Four-Patch, Nine-Patch, Rail Fence, and Windmill
If you’re a time-challenged quilter – or a beginner who would like to start with a quick and easy quilt – here are four basic blocks you can make fast with strip piecing.
The four blocks shown here are popular favorites because they are so easy to assemble. There are no tricky curves or bias edges to worry about, just straight lines in both cutting and sewing. That makes them good choices for beginning quilters, but experienced quilters like them too because they’re so versatile.
Strip Piecing Makes These Quilt Blocks Easy
Any quilt block can be put together one patch at a time, but that’s a time-consuming way to go about it. Strip piecing is an assembly-line technique that can dramatically speed up the process of cutting and sewing the blocks shown here. Start by first rotary-cutting strips of fabric. Then sew the strips together into sets and cut the strip sets into squares or rectangles. You create the finished quilt block by sewing the cut-up sets together in various combinations. The blocks featured in this article use simple sets of two to four strips.
Easy Blocks Made from Two-Strip Units
- Four-Patch. A four-patch quilt block consists of four squares, two light and two dark, arranged in a checkerboard pattern. (Technically speaking, a four-patch block can be any block based on a four-sector grid, but this simple block is the one most commonly called Four-Patch.) Learn how to strip piece Four-Patch blocks.
- Windmill. These simple blocks are also made from light-dark strips, cut into rectangles, and laid out in a pinwheel shape. The “blades” of the windmill can be either light or dark. Learn how to strip piece Windmill blocks.
Blocks Made from Three- or Four-Strip Units
- Nine-Patch. This is another checkerboard block made from nine alternating light and dark squares. While the Four-Patch block is made from units of two strips, Nine-Patch is assembled from strip units of three strips each. (You can also make a Twelve-Patch checkerboard block by simply adding a fourth strip. ) Learn how to make Nine-Patch blocks.
- Rail Fence. This block consists of three or four fabric strips cut into rectangles. When you arrange the rectangles into a zigzag layout like the one shown below, the pattern is called Rail Fence. Learn how to strip piece Rail Fence Blocks
Resize Strip-Pieced Blocks by Varying the Width of Your Strips
The most commonly used strips in strip piecing are either 2 ½ ” or 3½” wide. You can either cut them yourself or buy them precut at the quilt store. To make your blocks larger or smaller, simply make your strip sets from thinner or wider strips.
Use Lights and Darks to Change the Look of Your Quilt Blocks
The blocks shown in the illustrations offer strong contrasts between light and dark fabrics to make it easier for you to see how to lay them out, but you can create dramatically different looks by using fabrics that are closer together in value and blend together with each other as a result.
Combining with Other Blocks Creates Endless Quilt Design Possibilities
Any of these four blocks can be used to make a pleasing quilt on its own, but combining the blocks with other blocks, even plain squares opens up a much bigger world of design possibilities.