How to sew flying geese – 4 techniques

Rhubarb Crisp Runner from Skinny Quilts and Table Runners IIFlying-geese blocks and units are amazingly versatile. When used here and there in a design, they’re easily adaptable. When lined up in rows of flying flocks, they’re simply stunning. Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns dates the first flying-geese patterns ever published back to 1894, when the Ohio Farmer featured them on their “woman’s pages.” Flash-forward almost 120 years later—these simple little units are used in all kinds of quilts, from traditional to modern.

Today there are several schools of thought on how to sew flying geese, and they all have their merits. A scrap quilter might want to put every thread of fabric to good use, while a quilter with a deadline might sidestep scraps for speed. Today, we’re sharing four ways to make patchwork flying geese from four of our popular authors:

1. Traditional Technique: for quilters who like to use it up and make it do.
2. Flip, Flip, Finish: for quilters who enjoy a good ol’ chain-piecing veg-out.
3. Fast and Furious: for quilters who like to finish fast—times four.
4. Paper-Pieced Geese: for quilters who wish to piece with the utmost precision.

The charts below each of the first three techniques give finished-unit sizes along with dimensions for the cut pieces. We’ve also provided a paper-pieced flying-geese pattern to download and print for practice.

Fly down to the bottom of this post to see how other quilters use flying-geese patchwork in their quilts. Then let your own flying-geese quilts take wing!

Follow our “Flying Geese Patchwork” board on Pinterest.


Traditional Technique: Classic Flying Geese
From Cyndi Walker, author of Pretty Patchwork Quilts

Note: instructions will yield 2″ x 4″ flying-geese units (finished).

Cyndi WalkerTo make one flying-geese unit: Cut a 2 7/8″ square of fabric in half diagonally to yield two small triangles. Cut a 5 1/4″ square of a contrasting fabric in half diagonally to yield two large triangles, reserving one for another use. Sew one small triangle to one diagonal edge of the large triangle; press toward the small triangle. Sew the second small triangle to the other diagonal edge of the large triangle to make a flying-geese unit; press toward the small triangle.

Classic flying geese instructions

Cyndi used her traditionally pieced flying-geese patchwork to make the blue flower points in her quilt “Moonflower.”

Moonflower quilt by Cyndi Walker
“Moonflower” by Cyndi Walker, from the book Pretty Patchwork Quilts.

Flying Geese sizing chart--traditional technique


Flip, Flip, Finish: Flippy Corners Flying Geese
From Cathy Wierzbicki, author of Twosey-Foursey Quilts

Note: instructions will yield 2″ x 4″ flying-geese units (finished).

Cathy WierzbickiA “flippy corner” is a casual way to sew half-square triangles onto squares or rectangles without actually handling a triangle shape—cheater triangles, so to speak. This technique can be applied to a number of commonly used units and blocks. A good example is the flying-geese unit.

Traditionally, a flying-geese unit calls for one quarter-square triangle and two half-square triangles. If you prefer, however, you can make flying-geese units using the flippy-corner technique, as I did for the quilt pattern “Splash Dance.”

To make finished-size 2″ x 4″ units, substitute a 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangle for the quarter-square triangle and two 2 1/2″ squares for the two half-square triangles. Make the unit as shown in the following steps.

1. Draw a diagonal line on the back of each 2 1/2″ square.
How to sew flying geese--flippy corners 1

2. With right sides together, align one marked square with one edge of the 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangle as shown. Stitch one thread width to the outside of the diagonal line.

How to sew flying geese--flippy corners 2

3. Cut 1/4″ beyond the stitching line as shown. Press the resulting triangle open and the seam allowance toward the triangle.

How to sew flying geese--flippy corners 3

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 on the other edge of the rectangle to complete the unit.

How to sew flying geese--flippy corners 4

Here’s the fun “Splash Dance” quilt Cathy made with her patchwork flying geese—she used flying-geese units as frog’s legs!

Splash Dance quilt by Cathy Wierzbicki
Splash Dance” by Cathy Wierzbicki, from the book Twosey-Foursey Quilts.

