Quilting 101: How to Sew a Nine-Patch Block

Updated on August 7, 2016

Your First Quilt Block, a Project for Beginners

The humble nine-patch is an essential quilt block. If this isn't your first block, it should be. Like the name implies, it features nine patchwork squares arranged in a three-by-three grid, just let a chess board or tic-tac-toe square. It's easy to make, it's easy to get great results, and it can be used in a variety of ways.

I'll show you the basics, plus methods for speeding up the process while making perfect nine-patch blocks that you can turn into beautiful quilt. Let's get started!

Materials and Tools - What You'll Need for Your First QuIlt Block


  • 1 yard of dark fabric

  • 1/2 yard of light fabric

  • Thread


  • A rotary cutter (optional)

  • A cutting mat

  • Scissors (if not using a rotary cutter)

  • A marking tool (if desired)

  • A quilting ruler (see recommendations)

  • A cardboard cereal box template 4.5-inches wide (if not using a ruler)

  • Sewing machine

  • An iron

  • Pins

  • Basic sewing supplies

OLFA Rotary Essentials Kit
OLFA Rotary Essentials Kit
A rotary cutter with surgical steel blades and a self-healing cutting mat. Buy it as a kit or go a la carte.

Nine-Patch Assembly

Two Ways to Make One Quilt Block

The most obvious way to assemble a nine-patch block is to lay out nine individual squares. You would stitch together three squares to make a row, and then stitch three rows together to create one block, but that's not the fastest way. Free-motion quilting instructor Angela Walters always recalls her husband's grandfather showing her how to quilt, cutting out all nine squares and stitching them together one by one. When she finished her first block, he said, "Now, let me show you the easy way" and whipped out the rotary cutter.

I just love that story because it truly pays to learn something the slower or more difficult way. Then, the proven method seems even easier. I still lay out all nine squares separately when piecing together five-inch charm pack squares to make a 14-inch pillow cover or another project using pre-cut fabric. However, when I'm making nine-patch blocks for a quilt, I use the speedy strip piecing method. Strip piecing is a quilting fundamental, and the nine-patch is a great way to discover and master this technique.

quilting supplies
quilting supplies

Quilting Fundamentals

Prepare for Success

Before you whip out your fabric and cutting tools, let's cover the basics. Since this tutorial is intended for beginners and first-time quilters, I'll assume that you don't know what I'm talking about when I mention flying geese, speed piecing, strip piecing, half-square triangles and all kinds of quilter jargon. That's okay because I didn't get these terms either, and no one was born knowing how to quilt. Here's my motto: If you can sew, you're halfway to quilting.

Before you play the game, here are the rules:

1. Unless I'm using fat quarters, charm squares, jelly rolls or other pre-cut fabrics, I always wash and pre-shrink my fabric. This is my preference. I definitely wash and shrink solid broadcloth, because shrinkage rates vary—and you know how a quilt with variable shrinkage will look. If you're a fashion sewist, you probably remember the wash and dry it twice method. There's nothing wrong with that, but it seems wasteful to me. I've found that a single wash is fine as long as you use the longest dryer setting. The reasoning is that maximum shrinkage occurs when the last bits of moisture are removed. If necessary, open up the dryer and untangle your fabric to make sure that it is thoroughly dry.

2. Starch is your friend. Starch and iron your fabric before cutting to minimize distortion.

3. Always use a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Quilting is different than fashion sewing where you're used to 5/8th seams. Most quilting techniques are designed to minimize excess bulk. Check and double-check your seam allowance to make sure it's really 1/4-inch. If you have a computerized sewing machine, use the stitch width selector to move the needle position, so you can use the edge of your presser foot as the seam guide. For my machine, I adjust the needle position to 4.5 mm. The seam allowance is super important to ensure that your blocks are the right size. If you can't get a true 1/4-inch seam, just be consistent.

4. Before you press seams open, iron the strips while they are flat. This fashion sewing tip helps set the seam before you press the strips open. Use starch to make the process easier.

5. Press all seam allowances toward the darker fabric. If you don't, darker threads might peek through—no one wants that!

That's all of the basic rules that I can think of for now.

My Quilting Advice

If you can sew, you're halfway to quilting!

Nine-Patch Measurements and Caluclations

The Numbers Game

This tutorial will show you how to make 12-inch quilt blocks using the nine-patch pattern. In quilting, 12-inch blocks are fairly standard because the measurements are easy to work with. The measurements refer to the finished size, after the 1/4-inch seams have been eaten up on each side. Therefore, a 12-inch block would measure 12.5 inches square when it stands alone.

Since a nine-patch is made from three squares on each side (three times three equals nine), each square or strip should be 4.5 inches. After the seams are used up, three four-inch squares equal 12 inches.

