This tutorial demonstrates how to use a modified strip piecing technique to make many scrappy four patch blocks much quicker than going square by square.
Strip piecing works well when only using two fabrics to make four patch blocks but it won’t work if you want a scrappy quilt. Instead, a modified technique using rectangles instead of strips is a fast and easy way to get a lot of scrappy variety in your four patch blocks.
How to make a scrappy four patch using rectangles
Step 1: Cutting the rectangles
For this example, I am making finished 2″ square four patch blocks. So, to factor in the 1/2″ seam allowance, cut 1-1/2″ x 3″ rectangles from a wide variety of fabrics. Try to cut them from lights and darks to give a bit of contrast to your quilt. Of course, light and dark is subjective and the quilt can be interesting if you vary the values of the fabric. Too many mediums makes the colors blend together. This isn’t a bad thing if you like a more muted quilt but it is something to keep in mind when designing.
Stack your rectangles into a pile of lights and a pile of darks.
Note: It is helpful if you keep a box of 1-1/2″ strips stored with your stash. Then you can just pull out the bin and start cutting rectangles.
Step 2: Sewing the rectangles together
Match a dark rectangle and a light rectangle, right sides together (rst) and sew them together along the long side using at 1/4″ seam allowance. Sew together as least 8 pairs.
Note: I use a scant 1/4″ seam allowance which will make the finished four patch just a tiny bit bigger than the desired 2-1/2″ unfished size. That way, I can trim the block so that it is exactly the size I want. Press the seams toward the darker fabric.
See my sewing machine screen below. The needle is one position to the right of center. This setting still works with my straight stitch presser foot. Double check yours before sewing so you do not damage your machine!
Step 3: Sewing the pairs into strips
Stitch the pairs together along the short sides and form a long strip, about eight pairs long. See the image below and make sure you alternate the position of the dark rectangles in your strip. DO NOT press these seams yet. That comes later.
Step 4: Cutting the rectangle strips into 4-patch squares
Lay your strip on your cutting mat and flip the first pair of strips over so that right sides are together and the stitched seam is on your left.
Using your rotary cutter and ruler, measure 1-1/2″ from the left side and cut. See image below.
After this first cut you will have a four patch (piece in center) and two squares sewn together (piece on left). Set the latter aside for now.
Now flip the next little section over so the seam is to your left and cut another 1.5″ section.
Keep cutting and flipping and cutting again for the whole strip. When you get to the end, you will have another piece with just two squares.
The piece you set aside at the start of the strip can be sewn together with the piece that was left over from the last cut to form one more four patch block.
Press the seam open for each four patch block you just made. It’s quick and the block lays flatter.
Step 5: Squaring up the four patch blocks
As mentioned previously, the reason I like to sew with a scant 1/4″ seam is so that it is just a bit bigger than I need and I can trim the finished four patch so that it measures exactly 2.5″. Measure each four patch you just made and trim if necessary.
It’s not much but I got this little pile from trimming about 24 four patch blocks.
A bunch of scrappy four patches that are all different without having to sew them all together from little squares.
It’s productive to take a bit of time to make a batch of these scrappy four patch blocks and then save them in a basket or box. They will be ready when the urge strikes you to make a scrappy four patch quilt.
I have the perfect project for you to use these scrappy four patches. Visit this post on how the four patch is a favorite block for small quilts. You’ll need 48 of these 2-1/2″ unfinished blocks for that little quilt.