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Easy Rectangle Quilt Patterns

Updated on August 27, 2014
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TR Smith is a product designer and former teacher who uses math in her work every day.

Many beautiful and intricate patchwork quilt designs are made using blocks constructed with several shapes -- squares, rectangles, triangles, diamonds, circular sectors, and more. But single-shape patterns also allow you to get creative with your designs. In fact, some people find the single-shape restriction a fun challenge. Rectangular patches are easy to cut in bulk and lend themselves to many different tessellations. Here we explore quilt patterns using nothing more than 1-by-2 rectangles of equal size. Half-square rectangles can be arranged to make pinwheel shapes, stars, flowers, diagonal stripes, brick patterns, and other novel designs.

Each of the galleries below has a blank template followed by some colored-in examples. I don't claim these are the most beautiful patterns or color combinations...but they will give you some idea of patterns you can make using nothing but same shape. For more blank quilting templates or different shapes, see also this resource, which has free printable pattern blanks for quilting, brick paving, tiling, and other projects using geometric shapes.

Pinwheel/Star Patterns with 1-by-2 Rectangles

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This rectangular pattern is also called the basketweave pattern. Traditionally, the quilting block know as "the" pinwheel is made from isosceles right triangles, but the rectangular version of pinwheels or stars also has its charms. This is one of the easiest rectangular quilting patterns to piece together because you can line up the rectangles at their corners to form squares, then piece the squares together. As you can see from some the example quilt patterns, the pinwheel or star motif tessellates perfectly with no gaps. But you can also put spaces between the pinwheels or stars. In the patterns above, some have all the wheels oriented in the same direction, in others the wheels turn in both directions.

Herringbone Patterns with 1-by-2 Rectangles

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The herringbone pattern is also easy to piece together and sew because you can match the rectangles up at their corners. The herringbone arrangement is ideal for creating diagonally striped quilts or two-color chevron patterns (aka zig zags).

You often find brick roads and brick walkways paved in the herringbone pattern, as it is particularly strong and stable.

Brick Patterns with 1-by-2 Rectangles

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The brick pattern is a little harder to sew because you have to line up each rectangle with the middle of the rectangles in the rows immediately above and below. But once you get the hang of it you can create interesting diamond and diagonal stripe patterns, even simplified heart and flower shapes.

Other Patterns with Rectangles

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Above are several miscellaneous quilting patterns using 1-by-2 rectangles and 1-by-3 rectangles. The basketweave pattern using squares made from three 1-by-3 rectangles (bottom row of images) is a commonly used quilting block also called the rail fence pattern.

With 1-by-2 rectangles you can mix up different arrangements and effects to make a mosaic quilt that combines spirals, pinwheels/stars, stripes, and other patterns.

How many rectangles do you need?

If the quilt area inside the border is L inches long and W inches wide, and the half-square rectangle patches are R inches along the longest side, then the number of rectangles you need is given by the formula

Number = 2*L*W / R^2

For example, suppose a quilt is to be 84 inches long, 72 inches wide, and the 1-by-2 rectangles have dimensions 2.5 inches by 5 inches. Then L = 84, W = 72, and R = 5. Thus the number of rectangular patches you need is

2*84*72 / 5^2
= 12096 / 25
≈ 484.

A similar formula can be used to count the number of 1-by-3 rectangles (third-square rectangles) needed to cover an area L inches long by W inches wide. If the longest side of the 1-by-3 rectangle is R inches, then the number of 1-by-3 rectangles required is given by the formula

Number = 3*L*W / R^2


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    • SEXYLADYDEE profile image

      SEXYLADYDEE 2 years ago from Upstate NY

      Another great HUB. You have broken down the pattern so even I a non mathematician can see the ease of the patterns. Thanks. Dee

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      Sian 2 years ago

      What a great pattern guide, thanks!

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      Helen 2 years ago

      I printed out the herringbone pattern image, I was trying to figure this out on my own for a while but I kept on messing it up and pinning my rectangles in the wrong positions. It's helpful to see them on a grid. Many thanks for your beautiful quilting pattern guides!

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      Ceryth 12 months ago

      My grandmother did some pattern with rectangles and squares. Some of the squares were half the size of the rectangles and some were double the size of the rectangles. It was like 1x1's, 1x2's and 2x2's. When she put them together it looked like plaid because the different sized squares touched each other at their corners and the rectangles filled the gap. The color of the rectangles was in between the colors of the squares. If the squares were yellow and blue then the rectangles were green.

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      Jill Smith 12 months ago

      Thank you for this information. Have lots of scraps and these are just the answer

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      Pat 3 months ago

      Excellent excellent information and explanation!!!! I see this in my very near future and a fun retreat project! Thank you ever so much for ease to understand.

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