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The Nine-Patch Block - a Sew, You've Always Wanted To Quilt Guest Post

Photo by Robert Leo Johnson as seen on
I love this beautiful and simple nine-patch quilt block quilt from Cottage Living– beautiful! These very simple blocks are easy to make and play with for endless combinations. Here is another wonderful guest post for the Sew, You’ve Always Wanted To Quilt series. I am excited to introduce Dorie Schwartz who is going to talk to us about different ways to use the nine-patch block in quilts. I tumbled across her blog Tumbling Blocks, when I found this amazing tutorial for honeycomb smocking. I just fell in love instantly.
Wow and beautiful. I knew I wanted her to contribute to this series. But, I digress, on to the nine-patch!
Hi. I’m really happy that Anne asked me to do a guest post for beginning quilters. I love quilting–I think more for its endless possibilities than for anything else. Quilting is a great way to play with color and patterns, and that can be done with even the most simple blocks. Enter the topic of today’s discussion–the nine patch quilt block.
A nine patch is simply nine squares of fabric, sewn together to make a square. Easy, yes? Boring? No. We can change the look of a quilt depending on our fabric choices for each of those nine squares. My plan is not to show you how to pick fabrics, but how you can play with fabrics. There really isn’t a “right” way to select fabrics—just an awareness that each of the fabrics you select plays into the quilt as a whole.
Choosing fabric for a quilt is similar to choosing yarns for a colorwork sweater, or paint for your living room. You need to be aware of what sort of feel you’re going for–do you want a bold quilt that pops? Make sure you have contrast between your fabrics and group them into dark and lights and medium tones. Want a quilt that’s more subtle? Choose fabrics that are more similar to each other. We’re going to be focusing on solids today, but the same thing applies to prints. Not sure what color or value your print is? Look at it from a distance and squint.
Let’s return to the nine patch. Here’s an example of a nine patch with a light blue “X” and dark gray in the four other squares.
Here’s what it looks like tiled. See how when it’s tiled we lose the “X” and begin to see big squares?
OK, let’s try making the center of the nine patch light green.
And then tiling it. Now we see a lattice with green accents.
And for something different, let’s put the gray in the center and have the blue and green fan out from the sides.
And tile it. See how we get a strong diagonal line? This is because the gray has a strong contrast with the green and blue. If we use the blue on the diagonal, we don’t get that bold, diagonal movement.
What if we add a solid spacer block between our nine patch blocks?
Now we can see both diagonals. Or, we can make plus blocks.
Get it? So many possibilities.
I used quiltr, a tool I made, to play with colors. You’re welcome to do the same, or you can work with scrap pieces or folded piles of actual fabric. Pick your favorite combination and let’s assemble something. I’m going to make 5 nine patch blocks with 4 spacers in this configuration.
A note about piecing–for most patchwork, you do not need to backtack at the start and end of a seam. This is because when you piece, your seam will eventually be intersected by another seam. This feels weird if you’re used to sewing garments or other items.
In quilting, we always use a 1/4 in. seam. For my nine patch, I’m going to cut 2.5 in. squares, which will give me a finished block size of 6.5 in. For my spacer blocks I will cute 6.5 in. squares. When the spacers are sewn to the nine patches, the result will be 6 in. squares.
Quilts and quilt blocks are put together in rows. It is way easier to a sew row of blocks to another row of blocks than it would be to sew each individual square to a quilt. For our nine patch, we sew three rows of three, then we press the seams to the darker fabric.
Then we sew the rows together–see how the seams line up because they were pressed in opposite directions?
Next we make three rows using the nine patch blocks and the spacers. Then we sew those rows together.
Ta-da! you’ve made a nine patch of nine patches! This 18.5 in. quilt top could be made into a doll quilt, a mini quilt, or you could make more of them to make a larger quilt.
Many thanks, Dorie. What a great introduction to the nine-patch. For more quilting posts, please check the Sew, You’ve Always Wanted to Quilt gallery here or by clicking the button below:

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