Explore the essential traditional quilt patterns and blocks that every quilter should know!
From the basic quilt blocks like the half-square triangle to timeless classics like the double wedding ring quilt. Discover the well-known quilt patterns and blocks, construction details, and the easiest methods to piece together these traditional quilt patterns.
There is pretty much an infinite number of traditional quilt patterns and blocks out there. They originate in different places and come from different eras.
We’re not even going to attempt to build a historically accurate list with all the details of where and when each pattern or block originates.
Instead, view this as an essential overview of traditional quilt patterns and blocks that can serve as a great source of inspiration for modern quilters like yourself.
You’ll find basic quilting blocks like the half-square triangle block, quarter-square block, and flying geese, often serving as the foundation for more intricate traditional quilt blocks. We’ve also included classic quilt blocks pieced from smaller units, each with its unique name (such as the 9-patch block, Irish chain block, etc.), as well as well-known traditional quilt patterns that remain timeless sources of quilting inspiration.
- Basic Blocks For Quilt Patterns
- Blocks For Traditional Quilt Patterns
- The Most Popular Traditional Quilt Patterns
Basic Blocks For Quilt Patterns
When I say basic quilt blocks, I’m referring to the most simple building blocks in quilting. These are typically the smallest units commonly used to create larger and more intricate traditional quilt patterns and blocks.
These basic blocks serve as fundamental elements both in traditional quilt patterns and modern quilt designs.
You’ll see that for many of them there are various method that speed up the process of making these blocks. So you get multiple blocks made in one go and save some time.
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Half-Square Triangle Quilt Block
A half square triangle block (or HST) is one of the most used quilting blocks. They are pieced from two 90-degree triangles that are sewn together along their long side (the diagonal) and together they form a square.
Usually, you’ll need more than just one HST for your project, so there are different handy methods to create multiple blocks simultaneously.
We provide step-by-step half square triangle tutorials for four different methods that generate up to eight half-square triangles at once.
Quarter Square Triangle Quilt Block
As the name suggests, the quarter square triangle is pieced from four same-sized 90-degree triangles that together form a square. This block is often seen in traditional quilt patterns.
Pieced from 4 triangles, this block offers various color combinations and therefore different outcomes. Similar to the half-square triangle block, this block can be made using different methods. Discover more in our quarter square block tutorial.
Flying Geese Block
The flying geese block is a rectangular quilt block pieced together from three triangles: one large triangle and two smaller ones. The central triangle points upward, with a smaller triangle on each side. When assembled, they create a rectangle that is twice as long as it is tall (2a x a).
This quilt block is simple yet dynamic. It looks great in modern minimalist patterns when used alone (like our Flying Goslings quilt pattern) and often serves as a building block in traditional quilt patterns, such as the Dutchman’s puzzle quilt.
Learn more about the flying geese block and in our flying geese block tutorial.
Blocks For Traditional Quilt Patterns
Explore the most common traditional quilt blocks. You’ll see these used all the time in traditional quilt patterns. But modern pattern designers often build their patterns on these traditional blocks, reinterpreting them to fit their modern aesthetic.
The 9-Patch Block
The 9-patch block might feel too simple to be even called a block. But in fact, it’s the foundation of so many other traditional quilt blocks you see out there (and modern, as well!).
This block is just what the name says – a block consisting of 9 (square) patches. It’s the choice of fabrics and how you arrange them that can really make this block shine.
The 9-patch block is such a great block to start your quilting journey with that we included it in the 8 Crazy Simple Quilting Blocks for Beginners – make sure you check those out!
The Churn Dash Block
The Churn Dash quilt block is a classic and traditional quilt block design that has been popular for many years. Its name is derived from the idea that the block’s central design resembles the shape of a butter churn and its handle.
The block is constructed from four half-square triangles and four simple two-color rail fence blocks arranged around a central square.
It’s definitely one of the more traditional quilt blocks, but with the right color choices it can easily fit the modern quilter’s aesthetic.
The Shoo Fly Quilt Block
Just like the Churn Dash block, the Shoo Fly quilt block belongs to the traditional 9-patch blocks family with its building blocks arranged in a 3×3 grid.
The Shoo Fly block is pieced from 4 half-square triangle blocks and 4 squares positioned around the central square.
Its simple construction leads to various outcomes, making it a classic among traditional quilt blocks and commonly used in modern quilt patterns, as well.
