Nine Patch Block Stories

Welcome to my Nine Patch Block Stories.

Here you will find my stories about the Nine Patch Block.

This will be the details behind the patterns. All of the details information and the Patterns can be found in the Members Section.

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Intro To The Series


You could, possibly say my biggest inspiration with my quilt making is old designs, I love both patchwork, from simple pieced Nine Patch blocks to Log cabins, and old applique designs, to Wholecloth quilting of the Welsh and Northumberland quilters. From old British quilts to the quilts of the America. Turkey Red and White quilts, blue and white quilts to scrappy quilts especially those of the Depression years in America, those pieced for necessity but are stitched into patterns and designs and made beautiful and functional. Objects that are made to be used.

Over the years I have collected together a rather big collection of books, on both different designs and the history of quilts – pieced, appliqued, patchwork and quilted. Although I love these old quilts and they are my inspiration, I don’t want to replicate them, I don’t want to buy replica fabrics and create Jane Austen’s coverlet or the Bronte Sisters one. These old quilts are my inspiration and I want to work them using modern methods and in my own way. They are objects of the past, from their time and place in history, but I love that the roots of what I create can be traced back to the past, that we are joined together by the threads of time….

I have for a long time wanted to explore one design area and work within those boundaries. I have flitted around my favourite designs, I have created lots of quilts, especially Sampler based ones, from pieced Nine Patch blocks, to Dresden plates and Log Cabin ones. But I have never really sat down and worked through one design and only worked in that. I have for a few years, thought about working on a weekly or monthly design series, but the time has never felt right, but I have decided that I am just going to go ahead this year and do it!!

So, this series is about working through one design – Nine Patch Blocks.

Why Nine Patch Blocks? Other than I found a handful of them in my orphan square box, made a few years ago, just waiting to be used. They had all been made in scraps of fabric, I can’t remember why I made them, but possibly to show piecing and Half Square Triangles (HST) in my classes. And one of my aims is to use up and finish lots of the projects laying around my workspace, another aim is to use up the scraps and leftover fabrics that I have. By creating Nine Patch Blocks I will be fulfilling both of these aims. The other thing is I love Nine Patch Blocks, they are one of the simplest basic designs but there are so many variations!!! I can create so many squares….

I hope that you will join with me, follow my journey here and on social media as I work through lots of Nine Patch designs and hopefully be inspired by them. I want to share the stories of these designs, from both the historical point of view to my own use and ideas, and I will also share the patterns (in the Members Section).

The Starter One


The starter block for the Nine Patch is the basic, simple Nine Squares stitched together in 3 x 3 formation = well, Nine Patches!!!

This is possibly one of the simplest of blocks, possibly simpler is the Four Patch but this, to me, doesn’t have the possibilities of different designs that the Nine Patch does, and this is probably why I love it so much and why I prefer it.

I have always been drawn to the old scrappy Nine Patch quilts, think the ones of the Depression Years in America – those with lots of little ditsy prints worked with white or cream or the older Red & White or the Blue & White ones. There is something very quintessentially pieced patchwork about them, lots of different fabric, small pieces all sewn together.

With some squares and designs there is a definite time line to them, a way of tracing the history of the design and how it was influenced and fashionable but with the Nine Patch there is no thread to pull and unwind – it has just been there in the history of pieced patchwork, something that has just been created long ago……

I think what also draws me to the Basic simple Nine Patch is how easy it is to create it in different finished sizes, if I want to make a 15” finished block, then I just divide it by 3, which equals 5” plus seam allowance means I cut 5½” squares for a finished block of 15”. Its simple maths, maths I can do!!!

The basic Nine Patch can be worked in set colours in set places or in random scrappy. There is the Checkerboard one, where five of the squares are in one colour shade and four are in another, there is something very clean about this colour way and possibly the most, to me classic look of the Basic Nine Patch. Then there is the colouring where you can create a cross effect, and then there is a cross affect with alternate corner squares in different colours.

And finally there is the random, throw nine different fabrics at the square and just sew them together!!! I like the random and I have used it a number of times in quilts as an alternative/secondary square. The best and favourite example of this is the bed quilt I made for Laura, years and years ago!!! One square is an applique wreath with hearts and the alternative square is a random Nine Patch, made from a Charm Pack and then Laura chose a few of her favourite fabrics from my stash to make up the numbers you can view it here in the Quilt Stories.

Random is great for using up lots of odd bits left over from other projects and can be made in any size square and stitched together, with or without added borders to frame them.

I recently came across a really great method for sewing small scrap squares together, using interfacing, by small pieces I’m talking under 1½” squares, these are fiddly to piece normally. But using this method you have a piece of lightweight iron-on interfacing and it is fast and accurate – I certainly am going to be using it a lot to use up my smaller scraps – lots of small 3” square random Nine Patch Blocks will be made!!!

What I haven’t mentioned as I have been talking about just individually Basic Nine Patch Blocks, is that when you put the Blocks together without borders, depending on the placement of fabrics you can create whole new patterns across the top of the quilt!

I’m lucky I have EQ software on my lap and so I can play and design different quilts, place different colours in different ways and end up with lots and lots of examples of different patterns – before I had it, I used to draw a basic design out as a line drawing, copy it and then play with my coloured pencils and colour it in to see the different patterns!!! I can create thousands of paper drawn quilts, quilts that will never get made in fabric, as I will never have enough time to do them…….

