Four patch quilt blocks and patterns are extremely popular, probably due to their ease of construction and simplicity. The basic Four patch block is simply four equal-sized squares, sewn together to form a larger square.
Four Patch Quit Blocks
Most traditional quilt block patterns can be put into categories that are based on a grid system. These categories are:
- One Patch - These have a repeat of only one shape, it can be square, triangular, rectangular, hexagonal. It is just using the same patch over and over again.
- Four Patch - Patterns divide into four equal squares. They can be broken down further by dividing each square into quarters, to make sixteen pieces in a square.
- Five Patch - Patterns are usually subdivided into twenty-five squares.
- Seven Patch -These are divided into forty-nine squares.
- Nine patch patterns are often used as just a 3x3 square, or each square can be divided into quarters, making thirty-six squares in a block.
- Star Patch- Created when the shapes radiate out from the center
- Circular - Patterns are derived from a circle, eg. Dresden Plate, Double Wedding Ring.
Four Patch Quilt Block - Supplies
- Fabric - Closely woven cotton is best.
- Sewing Basics - Sewing Machine, thread, scissors, pins
- Cutting Tools - Rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat, quilting ruler
- Ironing Tools - Iron and ironing board. Have these close to your sewing machine so that you are not tempted to skip the pressing of seams!
How To Sew A Four Patch Quilt Block
This is probably the simplest quilt block to sew together, and it can be done in a number of ways.
Method 1 - Simplest Method
- Cut out your four squares. The size is up to you! Don’t forget to add your seam allowance before cutting. This will be ¼” (6mm) all around your square. Color choice is also up to you, but a pleasing combination is two light squares and two dark squares.
- Lay out your squares in alternating color order. Sew them into two rows of one light and one dark square. Press to the darker side.
- Match up your central seams carefully and sew the rows together.
Method 2 - Strip Piecing
- To do this, cut two strips of the same width, one dark, and one light. Place them together, right sides facing. Sew them together along the long side.
- Cut your strips into equal segments. To make squares, these cuts must be the same as the width of your strips. So if you started with 2” (5cm) wide strips, cut them into 2” (5cm) segments.
- Take two of your segments and rotate one by 180 degrees, so that you have alternate colors to sew together.
- Match the central seams, pin them into place, then sew these two strips together and press.
- Do the same with the other strips.
Method 3 - Charm Squares
If you have purchased pre-cut charm square blocks (usually 5” (13 cm) square) you can use two of them to make a four patch. Of course, you can just cut yourself two large squares!
- Place the squares on top of one another, right sides together. Draw a line across the middle of the top square. Use the measurements on your quilting ruler to find the exact center. Sew ¼”(6mm) seam on either side of the line.
- Cut along the line and open up your strips.
- Press the seams open.
- Rotate one of the squares 180 degrees.
- Now put your two opened squares together, right sides facing. Remember one needs to be rotated so that your seams nest.
- Hold them precisely in place with a pin before stitching them together.
What does it mean to nest the seams, I hear you ask? It means to line up the seams of each block so that they seem to fit together perfectly. They must be well pressed to one side before you ‘nest’ them. Each seam must be laying in opposite directions. If you press the seams together with your fingers, you will feel them almost click into place and lock together.
- Draw another line down the center, perpendicular to your previous stitching line. Again, be precise when finding the center.
- Sew ¼” (6mm) seams on both sides of the line again.
- Cut along the line.
- Open out, and you will have 2 Four Patch blocks. Press.
- Square up your four patch blocks before joining them together.
Method 4 - Another Charm Pack Method
- Place your squares together, right sides facing.
- Sew along the outside of two opposite edges.
- Measure carefully with your quilting ruler, and cut down the center of the blocks.
- Open and Press.
- Rotate the units by 180 degrees, so that the seams nest together and opposite colors are facing each other. Do not be in a rush and leave out the rotation step! I accidentally did this a while ago, and ended up with a nice row of parallel rectangles!
- Put your squares right sides together.
- Sew on the outside of your square on opposite sides again, across your previous seam.
- Measure and cut down the middle again.
- Open out and press. You will have 2 four patch blocks.
- When your block is complete, be sure to square it up before joining units together.
Arrangement Of Four Patch Quilt Blocks
Once you have made your individual blocks, you need to decide how you are going to combine them to create your whole quilt top.
- The simplest method is to just sew all your squares together. You can make very attractive quilts using only squares. The trick is to plan your colors carefully and to use colors which work well together.
- You could also sew your four patch squares and then alternate them with plain squares the same size as the four patch. These can then be placed horizontally in rows or on point.
- Another idea is to have alternating large and small four patch blocks. This will create a chain or link across your quilt. You can see the diagonal line of squares going from bottom left to top right on this block. This combination of blocks is known as an Irish Chain pattern. There are other ways of forming this pattern too, one of them being to use nine patch blocks.
- You can cut your four patch square into triangles by cutting diagonal lines across it. Then rearrange into pleasing patterns and combinations
- You can also make an entire quilt from four patch squares with sashing. Sashing is strips of fabric that divide the blocks from each other. It is like a mini frame around each block. This looks very attractive, and can also help you wiggle the piecing of your blocks if they are not precisely the same size! It is made by stitching narrow strips in between each block when forming a row of blocks, then placing long strips of the same color in between each row. It is usually made from a contrasting color so that it stands out between the blocks.
Disappearing Four Patch Quilt Blocks
We can’t leave this topic without mentioning the magic of disappearing four patch blocks. It is possible to create complex designs using the four patch block as your base. You make the four patch block, and then cut it up and reassemble it!
It works like this:
- Sew four squares together. For example, four 5”((13cm) squares.
- Now cut your block 1 ½” (4cm) from the middle seams.
- Rotate the inner cut sections so that the colors alternate. Rearrange as shown.
- Now sew together in rows, and finally sew your rows together.
Four Patch Quilt Blocks - In Conclusion
Now, hopefully, you have put together a couple of different versions of a four-patch block, and you have thought carefully about which way you plan to assemble them for the best effect. Make up a large pile of blocks and sew them all together to form your quilt. This is a very simple block, and if you use fairly large squares, and clear time for yourself, you can put a quilt together in a weekend!
Whatever style or design your quilt is planned to be, always endeavor to be precise when piecing, and to have neat, crisp corners and an even surface with no gathering or bunching. You will find this easy and satisfying when working with a simple four patch quilt block!