The Friendship Star Quilt Block
The Friendship Star quilt block is yet another example of the 9-patch quilt blocks. It consists of the same elements as the Shoo Fly block but with a different arrangement. In this block, the HSTs are positioned around the central square, creating a four-pointed star.
The Sawtooth Star Block
When speaking about traditional quilt blocks, we can’t go past some star quilt blocks. Stars in all shapes and sizes are one of the motifs that you’ll keep seeing in quilting.
In fact, we have a whole article dedicated to star quilt patterns, so you might want to take a look, if you’re feeling star-inspired!
One of the most common star shapes you’ll see in quilts is the sawtooth star block. It’s a simple 8-pointed star, constructed from a central square, surrounded by four flying geese blocks.
If you want to practice your flying geese this is your chance!
The Pinwheel Block
The pinwheel block is a quilt block that resembles a spinning pinwheel or windmill. The basic pinwheel block consists of four half-square triangles that rotate around the central point.
There are many variations to the pinwheel block and Barbara does a great job explaining all of them in her pinwheel article. She even has a free pinwheel quilt pattern for you, if you want to make one!
The Square In A Square Quilt Block
The square in a square quilt block, also known as a diamond in a square or a square within a square, is a popular traditional quilt block. It’s pieced from a central square surrounded by four smaller triangles.
Together they form a square shape and create the illusion of a smaller square set inside a bigger one. While it’s pretty simple, making it can be a bit tricky. Discover more about this classic quilt block in our square in a square block tutorial.
The Bear Paw Block
We love the bear paw quilt block. It’s such a fun block and it’s hard to believe it’s only constructed from squares and half-square triangles.
Of course, that’s your basic bear paw version. You can absolutely have some fun with the ‘palm’ of the paw (is that a thing, does a paw have a palm?). Or even multiply the claws to create a double bear paw block.
The bear paw also lends itself beautifully to multi-block layouts. You can create some fun new shapes by arranging together a few bear paw blocks.
We have an article where we explain how exactly to make a bear paw block and show you some great modern bear paw patterns.
Log Cabin Block
Ah, the log cabin. I have a special kind of affection for this block. Ever since we published an article about log cabin quilt patterns, I’ve been feeling super inspired to make this block whenever I can. Ula even added it to a sweatshirt – which she’s been wearing nonstop since this ‘touch up’.
As you’ve probably guessed, the log cabin is named after – well – log cabins. That’s because the construction of the log cabin quilt block mimics the construction of actual log cabins. But instead of logs, we’re using strips of fabric. These form concentric rectangles around the central square, the ‘heart of the home’.
As always with traditional quilt blocks, there are many different log cabin variations that are perhaps even more inspiring than the original. We have some great ideas in the log cabin post.
We’ve also got a whole selection of log cabin quilt patterns for you to swoon over. They’re really incredible.
The Ohio Star Quilt Block
The Ohio Star Quilt Block is a classic star block defined by the cross-shaped eight-pointed star.
According to our research, the Ohio star block has been around since the early 1800s, so it definitely fits into the ‘traditional quilt blocks’ category. It’s no wonder you see it in so many traditional quilt patterns.
It is sewn as a nine-patch block, but instead of plain fabric squares, it uses squares and quarter-square triangles.
We explain how to make an Ohio star quilt block and share a quick (free) Ohio star quilt pattern in our Ohio Star Quilt Tutorial.
The Lone Star Block
The lone star quilt block is another one of those great traditional quilt blocks that really make an impact. The lone star is an 8-point star, composed of diamond-shaped pieces radiating from the center point.
Very, often, lone star quilts use just one single (and very large) block as the motif of the quilt top. But there are also some amazing variations with multiple lone stars arranged in rows and columns. We have 11 modern lone star quilt pattern ideas for you to get inspired!
The Rail Fence Block
The rail fence block is basically just a simple square block divided into stripes. You’ll see it in its most simple form with only two fabrics, but very often it will have three or even four stripes instead.
It is – much like the 9-patch – a very basic block that can be used on its own or as a building block for other more complex quilt blocks.
We definitely love it a lot all on its own. The simple striped block can be laid out in a whole bunch of different layouts to create different, very visually interesting rail fence quilts. These are just two of them.
The Drunkards Path Quilt Block
The Drunkard’s Path quilt block is another classic and recognizable design in quilting.
