How to Hand Piece a Four Patch Quilt Block
In Mally the Maker and the Queen in the Quilt, the very first quilt block Mally tries to piece is a Four Patch. This simple block is made from four squares of fabric and it's the perfect block to learn the basics of hand piecing.
Learn how to hand piece your first quilt block in this quilting tutorial:
Let's gather our materials to get started. To make a 4 Patch quilt block, you will need the following:
Cut 2 - 5-inch squares of green fabric
Cut 2 - 5-inch squares of purple fabric
Thread to match one fabric color
Ruler and fabric marking pen
One pin to hold the fabrics together
#9 Sharps hand sewing needles
Now let's work through all the steps one by one so you can create a beautiful Four Patch quilt block entirely by hand:
Step 1 - Thread your needle
It's tempting to cut off a super long piece of thread so you have enough for all the seams in your block. The downside is your thread can tangle and knot easily if it's too long, as Mally experienced several times in the book.
Cut a piece of thread around the length from your elbow to your wrist. I know that doesn't seem like much, but it's perfect for getting started.
Now thread your needle by poking the end through the hole in the needle. It's okay to lick the end of the thread so it fits through. I do that all the time.
Pull the thread through the eye and bring the ends together and tie an overhand knot. This is a simple knot that looks like a pretzel. First make a loop, then pass the thread tails through the loop and tighten down the ends to create the knot.
Step 2 - Draw your seam allowance
When making a quilt, we always add 1/4 inch to all the sides of all of our shapes. When we piece, we want to take away that 1/4 inch exactly to leave the perfect sized shape behind.
With practice you'll be able to eyeball that 1/4-inch seam allowance. But if you're just starting out, you might want to mark it. Place your fabric right side down and use a ruler to a ruler to mark a straight line 1/4-inch from the edge of the fabric.
Yes, you can use just a regular lead pencil for marking this line because it's on the wrong side of your fabric and your stitches will go through the line.
Step 3 - Stitch the seam
This is the step you really want to take your time on! Stack two squares so the pretty sides are together and the edges are perfectly aligned. Insert your needle 1/4-inch from the edge and push the needle through, then turn it around and push it back to the side facing you.
Then pull the needle gently so the thread slides through the fabric pieces and the knot rests flat against the fabric surface.
Now let's back stitch a bit so the entire seam is secure. Insert the needle back through the first hole you made in the fabric and take the next stitch towards the edge of the pieces.
That's a back stitch to secure the edge nice and tight so the pieces will be locked together super tight. Ms. Bunny loves to back stitch!
Now you can stitch back through the holes you created before to get back to the beginning and work across the fabric.
One way to stitch is to insert the needle, bring your hand around the back of your pieces, and rotate the needle around to insert it back into the fabric. But this is a bit tricky, especially when you're trying to make straight, even stitches.
An easier thing to do is make a rock stitch.
Insert the needle into the fabrics so the tip goes through both layers, then rock the needle down so it's parallel with the fabric surface.
Slide it forward and the tip will naturally poke back through the two layers of fabric so you can grab the needle and pull it through.
This method of rock stitching can really come in handy and it will save you lots of time too.
Once you stitch to the end of your two squares, take another back stitch by stitching backwards through a previous stitch. Then tie another overhand knot to secure your thread and clip off the end.
You completed your first seam!
Step 4 - Piece the second seam and press the seam allowances
Repeat Step 4 and piece the second set of squares together carefully. At this point you should have two sets of two fabric squares pieced together.
On one side you will see the pretty fabrics and the seam line down the center. That's the right side.
On the wrong side, you'll see the back side of the fabrics and the seam allowance - that's the extra 1/4-inch from both fabrics that we take away when piecing shapes together.
This seam allowance is very important to your quilt because it holds your stitches and locks the pieces together. To best protect your hand stitching, let's press one set of seam allowances to the left and one set of seam allowances to the right.
Or if you have light and dark fabrics, press the seam allowances towards the darker fabrics.
Machine Piecing Note: this is a special instruction for hand piecing only. When I piece fabrics together with a sewing machine, I always press my seam allowances open to reduce bulk behind the quilt top.
Step 5 - Finishing the four patch quilt block
Now comes the fun part - piecing the two units together to finish the quilt block.
Stack the pieces together so they are right sides together and line up the center seam so the seam lines are stacked perfectly on top of one another. If you like, place a pin in the center to keep the seams locked in place.
Now thread your needle, tie a knot in the tails, and begin stitching again exactly as before. This will feel different because the quilt block is larger now and you have double the amount of fabric in your hands. Sit at a table so you can rest the block on the surface and not get discombobulated as you stitch (as Mally did several times!)
When you reach the center of the quilt block, make sure the seam allowances are pointing in different directions and take a back stitch right in the center to lock the pieces together securely.
Continue stitching to the end and back stitch to finish it off.
Press the seam allowance to one side and enjoy your finished four patch quilt block. Ta da!
Now repeat these steps 19 more times to create 20 squares, then piece them together to make a small baby quilt. By the time you reach the last square, you will likely have taken your 1000th stitch and as Patch says in the book - it takes 1000 stitches for this to feel comfortable and fun!
If you're needing more inspiration for hand piecing, make sure to check out Mally the Maker and the Queen in the Quilt, a quilt fantasy story set in a magical world where everything is made of fabric and thread and stuffed animals can come to life.
Mally has to stitch her way out of many sticky situations and her hand piecing skills definitely get a work out!
Let's go quilt,