The Fabulous Four-Patch Quilt Block

The very first quilt I ever made was a four-patch quilt. I knew nothing at all about quilting. I hadn’t taken a class or even read a book on how to quilt. I had never heard of strip piecing or a scant quarter-inch seam (which cost me some anguish later on.) I just knew that I loved fabric.

I bought a bunch of purple fabric squares on Ebay and decided to make a twin bed quilt with them. So that’s what I did. I laboriously pieced together dozens of four-patch blocks, then arranged them into rows and added some borders. I didn’t learn that there was an easier way to make a four-patch quilt until much later. (Hint: instead of making individual four-patch blocks like I did, you can lay out the squares in rows and sew them together one row at a time. It’s much faster and easier.)

I still have that quilt. And you know what? It looks pretty good to me even now!

Purple four patch quilt

Not because of my mad quilting skillz, but because that’s how easy it is to make a four-patch block. If I could do it, you definitely can.

In fact, Four-Patch is one of the easiest of all quilt blocks. It consists of four equal-size squares, arranged in a light-dark checkerboard pattern. (Technically speaking, any block based on a four-sector grid is called a four-patch block, but most quilters use the name Four-Patch to refer to the basic block.) Here are a few examples:

Two Ways to Piece Four-Patch Blocks

  • Squares method: Sew together individual fabric squares in a pattern of alternating light and dark squares. If you’re making a whole quilt of four-patch blocks, you can lay the squares out in rows and sew them together row by row, which is faster than sewing individual blocks. You’ll want to use this method when you have a lot of squares of different colors and prints.
  • Strip piecing method: Cut strips of light and dark fabrics of the same width (or even easier, buy precut strips. They come in rolls called jelly rolls.) Strip piecing is the method to use when you want to make a set of identical blocks from two fabrics. You need one lighter and one darker strip to make a set of Four-Patch blocks. Learn how to strip piece Four-Patch blocks. 

Using Color and Value in to Change Your Four-Patch Style

As with other quilt blocks, the final look of your quilt will depend greatly on how much contrast you choose to have between your light and dark fabrics. For a strong checkerboard look, use pale light fabrics and rich darks, as in this block:Four-Patch Quilt Block 2You can create a very different look by choosing fabrics that are closer in value to each other. A four-patch block made from pastel solids and patterned fabrics with similar values, like this one, gives your quilt a much more uniform look: Four Patch Quilt Block 7807937552_479f34f53c_z

 Featured photo by Darla, Flickr.com

  • January 7, 2013

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Felicity Walker
 

Felicity Walker is the author of the best-selling Quilting for Beginners book series and other books for quilters. She has been quilting for nearly twenty years and loves finding easier, faster, and more fun ways to make quilts.

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