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How to Analyze Patchwork Quilt Blocks

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Why an Understanding of Patchwork Helps You Design a Quilt
Quilt Blocks

Unit divisions don't usually match up when you mix quilt blocks with different grids. That's something to consider if you're looking for a specific feeling of movement within the quilt design.

© Janet Wickell

It's Important to Recognize Quilt Block Structure

You might wonder, why should I care about patchwork quilt block structure?
  • Because it helps you design a quilt with blocks that flow together. Here's an example:

    The illustration shows a four-patch block next to a nine-patch block. Notice that the patches don't match up very well because of the differing grids, giving the combo an uneven appearance along intersections.

    If that isn't the look you want, choose blocks with similar grids or use sashing between blocks to camouflage their differences.

  • Analyzing quilt block construction helps you choose a block size. To rotary cut the fabric, choose a size with units you can accurately measure and cut with rotary rulers.

    Example:

    To make a five-patch block that finishes at 10", divide ten, the size, by five, the number of grids across and down. The result, 2", is the finished size of each grid in the block.

    Do the same for a 12" five-patch block. Twelve divided by five produces units that are 2.4", fine if you want to draft templates but not a size you can accurately rotary cut.

Choose Grid Size First to Change Quilt Block Size

Approach block size from a different perspective by choosing a finished grid size first.

  1. Multiply a grid size by the number of grids across and down. For instance:
  2. For a (subdivided) four patch block with 3" grids, multiply 4 grids x 3" each, or 12" square
  3. A five patch block with 3" grids would be calculated as 5 grids x 3" each, or 15" square

To mix blocks with different numbers of grids, find a size that works for both. Four-patch and nine-patch blocks can both be cut to finish at 12" square because their grids are easy to rotary cut when divided into that number: 12/3 = 4" for the nine-patch blocks; 12/4 = 3" for the four patch blocks.

  • Block units needn't be in whole numbers. Fractions are fine as long as they work with your rotary rulers.

     

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