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Make Your First Patchwork Block

Updated on January 22, 2017
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Quilter, author, tutor, columnist, Jan T Urquhart Baillie has been enthusing others with her passion for quilting for more than 30 years.

Absolute Beginner's Guide

How to Make a Four Patch Quilt Block with Jan T.

Step by step, I'll take you through the easy process for making a simple patchwork block: Four Patch. This such an easy block to make, and can be used in combinations like small blocks with larger blocks, or paired with plain squares.

Fun and fast, let's make a block.

What is a Quilt Block?

Blocks Are the Pattern

A block is the basic unit for a traditional patchwork quilt and the starting point for many quilts.

Blocks are composed of patches joined together to make a design.

Block designs date from the 1800s and have names like Log Cabin, Simple Star, Bear's Paw (pictured), Duck and Ducklings, Hands All Round...

There are thousands of block patterns and quilters are designing new ones even today.

Patches are in blocks
Patches are in blocks

What is a Block Patch?

The Small Pieces of Fabric in a Block

Patches can be any shape that is cut in order to make a block pattern.

Squares, rectangles and triangles are the most common patches, but trapezoids, diamonds and parallelograms frequently appear in block designs.

In the blocks you see at right, all the unique shapes are coloured yellow.

Four-Patch Blocks

These blocks are the easiest of all to make

Not only are they easy to sew, they are very versatile.

Beginning patchworkers can learn to make one four patch block, and they can happily combine these with larger squares and rectangles to make delightful patchwork quilts.

This quilt is made entirely of Four Patch and Double Four-Patch blocks. It is one of the quilts for the Cancer Council Quilts project. The lens telling the stories of this project is featured below.

Let's Get Started!

Make a Four Patch block

What You Need: Fabrics

Scrap Fabrics or
2 Fat Quarters

Special quilt fabrics are not essential, but these are pretty.

Two fabrics which contrast with each other. The patterns don't matter, just that they are really visible as different.

In the example at the top of the page, I have used a light background floral fabric, and a bright darker tone on tone fabric.

At right is an example where the contrast is not high enough.

What is a Fat Quarter?

Patchwork Speak!

If you cut a quarter yard (or metre) of fabric across the bolt, the piece you get is approximately 42 inches long by 9 inches wide.

If you cut a half yard (or metre) piece 18" x 42", and cut that in half crosswise, you get a piece that is around about 18" x 21".

Quilters find this a more user-friendly shape from which to get maximum patches.

Source

What You Need: Equipment

For Making a Quilt Block by Machine

  • Sewing machine
  • Thread to match the patches, or neutral (grey or fawn)
  • Iron and ironing pad or board
  • Rotary cutter
  • Rotary cutting board
  • Quilter's rotary ruler

In the picture are some of my old friends, my quilting tools.

Size is Easy

What Size Do I Cut the Patches?

Patches are cut using a rotary cutter (looks like a pizza cutter), with the size to cut calculated using a simple maths rule:

  • add ¼ inch seam allowance to each side of the finished patch size

Our block will be 6 inches finished size, when it is sewn into a quilt. When you have sewn it, and before it is joined to anything else, it will measure 6½ inches.

This includes the ¼ inch seam allowance on all four sides.

Our 6 inch block is made by sewing four 3 inch squares together.

We need to cut the four patches :

  • 3 inches PLUS 2 x ¼ seam allowances

So they are cut at:

  • 3 in + ¼ in + ¼ in = 3½ inches

Scrappy (non-matching) 4 Patch block - from the Cancer Council Quilts
Scrappy (non-matching) 4 Patch block - from the Cancer Council Quilts

What to Cut: For One Four Patch Block

Matched or Scrap

For a co-ordinated block (matching):

  • Cut 3½ inch squares
  • 2 squares in each fabric

For a scrappy (not matched) look, use four different fabrics:

  • Cut 3½ inch squares
  • 2 in each of two light fabrics
  • 2 in each of two dark fabrics

Psst! I need to tell you something ...

