Patchwork quilts are generally made from patchwork quilt squares sewn together to form quilt blocks. The quilt blocks are sewn together in rows and then the rows of quilt blocks are sewn together to complete the quilt. Naturally, as with most things in quilting, there are exceptions: art quilts and pictorial quilts come to mine. But as the majority of patchwork quilts begin with quilt squares, I am going to run through the general catefories of patchwork quilt blocks.
One patch quilt blocks
This quilt block, unsurprisingly, is made from one square only. This quilt square is often used in beginner quilts or to showcase a fabric that you don’t want to cut into smaller squares and triangles: perhaps a quilt fabric with a large pattern. Movement and interest can be added to the quilt by careful placement of dark and light fabrics. Incidentally, a quilt made using one size of triangle only would also be termed a one patch quilt block.
Four patch quilt blocks
This quilt block is now beginning to get more interesting. Even if some of the blocks are made up of two triangles sewn together, it is still classified as a four patch quilt block if there is a repetition of the design in each four patch quilt block made up of two rows of two quilt squares. The block shown is the basis of the bow tie block.
Five patch quilt block
Now this quilt block is different because it is made up of five rows of five quilt squares, so in fact there are 25 quilt squares each, so in fact there are twenty five quilt squares. No, I don’t know why it’s called five patch either!
Nine patch quilt block
By far the most common and versatile quilt block is the nine patch. This is made from three rows of three quilt squares. The simplest version of the nine patch quilt block is nine quilt squares all the same size but with a defined placement of colours. In the right hand photo the nine patch quilt block is alternated with a single quilt square. The other photo shows a nine patch quilt blocks made with both squares and triangles.
Of course there are many other subdivisions of quilt blocks: circles, hexagons, eight, ten, twelve, eighteen and twenty four patch quilt blocks to name a few, but the above are probably the most common that you will come across.
The composition of the quilt block is not the ony factor in defining it. Colour plays an enormous part in quilt traditions and in the naming of quilt blocks. Looking through my quilt books I am always amazed at how many quilt blocks have different names in different parts of the world. More importantly, there are many quilt blocks that have different names if the colours are placed differently within the block.
A classic example of this is a nine patch quilt block with three quilt squares along one diagonal and the remaining six quilt squares all made of two triangles combined. Depending on the colour placements within the quilt block, it can be known as Cat’s Cradle, Tennessee, Double Pyramid, Double X, Jacks on Six, Kindergarten Block, Old Maid’s Puzzle, Three and Six – and there are probably many other names that I don’t know.
The quilt block is the foundation of the quilt making process and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you will find yourself recognising and naming quilt blocks – even if you don’t know all the names of a particular quilt block!
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