This basic quilt block is made of nine small fabric squares arranged in a checkerboard pattern. Strip-piecing techniques make nine-patch quilts easy.
Nine-patch is one of the fundamental quilt blocks every quilter should know how to make. Its checkerboard pattern of light and dark fabrics adds interest to many different quilt patterns. While nine-patches may look fussy, they can be made fast and accurately with strip piecing.
Supply List for Strip Piecing Nine-patch Quilts
- Fabric strips in two colors, one lighter and one darker.
- Rotary cutter
- See-through cutting ruler
- All-purpose sewing thread in a neutral color like beige or pale grey
- Sewing machine
- (Optional) ¼” quilting foot
Quilt Fabric Strip and Nine Patch Block Sizes
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 nine patch blocks of various sizes:
- 3” square finished block: cut 1½” fabric strips
- 6” block: cut 2½” fabric strips
- 9” block: cut 3½” fabric strips
- 12” block: cut 4½” fabric strips
Cutting Fabric Strips for Nine Patch Quilt Blocks
See the photos at the bottom of the page for a visual guide to making nine patch blocks. Click on any photo to enlarge it.
Start by cutting three strips each of the light and dark fabrics (or buy precut strips called jelly rolls at the local quilt shop.) Each set of six strips will produce approximately the following number of finished nine-patch blocks, depending on the usable width of the fabrics:
- 1½” strips: 16 blocks
- 2½” strips: 10 blocks
- 3½” strips: 6 blocks
Sewing the Fabric Strips into Strip Sets
The fabric strips will be sewed into two sets of three strips each. One strip set has two dark stripes on the outside and a light strip in the center, as shown in Photo 2 below. The other has two light strips on the outside and a dark stripe in the center, as shown in Photo 3 below. To sew the blocks together:
- Lay one strip of light fabric and one of dark fabric with the right sides together.
- Sew along one long side of the paired strips with a scant ¼” seam, then press the seam toward the darker fabric.
- Sew the third strip to the strip set so the light and dark strips alternate. Press the seam toward the darker fabric.
- Sew the second set of strips together, pressing the seams toward the darker fabric.
- Lay the two strip sets with right sides together so the seams nest, as shown in Photo 4 below.
- Use a rotary cutter and a cutting ruler to cut sub-units from the paired strip units. The sub-units should be the same width as the original strips. For example, if the fabric strips were 1½” wide, cut the sub-units 1½” wide.
Assembling the Strip Sets into Nine Patch Blocks
The final step is to sew the sub-cut units into nine-patch blocks.
- Count the sub-units and set aside one-third of them. Those will be used to complete the nine-patch blocks later.
- Sew together the remaining two-thirds of the nested sub-units, joining each pair along one long side. Use chain piecing to save thread and speed up the stitching. Press the seam to one side.
- Separate the last third of the sub-cut units so they are no longer nested together.
Making Positive or Negative Nine Patch Blocks
At this point, it’s possible to make two different types of nine-patch blocks:
- Positive nine patch blocks, where the darker fabric anchors the four corners
- Negative nine patch blocks, where the lighter fabric is in the corners.
See Photo 5 below for examples of both negative and positive blocks. Some nine-patch quilts call for positive nine-patch blocks, some call for negative blocks, and some call for both. To assemble a finished block:
- Sew one sub-unit at a time to the larger sub-units, positioning the seam to make the finished block either positive or negative nine patches.
- Press the blocks and square them up. They are now ready to use in a quilt.