Beginner Patterns for Quilting

    by Amma Marfo

    About the Author

    Amma Marfo is a higher education professional and writer. Presently, she shares her writing expertise in the Office of Student Activities and Multicultural Programs at Emmanuel College in Boston.


    As a beginning quilter, you'll see many spectacular patterns that can be quite intimidating to sew. In order to gain some of the sewing confidence you need as a quilter, start small with beginner patterns for quilting that won't challenge your skills beyond their limits. Once you have a handle on these straight seam patterns, you'll be able to use them as building blocks for all of your quilts to come.

    Four Patch and Nine Patch Blocks

    One of the most used and versatile patterns is the four patch and its big brother, the nine patch. Needing only two colors or tones of fabrics, the four and nine patch blocks can be used with specific fabrics or with scrap fabrics to create simple quilts. Just be sure to stick to a pattern of light and dark fabrics to help push the pattern along, especially when using scrap fabrics that don't match. Alternated with solid fabric blocks, or turned on point, the four and nine patch blocks can quickly create a large quilt even when small blocks are used.

    Rail Fence Blocks

    One of the easiest blocks to make, the rail fence quilt also follows color patterns, but uses light, medium and dark fabrics. The individual block is made when three or more strips of fabric, all of the same width, are sewn side by side running from light to medium to dark. When the blocks are turned, a zigzag pattern is created and often different illusions can be made depending on the placement of the blocks and the fabrics used.

    Flying Geese Block

    Another foundation piece to learn as a beginner is a flying geese block. The flying geese consist of two colors or tones, with one large triangle as the first color, and two small triangles on either side of the larger one in the second color. When sewn together, the three triangles create one rectangular piece to work with. Several of these blocks can be strung together to create a pieced border or placed into a larger block to create star blocks, pinwheels and other patterns.


    A simple, easy border is created by using one solid piece of fabric around the edges of the quilt. Usually the side borders will be added, followed by the top and bottom pieces. A good rule of thumb is to use a border the same width as your blocks for a large border, or use half to a third of the width of your blocks for a narrower border. Some quilts however, use multiple borders to add depth to the quilt. This can be done by adding a simple, framing 1-inch wide border to the inside, followed by a wider border. A third border can be used, if desired. You can create a pieced border to stretch the piecing of the quilt to the edges.


    When it's time to quilt your finished top, remember that the quilting you choose to add creates a second layer of design over top of your pieced blocks. The quilting can either complement or contrast the piecing work you have done. To complement the piece, choose quilting patterns that emphasize your sewing lines and patterns. For example, quilt in images of large flowers to suit several floral prints in the fabric. To contrast the blocks with your quilting pattern, consider adding curved lines when your piecing only uses straight lines. You could also cross over the blocks without regard to pieced seams, creating secondary patterns rather than highlighting the blocks themselves. The most important aspect of quilting is to have fun and be creative.


    • Quilter's Complete Guide; Marianne Fons and Liz Porter