Archive for the 'quilting basics' Category

Tutorial: Quick Pieced Flying Geese

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

When I started this blog I envisioned doing tutorials and such for my newbie quilting friends. I had no idea there would be experienced quilters reading and commenting!

That said, this is one of those tutorials. Experienced quilters, please ignore my novice strugglings. Or else comment and tell my beginning friends a better way to do what I’m explaining.

Flying Geese are not my favorite type of quilting unit, but they crop up time and again. You can make them with templates, but I hate using templates. I find them too time consuming to produce and I never cut them quite right. Worst of all, when I finally sew my triangles together my points always get cut off. I hate blunt points.

Here’s a quick piecing method that works for me. The major disadvantage is that it wastes fabric. If you’re a paper piecer it’s not too bad since the left over bits are perfect for little paper piecing projects. If you aren’t a paper piecer. . . well. . . maybe you don’t want to do your flying geese this way if you have 96 of the bad boys lined up.

In this method, you will use one rectangle and two squares to produce a perfect flying goose.

To start with you need to know the size of your finished product. Follow the table below for cutting instructions:

Finished Size Cut 1 rectangle Cut 2 squares
1 1/2″ x 3″ 2″ x 3 1/2″ 2″
2″ x 4″ 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ 2 1/2″
2 1/2″ x 5″ 3″ x 5 1/2″ 3″
3″ x 6″ 3 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ 3 1/2″
3 1/2″ x 7″ 4″ x 7 1/2″ 4″

Of course, you can make bigger units than that, but I think if you study the chart you can figure out the dimensions pretty easily.

Ready to start sewing?

Click any picture to go to the Flickr page and see it much bigger.

  • Step 1: Cut out your pieces to the desired size. Remember, you’ll need one rectangle and two squares for each flying goose.
  • Step 2: Flip over your squares so the wrong side of the fabric is facing up. Take a fabric pencil and mark a straight diagonal line from one corner to the other. Do this for each square. I find it works best to start in the middle, then mark up. Go back to the middle; mark down. I am also a BAD quilter and sometimes use a really thin sharpie to mark my line. Don’t do this because you might be able to see it on the finished product. Also, really don’t use a regular ink pen because it will bleed in the wash and you’ll have a hot mess on your hands.


  • Step 3: Making sure your fabrics are right sides together, pin one square to one side of the rectangle in preparation for sewing.

  • Step 4: Sew on the marked line. You may want to push a scrap piece through your machine first to help avoid sticking the triangle ends down into your bobbin case. I like to chain piece a bunch of these.


  • Step 5: Go to your cutting area and snip off the excess fabric. Make the cut 1/4″ away from the seam you just sewed. You can eyeball it like I do, or you can use a fancy ruler and a rotary cutter.


    After the cut, your unit will look like this:

  • Step 6: Turn it over, hit it with a bit of Magic Sizing and press your seam open. Not everyone presses open, but I find it much more accurate than pressing toward the side.
  • Step 7: Pin a square to the other side of the rectangle, again making sure right sides are together. Make sure your drawn line is positioned so that when you make the cut, you’ll end up with a point.
  • Step 8: Sew on the drawn line.
  • Step 9: Cut off the excess fabric, leaving a 1/4″ seam.

  • Step 10: Turn it over, spray it with Magic Sizing, and press the seam open.

    Your end product should look like this:


Top Eleven Quilting Tips for Newbies

Monday, June 18th, 2007

When I started quilting I literally knew nothing. Not. One. Thing.

These are a few of the tips I wish I would have known for that very first quilt.

  1. Use a 1/4″ seam allowance. It’s great if you have a piecing foot with your machine, but if not you can put a piece of masking tape as your line. When sewing, look at your seam allowance guide, not the needle. Practice this! Own this! Do it over and over until you can make a 1/4″ seam in your sleep. Nothing will turn out well until you can get your seam allowance consistent.
  2. If you buy cheap fabric, flannel, or hand-dyed fabrics make sure you pre-wash it. It would be awful to ruin a quilt through shrinkage or dye bleeding. Currently I am not pre-washing fabrics from quality quilt shops because I think it is cool to get the puckery, antique look after washing the finished quilt.
  3. Don’t buy Wal-Mart fabric because it falls apart. Seriously. This was a tough lesson to learn.
  4. Press the fabric with Magic Sizing (starch flakes and burns) before starting and press between each round of sewing. (I like to keep an extra can of Magic Sizing on hand at all times). These days I don’t use Magic Sizing because I’ve developed an allergy, but it was invaluable in my first days as a quilter. It stiffens up the fabric and makes sewing a lot easier.
  5. Press seams open (this is a big debate in the quilting world. It takes more time, but you can line up your points a whole lot easier).
  6. Use a walking foot. This advice is a little unusual, I think, but I am in love with my walking foot. I’ve totally given up on my piecing foot and use my walking foot for everything. It is a special foot that feeds the fabric through evenly. I’ve only had my walking foot about six months and don’t know how I lived without it! I’ve found the best deals at They are about $25 there.
  7. Put the pins in perpendicular and take them out before they go under the needle.
  8. Chain piecing! You don’t have to remove your sewing pieces, pull out a big long piece of thread again, then sew two more together, repeat. I was so dumb! Instead, just feed the pieces in one right after the other and you’ll save a lot of thread and time.
  9. To really get things to match up, pin on each side of your pressed open seams, matching things up, even if things really don’t fit. A pucker in the seam is less noticeable than a mismatched point.
  10. Contrast is important. When picking out fabrics for a quilt, make sure you are getting lights, darks and mediums.
  11. Quilting is fun! Mistakes are learning experiences! Don’t broadcast all the mistakes when people are admiring your quilts and they won’t notice them (hard, hard lesson for me to learn).

As a bonus, here’s a pic of my very first quilt, made entirely with 1/2″ seams b/c I had no clue about the 1/4″ seam rule. There’s also a big puppy patch on the back covering a big hole that I cut while I was trying to clip seams. This quilt no longer exists, except as a bunch of strings and batting. It was made solely from Wal-Mart fabric and didn’t hold up to heavy baby use.

First Quilt Ever
Made in March of 2004 for my first nephew.