— Jan T

Before You Start

Follow the Lessons On the Hub Below:

Absolutely, positively, the best lessons you can learn are:

  • How to perfect that ¼ inch seam
  • and
  • How to press the Jan T way!

When you're ready, come back and we'll continue making our block.

Know how to get your seams perfectly flat now? Let's go!

— Jan T

Step 1: Join the Patches

To Join Two patches:

  1. Place them right sides together.
  2. Sew along one side on the sewing machine, using a quarter inch seam.
  3. Press towards the darker of the two fabrics.

Make Two Pairs the Same

Step 2: Lay Out the Block

Place the Two Pairs of Patches Together:

  1. Lay the two pairs side by side so they look like the picture.
  2. Flip one pair over onto the other pair, so they are right sides together.
  3. Push the two sets of seams towards one another, so they butt up next to each other, with no space and no lumpy bit. That's a technical patchwork term ;>)

What you are trying to do is to have them nest together, so when they are sewn there is no gap or overlap. It's easy if you 'feel' for the gap or lump.

Step 3: Sew the Patches Together

To Complete the Block:

  • Sew down the long side on the sewing machine, using a quarter inch seam.
  • Press to one side.

You've made your block.

Well done!

Completed Four Patch block in contrasting fabrics
Completed Four Patch block in contrasting fabrics

Troubleshooting!

How is Your Join?

Excellent?

Or could it be improved?

  • Does the block measure 6½ inches across in both directions?
  • If not, can you see which seam is too big, or too narrow?
  • How is the seam junction?
  • A gap or overlap?

Put Your Ruler On Top

Does it measure 6 and a half inches?
Does it measure 6 and a half inches?

Not Too Critical Please!

Be nice!

You're just a beginner!

Remember this is your very first patchwork block, so be kind to yourself if it's not perfect. If it's not as good as you think it should be, leave it for a day or two and have another try.

Pat yourself on the back for your effort and you'll see it will improve in no time.

It's as easy as I say, practice helps.

My first quilt was not very good, but I love it still.

Gallery of Four Patch Designs

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Grandson Tyler's quiltMoggies by Angela M ClarkFour Patch bordersDetail King size quilt
Grandson Tyler's quilt
Grandson Tyler's quilt
Moggies by Angela M Clark
Moggies by Angela M Clark
Four Patch borders
Four Patch borders
Detail King size quilt
Detail King size quilt

© 2009 Jan T Urquhart Baillie

Think you can make a Four Patch block now? - Give it a try!

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    • profile image

      Mohd 2 years ago

      Your blog always lveaes me feeling so inspired to create... the illustrations are wonderful and I always look forward to opening your blog page to see what you've drawn for the day. Thank you and happy new year!PS: What brand & model of sewing machine do you use? I'd like to start sewing this year and need some guidance!

    • profile image

      Leticia 2 years ago

      - I hope you're not getting tired of my conmtmes. These are fantastic. I love these so much! You're doing SUCH an awesome job capturing families at home! This is lovely!

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 4 years ago from Australia

      @anonymous: Hi CatieB

      you cut 6 1/2" squares to make the block a 12" finished size. Have fun!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      If I want to make this block as a 12" finished size - how would I adjust the measurements? Thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi Jan, I am literally a beginner, and this is the simplest beginner instructions I have ever seen, Thank you for making things easy. By the way the only thing which is not clear is how to use the ruler and rotary cutter you recommended, so I still have to figure that out. Thanks again- Barbara

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am an absolute beginner and I really enjoyed your lesson. I am inspired to try making a four patch quilt. thank you.

    • PatriciaJoy profile image

      PatriciaJoy 5 years ago from Michigan

      An excellent tutorial and exactly what I was looking for. Blessed by an angel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I can't wait to try my first block! I also find your instructions very easy to follow. I will let you know how it turns out. Thank you

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 5 years ago from Australia

      @kerryhrabstock: Soon, soon...

