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

34 Comments (leave a comment)

  • Last, but not least, should be Eleanor Burns’ Flying Goose ruler. this is the most accurate I have ever found and you get 4 at a time.

    —Sheila Galindo on August 2, 2012
  • thank you, love all the different ways of making flying geese, though the sew/flip works best for me. thanks for sharing.

    —Donna on August 2, 2012
  • Ricky Timms does a one seam flying geese that is very easy and versitile.

    —elizabeth on August 2, 2012
  • Love your instrctions had fun feady and downloding all so I knew I could get it right. Hugs and Cheers This really makes quilting FUN! Jeanne Wallace

    —Jeanne Marie Wallace on August 2, 2012
  • Thanks so much for the different ways to do flying geese. I’ll try them all.

    —Bonnie on August 2, 2012
  • I’m a paper piecer at heart, so that’s what I used on Cinnamon & Spice quilt. It turned out to be an award winner, so it was the right decision for me.

    If I’m making a quilt with a large quantity of geese that use the same fabric I do use the four at a time method, with a ruler from Lazy Girl.

    Great info!

    Lynda DeTray on August 2, 2012
  • I made a wonderful flannel dimensional flying geese quilt using 2 squares and a rectangle with only one seam. It worked really well. I took a class and learned the technique there.

    —Denise on August 2, 2012
  • I always wondered why the Eleanor Burns method is not ever shown except by her (in her books and on the TV show). Of all the ways, I find this to be the best for both accuracy and speed.

    —Linda Gentry on August 2, 2012
  • First off, that cobbler in the main picture looks yummy!
    Thanks for all the geese instructions. This is one block I always have difficulty with. Having four methods to fall back on really helps!

    Enjoy the weekend, y’all!

    Jean on August 3, 2012
  • i just can,t wait to start quilting those gesse patterns

    —patsy on August 4, 2012
  • Thank you. I will have this information closely.

    Yasmin on August 4, 2012
  • When using a lot of geese I do the four at a time method, but you need to be accurate. I have used the other methods too and they all have their own place. Happy quilting

    —cathy on August 5, 2012
  • I used to use the "four geese at a time" method that Carrie Nelson showed but now I too am a big fan of Eleanor Burns "two squares" method (my name for it) that also makes four geese at a time. I made a wonderful flying geese strippy quilt in flannel using the method and it was fast and easy.

    I recently learned about the "one seam dimensional flying geese" method that the other commenters mentioned and hope to try it soon on an upcoming project.

    Vivian on August 6, 2012
  • I love ‘flying geese’ and have found the Eleanor Burns rulers to be the best for accuracy and ease of use.

    —Evelyn on August 6, 2012
  • Designed a BOM quilt this year using 4-at-a-time, Wing Clipper Tool and some flip-flip. Having lots of fun with it. Photo on my Facebook.

    —Helen Hardwick on August 7, 2012
  • I have used the first three, but I find that the flippy method is the fastest, at least for me!

    —Pauline on August 8, 2012
  • I love your techniques. I am going to bookmark. thank you

    kriss on August 11, 2012
  • Could you possibly answer my question?

    How do you make ‘reverse flying geese’?

    Sorry, Judi, none of us here have ever heard of a "reverse flying geese". I tried an internet search and couldn’t find anything.
    ~Cornelia from Martingale

    —Judi on February 13, 2013
  • Reverse flying geese is where what normally is white (background fabric) is the placed where the patterned fabric goes and what is the patterned is in the place of the white (background)
    As shown in this picture here on the right side
    It depends on the placement of fabric when sewn Judi =)

    —tiffany winchester on March 5, 2013
  • Parabéns e obrigada por todas as dicas que estas experientes pessoas nos dão, e a oportunidade de aprender cada vez mais.

    Translation: Congratulations and thanks for all the tips that these experienced people give us, and the opportunity to learn more and more.

