Small Wonders: Mastering Tiny Nine Patch Blocks Without the Fuss

Tiny quilt blocks can have a big impact in a quilt. Learning tips for working with small pieces will make the process easier on the quilter.

Making tiny nine patch blocks can be a tedious process. Using the traditional square-by-square piecing technique, you must cut and sew nine small individual squares for each block. If your goal is to make very scrappy blocks, that’s really the only way to do it. However, if you want a quilt that is scrappy but faster to piece, I have a modified strip piecing method that enables you to make five tiny nine patch blocks at a time from just two rectangles of fabric.

The Double Nine Patch setting here uses five nine patch blocks in each larger block. This would be an excellent arrangement for blocks made with the modified strip piecing technique featured in this post.

The five blocks you will make using this method will be identical. But, if you vary the light and dark fabrics you use for each set of five you can create many different fabric combinations. You won’t have a “charm” quilt (one where no fabric is repeated) but you will definitely have a very scrappy quilt.

The Modified Strip Piecing Technique

The nice thing about tiny blocks is that you don’t need a lot of fabric. The challenging thing about tiny blocks is that you aren’t working with a lot of fabric. The little squares float away, get stuck to your fingers and clothes, and have a knack for disappearing when you need them. Strip piecing allows you to work with bigger pieces and you are making five blocks at a time. We start with two rectangles of fabric, a light and a dark.

Step one:

It’s important to note that nine patch blocks will either have five dark blocks placed in the corners and center and four light blocks filling in, or the reverse, five lights and four darks. For this tutorial, there will be five darks. The measurements provided will result in 1-1/2″ (finished) tiny nine patches. I will provide cutting information for 2-1/4″ and 3″ finished nine patches at the end of this tutorial.

Choose a light and dark fabric. Cut a 5-1/2″ square from the dark and a 4-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ rectangle from the light fabric. Technically, these pieces can be a half inch smaller. But, your blocks will come out more accurately if you allow for a little bit of extra fabric. You can make sure you are working with even edges. And, a slip of a couple of threads width here and there won’t leave you short in your last cut.

Step 2:

Cut the 5-1/2” x 5-1/2” dark square into (five) 1” x 5-1/2” strips. Cut the light fabric into (four) 1” x 5-1/2” strips. They will look like the illustration below.

Step 3:

Sew a dark strip to a light strip along the long sides. Repeat two more times so you have three pairs of strips, one dark and one light in each pair. All seams are ¼”. Press the seams toward the dark fabric. I trim the seam allowance to 1/8” at this point to reduce some of the bulk. You can leave it untrimmed. The reason I do it now is that it is very difficult to sew an accurate 1/8” seam. It’s better to trim afterwards. Trimming can get tedious and it’s not required for success.

Step 4:

Add another light strip to the dark side of one of the pairs so those strips are light-dark-light. Add a dark strip to the light side of the remaining two pairs so those sets are dark-light-dark. Again, press seams toward the dark fabric. See illustration below.

Step 5:

Next, cut each of the strip sets into 1” segments. You’ll have 10 dark-light-dark segments (segment A) and 5 light-dark-light segments (segment B).

Step 6:

Now it is time to start assembling your nine patches. Sew a segment A to a segment B. Press the seam open (do not trim). Then add another segment A to the B segment. Again, press the seam open. Make five of these and you have completed five tiny nine patch blocks.

Are you wondering why the brown and white pieces in the figures above don’t look square? That’s because they still include the seam allowances. To make it easier to visualize, I added a dashed line to each segment. Everything within the dashed lines is what will show in the ultimately completed block.

When your nine patch is sewn together it is still “unfinished.” That’s because it still needs to be sewn to other blocks to make the quilt. If you measure the block in a finished quilt it will be 1-1/2″. That’s the finished size.

What size should I cut for larger blocks?

For those participating in the Tiny Nine Patch Challenge, I am including cutting sizes for scrappy strip piecing for 2-1/4″ and 3″ blocks. For bigger sizes, just cutting strips rather than starting with a square or rectangle. The purpose of the larger shape is for easier handling and sewing of little blocks.

Interested in seeing more about making and using little nine patch blocks? Click the links below!

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  1. Hello, I am writing from France, so excuse my english 🙂
    Can you tell me approximately, how much fabric is needed for the blocks between the nines.
    Thank you.

  2. Thanks for sharing these tips each week. So far, I am making steady progress-12 per week. While I’m not making 5 at a time, I came up with a strip piecing method that works for me. I wanted to share something that I’ve been doing. My 2 color strips are just a bit longer. I cut one pair and save in a bowl, then proceed with my nine patch. My hope is that when I get to that border, I will have some pieces ready to go and not cop out!

  3. Clever girl! I’ll be making a few 9patches like this, just for fun. I already have hundreds of squares cut so I can try to match the pictures each week.
    Love, love, love your wee house block!!

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