Common Block Types
A quick search online will show you hundreds of free patterns for traditional, and even more modern quilt blocks. Authors dedicate themselves to entire anthologies, or ‘bibles’ of blocks, where hundreds are coralled in one place, and can be picked up off your bookshelf and flipped through for inspiration, but for now I’ll limit myself to a few ones that seem to crop up a lot in popular sew alongs and the like:
Four Patch/Nine Patch
A 4 or 9 patch block is made up of either 4 or 9 squares. You can make panels 16, 25, 36 patch and more, they will always end up as squares, and the number of patches is equivalent to the number of pieces along one side squared, so a 4 patch would be 2 x 2, a 9 patch 3 x 3 and so on. I dedicated a few posts just to how these blocks are put together which you can find here, here, here and here
Disappearing Four Patch/Nine Patch
‘Disappearing’ patch blocks are those that are pieced as a standard patch block, eg 2 x 2 or 3 x 3, and are then cut up, rearranged and sewn back together to create a new block. How the cuts are made depends on the number in the patches to start with, but below you will see examples of how a 4 patch and then a 9 patch is cut and rearranged.
A log cabin block is built up in rounds from a central square. Traditionally the centre square was a starkly contrasting colour to the other pieces, with the logs being added with 2 sides in one colour and 2 in another as per the example below, but there are no hard and fast rules on that, you could also do them in rainbows, in alternating colours, even the same colours:
Courthouse step blocks are actually a variation of log cabins. Rather than piecing so that there is one short side the length of the previous square, then bigger strips are added to all the way around, courthouse steps are built up in opposing pairs, with two short and two long sides. Depending on your fabric choices, the effect can be markedly different from a log cabin, or, when joined together, can make similar shapes between the blocks.
Granny square quilt blocks are based on the commonly found granny square crochet blocks, starting with a single colour in the middle, and effectively surrounded by rings of contrasting colours. For reasons that I’ve never quite fathomed, granny square quilt blocks are pieced on point, and are made up of a mixture of squares and triangles as you can see below. Some patterns have more rings than the one below, but the principle is the same, regardless of how many rings there are:
I have long since given up trying to work out how traditional blocks were named, but I’m sure it made sense to someone at some time to name the block below a ‘churn dash’. They can be created with 9 equal square units, as seen below, or with a combination of square and rectangular units to create skinnier sides/corners and bigger centres:
Economy/Square In Square
Economy blocks, also sometimes referred to as square in square blocks, are made up of a square surrounded by 2 or more sets of triangles to create the block. These can be pieced in the traditional manner, but for fussy cutting or smaller pieces where accuracy is an absolute requirement, it can be easier to use foundation paper piecing.
These blocks are simple squares with triangles stitched and flipped on the corners to give an octagonal centre. Note that the corners can be made bigger or smaller depending on the shape that you want your centre.
Crosses are a popular shape both straight on and on point, and you can often find them in places such as borders on medallion quilts. I also reviewed a whole new book dedicated to them recently here:
A Greek Cross is a single, straight on scross block where the outer corners are HSTs, giving it a framed appearance:
Cathedral windows blocks are a combination of origami and quilting and produce a beautiful effect, however they are rather fabric hungry, and you will spend a lot of time with your iron creating your foundations:
Star blocks could create a large number of posts on their own, in fact I might be prepared to swear there were as many blocks as there are actual stars in the sky! The two most basic ones are the Friendship Star and the Sawtooth Star, which are pictured below, but I will leave you to search through the galaxy of images on Google to find the rest!