Birds in the Air Quilt Block

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Birds in the air quilt block tutorial

Skill Level: Beginner

Grid: 2x2

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 paperpiecing for two reasons:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Taming bias edges

On this page you'll find free downloadable paperpiecing patterns and cutting instructions in 4 sizes and a step-by-step tutorial for making a Birds in the Air.

Hate paperpiecing?  Click here for traditional piecing directions for a Birds in the Air quilt block pattern.

Examples of designs that include the Birds in the Air unit in their construction are:

The Goose and Goslings quilt block

Goose and Goslings

Monkey Wrench

Joseph's Coat quilt block design

Joseph's Coat

General Instructions

Sample 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—paperpiecing, 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 paperpiecing, 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!

Step 1: Download and print pattern

Print the paper piecing patterns you need

You'll need the most current version of Adobe installed on your computer to download the pattern.

On the Adobe Print Menu page, under 'Page Size and Handling' set 'Custom Scale' to 100% before printing for accurate results. Click here to see what it looks like on the Print Menu page.

After printing, use the 1" square graphic on the printed pages to confirm they are printed accurately.

Download and print the pattern for the finished block size you need:

Step 2: Cut the fabric patches

Birds in the Air quilt block designBirds in the Air design

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.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Birds in the Air Quilt Block

~ Paper 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 2-3/8” 2-5/8” 2-7/8” 3-3/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
A 5 1 3-3/8” 3-7/8” 4-3/8” 5-3/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
Grid Size 1” 1-1/4” 1-1/2” 2” na

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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.

The cut patches, there are extras

Step 3: Assemble the Birds in the Air quilt block

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.

Position Patch #1

Red arrows point to the placement lines

With RST, align and center the long bias edge of #2 over #1 like this...

Position Patch #2

...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).

Stitch the seam

Press. (Because I starched my fabric ahead of time, I was able to fingerpress these patches open.)

The HST after stitching

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.

Stitch Patch 3 to Patches 1&2

Press. Add #4 in the same manner.

Position Patch 4

At this point we haven't done any trimming yet

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.

Align ruler with 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.

Trim seam allowance to a quarter inch

Red arrow points to the quarter inch mark. The edge of the ruler is a 1/4" away from the folded edge of the pattern.

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.

The block before trimming

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.

All sides are trimmed

Your finished Birds in the Air quilt block looks like this.

The finished Birds in the Air quilt block

For traditional piecing instructions to make this block, click here.

To see blocks that have the same name, but look completely different, click here.

Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

For even more blocks to make...

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

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