Birds in the Air Quilt Block Pattern
(Traditional Piecing)

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

Skill Level: Confident Beginner

Grid: 2x2

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.

General Instructions

Block Size: 4"(4-1/2" unfinished)

Grid: 2x2

These abbreviations are used in this tutorial:

  • RST - right sides together
  • HST - half square triangle
  • SA - seam allowance

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.

Step 1: Cut your fabric patches

Birds in the Air quilt block drawingBirds in the Air design

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.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Birds in the Air Quilt Block

~ Traditional Piecing ~

Patch Fabric QtyFinished Block Size Sub
2” 2-1/2” 3” 4”
A 1 1 1-7/8” 2-1/8” 2-3/8” 2-7/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
B 2, 3, 4 2 1-7/8” 2-1/8” 2-3/8” 2-7/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
A 5 1 2-7/8” 3-3/8” 3-7/8” 4-7/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
Grid Size 1” 1-1/4” 1-1/2” 2” na

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.

Your cut patches for the Birds in the Air quilt block

Step 2: Assemble the Birds in the Air

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.

HST Dimensions

Block Size
Trim HST to…
2" 1 1/2"
2 1/2" 1 3/4"
3" 2"
4" 2 1/2"

Lay out your patches to see how the triangles fit together.

Lay out the patches for your block

With RST, match the short side of a #3(pink) triangle to the #1 patch(green). Stitch as shown below.

Stitch #3 to the HST unit, the arrow points to my anchor cloth

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.

A little bit of overhang is correct!

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.

Trim away this dog ear to clean up this edge

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).

Finished Birds in the Air block on the left, extra patches on the rightA finished Birds in the Air and the leftovers

To learn how to paper piece a Birds in the Air quilt block pattern, click here.

Make a Birds in the Air quilt variation

Birds in the Air, modified patternBirds in the Air variation

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.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Birds in the Air Variation

~Traditional Piecing ~

PatchFabricQtyFinished Block SizeSub
2" 2 1/2" 3" 4"
1 A 1 1⅞" x 1⅞" 2⅛" x 2⅛" 2⅜" x 2⅜" 2⅞" x 2⅞" Symbol for a half square triangle
2, 3, 4 Bac 2 1⅞" x 1⅞" 2⅛" x 2⅛" 2⅜" x 2⅜" 2⅞" x 2⅞" Symbol for a half square triangle
5 A 1 2⅞" x 2⅞" 3⅜" x 3⅜" 3⅞" x 3⅞" 4⅞" x 4⅞" Symbol for a half square triangle
6 Bac 1 1½" x 1½" 1¾" x 1¾" 2" x 2" 2½" x 2½" ---
Unfinished Block Size 2½" 3" 3½" 4½" ---
Grid Size 1" 1¼" 1½" 2" ---

Instructions to assemble the variation

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.

Layer #6 RST with the unit

Stitch on the line.

Sewing #6Pin to hold things in place if needed

Give it a quick press to set the seam.

Trim the excess fabric away leaving behind a 1/4" seam allowance.

Trim away excess fabric

Press your Birds in the Air variation on last time with the last SA toward the darker fabric.

A finished Birds in the Air variationThis Birds in the Air variation is complete!

This variation is used in both the Christmas Star and Medieval Walls quilt block patterns.

Medieval Walls quilt block designMedieval Walls

Same name, different block...

It happens.

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.

Birds in the Air quilt block variation

The patches are the same, but a third fabric is added.

Birds in the Air quilt block variation

Same basic idea now drawn on a 3x3 grid. 3 complete HSTs instead of one.

Birds in the Air quilt block variation - Flight of Swallows

Simply a group of 4 of the previous design.

Its other names include: Flying Birds, Flock of Geese and Flight of Swallows.

Birds in the Air quilt block variation

This variation looks more like a portion of the Bear Paw quilt block.

Birds in the Air quilt block variation - Ocean Waves

This Birds in the Air is a completely different looking block and significantly more complex to piece.

It's also called 'Ocean Waves'.

There's flocks of blocks...

...just waiting for you in our Free Quilt Block Pattern Library.

For design inspiration, check out Quilting Design 101 for layout ideas for your patchwork designs.

Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

For even more blocks to make...

These are my go-to resources for quilt block ideas. 

Can you see the library sticker on the spine of Jinny Beyer's book? Yep. I check this copy out of our local library every few months for research.

Maggie Malone's 5500 Quilt Block Designs is my all-time favorite quilt block resource!

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.


BlockBase is the computerized version of the Encyclopedia.

It can be used with Electric Quilt and is a Windows based program.

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!

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