{Classic Quilt Blocks} Birds In The Air - An Introduction

Classic Quilt Blocks have been sewn for centuries, are easy to recognise and are every quilters favorite. Let's celebrate these gorgeous blocks and add them to our quilting projects!

Welcome to my May Classic Quilt Blocks series, and this month I thought we'd celebrate the gorgeous Birds In The Air block. This block has a sweet simplicity, an illustrious history and it's very versatile, creating some very striking traditional and modern quilts.

The Birds In The Air block is a simple combination of HST's and triangles, and or though it may look complicated it goes together very easily - I'll show you in next week's tutorial. This block has lots of potential for designing quilts, and it's one you're going to enjoy sewing.

I thought I'd do something completely different this month and run a Scrappy Birds In The Air Sew Along!  We're all at home, we need a quilty distraction and we have fabric scraps, so let's have some fun and sew a quilt together.

I'll tell you a little more about the sew along at the end of the post, but for now let's take a look at this gorgeous classic block in a little more detail.

Block History:

The Birds In The Air block may also be referred to as "Flying Birds" or "Flock of Geese", and it's easy to identify those soaring birds in one half of the block.  This traditional block represents freedom and the work of the abolition societies.  

Abolition societies focused not only of abolishing slavery but also educating, giving moral instruction, and finding employment for freed slaves, allowing over three million slaves the freedom to live, work and be treated equally in society.

This block represents a vital piece of American history and has been a classic quilt block since the end of the Civil War.

Barbara Brackman wrote of a Birds In The Air quilt made by Deborah Coates which illustrates this blocks rich history. It's an interesting read and a stunning quilt, and you can read about it HERE.

Block Design:

The Birds In The Air block is drafted using a 3 x 3 grid:

The block is constructed using a mix of HST's and triangles. To determine the size of the HST units, simply divide the finished block size by three and add your seam allowances - this means your HST's should finish at this size.

Your smaller triangles will be cut to the same size as your HST triangles. For the larger triangle, you simply determine the HST cutting size of the full block - eg. for a 6" (finished) block, your larger triangle would be cut from a 6 7/8" square.

If quilty math is not your thing, I'll provide a Cutting Chart in next week's step by step tutorial for six different sizes to make it super easy for you, and if you want to adapt the block for my sew along you'll have options at a glance!

Colour Values:

When choosing fabrics for the Birds In The Air block, make sure you have enough contrast between the light and dark fabrics to make those birds soar!

Playing around with different colour combinations is fun, and this block has a few options.  You can keep your blocks uniform and use one colour/fabric or go as scrappy as you want, making this block perfect for any style of quilt.

Next week is tutorial week and I'm going to show you how to sew a Birds In The Air Block, so make sure you download and print my free colouring sheet to plan some blocks to sew along with me:

Grab some colouring pencils, crayons or markers and get creative!

Antique Inspiration:

Antique quilts offer a wealth of inspiration and these examples are stunning. You'll notice the top right quilt has extra rows of birds which makes the block even prettier.

The layouts are simple but effective and they give you some great ideas for creating your own quilts. Any favorites in this bunch? I'm really loving the bottom left - it looks like such a cuddly quilt.

Just a hint - the layout for our sew along is none of these! ;)

Scrappy Birds In The Air Sew Along:

I'm so excited about this sew along. Each month, I try and think of different ways to inspire you with these Classic Quilt Blocks, and I decided the best way was to sew a whole bunch of blocks and make a quilt of our own. :)

It's a really casual sew along - no fixed dates, deadlines or commitment, just a fun way to sew together while we're in lockdown. You can sew at your own pace, you can sew ahead, you can save the whole thing to sew later... just do you!

There's no need to purchase a pattern. Each week, I'll give you everything you need to sew your own Scrappy Birds In The Air Quilt and you'll be able to download PDF's to save and print as we go along!  As for fabrics, just raid those fabric/scrap bins and use what you have (or go online shopping, no judgement here!)

Sound like fun? Then spread the word and send your friends over, so we can all sew together!

I was going to give you a sneak peek of the quilt design for the sew along, but I'll save it for next week - I'm mean like that! ;) For now all you need to know is, it's happening and it starts next week! YAY!

So, here's what to expect in the coming weeks of my Birds In The Air Classic Quilt Blocks series:

  • Week Two - a step by step tutorial for a 9" (finished) Birds In The Air block, plus a Cutting Chart of six different sized blocks. I'll also reveal the quilt design for the sew along and give you fabric requirements and colour way options.
  • Week Three - I'll show you some of my blocks for the Scrappy Birds In The Air Sew Along, plus a list of blocks you'll need to sew and some tips on sizes etc.
  • Week Four - instructions for the quilt layout and construction, plus some inspiration for borders (if you want to add them - I'm not but you might like too!), and finishing tips for quilting and binding!

And that's my introduction to the Birds In The Air block. I hope you enjoy this months Classic Quilt Blocks series. It's going to be fun month and I think a sew along is the perfect way to celebrate this gorgeous block, don't you?

Happy quilting :)
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  1. Your Scrappy Birds in the Air So Along looks like fun. I can't wait to get started.

    1. I'm so happy you're joining in! It's going to be fun! :)

  2. I'm excited to begin making the blocks. Thank you for providing all of the information to make the coming Sew Along a success.

    1. You're welcome Katie. It's going to be fun and it's going to be a gorgeous quilt :) Thanks for joining in :)

  3. Happy to be involved. Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. Okay, I'm in also. Can't wait until you show us those cutting instructions. It will be a fun summer project--although you you, it's going to probably be a winter project. I really like your pink and white block. qbym@att.net

    1. Yes it will be a winter quilt for me :) So glad you're joining in. I'll share it in three installments, and the first week is fabric requirements, colourways and a tutorial, but you should be able to work ahead if you want. :)

  5. I want to join in... This will be my first sew along.. Im excited..

    1. So glad you're joining in too! I hope you enjoy your first sew along, that is exciting!

  6. I will join the sew along.....do I wait for an email?

    1. Glad your joining in :) All the information will be in my next three Classic Quilt Blocks blog posts. Make sure you check back each Friday :)

  7. This sounds like something I need during another month of stay in place. Thank you for doing this.

    1. I've had so much fun putting it together, and we do need something to take our minds off what's happening. Stay safe and healthy :)


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