Just as there are several different ways to make half-square triangles, there's several ways to do flying geese. I'll show you the two methods I use most often, and you can decide how you'd like to make yours for your quilt.
Anatomy of a Flying Geese unit
A flying geese unit is made up of two integral parts, the geese/goose and the sky, creating a rectangular unit used very frequently in quilts and blocks.
geese/goose: the focal part of a flying geese unit, shown here in a beautiful print from Denyse Schmidt's upcoming Shelburne Falls line fabrics
sky: background pieces, shown here in white
Construction Two Ways
Method A: Shown in the Sea of Stars pattern, and the method I use most often, though it is slower than Method B
Creates one flying geese unit at a time
To make a 2 1/2" x 4 1/2" flying geese unit, you'll need:
(1) 2 1/2" x 4 1/2" rectangle of printed fabric
(2) 2 1/2" squares of white fabric
1. Using a ruler, draw a line across the diagonal of all of your white squares. I like to use either a Frixion pen, which disappears when an iron is applied to it, or a Hera pen, which creates a crease rather than an ink or pencil line. Then, place one at a time on the 2 1/2" x 4 1/2" rectangles, as shown below right sides together, with the diagonal line going from the bottom right corner of your rectangle fabric and continuing up to the center of the rectangle fabric.
2. Stitch just a few threads to the right of your line, just slightly closer to the corner.
3. Fold back your white fabric to line up with the corner of your printed fabric. Press well, using a hot, dry iron. Trim excess seam allowance down to 1/4".
A word on waste: To avoid making waste in this step, you can add an additional seam approximately 1/2" closer to the corner from your first seam. Then, when you trim to a 1/4" seam allowance, you create a bonus half-square triangle, to use in a future project. You can do this on both sides of the flying geese units, using this method.
4. Using the remaining white square, line up raw edges and ensure that your diagonal line makes a triangle when it intersects with the existing neutral square/triangle. Stitch just a few threads closer to the corner again, fold back, press, and trim excess seam allowance.
Method B: A little more bang for your buck
Creates four flying geese units at once
Honestly, as much as I enjoy the lack of waste in this method, I must be just set in my ways, because I rarely actually use this method, though it is a solid flying geese method.
To make four 2 1/2" x 4 1/2" flying geese units, you'll need:
(1) 5 3/4" rectangle of printed fabric
(4) 3 3/8" squares of white fabric
A math note: to calculate your own flying geese using this method, simply start with the width of the finished flying geese unit you plan to make, for example here, it's 4 1/2". Add 1 1/4" to that, which in this example equals 5 3/4". That is the size to cut your geese fabric, shown here in a printed fabric. One geese square will yield 4 finished flying geese units. To determine the size to cut your sky fabric, use the height of your finished flying geese unit and add 7/8." For this example, the finished height is 2 1/2", so when you add 7/8" to that, you get 3 3/8". Then, cut four sky squares using that calculation, to create the four flying geese units this method yields.
1. Just as we did in Method A, draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of all four of the white squares, using the marking tool of your choice. Place two of the white squares, on the geese square, right sides together, aligning the raw edges of one square with the bottom left corner, and the other square with the top right corner of the geese square. Make sure that the lines you drew align in the center, where the two squares will overlap slightly.
2. Sew a scant 1/4" seam parallel to the lines you drew on the white squares, on both sides of the line, for a total of two seams.
3. Cut along the marked line, and ta da you'll have two units! But they're not flying geese just yet. :) Press the seam open for both units.
4. Take one of the two units and align one of the remaining white squares with the printed corner of the unit in progress, right sides together. Make sure that the marked line is pointing from the corner of the printed fabric through the two white triangles sticking off the printed fabric. This square will hang off the edge slightly, between the two white triangles. Sew a scant 1/4" on both sides of the line, then cut on the line.
5. Ta da!!! Two flying geese units! Press the seams open, and then repeat with the remaining white square and remaining unit in progress, and you'll have four flying geese units, with no waste.
Before you sew your flying geese into your blocks, you may want to trim the dog-ears (the pointy bits sticking out over your flying geese). Admittedly, I very rarely do this, because I like to take shortcuts, and I know my machine doesn't have any trouble sewing right over those dogears.
I think one of the reasons dogears aren't an issue for me is because I press my seams open. Do what works best for you and your machine here.