Quilt Class: Nine Patch

Today we will start the actual sewing part of the class by making a Nine Patch. The 9 Patch is one of the easiest and most basic blocks a quiltmaker can make. It can be made from any sized patches and can be a component of more complex blocks. It is a good block to start with because it is fairly easy, gives practice on matching points and choosing fabrics all without making a new quiltmaker crazy. It also is a 3×3 grid, which means 3 patches across by 3 patches down. This grid is used in other more complicated blocks, so learning it’s structure will help you down the road. Knowing how to identify such a grid will enable you to dissect blocks in the future. It gives you a starting point for many skills.

Finished: Nine Patch
Finished: Nine Patch

This is usually the first block I teach when I teach beginning quiltmakers in a Sampler Class context. You will need:

Supply list:

  • fabric
  • rotary cutter
  • rotary cutting ruler large enough to cut 4.5″ squares
  • rotary cutting mat
  • fabric (2-3 different)
  • Optional: Mary Ellen’s Best Press (or similar)
  • Optional: pins
  • sharp trimmers or scissors
  • thread for piecing
  • sewing machine
  • Iron
  • ironing surface

I haven’t done a cutting tutorial. I have listed some below and you can find others if you search.

I haven’t reviewed all of the above tutorials in detail, but the brands are reputable and you should get some good information. The best way to learn is to take a class on how to rotary cut and be shown in person. Many quilt shops will give you a private lesson, if you arrange it.

Key Block
Key Block

I have marked the rows and patch with letters and numbers so I can more easily refer to them for you. You may want to enlarge the picture and make a small drawing to keep near your machine.

First, select your fabric. If you selected a large group of fabrics in the lesson on selecting fabric, you will just need a few from that group. As you can see I have chosen 3 fabrics. You should feel free to use more, if you want. The one in the middle is the only one I have placed in one square. I want this to be my focus fabric.

Nine Patch: Center
Nine Patch: Center

Step 1: Cut fabric. You need 9 squares 4.5″x 4.5″ each. I like to use a different fabric in the center of the nine patch block. It adds interest, especially to a 12″ finished size.

Adding Reds
Adding Reds
Adding Blues
Adding Blues

While this particular block is the first block I teach in the sampler series, I suppose I could make it easier by teaching a Four Patch.  I think you can handle a 9 Patch. This particular Nine patch will be part of the sampler quilt I am making. I always make a quilt along with my students.

Move Fabrics Around
Move Fabrics Around

Step 2 (above): After you cut the squares, move them around to make sure you have the placement of the fabrics in the position that is the most pleasing to your eye.

Start Sewing
Start Sewing

Step 3: Prepare to start sewing.

I usually start in the upper left hand corner (row 1 patch A and row 2 patch D), everything else being equal.

In general, if I don’t start in the upper left hand corner for other blocks,  I start by sewing smaller units/patches into larger patches. This is a good practice for blocks with sections that will later need to be sewn to other sections. Keep this tucked in your mind, but you don’t need to worry about it now.

Sew patches together in groups of 2
Sew patches together in groups of 2

Always use a quarter inch seam allowance.

If you have a needle down option, I always use it

Step 4: Place fabrics right sides together and place into machine with the foot on the fabric, but with the fabric in front of the needle. I have a quarter inch foot on my machine and I sew 2 patches together to make a unit that will fit into the upper left hand corner of the block.

Sew patches together in groups of 2 (front view)
Sew patches together in groups of 2 (front view)

The edges of the patches are lined up so that the bottom fabric is not showing when I sew. Fabrics are right sides together.

Patches Sewn
Patches Sewn
Chain Piecing
Chain Piecing

Nota bene: You can certainly take the sewn patches out of the machine, but this is a good time to talk about chain piecing. I have other bits and pieces handy so that I can keep sewing, so I will put them (see red rose fabrics above) through the machine after the patches for the block on which I am working. In the above photo, you can see scrap pieces for a journal cover. I find it is much easier to work on sewing scraps together rather than another block. For my journal covers, I sew pieces together any which way. I don’t have to worry about putting the right patch in the right place or not cutting off triangle corners. This method gives my brain space to concentrate on the block at hand. I like to use chain piecing as it saves thread and keeps the machine from eating the corners of blocks as the machine starts sewing a new patch.

Once you have done some blocks and know how you work, you can certainly put the next group of pieces for your current block through the machine after the first set. Also, if you feel confident, then go ahead and put the next set through the machine.

