Pinwheel quilt blocks are exactly what they sound like! Remember those days as a child when your parents bought you a brightly colored pinwheel to blow and spin, or to run as fast as you could, holding up your pinwheel so that it spun as fast as possible? This block will bring back those happy childhood memories! There are a couple of variations of this block, which is also sometimes called the windmill block.
Pinwheel Quilt Blocks
Please note that all metric (cm) conversions have been rounded off for ease of measurement. If your quilting ruler is marked in inches, I highly recommend you use the inch measurements, as the metric measurements can be a little awkward.
Pinwheel Quilt Blocks - Supplies
Fabric for Pinwheel Quilt Blocks
You need contrasting colors, or a plain and a print for this to be effective. You will be starting off with squares, so a ‘Charm Pack’ may be useful here. Many quilting shops sell these charm packs, which are pre-cut squares, in a variety of sizes. They are usually 10 x10 inches (25 x25 cm), 5 x5 inches (12.5 x12.5 cm) or 2 ½ x2 ½ inches (6.4 x6.4 cm).
It is probably best to start with a 5 x5 inch (12.5 x12.5 cm) square, as this is easily manageable. If you are considering your final quilt, smaller blocks give a more detailed, intricate result. Larger blocks are quick and easy as you will have less seams when joining your blocks together.
If you want to use your own combination of fabrics, a 5 x5 inch (12.5 x12.5 cm) quilting ruler will come in handy.
General Supplies for Pinwheel Quilt Blocks
- Sewing machine, straight pins, scissors
- Iron and ironing board.
- Cutting tools - Rotary cutter, self-healing cutting mat, quilting rulers.
- Marking pen - One which gives a clear line, but is easily removable.
- Matching cotton thread.
Cutting Chart for Pinwheel Quilt Blocks
|Starting Squares||Trim HST’s to:||Finished Block Size|
|6 ¼“ (16.6 cm)||2 ½” (6.2 cm)||4” (10cm)|
|7 ¼” (19.1cm)||3”(6.6 cm)||5”(12.5cm)|
|8 ¼ “ (21.6cm)||3 ½”(8.1 cm)||6”(15 cm)|
|9 ¼ “ (24.6 cm)||4”(9.6 cm)||7”(18cm)|
|10 ¼ “ (26.6 cm)||4 ½ “(10.6 cm)||8”(20 cm)|
|11 ¼ “ (29.1 cm)||5”(12 cm)||9”(22.5 cm)|
|12 ¼ “(32.1 cm)||5 ½”(13.4 cm)||10”(25,5 cm)|
If you want to work out the formula for sizing to create blocks of different sizes to those listed here, this is the formula:
- Starting squares must be Finished size + 2 ¼” (+6.6cm)
- Trim your HSTs to Finished size divided by 2 + ½“(divided by 2+1.2 cm)
Single Pinwheel Quilt Blocks
This block will look good in any colors or patterns, as long as they are clearly contrasting. Basic pinwheel quilt blocks are made up of four half square triangles. See the previous post on how to make half square triangles.
QUILTING TIPS: A lot of quiltmakers become frustrated with this block because it is difficult to get the points in the center to line up perfectly in the middle of the block. The answer to this is to be absolutely precise with your cutting and to accurately mark your stitching lines on each piece.
Step 1 - Sew 4 Half Square Triangles
There are several ways to make your half square triangles but this is the easiest for pinwheel quilt blocks.
- You will start with two equal size squares in two contrasting colors. i.e. four squares altogether.
- Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of the top square.
- Precisely measure ¼ inch (0.6 cm) on either side of your diagonal line. Mark these ¼ inch (0.6 cm.)seam allowances. These will be your stitching lines.
- Place your squares right sides together with the markings showing. Once you have stitched on both stitching lines, cut neatly along your original diagonal line.
- Press your seam towards the darker side and remember to snip your threads and trim your dog ears.
