It’s done, and it’s a hit!

P was mighty pleased with his flying geese quilt pillow. I’m not big on hyper-coordinated kids’ rooms, but it does look cute on his bed and armchair.

Where it ends up day to day is the will of a 4 year old. This week, we’ve been “camping,” which calls for dragging out sleeping bags, pillows and blankets and telling scary stories to stuffed animals. The flying geese quilt pillow is a welcome addition.

Pillow talk: Lessons from the flying geese quilt pillow

Following are assorted insights and observations about the flying geese quilt pillow:

Revel in the touch, the feel of cotton: (Admit it, you’ve got that “Fabric of Our Lives” commercial now stuck in your head.) It’s been a while since I’ve sewn with quilting cotton. Man oh man, is that stuff easy to work with! In recent months, I’ve been sewing with a lot of knits, which can be finicky.

Press seams in the correct direction: Throughout this project, the instructions indicated either “press seams to the side” or “press seams open.” (For your reference, here’s the project as pictured in the book.)

Easy enough. When I sewed together the three columns, the directions called for nesting the seams. This means that the seams for the middle column needed to be pressed in the opposite direction of the first column and the third column.

Confused? Think of it this way: If the seams in the first and third columns both are pressed to the right, the seams in the middle column should be pressed to the left. If it helps to explain further, nesting seams reduces bulk. So instead of seam allowances stacked on each other, they’re pressed in opposite directions (see below).

When it comes to nesting seams, my take is that it’s like understanding where to put pins so you won’t have to twist your arms all crazy to pull them out while you’re sewing. You eventually get better at thinking through the process to save yourself annoyances.

Seek a visual aide: These aren’t traditional flying geese; they were made with one seam. (Actually, I don’t know how to make flying geese the “traditional” way.) The one-seam technique creates pockets, which add a nice texture to the pillow. You can see the pockets in the photo below, especially on the yellow contrasting triangle.

My quilting book gave directions for one-seam flying geese, but I didn’t quite follow. So I turned to my favorite sewing teacher: YouTube. In this flying geese tutorial video, a dude in a black cowboy hat teaches the one-seam shortcut. No, really. (It’s a good tute, BTW.)

Check your work: On my first pass at the flying geese, I sewed the triangles wrong side out. I was surprised to discover this error, because the very first flying goose I sewed turned out fine. So, of course, I soldiered on. Incorrectly. I must have been distracted. Anyhoo, the moral of the story is: Check progress after the first few times you’ve done something to know whether you’re on the right track. Hi there, seam ripper.

Respect seam allowances: When it came to piecing the columns, I flaked on the instructions, which said to sew with the points of the triangles just under the seam. I thought that meant, for whatever reason, that the points should hang out just inside the seam. When I got the second column of geese underway, I realized the horizontal seams were significantly misaligned. The second column was shorter, because the seam allowances were greater than a quarter inch (the set seam allowance for this project — and most quilt piecing, which I learned). Hi again, seam ripper.

Use the right tools, part I: Because of my seam allowance blunder, I bought a quarter-inch quilting foot. The right tools, people. The right tools will rock your world. I say this every time I get a new sewing foot: Why didn’t I buy one of these ages ago?

Use the right tools, part II: Because I spent a fair amount of time unsewing my work (see: “Check your work” and “Respect seam allowances”), I noticed a lot of detail in the fabric, including some faint rust-colored spots. Turns out, there was something rusty looking on the sole plate of my iron. After it cooled, I went for another favorite tool: a Magic Eraser. I’m happy to report the Magic Eraser removed the funk, no problem. (That’s a little life hack from me to you.) And a little Shout lifted the rust spots. Score.

Hide in plain sight: The horizontal alignment isn’t perfect. In some spots, it’s probably off a one-eighth of an inch, give or take (see photo above). But you’d hardly notice, because I used patterned fabric. Patterns hides mistakes. This is good to remember as a novice quilter.

Try a bigger pillow: The instructions called for inserting an 18-inch-square pillow form. I’d like to try this project again with a bigger form, because the slipcover is a little loosey goosey (pun intended). The flying geese quilt slipcover doesn’t look bad (see photo above), but I’d like to see it on a plumper pillow, just for grins. (If you look closely at the pic I linked to from the book, you’ll notice that the slipcover there is loose, too.)

Another flock of flying geese?

I really enjoyed this project, and taking these lessons into consideration, I am anxious to make more flying geese. I bought a graph paper notebook (nerd alert!) and started sketching ideas!

Now I want to learn the traditional flying geese method. I suspect it could offer design opportunities not available with the one-seam method, slick as it is.

Over to you: Have you tried the one-seam method? Did you learn it from a man in a black cowboy hat? Was the hat a different color? Do tell!