How to Make a Tumbling Blocks Quilt

    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.


    The tumbling block pattern is quite simple, yet it includes complicated components. When making a tumbling block quilt, you can lend a bit of sophistication or charm just by changing the fabric choices. The key to making the quilt is careful planning and placement. A design board makes it simpler, since the project can take a while to finish, and re-laying out the pieces can become frustrating if done more than a few times.

    Things You'll Need

    • 60-degree diamond template or acrylic ruler
    • Equal quantities of light, medium and dark fabrics
    • Rotary cutter or scissors
    • Pencil
    • Sewing machine, optional
    • Backing fabric
    • Batting
    • Safety pins
    • Binding strips

    show more

    Pick the size of the diamonds for your blocks. Large diamonds will make a quilt faster than smaller diamonds, but they will give you a different look. Large diamonds with only three fabrics can be used to force the tumbling block pattern, while small blocks, done in a variety of fabrics, can give a crafty, home-warmed feeling.

    Cut out equal amounts of fabric from the three shades using a 60-degree angle diamond template or an acrylic rotary ruler with a rotary cutter. If hand-piecing, you may want to trace only the diamond shape and cut a quarter of an inch away. The drawn line becomes your seam line.

    Lay out your fabric diamonds on an undisturbed table or design board in the desired pattern. Keep the fabric pattern consistent to keep the visual effect of the blocks repeating.

    Piece the blocks, using the method of your choice. One method involves sewing all the blocks themselves and then connecting them individually to complete the quilt. Hold your pieces right sides together to join them. If the wrong edges are sewn together, the "block" pattern may fail or the seams may show.

    Create your quilt top in a different way if you want to use the star method. This involves pairing up six diamonds at a time with the light, medium and dark fabrics, always rotating them in the same order. In this method, the fabric shades also line up opposite themselves; the medium fabric will be across from the other medium fabric in a repeating pattern.

    Piece your blocks or stars by starting your sewing line a quarter of an inch from the end and finishing one quarter of an inch away from the other end. It may help to mark a quarter inch dot on the wrong side of all four edges of each diamond before sewing. Sewing at these points will allow the seams to press and lay flat.

    Sew the block units until you have enough to piece the entire top together. For the stars, additional diamonds will be needed to space the stars out. Pay attention to the placement and color of the additional diamonds between the stars as the quilt top is pieced. Add additional diamonds to the edges, if desired, or cut along the outermost blocks to create a straight edge for the quilt.

    Lay the backing fabric right side down, topped by the batting. Place the quilt top wrong side down over the batting and backing. Pin the layers together.

    Quilt in a desired pattern and complete the quilt by attaching the binding.

    • For a nostalgic, farm quilt look, try using scrap pieces of fabric without following the light, medium and dark pattern for the blocks. Simply sew the quilt, choosing fabric at random. The pattern will show through, even though the fabrics don't force the tumbling block illusion.
    • Double check your piecing alignment before sewing. Pin the pieces and open the folds to be sure that the alignment is correct.