Friday, June 24, 2011

Block 2 - Value 9 Patch, We Can Do It! Sampler

It's Friday again and time for the next block in our sampler.  I have really enjoyed looking at all the blocks you have made in the flickr group.  The next block we will make is made out of four 9 patch units.  (scroll down for instructions)

Edited (4/15):  The Skill Builder Sampler will soon be available for purchase in book form!  It has been renamed "You Can Quilt!  Building Skills for Beginners" but covers the same skills with the easy, medium and challenging blocks and is a million times better than the original quilt along.  It is perfect for the beginning quilter or the experienced quilter who wants to branch out and learn new skills.  Find more information and pre-order a signed copy in my Etsy shop or pre-order on Amazon.  The Skill Builder Sampler tutorials will remain up until the book is released.  After release, some will be removed.

I chose this block so we could learn more about value, strip piecing, chain piecing, matching seams and pressing.

You will need at least 2 light and 2 dark fabrics.  The idea is to choose fabrics so that you have a secondary pattern of a square with in squares.  I think that the black and white photo shows what I mean better.


For the dark 9 patches cut:
3 dark 10.5 by 2.5 inch strips (Two of them the same fabric)
2 dark 5.5 by 2.5 inch strips 
1 light 5.5 by 2.5 inch strip

For the light 9 patches cut:

3 light 10.5 by 2.5 inch strips (Two of them the same fabric)
2 light 5.5 by 2.5 inch strips 
1 dark 5.5 by 2.5 inch strip

You could cut a bunch of 2.5 inch squares and sew them together one by one, but we will be strip piecing.  Strip piecing is sewing longer strips of fabric together and then cutting them into smaller segments.
Start by sewing the three long strips together and the three light strips together.  Alternate your colors.
Next, sew the short strips together alternating light and dark as shown below.

You will notice that some of my yellow strips are longer.  That is just the size they came out of my scrap baggie.  As long as your strips are at least 10.5 and 5.5 inches long, you will be fine.  We will trim everything up in the next step.

If you want to speed up the process a bit, chain piece the strips.  Chain piecing is putting a new strip though the machine right after the last strip you sewed without breaking the thread in between.  This speeds up piecing and doesn't waste thread. When you have completed the strips, remove them all from the machine and clip them apart.

Now it is time to press your seams.  Deep Breath...  There are two major schools of thought on pressing.
Some press the seams open because the seams lay flatter and it reduces bulk when seams meet.
Some press to the side because it is faster and the seams "lock" together.

I personally press to the side.  It was how I learned and it works well for me.  I really can't imagine pressing open seams without going crazy and burning my fingers off (although I know it can be done).  One of the cons to pressing to the side is that you have to pay attention to which way you press your fabric so that you don't end up sewing over tons of layers and adding bulk to your seams.  It really becomes intuitive after a bit and I will give pressing directions as we go though the sampler if you choose to press to the side.

For both of the 5.5 inch units, press the fabric towards the dark fabrics.  This is a basic pressing-to-the-side rule.  One presses to the darker fabric to avoid the dark fabric showing through the quilt.  Take the light and dark 10.5 inch units and press the seam allowances of the light fabric away from the center.  Press the seam allowances of the dark fabric towards the center.  Do you see in the picture above how if I scooted the fabric together, the seam allowances wouldn't overlap?  That is what we want.

After pressing your strips should be 6.5 inches wide.  If they are not check your pressing and seam allowances.

After you are done pressing it is time to cut.  Start by squaring up the left end of your strip.

Then cut off a 2.5 inch wide strip.

And another.  Discard any small scraps.

Repeat for the larger strips.  You will be able to cut 4 units from the long strips.  If your strips are a bit wavy, line the ruler up with the seam lines in the middle of the block.  They should be exactly 2 inches apart.

You should now have two sets of strips like this.

Lay out your strips as shown for both the light and dark fabrics.

We will now sew our rows together.  At each seam intersection make sure the seam lines are matched up and pin.  If you are pressing to the side, wiggle the lined up seam between your fingers until you feel the seams but up against each other.  If the piecing is consistent, all of your seams should meet perfectly.  As this is not always the case, I like to pin at the seam intersections and then ease in any extra fabric as I sew.  Easing in is matching seams and then using your fingers as you sew to work in the extra fabric so uneven lengths of fabric come out even before you get to the next intersection.  This works for small differences in length, but sometimes seams just won't match no matter how much you try to ease in the extra fabric.  In that case, it is better to have corners that don't match than to have a tuck or pucker in the seam.

Sew two strips together and then sew the third to the bottom.  Press away from the light center and towards the dark center on the dark and light blocks respectively.  Yea!  You just made four 9 patch blocks!!!

Now we just have to sew them together.  You may have to rotate a block or two, but if you followed the pressing instructions, your seams should all alternate and fit together.  Sew the top two 9 patches and bottom two 9 patches together.  Press towards the dark 9 patches.

Sew the two units together.  Pin the center seams together and then work out towards the edges, matching the seams and pinning.  Sew and press to either side.

Somewhere along the line, you will have a problem like this.  One of my pieces of fabric was short.  You could of course unpick and resew it (ick!).  As I hate unpicking, I sewed a 1/4 inch seam like normal and then stitched over the seam again between the 1/4 inch stitching and the short edge of the fabric.  This anchors the seam and will keep it from fraying.

You have just finished your second block!!!  It should measure 12.5 inches across.  

