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Quilting 101: Disappearing Nine-Patch and Four-Patch

I am a self-taught quilter, and I've sewn seriously since I was 14. I hope I can share some of the things I've learned through the years.

Master this clever nine-patch variation and you'll have the key to the quilting kingdom!

Master this clever nine-patch variation and you'll have the key to the quilting kingdom!

Watch Your Nine-Patch Disappear

The nine-patch block is a true staple in the quilting world. Once you've mastered it, you can play with a few variations to make it more interesting and exciting. (For a refresher on the basic technique, read my article How to Sew a Nine-Patch Block.)

The main variation to this classic quilt block, and it's a good one, is the disappearing nine-patch. As the name implies, the parts of the block seem to disappear through a fantastic puzzle-like effect. So, if you're ready to get going and do something with your nine-patch blocks, I'll show you how.

A disappearing nine-patch quilt block is a simple way to make a beautiful variation

A disappearing nine-patch quilt block is a simple way to make a beautiful variation

Disappearing Nine-Patch Technique

Step 1: Bust out your cutting mat, rotary cutter and quilting ruler. It's okay if you don't have these tools, but they do make life easier. If a rotary cutter and ruler aren't at your disposal, make a cardboard template, use a marking too and cut along your line with scissors.

Step 2: Make the cut. For this variation, each nine-patch block will be cut in quarters. One cut up and down will give you two halves. Then, each piece will be halved again to create four quarters.

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Step 3: Play with your pieces. This is the fun part because there are several variations and possibilities, depending on where the small squares from the former center block end up.

Step 4: Once you've found the arrangement that you like, it's time to sew your pieces back together. If you're making a disappearing nine-patch quilt, you'll have a lot of blocks, so you can simply join each quartered piece to create rows.

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If you want to make one block, join the first two units, then the bottom two. Finally, join your two halves together to create one finished block. Lovely!

Disappearing Four-Patch Technique

The four-patch block is another candidate for this "disappearing" technique. The four-patch is like a simple checkerboard grid with four squares arranged dark-light over light-dark. The disappearing four-patch is so charming. It reminds me of little presents topped with bows. So, here's what you need to do to create these clever blocks.

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Step 1: Make two parallel cuts up and down.

Step 2: Next, make two more parallel cuts side to side. This will give you three bi-color strips. One long one that was cut first and two smaller ones that were cut second.

Step 3: Then, take the long strip, and make two more cuts to create a small four-patch square that equals the width of your strips. You'll rotate the square and flip all of the longer strips so that the color of each block alternates as shown.

Tip: How narrow or wide you make the strips is up to you, just remember that you'll lose 1/2 of an inch in width once the two quarter-inch seams are sewn.

Step 4: Once again, here comes the fun part, you get to arrange all of your little pieces. What you need to do is reverse the color arrangement of your pieces, so the strips provide alternating colors and contrast. Finally, the mini four-patch block in the center will be rotated to contrast each of its neighbors.

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Step 5: Assemble all nine pieces. The top row will have one large block, one strip and a second large block. The middle row will have the mini four-patch sandwiched between two strips, and the bottom row will repeat the arrangement of the top row.

Step 6: Once you have your three rows assembled, you'll join them all together and voila! It's a finished disappearing four-patch.

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Feel free to share your tips, finished projects and struggles right here! I'll be happy to answer any questions if you have them.

For this quilt, I used a fat quarter bundle to create a boat load of random disappearing nine-patch squares that are framed by mitered borders.

For this quilt, I used a fat quarter bundle to create a boat load of random disappearing nine-patch squares that are framed by mitered borders.

© 2014 QuiltFinger

Have you tried these techniques? Which is your favorite?

Mattie on May 17, 2019:

Thank You, I was looking for this tutorial. I always want to try this one. Very clear details. Love it. Will try soon.

Sharon on November 01, 2016:

The info on disappearing 4 and 9 patch was just what I needed. :)