Cut off Chain Piecing
Cut off Chain Piecing

Step 5: After you have put your second group of patches, or your scraps, through the machine, cut off the sewn patches apart from your second group of sewn pieces. I usually just put one set of chain piecing through my machine after the patches for my current block, especially if I have a lot of fiddly placement. I would rather unsew one set of patchwork if I make a mistake than many.

Trim threads
Trim threads

Step 6: Trim threads.

I dislike a bunch of long threads hanging off the back of my finished blocks. The best way I have found to deal with that is to trim as I go along. Trimming threads is a personal preference. I find it makes my blocks look a bit better and there is less of a chance of anything getting caught in my machine as I sew further along in the project. I put threads and trimmings in a bag and use them for cat bed filling.

Set Seams
Set Seams

Step 7: Bring your 2 sewn squares over to your ironing board and press the threads on the seam allowance from the back with the patchwork closed. This sets the seams. You have not yet opened your piecing to look at it from the front.

I have no idea if this step really sets the seams. Fons & Porter do this and since there doesn’t seem to be any harm in it, I started to do it as well. If you skip this step, your patchwork will not fall apart.

Open Patches
Open Patches

Step 8: Open your patchwork so that the seam allowance is pointing towards the patch that will be in the very upper left hand corner.

Seam Allowance Points Away
Seam Allowance Points Away

Step 9: Point the seam allowance, referenced above, away from you.

You could also point it to the side (either right or left depending on which is comfortable based on the hand with which you press). Above is the way I do it, which probably depends on the size of my ironing board and habit.

Press
Press

Step 10: Swoop your iron carefully from the patch without the seam allowance to the patch which is laying on top of the seam allowance. In my case I am swooping carefully from the red towards the aqua dot.

Place Sewn Patches on Design Wall
Place Sewn Patches on Design Wall

Step 11: Place sewn patches on in their spot on the design surface.

Place Sewn Patches on Design Wall (detail)
Place Sewn Patches on Design Wall (detail)

You will notice that this newly sewn set of patches are quite a bit smaller (1/2″ to be exact) than your other cut pieces. No panicking is necessary. The patches are smaller because you have used 1/2″ of fabric for the seam allowance. You are on track, if your block looks like the two pictures above.

Sew Next Patches
Sew Next Patches

Step 12: Take the center patches (from row 1 patch B and row 2 patch E) and sew them together. Again, you will place your right sides together before you sew.

Use Chain Piecing Techniques
Use Chain Piecing Techniques

Step 13: Follow steps 3-11 for these patches and the right hand patches (row 1 patch C and row 2 patch F).

Press Opposite
Press Opposite

Step 14: Above we pressed towards row 1. After sewing row 1&2, patches B&E, you will press the seam allowance towards row 2. Patch E will be on top of your seam allowance.

Used Another 1/2"
Used Another 1/2″

Step 15: Place your pressed patch on the Design Wall. You have used up another 1/2″ of fabric.

After you have sewed all the patches for rows 1&2 together, you will need to sew the patches for row 3.

Step 16: Sew row 3 patch G to patch D. Yes, patch D is already sewn to patch A. Don’t press yet.

Step 17: Follow the directions in Step 16 for patch H and patch I. Wait to press.

Step 18: Press patch G towards patch G.

Step 19: Press H towards patch E

Step 20: Press patch I towards patch I

Nesting Rows
Nesting Rows

Step 21: Lay the column with patches B, E and H on top of the column with A, D, and G. Make sure that your seams look like the photo above – nested into each other, not resting on top of each other.

The reason to pay attention to pressing is that you can ‘nest’ the seams when you go to start sewing the rows. Nesting seams is when the seam allowances are pressed in opposite directions so that they rest against each other. It helps with accuracy in piecing.

Sew Left Column to Middle Column
Sew Left Column to Middle Column

Step 22: With the column with patches B, E and H on the bottom, sew the column with A, D, and G to the column with patches B, E and H on the right side.

I did use some pins at the seam allowances.

Step 23: Set seam between the left and middle columns.

Step 24: Press seam allowance between the left and middle columns in whatever direction suits you.

Lay Left Column on Middle Column
Lay Left Column on Middle Column

Step 25: Lay left column (with patches C, F and I) on top of the middle column.

It looks like the top row, but really is the right column. I just have it turned so the right column is on top.

Step 26: Pin at seam allowances, if desired. I usually use pins.

Step 27: Sew left column (with patches C, F and I) to the middle column.

Step 28: Set seam between right and middle column.

Step 29: Press seam between right and middle column.

Finished: Nine Patch
Finished: Nine Patch

Step 30: Congratulate yourself! You have successfully completed your Nine Patch!!!

Author: Jaye

Quiltmaker who enjoys writing and frozen chocolate covered bananas.

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