The Windmill quilt block is an easy block made by arranging four Rail Fence blocks into a larger block that looks like — you guessed it — the turning blades of a windmill. The block needs only two fabrics, one lighter and one darker. The more contrast you have between the two fabrics, the more clearly the windmill blades will stand out.
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.
You will need two fabrics, one darker and one lighter. Here’s how much you need for each of the three sizes:
- 6½” blocks: 3/8 yard of each fabric.
- 9½” blocks: 1/2 yard of each fabric.
- 12 ½” blocks: 7/8 yard of each fabric.
Tools and Supplies
- Rotary cutter
- See-through, no-slip cutting ruler (preferably 6” x 24”)
- 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
How to Cut the Fabric Strips
When you cut 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” blocks: cut five 2”-wide strips of both the light and dark fabrics.
- 9½” blocks: cut six 2¾”-wide strips of both the light and dark fabrics.
- 12½” blocks: cut eight 3½” strips of both the light and dark fabrics.
Step-by-Step Strip Piecing Tutorial
Follow these instructions to speed piece Windmill quilt blocks. 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.
- Cross-cut the strip sets into sub-units. For 6½” blocks, cut the sub-units 3-1/2” 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 dark windmill “blades” in the center of the block, as shown here: or light windmill “blades” in the center, like this:
- Sew the sub-units together. Look at the numbered photo to see the sewing order.
- 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+4 right side down on top of the joined Units 1+2. Sew along the bottom edge, then press the block open.
- Square up the block.