Flying Geese Quilt

It’s been a long long time since I’ve quilted. April, actually. (That’s when I finished my first ever quilt after the two years since I unceremoniously closed up my Etsy shop.) That first quilt has a story to be told, but it’s a story I’ve been avoiding telling. It’s tough to describe the thought process behind making my first quilt when I was also in the process of quitting my job.

Dang that’s a tease. I’ll write about that first quilt one day. This is a much more benign reflection on the current quilt top I’m working on!

Tentative quilt name: “You Do Not Have to be Good”

I started this new quilt with the intention of making a log cabin design. I’ve seen log cabin quilts before and love their simplicity, but couldn’t remember exactly how to piece the strips together. So I winged it. I cut 2″ strips of four different fabrics and started piecing: two 2″ squares, then a third fabric on one side of the two center squares, then another side, then a third side*. Then ring all the way around with a fourth fabric.

*This was the fatal flaw.

They didn’t really turn out the way I’d hoped.

I was determined to make lots of them, and I thought I had a good design concept: four fabrics (1, 2, 3, 4), each block with a different fabric on the exterior of the square, always following the same sequence toward the center (if fabric 3 is on the exterior, the sequence toward the center is 3, 2, 1, 4; if fabric 2 is on the exterior, toward the center is 2, 1, 4, 3).

A shot of the cork board above my sewing desk. Log cabin squares shouldn’t have that predominant “U” shape in the center. Oops.
Once I had quite a few squares constructed (and could see just how bad they looked), I decided it was time to cut the squares diagonally and try to make some flying geese.

Quick aside: this has been the biggest and most freeing lesson I’ve learned from quilting. There’s no such thing as a mistake. Especially when you’re learning a new technique and the end result isn’t going to be perfect.

(Actually yes, there are mistakes in quilting. But most of them are correctable. There are a few notable exceptions. For example: cutting your finger, measuring incorrectly and cutting expensive fabric the wrong size, ironing fusible interfacing onto your work, etc., but even those aren’t the end of the world.)

Which brings me to the tentative name of this quilt, “You Do Not Have to be Good.” It’s the first line of one of Mary Oliver’s most well-known poems, Wild Geese. Why everyone doesn’t reference this poem when naming their flying geese quilts, I just don’t know.

The first triangular cuts; way before I had a layout in mind.
The first triangular cuts; way before I had a layout in mind.
Of the fifteen log cabin failure squares I had on hand, I started cutting them into triangles. I was excited! I was tackling flying geese! Thankfully, before I got too far along I remembered just how disappointed I was in my log cabin squares.

I looked up just how to make flying geese.

Turns out making flying geese is a lot less intimidating than I thought it would be! I’ve been avoiding any kind of triangular piecing because I thought it required cutting and sewing everything on the bias (when the fabric is cut at a 45 degree angle), and fabric cut on the bias is stretchy and fiddly.

Flying geese in formation.
Most tutorials for making flying geese don’t require lots of triangular cuts before sewing the pieces together. Instead, you sew pieces onto the square’s 45 degree diagonal, then cut on the bias once the seam is secure (see “Speed Piecing Method B” here for a much better explanation).

When cats help with piecing, cute things happen.
After completing a few blocks, I started adding a solid background fabric into the mix — I didn’t run out of the print, but I wanted a little variety and more depth of color.

It’s still a work in progress! Looking forward to having more to share soon.

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