Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Daily Tutorial - Disappearing 9 patch quilt block

I'm not an expert quilter by any means, and the way I've been learning usually involves scouring the internet for tutorials that explain how I'm supposed to do things.  Sometimes I find what I'm looking for, sometimes I don't.  I was inspired, however, to see if I'm competent enough to create my own tutorials to help out the less experienced quilters (like myself) who may be on that internet search!

I did have a disappearing 9 patch block in mind when I bought the fabrics mentioned in my previous post.  I came across this block by accident but thought it was cute.  I believe it's also know as "9 to 4" because it starts life as a 9 patch, and ends up as 4 blocks.  I decided that I was going to use 5" squares for this, although you could make them bigger or smaller according to preference.

Step 1: Create the 9 patch
Choose your 9 squares to make into the 9 patch.  I have 5 corresponding fabrics, although there is no reason why you can't make this super scrappy and use completely different fabrics for each square.  For contrast, I've alternated the darker and lighter fabrics.
Step 2: Sew together
I started off by pairing the squares in the left column with the one next to them in the center column, right sides together.  I like to chain piece, which means I feed each pair through the sewing machine without breaking the thread.  Having sewn the first three pairs, I then opened them up and stacked the squares from the right column with each corresponding pair and repeated this again.  This results in 3 strips of 3 squares.
Step 3: Press and pin
It's now necessary to make a quick trip to the ironing board to press the seams.  The seams should be pressed in the direction of the darker fabric so that they don't show through.  The other helpful thing is that the seams end up pressed in opposite directions so that you can "lock" them together and match where the seams meet.  (This was probably the most helpful tip that I found after my very first patchwork attempt where my seams didn't match at all!)
Step 4: Pin and sew
Now that you have your strips pinned so that the seams match neatly, sew the 3 strips together, right sides facing to create your 9 patch.  Head back to the ironing board to press your seams and you should have a nice square.
Step 5: Cut the 9 patch into 4
Now the fun begins!  The plan is to cut your 9 patch into 4 blocks by cutting down the middle in both directions.  I've read that you can fold the 9 patch in half and finger press (i.e. run your fingers along the fabric to create a seam), then cut along that seam.  I decided to line everything up using the lines on my cutting mat to determine the center in each direction. 
Step 6: Rearrange!
What you should have now is 4 blocks that you can rotate and rearrange how you wish.  As you can see, the basic 9 patch when cut this way will give you a variety of interesting options, also making it look far more complicated than it was to create.  :)

Now that I have all my blocks sewn and cut, the next job for me is to arrange them all for the quilt top.  I picked this design because I enjoyed the slightly random nature of how the blocks can be put together, but I do struggle with the compulsion to make everything perfectly symmetrical and balanced.  So, I'm going to try and throw caution to the wind and not over-analyze the block placement!  Hopefully I'll have a finished quilt top to show you shortly...


  1. Wow! You made that look quite achievable. I have never seen anything like that. What a clever way of getting a complicated look. I have a sewing machine but I am yet to learn how to use it. I really must have a go. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. If I made it look manageable, then I have achieved my goal! :)

    I'm really looking at it from the perspective of a beginner. Get the sewing machine out - it's fun!!

  3. How long do you think it will take me to learn to sew simple stuff? Do you think I would need lessons? Maybe you could start at the very beginning for to thread the needle etc..he he!

  4. You should be fine. :) I learned everything I know from YouTube!

    Honestly, I started with straight lines - cushions, coasters etc. and went from there.

  5. Fantastic idea! I love how you started with something pretty simple and made it look much more complicated, great work. :)