Darting Birds - A Beginner-Friendly Traditional Quilt Block Tutorial

Posted by Elaine Huff on

Today let's sew together the super easy Darting Birds quilt block! Using only half square triangles and squares, this traditional block goes together fast. As simple as it is, Darting Birds makes for several different layouts. The block is attributed to Nancy Page, a persona created by Florence LaGanke through a newspaper column. She helped revive quilting during the 1930's.

There's a bluebird in our yard who tries to fight off the bluebird he sees in our windows every morning. Eventually, he wears himself out and flies away. I wonder if he thinks he won or lost- lol! So I decided to make my block with blues and one red square to represent his red breast. Traditionally, the center square would be Light/White.

darting birds quilt block

Fabric Requirements for a 9" Finished Darting Birds Quilt Block:

  • Light/White: 3 - 4" squares, and 1 - 3.5" square
  • Medium/Blue: 1 - 4" square, and 1 - 3.5" square
  • Dark/Red: 1 - 3.5" square
  • Dark/Blue: 2 - 4" squares
darting birds fabric requirements

Sewing Directions:

Half Square Triangle Units:

Step 1:

Using two of the Light/White 4" squares and the two Dark/Blue 4" squares, sew together four Half Square Triangle units. Press the seam allowances toward the Dark/Blue fabric as shown in the bottom right image below. Trim/square up the units to 3.5" square.
For a detailed tutorial on making a basic Half Square Triangle block, click on this link: https://fabric406.com/blogs/fabric406-blog/how-to-sew-a-basic-half-square-triangle-block
darting birds 1

Step 2:

Using the remaining Light/White 4" square and the Medium/Blue 4" square, repeat Step 1 for a total of two White/Medium Blue Half Square Triangle units like the ones shown below.
For these units press the seam allowances toward the Light/White fabric which you can see in the right image of the picture.
darting birds 2

Putting It All Together:

Step 3:

Lay out the Step 1 and Step 2 Half Square Triangle units, the Light/White 3.5" square, the Medium/Blue 3.5" square, and the Red 3.5" square as shown in the picture below.
From here the block goes together like a typical Nine Patch block.
darting birds 3

Step 4:

Sew the units into three rows as shown below.
darting birds 4

Step 5:

Press the seam allowances away from the White/Dark Blue Half Square Triangle units as shown.
darting birds 5

Step 6:

Sew the three rows together to complete the block.
darting birds 6

Step 7:

Press the seam allowances toward the center of the block. All done! Easy peasy!
darting birds 7

Layout Ideas:

(I made the following illustrations without outlining the units and blocks. Let me know if you like them this way.)
Here's your basic 4 x 4 layout with similar colors to the block I made:
quilt 1
And here it is with narrow sashing and cornerstones.
quilt 2
This example shows the traditional colored block alternating with a large Half Square Triangle that is rotated to make stripes across the quilt top.
quilt 3
In this 2 x 2 version the same block is used but they are rotated to form a large star pattern.
quilt 4
The same block but rotated differently to create a different large star.
quilt 5
Of course you can make scrappy birds and use narrow sashing and cornerstones in the same background color as the blocks to separate them out a bit. 
quilt 6
Here's another scrappy example alternating with a large Hourglass block.
quilt 7
This is an on-point layout with plain blocks for the setting triangles and four blocks in the center. I think these look like people!
quilt 8


The Darting Birds block was so quick and fun to sew together! You could have enough blocks for a quilt in no time! I was surprised how versatile the block was too - scrappy, planned, alternating with other blocks, and just rotating the blocks produced such different looks.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. If you like it and want to see more, just click HERE to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free PDF quilt pattern called "Chained Weathervane".

Happy Quilting!


P.S. Looking for more easy blocks? Take a look at these blocks: https://fabric406.com/blogs/fabric406-blog/tagged/tutorials_beginning-blocks. Most of them only use squares, rectangles, and half square triangles in their construction.

P.P.S. Check out my Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/fabric406

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