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Shoo Fly


From the simple Basic Nine Patch Block, there are soo many variations and so many names, often one block will have multiple names, and the Shoo Fly block is no different. I have seen it called Monkey Wrench, Hole in the Barn Door and Eight Cornered box, there are probably others.
It amuses me looking at some of the names, trying to figure out why they have that name, and yet when it came to the name Shoo Fly, I never really thought about it, it was the most common name for this Block and the one I have always used in my years of creating patchwork. And yet why Shoo Fly – what does it mean, so off I went on a Ramble through the internet and fell down a rabbit hole.

So, Shoo Fly is the common name in America for Clover Broom, in Latin Baptisia Tinctoria, also called horsefly weed, rattle weed, wild indigo and indigo weed, it is part of the Legume family. So, from all I have read the reason for the name Shoo fly for the plant, was because the sap was added to a shallow bowl of milk and the flies all go to it – basically fly paper in liquid form!!!

Shoo Fly is also the title of a song and popularised by an American minstrel Dan Bryant which was published in 1868.

Did the block get its name from the plant or the song? This we won’t know, it’s been lost in time, but the block has been around since the mid 1800’s and was very popular in the latter half of the century.

Many of these pieced squares, whether Nine Patch or others, have names that come from the farming life in America. Patchwork was part of life in the rural areas, where it could be a very tough life and every scrap of fabric became precious. Rather than just stitch the fabric together anyhow, these women (and it was mostly women) took the time to sort through and piece simple but beautiful designs into quilt tops that are then quilted. It’s not only in America that this happened but in Britain, although we tend to think of this style of pieced patchwork as American there is evidence that similar quilts were made in Wales and North Country. America became the melting pot for all types of patchwork and stitching. At the heart is creating things that were a necessity of life offering comfort and warmth in harsh living conditions but things of beauty that the maker had taken care and time to do.

Because America is a vast country and communication in the early 1800’s was slow, each region called the same Block design by a different name and that is why they have so many different names. Often Designs were published in newspapers and periodicals, sewing patterns were syndicated to other publications and sold through Mail Order companies, they remained popular right from the early 1800’s through to WW2. In the revival of patchwork in the late 1970’s these patterns where reprinted. One book first published in 1979 which covered most of these Blocks, over 4000 of them, their names and when published, was Barbara Brackman Encyclopaedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, it has been updated a number of times and is also available as Blockbase a software package.

Onto my journey with this design, there is the story, myth, that this design was used to teach young girls how to create the triangle squares and piece blocks together in the 1800’s, and this is essentially over the years how I have used the design. One of the quilts that I created was a Sampler Quilt, it was the second quilt I used to show how to make, it had both machine pieced blocks and applique ones in the same quilt. I had chosen each square so that as you went through them you built up your skills and the first pieced block was the Shoo Fly one.

This square is so ideal for teaching cutting squares, and also creating the triangle squares using the Half Square Triangle (HST) method and piecing together, at the same time it is a nice simple design. From the first Sampler quilt in pastel shades, I have created it in other colours from the blue/green tones to jewel bright ones, and seen it created in so many other colours, all looking different, just because of the colours used.

Like all Nine Patch Blocks they can be used on their own in Sampler quilts or you can make lots of them into a quilt top and depending on the placement of colours and fabrics, create lots of secondary designs from one simple block.

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Friendship Star


This seems to be one of those designs that has been around forever, there doesn’t seem to be a time when it hasn’t been made. I guess like the Shoo Fly block it was taught to show how to make the Half Square Triangle squares but the story goes that it was made by women for family and friends going on long journeys – the pioneers of the wild west. Each women would stitch a star and then embroider their name in the centre and give it to the woman as a memory quilt of their friendship – hence the name Friendship Star. It's a really lovely idea, that this pattern was made as a Friendship/memory design.

There are lots of designs for stars out there in the patchwork world, from complicated, foundation pieced, to applique and improv/freestyle ones. I have a soft spot for stars, they often feature in my work, both pieced and applique. But my favourite star design is definitely the Friendship Star, I don’t know where I first saw it but it has become a staple of my patchwork, a design I use time and time again over the years.

It is the easiest, quickest one to create, well for me! It can be made in so many different sizes by just altering the square sizes and it looks so different depending on the fabric used.

I have made lots of things with the Friendship Star, from small bits to large. I have used it on mug rugs, placemats and runners – Christmas ones! I have used it in quilts, as part of a sampler one and also as a whole quilt design. Actually I made two quilts just with the Friendship Star design for the first bed size quilts for my twin niece and nephew – Toby and Evie. Toby’s was in shades of bluey/grey and Evie’s in pinks – each star was a different fabric. Then last year when I was making them both new quilts, as they had gone up to Senior school and this is when they get a new more grown up quilt, I did the same for their older sisters, Anastasia and Natalie, I used the Friendship Star in the middle of the quilt for Toby. I created other stars using other techniques and I struggled creating a couple of them!!! But I had to incorporate the Friendship Star to link in with his previous quilt and because I like it so much – I made it different sizes.

I am sure that I will come back to the Friendship Star design time and again and it will be made into lots of other patchwork things……

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Attic Window


I have never used this Nine Patch block in any of my quilts, its been one of those that I have looked at lots of times and put on the list to be used. This project is a good way for me to try all those blocks that I have never had time to use before!!!

This one is called Attic window, apparently it is meant to look like shadows on a window, I have squinted at it from a distance but I really can’t see it at all. Personally, its just a nice design, made up of seven squares and two made from triangles. Because the triangle squares are different colours, I haven’t made them using HST method, of using two whole squares, stitched and cut, instead I have used triangles and carefully stitched them together, and even more carefully pressed them, so they are square and not an ‘interesting’ ironed shape.

There is a world of difference between pressing patchwork and ironing cloths!!! For this its about careful patchwork pressing, not to get the pieces out of shape and also to get everything flat.

