Friday, April 20, 2018

Tailwinds: An Original Design

In late fall of 2013, our dear friend Steve Merritt asked me to design a quilt that we could auction for Bahamas Methodist Habitat, a charity organization that my husband and I support. I was inspired to make an airplane block after not finding anything out there in "quilt land" that suited me. I hate to applique, and really prefer simple patchwork. Plus, I like to be able to use precuts or small scraps, and an 8.5" block seemed the size that would be conducive to baby quilts as well as the queen-sized quilt I wanted to make. I took my sewing machine with me to my in-laws for Christmas vacation, and around the holiday activities, began to piece and sew what I labeled my "Skittle Squadron" of rainbow colored airplanes. My hubby is an actual airplane builder (having built three experimental airplanes in our garages in three states), and quickly identified my design as a "Tailwind." I said, "What makes it a Tailwind?" and he said, "Just look at it." Okay, honey, Tailwind it is.

This pattern is 100% rotary cut and machine pieced, but did require an odd angle for the fuselage, so I drafted a template. Templates aren’t really that hard to use, but sometimes it’s easier to mark the finished corner with a little pencil dot for pinning. There is no reason for you to “start or stop” at those marked corners in this pattern. The seams are ordinary scant-quarter inch seams. As always, I recommend you make one “test” block, and then start chain-piecing your squadron. You can easily cut a plane or two from a jelly roll strip or a layer cake square.

You will find these written instructions and the templates in the Google Drive located here: Click HERE to get the instructions  and here to get the templates Please understand that I am a complete novice at sharing something as complicated as a hand-drawn template on the Interwebs (LOL) so I hope this works. Please feel free to use the scale included on the drawing to draft your own cleaner copy of the template. It's really very easy! Ask questions if you think of any.


From Airplane Fabric Cut:

A (empennage):        1.75”x 4” rectangle
B (fuselage):              template B from 2.5” strip
C (wings):                  2.5”x 8.5” rectangle
D (cowling):               two 1.75” squares

From Background Fabric Cut:         

a (empennage):        two 1.75”x 2.75” rectangles
b (fuselage):             template b
br (fuselage):            template b reversed
c (cowling):              two 1.75”x 4.5” rectangles


1.     Cut all pieces as instructed. The B and b templates are very simple angles for rotary cutting and piecing. You might find it beneficial to make these templates out of template plastic or heavy cardstock if you are making a squadron of airplane blocks. Marking your corners makes things easier to line up and pin on your template pieces.

From top to bottom, units A, B, C and D (times 2).
2.     Piece B to b and br (b reversed). Press toward B. Trim unit to 4”x 8.5.”

Leave a little tiny triangle at the top and bottom to allow for the angle of the turn. Alternatively, mark your quarter inch seam and pin. I'm usually too lazy to pin.
3.     Piece a + A + a. Press toward A.

Piece your empennage A (tail) between two pieces of background a.
4.     Piece sew-and-flip triangle corners on D with c to form cowling.  Trim away the extra triangle.  Press one unit toward D and one toward c. Piece these two units together. Pieced unit should measure 1.75” x 8.5.”

5.     Sew four sections together. Block measures 8.5” x 8.5.”

Since I'm sure someone will wonder, the auction and/or raffle for this quilt never came to fruition. I even had raffle tickets printed (with a date over a year away), but as many volunteer organizations go, we just never started selling tickets or advertising the quilt. So, "Island Flight" is still in my private collection. My good friend Steve lost his life earlier this year in a small plane accident, so it is now too precious to me to sell or donate, and will remain in my private collection for the rest of my life.

Here's my original sketch on graph paper after I decided how to set my "Skittle Squadron" into the quilt Island Flight. I set everything on point with 8.5" squares to float the planes, and pieced a border of pinwheels and squares for the outside edge.

I have a fat eighth bundle of Janet Clare's "Flight" fabric that she designed for Moda Fabrics set aside to make another quilt using my Tailwinds block, and thought I'd offer a sew-along for those of you who want to make a cute little baby quilt! I'm going to pair it with a nice background solid, and toss in a few of Lisa Bongean's Liberty Gatherings as well. Maybe raid my stash for some patriotic reds...or even a gold or two. Keep in mind that you really don't need a large piece of scrap to make one plane. If you can get the wing (2.5" x 8.5") then you just need tiny pieces for the rest. 

Let me know if you plan to "sew-along" with me and make your own Tailwinds quilt! My original quilt was named Island Flight (2014) for our wonderful Bahamas Methodist Habitat organization and a fabulous ministry they provide on the islands. I'm still figuring out my April-June schedule, so you have time to do a fabric pull and make some choices for your own version.


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