The windmill quilt block looks like the blades of a windmill. It is really easy to make using strips of fabric and here I will show you the basic version and a striped variation. These blocks can be used in different colors variations to give totally different effects.
What Is a Windmill Quilt Block?
There is occasionally some confusion about this windmill quilt block, as the pinwheel quilt block is often also called a windmill block. The block we will be discussing here is also sometimes called the ‘Chunky Windmill Quilt Block’! This version of the windmill quilt block is a wonderfully easy version that looks exactly like the blades of a windmill.
To create this one, you need only two fabrics, one darker and one lighter. You should aim to have a strong contrast so that your windmill blades stand out clearly.
Windmill Quilt Block- Supplies
- Fabric- Quilting cotton in at least 2 colors. See the measurements in the table below.
- Thread - It is best to use a cotton thread with cotton fabric. Choose a thread that matches one of your colors, or a neutral which will blend with both.
- Cutting Tools- Rotary cutter, self-healing mat, quilting ruler.
- General Supplies- Sewing machine, straight pins, iron, and ironing board.
How to Sew a Windmill Quilt Block - Basic Version
Step 1 - Cutting Strips
Your fabric needs to be cut into strips. Before starting to measure out your strips, always trim off the selvage edge of your fabric. Even if it is exactly the same color as your fabric, it has textural differences which you don’t want showing up in your final blocks.
An interesting aside here- some quilters save all these cut-off selvages in a separate bag or box, and eventually create a bright strippy quilt with them!
|Completed block||No. of strips||Width of strips|
|6” (15 cm)||4 light, 4 dark||2” (5cm)|
|9”(23 cm)||6 light, 6 dark||2 ¾” (7 cm)|
|12”(30.5 cm)||8 light, 8 dark||3 ½” (9 cm)|
It is easy to alter the size of your blocks by cutting your strips wider or narrower. The table above is just a guideline. You must have an equal number of light and dark strips. Place your strips into a light pile and a dark pile.
Step 2 - Sew Strips
Place one light and one dark strip together, right sides together. Sew these together along the long side of your strips. Use ¼” (6 mm)seam. If you are making a large number of blocks at once, use the chain piecing method.
Press your seam towards the darker side.
Step 3 - Cut Apart
Now cut your strips apart. The cutting width will be the same measurement as your two strips together. So your pieces must be square. Always remember to include your seam allowance in your measurements.
Step 4 - Rotate
Rotate your squares into the windmill shape. You can decide which effect you prefer- dark windmill blades against a light background, or light windmill blades against a dark background.
Step 5 - Stitch
Once you have aligned your windmill correctly, sew the top two units together, then the bottom two units together, then join these two strips to form a final square. Be careful to line your central seam lines up precisely.
Press this middle seam open to reduce bulk in the center. When your block is complete, square it up neatly.
Your quilt can be made entirely of two colors,(eg. white blades on a dark background), or you can alternate different colored blades on the same light background color. Using the same background color gives your quilt unity. Brightly colored blades on a white or cream background look extremely effective!
Variation - The Rail Fence Windmill Quilt Block
Closely related to this windmill quilt block is the rail fence block. The very first full-sized quilt I ever made was using the rail fence design! Rail Fence blocks are made in exactly the same manner, but instead of using only two colors, you use more strips. Each strip of color is a rail post of your ‘fence’!
The most difficult part of this block is selecting your fabrics. A suggestion is to choose a light, a medium and a dark fabric in the same tonal range. If you want, for example, a turquoise quilt, choose a light, a medium and a darker shade of turquoise. Do remember that even when the background of a print is light, darker flowers or designs will give it a darker tonal range.
Place a strip of each of these fabrics close together on a neutral background. Take a few steps back and you should be able to see the contrast. If you are still not sure if your colors are going to “pop”, take a photo of them with your phone, and then apply a black and white or “mono” filter. You will then easily be able to see where on the light or dark scale your fabrics lie. If your fabrics blend together in the mid-range, you will lose the contrast effect and your quilt could turn out really bland.
Supplies will be the same as for your windmill block, except for at least one extra color of the fabric. My instructions are for four colors, but of course, you can use five different fabrics if you prefer to!
To make up a 10”(25 cm) complete block, you will need four 5 ½“(14 cm) units. The extra ½”(12 cm) is your seam allowance on both sides of your strips. Cut each strip 1 ½ “(3.8 cm)wide. Cut 2 dark, 2 medium and 1 light strip for each block.
Stitch a dark strip to a medium strip with right sides together. Make two of these. Press as you go. It is tempting to wait and only press when all five strips are together, but it is much easier to completely flatten only one seam at a time. If you press four seams at a time you can easily create tucks, which will then affect your final measurements.
Now stitch your light strip to the medium color of one of your double strips. Stitch your band of three colors to the other side of your light strip. Press
You will now have a long band of 5 strips sewn together, with the lightest strip in the center. Your central strips will appear narrower than the outer strips. Don’t worry, this is just because your outer strips still have their seam allowance showing.
Place this band on your cutting mat. Straighten the short edges with your quilting ruler and rotary cutter. These edges often become uneven after all the stitching and pressing!
Cut your long unit into 5 ½” (14 cm) blocks. You will need 4 blocks for each final square.
Arrange your blocks by rotating them by 90 degrees, as explained for your windmill block.
As before, sew the top two together. Sew the bottom two together. Sew both of these units together to form a four-square block. You can vary the size of your blocks by cutting wider or narrower strip widths.
Just remember that when you are slicing your strips apart your finished units must be completely square. Don’t forget about your seam allowances!
What Can I Make With a Windmill Quilt Block?
- Rainbow strips will make a lovely bed quilt for a baby or a child.
- Earthy colors arranged in the woven pattern , which gives a basket weave pattern, will make a lovely throw for a couch.
- Scrappy versions can be used to make cushion covers. Or why not match your cushion cover colors in a different arrangement of blocks to co-ordinate with your throws? The colors will blend beautifully, but they will not look exactly the same!
- Useful tote bags. How about a diaper bag made up of these blocks as a baby gift, instead of a baby quilt?
Windmill Quilt Block - In Conclusion
This very simple windmill quilt block can make a wide variety of different designs. You do not need to create extremely complicated blocks to devise a very attractive quilt.
And don’t forget the “Rules of Quilting”:
- Don’t bleed on the quilt.
- Measure twice, cut once.
- It’s not a mistake, it’s a creative opportunity.
- There are no quilt police.
- Rules? There are rules? (Source unknown.)
Enjoy experimenting and creating!