Why Are the Four Patches disappearing?
To those of you visiting this site for the first time, I’ll help you get up to speed. My previous posts described the tools and techniques needed to make a very simple and basic quilt consisting of sewing together individual 5″ squares of fabric to create a row. Those rows were then sewn together to make one rectangular piece of fabric – the quilt top. Sure, we could have just as easily sewn one large piece of fabric to another large piece of fabric with a layer of soft batting in between, quilted the layers together and finished it off by binding the edges and call it a day but where is the fun in that. What we would have would be a functional item – basically a blanket with little to no visual interest (unless the quilt stitching was very eye catching!). And to achieve an elaborate, eye-catching quilt design you need an expensive long arm quilting machine. Even then, thread alone really cannot compete with the quilting fabric available today – the colors, the print designs, the textures… Go into a fabric store and see what I’m talking about! The myriad of colors and prints will overwhelm you and leave you asking, “What did I come in here for? Oh yes, I need just three different fabrics to make a disappearing four patch quilt top”. Four hours and seven bolts of fabric later you feel you have enough material to make a quilt for everyone you know and even a few that you don’t!
Only Four Patches – and They are Where?
In order to keep it simple in this post we will stay with the 5″ squares (charm packs are great for this as well!). They are a convenient size and shape and sewing linear seams is much easier than circles or curves. The “disappearing” aspect of this design relates to the resulting pattern after a basic four square block is sewn together, cut a couple of times (actually four times) and then sewn back together in a configuration that looks nothing like the original. The finished block looks way more complicated than it is which is one reason I feel this is a perfect next step for a beginning quilter!
Setting the Stage:
Gather four 5″ squares of fabric – one of my favorite configurations is to use (2) print fabrics and (2) contrasting solids.
Sew (1) print square to (1) solid square – right sides together and repeat for the remaining (2) fabric squares. Press the seams open or toward the dark side as you prefer.
Sew the two pairs of sewn squares together – right sides together and press that one seam (again either open or to one side) as you prefer.
The Disappearing Act
Making the four patch disappear is the fun part. Lay the square on a cutting mat (rotating mat is really useful here). Using a ruler longer than the finished block ( a 12″ x 2.5″ ruler is ideal) place the 1.5″ line on the ruler directly on top of the seam. Taking a rotary cutter, cut along the entire length of the four piece fabric block. Rotate the mat, place the 1.5″ mark along the seam and cut again the entire length. Keep repeating this process until you have four cut lines = 9 smaller blocks of fabric.
Now it’s beginning to look less like the basic, plain four patch block we started with.
Keeping all pieces intact now is the time to decide the best and easiest way to make those four patches disappear for good. While there a couple of ways of doing this here is the simplest method I’ve found:
Take each of the narrow pieces with seam in the middle and simply turn them around so each side is paired with the opposite, contrasting fabric.
Next take small square in the middle and give it a turn so the print corners are on the opposite side.
NOTE: I’ve seen the square turned 1/4 or 90° turn and I’ve seen a 180° turn. Each creates a slightly different effect. I would encourage you to try both – even explore different options with the other eight squares. There is no right or wrong way to do this – another bonus for a beginning quilter. If it looks good to you then its good!
The Result – It’s the Same but Different.
So here we are again but this time with nine pieces instead of four to sew together.
Starting with the first set of three blocks, sew the first to the middle then add the third – always sewing the right sides together and pressing the seams open – yes open. You’ll thank me later as this will significantly reduce the amount of bulk at the seams and help the entire clock lie flat.
Repeat this sequence for the remaining (2) sets of 3 blocks and pressing the seams open.
Now for the truly fun part – sewing each row together. Align the top edge of the bottom row with the bottom edge of the middle row and sew keeping the right sides together. Next, align the top edge of the middle row with the bottom edge of the top row and sew those with right sides together.
Press the seams open then flip over so the right side is visible and voila!
Revealing the Secret Code:
1) Turned four pieces of fabric into one. 2) Cut that one piece into nine separate pieces and 3) Converted those nine pieces back into one piece with an appearance that is basically unrecognizable as compared to the original four patch design.
As described in a previous post – Making the Quilt Top – adding a backing of coordinating fabric, batting, binding and quilting, this block alone would make a cute mug rug, coaster or mini quilt.
If a larger quilt with a repeating disappearing four patch design is what you want, simply create additional disappearing four patch blocks and sew each of those blocks together. A design wall is useful to help arrange the blocks to create a pattern to your liking. Using the fabric dimensions above one block will measure approximately a 7″ – 8″ square depending on the width of your seam allowance which is typically 1/4″.