Please understand that this is by no means a definitive list! It really depends on what birds YOU want to make. I’m making sample blocks (and including instructions for) 100 birds, but there are THOUSANDS of bird species out there – and when you consider the fact that male and females of the same species often look very different. . . well, that’s a lot of variation.
I’ve designed the templates to be mix and matchable – so you can use them to go way beyond the 100 samples I made. That means you’ll probably also go way beyond the fabrics I used. BUT! I can give you some guidelines to create a really useful stash to start with. Just be aware that you may need to go searching for just the right fabric for some of the birds in your quilt.
Before I go into specific colors and patterns, I want to include just a couple of the “rules” I used for my sample blocks. I often decide on rules for a quilt before I choose fabrics. It helps me keep a cohesive look to a jumble of different blocks. For my bird samples, the only solid I used was solid black for the eyes. ALL the other fabrics are prints or batiks. I did this because even the smoothest-looking birds have some variation/texture in their feathers. So I used batiks for the very smooth, uniform-looking birds (less common) and other prints for the rest (more common).
I recommend choosing one color palette for your background blocks, but I’ll have more info about that (and lots of sample photos) at the end of this post.
Not surprisingly, you’re going to need a lot of neutral fabrics. A LOT of backyard birds are colored to blend in with their backgrounds. I used the Warm Neutrals bundle as a starting point, but I definitely needed to go beyond that. That bundle gives you five shades of grey (ranging from almost white to black), five shades of brown (again ranging from very light to very dark), a rusty brown and a golden color. You’ll definitely want more variety in the browns and greys – I often liked to use different prints of the same shade to get some contrast between different parts, like you see in this yellowthroat.
The wings, tail, and back of the bird are the same brown – but I used different prints to help create definition.
When you shop for browns, make sure you’re also getting some reddish browns (cinnamon) and some greyish browns (taupe).
You’ll also want at least one white-on-white print, and one very dark grey-on-black.
All of these that I’m talking about here are the tone-on-tone prints that read as solids.
Now we’re talking stripes and spots. You actually don’t need many of these fabrics – but what you need is pretty specific. Here’s a list of the most common prints I used.
streaky brown – cream or tan with darker brown streaks or stripes
cream or tan with darker brown spots
brown with cream speckles
a darker brown and a lighter brown dappled print (all-over florals can work here)
brown stripes – medium brown with darker brown or black stripes
grey with black stripes
Of course, this is not comprehensive – but it’s a good start.
Black and White
You’re going to want some black and white prints.
wide black and white stripe – very useful for birds with black and white heads
white with black spots
white with black speckles
narrower black and white stripes (mainly for woodpeckers)
black and white check (also mainly for woodpeckers)
You’ll definitely want some yellows. I was surprised by how many birds have yellow! Get a couple of bright egg-yolk yellow, and also some more dull mustardy shades.
Blue. Lots of birds have some very bright blue. Get a couple of prints in the same rich shade for the definition I talked about in the neutrals section.
Red. Most red birds tend to be orangey red rather than blue-ish reds, so keep that in mind as you shop.
Pink. We have a lot of pink and pinkish-purple birds here on the east coast. You’ll find a pink with grey undertones (or even grey streaks) pretty useful, and also a bright mulberry shade for several finches.
Greens. Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of green birds here in the US. You’d think that would be good camouflage. You might want to decide on your birds before you shop for greens, because you could need anything from emerald to olive.
Orange and dark purple. Again – these don’t come up as often, so maybe shop as needed.
The fabrics you choose for your background blocks can affect the whole mood of your quilt.
For my quilt I chose realistic colors for all the birds, and I played around with several different background palettes using my fabric bundles. I recommend choosing either solids or batiks for your background blocks – but don’t mix them. Besides thinking about the overall look you like, think about the quilting here. Quilting will really show on solids, and will be almost invisible on batiks.
Here are the background palettes I’ve already experimented with.
The Batik Rainbow bundle will give you very vivid background blocks with nearly invisible quilting. The background fabrics are as vivid as some of the most colorful backyard birds!
The Warm Neutral Batiks bundle will give you a more subtle, forest-floor background. The colorful backyard birds really pop against these neutral fabrics, but when you’re putting a brown bird on a brown block (or a grey bird on a grey block) you’ll need to be sure to get good light/dark contrast.