How the design got its name is not really known, but this design was published with the name Attic window in the Farm Journal in America in the 1930’s, but that’s all we know. There was a huge resurgence in pieced patchwork in the 1930’s, during the Depression era and many of the old designs were printed in farm journals and newspapers.

I have stitched the other type Attic window pattern, where you join two strips with 45 degree ends together, round a square. The pattern does have a nice finished look but I always find that piecing, whether by hand or machine the 45 degree angle is tricky and I don’t enjoy making it. But this Nine Patch Attic window is a lot easier and fun.

If I was making it as a whole quilt from this one design, then I would use the HST method and it creates a second pattern, down the quilt.

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Churn Dash


I have always used the name Churn Dash for this block, but when I started looking up the block to see about its origins and history, there was this huge long list of other names its been called and published under Broken Plate, Monkey Wrench, Double Monkey Wrench, Love Knot, Picture Frame, Puss in the Corner, Lincoln’s Platform, Hens & Chickens, Fisherman’s Reel. And there are a few others but those are the ones that I found that were the most common!.

Myth says that the Monkey Wrench block, which is the same design but sometimes the middle squares are made narrower, was used as a signal to a slave wanting to escape to get ready. The myths surrounding the Underground Railway and the quilts supposedly used to communicate safe passage etc, is extensive, how true it all is??? But apparently the first time it was written about in a book was in 1999!!! I will leave it up to you whether you believe that quilts carried coded messages.

The Churn Dash design I use originated in the first half of the 19th century, so that’s between 1800 to 1850, that’s as near as the design can be pinned down. A butter churn was an essential item in pioneering America and this block is supposed to represent the shape of the butter churn.

This was one of the early designs that I was taught and that I have carried on teaching as part of a Sampler quilt, where you are expanding your techniques and skills with each block that you are making. It is really good for teaching the next step – first it’s the Basic Nine Patch Block, cutting accurately nine squares and stitching together, then moving on to a Block like Shoo Fly or Friendship Star with the Half Square Triangles, learning to make the HST squares and putting it all together and then this Block, which has the four squares divided in half, with it you are learning to cut and piece smaller pieces together and fit them all to make the finished Block.

Its one of those blocks that I have made numerous times for Sampler quilts and it can look so different in different fabrics and colours, but I have never made it for a whole quilt top.

Over the years the method of construction for this block has changed, I was taught how to design the Block in full size on a piece of paper, cut it apart, pin the paper to the fabric and use a ¼” ruler to draw round, cut it out, tack the fabric over the papers and then sew the whole thing together. The construction method then moved to cutting the fabric out still with scissors and machine stitching it together. And now we cut out with rotary cutters and machine stitch together, or you can buy dies to cut all the pieces out and then stitch it together – things constantly change.

This may be an old design, but it still works for modern quilts.

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Antique Tile Block


This block is attributed to ‘Nancy Cabot’, a syndicated column in the Chicago Tribune in the 1930’s and was published in 1936 in the newspaper, but I am sure that it has been around for years before that. It is a block that feels older than 1930’s, as its name says, it reminds me of Antique Tiles, the floor tile patterns of the Victorians or before that the marble floors of Neo-classical Stately Homes – which of course are inspired by the floors of ancient Italy and Greece.

Before creating it in the 6” size for this Nine Patch Scrap quilt, I have only used it once before in my big block quilt from 2013, this quilt is made up of sixteen Nine Patch Designs and made in Stonehenge fabric – where the fabric looks like stone or marble. The inspiration for the quilt was old stone, tiled floors and the patterns created by them. It is a quilt that I love and as it isn’t all florals and girly Tony likes it as well, it is used every winter as the main quilt on our bed. As we have so many quilts and also I like to layer our bed, the Block quilt is the main one but I will often have a second quilt or crocheted or knitted blanket folded on the bottom of the bed as well.

One of my favourite blocks in the quilt is this Antique Tile block and I have always dreamed of making it in soft gentle floral fabrics, sage green, duck egg blue, soft muted pinks of old roses and whites and then hand quilt it in a traditional pattern. In these colours it won’t look like an Antique Tile so much but I think it would make a lovely quilt, and one day I might just get round to doing it!!!!

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Prairie Queen


When I first looked at this block, I was absolutely sure I had used it in a quilt!! I know a number of Nine Patch designs look very similar, after all they are made up of a limited number of individual squares – nine and then there is only so many combinations of triangles, half squares, quarter squares and whole blocks.

I searched through the photos that we have of the many quilts and quilt tops I have made over the years and though I found a couple of blocks similar, but I had never made this particular design before. I don’t know why as it is a nice design, on its own and its great as a whole quilt design. Depending on the colour and fabric placement on a whole quilt top depends on the secondary design.

I don’t have the time to create another whole quilt top, but each of the designs in this series I am creating ‘paper’ versions in different styles. A whole top design, with the squares placed side by side and then a version with sashing between each block, I am then colouring them in with different colours to see the effects. Years ago, I would have drawn the design out on graph paper, numerous times to see it, now I do all the designing in EQ8.

EQ or Electric Quilt is a software package that lets you design on, in my case my laptop, I can design hundreds (if I wanted to), versions of each design, in different sizes, layouts and colours. I can draw blocks, resize and do lots of other clever things. The quilts to colour, attached to the patterns are all generated this way.

The Design doesn’t have much history, it was first published in a Ruth Finlay book in 1929 and then again in 1935 in a Carrie A Hall book, both times it was called Prairie Queen, the only other name I came across for it was True Blue when it was published in the Heath & Home magazine in the 1930’s, I guess it was illustrated in blue colourway? There doesn’t seem to be any reason or explanation why it is called Prairie Queen, but it’s a good name for a nice block.