Flying Geese chart--flippy corners technique


Fast and Furious: Four-at-a-Time Flying Geese
From Carrie Nelson, author of Another Bite of Schnibbles

Note: instructions will yield 2″ x 3 1/2″ flying-geese units (finished).

Carrie NelsonHere are the steps for my favorite, no-special-ruler-required method of making flying-geese units. For each set of four matching flying-geese units, you’ll need one large square and four matching small squares. The large square will become the large triangle in each unit and the four small squares will become the small side triangles in each unit.

Let’s use a 4 1/4″ large square and four 2 3/8″ small squares to try this technique.

1. On the wrong side of each of the four small squares, draw a diagonal line from corner to corner using a permanent pen, pencil, or chalk marker.

Patchwork flying geese--four at a time method 1

2. With right sides together, place two marked squares on opposite corners of the large square. The points of the small squares will overlap just a little bit and the drawn line should extend across the large square from corner to corner as shown.

Patchwork flying geese--four at a time method 2

3. Stitch a scant 1/4″ seam allowance on both sides of the drawn lines. Cut the squares apart on the drawn lines. Press the seam allowances toward the small triangles.

Patchwork flying geese--four at a time method 3

4. With right sides together, place one of the remaining marked squares on the corner of each piece. The drawn line should extend from the point of the corner to the point between the two small triangles. Stitch a scant 1/4″ seam allowance on both sides of the drawn line. Cut the pieces apart on the drawn line. Press the seam allowances toward the small triangles. You’ll have four flying-geese units. The units will measure 2″ x 3 1/2″.

Patchwork flying geese--four at a time method 4

Here’s one of Carrie’s flying-geese patterns, “Winter White,” from Another Bite of Schnibbles.

Winter White quilt from Another Bite of Schnibbles

Flying Geese sizing chart--four at a time technique


Paper-Pieced Geese: The Ultimate in Accuracy
From Karen Costello Soltys, author of Bits and Pieces

Karen Costello SoltysI’ve always been drawn to patchwork designs that form a diagonal pattern such as Flying Geese, but piecing many little triangles and setting triangles can be tedious with traditional cutting and sewing methods. I turned to foundation piecing to make my “Christmas Goose” quilt quite manageable. You can’t beat foundation piecing for accuracy—getting all those little triangles to be perfectly pointy and match up with those in the next block is a breeze.

Download and print these paper-pieced flying-geese patterns to practice your skills. The pdf includes patterns for making 1 flying-geese unit, as well as rows of 2, 3, and 4 units. For instructions on how to paper piece, you can visit our How to Quilt page and download the “Paper-Foundation Piecing: How to Make Paper-Pieced Quilt Patterns” pdf.


Karen used her flying-geese units to make a small Christmas quilt—the perfect size for a table topper or wall quilt:

Christmas Goose quilt from Bits and Pieces
Christmas Goose” by Karen Costello Soltys, from the book Bits and Pieces.

Have you sewn flying-geese quilts? Which technique did you use—and how did it fly? Share your quilt story in the comments!

1 Don's Goose from Urban Country Quilts

“Don’s Goose” from Urban Country Quilts

2 Butterfly Dance from SuperStrata Quilts

“Butterfly Dance” from SuperStrata Quilts

3 Lost Ship from The Big Book of Patchwork

“Lost Ship” from The Big Book of Patchwork

4 Flying in Formation from Stash Magic

“Flying in Formation” from Stash Magic

5 Game Board Quilt from Prairie Children and Their Quilts

“Game Board Quilt” from Prairie Children and Their Quilts

6 Take the Last Piece of Pie after It's Been Offered to Everyone from Back to Charm School

“Take the Last Piece of Pie after It’s Been Offered to Everyone” from Back to Charm School

7 Mollie's Choice from Quilts from Aunt Amy

“Mollie’s Choice” from Quilts from Aunt Amy

10 Geese Behind Bars from Reversible Quilts

“Geese Behind Bars” from Reversible Quilts

11 Jack in the Pulpit from Slash Your Stash

“Jack in the Pulpit” from Slash Your Stash

Flying Geese chart--flippy corners technique


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