A nine patch quilt block is one of the simplest blocks to create, and yet it has the promise of being able to be changed into scores of different designs. The variety of this block relies on the placement of your nine little patches. This tutorial will show you a basic nine patch block and some simple nine patch quilt patterns as variations.
Nine Patch Quilt Patterns Tutorial
What is a Nine Patch Quilt Block?
A nine patch quilt block is made up of nine humble squares arranged in a 3x3 grid. The beauty of these blocks is that you do not need fancy templates or complicated formulas for sizing your blocks or calculating angles. It doesn’t matter what size your squares are, as long as they are all the same size!
History of the Nine Patch Quilt Block
The nine patch quilt block goes back to the times of the pioneers of America. It was chosen because it was easy to put together by hand (no complex angles here!) and was economical, meaning there was no wastage when cutting out squares.
Pioneer women could use up various scraps and piece them together to create something that kept their families warm at night. They were also used to cover windows and floors. Because of the simplicity of these blocks, they were often used to teach young girls how to sew.
The scrap quilt became popular again during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Women had to create warmth and decorations from old clothing, with the worn-out patches cut away.
The nine patch quilt was a great favorite for these scrap quilts, as the squares can be as small as your scraps are! In those years, they also made clothing and quilts out of feed and flour sacks.
Eventually, the manufacturers started printing these sacks with decorative patterns so that the fabric could be used for clothing, curtains, and quilts.
These days, quilters often prefer to purchase special quilting fabrics, often like fat quarters or jelly rolls which are precut 2.5 inch strips of precut fabric. . This has the advantage of creating beautifully color-coordinated quilts and ensuring that your entire quilt is made from similar weight and thickness of fabric.
Charm pack squares, precut squares of fabric, usually sold in coordinated colors within a pack, are ideal for nine square quilt blocks.
Nine Patch Quilt Block Supplies
Here is what you will need to make nine patch quilt blocks:
- FABRIC - Quilting cotton in a light to medium weight cotton fabric with a tight weave.
- THREAD - Cotton or polyester blend thread in matching colors, or neutrals. (Sewing thread types)
- CUTTING TOOLS - Rotary cutter, self-healing cutting mat, quilters ruler. (Quilting tools)
- GENERAL SUPPLIES - Sewing machine, straight pins, iron, and ironing board.
- STARCH - Spray starch is helpful, but not essential. It keeps your squares firm and prevents stretching and fraying while you are sewing your seams.
How To Make a Nine Patch Quilt Block
Here is a simple design for 9-patch quilt blocks using alternating dark and light squares.
Step 1 - Cutting Instructions
Cut 9 squares of equal sizes. These nine patch blocks are just an array of nine squares placed together to form a larger square. The simplest arrangement of squares is a chequerboard pattern, alternating light and dark squares.
Cut 5 dark squares and 4 light squares.
Step 2 - Assembling
The most straightforward way to assemble these is to join three blocks to form a strip. Put the squares right sides together, and stitch using a ¼ inch (6 mm) seam allowance. Sew three strips in this way.
Press the seams towards the darker color.
Join your first strip to the second, and finally add the third strip to complete your block. You must line up your seams exactly every time you join another strip. To do this, place your pins precisely in the seam lines on both strips.
You can scale your blocks up or down as you like, as long as they are all the same size.
For the chequerboard pattern your colors must be in the following order-
- First strip - dark, light, dark.
- Second strip - light, dark, light.
- Third strip - dark, light, dark.
Your adjoining blocks must be in the opposite order i.e.
- First strip- light, dark, light.
- Second strip- dark, light, dark.
- Third strip- light, dark, light.
This will ensure that your pattern remains constant when your nine patch quilt blocks are joined together.
You can also use completely random colored blocks, if you want a really scrappy quilt effect, or if you are using up all your little scraps.
Do remember to press your blocks in between each seam, and to square up your finished blocks neatly before assembling them all together.