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Contrary Wife


This block is attributed to ‘Nancy Cabot’, a syndicated column in the Chicago Tribune in the 1930’s and was published in 1936 in the newspaper, but I am sure that it has been around for years before that. It is a block that feels older than 1930’s, as its name says, it reminds me of Antique Tiles, the floor tile patterns of the Victorians or before that the marble floors of Neo-classical Stately Homes – which of course are inspired by the floors of ancient Italy and Greece.

Before creating it in the 6” size for this Nine Patch Scrap quilt, I have only used it once before in my big block quilt from 2013, this quilt is made up of sixteen Nine Patch Designs and made in Stonehenge fabric – where the fabric looks like stone or marble. The inspiration for the quilt was old stone, tiled floors and the patterns created by them. It is a quilt that I love and as it isn’t all florals and girly Tony likes it as well, it is used every winter as the main quilt on our bed. As we have so many quilts and also I like to layer our bed, the Block quilt is the main one but I will often have a second quilt or crocheted or knitted blanket folded on the bottom of the bed as well.

One of my favourite blocks in the quilt is this Antique Tile block and I have always dreamed of making it in soft gentle floral fabrics, sage green, duck egg blue, soft muted pinks of old roses and whites and then hand quilt it in a traditional pattern. In these colours it won’t look like an Antique Tile so much but I think it would make a lovely quilt, and one day I might just get round to doing it!!!!

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Calico Puzzle


This is another one of those blocks that was published in the Kansas City Star and its syndicated papers in the 1930’s in America. So many of these Nine Patch block designs were printed in newspapers, journals and magazines in the 1930’s with the Depression and the revival of pieced quilt making. It’s odd how patchwork and quilting, in fact all traditional crafts tend to have a revival in times of economic hardship?

In the 1930’s both in America and here in England, quilting was promoted and revived as a rural craft, as way of helping to boost the economy. In England it was mostly with the revival of the Wholecloth quilts of the North Country (also called Durham), the government at the time, through the Rural Industries Bureau set up classes and helped to create promote the local rural crafts leading to quilts being commissioned and sold to places like Claridges.

In America it was about the pieced block designs, these were published in the newspapers and they held competitions and expos of the quilts.

Although this block was only published in the 1930’s in appears to have been around for a lot longer and I have found when doing research, that it is linked to the American Civil War and the shortage of calico, especially in the Southern States towards the end of the war, and its name is linked to the puzzle of finding good quality calico. I find the myths and ideas that surround the naming of the blocks amusing, they are sometimes bizarre and often very odd!!!

Whatever the origins of the Calico Puzzle Block, it is a good basic Nine Patch Design, which can be used on its own, as part of a sampler quilt, and then if lots are made as a whole quilt top then there is the secondary design created by the HST squares in the corners that when all joined together form a pinwheel secondary pattern.

I am sure I have used this block in a sampler quilt but I have searched through my patterns and looked at the photos and I can’t find it!! so maybe I haven’t!!!

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Pause & Decide


I have pieced nine blocks.

1. The Basic, simple Nine Patch block
2. Shoo Fly
3. Friendship Star
4. Attic Window
5. Churn Dash
6. Antique Tile
7. Prairie Queen
8. Contrary Wife
9. Calico Puzzle

And I have stitched them together to create one big Nine Patch Square. I have also stitched them in cross stitch. And this is the point I need to pause, look at & think through lots of the ideas I have been ruminating (my new word for procrastination/thinking/cogitating, dithering!) about and then decide what next?

All along my intention was to make four big squares each made up of Nine Pieced blocks, keeping the theme of Nine Patch – I would like to make Nine big squares – but this would mean finding 81 designs, if I wanted them all different, or making multiplies of my favourites. Plus, nine big squares would make a very big quilt – around 90” square and this is too big, I wouldn’t really use a quilt that size, I like quilts around the 60” to 66” square.

Normally I would make up the four big squares and then make all the decisions about adding extra borders round each block, and the other questions about the design but….

Because I am also stitching the Nine Patch Squares/quilt in cross stitch I need to make the decisions on borders round each of the big squares now, before I go on to make the next Nine Patch Block. As I make and post each Block, I am cross stitching it, if I don’t make some decisions now about the design I won’t be able to stitch it in cross stitch and I know that if I leave it and say I will finish this after I have finished the whole quilt then I won’t – simple as that!!! Other projects will get in the way.

The first question is borders or not? Yes, I want to frame each of the Big Squares, make them feel like a whole unit.

Plain, pieced? I laid the big square out on our bed. I don’t have space for a design wall, so I do all that type of thing on the top of our bed!!! I put plain calico strips around two sides and I found lots of squares of different fabrics and put them along the other two and stood back, I didn’t like all the squares, too much!!! I found it distracted my eye from the Nine Patch Blocks. I then tried laying the squares on the calico to get the look of a plain calico square then a random fabric one. It was better, it didn’t feel as cluttered. I left it and went and did some other bits, then came back and looked at it, a couple of times. My intention, at the beginning when I started had been to create a border with squares, it would use up a lot of my scraps!!!

But looking at it, it didn’t feel right, I much prefer the plain calico border, it frames the big square without cluttering it. I have cut 2½” wide calico strips and stitched them on. I can move onto making the next Nine Patch Block for the next big square.

Decision made, I may add a border round all the four big squares when I have layered and quilted them, I will think about it and see when they are done.

