Meet the Blue-throated Macaw

The vibrant and distinctive Blue-throated Macaw was thought to be extinct thanks to excessive wildlife trade until 1992 when a wild population of these feathered beauties were discovered in South America. Today, they are still critically endangered, residing exclusively in Northern Bolivia. As of 2007, the population was estimated at between 250 and 300 individuals. Ten years later, 155 of the birds were counted in one place, but today, there’s uncertainty around the size of the bird’s population; the International Union for Conservation of Nature offers a conservative estimate of between 50 and 250 adult blue-throated macaws. (source)

The Blue-throated Macaw is a member of the parrot family and one of the macaw species. It is Bol and unmistakable, with a bright yellow chest, belly, lets, and under-wing area, a turquoise throat, blue head and wings, and blue & white stripes around the eyes. They live for roughly 50 years, range from 2′-3′ from head to tail, and weigh only 1-2lbs! (source: National Geographic)

Aurifil’s Blue-throated Macaw thread set was created in tribute to this vibrant beauty. It features 3 large spools of our 40wt thread in 3 hues of teal— a warm, a medium, and a dark— 2835, 1148, & 4093. When purchased via Shop Aurifil, this set includes a custom designed foundation paper pieced PDF pattern by Aurifilosopher and pattern designer Cassandra Beaver / the (not so) dramatic life

This block finishes at 16″ x 16″ and its one of our favorites!

We enlisted HollyAnne Knight of String & Story to share some tips and tricks for quilting this block. With her help and expertise, you’ll have this stitched up and on display in no time. 

For eight months now we have had the delight of quilting together, and each month I’ve provided you, Rockstar, with a number of pre-designed quilting plans for the block based on skill level. Don’t worry– I’m still going to do exactly that this month and through the end of the year. BUT, I also think it is time to start teaching you how to make your own quilting plans. If you are stitching along on the Endangered Species BOM, chances are you have other quilts to finish as well, and these tips will help you decide what to quilt where and banish any fears of “ruining” your quilt with the “wrong” or a “bad” quilting motif idea. 

How to Make a Quilting Plan

First of all, you may be wondering, “What exactly IS a quilting plan, and why do I need to make my own??” Great question! You’ve seen examples of quilting plans month in and month out as part of this BOM, but here’s a working definition: A quilting plan is a “road map” for what to quilt where, and sometimes even the order in which to quilt different motifs, on your quilt. A quilting plan allows you to make all the decisions about what motifs you want to use on different parts of your quilt before you actually start stitching. This is ideal because a plan cures any anxiety you might have about starting to stitch, hating it, then having to tediously unpick free motion quilting. 

Supplies for Making Quilting Plans

Quilting Plans can be created both physically and digitally. The easiest way to draw a quilting plan is to literally draw it on a picture or diagram or drawing of your quilt top. You can use graph paper to draft a likeness of your quilt or snap a picture of the top and print it out to draw on. If you have an iPad, I use the app Procreate to digitally import pictures of quilt tops and draw on them with my Apple pencil. Some of my students also enjoy using a piece of plexiglass or a clear table cloth to draw right over the quilt top. I recommend 1) being very, very careful not to mark on your quilt and 2) using this method more to check the scale of motifs than to do the original plan– otherwise you’ll have to erase and redraw every time you want to “audition” a new idea. 

Questions to Ask for Choosing Motifs

First, consider the job of your quilt. Quilts that are going to be used more heavily are great candidates for simpler quilting plans (think: an all over design or just a couple motifs). Quilts that will be displayed as decor or submitted to a show will likely “want” a more complicated or custom quilting plan. 

Next, go section by section and consider what motif may compliment the piecing (or that just sounds fun to quilt!). Common “parts” of the quilt to choose motifs for are: the background, the blocks, the sashing, the borders. For the Endangered Species BOM, I looked at each block as “background” and “foreground/ critter” and chose two motifs. Because I drew my quilting plans digitally, I could “mix and match” to create a variety of quilting plans, then pick my favorite to quilt. 


Always remember that drawing quilting plans is a time to “audition” different ideas. Don’t be afraid to draw out multiple plans for the same quilt before deciding exactly what you want to quilt where. It is a lot easier to iterate on paper than it is to iterate on fabric! 

Also, making quilting plans can be challenging because there are a lot of options and a lot fo decisions to narrow down. Just like with free motion quilting, practice makes progress. I recommend starting with just a few motifs to mix and match– maybe the meander, swirls, and switchbacks– and slowly expand your “palette” as you get the hang of drawing out your ideas. 

Suggested Quilting Plans

Today I spun around in my chair to my executive assistant and half screamed: “Oh my gosh, these macaws are THIRTY-THREE INCHES LONG!” Just wow, y’all! Blue-Throated Macaws are native to Bolivia and are critically endangered in the wild. 

Introductory Level Quilting Plans

If foundation paper piecing can be “fluffy,” this gorgeous Blue-Throated Macaw designed by Cassandra Beaver is definitely it. The larger pieces are perfect for quilting plumage! At the introductory level a combination of switchbacks and meanders create the directional texture of longer feathers and the “floof” of shorter ones. 

Beginner Level Quilting Plans 

One way to make the Macaw stand out even further from the background is to choose a denser filler motif for the negative space and to keep the feathers more loosely quilted with simple motifs. I considered paisleys as an option for the macaw to create a plumage-like look without quilting full feathers. I didn’t like the effect as much, but it is worth doodling out if you want a feathery effect without quilting actual feathers.  

Intermediate Level Quilting Plans

Finally, this block is the PERFECT opportunity to show off some feathers. I chose classic bump-back feathers here, but peacock plumes would look excellent as well. Pair with a fun background motif for all.the.texture!


Aurifil’s 40wt Color Builders

If the Blue-throated Macaw has you feeling inspired, don’t forget that it’s one in a series of 12 mini collections, dedicated to some of our world’s most Endangered Species. Each collection features 3 large spools of our 40wt thread in 3 hues– a warm, a medium and a dark– and comes with a coordinating FPP pattern custom-designed by Cassandra Beaver. 

Thanks so much to Cassandra Beaver for her stunning block design and to HollyAnne Knight for giving us all the quilting confidence to turn this block into a dazzling mini this year! Stay tuned as we’ll feature one animal per month throughout this year. Will you sew along with us? 

Don’t forget to tag us in your project images on Instagram– we love the opportunity to celebrate your work! 


** If today’s quilting plans inspired you, but you’re brand new to free motion quilting, check out HollyAnne’s Intro to FMQ Mini Course to learn the basics!


  1. Would love to print all the quilt design instructions but can’t figure out how to do it. Will keep trying. Is printing restricted?

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