- Do the same with both sets of squares. You will now have four blocks.
Here is what you will end up with.
Step 2 - Assemble
Arrange the squares on your table so that the colors alternate.
Sew the bottom two squares together. Press the seam towards the darker color. Double check the orientation of your blocks.
Sew the top two squares together. Press the seam towards the darker color.
Place the two rectangles you have now made together so that the middle seams meet precisely and form a neat point. It is worth taking the time to tack this seam so that it stays exactly in place when stitching together.
Sew the top rectangle to the bottom rectangle. Press with the seam open this time, to avoid bulkiness. Your Pinwheel Quilting Block is complete!
Square up your newly created block and trim it exactly to size, so that when you join all your blocks together the seams and corners align perfectly.
To Save Time - Chaining
You can use the eight at a time method of joining your half square triangles. and you can chain piece your blocks.
To chain piece:
- Cut out all the squares you will need for your entire quilt.
- Sew along your stitching line on one side of your diagonal cutting line.
- When one piece is complete, just put the next block under your sewing machine foot and carry on sewing. Continue doing this with all your blocks until you have a long ‘chain’ of blocks held together by a thread.
- When you get to the end of all your blocks, repeat, now sewing along the stitching line on the other side of your diagonal line.
- Once both sides are done on all blocks, cut the threads in between each block and use your rotary cutter and ruler to cut along all the cutting lines.
Double Pinwheel Quilt Blocks
These are also known as a double pinwheel quilt blocks. There is one small pinwheel within a larger pinwheel, hence the name. Although it is slightly more complex than the simple pinwheel a confident beginner can handle it with ease. This one looks more like an actual pinwheel, as it has an almost 3-dimensional effect. For this one, you will need three different fabrics, and four squares altogether.
Step 1 - Cutting
Lets assume you want to make 6 ½ x 6 ½ inch ( 16.5 x16.5 cm ) square pinwheel quilt blocks.
- You will need to cut 2x 7 inch squares of the same color,
- And 1 x7 ½ inch square from each of the other colors.
Step 2 - Half Square Triangles
Refer to the half square triangle post. Make two half-square triangles with your different colored 7 ½ in squares.
Step 3 - Assemble
Cut each the half square triangles diagonally.
Cut your 7 inch (18 cm) squarse diagonally to create 2 larger triangles. It may be worth spraying some spray starch on these larger triangles, as you will be sewing along the bias, and this stretches easily.
Place the larger triangle under the smaller ones and stitch along the longer diagonal.
Press your seams open. This is important here, because there will be quite a lot of bulk where all these seams meet! Repeat to make four of these blocks.
Rotate your blocks to create the pinwheel shape. You should be able to see the smaller pinwheel within the larger one.
Sew together the bottom two units, then the top two units then your two rectangles together, to create your final block. Be sure to check the alignment of your blocks every time before you sew your seam. It is so easy to misalign one, and then your pinwheel will lose all it’s effect!
As mentioned before, be precise about your placement of units to ensure sharp points in the center of your block.
What Can I Make With Pinwheel Quilt Blocks?
- DIY fabric coasters - Each one made from a single pinwheel.
- Cushion covers - One fairly large pinwheel will make one side of a cushion cover. Or four smaller pinwheels stitched together. To make an interesting rectangular cushion cover you can place your pinwheels next to each other.
- A baby quilt would be lovely in this cheerful, child-like design.
- A table runner - Use colors to complement your décor, or red and green to make a lovely Christmas table topper.
- Of course, as always, an actual quilt!
Pinwheel Quilt Blocks - In Conclusion
Pinwheel quilt blocks are satisfying and rewarding to produce. Don’t procrastinate, go and experiment with these blocks! Be creative with your fabric choices and your arrangement of blocks. If you go through each of these tutorials and create practice blocks in toning colors, you could eventually stitch together all your ‘experiments’ into one large quilt! You should be ‘Itching to be stitching’ by now!