Strip Piece Nine Patch Quilt Patterns
Of course, with quilting and patchwork, clever people have always devised shortcuts! One of these, used for nine patch quilts, is strip piecing quilt block designs. This considerably speeds up your cutting and piecing time.
- You start by cutting three long strips of fabric. Jelly rolls can be used here.
- Join your strips in bands of three. Be sure to use a very small stitch length on your sewing machine, as you will be cutting through these seams, and there will be no anchoring stitches where you make the cuts.
- Cut your joined strips into smaller bands of three colors. The width of each segment you cut must be ¼ inch (6 mm) wider than the height of one square. This is to give you your seam allowance.
- Then join your ‘opposite’ sequence of colors. Cut into small bands as before.
- Once you have cut apart enough small strips, join them to create your nine patch, using alternate bands. You could also rotate the strip pieces to make an interesting nine patch quilt block pattern.
Disappearing 9 Patch Quilt Patterns
No post on a nine patch quilt block would be complete without mentioning the “Disappearing Nine Patch Block”. This one, to me, is almost magical in its illusion. It takes a little more time and effort, but it creates such a different, complex-looking block without needing any special skills!
- You create your nine patch block exactly as explained previously.
- Then you slice your block horizontally and vertically. You will have four new pieces.
- Rotate your top right and bottom left sections by 180 degrees.
- Then, sew these four blocks together to create an extremely complex-looking pattern.
- Once again, you can experiment with the placement of these newly created blocks to design your finished quilt.
- You can also cut your nine patch diagonally and rotate these triangles to form yet another complex pattern.
After reading this, you will have much to think about patchwork! It is really fascinating how your choice of color and placement can make such a difference.
Nine Patch Quilt Variations
The simplest variation is to place plain blocks in between each nine patch quilt block. The plain blocks must be cut to the size of your completed nine patch block. If you choose to use three fabrics, instead of only two you can make nine patches with either a negative or a positive effect.
- Negative - This has a medium color in the corners.
- Positive - This has the lightest color in the corners.
- Diagonal - This quilt has a diagonal line of squares running across the center of each block, which gives your quilt a feeling of movement. If you place these blocks alternately with plain blocks, you will create the classic Irish chain quilt.
- Rail Fence- There is a quilt block known as the Rail Fence block, which is made from strips, rather than squares. But you can use your nine patch technique to create this effect by piecing the same colored squares together.
- Square in a Square - By piecing colored blocks around a central white block you will get this square within a square effect. You can use any neutral-colored block as your central square.
- Opposite Corner - You can group the same or similar colors in opposite corners of your block.
- Jigsaw Puzzle - Your squares appear to be interlocking.
- Contrast Corner - One contrasting block is sewn into a corner of your nine-patch block.
Placing sashing in a neutral color between each block creates a whole new effect. Quilt sashing refers to strips of fabric placed between each block to create a frame-like effect, similar to window sashing.
This allows your blocks to stand out without looking too crowded. It also unifies all the colors on your quilt if you are making a scrap quilt.
By playing around with your blocks to see what different variations you can achieve, you will see just how many versions of this nine-patch quilt block can be created!
What To Make With A Nine Patch Quilt Block?
Here are some nine patch quilt ideas:
- HOT PADS - Use your experimental practice squares for the nine patch quilt block (once padded and quilted with batting) as hot pads in the kitchen.
- TABLE RUNNERS - A lovely idea for a table runner is to place a nine patch block on either side of an embroidered panel. You can embroider your own central block, or use a vintage piece of embroidery, cut to size.
- QUILTS - Create a nine patch quilt block lap quilt to keep you warm on winter evenings.
- THROWS - Make a throw to cover your furniture, either as a washable cover (easier than upholstery cleaning), or to cover old and worn furniture.
Nine Patch Quilt Block - In Conclusion
Have fun playing around with this nine patch quilt block. It really lends itself to experimentation!