The other decision I have made is not to make the backing (I know what I want to do), layer and quilt the square, yet. I have a few ideas for the quilting – in my heart I would really like to hand quilt it with a very traditional design, but my head says I have three hand quilting projects on the go at the moment and I am struggling to find the time to do them – I have prioritised the Jelly Roll Quilt I have been teaching. Head says machine quilt.

But I can leave all those decisions as all I needed at this stage to really decide was the borders, so that I can carry on cross stitching each Block as I make it!!!

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Greek Cross


When you first look at this design you may think it’s a completely new layout of the squares that I have done but then look again and look at the Churn Dash Block and they are actually the same layout of the squares. It is all about the placement of the fabrics…

With the Greek Cross, one colour is in the middle, creating the cross or plus sign, the second colour goes round and then I have used unbleached calico in the corners. I have seen this block used in a quilt, where the centre was created in bright coloured fabrics, with white round and then the four corners again in the bright colours, but they were mixed up, this created secondary pattern.

I don’t think I have made the Greek Cross version before, I can’t find any photos of it in my quilt files. I have always done it as a Churn Dash colour placement, I have used that a lot.

Like so many Nine Patch Blocks the design and name was first printed in 1920’s, but like all these blocks it was probably around for years before just not published. The first printed reference to it was by McKim Studio’s in Missouri, it was then published in the Kansas City Star and its associated periodicals in the 1930’s, and it was also published the book The Romance of Quilts in America by Carrie A Hall & Rose G Kretsinger in 1935. It was then printed in books in the 1960’s.

As a single block in a sampler quilt you just get the Greek Cross design, but if a whole quilt top is made from the design then you have a secondary design created by the corner triangles and depending on the fabrics it can look totally different.

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Eccentric Star


Although this block is called Eccentric Star to me it looks more like the sails on a windmill – one of those bright coloured plastic ones that you get at the seaside.

Depending in which book or online Nine Patch catalogue you look at the centre square can be the same colour as the arms, or it can be a darker shade of the same colour. I think if the centre is a darker shade, it will look even more like a windmill!!!

There isn’t a lot of history or details that I can find on this block, like so many of them, they have just been made for years, generations and are probably just a product of sewers playing with the squares and triangles they had sewn and coming up with different designs.

According to Barbara Brackman’s Blockbase, this pattern was first published in Capper’s Publication in a weekly Newspaper which was published from 1879, it was then used again in other publications they did in the 1930’s and also in the ‘Famous Features’ of the 1940’s, which was a syndicated mail order company which may have had links to Capper.

I haven’t created this block before, although I have created a lot of star themed Nine Patch ones, I’m not sure why, maybe because it really doesn’t feel like a star to me. It’s a nice block on its own, but as a whole top in bright colours for a cot or a child’s bed it would look really good.

Remember pattern is in the Members Section



I have over the years found that a lot of the time, one Nine Patch Block design will have multiple names like the Shoo Fly design – which is Shoo Fly, Monkey Wrench, Hole in the Barn Door etc, the design is the same with the fabrics all placed in the same way and yet because America is such a vast county it has been given lots of different names.

And then there are the Designs like this Snowball one, which is actually the Shoo Fly design, five whole squares and four HST in the corners, but the fabric placement is different, giving the block a very different look.

This is one of the designs that I have used a lot, in different sizes for different projects. I first came across it when I first started patchwork, I bought myself the book 1,001 Patchwork Designs by Maggie Malone, published by Sterling Publishing Co, this was a reprint of the book first published in the 1940’s America. For years I used this book to find different blocks and patterns, till I finally got Electric Quilt (EQ) design software, the current version has over 4,000 designs.

The usual patchwork design that is called Snowball is made with one large square of white fabric in the middle and then small triangles of patterned fabric in the corners, this is made in a different way from the Nine Patch version.

I prefer to make the Nine Patch version, I like piecing these blocks as I find they go together easier. I have made it with the centre, like this one in a different colour, it makes a nice wreath effect pattern, either as a cushion or a wall hanging. I have then further decorated it with applique flowers or as a Christmas wreath with appliqued and quilted holly leaves. And I have also made it so that the centre and all the whole squares are the same colour, making it more like the other type of Snowball design, great for autograph blocks.

Whichever design and colour placement I use, this is one of the designs that I like and will go back to time and again.

Remember pattern is in the Members Section

Maple Leaf


This is one of those designs that you see around a lot in the autumn, in the rich reds and golds of that season’s colours, it somehow is a symbol of the autumn months. And yet maples are in leaf from the Spring – in many shades of green and other colours, yes, they are known for their stunning autumn colour. And for being the symbol of Canada.

Maple trees are a native species across a wide area, although we tend to think of them as Canadian especially because of Maple Syrup or Japanese for the beautiful decorative ones. The Field Maple is the native species of Britain and is hugely important to the biodiversity of traditional hedges.

Like so many of the Nine Patch designs there is no real information on when this block was first made, its thought to date from the early 1800’s. The first printed record of it was in Practical Needlework in 1906 and then again in the Kansas City Star in the 1920’s.

I have used the block a number of times over the years, especially years ago in both a quilt and also an autumn themed table runner – neither of which I have photos of. More recently I used just one Nine Patch Maple Leaf block in the Autumnal Wall hanging, at the bottom centre.

For this scrap buster Nine Patch block quilt I have gone with greens, instead of the more traditional autumn reds and golds. And I haven’t added a stem as is often seen in the design. The stems are either pieced, appliqued or embroidered. I decided not to add the stem, which for this size block I would have embroidered or quilted, as it would not look good with the final quilting that I am thinking of doing. If I change my mind on the quilting design, I may stitch on a stem later.

Looking at this block I rather fancy making lots of them in shades of green…….but that’s for the future!!!

