Skill Level: Beginner
The Birds in the Air quilt block is a common unit found within many, many other patchwork designs.
If you are making just a few blocks, traditional piecing methods are adequate. For larger quantities I prefer paper piecing for two reasons:
On this page you'll find free downloadable paper piecing patterns and cutting instructions in 4 sizes and a step-by-step tutorial for making a Birds in the Air.
Examples of designs that include this as a unit in their construction are:
Goose and Goslings
Block Size: 2-1/2"(3" unfinished)
Grid size: 1-1/4"
Machine Set-Up: Set your stitch length to 15-18 stitches per inch to help perforate the paper. Install an open toe applique foot if you have one for an unobstructed view of the stitching line. Insert a 90/14 needle IF you have trouble removing the paper.
I use starch in all my piecing—paper piecing, too! With it, I find that finger pressing is almost always good enough between patches, especially when they are small, reducing the number of times I need to go to the iron. To learn more about starching your quilt fabric, click here.
If you use an iron at each step, when you see the instruction 'Press', first press the unit in the closed position. This melds the stitches with the fabric. Then press the patch open. (Otherwise, just finger press the patch open.)
I do not use steam for paper piecing, but that choice is up to you. In my experience, steam has a tendency to 'curl' the pattern...which is terribly annoying.
For unbelievably flat Birds in the Air quilt blocks, use the Best Technique for Pressing Quilt Blocks, it works just as well for foundation piecing as it does for traditional. I think you'll like it!
To open and print it you need the Adobe Reader installed on your computer. Click here to get Adobe Reader if you need it (a new window opens so you can download it without leaving this page).
Click here to download the pattern for the 2-1/2" finished block used in this example.
In order to print, open the downloaded file, and select the "Print" option.
Remember, you must set 'page Scaling' to 'None' in your printer's setup menu to ensure these blocks print at the proper size.
In this rendition of the Birds in the Air quilt block, I'm choosing to reverse the light and dark patches, because ultimately, fabric placement is the quilter's choice!
For our 2-1/2" finished block cut the patches highlighted in yellow below.
All of the dimensions below are for squares, i.e. for Patch #5, for a 3" finished block cut one 4-3/8" x 4-3/8" square. Sub cut it once on the diagonal.
|Finished Block Size|
|Fabric||Patch #||Qty||2”||2-1/2”||3”||4”||Sub Cut|
|B||2, 3, 4||2||2-3/8”||2-5/8”||2-7/8”||3-3/8”|
These are the cut patches. You will use three of the black and white triangles, and one each of the large and small blue ones. The rest are extras.
Cut a single block from the page you downloaded. There's no need to be exact, just cut outside the dotted line that marks the unfinished edge of each block. You will trim to size in the last step.
With a just a dab of Elmer's Glue Stick—the one that goes on purple and dries clear—position the back side of #1 on the unprinted side of your paper pattern so that the edges of the patch touch the dashed placement lines.
With RST, align and center the long bias edge of #2 over #1 like this...
...and stitch, starting before the line between #1 and #2 begins and after it ends by approximately 1/4" (as indicated by the red arrows).
Press. (Because I starched my fabric ahead of time, I was able to fingerpress these patches open.)
With RST, align the short side of #3 with #1 and stitch as before, both starting and stopping about a quarter inch before and after the solid stitching line.
Press. Add #4 in the same manner.
After stitching, now trim any dog ears and thread tails in the center of the block. (Trimming the block to size at the end will take care of the rest of the thread tails!)
Press. (Here I did press with my iron. I wanted the unit nice and flat before trimming.)
At this point we create a placement line for Patch #5.
Match the edge of your rotary ruler to the solid stitching line.
Crease the paper with your finger and fold the pattern back on this creased line. (You'll need to gently tug to pull the paper away from the stitches.)
Now align the 1/4" mark of your ruler with the fold and cut along the edge of the ruler with your rotary cutter. You've just created a 1/4" seam allowance.
With RST, align the long bias edge of #5 with the long side of the sewn patches.
Stitch, again starting and stopping before and after the line by a generous quarter inch.
Press. This is the stitched block.
Up 'til now, we haven't bothered to clean up the thread tails along the outside of the block. When the block is trimmed to size, it will be done automatically. There's no need to make extra work for ourselves.
Trim the block to size by placing the 1/4" line of your ruler on the solid outside line. Trim.
Repeat for the remaining three sides.
Your finished Birds in the Air quilt block looks like this.