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Four-at-a-Time Flying Geese: The Secret Star Method

A few years ago, at my annual getaway with two quilting buddies, I planned to make a scrappy, Sawtooth Star quilt “starring” my precious stash of reproduction fabrics. Using my favorite sew-and-flip method, I happily began constructing the Flying Geese units that would become the Star points.

When Alex (Anderson), one of my retreat mates, saw the individual units going up on my design wall, she stopped me in my tracks. “I can show you a method that gives you four of those Flying Geese units at a time,” she said. Being something of the old school, “if-it-ain’t-broke, don’t-fix-it” sort, I was reluctant at first. However, once she showed me this technique, which she calls “The Secret Star Method,” and which she included in her book, Kids Start Quilting, I was hooked. After all, if those kids could do it, so could I!

Just as Alex promised, this method yields four Flying Geese units at a time–enough for all the points on a Sawtooth Star block. Quick and easy? You bet!

First, determine the finished size of the unit you need. For my 8″ finished Sawtooth Star blocks, I needed Flying Geese units that finished 4″ x 2″ each.

In the steps that follow, Fabric A = brown print; Fabric B = pink print.

The Magic Formula:

From Fabric A, cut one square equal to the finished measurement of the long side of the unit ( in my case, 4″) + 1-1/4″.

From Fabric B, cut four squares equal to the finished measurement of the short side of the unit (in my case, 2″) + 7/8″.

For 4" x 2" finished Flying Geese units, I cut one 5 1/4" square (Fabric A), and four 2 7/8" squares (Fabric B).

The How To:

1. Draw a diagonal line, from corner to corner, on the wrong side of all four small squares. This will be your cutting line (shown in black).

2. Draw diagonal lines 1/4″ from the original diagonal line on each square. These will be your sewing lines (shown in white).

3. With right sides together, pin two marked squares in opposite corners of the large square so that the markings run in continuous diagonal lines. (Note: The two marked squares will overlap at the center.)

4. Sew on both outer lines. (I used yellow thread so that you can see the stitching. In “real life,” I’d use a neutral-color thread, such as gray.) Cut the unit apart on the center line and press toward the small squares.

5. Pin a remaining marked square on the “available” corner of one unit from the previous step. Make sure that the markings run from the corner to the center of the unit.

6. Sew on both outer diagonal lines. Cut the unit apart on the center line and press toward the small square. Presto: two Flying Geese!

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 to make two more Flying Geese. Trim the “dog ears.”

How easy is that? Now all you need is a 4-1/2″ square for the Star center, and four 2-1/2″ squares for the block corners, and you’re good to go!

Say you’d prefer that the Flying Geese be a bit more scrappy. No problem! Just use four different fabrics for the four small squares.

Here are a bunch of blocks that I made at our retreat. Wait ’til you see what I slipped in between them. I’ll post a photo when the quilt is finished.

Yes, I still use my old standby sew-and-flip method from time to time, but if I want to make my Geese in bunches, it’s the Secret Star method for me.

Before I sign off, I’d like to pass on a bit of good news. Remember the post I did a few months back about the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI)? Well, a little bird told me that on October 25, the AAQI awarded its ninth grant, this time a $30,000 research grant, to Dr. Chris B. Schaffer, Professor of Biological Engineering at Cornell University. As AAQI executive director Ami Simms reminds us, “We are able to give that money because of quilters like you.”

I hope you’ll visit the AAQI site to see how you can continue to support this worthy and important cause.

‘Til next time, happy stitching!

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