For the last few years I’ve participated in the 100 Day Project. Last year was the first year I actually finished it. 🙂
The 100 Day project is awesome. Participants decide on any creative activity they want to pursue for 100 days. It can be ANYTHING! A few that I remember off the top of my head are a jeweler who made 100 pairs of earrings, a potter who came up with 100 different handles, a baker who made 100 different pies, and an artist who designed 100 different alphabet fonts – the sky’s the limit!
Last year I designed a different repeat pattern every day – AND I used that pattern to mock-up a new applique design. Here’s just one example.
I hoped to have a fabric collection come out of it, but I got something else instead. SO MANY QUILT BLOCK IDEAS!
I love how it turned out – but it was relatively easy. Just design all the blocks, make a sample, record the video tutorials, and write the pattern!
But one of the ideas that the project sparked last year was a Mix & Match Backyard Birds pattern. As I was drawing some of the birds I see at my feeder, I realized that a lot of the basic parts are pretty much the same. I wondered if I could create some basic templates that could be used to applique just about any of those classic feeder birds. I noodled around with the idea for ten of my hundred days, and it seemed like it would work!
I’ve taken the months since then to draw up a bunch of templates and now I’m finally ready to test them – just in time for a new 100 Day Project!
The new tests won’t be mock-ups. They’re actually appliqued blocks that I’ll be able to join into a quilt. So exciting!
Here’s Day 1 – a black-capped chickadee, one of my favorite birds.
Will I be able to make 100 different recognizable birds using just a few pages of templates? We’re about to find out. 🙂
You can follow along with my progress on Instagram. And the applique pattern will be available at the end of the project – maybe even sooner if the testing goes smoothly and I don’t need to design too many additional templates. 🙂
Update! The project is finished and you can find the pattern here!
Want to join in the 100 Day Project? There’s more info here.
Want to learn how to make a quilt with an easy online workshop – totally free?
Sign up for Let’s Make a Quilt here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make a quilt from start to finish using Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.
It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!
Every year (almost) I release a free holiday applique pattern.
What to do this year?
Here are the links to the patterns from previous years.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with Mix & Match patterns lately, so I decided to make a gingerbread cookie with lots of parts for you to play with!
Here’s a quick intro. . .
Now let’s jump right to the instructions!
These instructions assume you’re already familiar with the applique method I use – Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.
If you’re new to my patterns, there’s a detailed video workshop here that takes you step by step through the methods I use. It’s totally free, and you can work your way through the lessons using any pattern you like, including this gingerbread pattern!
If you’e using an electric cutting machine like a Cricut. . .
Upload the file to your machine.
Resize if needed. (To fit a block that finishes at 10 inches square, the image should be 15 inches wide.)
Ungroup the pieces and assign colors
Trace or print the pattern onto the paper side of the fusible adhesive.
I use Heat & Bond Lite for all my quilts, and I love these printable sheets because I’m lazy and hate to trace. 🙂
The image has already been reversed, so just trace or print. If you’re tracing, be sure to trace the eyes and (optional) eyelashes too. You’ll need those for Step 5.
Roughly cut around each shape and fuse it to the back of your fabric.
Here’s a video showing those first two steps. . .
Cut around each piece neatly.
This time you’re cutting directly on the solid lines.
This video has more info about that step.
Remember back in Step 2 when I told you to make sure you traced the eyes and eyelashes? Now you’re going to use that. Hold the face up to a window so the light shines through it. You’ll be able to see all the dotted lines, and the adhesive will stabilize the fabric so you can trace on it without it crinkling up.
Trace the lines to show where the eyes go. If your cookie will have eyelashes, trace those too.
Here’s a video with more info about this step.
If you’re doing Quilt As You Go (I did) then you can quilt your block before adding the applique. So easy!
Cut your background fabric and a piece of 100% cotton batting 11 inches square.
Layer the block with a piece of 100% cotton batting. Quilt any pattern you like!
Have fun! And share a photo of what you make! You can share it in the Shiny Happy People group or tag it with #shinyhappyworld on Instagram.
If you like this free pattern, sign up for the Shiny Happy News! Subscribers get a weekly newsletter full of sewing tips and tricks, free patterns, special discounts, and other things to make you smile. 🙂
The Mama and Baby Polar Bear were a VERY close second, so we’ll probably see a pattern for them soon as well. 🙂
Want to see how to assemble Mo?
I had the chance to try out some of my new fabric palettes with my Mo Muskox sample blocks! I talk about them all in more detail at the end of the video, but here are some still photos and handy links.