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The Spool


This is one of those blocks that is so appreciated for a sewer/quilter, we use reels or spools of thread all the time!!!

I would call it a cotton Reel. So, what is the difference between a reel and spool, when I looked up the definition, they both have the same meaning ‘a cylinder on which thread, wire, film….is wound’. To me this block is an old-fashioned wooden cotton reel, the type my Grandmother had and I have a few for decoration. A reel of thread is what I use every day, made from plastic. A spool of thread to me, is the huge ones that when I have gone into historic mills they used to weave fabric or it is a spool of wire!

Apparently, spool is an American term for a reel! Hence that this block is called The Spool as all Nine Patch Blocks have American names, the huge melting pot of all types of patchwork.

Oddly enough when I researched this block, the first time it appears to have been published in a book was in 1970’s!!! Which seems really odd to me, I expected it to have been published a lot earlier. I am absolutely sure that it has been made for ever!!!

I have used it a fair number of times in different projects, in all different sizes, as it is always a good block for sewing themed projects. I would love to at some time in the future make a whole quilt with this pattern, with the thread squares in lots of different fabrics from my stash!!! Or maybe it would be a good project for one of my many Charm Packs – I will have to think on it…..

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Two By Three


There are a number of blocks similar to this one, made with dividing each of the Nine Patch squares into strips. This one is divided into two equal rectangles, with other versions it can be divided into three, and then its more commonly called Rail Fence or basket weave, or four or five and then it tends to be called Colt’s Corral. The other name for this version with the Squares divided into two rectangles is Virginia Worm Fence – no idea what a Worm fence is!!!

There is also a Four Patch version called Country Charm, the blocks are divided into four rectangles and then the top two are placed horizontally and the bottom two vertically.

When I was looking up this block, under all the names – Two by Three, Virginia Worm Fence, Rail Fence or Colt’s Corral, there wasn’t much information on the history, which is very common with all these blocks and quilts, there doesn’t seem to be one place that you can go to and find examples or history on a lot of these designs. It was first published in the early 1900’s and then again in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

When you make lots of these blocks and join them together as a whole quilt top, the design makes zig zag lines diagonally down, depending on the number of strips, width and colour placement, each quilt can look hugely different, from what is a simple design.

It was a design that I came across early on in my patchwork journey, when I bought the book 1,001 Patchwork Designs by Maggie Malone (Sterling Publishing 1982), and I have taught the Rail Fence version, as an individual quilt block many times in Sampler Quilts. When rotary cutters and mats first were introduced over here in the UK, this style of patchwork was one of those that was seen around a lot, it was a simple and quick design that worked with cutting long strips of fabric using the Rotary cutter, rulers and mat, stitching the strips together and then cutting them into squares and creating whole quilt tops. It was a brilliant quilt design to learn & practice using a rotary cutter.

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Ribbon Quilt


As an individual block, it doesn’t really look like a ribbon design, it is a definite Star design. The design only shows when you make a whole quilt top with lots of squares and join them all together then the ribbon shows up, running down the quilt, crisscrossing, with the corner HST creating squares in between.

With this project, creating the individual Nine Patch blocks, using up my scraps and playing with lots of different blocks, I am also designing lots of different quilts. I have the physically stitched scrap quilt I am making, a cross stitch version and then I have lots of quilts in the digital world on EQ8. I am designing each design as a whole top and also a version with lattice (borders) between the squares, both of these are the versions that I am putting as line drawings in the patterns for you to colour in. I am colouring these digital patterns in, in as similar colours as I am using in the stitched quilt but then also in any other colours I fancy, making the designs looking different. I am more than fulfilling my love of designing and making patchwork!!!

Like so many blocks there isn’t much written on it, the design was published from the 1920’s and appeared in different periodicals right up to the early 40’s. And then reappeared in the revival of the 1970’s.

This isn’t a block I have created before in any of my sampler quilts, but as an individual block it makes a lovely star design and stars are one of those patterns that I return to time and again, so I am sure at some point in the future this pattern will appear in a star themed nine patch sampler quilt!!!

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Puss In The Corner


Or Pussy in the Corner. I sort of understand the name, in that one little square out of four is a different colour, which I am presuming is meant to refer to the Puss in the Corner but how it got called that? I really have no idea.

I admit it is really hard to think up names for new designs, it is something I really struggle with, but I do often wonder where some of the names for Nine Patch Blocks come from and who thought them up. Sometimes they are bizarre.

This block was first published in 1931 under the Grandmother Clark range of quilt patterns by WLM Clark Inc of St Louis. They published a range of booklets on different crafts. The block was published in other publications - Nancy Cabot, Kansas City Star during the 1930’s and then reprinted in the 1960’s and 70’s with the resurgence of patchwork first in America and then in Britain.

I have looked at this block a lot of times over the years, considering it for different quilts I have been designing and making but I never used it. This project, making all these Nine Patch Blocks is great for using up scraps but also for making up blocks I haven’t created before. I started with all the blocks that I have used time and again and now onto those blocks I haven’t.

Looking at the whole quilt I have designed in EQ8 using this block, it isn’t a favourite, in fact it’s a bit nondescript, it doesn’t create a secondary pattern in anyway. I don’t think I would ever make it as a whole quilt, but I do think it works in a Sampler quilt, or as a Block I would use with an applique design on alternating squares.

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Split Nine Patch


I have seen two versions of the block called Split Nine Patch, this version that I have created, the other version is every square split in half.

With the version I have created it tends to be made in three fabrics, but the other version is made from lots of different ones, all mixed together, I guess it was a good way of using up lots of triangles left over from other squares or projects. The Half Square Triangle (HST) squares are a modern way of working, since we have had rotary cutters, self-healing mats and all the different rulers we now have, that make it quicker and simpler to make the blocks.