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 5 years ago from Australia

      @bikerministry: Blessings to you too.

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 5 years ago from Australia

      @Gypzeerose: What lovely things you wite. Thanks for the blessing, too.

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 5 years ago from Australia

      @anonymous: Thanks for popping in.

    • teristazko profile image

      teristazko 5 years ago

      What a great patchwork lense! Very informative. It gives me insentive.

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 5 years ago from Australia

      @teristazko: I'd love to see what you make with your new courage! Have fun!

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 5 years ago from Australia

      @seabreezes: Almost possible? Perhaps I need to help a bit more!

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 5 years ago from Australia

      @Ann Hinds: You are too kind! Thanks again!

    • kerryhrabstock profile image

      kerryhrabstock 5 years ago

      Not ready yet, but I have a sewing machine. And I'm so happy to find instructions I can understand. As soon as I finish my current projects, this is next. Thanks.

    • bikerministry profile image

      bikerministry 5 years ago

      Very thorough. If I ever get my sewing machine out, I may choose to leave it out and use it to make quilt squares. I have several crafts in mind for yard squares. Such a great lens. I'll stay in touch. Blessings.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Very sweet and beautiful lens. Will I ever quilt? Who knows - not on the list right now, but I certainly appreciated my mother's quilts. And I appreciated your gentle, encouraging way - when I took a quilting class the woman kept talking about having to measure every thing and how a pencil width can make a difference and that terrified me. Honestly, I am more the crazy quilt type :) - but I love what you did! Angel blessed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      really beautiful, Thanks for the the information

    • seabreezes profile image

      seabreezes 5 years ago

      I have always loved patchwork but never tried to do it. You have given a super tutorial and I thank you for it. It looks almost possible to do. Thanks again. It's fun to just look at it.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      This is great for a beginner but even those of us who do quilt can always do with a refresher. Besides, you are the grand master and I can always learn from you!

    • canoz profile image

      Heather Bradford 5 years ago from Canada

      I love patchwork too! It's great to share the love with others! Thanks for your enjoyable lens.

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      @anonymous: You are so welcome. Off you go and get started!

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      @LizMac60: Thanks for the blessing. And the featuring.

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      @anonymous: Why not pop over to jantspatchworkschool.com

      and see all sorts of free lessons and courses to buy?

      Thanks for dropping in!

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      @sheriangell: Then you can start fresh with my methods. No stress allowed!

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      @Kitty Levee: Thank you!

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      @anonymous: Wow! Thanks for the lovely comment.

      I have a beginner's course almost revised and ready on

      www.jantspatchworkschool.com

      Pop over to take a peek.

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      @anonymous: You are so welcom!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      this is one of THE BEST tutorials I have ever seen for beginners... I am an experienced seamtress and have decided to try my hand at quilting. Teaching myself thru sites like yours. THANK you very very much! :) Keep 'em coming!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks for such easy to follow instructions! I was feeling a bit daunted how to get started, but after reading this I can't wait to give it a try!

    • Kitty Levee profile image

      Kitty Levee 6 years ago

      Well done!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Wow It s interesting & easy to make. Tx a lot.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I knitted and crochet a lot I thought I try a new skill and do some patch work I started doing English patch work I'm thrilled by what I've done I found your advice helpful how does one put the design onto the quilt ?

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great lens. I used to do lots of patchwork, all hexagobal. Blessed by a squid angel and featured on Me?!! A Squid Angel.

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 7 years ago

      I love to snuggle up under an old fashioned quilt. Making one? You make it look sew ;) easy, but I struggle with sewing a button on......

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 8 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to spirituality] Thanks, you angel!

    • JanTUB profile image
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      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 8 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to spirituality] The little one? It's a Sew Easy (Australian) ruler 6 1/2 inches square. Let's go!

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      OH & blessed by a squidangel :)

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      I think I can make one yes, great instruction. But where can I get that ruler ? looks darn handy :)