center doesn’t match up nicely.  Then the geese are trimmed to size using the ruler shown above – or this one…

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Each pair of squares makes four matching flying geese units.

While this ruler can be used to trim geese using the next method described, I’ve never loved the rulers with all the different slits for cutting.  It’s a personal thing – I prefer thicker, sturdier rulers for rotary cutting… probably because I’m a klutz and I already have plenty of rotary-cutting battle scars.  But this is the go-to geese ruler of a friend.

Matching.  That’s the reason why I prefer the next method – piece the flying geese units the “old-fashioned” way but with over-sized triangles.  Use four different fabrics for the wings-sky squares-triangles and you have four different geese.

With the Quilt in a Day and No-Waste methods, if you start with four different goose fabrics and four different wing-geese fabrics, you can only make four combinations – each with four matching geese.  But if you piece it with oversized triangles instead of squares, those eight fabrics will make sixteen different combinations.

I think you know I like mixing it up.

Fit to be Geese & Bloc-Loc. Using triangles – cut from squares that are about 1/4″ over-sized – join the pieces as shown.

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Yes – trim off the triangle-tip as shown in the center picture.

The Fit to be Geese Rulers by Open Gate Quilts, Monique Dillard.  Because Monique also likes (loves) scrappy quilts and flying geese, she built upon and – in my opinion – improved upon the trim-it-down ruler idea.

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There are two rulers – the Mini Fit to be Geese and the original Fit to be Geese.  Each ruler will trim geese to four sizes and one size is on both rulers – 2″ x 3 1/2″ measured or 1 1/2″ x 3″ finished.  If you only want to buy one ruler for different geese, I think this is the ruler to have.

I love this ruler and still do.  I have at least two of each size, just to make sure I didn’t lose it and have to do without for even a day.

Finally, there is the Bloc-Loc.  The grooves on the underside of the ruler fit against the seams to prevent the ruler from slipping while you’re cutting.

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The upside is – trimming the geese exactly, perfectly to size is easily and quickly done.  The downside is – you need a separate ruler for each size goose you want to make.  The bigger downside… they’re kind of like M&Ms or Lay’s Potato Chips.  Good luck trying to limit yourself to just one.

I can honestly say that I don’t know when or if I will ever need – or want! – to make a flying geese unit that finishes at 5/8″ x 1 1/4″, but I’ll be ready with the ruler!

So there you have it – all of the methods I can think of and remember for making flying geese.  If I can’t make one of these work to get what I need, I still have other options.

I could make a smaller quilt.  Or I could buy more fabric.

May I’ll just use the fabric I have to make smaller geese… say 5/8″ x 1 1/4″?

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29 comments on “Tip Jar: Goose Goose Geese!

  1. Debbie says:

    Great overview. Thanks. I’ve always preferred the original Quilt in a Day FG rulers (not the slat one) and it is possible to get scrappy Geese by switching out your fabric combos in the second step of the process!! Something new to try.

    • Carrie Nelson says:

      I think I’ve done that – the result is that the small triangles are different, those are made scrappy. Is there a way to mix up the combinations but still keep the two small triangles on each flying goose matching?

      (Even if there is, I’m probably still going to prefer the Bloc-Loc and Fit to be Geese method because piecing the geese goes so quickly. “Old dog”. LOL)

      • Debbie says:

        I think to get the little triangles the same you’d need to make them the original way. I will try out the fit to be geese ruler! Great article

      • diane johnson says:

        Carrie,
        I’m looking for your Summer Winds patterns. Where are they available?
        It uses lots of half square triangles and flying geese!
        Diane

  2. Donna says:

    Thanks so much for this great review of methods and tools. As always, your humour makes the subject fun to read about. I too, have avoided making anything with flying geese since they always turned out wonky – but I’m going to try some of these tools and see which works best for me.

  3. Jacque says:

    Loved this post… thanks sew much

  4. Addi says:

    I like the Deb Tucker flying geese trim-down method and tool.

    • stephanie woodward says:

      I love that method too. Always turn out great, and I just had to make 106 flying geese 1 inch by 2 inches and it really helped.

  5. Terri McGreer says:

    Since I am making your “Village” quilt pattern, I now know what ruler to get to make my life easier! And maybe I can stop having silent conversations with you as I trim!!

  6. Betty Harden says:

    Great article. Eleanor Burns is the Queen of Flying Geese and makes it look so easy. You did a fantastic job on this article. I look so forward to your emails. They are always so wonderful. I am a Moda person for sure. Thank you.

