Step by step instructions for using strip piecing techniques to make a whole quilt’s worth of 6½”, 9½”, or 12½” Windmill blocks in a very short time.
The Windmill quilt block is an easy quilt block made from two fabrics, one light, and one dark. It is a good project for quilters just starting out, or for experienced quilters who want to make a quick quilt as a baby gift or charity project.
Windmill Quilt Block Sizes
This article gives instructions for making 12 Windmill blocks in three sizes: 6½”, 9½”, and 12½” (finished size 3”, 6”, or 12”). You can make your blocks larger or smaller by simply cutting wider or narrower fabric strips. Wider strips make a larger block; narrower strips make a smaller block.
Tools and Supplies for Strip Piecing Windmill Quilt Blocks
Here is what you will need to make 12 Windmill blocks:
- Rotary cutter
- See-through, no-slip cutting ruler (preferably 6” x 24”)
- Quilt fabric in two colors, one light and one dark. You will need 3/8 yard of each fabric to make 6½” blocks, 1/2 yard of each fabric for 9½” blocks, or 7/8 yard of each fabric for 12 ½” blocks.
- Cutting mat
- All-purpose or 100% cotton quilting thread in a neutral color (grey or beige are good)
- Sewing machine
- (Optional) 1/4″ quilting foot for the sewing machine
Choosing Quilting Fabrics for Windmill Quilt Blocks
The Windmill block relies on the contrast between the light and dark fabric to make the block look like windmill blades. The level of contrast between the fabrics you choose will have a huge impact on the look of the finished quilt. To make a more dramatic block, pick fabrics with strong contrast. For a quieter, more peaceful looking block, pick fabrics that are closer to each other in color value.
The “blades” in the windmill can be either dark or light.
How to Cut Fabric Strips for 3½”, 6½” and 12½” Windmill Quilt Blocks
When cutting strips for strip piecing, trim off the selvages first, then cut the strips the full width of the fabric. These instructions assume a fabric width of 40 inches after the selvages are trimmed off. To make:
- 6½” Windmill blocks (finished block size 6”), cut five 2”-wide strips of both the light and dark fabrics.
- 9½” Rail Fence blocks (finished block size 9”), cut six 2¾”-wide strips of both the light and dark fabrics.
- 12½” Rail Fence blocks (finished block size 12”), cut eight 3½” strips of both the light and dark fabrics.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Strip Piecing Windmill Quilt Blocks
Follow these instructions to speed piece Windmill quilt blocks. See the photos at the bottom of the article for a visual guide to the strip piecing process. Click on any photo to enlarge it. Learn more strip piecing basics for all kinds of strip pieced blocks.
- Cut an equal number of light and dark fabric strips. See the section on cutting the strips above for how many strips you need.
- Stack the strips into two sets for sewing. Put the light strips in one set and the dark strips in the other set.
- Lay one light and one dark strip with right sides together. Sew the strips along their long edges, using a scant 1/4″ seam. To make the sewing go faster, use chain piecing.
- Cross-cut the strip sets into sub-units. For 6½” blocks, cut the sub-units 31/2” long. For 9½” blocks, cut the sub-units 5” long. For 12½” blocks, cut the sub-units 6½” long.
- Stack the sub-units into four sets and arrange the sets as they will be in the final block. The sub-units can be arranged in two different ways: with a dark windmill “blades,” as shown in Photo 3 below, or light windmill “blades,” as shown in Photo 4 below.
- To sew the sub-units together, click on Photo 3 below to see the unit numbers.
- Lay Unit 2 right side down on top of Unit 1. Sew the units together along their right sides, then press.
- Lay Unit 4 right side down on top of Unit 3. Sew the units together along their right sides, then press.
- Lay the joined Units 3 and 4 right side down on top of the joined Units 1 and 2. Sew along the bottom edge, then press the block open.
- Square up the block as needed to use in a quilt.
Strip piecing makes Windmill blocks so easy that you may want to make a stack to keep on hand for last-minute quilting projects.