* Note: (1) Blocks are beginning blocks (2) Blocks are a little more challenging for the beginner
Frugal Quilting Basics
The 4-Patch Quilting Block
The 4-patch quilting block is a very frugal, versatile, and easy block to make. It is used over and over in the design of many quilts. It is a building block, meaning that you can add to it to make it larger, or you can take any of the sections and insert another block design in them.
Using simple measurements, you can cut 2 1/2 inch strips from 2 fabrics, and sew them together, and then cut them every 2 1/2 inches. You then have the rows to sew together.You can also just piece together four squares.
4-patches are usually made with a dark and a light fabric, taking advantage of value so that the piecing is easily seen.
The success in the appearance of the 4-patch is in how the seams come together at the middle of the block, and how flat you can get the block to lay. Matching the seams is just careful sewing, and using pins if you need them.
If you want to make the block lay perfectly flat, there are two things that will get you there.
Of most importance, you want to be sure you press the seams in opposite directions.
In the block to the left the top two blocks were first sewn together, and then the top and the bottom were connected with a horizontal seam.
Notice how the seam is pressed to the right in the top row, and to the left in the bottom row. When the two rows are sewn together, there is no bulk because the seams go in opposite directions. This is also referred to as "nesting" the seams.
Notice that the horizontal seam has been pressed up. It could have been also been pressed down.
There is a still a little bulk in the center of the block when you leave it like this.
If you are working on a small block, or If you want to get really picky, there is something you can do to make the block lay more flat.
The last seam that was sewn in the block above was the horizontal seam. The horizontal seam crosses 3 vertical stitches in the center that are no longer needed.
If you pick them out with your seam ripper, you can turn the seam down instead of leaving it going up.
You will form what looks like a little pinwheel in the center of the block. The last picture slows a close up of how the block will look after removing the 3 stitches, and changing the direction of half the horizontal seam.
If you are making a large quilt, with expensive fabric, it might be worth your time. It does make a difference on small projects. However, with normal patchwork, it won't make a significant difference to the look of your quilt and is probably not worth your time.
When designing your quilt, remember that you can alternate whole pieces of fabric between each 4-patch to speed up the project. This is a great way to use large floral print fabrics and other designs that you cannot cut up for patchwork and to give a personality to your quilt.
Don't underestimate the beauty of this simple and frugal 4-patch, and what you can do with it. Some of the most beautiful quilts I've seen have been made of nothing but squares. Sometimes you can let the fabric do the work for you. That's smart patchwork.
Below I have included a picture of a quilt that is make from plain squares and 4-patches. Notice how the fabric does the work of creating interest and beauty in this easy quilt. The 4-patches read solid, to give the eye a rest from all the pattern in the large blocks.