It’s simply a quarter circle set in a square. Which might seem a bit uninteresting at first. But when you see it in different layouts, you’ll see how versatile it is!
While I wouldn’t recommend this to beginner quilters, if you’ve sewn some quilts in your past and want to try curves, this is a great block to get started.
The Most Popular Traditional Quilt Patterns
Traditional quilt patterns have been here for a long time and it’s not surprising at all. They are always inspiring for quilters, including those who like modern styles.
Explore the most common traditional quilt patterns with their catchy designs, and I’m sure you’ll get some great ideas for your next quilting project.
The Basic Patchwork Quilt
This is one of the simplest quilt patterns, pieced together entirely from squares.
The basic square building blocks offer numerous variations and are easy to cut and sew, making them an ideal choice for any beginner in quilting.
We have a free patchwork quilt tutorial with tips on how to speed up the process using the chain piecing method. Ula has tested various color variations—check them out and get inspired to create your own version of the square quilt pattern.
The Trip Around the world quilt pattern
This eye-catching traditional quilt pattern is surprisingly simple, made up entirely of squares of the same size.
What adds an extra layer of interest is how these squares are arranged. The design begins with a central square, and then additional squares in the same or similar color range are arranged around it, creating a diamond shape around the initial set of squares.
There are numerous variations of this traditional pattern, allowing for large-scale designs with a single central square or many smaller ones, almost resembling the iconic Irish Chain quilt, which we’ll explore next.
The Irish Chain
The Irish Chain quilt pattern is constructed using only the 9-patch blocks and large squares. As the name suggests the smaller squares form diagonal chains. It’s really astonishing what these two simple elements put together can create!
The Double Irish Chain
The Double Irish Chain quilt builds on this same logic as the Irish Chain pattern just with double diagonal rows. We have a free Double Irish Chain Pattern for you on the blog, if you want to get sewing!
The Double Wedding Ring
The double wedding ring quilt pattern is one of those quilts that you’ll find on many quilters’ ‘to-make-someday’ lists. Its interlocking rings create a pattern resembling wedding rings, symbolizing love and unity. It’s no wonder why this design has been a popular choice for wedding quilts and anniversary gifts.
If you’re thinking of making one yourself, we found a pattern by a quilter whose work we truly love. Tara Faughnan has a double wedding ring pattern and some great modern double wedding ring inspiration for you!
The Yellow Brick Road
The most recognizable element of the Yellow Brick Road quilt pattern are the brick-shaped rectangles, arranged so that no two corners meet.
This simple pattern has a lot of interpretations. Some traditional quilt patterns use identical rectangles while others incorporate rectangles of different sizes, along with squares, creating a more flexible composition.
The Yellow Brick Road quilt is known for its quick assembly and easy customization. The simple design makes it perfect for using precuts, like fat quarter bundles, or experimenting with scraps.
It’s a great choice if you are looking for quilting projects for beginners. Read more about this traditional quilt pattern in our Yellow Brick Road tutorial (a free pattern is included).
The tumbling Blocks Quilt Pattern
This eye-catching Tumbling Blocks quilt pattern gives the illusion of stacked cubes. It’s surprising that this contemporary design has been around since the late 19th century, making it one of the truly traditional quilt patterns.
Not surprisingly, it continues to inspire modern quilters who love experimenting with variations of traditional quilt patterns.
Though the Tumbling Blocks pattern can be a bit challenging with the Y-seam in the piecing process, you can opt for alternative patterns that use strip piecing, which allows you to skip the Y-seam altogether. Keep an eye out when choosing your pattern.
The Herringbone quilt pattern
This popular quilt pattern, resembling the bones of a herring, a fish from the Northern oceans, is pieced together using just half-square triangles.
It’s a quick and simple make, resulting in a striking design. This traditional quilt pattern also boasts numerous modern variations.
We actually came up with our own modern variation and created a free herringbone pattern for you! It’s a super quick project, so if you’re looking for the next quilt to make – check this one out!
The Chevron quilt
The Chevron quilt pattern, a cousin to the Herringbone quilt pattern, is also one of the most very popular traditional quilt patterns. It’s pieced together using same-sized half-square triangles, forming a distinctive zig-zag pattern. A perfect choice for modern quilters!
So here they are, the traditional quilt patterns and blocks every quilter (modern or not) should know! Do you have any other favorites that you think we should include? Let us know in the comments below!