How to Read a Quilt Pattern – Beginners Workshop #4


Free Online Quilting Course for Beginners ~
Class #4 : Tips for Beginners on How-to Read a Quilt Pattern

By Janeen van Niekerk.

free online quilting workshop :: how to read quilt patterns
Quilting Workshop Class 4 – Introduction

We have come a long way in a short time. We got our feet wet right away in class #1, learning about fussy cutting. If you wished you could make a fussy-cut project right away. Then in class #2 we worked through understanding quilting tools and what you really need to own. In class #3 we talked about the ins and outs of quilting fabric, and we kicked-off a stitch along mini quilt project.  Today, in class #4, we take things a step further. I am going to teach you how to read and work with a quilt pattern. And throughout, we are going to further our mini-quilt project  step-by-step.  But first…. I am going to teach you how to stitch straight quilt seams – a prerequisite for successful quilting.

Let’s get to it:

Quilting Tips for Beginners #4: Reading your Pattern

The Trick to Get Straight Seams

First, we need to talk ‘Seams’.  Most quilting patterns are written in inches rather than cm.  So, mastering the common quarter inch seam (1/4″) will make all your patchwork align properly. If you have a quarter inch foot, use it as your guide.

Or, align the seam edges along a 1/4″ line (6mm) on your machine. It sometimes helps to stick a piece of tape down onto the machine where the 1/4″ line would be so that you can have a better view of things. ‘Post it’ strips are sometimes the answer, because they provide a little edge where you can line you fabric against. Be careful to not push hard against them, because they can move and you will not get an accurate seam.

Test Your Seam Accuracy

…. and you will quilt so much happier, faster & better.

You need to test your accuracy of your 1/4″ seam (6mm) by sewing together two 4,5″ squares and measuring the finished piece to make sure it measures exactly 8,5″ (21,6cm). You cannot just measure the seam itself to see if it is going to be a 1/4″ seam. If it is longer or shorter on your squares, the piecing will become compromised.

Adjust Your Guide to Quilting Perfection

You need to play around with the position of the masking tape or sticky notes or even the position of the fabric in relation to the foot of the machine until you know you get a 1/4″ seam every time.


Now, on to the FUN!  Here is our pattern. It is a 42″ x 42″ Mini Quilt.

Quilt Sizes

Mini Quilt Size: 42″ Finished (112″)

Block size: 9 Blocks of 12,25″ (30cm) unfinished

Quilting Materials Needed
Quilting Supplies Needed
  • To make this quilt you will need to Buy:
    (Calculated at WOF 40″ wide)
    Fabric 1 = Darker colored cotton fabric 40″ wide – 1/2 yard (1/2 meter)
    Fabric 2 = Medium-colored cotton fabric 40″ wide – 1/2 yard ( 1/2 meter)
    Fabric 3 = Light-colored cotton fabric 40″ wide– 1/2 yard (1/2 meter)
  • Thread to sew with that matches everything – I use beige thread on all my blocks unless it’s really all dark fabric then I choose something that will go with it and I don’t have to change threads all the time.
  • A Cutting mat, a quilting ruler, and a rotary cutter (or you can just use your scissors) – takes longer but also works.
  • A Sewing Machine
howto read quilt patterns :: free online quilting course at

We already went out and bought our fabrics for this project, so we are ready for the next step which is cutting and sewing the basic shape blocks.

Quilt Cutting Instructions

This is how you cut your fabric to make this quilt:

  • Fold your material in half by putting the selvedge edges together.
  • From each color: cut 4,5″ (11,4cm) strips from the WOF (width of fabric)
  • Cut each strip into squares of 4,5″ ( you now have squares of 4,5″x 4,5″ in each color)
  • We need 9 Dark Blocks, 36 Light Blocks and 36 Medium Blocks Altogether.

Block Instructions:

  • We are going to make a “Nine Patch Block” from our squares.
  • For each block we need: 1 Dark Block, 4 Medium Blocks, 4 Light Blocks.
Placement of the Quilt Blocks
  • For this mini quilt we will be placing our dark fabric in the middle and the medium fabric on the outside corners. The light fabric is placed between each medium fabric.
  • Each of our 9 blocks will look the same as this one.
Sewing Your Quilt together
  • We are going to sew each row together (1/4″ seams) and press our seam “to the dark side” – you will hear this a lot in quilting. It simply means pressing your seam to the side of the darker fabric. My medium fabric is darker, so I press them towards the outsides. In the second row, my dark fabric is in the middle so I press them towards the darker fabric and the top is as the bottom row.

This shows the “wrong side” of the fabric – the back of your fabrics with the seams pointing to the dark side.


Here we are at the “right side” – the side where your fabric pattern is on the top and facing you.

Once each row is done, you can sew the rows together. Be careful to line up from your middle seams and not just from the edge. You will notice that by pressing the seams of the blocks in opposite directions, it has made it easier for us to line up the blocks in their rows. You can “nest” (lock the seams together) at the points where they touch and pin it in place. Quilters pins are long and have a flat head.

Creating Our Finished Quilt Block
howto read a quilt pattern s
Unfinished vs. Finished Quilts or Blocks

This is our “unfinished” block which measures 12 and 1/4″. The pattern will tell you it’s an unfinished block, because it needs to still be sewn onto other blocks and will have the seam allowances still on each side. If the pattern talks of a “finished” block or quilt, it means that the quilt will be that size on finishing.

Press your block gently. Use a gentle pressure to flatten your seams. It really isn’t a sliding motion as when ironing clothes, but more of a pressing up and down. Sometimes the seams create bulk, so you can iron some of the seams open to distribute the fabric and reduce bulk.

For now you need to make 9 of these blocks.

Do NOT join them together yet.

Next time, some block magic!

‘Til next time,


how to make a quilt


Want to begin sewing quilts with me?

Join our free online quilting workshops, which you can take at your leisure, any time you want.

how to make a quilt


Free Quilting Patterns & Tutorials & Classes in this quilting course by Janeen van Niekerk:


About Quilting Instructor Janeen van Niekerk

how to make a quilt patterns janeen van niekerkOur latest news of quilt making instructor Janeen van Niekerk is that she has just launched a brand new paper piecing magazine.


Quilt artist Janeen van Niekerk is an avid quilter. In particular, she’s an accomplished paper piecing designer. She does it all with a passion.

Janeen’s prolific range of hand-made quilts (she takes commissions for personalised, stylish portrait quilts), as well as her unique quilt patterns (think quilts featuring safari animals and trees, or kids toys) are inspired by her environs; she lives in sunny Pretoria in South Africa, with her husband and kids.  

Or,… continue your journey with Quilting patterns, tutorials and ideas  featured here at (beyond Janeen’s quilting course).

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