From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library
Skill Level: Confident Beginner
A Birds in the Air quilt block pattern can be easily pieced using rotary cut patches.
On this page are instructions to do so for four different block sizes.
You'll also find a list of blocks with the same name but look different.
On this page you'll find:
Let's get started!
Prefer to paper piece this block? Click here to go to paper piecing instructions for the Birds in the Air quilt block pattern.
Block Size: 4"(4-1/2" unfinished)
These abbreviations are used in this tutorial:
All SA are 1/4".
When you are instructed to press, first press the pieced unit flat to set the seam. Then open the patch, pressing from the front to prevent any tucks from occurring in the seam.
Pressing instructions are highlighted in yellow.
Especially when I'm working with bias edges, as in this quilt block pattern, I like to starch my fabrics...heavily.
The starch provides stability and reduces the possibility of stretching those bias cut edges as I work with the block.
The chart below provides cutting dimensions in four sizes. For this sample block we're cutting the patches to make a 4" finished block.
All the dimensions below are for squares, i.e. for a 2" finished block, Patch 1 cut one 1-7/8" x 1-7/8" square. Then sub cut it once on the diagonal.
To print a copy of the design and this cutting chart, click here.
Cutting Chart for a~ Traditional Piecing ~
|Patch||Fabric||Qty||Finished Block Size||Sub|
|B||2, 3, 4||2||1-7/8”||2-1/8”||2-3/8”||2-7/8”|
My go-to thread for all my piecing is...
These are the cut patches. One pink and both a large and small green triangle will be left over at the end.
With RST, sew a #1(green) and #2(pink) triangle together along the long bias edge to create a half square triangle unit. (Upper left in the photo below.)
Press, with the SA to the darker fabric(green). The HST measures 2-1/2" edge to edge. Trim it to size if needed.
Use the chart below to find your block's Finished Size and it's corresponding HST measurement.
|Trim HST to…|
|2 1/2"||1 3/4"|
Lay out your patches to see how the triangles fit together.
With RST, match the short side of a #3(pink) triangle to the #1 patch(green). Stitch as shown below.
Press with the seam allowance away from the HST unit and towards the #3 triangle.
The triangle you just added overhangs the HST unit by a smidge(at the red arrow). This is correct. That excess disappears after the next line of stitching.
Repeat to add the #4 triangle. Press, with the SA toward the #4 triangle.
Trim the dog ears clean away (red arrow) with your scissor.
With RST, align the long edge of #5(green) with the long edge of the pieced unit and stitch.
Press, with the SA towards the dark fabric.
Trim away any remaining dog ears or thread tails.
Measure to make sure that your block measures 4-1/2" from edge to edge.
This is your finished Birds in the Air quilt block pattern (l) with leftover patches (r).
To learn how to paper piece a Birds in the Air quilt block pattern, click here.
This simple variation is used in a handful of quilt block patterns and takes just a connector corner unit to complete.
You'll have the same leftovers as before, one each of #1, #2 and #5.
This is the cutting chart for this variation—all that's different is the addition of Patch #6.
If you prefer to paperpiece this unit, click here for that pattern and its instructions.
To print a copy of this cutting chart and design, click here.
Cutting Chart for a~Traditional Piecing ~
|Patch||Fabric||Qty||Finished Block Size||Sub|
|1||A||1||1⅞" x 1⅞"||2⅛" x 2⅛"||2⅜" x 2⅜"||2⅞" x 2⅞"|
|2, 3, 4||Bac||2||1⅞" x 1⅞"||2⅛" x 2⅛"||2⅜" x 2⅜"||2⅞" x 2⅞"|
|5||A||1||2⅞" x 2⅞"||3⅜" x 3⅜"||3⅞" x 3⅞"||4⅞" x 4⅞"|
|6||Bac||1||1½" x 1½"||1¾" x 1¾"||2" x 2"||2½" x 2½"||---|
|Unfinished Block Size||2½"||3"||3½"||4½"||---|
Make this Birds in the Air using the same steps for Patches #1-#5 as shown above.
On the backside of #6 draw a diagonal line from corner to corner.
With RST, layer the marked #6, RST with the unit #1-#5.
Stitch on the line.
Give it a quick press to set the seam.
Trim the excess fabric away leaving behind a 1/4" seam allowance.
Press your Birds in the Air variation on last time with the last SA toward the darker fabric.
This variation is used in both the Christmas Star and Medieval Walls quilt block patterns.
Blocks designed in different places may use the same geometric shapes and have different names. Or different shapes but the same name. These are all known as a Birds in the Air quilt block.
The patches are the same, but a third fabric is added.
Same basic idea now drawn on a 3x3 grid. 3 complete HSTs instead of one.
Simply a group of 4 of the previous design.
Its other names include: Flying Birds, Flock of Geese and Flight of Swallows.
This variation looks more like a portion of the Bear Paw quilt block.
This Birds in the Air is a completely different looking block and significantly more complex to piece.
It's also called 'Ocean Waves'.
These are my go-to resources for quilt block ideas.
Can you tell?
It's in color.
It's got a ton of blocks.
What's not to love?
Next on my 'must-have' list is Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.
Unlike the Maggie Malone book, the blocks in this volume are hand-drawn and in black and white—no color—personally, I prefer colored drawings to work with.
This book is no longer in print.
If you can come by a copy expect it to be wickedly expensive. Once in awhile you can find it here on Amazon.com.
UPDATE: Electric Quilt, in cooperation with Barbara Brackman has announced they plan to republish the Encyclopedia sometime in 2020.
However, all is not lost if you can't find a hard copy.
BlockBase is the computerized version of the Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.
It contains designs for over 4300 blocks—pretty much every block published from the 1830's through the 1970's.
It can be used with Electric Quilt and is a Windows based program.
In fact, there are instructions included so that you can pull up the digital patterns within Electric Quilt (PC version for now) without having to open up BB program.
UPDATE: Electric Quilt has announced that they will be rereleasing the standalone BlockBase software for BOTH PC and MAC in 2020.
This is terrific news.
Finally there's The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer.
Lots of detail and in color, it is a beautiful volume. That said, I check it out of my local library on a regular basis instead of purchasing it—can you see the library sticker on it's spine. Yep, it's from the Plainfield Public Library.
Simply because I own the previous three references and find this the least user-friendly of the group.
And it does make a fabulous coffee table book!