Suppose you have seen a picture of a quilt – you’ve fallen in love with it, you want to make it, but there isn’t a pattern. Don’t despair – you can work it out yourself. It may not be the same size as the original but that doesn’t matter because it will be the size you want it to be. Have a careful look at that picture to work out where the blocks are, then look at the blocks – you can break them down into smaller squares (units) made up from several shapes. There is a ‘formula’ for virtually every shape we need to cut for patchwork.

This tip looks at squares and rectangles in quilts – and as a bonus includes tips for rotary cutting octagons with an ordinary rotary ruler. I’ll look at other shapes in later Hints & Tips posts.

This is the blue version of the block used in the quilt in the header. The other block is identical except it has pink squares instead of blue. Now you can have a closer look at it you can see the block is very simple – lots of smaller squares and four rectangles. It is a 9-patch block made from nine units so you would need to make the blocks in a size that appears in the 3 (or9) times-table to make the arithmetic easier.

To help you even further I’ve done sizing tables for you to download so you can work out how big to cut squares and rectangles of whatever size you need for your block. All you have to remember though is to add half an inch to the finished size of your square or rectangle when you cut so you have that all important quarter inch seam all round.

Finished size – this is the size of the unit/piece once it is stitched into the block/quilt.

Rounding up to the nearest ⅛ inch. If you have had to use a calculator then you need decimals not fractions.

⅛ = 0.125        ¼ = 0.25         ⅜ = 0.375         ½ = 0.5         ⅝ = 0.625         ¾ = 0.75         ⅞ = 0.875

To rotary cut octagons you start with a square. Just as with squares you add half an inch seam allowance. A 2½ inch cut square will make a 2 inch finished octagon.

Draw a line on the wrong side of the fabric across both diagonals.

Work out what half the width of your square is – in the photos the square is 2½ inches so half of that is 1¼.

Place the 1¼ inch line of the ruler on one of the pencil lines and trim off the corner of the square.

Move around the square trimming off the four corners so you finish with an octagon.

The PDF has all the steps photographed along with the tables for squares and rectangles so download it (its free!) and keep it in your reference folder.



You may also like to read this Hint & Tip –

What Size Do I Cut?