Originally or traditionally these types of pieced patchwork would have been made using individual triangles cut from the fabric and then stitched together.

This is another of those slightly weird designs, that has been around for ….forever but the first formal publication of the design, I have found, was in The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America by Caxton Print in 1935 according to Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopaedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, which tends to be the one that has the most information about pieced designs. I guess like so many patchwork designs there just were made but no one really thought about documenting them.

I have not made this block before, but it will be one I will return to. It is a nice block for alternative blocks with applique design and playing with designing quilts in EQ8, it really makes me want to create a floral wreath applique and pieced block quilt, I so love this type of design and I haven’t made one for years. It also is one of those that when lots of the same square is made, depending on how the squares are orientated depends on the secondary pattern that you have.

PS – that is 18 Nine Patch blocks stitched and made into two big squares with nine Nine Patch blocks in each one – that’s half way!!!

PSS – sorry if there are any grammar or spelling mistakes but Laura hasn’t edited this story, as she usually does with my written stuff.

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Home Queen


I haven’t made this block before, but I have fallen in love with it, I so want to make a quilt with all this design and use the variation layout, where the blocks are turned to create the secondary pattern. The design is in the images below. I liked the block before but when I was working with the design in EQ8, trying different layouts, something just clicked when I created the variation.

I have made similar ones like Jacob’s ladder (that will be along later in this series), from which, the Half square triangle squares and the squares divided into small squares, there are a number of similar blocks. Like all these Nine Patch blocks there are many that are alike.

All the versions I have seen of this block, and I haven’t managed to find many, it has been in just two colours and this is how I decided to make it. One colour for the background and another for the design.

Like all Nine Patch blocks, in fact all the pieced patchwork blocks, it has other names, in this case, I could only find one other and it was Rocky Road to California, this was the name the pattern was published under in the catalogue of the mail order company Ladies Art Company based in St Louis which was around from the 1890’s up until the 1970’s. The name Home Queen was used on a quilt published around 1910.

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Hour Glass


This isn’t the block design that I think off when you say Hourglass pieced design, that’s the single square divided into four triangles, using two colours with opposite triangles in the same colour. (illustration at the bottom to go with my description!!!).

But this block, along with a number of others, both Nine Patch and also Four Patch ones are all called Hour Glass – sometimes one word, sometimes two.

While doing this project I have been looking through my books – especially my old books from when I first started patchwork, books like 1,001 Patchwork Designs by Maggie Malone. And looking the software packages on my laptop - EQ8 and Blockbase and also researching designs on the internet.

There are so many designs with the same name, similar patterns, simple designs, complicated ones - squares further divided into more squares that are then divided in half, quarter or into triangles. There is such a choice of designs, but I am keeping it fairly simple, because of the size of my finished Blocks I don’t want to divide each square up any smaller than into quarters, so I am not making the really complicated ones. This Block is a nice simple one.

There isn’t a lot of history or background to on this one, just a reference that say it was published in 1929 in the book Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women That Made Them. Like all the books and publications listed in my Stories they are American Publication.

If I made a quilt with the whole top made from this block, it’s not a very interesting design if all put together in the same direction but play with the layout of the blocks, turning them and you can create a secondary pattern that is a lot more interesting. That’s the great thing about the quilt design software you can play with Blocks, colouring them in in different fabrics, changing the placement, creating lots of different quilt designs, fairly simply and quickly. Just from this Nine Patch Block project I have over 70 different designs for quilts and I am only just over half way through!!!

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Wild Geese


I have made lots of quilts, either whole top design or a single square in a quilt using the very similar design Flying Geese. With the Flying Geese design the ‘geese’ are created by either two Half Square Triangles of the same fabric being put together to create a large triangle, or the ‘geese’ are created by folding squares into triangles, there are other methods as well. I haven’t seen Flying Geese created this way before, but I can see the similarities between the finished patterns, and I guess that is why it is called Wild Geese. It’s just a slightly simplified version of the bigger Flying Geese design.

The name Wild Geese is the oldest of the names that I could find in my research, it was published in Capper on Quilting, a periodical published in America from 1880’s onwards. In the 1930’s it was called One Way by Nancy Cabot. Then published in 1968 as Trip to the Alter in the Craft Horizons periodical, then in the 1970’s it was given another new name -Geometric Patchwork, and this can be found in a number of publications on quilting from this era.

Wild Geese probably only works if the design is made in certain colour ways, one side of the HST in a goose colour and the other in a sky colour, as if you are looking up at the birds flying, or a ground colour, as if you are looking down on the birds from above – you are flying above the birds. Otherwise, I think the name Geometric patchwork works better.

It’s an easy design to create, as long as you are happy to make lots of HST squares. If created in just two colours it could feel very ‘flat’ but if the background colour was changed through the quilt, say using different sky shades, may be dawn to dusk, then it would look completely different and have real impact. It is a quilt that the colours used to make the squares change dramatically how it looks.

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Farm Friendliness


I can’t say the name is the easiest to say!!! And the name, like so many with these blocks doesn’t really equate to the block design, but then I am not sure what Farm Friendliness means!!!

The name makes sense when you learn that this block was published in the Farm Journal which an American periodical first published in 1877, which during the 20th century did mail order patchwork patterns. The pattern isn’t listed under any other names, according to Barbara Brackman’s Blockbase.