    —Maria Nogueira on March 14, 2013
  • Be sure you notice that Carrie’s method won’t work for directional fabric! I use the foundation method.

    —SSquilter on March 19, 2013
  • I have been doing the Eleanor Burns method for years as it yields four at a time. The method using the rectangle and small squares is great but unless you plan to use the cut off pieces, it is rather wasteful with fabric costing $12-13 yd ( august 2014).

    —Helen Ross on August 5, 2014
  • I’m making Eleanor’s Orion’s Star and just realized I have the wrong ruler. I have the 3×6 not the 2×4. Is there any way that I can adapt the larger ruler or use my Omni ruler instead?

    Hi Roseann,
    Since we are not the publisher for Eleanor’s books and patterns, we really don’t know the answer to this question! Go to and click on "customer service". I’m sure they’ll have the answer for you!
    ~Cornelia/Customer Service

    —Roseann on October 5, 2014
  • Thanks so much for the useful information. I tried the 4-at-a-time method like Eleanor Burn’s uses without using her ruler and found that even though the points of my geese were centered, there were uneven amounts of fabric on the sky. I tried the other Fast-n-Furious 4 at a time and loved it, but when I try to make a goose in the unfinished size of 2×4, the point of the goose is cut off when I sew it together. I must say I love this method for the dimensions given, as it is extremely accurate and wastes NO material. The geese I made were to perfection in size, as I used the calculation method given in the QUILTMAKER Sept/Oct ’94 edition, page 19. Can you share with us how to calculate different sizes of flying geese with other methods, or does the shape only lend itself to certain measurements?

    —Sky on October 13, 2014
  • I have favorited your site. It will be a great reference for me.

    —Aneta Stewart on November 24, 2014
  • I’m so glad that I found this site…I have great plans for flying geese and needed good "how to" advice. And there you were with four different "how to’s". You are now on my favorites list.

    —Wrennette on January 21, 2015
  • These are so so pretty. I can’t wait to try one for my own.

    Wendy on February 19, 2015
  • I have this pattern in a magazine (possibly American Patchwork and Quilting)and there used to be a link to the rhubarb crisp on their website. I printed the recipe and made the crisp. It was delicious! I have lost the recipe and would be thrilled to get another copy if anyone has it or can tell me where to find it.

    Janette on June 9, 2015
  • Creative Grids has an excellent Flying Geese ruler.

    Phyllis on June 13, 2015
  • I hate the Eleanor Burns way of making flying geese, they never turn out right no matter how many times I try, or watching the video. I find the Fast and Furious works the best for me every time.

    —Anne Arthur on October 27, 2015
  • I have no trouble making the separate pieces using the make 4 at one time process. However, when I go to sew them together to make a strip or a square the aren’t always the same size. I’ve checked my seam allowances and they are 1/4. Sometime times the points are cut off. What am I doing wrong.


    —Madelyn Diaz on July 12, 2016
  • I’ve used all four methods at one time or another, as well as a fifth (Eleanor Burns method). Paper piecing is too slow, the flip and sew often not accurate enough as I like to sew fast. I find the Fast and Furious (similar to Eleanor Burns method without the EXACT check the QiaD template provides) is simplest, fastest, and generally accurate. My favorite though is the Eleanor Burns using the Quilt in a Day template. I find it fast, nearly 100% accurate and clean. There is some fabric waste, I admit.

    —Lynda Morse on September 7, 2016
  • Eleanor’s way works best for me, I have her large and small rulers. When I want a different size of geese I use the one I learned from Kathleen Guerrier’s book from years ago – this is the same one as Carrie Nelson uses, but the squares are slightly larger. I can sew the angles off sometimes so like the idea of foundation papers, however, I hate taking the paper off, such a mess.

    —Elaine on October 27, 2017
  • The lady looking for reverse flying geese may be referring to migrating geese which gives you opposite sides . J6st a thought 😊

    —Kathy Inns on November 1, 2018

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