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The Square in a Square Quilting Block

the square in a square quilting block

Method #1

The Square in a Square quilting block is one of the most used quilting building blocks. It is used and altered in many way.

The block pictured above is a simple square in a square. Notice how the square in the middle sets in the block. The points of the square are turned up. This is an easy way to get the look of a diagonal placement while still doing the easier straight set when you put your blocks together.

If you add another round" or square to this block, then the block will turn  90 degrees and be parallel with the fabric again.  That is done with Method #2. Add another square and it will rotate again.

This can be a very frugal quilting block if you make a scrappy quilt. 

the grid on a square in a square quilting block The grid lines on the block illustrate that it is a 4 patch.  This block, works well with other 4 patch blocks, such as the Sawtooth Star. All blocks with the same grids flow nicely, as you see in the graphic at the bottom of the page.

Now go back to the picture at the top of the Let's use simple measurements.  Let's make each grid finish at 4 inches. That means the center square would be cut at 4 1/2 inches raw.

To add the outer square, use the snowball technique. Place squares in each corner, making sure to do 2 opposite corners first, fold them back, press, and then the final two corners.

The size of these small corner squares is 1/2 the size of the center finished block, plus 1/2 inch.  Our center block will  finish at 4 inches,   We divide the 4 inches by 2, and then add 1/2 inch. So the small squares are cut at 2 1/2 inches raw.

the square in a square quilting block

Here is the block again.  Notice the 1/4 inch seam allowance at the block points.

When you sew your small squares in the corners, but sure and press them in half first so you have a line to sew on.  Your sewing must be precise.  If it isn't, when you fold back the square, it will not overlap perfectly with the fabric underneath it.

When you trim the fabric off underneath, your block will not be square.  I hear people say all the time that they can "eyeball it", but I've seen some of their sewing, and it is not straight.

If you want a good looking block, and a good looking quilt, you must be precise.  Another advantage of using the iron is that when you fold the square in half diagonally to press it, you can double check your cutting.  A square folded in half diagonally will make a perfect triangle.

This is such an important quilting block.  Be sure that you can sew it accurately.  Again, notice how well it plays with its 4 patch friends, in this care the Sawtooth Star.

There is a lot of harmony in the design at the bottom of the page. If you were looking at these pieces sewn together, you would also see secondary patterns that would make it more interesting.  See the Sawtooth Star page to see the secondary patterns that single Sawtooth Star block makes it is placed side by side.

Method #2

square in a square quilt block     square in a square quilt block

In method #1 the block rotates after the new square is added. The disadvantage to Method #1 is that it makes the square smaller.

In method #2 you will just be adding triangles around the outside of the square.  You will be working with squares that are cut diagonally, so you must be careful not to stretch the bias.

square in a square quilt block adding outer triangles

Here is a picture of the quilt block with the triangles ready to be sewn on the outside edges of the block to make another square. Notice how the block is no longer on point, but has rotated 90 degrees.

The bias edge of a square cut on the diagonal is about to be sewn to the edges.  Notice the the triangles have been pressed lightly with the iron to mark the middle.  This makes it easy to put the two seams together, matching the point of the square with the iron mark.

To make the triangles to add to the square, you will be making half square triangles. Cut a square the finished size of the block plus  3/8 of an inch, and then cut that in half diagonally one time. (Note:  these will be oversized, but you will by trimming down the block after each round).

So for a 4 inch finished block, you would cut 2 squares 4 3/8 raw, and then cut them in half diagonally. 

Remember to add opposite sides first, trim the edge even, and then add the last two sides, and again trim the edge even.  Then trim the square so that the point of the enclosed square is exactly 1/4 inch from outside of the added triangle.

You can continue adding as many rounds, or additional squares as you like in this manner.



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