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Monday, January 8, 2024

📐📏 Beginner's Guide To Quiltmaking - Chapter 1 - Patches, Units, Grids, Blocks and Grainlines

A frequent comment I see about my videos is something like “You make a difficult quilt block look easy to do!” This is exactly my goal. I’ll let you in on a little secret. The blocks really are easy to make, but because it looks difficult, most quiltmakers move on to the next block. The Slip Knot block, made from squares, rectangles and half square triangles, is a perfect example. Follow this series of mini workshops to learn how blocks are designed and pieced and determine how much fabric you need for any size quilt.

In this series of mini workshops, I show you how I look at a quilt block, break it down into smaller parts and determine fabric and cutting requirements to make that block into any size quilt you desire. Chapters are listed below and links will be added as the chapters are released.

Designing Quilt Blocks for Beginner to Advanced Quiltmakers

  • Chapter 1 - Patches, Units, Grids, Blocks and Grainlines
  • Chapter 1A - Essential Tools For Rotary Cutting and AccuQuilt, January 10, 2024
  • Chapter 2 - Squares Release date January 15, 2024
  • Chapter 3 - Rectangles Release date January 22, 2024
  • Chapter 4 - Half Square Triangles (HST) Release date January 29, 2024
  • Chapter 5 - Quarter Square Triangles (QST) Release date February 5, 2024

Topics Covered in Chapter 1

  • Patches
  • Units
  • Blocks and Grids
  • Grainlines
  • Cutting Fabric

Patches - The Simplest Uncut Shape

In patchwork quilting we sew fabric shapes together. We call these shapes patches, so we make a patchwork quilt by working with patches.  We take one perfectly good piece of fabric, cut it up into different shapes then sew them together with patches cut from other fabrics.

Patches cut for the Moda Love Quilt block

What I consider a patch is the simplest shape we work with in a project. The four most common patches we work with are squares, rectangles, half square triangles and quarter square triangles. These patches all start with a square.

In each project, we often identify a patch by a letter of the alphabet. In this example, the square is patch A, the rectangle is patch B, the half square triangle is patch C and the quarter square triangle is patch D.

A square patch has 4 equal sides.
One large and one small square patch

A rectangle patch has 4 sides with the opposite sides being equal and is made by cutting a square in half either horizontally or vertically.

Two Rectangle Patches

 A half square triangle patch has one right angle (90 degrees) and is made by cutting a square in half once on the diagonal.

Two Half Square Triangle Patches

A quarter square triangle patch also has one right angle and is made by cutting a square in half twice on the diagonal.

Four Quarter Square Triangle Patches

If the same shape patches are different sizes in the project, each size would have it’s own name. In the picture below, the small square patches are called A and the large square patches are called B.
Some patterns/instructions will give different names of the same patch size that is a different fabric. In the example above the A patch might be called A for the dark fabric and C for the light fabric. I think that can be confusing so I don't use this option. Electric Quilt does not use this option.


When you sew two or more patches together, you have a unit. The unit below is a Half Square Triangle unit because we sewed two half square triangle patches together.

Half Square Triangle Unit

When writing pattern instructions, I like to name units to make it easier to follow the steps. Sometimes the unit is named by the patch names. If you sew patch A to patch C, the resulting unit can be called Unit AC. In some instructions, you might see the unit as “the Step 1 unit” or something similar.

When you sew another patch or unit to the first unit, you have a different unit. The unit below is the result of sewing a rectangle patch to a half square triangle unit.

For Grids, Blocks, Usable Fabric Width and Grainlines - these topics are better addressed in the video below.

Watch the video below for more information. Look for the grey box under the video on YouTube and click "more".

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