Sunday, June 17, 2012

Basic 9-Patch for the Beginning Quilter

If you are new to quilting, please read through the prior post, Quilting 101, to get a basic understanding of what quilting is and the tools needed.  Obviously you do not need anything more than fabric, scissors, and a needle and thread to make a quilt, and if that's what you choose to do, you will be in fine company!  My mother makes gorgeous quilts, and no rotary cutter ever  touches her fabrics.  That's the only method our ancestors had, and it's the way I started quilting many years ago.  But then I discovered rotary cutters and rulers... and my quilting life was forever changed!

In this blog, you will learn how to make a 9-patch block, step by step.  You will get an idea of how much fabric you need to make your first quilt.  Understand that the photos will show the tools I use now.  For a baby quilt this size (30 X  42 before borders), you will need the following yardage of fabrics.  I have broken it down, so if you choose to use more than two colors shown in this quilt, you will know what to buy.
Main color (color 1):
Four 2-1/2” strips, for the 9-patch blocks, or 10 inches
Eighteen 6-1/2” squares for alternating blocks, or three 6-1/2” strips, 19.5”
Four 2-1/2” strips for the border, or 10 inches.
Four 2-1/2” strips for the binding, or 10 inches.
Total main color yardage:  1-1/2 yards (you will have a little left over for your “stash”).
Coordinating Color (color 2):
Five 2-1/2” strips for the 9-patch blocks, 12.5”
Four 2-1/2” strips for the border, or 10 inches.
Total coordinating color yardage: ¾ yard (you will have left over fabric for your “stash”).
 With borders and binding, this quilt will measure approximately 38 X 46, a nice sized child’s snuggle quilt.  If you double the yardage and make it twice as big, you would have an adult sized sofa quilt, 46 X 76.  You could use fat quarters, but you would need more to adjust for more waste in the cutting.
The photo above shows cutting these strips using a June Tailor Shape Cutter ruler.  It is not necessary, but makes fast work of cutting strips.  You can see it has slots for cutting every half inch, up to 12" or 18", depending on which ruler you have.

You will need to cut five 2-1/2" strips for piecing the 9-patch blocks, and if you choose this as one of your border colors, you need an additional four 2-1/2" strips for that.

The photo to the above left illustrates how to "fussy-cut" the alternating blocks using a 6-1/2" square ruler, if you have chosen a print that you want to have centered on the block.  If you do this, you will need additional yardage, however.  If you have an all-over print, you will need to cut three 6-1/2" strips and four 2-1/2" strips for the 9-patch blocks.  If you choose this print for one of your borders and the binding, you will need an additional eight 2-1/2" strips for that.  Lay your 6-1/2" strips on the cutting mat, and cut them into 6-1/2" squares.  You will need eighteen of these squares.

You will need to join the long 2-1/2" pieces together, in the way they are shown in the photo to the right.  Row one will be color 2, color 1, color 2. Row two will be color 1, color 2, color 1.  And row three will be the same as row one.  Sew these seams with a 1/4" seam. After joining your first two strips, color 1 and color 2, press the seam from the wrong side, dark side up.  Then carefully flip the dark color up and press the seam from the right side.  Join color 2 to the other side of color 1, in the opposite direction of the way you sewed the first seam.  This avoids the tendency of the fabric to bow when stitching a long seam.  Press as you did with the first seam.  Make another section with the same fabrics so that you have two of these.  The photo above right is the center section.  
Looking at the completed 9-patch photo to the left, you will note that there are two rows that are the same.  The center row is different.  For the center row, you will reverse the colors, as shown.  Press toward the dark fabric again.  Since we are alternating colors, the seams will "nest" against each other and will not require pinning if you align them carefully.  You may pin if you choose to, however.  Now you are ready to cut your strips.   Lay your strip section for row 1 down on your cutting mat, right side up.aligning ends and edges carefully.
I position the section at the place where I want to start cutting on a line, as you will be cutting the selvedge off to even the left side before cutting your rows. After cutting, they will be in the correct position for sewing. Lay your strip section for row 2 face down on top of the first section.  Finally, lay your last section on top, right side up, again aligning edges and ends. 

The photo below shows cutting the selvedge ends off, and then cutting the strips into 2-1/2" segments.  You should get about 17 segments if your fabric is 44" wide.  This pattern is designed using seventeen 9-patch blocks.
You can begin chain piecing the rows.  Remove the top section for attaching later.  Take the two bottom sections and note that they are already right sides together, ready to sew.  Place them under the presser foot, and using a 1/4" seam, sew them together, checking to make sure the seams are nesting against each other as you sew.  You don't need to clip the thread after sewing each section, but just put the next section under the presser foot and continue to sew.  This is called "chain piecing".  When all of your sections are joined, snip the threads between them; set the seam and press it from the right side.  Next, join the last strip to the first two, making sure that you attach it to the right section.  
If you put it on the wrong place, you will be singing the froggie song... rip-it, rip-it, rip-it!  Chain piece those sections and when you are done, press to set the seam and then press it from the right side.  Your 9-patches are done!  They should look something like the photo above that shows the completed 9-patch block. The next step is to join the 9-patch to the main color block.  Again, join in a 1/4" seam, and press it toward the main color block.  I find it's easier to sew the two together with the 9-patch block on the top, so you can make sure you aren't twisting your seams.  When you have joined 5 blocks, alternating the 9-patch with the main color block, you have made a complete row.  Join the rows together, again alternating the 9-patch blocks with the main color blocks.  

This is the first time I use pins, as shown in this photo to the left, to pin where the seams come together on the rows.  Join all seven rows in the pattern you have planned, and your top (or flimsie) is finished!  

Below, you will see a photo of the finished quilt.  Notice how the color 2 squares form a chain across the top of the quilt. As you lay your rows out, be sure yours form the same pattern.  Also, notice that every other row begins and ends with a main color block, and the alternating rows begin and end with 9-patch blocks.  You need to pay attention to that detail when you are laying out your blocks and strips, so that your quilt looks this way, too.  You don't want to be singing the froggie song ALL the time!
The next blog will show you how to attach your borders and binding in the easiest way.   And I may even have this top quilted and have some photos of other combinations for you to view.

I hope you enjoy your quilting experience!  Remember that it isn't nearly so important to be perfect as it is to have fun!  Even a quilt with a few mistakes will warm the body as well as the heart of someone special in need of a hug.


  1. Great post. Nine patches are always great when just wondering what to do with fabric and when one decides to just do nine patches a quilt can be made in short order. Love that car fabric! I used up all mine like that and it still makes me happy to see it in a quilt. Someone will love it!

  2. Hi Alaena,
    Great post. The nine patches look like fun to make and it is a good way to use smaller pieces of fabrics that you have laying around your sewing room. :)
    I just added Two Art Dolls that I made to my blog. Please stop by to see them and please leave a comment. :)

  3. Great idea for a "kid quilt." Do you have a picture of a finished quilt with the borders?