How to Make a Patience Corner Quilt Block
My Introduction to the Block
Years ago my sister gave me Great American Quilts 1989 published by Oxmoor House. The block appeared as part of a quilt called "Billie's Sampler," with the layout on page 41. Below is a photograph of that layout.
Author's note: The book has similar layout illustrations for many other block patterns and gives instructions for making over 20 featured quilts.
As you can see, it is a simple layout and can be quite charming, depending on the fabrics used. The grids in the image above are scaled 1" = one grid, so the square's sides are about half the width of the rectangles. I used this fact to figure the sizes of the pieces for an 8" finished block.
When choosing your fabrics, many times you sense which ones look nice with each other. It's also helpful to remember the color wheel.
Colors next to each other on the chart work well together. Adjacent colors are monochromatic. The warm colors are yellow, orange, and red. Blue, green, and purple are cool colors. A quilt can be made with all warm colors or all cool colors, but very often a balance is attempted between the two.
Compliments seem to intensify each other due to the contrast. Tints are the gradation of color achieved by adding white. Pink, for example, is a red's tint. A shade is a color that has been muted by adding some black or brown.
If a fabric has a soft, somewhat muted color, you wouldn't want to match it with a bright, neon-type color. Rather, it is best to match fabrics of like intensity. Often, if at least three colors in a print are enhanced by another fabric print, the prints will work well together. Solids that match at least one color in the print will enhance the print.
The way fabrics are displayed in crafting sections of a store or at a specialty shop makes choosing relatively easy because like fabrics are often grouped together. If you're not sure whether you should use certain fabrics, you can always ask the cutting clerk, who is nearly always glad to help.
Using the Grain of the Fabric
When a fabric is woven, threads run across the fabric as well as up and down. The grain refers to those threads running up and down. These are parallel to the selvages.
The cross grain runs side to side and is perpendicular to the selvages. Both the grain and cross grain are used in quilting.
The bias is the 45-degree angle in relation to either the grain or cross grain. It runs in the perfect, straight-line middle between the two. When fabric is cut on the bias, more stretch is experienced when sewing. Often, too, pieces will not lie flat; this is especially true in clothing construction. It is impossible to avoid the bias altogether because sometimes curves are required. Also, if you are creating a bias binding, the bias becomes an advantage because it does allow for some stretch and endures well.
For the Patience Block, though, you will be cutting your squares and rectangles on the grain or cross grain for the best effect.
To illustrate the grain, below is a picture from an old Simplicity pattern of a bodice layout. The selvages of the fabric are labeled. The blue arrows show the direction of the grain. You will want the sides of your rectangles and squares to either be along or perpendicular to the arrows.
I have seven fabrics: two solids and five prints. All the colors are harmonious with one another, so I have options. For my particular project, however, I'm going to be making four 8" blocks all the same. I want the most pleasing combination possible.
In trying different combinations and considering the way the colors are working in my quilt-in-progress, I decided on the pink print and speckled brown for the squares, and the cranberry print and dark, small print for the rectangles.
Use your favorite fabrics and play with them until you find a combination that pleases you.
The fabrics with which I'm working are pictured below. It is helpful to have swatches taped onto a sketch of your project, so when you can take your swatches with you should you need to shop for additional fabric.
Cutting the Fabric
If you've decided to make an 8" block with me, you will need to cut:
- four 3" squares
- four 2" X 3" rectangles (two of two different complimentary fabrics)
- four 2" X 4 1/2" rectangles (two of two different complimentary fabrics)
Template Measures for Common Sized Blocks
Finished Block Size
2 1/4 X 2 1/4
1 3/4 X 2 /4
1 3/4 X 3 1/2
3 X 3
2 X 3
2 X 4 1/2
3 1/4 X 3 1/4
2 3/4 X 3 1/4
2 3/4 X 5 1/2
3 1/2 X 3 1/2
3 X 3 1/2
3 X 6
4 1/2 X 4 1/2
4 X 4 1/2
4 X 8
Since I don't have a cutting mat for this project, I won't be able to use my rotary cutter, but if you have a rotary cutter and mat, by all means use it--it's easier, quicker, and more accurate!
As always, I check to make sure all selvages are removed before cutting. That way, I don't have to worry about figuring out how far into the fabric I can begin to cut. Selvages simply don't lie the same way as the rest of the fabric after a few washings, so it's best to remove them.
Below are my fabric pieces, cut and laid into the Patience Corner scheme for sewing. It is helpful to do such a layout for your first block; it makes sewing a little less confusing.
The Sewing Order
I like to work from left to right and top to bottom. You can choose whatever order works best for you. In any case, the squares with their smaller rectangles should be done first.
I water spray and press the seams with an iron right after I sew them.
Below is a picture showing these first seams completed.
Now sew the larger rectangles to the sewn pieces. Again, it helps to press out your seams with a little spray water and iron (or use a steam iron at "4" setting for cottons).
The picture below shows the completed units to this point.
Now sew the top two squares together, followed by the bottom two squares. (If you prefer a different order, that's all right too!) Keep pressing those seams as you go along.
Here's another picture showing the block almost completed.
Now you are going to sew the last seam. In my case, it's a horizontal one. This is the most difficult seam of the block because you have to match the seam lines. To do this, you will eye them carefully, match the raw edges and place a pin on either side where the seams meet.
The photos below illustrate the technique that I like to call "kissing the fabric."
Raw edges have to meet accurately when sewing units of blocks together. There are a few methods quitters use to achieve this:
- finger press (no pins, just pressure from the fingers and hands)
- pin baste (using straight pins, as I have done with the "kissing" seam)
- seam bonding tape (1/4 " two-sided sticking tape, found in a sewing section or crafter's store)
Of course, accurate cutting is the key to well matching edges.
The pins hold the fabric in place while sewing. You remove them just as your machine's needle gets close to the pin to avoid needle damage.
Piecing Method for 12" Patience Corner with Two Fabrics
This is a variation of the Patience Corner block I have given. It uses only two template (pattern) sizes. This method doesn't work for more than two fabrics, and I like designs with multiple fabrics. The overall effect is similar, however.
Notice that the view of the Patience Corner in the video is turned, with the outer squares at the upper left and lower right areas of the block; whereas, my featured block has the outer squares at the upper right and lower left. Since all pieces, being straight sides of squares and rectangles, are cut on a grain, the altered view can be obtained by simply turning the block to the position you prefer.