There was a lot of information in this post.  If you have any questions, please ask.  I will answer most of the questions in the comments so that other people who have the same question will know the answer.  All of your comments also get sent to my email account.  If you would like me to respond personally to a question or comment, you will have to change the settings on your blogger account.
  1. In, click on Dashboard.
  2. Select Edit Profile.
  3. Check the box for "Show my Email Address."
  4. Save changes.

If you have already made a hundred 9 patch blocks before, maybe you could see what other designs you could make out of light and dark 2.5 inch squares.  Or, study the block and see how you could take strip piecing to the next level.  There is a way you can sew even more strips together.  Can you see it?

You Can Do It!  :)


  1. For some reason, this one seems really scary! I will give it a go this weekend, seams pressed to the the sides of course!

  2. This one might have to be delayed until I get a chance to get to Joann's. I just looked over my fabrics, and I don't have enough light colors in the stack I'm using. But I'm looking forward to it.

  3. Love it! I just finished mine and am about to put it in Flickr so I can move it to your group, Leila. Can I just say, I love this sew along? I taught myself to quilt by just diving in and have only been doing it less than a year, but I love this because it's walking me through the basics so I can fill in all those gaps I have! You rock!

  4. Leila, this is a great tutorial! You have covered off so many points in such an easy to understand and follow manner. I need to finalize some fabric ideas for doing this and make both blocks this weekend. Thanks for taking the time to do all this work.
    PS, I have solved the pressing debate by using both styles, often in one block, whichever seems easier for that moment for the seam at hand.

  5. This is so cute! Mine may look very similar color wise, since red and yellow are my lights and darks. :)
    You are doing a wonderful job on these tutorials! Thanks so much!

  6. I'm confused by what you said about value:
    The idea is to choose fabrics so that you have a secondary pattern of a square with in squares.
    Do you mean the center of each nine-patch, or are you talking about the 4 patch created in the middle of the 4 nine-patches? I know how to make the block, but I'd like to 'get' what you are saying about value here too. Thanks.

  7. Each individual 9 patch should look like a square within a square. That is to say that two of the 9 patches will have a light center square with dark fabrics forming another square around them.

    The other two 9 patches will have a dark center square surrounded by lighter fabrics.

    There is no real secondary design that forms when you put the four 9 patches together. I hope this helps.

  8. Thanks, Leila. Yes, it does. And looking at posted blocks I can see that loud and clear in some of the blocks.

    Sorry about posting anonymously, but when I use my google account it takes me to a 'create a blog' page instead of posting the comment. I do have a blog, LOL!

    Thanks again, Pat from FL & MI,
    aka: anonymous

  9. Went ahead and dove into this block, Leila. Let me say that I have very minimal sewing experience (completed my first quilt top this year) and none of it dealt in precision cutting and sewing, but you just might make a quilter out of me. I have NEVER had seams line up so beautifully. Even your most minor (or duh?) tips are like gold to me. I am learning so much and have bought better tools of the trade. Look forward to the next challenge. Thanks for the outstanding tutorials. :)

  10. I am a newby but have jumped in with both feet. I'm making it up ( fabric selections, that is) as I go and am committed to cutting favorites so the blocks are educational AND pretty. So far, so good. Thanks for the great instructions.

  11. Done!
    I made a block which did not quite work right, I think the colour values were not distinct enough. I expect I will use it with something else though.
    And my centre is not quite as square as I would like. I redid it, and it is better, but...

  12. I did it!! Most of the seams match up so I'm pretty happy with it! I think my cutting was off as my central squares weren't 2 inches, they were 1.75 inches, but all of them were so that was helpful. I've learnt that I needed to improve my pressing!

  13. I just posted my block. Thanks for clarifying what I was supposed to go for with regard to value. I think I got it! Hope so...............
    Pat from FL and MI

  14. Hello Leila! I found you on Jane's block (LoopyLou's Adventures Into Handicrafts) and when I saw what she had made by following your tutorials, I came over to have a look. I'm in!! I finished these two blocks in 24 hours, thanks to your marvellous instructions, and I've posted photos on my blog (Patra's Place).
    I will try to add them to your Flickr site, but I'm not sure how to do that, so if I don't make it, please spare a few minutes to have a look at my blog! Thanks again for a fantastic idea; I'm looking forward to doing as many as possible to learn the finer points of traditional quilt blocks.

  15. Are we doing 2 or 3 blocks a month? Just wondering when block 3 is coming since the month ends on Thursday - and I'm going on vacation and want to make my 3rd block haha. Loving this Sampler already!

  16. i've never made a 9 patch before, thanks for the great instructions, they're really easy to follow. but even more, i wanted to thank you for a recommendation in one of your earlier posts to buy a 1/4 inch foot. i used it for the first time last night, and i cannot believe i ever tried to do 1/4 seams without it! i was thinking that i was such an idiot for not being able to get my seams as straight as i thought they should be... i almost laughed out loud with delight when i sewed the first seam with my new foot.

  17. Well, I'm not sure what I did wrong, but mine only turned out 12"+ a hair. I checked the blocks and they're 2", so not sure. I'm just glad to finally get it done. =) I think I'll be improvising to make my quilt come together in the end. =)

  18. Okay - so I'm a month behind because I was exploring in Asia and Europe (I found some neat quilting fabrics!) -- but I'm sitting down TODAY and sewing the June blocks so that I will be caught up for July. I've been quilting for ages -- but I love doing the "let's do it together projects" that the Internet offers us. Thanks, Lelia, for sponsoring this project. Blessings!

  19. I think this catches me up looking forward to the next block thanks for doing this it's great to revisit or relearn these skills