The simplest way to design your own block is to take a traditional block and add or subtract a few lines. The Ohio Star block for instance can be changed into Swamp Angel by turning the corner squares into half-square triangles. But you could turn those triangles around. Or put a small simple block in that corner square. You may find that the block you draw already exists out there somewhere, but it doesn’t matter, keep playing with dividing squares or triangles into other units to see what happens. Invest in a couple of mirrors (or mirror tiles) and put them at right angles to your drawing – this will show you what four blocks together might look like without the hassle of drawing them all out. You might be pleasantly surprised by the secondary patterns that appear.

Having mentioned Ohio Star I’ll play around with that block first. So here’s the original block, the Swamp Angel block and then the block you get if you turn Swamp Angel’s corners around.

If you put four of the last block together you start to see a secondary pattern emerging – part of the fun of designing your own –

What else could you do with this block? You can add 4-patch units to the corners and/or the centre. And then you could add triangles to the 4-patch units. Notice that I’ve added different colours as well.

So what do these look like when you put four together?

Adding the extra colours or turning the direction of the triangles can make quite a difference to the look of the ‘quilt’. You could also alternate the colours of the main star too

The Variable Star is another simple block you can play around with. You will probably find that many of the variations you come up with have already been thought of, but your colourings can make all the difference.

In the next few examples I added triangles to the corners – just as with the Ohio Star above – and then I have had a bit pf a play with the colour placements.

I’ve stuck to a red/blue combination in solids rather than prints for these next ones –

Again, as with Ohio Star, you could add 4-patch units or triangles to the plain squares of the block.

What do these look like when you put four together?

Did you notice that I turned alternate blocks in the second ‘quilt’? This has given us a blue pinwheel in the centre; if we were add more blocks and turn alternate ones the red triangles would also meet to form pinwheels. Would you guess that the block started out as a Variable Star? Playing with colour placement in this way is the basis for Puzzle Quilts where a block is used twice but altered by a change in where the colours are put – the puzzle being to find the pairs of blocks.

Have a go yourself. Find some simple blocks and have a play with lines and colourings – perhaps post them on the UKQU Facebook page – you don’t actually have to make any of them after all, unless you come up with something that you really want to take further.