Posted in Quilting

Making 4-Patch Quilt Blocks Two at a Time

Making 4-Patch Quilt Blocks Two at a Time is a great skill to know. There is something super satisfying about  starting with two squares of fabric and sewing a total of four lines of stitching but ending up with two great 4-patch quilt blocks! Sounds a bit like magic doesn’t it?

Making 4-patch quilt blocks two at a time is so great if you are making a number of identical 2 colour 4-patch quilt blocks.

It therefore really is a great skill to have and this tutorial will tell you everything that you need to know about this method.

You can scroll through this tutorial in order, or you can click on any of the buttons below to jump right to the section you are most interested in.

What is the Two at a Time Method?

The 4-Patch Quilt Blocks Two at a Time method is a quick way of making 4-patch quilt blocks two at a time (the clue is in the name!).

In essence, you take 2 equally sized larger squares (or patches) and sew them together along the outer edges. You then cut the block in half between the two lines of stitching. After the halves have been pressed with the seams to one side, one of the halves are rotated 180 degrees and they are sewn together again. Finally  the unit is cut in half one more time to reveal the two identical 4-patch quilt blocks.

Pros and Cons of the Two at a Time Method

This is a great method to know as it is slightly quicker than making two individual 4-patch quilt blocks. If you are after variety in your blocks though, this may not be the method to choose. 

Here are some pros and cons of the Two at a Time method:

  • makes 2 identical blocks
  • slightly quicker than making two blocks using the one at a time method
  • great when working with scraps or larger pieces of fabric (depending on the block size you are making!)
  • easy and quick way of making 4-patches from pre-cuts
  • perfect when working with 2 colour 4-patch quilt blocks
  • not ideal if you need blocks that are all different
  • not ideal if you only need one quilt block!
  • quilt math is more challenging, working out the starting square size
  • not appropriate when needing 3 colour or 4 colour 4-patch blocks

If you would also like to learn about the One at a Time method click below. The tutorial and blog post for the Strip Piecing method is coming soon!

How to make a 4-Patch Quilt Block -Two at a Time Method

You can follow this illustrated step by step guide, or you can jump straight to the demonstration video…

Size of Squares Needed when Making 4-patch Quilt Blocks 2 at a Time

When making two 4-patch quilt blocks, following this method, you will need 2 squares of fabric. The size of each of these squares will be your finished block size, plus 1″.

for example:

finished block = 8″ square

unfinished block = 8.5″ square

starting squares = 8″ + 1″ = 9″ square (one in each colour)

Colours/Fabrics required

You may have seen that 4-patch quilt blocks can be made from 2, 3 or 4 different fabrics/prints/colours. This method, however, only produces 4-patch quilt blocks with two colours. If you need to make 3 or 4 colour 4-patch quilt blocks then consider using the One at a Time or the Strip Piecing method OR see the bottom of this tutorial to see how you can use this method to make a liar out of me!

Remember to choose fabric pairings that have a good level of contrast for the most effective results.

Steps to Sewing Two 4-patch Quilt Blocks at a Time

Step 1 – place the two squares of fabric right sides together. Sew along two opposite edges, using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Step 2 – cut the unit in half vertically, between the two lines of stitching. DO NOT cut across your stitching lines.

The example in this illustration shows a 9″ square to be cut in half 4 1/2″ from the outer vertical raw edges.

Step 3 – press the seam allowances on these two units in the same direction. This is normally done towards the darker fabric.

Step 4 – place the units right sides together, rotating one of the units 180 degrees so that you are able to nest the seam allowances (which should now be pointing in opposite directions). Pin if desired.

Rotate the whole unit 90 degrees and, with a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew along the two raw edges that run perpendicular to the stitching line that was created in step 1.

Step 5 – cut the unit in half vertically one more time. Again cut between the two lines of stitching.

The example in this illustration shows a unit that is 9″ wide that needs to be cut in half, which is 4 1/2″ from the outer vertical raw edges.

Step 6 – from the wrong side press the seam allowances on the horizontal seams in opposite directions*. You may need to loosen some of the threads at the centre of the blocks to allow the centre to swirl/spin. This will create a mini 4-patch in the centre of the block. Flip the blocks over to the right side and press again.

Note – one block will have the seam allowances swirling in a clockwise direction and the other will have the seam allowances swirling in an anti-clockwise direction

* swirling the centre point will allow the block to sit flatter. You can press the horizontal seam open or in one direction if you prefer.

In this image you can see how the two vertical seams are pointing in alternate directions (they were nested in step 4). The horizontal seam is then separated at the centre of the block so that the seam can be pressed with half going up and the other half going down (see step 6).

This is a close up picture of the centre seam after it has been ‘swirled’. A few stitches were loosened so that the seam allowances could be spread evenly around the centre point.

Video Demonstration

How to make a 4-Patch Quilt Block – Two at a Time Method

Below you can watch a full length video of me demonstrating the 4-Patch Quilt Blocks Two at a Time method. I have chosen two fabrics with a high level of contrast for maximum impact.

Love this method but REALLY want to use more colours?

How to make 3-colour or 4-colour 4-patch quilt blocks with this method

Now, I know that I said that this method is only suitable for making two-colour 4-patch quilt blocks…but I lied….kind of!

In order to make three-coloured or four-coloured 4-patch quilt blocks you can start with two fabric pairings, rather than one. This does however mean that you will end up with four 4-patch quilt blocks, instead of two!

Note – the 4-colour blocks will not be identical, you will have 2 each that will be the mirror image of each other (see below)

In the tutorial above we started with two fabrics and ended up with 2 two-colour 4-patch quilt blocks. If you start with three fabrics (one each of two fabrics and two of a third fabric) you will get four three-colour 4-patch blocks. If you start with four fabrics (one in each colour) you will end up with four four-colour 4-patch quilt blocks (that was a bit of a mouthful!)

Two Colour

1 pair/2 squares
MAKES
2 x 2-colour, 4-patch blocks

Three Colour

2 pairs/4 squares
MAKES
4 x 3-colour, 4-patch blocks

Four Colour

2 pairs/4 squares
MAKES
4 x 4-colour, 4-patch blocks
(two sets of mirror image pairs)

I hope that you found this tutorial on making 4-Patch Quilt Blocks Two at a Time useful and that you have picked up a new tip or two along the way!

If you would like a deep dive into the 4-patch quilt block (exploring layout styles, the effect of colour and different construction methods), then check out The Ultimate Guide to 4-Patch Quilt Blocks.

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