Make this Easy Block Fast with Quilt Fabric Strips and Rotary Cutter
Quick strip piecing techniques and quilt fabric strips help quilters make a whole quilt’s worth of Four-Patch blocks in a very short time.
Every quilter should know how to make the versatile four-patch quilt block. A basic four-patch block consists of just two fabrics sewn together with two straight seams. Four patch blocks can be can be made into quilts on their own, or combined with other blocks to form more complex blocks like Jewel Box or Four-Patch Star.
Tools and Supplies for Strip Piecing Four-Patch Quilt Blocks
All that’s needed to make four-patch quilt blocks is basic quilting supplies:
- Rotary cutter
- See-through, no-slip cutting ruler
- Quilt fabric
- Cutting mat
- All-purpose or 100% cotton quilting thread in a neutral color such as beige or grey
- Sewing machine
- (Optional) 1/4″ sewing machine quilting foot
Choosing Quilting Fabrics for Four-Patch Quilt Blocks
The most commonly made type of four-patch block consists of two fabrics, one light and one dark. The level of contrast between the two fabrics determines how the finished block will look. To make a dramatic block, pick fabrics with strong contrasts between light and dark. To make a quieter, more peaceful-looking quilt, pick two fabrics with less contrast.
How to Cut Fabric Strips for Four-Patch Quilt Blocks
The strips for strip piecing are cut across the fabric width, from selvage to selvage. The wider the strips are, the bigger the finished block will be. Here’s how wide to cut the strips to make four-patch blocks of various sizes:
- 2-½” square block (2” finished size): cut fabric strips 1-1/2” wide
- 3-½” square block (3” finished size): cut strips 2” wide
- 4-½” square block (4” finished size): cut strips 2-½” wide
- 6-½” square block (6” finished size): cut strips 3-1/2” wide
- 12-½” square block (12” finished size): cut strips 6-1/2” wide
Step-by-Step Instructions for Strip Piecing Four-Patch Quilt Blocks
Follow these instructions to speed piece four-patch quilt blocks. You can also make four patch blocks from fabric squares. 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.
- Choose a four-patch block size. Choose a light and dark fabric for each block.
- Cut the light and dark fabric strips. See the section on yardage below to estimate how many strips you need.
- Laying two strips with their right sides together (see photo #1 below), sew the strips along their long edges, using a scant 1/4″ seam. (See photo #2 below.)
- If you’re sewing more than one strip set at a time, use chain piecing to speed up the process. When you reach the end of one strip set, insert the next trip set under the presser foot, butting it up against the first strip set without cutting the threads or raising the foot. Sew directly from the first set of strips right onto the next set. After you’ve sewed all the strip sets, use scissors or a rotary cutter to cut the threads between the strip sets.
- Take two strip sets and lay them with right sides together, aligning the darker fabric on one set with the lighter fabric on the other strip set. The center seams should nest or lock together. (See photo #3 below.)
- Square the end of the paired strip sets, then cross-cut them into smaller sub-units that are the same width as the original fabric strips. (See photo #4 below.) If the strips you cut were 1-½”, cut the strip sets into 1-½” units. If the strips were 3-½” wide, cut the sub-units to 3-½”.
- Leaving the paired sub-units with right sides together, chain-piece them by stitching along one edge with a scant ¼” seam. (See photo #5 below.)
- Press the seams to one side.
- Square up the block as needed.
The four-patch blocks are now complete and ready to layout into a quilt, or to combine into larger blocks such as jewel box or four-patch stars.
Estimating Yardage for Four-Patch Quilt Blocks
After you’ve chosen the block size you want, you’ll need to decide how many strip sets to cut. Cut the same number of strips from both the light and dark fabrics. Here’s the number of strips of various widths that can be cut from a yard of fabric:
- Twenty-four 1½” strips
- Eighteen 2”strips
- Sixteen 2-¼” strips
- Ten 3-½” strips
- Eight 4-½” strips
- Five 6-½” strips
Assuming a 40” fabric width, each pair of two strip sets will produce the following number of four-patch blocks:
- Sixteen 2-½” square blocks (2” finished size)
- Eleven 3-½” square block (3” finished size)
- Eight 4-½” square blocks (4” finished size)
- Six 6-½” square blocks (6” finished size)
- Three 12-½” square blocks (12” finished size)
Strip piecing makes four-patch blocks so easy that you may want to make a stack to keep on hand for last-minute quilting projects.