If you'd rather make 9-inch blocks, start with 3.5-inch strips instead.

The Anatomy of a Nine-Patch Block

Units and How to Make Them

For this tutorial, we'll be using strip piecing to make lots of blocks quickly. As you may have noticed, each nine-patch block has three rows that are made from two units only. Unit 1 appears two times--on the top and on the bottom. Unit 2 is in the middle.

Unit 1 features two dark value squares separated by one light value square. (These values can be reversed if desired)

Unit 2 features two light value squares separated by one dark value square.

Strip piecing allows you to create pre-assembled rows. One series of strips can be sliced into pieces that represent Unit 1. The other series will be Unit 2.

NOTE: You'll need half as many light squares, because the ratio of Unit 1 to Unit 2 is 2:1.

Strip Piecing & Assembly Instructions

For Unit 1, you'll need to dark value strips and one light strip.

For Unit 2, you'll need two light value strips with one dark value strip in the middle.

To create your strips, fold your fabric in half with the selvages together, and cut your first strip, making sure that it's 4.5 inches wide. Continue cutting 4.5-inch strips from both dark and light fabrics.

Note: To make eight blocks, you'll need four light strips and five dark strips. If you're using a half yard, don't pre-shrink the fabric to ensure that you have exactly 18 inches

Once you have three strips in each color, you can begin assembly. For Unit 1, two dark strips are on the outside, one light strip is on the inside. For Unit 2, two light strips are on the outside and one dark strip is in the middle.

Each group of three strips will have two seams. Pin the strips together, and stitch from top to bottom using a 1/4-inch seam.

nine patch strip piecing
nine patch strip piecing
O'Lipfa 11111 Ruler with Lip Edge, 5 x 24-Inch
O'Lipfa 11111 Ruler with Lip Edge, 5 x 24-Inch
This is my absolute favorite ruler. It has 1/4 lines, 1/8 hash marks, 45-degree and 60-degree angles, and my favorite feature the O'Lipfa lip that wraps around the edge of your cutting mat for extra stability.

Slice and Dice

Now comes the interesting part. Once you have your three-strip groups assembled. Press the seams with the seam allowance going toward the dark strips. Repeat the process for both groups. Now, cut off the uneven edges, making sure that the cut is perpendicular with the long edge. Next, cut your first row of 4.5-inch strips. Repeat the process until you reach the end of the multi-strip group. Cut the other using the same method. Each slice represents one row of the nine-patch block.

Assembling Your Rows

Once you've cut your multi-strip groups into Units 1 and 2, it's time to join them together. Take two Unit 1s and one Unit 2. Line up the squares so that the seams press up against each other--this makes the block stronger and helps the seam allowances lay flat, which minimizes bulk.

Because you've pressed the seam allowance toward the darker squares, one seam allowance will go one way and the other will go in the opposite direction. Place a pin so it goes through both seam allowances, and continue pinning until you reach the edge. Repeat the process on both seam allowances on that row. Join row three following the same steps.

Then, take your block to the machine. Back tack, and stitch across the block using your 1/4-inch seam allowance. Back tack at the end, and cut your threads. Stitch the seam between rows two and three following the same method.

quilting seams
quilting seams

Finishing Your Block

Now, you're almost done. The last step is to press the new seam allowance flat and open the four intersections where the blocks meet. To do that, gently tug the four-way seam open and press, so that the seams lay flat. This time the seam allowances will go toward the lighter squares. If you're working with a dark fabric that's likely to show through, press the seams open.

Yay! You're done. You've finished your first quilt block! Final step: Run around the house showing anyone who'll listen! Obscure computer screen with nine-patch block if necessary to get their full attention! Ta-da!

If you'd like to create the primary jumble quilt pictured at the top of this page, you can download my pattern here.

Nine-Patch Quilt Projects — Take the Next Step. Turn Your Blocks Into a Quilt.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Your finished nine-patch block should look like this.Use your strip piecing skills to create a classic baby quilt.Turn your nine-patch blocks into a simplified Irish chain quilt. Just alternate nine-patch blocks with solid setting blocks cut to the same size.
Your finished nine-patch block should look like this.
Your finished nine-patch block should look like this.
Use your strip piecing skills to create a classic baby quilt.
Use your strip piecing skills to create a classic baby quilt.
Turn your nine-patch blocks into a simplified Irish chain quilt. Just alternate nine-patch blocks with solid setting blocks cut to the same size.
Turn your nine-patch blocks into a simplified Irish chain quilt. Just alternate nine-patch blocks with solid setting blocks cut to the same size.

How's your nine-patch block coming along? Is it working out for you? Do you have any questions? Share your comments, questions and projects here.

© 2014 QuiltFinger

What Are Your Quilting Plans?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, feltmagnet.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)