  7. Kristi says:

    Thank you for this informative article. I will save this post and also pass it on to all of my quilting friends.

  8. Nancy says:

    Wow Carrie – my head is swimming. I knew there were several ways to make geese, but wasn’t aware of some of these rulers. THANKS for a great post…. well, ANOTHER great post. 🙂

  9. Karen says:

    fit to be geese is my favorite way to make flying geese. In fact, it’s the only way I can make them properly! I used to hate making them but now I’d happily make them all day.

  10. Betty Liehr says:

    I couldn’t live without the Bloc Loc rulers-since I can’t seem to ever cut or sew perfectly enough on those pesky corners. With the Bloc Loc they come out perfect every time! Love you article-who knew there were so many choices?

  11. Chris K. says:

    Thanks for this; I bookmarked it for future reference. But I’m a little unclear on the first method (Old-fashioned). You say to add x amount, but are you cutting a square or a triangle? Without a triangle ruler, the only way to get a triangle is to cut up a square, yes? Then how do you cut the goose piece without wasting fabric?

  12. Jo Morton says:

    Carrie – Bloc Loc also has a 1/2″ x 1″ ruler for Flying Geese – darn cute finish! 🙂
    I have all the sizes, even the 3″ x 6″ and used it! Love your tutorial.

  13. LeAnne/Hugs and Stitches says:

    Thank you, this was a true gift and hard work to offer us so many options and tools for the flying geese. Thanks for your leg work and sharing. You are always the best

    • Mama Pris Phillips says:

      I agree with and say “ditto ditto” to LeAnne’s comment!! Thank you Carrie for your excellent blog … and humor-filled honesty!! Love that about you! Your posts are something I look forward to!!

  14. Hildy says:

    Thanks for this great ‘how to find the perfect method to make flying geese’ post. I love to make them and my favorite method is the one Jana described on her blog a while ago (and yes, I’m that Hildy): http://janainamachado.blogspot.de/2014/11/night-sky-qal-hop-and-tips.html
    I have almost no fabric waste and my flying geese end up more rectangular then with all the other methods;-)

  15. Judy Blinkenberg says:

    Thank you very much. I learned from this post. I have that lazy girl ruler but forgot how to use it. I recently made geese with the fabric over fabric method and you get geese then used the quilt in a day ruler. I have to honestly say I don’t like the block at all. I usually avoid it but I am trying to learn. Thank you again.

  16. Connie Morgan says:

    Where does a person find that great pattern?

  17. Cathy Burk says:

    What a wonderful post! We love to have options, don’t we? My fave as of now is the “Fit to Be Geese” method, but I recently acquired some Bloc Loc rulers so I’m looking forward to trying that out. Thank you for all the hard work. This post is a keeper, for sure!

  18. Patty D says:

    Great post! I’m a ‘no waste’ method kind of girl because it gives me the best results! Thanks for sharing all the different ways to assemble what is probably my favorite block.

  19. Diana W says:

    My go to method for Flying geese will forever be the Eleanor way. I have made many a flying geese with this ruler for borders and since it makes 4 matching ones, I like it alot. One of each color for each border… LOL. I have tried the no waste method as well but apparently that just doesn’t work for me as my geese are never the correct size… I say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it … (OLD DOG)

  20. Mary Ann says:

    Well thank you so much for this review Carrie. I have the Fit to be Geese ruler in both sizes but haven’t tried it yet. And have been wondering about BlocLoc since that is my go to solution for triangles unless I use Triangle paper. But since the next pattern up on my list is Master Plan maybe I better start figuring out some method for GEESE,

  21. Mary Andra says:

    Fabulous overview. Thank you Carrie.

  22. amq97 says:

    Thanks for this post. Good information on all the methods available. My favorite and most successful is the Easy Angle Ruler and Companion Angle ruler. Introduced to me by Bonnie K. Hunter of http://www.Quiltville.blogspot.com. I love having her as an instructor and for a reminder how to use the rulers she has tutes on her blogspot. I’m a much accurate piecer because of her methods. Allison in Plano, Texas USA

  23. Lizzie says:

    I loved your post. Have you ever tried the Wing Clipper by Deb Tucker? That is the ruler I have and used it once but now am inspired to try it again…..love flying geese.

    • stephanie woodward says:

      me too, now everyone wants to borrow it, and I don’t want to do without it.

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