As I have said before with this project, I am stitching individual blocks in scrap fabric, in a small scale, to make up a Sampler Quilt. And I am also designing quilts in EQ8 for each block. A whole top made from the design and also one with lattice in between, this gives different views, you can see the how the design works, change the colours, play with the design and see if it has a secondary pattern. This design certainly has a secondary pattern, the central lines come to the fore and mark a strong cross pattern and the corner triangle squares make a secondary pattern behind as squares.

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Darting Birds


This is another one of those designs that I really can’t see how the name works with the design, Darting Birds!! I have tried turning the design in different ways, when I was drawing it up in EQ8, I tried it in lots of different colours, to see if it made a difference, but no. I really can’t see birds let alone darting ones!!!

Its name according Barbara Brackman in Blockbase comes from Nancy Page mail order company of the 1920’s to the 1940’s. There are no other references given for it. But I am sure that I have seen the design on older quilts, in one of my many Quilt History books, maybe it had another name.

I played around with the design and by turning the placement of the blocks in a whole quilt, you can get a totally different looking design with secondary patterns, not just one pattern but depending on the colour placement, a number.

Actually what I think this Block looks like is a spiky flower head, see the magenta and green version below. It makes a stunning flower design, I love it in this colourway as a whole quilt. It might be a design I come back to at sometime in the distance future!!! There are so many designs I would like to come back to in the future when I have more time….

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Dragon's Head


This is the 24th Nine Patch Block that I have made, I need 36 in total, so I have 12 more to make. They are lots more Nine Patch Blocks that I could choice from, but I am trying to keep to the simpler ones, as my Block are only 6” square when finished, without the borders, each little square is 2” finished. I don’t want to get too complicated and divide the squares up into tiny pieces, halves and quarters are fine but any more and its fiddly and that is not what I want from this project.

So, this is the 24th Block, its called Dragon’s Head, but why? No idea. All I can find about this design is that it was published in Women’s World a periodical by Manning Publishing Company of Chicago in the 1920’s and 30’s. But why it has the name, there isn’t any information.

This block is actually the same construction as both Churn Dash and Greek Cross blocks, but the placement of fabric and colour changes the design around.

A whole quilt top of Dragon’s Head, gives a secondary pattern created by the corner blocks, in the colourway I have chosen they seem to stand out from the quilt.

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Double Hour Glass


This is actually the same design as Contrary Wife that I made earlier in this series, the difference is the placement of the colours. Just by that simple change the block looks different and it got published under a different name – in this case the Double Hour Glass.

This version of the design was published in 1933 in the Nancy Cabot mail order catalogue, according to Barbara Brackman and Blockbase. I so often come across that these Nine Patch Blocks were first published in the 1930’s, in newspapers or in mail order catalogues. The 1930’s in America was a time of huge revival of traditional pieced patchwork and quilting, with the Great Depression. And interestingly enough, whenever there is an upturn in patchwork quilts and generally any craft from crochet, knitting to stitching it is during times of economic downturns or times of social change and uncertainly.

I have used this block or rather the Contrary Wife layout of colours in my big Nine Patch quilt, inspired by marble floors and made in the natural stone range of colours from Stonehenge that I made years ago – well in 2013, so eleven years ago. The quilt is one that we use on our bed every winter and is possibly my husband’s favourite.

These types of Nine Patch Blocks make great patterns on their own, and depending on the fabric colour placement the design can change and have a secondary pattern. But they also look good combined with floral blocks, alternating between pieced and floral, depending on the colours used and the layout it has different patterns across the top of the quilt, I have digitally created an example, which is below. I love these quilts that are a combination of applique, either hand or machine and pieced blocks.

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Eccentric Star 2


Yes, I know I have already stitched a Nine Patch Desing called Eccentric Star but this is also called Eccentric Star and although similar is different from the first one.

I really like Nine Patch Star designs, they are my favourite, especially the Friendship Star, it is so simple to create, this one comes a close second. The star in the middle stands out and then you have the pieces in the corner to add just a little extra.

I have used Nine Patch Star designs time and time again on different quilts, from my big Block quilt designed to look like marble flooring, to the Friendship quilt I made for my best friend to the quilt I made for my nephew. Stars are something I return to and probably will return to and make numerous times, especially these Nine Patch type.

Although this design is shown in my EQ8 and Blockbase software, there is no history attached to it, it is believed that it was printed in the Nancy Cabot syndicated column designs of the 1930s in America, but there was a question mark about it. It is a much older design, that was made again in the 1930s, then revived again in the 1970s and just been around.

As an individual square, I like the design and like so many others when made as a whole quilt top, it has a secondary design formed by the corner blocks, they look like little sails on a windmill to me!!!

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Broken Sugar Bowl


Some of these blocks do have odd names!!! And I know that I keep saying it, but they do. I have found this one called Broken Sugar Bowl – it was published under this name in the Kansas City Star in 1942, but earlier than that it was published under the name Road to the White House by the Farm Journal periodical in the late 19th century and then again in the 1970’s.

This is the 27th Nine Patch Block that has gone into the four bigger squares making up the main centre of the quilt, this marks the end of the making the third square. Just one more bigger square made up of another nine Nine Patch Block designs to go. I have also got to make the back up of each of the squares and like the front I want to use up a lot of the smaller pieces of fabric to create them. Then I will have to decide on what pattern I am going to quilt it all in, put the four bigger squares together and decide on the borders!!!

As usual I played around with the design in EQ8, tried it with and without sashing/borders round the square and also with turning the blocks alternately, this completely changes the look of the design and makes a completely different quilt design. This is the fun part of making these squares, I am making one small Nine Patch Block in fabric, using scraps and yet I am creating the minimum of 3, something 5 or 6 versions of the quilt in EQ8 and is lots of possibilities!!!

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