Traditional quilt patterns can be ultra-frustrating for those of us quilters who die cut their quilts. Flying geese calculations can be particularly maddening. Here’s how you can convert them easily for die cutting.
Patterns are often written with quick-piece methods that can often mask the finished size of the block, or they may be sized in an odd way that doesn’t allow you to quickly discern whether the unit can be die cut or not.
Case in point: a member of a Facebook group I am in posed the following: how can I die cut a flying geese that finishes at 1 1⁄8″ x 2¼”?
The answer is: you can’t.
Most of the quilting dies you will find on the market are made for the most common quilting shapes, found in 95% of the quilting patterns out there. And that means, that most of the time, dies will only be available for inch and half-inch finished measurements. Sometimes, you’ll find the odd 5⁄16″ measurement, or ¼” measurement, but those are reserved for specialty shapes like on-point squares or parallelograms that fit with your typical 9″ or 12″ finished block.
The pattern this quilter was presented with specifically suggested cutting 1 5⁄8″ squares and 1 5⁄8″ x 2¾” rectangles to make flying geese.
Here, I’d like to address three questions: how you can easily figure measurements for flying geese regardless of having a pattern, and how to back into a flying geese measurement from a pattern. Lastly, I’ll cover some suggestions for alternatives when you can’t find the dies you need.
Simple Formula for Flying Geese
Flying geese, when finished, are twice as wide as they are tall. Notice in the above example, even though it’s an odd measurement, the finished height of 1 1⁄8″ is half the width of 2¼”. It’s important to know the finished measurement though, because you can’t figure this out using the unfinished measurement.
You also need to know that die-cut flying geese are made from HSTs (half-square triangles) and QSTs (quarter-square triangles.) The HST represents the height of the unit, and the QST represents the width.
If you prefer to die cut everything, knowing these two facts, coupled with my Equivalent Die Notation (EDeN) Chart, will make quick work of flying geese.
Using EDeN for Flying Geese
The EDeN Chart is an extensive listing of the most-common quilting shapes across many manufacturer’s dies, and standardized under a common numbering system.
Using this system, you can use the finished size of a flying geese unit to find every combination of flying geese it is possible to die cut.
You could use HST-1 and QST-2 to make a 1″ x 2″ finished flying geese unit; HST-2½ and QST-5 will make a 2½” x 5″ finished unit. Pick any HST unit in the chart, and double the numeric part to find the proper QST. Easy!
If you want to learn more about EDeN, visit the Equivalent Die Notation site.
Back Into the Flying Geese Measurement
When you are reading a pattern that calls for flying geese, quite often they will use the square and rectangle method for stitching the flying geese unit. These geese are made by placing the squares on top of the rectangle, stitching from corner to corner, trimming the excess fabric, and flipping the corners back to reveal the geese. It’s a clever method to be sure, but wastes fabric and defeats the purpose of die cutting.
To figure out whether these units can be die cut, you just need the cut size of the rectangle. From that, you subtract the seam allowance on both measurements. The smaller measurement is the finished size of your HST, and the larger is the finished size of your QST. Then you can repeat as above – look them up in the EDeN Chart.
For example, if you are called to cut a 3½” x 6½” rectangle, subtracting the seam allowance makes a 3″ x 6″ finished unit. You need HST-3 and QST-6 to make the flying geese unit.
Alternatives for Odd-Sized Flying Geese
Let’s say your pattern gives you an odd measurement as the example above, where the finished measurement is 1 1⁄8″ x 2¼”.
This measurement is actually between sizes of dies. Using HST-1 and QST-2 will be too small, and HST-1½” and QST-3 will be too big. In these cases you have a couple of options:
- Use the next-largest dies available and trim down the geese units. Depending on how many of these you have to make, it could be a serious chore to do this. If this is your chosen method, remember to trim them so you preserve a ¼” seam allowance at the top of the unit, first, before trimming the bottom, and then take an equal amount off the sides to get the unit to the correct dimensions and prevent your points from being lost in the seam.
- Just rotary cut them. I don’t know which is faster: rotary cutting them to begin with, or cutting them too big and trimming them down later. You have to decide what your time is worth, and whether you can be accurate in cutting the odd size to begin with. If I only have a few to make, cutting them by hand may not be so bad.
- Use an alternate method for geese. Here’s a no-waste method for flying geese that uses squares only to complete four geese at a time. It doesn’t take away the idea of dealing with odd measurements, but it does lessen the pain a bit by helping you get more done at once.
- Change the pattern to enable die cutting. If the pattern doesn’t have too many different shapes and it’s simple enough, you may be able to just adjust the pattern to work with the sizes of dies you already have. For example, if the pattern were simply rows of geese, you could just make them all the same size as the dies you have available. Your quilt may end up larger or smaller, and if there is sashing or borders, you’d have to adjust them accordingly, but it wouldn’t be terrible. If the pattern is more complex, and every other shape is die-cut friendly, you might have an easier time just doing one of the above. Whatever you do, please don’t write the designer and ask them to do it for you.
I hope that helps you the next time you’re trying to figure out flying geese for patterns! Did you know that my EDeN System is being used in Easy Quilts starting with the Summer 2017 issue? Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or fabric retailer, or get a print or digital version here.
What size flying geese do you wish were available as a die cut?