Birds in the Air Quilt Block

From our Free Quilt Block Pattern Library

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.


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 work just fine.

For larger quantities, when concentration is tempted to wander, I prefer paperpiecing for two reasons:

  • Accuracy—as long as you stay on the line at the beginning and the end, you're golden, and...
  • Taming bias edges—the paper stabilizes all the edges during construction
Birds in the air quilt block tutorial

On this page you'll find:

  • A step-by-step tutorial for making a Birds in the Air quilt block

If you'd like to print the whole tutorial, click here for instructions. Remember that you'll need to print the paper piecing patterns separately.

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

The Goose and Goslings quilt blockGoose and Goslings
Joseph's Coat quilt block designJoseph's Coat

General Instructions

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.)

Pressing instructions are highlighted in yellow.

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.

In our example, the 'Geese' are dark, but that doesn't mean you can't change the color values around. To make sure that the points show, choose fabrics with enough contrast. 

Read my review of 6 paper piecing papers available on the market

Not sure which paper to use?

Check out my review of several of the most popular brands available to us quilters on the market.

Which one will you choose?

Print the Birds in the Air Units

Finished
Block Size
Link to PDF
Download
2" 2"
2 1/2" 2 1/2"
3" 3"
4" 4"

Step 2: Cut the fabric patches for a Birds in the Air

Birds in the Air quilt block designBirds in the Air design

Sample Block Size: 2-1/2" finished / 3" unfinished

Grid size: 1-1/4"

Technique: Paperpiecing

Design Type: Basic quilt block, 4-patch

In this rendition of the Birds in the Air quilt block, I'm choosing to reverse the light and dark patches.

Remember that, ultimately, fabric placement is your choice!

All the patches are subcut once on the diagonal.

You can download and print a copy of this design and its cutting chart here.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Birds in the Air Quilt Block

~ Paperpiecing ~

PatchFabricQtyFinished Block Size
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 2⅜ x 2⅜" 2⅝" x 2⅝" 2⅞" x 2⅞" 3⅜" x 3⅜" Symbol for a half square triangle
5 A 1 3⅜" x 3⅜" 3⅞" x 3⅞" 4⅜" x 4⅜" 5⅜" x 5⅜" Symbol for a half square triangle
Unfinished Block Size 2½" 3" 3½" 4½" ---
Grid Size 1" 1¼" 1½" 2" ---

These are some of my favorite tools and supplies for preparing and cutting fabric.

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 trim it 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 #2Patch #1 is completely hidden by the larger #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.

Adding #4At 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 between #3, #4 and #5.

Align ruler with stitching line

Crease the paper with your finger and fold the pattern back on this creased line. (You 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.

You might like an 'Add-a-Quarter' ruler for this type of trimming.

Trim for a seam allowanceRed 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.

Before the final trimThe block before trimming

Up 'til now, we haven't bothered to clean up the thread tails along the outside edges. When the block is trimmed to size, it's 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 trimmedTrim all four sides

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.

Variation on a Birds in the Air block

Birds in the Air variation

This paperpieced variation adds one extra patch, #6. It is used in several other blocks. (For traditional piecing of this unit, click here.)

I'm using a different sample to stitch on for this unit.

Use the cutting chart below. You'll have the same leftover #1, #2, #5 plus one #6.

You can download and print a copy of this design and its cutting chart here for use at your cutting table.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Birds in the Air Quilt Block

~ Paperpiecing ~

PatchFabricQtyFinished Block Size
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 2⅜ x 2⅜" 2⅝" x 2⅝" 2⅞" x 2⅞" 3⅜" x 3⅜" Symbol for a half square triangle
5 A 1 3⅜" x 3⅜" 3⅞" x 3⅞" 4⅜" x 4⅜" 5⅜" x 5⅜" Symbol for a half square triangle
6 Bac 1 2⅜ x 2⅜" 2⅝" x 2⅝" 2⅞" x 2⅞" 3⅜" x 3⅜" Symbol for a half square triangle
Unfinished Block Size 2½" 3" 3½" 4½" ---
Grid Size 1" 1¼" 1½" 2" ---

Print the pattern to match your chosen Finished Block Size.

Print the Birds in the Air Variation Units

Finished
Block Size
Link to PDF
Download
2" 2"
2 1/2" 2-1/2"
3" 3"
4" 4"

To make it follow the instructions for Patches #1-#5, just leave out the last trimming to size—we've got one more patch to add.

At your cutting mat, paper side up, line up your ruler with the solid line between #5 and #6. Crease the paper along this line with your thumbnail.

Fold the paper back on itself and place the 1/4" line of the ruler on the fold. Trim away the excess leaving behind a quarter inch seam.

Remove the excess #5

After trimming #5 this is what it looks like from the fabric side.

Unit with #1-#5 prepared to add #6

Align the long bias edge of a #6 with the cut edge of #5. Stitch as before starting and ending a generous 1/4" from the solid line.

Sew on the mark between #5 and #6

Give your block a press before trimming.

Now to create our perfectly sized block and get rid of thread tails.

To trim, lay the quarter inch markings of your rule (red arrow) on the solid outside line and trim. Repeat for the remaining three sides.

Our finished Birds in the Air variation after trimming all four sides.

Here is our Birds in the Air variation from the back.

Share your work to inspire other Quilters!

If you use our tutorials to make your blocks and quilts, there are some easy ways to share your creations so other quilters (including me!) can enjoy the fruits of your labor:

  • On Instagram please tag your blocks and quilts with the hashtag #GenerationsQuiltPatterns.
  • Visit our Show n'Tell page on the website. Click here to share photos and tell your own story, just start typing at 'The name of your quilt is...'. If you'd prefer to submit more photos than the form allows, simply email them to me at julie@generations-quilt-patterns.com.

I love seeing your work!

Our readers do, too!

For even more blocks to make...

Click here to learn about my favorite quilt book resources that inspire my patchwork designs.

For you, are quilt block designs like potato chips...

...you can't have just one?!!

Check the amazing resources I rely on for all the quilt block designs you see on this website. 

To see if they're worthy of a spot in YOUR quilting library, CLICK HERE.

Subscribe to STASHTalk, our free newsletter


This article was printed from Generations-Quilt-Patterns.com

Print Article

Follow Us