Flawless Flying Geese: a flip-and-trim technique (new video!)

From American Quilt TreasuresFlying-geese units are a staple in quiltmaking, and there are lots of ways to make them (here are four ways—the four-at-a-time method is pretty cool!). But if your ¼" seam is just a smidge off, it can cause those geese to fly off kilter when it comes time to sew units together. And that’s no way to get your quilt to take flight!

Carol Hopkins, author of the best-selling “Civil War Legacies” series, is the princess of precise piecing. At spring Quilt Market, she showed us how she gets her flying-geese units to fly flawlessly into her quilts. Don’t miss this tip—a tiny trim is truly all you need!


Reading this post in email? Click here to view the video.

We love how Carol’s teeny trimming technique will not only square up your units, it’ll make them fit together with ALL those other units you’re sure to be stitching!

Now that you know how to perfect your flying-geese piecing, you can use your skills in a flock of Carol’s flying-geese quilts, including:

Abigail's Gowns quilt
Abigail’s Gowns from
Civil War Legacies II

Blue and Gray Trail quilt
Blue and Gray Trail from
Civil War Legacies IV (coming January 2018)

Thorns and Roses quilt
Thorns and Roses from
Civil War Legacies II

And don’t forget all the beautiful blocks you can make (in a decidedly different size) with Carol’s book, coauthored with Linda M. Koenig, The 4 x 5 Quilt-Block Anthology!

From the 4" x 5" Quilt-Block Anthology
Blocks from
The 4″ x 5″ Quilt-Block Anthology

Civil War Legacies seriesWhat’s your favorite way to make flying-geese units: one at a time, four at a time, or as-many-times-as-possible at a time? Tell us in the comments!

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30 Comments (leave a comment)

  • The No Waste method (4 at a time) works great for me. I love making flying geese.

    —Marcia on October 27, 2017
  • Thanks so much for the tip on flying geese. I sometimes use a ruler designed for squaring up the flying geese after cutting and sewing the fabric. The unit is made a bit larger and then trimmed down at the end. This method uses more fabric but helps with accuracy (I need the help)!
    I love the patterns you have featured in the article and would like to know which fabrics you used to create the Blue and Gray Trail mini quilt. Thanks!

    Hi Eileen,
    Sorry we don’t have the information on exactly which fabric line was used in the Blue and Gray Trail quilt. Any fabric store that has a good selection of Civil War reproduction fabrics will very likely have fabrics in these classic colors. Cornelia/Customer Service

    —Eileen on October 27, 2017
  • I notice she doesn’t trim off the corner triangles. Doesn’t that make for a thick fabric? I trim off the excess and sometimes I get wonky rectangles. I think I will try this technique in the future. I’ve seen some new rulers for squaring up the flying geese units, but they are way too expensive for me and my budget!!

    —Carol Bejtlich on October 27, 2017
  • I have only tried the 4 at a time method. They came out pretty well. Will watch and see how this new idea floats for me.

    Donna on October 27, 2017
  • Four at a time, for me. I don’t really like square quilts, but I love to use a row of flying geese at the top and the bottom of a square quilt to make it rectangular. Four at a time is great for this addition.

    —Carol Johnson on October 27, 2017
  • I like doing four at a time flying geese. So quick and easy. Beautiful book!

    —Joy Dickson on October 27, 2017
  • I make 4 at a time and square them up. Otherwise I have geese with broken wings.

    —stephanie woodward on October 27, 2017
  • Hi, great video on making precise flying geese units. I did notice that Jenny Cardon does not trim the excess fabric from the squares sewn on the ends of the rectangle. Could you comment on this part of her technique? is it necessary to trim after attaching each square?

    —Karen Cadden on October 27, 2017
  • Multiple geese at a time is my preference

    —Sue Goodin on October 27, 2017
  • Eleanor Burns, two at a time, however hers are very specific to her patterns. I need to become a goose-herd and be able to wing them for whatever I’m working on WITHOUT a specific pattern! (puns intended!)

    —Sharon Schipper on October 27, 2017
  • I love learning all the different ways to make flying geese. Hugs,

    —Sandi S on October 27, 2017
  • I usually do just one at a time, but making more at a time sounds like a wonderful option!! Would love to learn how!

    —Patty on October 27, 2017
  • I’ve never made any!! My grand-daughter gave me two of Eleanor Burns’ rulers but I haven’t tried them nor any other method as yet.

    —Marty on October 27, 2017
  • as many at a time as possible!!!!!!

    —Judy B on October 27, 2017
  • So, am I to take it that the back triangles are NOT trimmed off!!

    —shirley marvin on October 27, 2017
  • I prefer not to make flying geese! I always end up with One Wing going a different direction and then they won’t fly straight. So I’m down to one at a time and check each Flip & Stitch.

    —Bev Gunn on October 27, 2017
  • I like to use the 4 at a time method.. as long as I need to make this many for the block. But since I am a scrappy quilter, some times it is only one at a time which will work. dquilterguy48329 (at) prodigy (dot) net

    —Darrell on October 27, 2017
  • 4 at a time if I need that many of the same ones.

    —Sylvia on October 27, 2017
  • Four at a time the Eleanor Burns/Quilt In A Day Way is my goof-proof go-to method!

    Vivian on October 27, 2017
  • 4 at a time is the way to go!

    —Melba on October 27, 2017
  • I like 4 at the time methode

    A. Bouwman on October 28, 2017
  • i love anything with angles but i find the fastest is the best and that is with flippy corners, just love it. if its quick its good as then you have more time to quilt..lol..arlene

    —ARLENE OSBORN on October 28, 2017
  • Although I love flying-geese units, I have yet to use them in a project! This video made things look a lot easier.

    —Teri Gailey on October 28, 2017
  • I do 4 at a time, always, no waste, no bias sewing and if I have left overs they make a nice area for a label on the back.

    —Chris R on October 28, 2017
  • Generally I’m one at a time gal when it come to flying geese units. Although any trick and points that help me on the way are always welcome. I recently brought several of Carol’s books from Martingale which I have greatly enjoyed reading. Now what’s left is to start collecting my fabrics and start sewing again. I’ve had a long period where I lost my mojo for sewing and quilting and are trying desperately to get it back. So any help on my bumpy quilting journey is always welcome!

    —Julie Beard on October 29, 2017
  • I haven’t made a flying geese block yet … have yet to approach a triangle!

    —bookboxer on October 29, 2017
  • I use the Accuquilt to cut them if that is the size I want. I cut them from strips using the special rulers. I have tried the method from Elenor Burns and that works well, but you are limited to size. I guess it depends on the fabric I am using and the size I need. I have tried several techniques. I can make the precut pieces from Accuquilt really fast. The four at a time is pretty awesome too.

    —Kay Menefee on October 30, 2017
  • I have just book 2, love. I so enjoyed making the cover quilt blocks, ended up with enough for a full sized quilt. Looking forward to her new book!

    —Tammi on November 1, 2017
  • Looks like a more accurate technique……I’ll be trying it this weekend!

    —Mary Smith on November 3, 2017
  • I have only made flying -geese one at a time. Would love to learn to make them four at a time..

    —Jane Badger on November 13, 2017

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