Super Simple Flying Geese Quilt Tutorial

Flying Geese Quilt

The Flying Geese quilt block is simple, versatile and quick to make. Flying Geese can stand alone as a single block or can be used to make many other famous quilt blocks – the Sawtooth Star being one of them.

Through my research on the history of this block I came across very few facts. There are some myths, mostly about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, but not much else. My conclusion, then, is that the history behind this block is as simple as the block itself – it looked like a flying goose, and so when the early quiltmakers made a quilt using this block, they named it “Flying Geese.”

A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. Learn how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

Basing a quilt block name on simple observations seemed to be a common trend. To the women of that time, these blocks symbolized what they saw in their everyday lives – Log Cabin, Snowball, Bear’s Paw and Honeycomb.

Knowing that quilt blocks symbolized commonly found objects, it’s easy for storytellers and quilt lovers to jump to the conclusion that quilts could have been used to send basic messages to escaping slaves during the Civil War. Without much proof to back this up, there is a lot of controversy over quilt codes and their use in the 19th century. Fact or fantasy aside, it’s a wonderful story even if it may be just that.

Below is a map of the Underground Railroad to give you some perspective on how far fugitives would travel to safety.​

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A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. Learn how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

The main reason stories about quilts being used as secret codes is not confirmed as facts is because there does not seem to be any evidence that is pre-1865. Most of the “evidence” even then is hearsay without any written first-hand accounts. Fugitive slaves and Underground Railroad participants detail many ways of conveying messages, but never mention quilts and some of the details of the “quilt code” are incompatible with symbolism in African culture. With that said, the myths about code quilts are really interesting, so let’s talk about it anyway 😉


According to folklore, settlers aiding escaped slaves would place household items, including quilts, outside their homes to convey messages to those in need. Below are a few quilt blocks and their codes.

A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. Learn how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

Flying Geese

This pattern informed escaping slaves to follow migrating geese toward Canada and to freedom.

A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. Learn how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

Log Cabin

This pattern was used to let slaves know where safe houses were. People who helped the Underground Railroad may have identified themselves as friends to slaves on the run by tracing this pattern in dirt as a signal. This quilt told slaves to look for this symbol on their journey to freedom.

A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. Learn how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

Bow Ties

Slaves’ clothes were often tattered and easy to spot. This pattern meant that someone would bring the slave nice clothes to help them blend in with the free blacks.

A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. Learn how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

Crossroads

Once through the mountains, slaves were to travel to the crossroads. The main crossroad was Cleveland, Ohio. Any quilt hung before this one would have given directions to Ohio.

A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. Learn how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

Monkey Wrench

This meant the slaves were to gather all the tools they might need on the journey to freedom. Tools meant: something with which to build shelters, compasses for determining direction, or tools to serve as weapons for defending themselves.

Make Your Own Flying Geese

Supplies:​

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Simple Sew Steps:​

​Below are instructions on how to make the Flying Geese block Two different ways. Tip: Once you master Flying Geese, check out my Sawtooth Star Quilt Pattern to see how to build upon its versatility!

Basic Flying Geese - Produces 1 Block

The instructions below will produce 1 - 3” x 6” finished block. To figure out the dimensions for larger or smaller blocks, simply add ½” when cutting to the desired size. See example...

  1. On the wrong side of 2 dark 3 ½” squares, draw a guideline from corner to corner.
  2. Place 1 dark square right side down on a light 3 ½” x 6 ½” rectangle. Sew along the guideline. Using a rotary cutter and ruler, trim ¼” from the seam. Press out.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the other 3 ½" dark square.
A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. Learn how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

No Waste Flying Geese - Produces 4 Blocks

You need one square, the size of the finished width you desire the Flying Geese to be + 1 ¼”, and four squares that are the height of the finished unit you want plus ⅞”. The instructions below will produce 4 - 3” x 6” finished blocks. See example.

  1. Place 2 dark 3 ⅞” squares on opposite corners of the 7 ¼” light square and on the wrong side of the dark 3 ⅞” squares, draw a guideline from corner to corner.
  2. Sew a ¼” from the guideline on both sides. Cut apart.
  3. Press seams out. Place 1 dark square right side down and sew a ¼” from the guideline on both sides. Cut apart and press seam out. Repeat with the remaining unit.
A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. A Flying Geese quilt tutorial how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

Modern Flying Geese Quilts

Below are examples of quilters today using the Flying Geese block to make stunning modern quilts. The possibilities of what you can do are endless!

Spectrum by Fresh Lemons Quilts

A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. A Flying Geese quilt tutorial how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

Heading South by Material Girl

A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. A Flying Geese quilt tutorial how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

Wanderlust by Maureen Cracknell

A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. A Flying Geese quilt tutorial how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!
A brief history on the Flying Geese quilt block. Includes modern flying geese block inspiration and a flying geese conversion chart to scale blocks up or down. A Flying Geese quilt tutorial how to make 1 Flying Geese block or 4 at a time!

22 thoughts on “Super Simple Flying Geese Quilt Tutorial

  1. Pingback: Reverse Sawtooth Star Quilt Pattern - Suzy Quilts

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  3. averts says:

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  5. Chelsea says:

    Hey Suzy, does this leave any extra fabric so you can trim/square up the blocks to 3×6? Or should I add a bit extra to be able to do this?

    Thanks!

  6. Pingback: Meet a Fabulous Fiber Artist: Nancy Crow - Suzy Quilts

  7. Kimberly says:

    Question: Why the 3 7/8” measurement? Wouldn’t it be easier to just cut 4” blocks and then trim the finished flying geese’s blocks down? Please what is the reason for the 7/8?
    Thank you

  8. Judy says:

    I want a finished unit that is 4 x 7 1/2 “. I cut a large square 8 3/4″ (width +1 1/4″) and 4 smaller squares 4 7/8″ (height + 7/8″). I end up with a unit that is 4 1/2 x 7 3/4”. Maybe this only works with rectagles that have a length exactly twice their height…..?? I’m not good enough with math to make this work!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      The No Waste 4-at-a-time method is designed for exactly what you said – blocks that are twice as wide as they are tall. For what you’re trying to do, the Basic one-at-a-time method should work, though.

  9. Veena Krishnan says:

    The no-waste-4-at-a-time method is a very neat method. But it hardly leaves any seam on the sides. So if we join two columns of flying geese how will one get neat points at the two sides of the base?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      The seams are a 1/4″ with this method. If you find that you’re having trouble sewing and trimming because the seams are too small, add a 1/4″ to your cut size and then trim the blocks when you’re finished.

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