Flying Geese and Saw Tooth Star Blocks

How to sew flying geese

This article is written by quilting author and blogger Kerry Green. It is part of our Simple Sampler series which teaches you how to make a skill building sampler quilt. 

This article features ‘flying geese’.  These are made up of a central quarter-square triangle – the ‘goose’ – squared off by a half-square triangle as the background or ‘sky’ on either side.

What is a flying goose block?

The proportions of a flying geese unit are consistent: based on the finished measurements (seam allowance not included) where the width is twice as long as the height.  Flying geese can be made using a variety of construction techniques from traditional piecing where the exact shapes are cut out and sewn together, to using two squares and a rectangle to make a single goose (see the Flying Geese block below) and even a ‘no waste’ method where four geese are created at a time!

 Flying Geese Quilt Block

How to sew flying geese

Finished block size 12” square.  This block is made up of eight flying geese and uses a corner square triangle construction method.  Finished size does not include the seam allowance so the unfinished size is 12½” square.  Seam allowance is ¼” throughout.

You will need

 

  • One fat quarter for background – I used a light print.
  • Four differently coloured fat eighths to contrast with the light fabric.  I used navy and other dark prints. There will be lots of fabric left over for other blocks!

I used Art Gallery Fabrics ‘Recollection’ by Katarina Roccella kindly provided by Hantex.  

 

Cutting


 Background fabric: Cut sixteen 3½” squares. 

Coloured fabrics: Cut two 3½” x 6½” rectangles from each of the four different coloured fat quarters giving eight rectangles in total.

 

Construction

 On the wrong side of each background square, draw a line diagonally corner to corner using a soft pencil or disappearing fabric marker.
 

 Place a background square on one end of a coloured rectangle, right sides together and with the background square on top so the diagonal line is visible.  The placement needs to be precise!

Flying geese tutorial for beginners

Sew from corner to corner following the diagonal line.  Press the seam.  Place a quilt ruler on top of the seam and use a rotary cutter to trim off the excess leaving a ¼” seam allowance.  Open out the background fabric and press the seam towards the darker fabric.

Beginner's quilting tutorial

Repeat steps 2 and 3 with another background square at the other end of the same rectangle to make your first flying geese unit!   It should measure 3½” x 6½”.  Repeat to make a total of eight flying geese units.

 
Arrange your flying geese units in pairs following the diagram.  This is a good time to play around with your layout and colours; I changed mine around for the finished block!  Sew each pair of geese together taking care at the point of each goose where the layers of fabric are bulky.

Quilt blocks using triangles

 
Join the squares of geese together to make two rows.  Join the rows together to complete the block.

 
This corner square triangle method does waste a little fabric but it is accurate and straightforward, especially for a beginner and allows you to change to the colours of the ‘geese’ and the ‘sky’ for each unit.

 

Sawtooth Star Quilt Block

Sawtooth star quilt block tutorial

Finished block size 12” square.  This block is made up of squares in two sizes as well as four flying geese units sewn using a ‘no waste’ construction method.  Finished size does not include the seam allowance so the unfinished size is 12½” square.  Seam allowance is ¼” throughout.

 
You will need

  • One fat quarter for background.
     
  • Two fat eighths in contrasting colours– I am using a red floral as fabric A and a white large floral as fabric B, all from Katarina Roccella’s Recollection range for Art Gallery Fabrics.
     

Cutting

 Background fabric: Cut four 3½” squares for the block corners.  Cut one 7¼” square for the ‘flying geese’.

Colour fabric A: Cut four 3 7/8” squares.  These will make the star points or ‘sky’ section of the flying geese.

Colour fabric B: Cut one 6½” square for the block centre

 

Construction

 On the wrong side of each fabric A square, draw a line diagonally corner to corner using a soft pencil or disappearing fabric marker.

 
Take two fabric A squares and place on opposite diagonal corners of the 7¼” background square with right sides together and with the smaller squares on top so the diagonal lines are visible.  The placement needs to be precise!  The squares will overlap at the centre.  Pin in place.

 

Ways to sew flying geese

Sew ¼” away from the diagonal line and through all the layers.  Repeat on the other side of the line.  Cut along the pencil line so that there are two sections.

The Sewing Directory free quilting tutorials

 
Working on one section, open the smaller squares out to make half-square triangles.  Place one of the remaining fabric A squares in the corner with the diagonal line pointing towards the half-square triangles; it will overlap slightly.

How to quilt with triangles

Sew ¼” away from the diagonal line through all the layers.  Repeat on the other side of the line.  Cut along the diagonal pencil line.

Free quilt block patterns from The Sewing Directory

Open out the fabric A squares to make half-square triangles and press.  You should have two flying geese units each measuring 3½” x 6½” – you may need to trim them slightly and remove the dog ears.  Repeat with remaining section from step 3 and the last two fabric A squares.  You should now have four flying geese units.

 
Arrange the flying geese units with the background and centre squares into three rows following the diagram. 

Sawtooth star layout

Sew the rows together: the seams should ‘nest’ at the points where seams meet.  Press the row seams open.  Your block is complete.

 
The advantage of the ‘no waste’ method is that it quickly creates four identical units with no fabric wastage.  However, if you want to have different colours of geese or sky, the squares and rectangles method is very effective.

 

 Quilt Maths

 To make flying geese using the corner square triangle method, the calculations are straightforward.  You need to know the finished size you would like your Flying Geese unit to be.  Note that the ½” additions are for the seam allowances.   For each Flying Geese unit, you will need:

 
One goose rectangle: (the width of the finished unit + ½”) x (the height of finished unit + ½”)   

 
Two sky or background squares: (height + ½”) x (height + ½”)

 
For the ‘no waste’ method, again you need to know the finished size of your flying geese.  To make four identical flying geese units, you will need:

 
One goose square: (width + 1¼”) x (width + 1¼”)
 

Four sky or background squares: (height + 7/8”) x (height + 7/8”)

 

 Inspiration

Rita of Red Pepper Quilts often combines simple and traditional quilt blocks with an eye-catching mix of different fabrics and colours in her quilts to great effect.  In her A Flock of Flying Geese quilt, she uses half-square triangle units to create flying geese and the shot cotton half-square triangles shine brightly!   In Flock of Flying Geese II she uses the standard flying geese unit to great effect using mainly solids for the sky but with occasional floral and text prints too so that the eye is constantly drawn to unexpected bursts of colour.

 

Next time we move on to foundation paper pieced blocks and I’ll take you step-by-step through this useful precision piecing technique!  You can find me, my sewing adventures, tips, quilt-alongs and tutorials at verykerryberry.blogspot.co.uk

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