Free Pattern - Whirlwind Quilt Block
Posted by Elaine Huff on
Note: It was brought to my attention that I had some errors in this tutorial. So I've made the corrections and this tutorial should be good to go now.
Second Note: This block is not the easiest to make. If your seams don't match, check out the layout suggestion at the end of the post.
The Whirlwind Quilt Block goes by a bunch of other names - Modern Envelope, Twin Sisters, Water Wheel, etc, etc. The traditional Whirlwind quilt block uses only 2 colors but I saw one on Facebook that had 4 fabrics and wanted to figure it out for you (and me)! I'll show you 2 different ways to sew this block together and talk about another way that I've seen online. Let's get started!
First Method Fabric Requirements:
- Light: 1 - 4" x width of fabric (WOF) strip
- Green: 1 - 1.5" x WOF strip
- Brown: 1 - 1.5" x WOF strip
- Red: 1 - 1.5" x WOF strip
Sewing Directions for First Method:
Sew together the 4 strips along the long sides in the order that is shown in the picture below.
Press seam allowances away from the Light 4" strip.
Measure the width of the strip set you just made and cut squares from the strip set as shown below. For example, my strip set measured 7" wide, so I cut the squares at 7". Repeat so you have a total of 4 blocks.
Now cut diagonally from corner to corner as you can see in the picture below. Be sure to cut the same direction on each block!
Arrange the four upper right triangles from Step 4 as shown below.
And sew into two rows as seen in the picture below. I recommend to start sewing from the flat edge and ending at the pointy end.
Press the seam allowances in opposite directions. The seams will lay better if pressed toward the Red strips as you can see in the picture below.
Now you can sew the two rows together. All done except for...
The pressing. I pressed using the tweak/twirl/furl method that I explained in my Four Patch tutorial which you can find here: https://fabric406.com/blogs/fabric406-blog/how-to-sew-a-basic-four-patch-quilt-block Square up/trim your block to a 9" square (unfinished size).
So what happened to the other triangles you made in Step 4? Well, you can use them to make another block like the one shown below.
Fabric Requirements for Second Method:
- Light: 1 - 6" square, cut in half diagonally twice to get a total of 4 triangles
- Green: 4 - 1.5" x 5" rectangles
- Brown: 4 - 1.5" x 6" rectangles
- Red: 4 - 1.5" x 7" rectangles
Sewing Directions for Second Method:
Lay out 1 of each of the fabric patches as shown in the picture below.
Sew the strips and triangle together as shown below and ...
Press the seam allowances away from the Light triangle. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 for a total of 4 Pieced Triangles.
Lay out the 4 Pieced Triangle units as shown below and sew into two rows.
And press the seam allowances as in the First Method.
Sew the two rows together and press like in the First Method.
Now you will need to square up the Whirlwind quilt block to an 9" square. I find it easiest to use a square up ruler but you can use the markings on your cutting mat and a regular ruler to square up the block.
All finished! (Now if I'd only made both blocks twirl the same way!)
With the First Method, you either have a whole lot of waste or you can make another different Whirlwind quilt block. On the plus side, this method seemed to me to be the most stable when sewing it together.
As for the Second Method, there is little waste. I did have to use spray starch on the Light triangles.
Both Methods: I will definitely spray starch these blocks before sewing them into a quilt. You wind up with bias edges and they like to stretch! But it's a cute block and I think I may have to make a quilt out of it. (Sew many quilts, sew little time!)
I did see this block demonstrated using a Light square and sewing strips to 2 adjacent sides of the square. Then the unit was cut diagonally from the corner where the strips met to the opposite corner. You would wind up with 2 blocks that twirled in opposite directions. The thing I didn't like about this method is that there winds up being a seam near the edge of half of the strips.
Here is a standard layout for this block:
Here's a layout suggestion for when you can't get those seams to match:
I also saw online a popular way of using both sets of blocks from the First Method:
But honestly - why go to the work of sewing with bias edges and cutting triangles, etc. when you could get the same effect with a Rail Fence block set on point?
If I wanted to make two quilts at once, I would use the First Method as it seemed easier to me. But the Second Method doesn't have any waste. Decisions, decisions!
I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial for a Whirlwind Quilt Block. Oooo, it would make a great red, white & blue quilt - red and white strips and blue for the triangle!
If you liked this tutorial and want to be notified of new tutorials as they become available, simply click HERE to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free PDF pattern called Chained Weathervane.
P.S. Here's a link to the post I did about the update to this block: https://fabric406.com/blogs/fabric406-blog/whirlwind-quilt-block-update
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