Carpenter's Star Quilt Block Pattern

Make 16" Carpenter's Star Quilt Blocks

Carpenter's Star Quilt Block Pattern
Carpenter's Star Quilt Block. Janet Wickell / The Spruce

The Carpenter's Star quilt block pattern can be configured in several ways. A combination of diamond shapes and squares are traditionally used to assemble this popular patchwork design. This version explains how to sew the block using easier methods.

Carpenter's Star quilt blocks are sometimes known by other names—the most common is Carpenter's Wheel. The differences in quilt block name variations are often due to the placement of color and contrast.

Carpenter's Star quilt blocks can be sewn in an orderly arrangement of fabrics, or with randomly chosen fabrics to create scrap quilts

This Carpenter's Star pattern finishes at 16" x 16", a good size for wall hangings, bed quilts, or even a throw pillow cover.

Choosing Fabrics for Carpenter's Star

Individual units in the quilt block finish at 2" square, and that means large prints that look very different from one area of the fabric to another aren't (usually) as suitable as tone on tone fabrics and smaller prints. You can mix it up to add visual texture to the finished block, but keep scale in mind when you choose quilting fabrics.

Download a blank coloring book drawing of the quilt block if you would like to sew the quilt block with more fabrics than this example. Mark your own color choices on the drawing, but read through the pattern a few times before you begin so that you understand how to replace fabrics in different areas of the block.

Cutting a Carpenter's Star Quilt Block

Cutting instructions for this quilt block are tricky because you may use more fabrics and choose a different color arrangement for your block(s).

You can use the example above as a guide to cutting and (other than the background) treat each area of the block as a different section to make it easier to understand.

Refer to each pattern page for cutting instructions.

References for Beginning Quilters
If you've never quilted before, start by reading these basic articles to establish some basic knowledge of quilt patterns, cutting, and color selection:

Very Dark Fabric

  • Shown as black.

Hot Dark Fabric

Lighter Print Fabric

  • Shown as paisley.

Light Background

  • Shown as an ivory print.

Remember that you can turn contrast around entirely. Sew a very dark background and turn the star shapes into contrasting colors.

About Half Square Triangle Units (HST)

Seasoned quilters often choose to sew HSTs with the "textbook" size of patches. It's a good idea to always increase patch size when making the units because when the units are made with exact sizes they're sometimes too small (and can be a bit skewed). It's worth the extra time it takes to sew the units a bit oversize and then trim them back to the exact size after assembly.

Add an extra 1/4" or so to the dimensions given for all HST units—a personal preference.

HST cutting for this quilt block pattern reflects one easy way to make the patchwork. Alter cutting in any way you like as long as the units finish at 2" x 2" (measure 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" after assembly).

If you choose to sew with just a few fabrics try the Magic 8 Half Square Triangle method to create groups of eight identical HST units at the same time.

Begin Making the Carpenter's Star Quilt Block

Carpenter's Star Quilt Block Pattern Assembly
Carpenter's Star Quilt Block. Janet Wickell / The Spruce

The center of the Carpenter's Star Quilt Block is a pinwheel surrounded by a frame that has 'arms' stretching outward. Diamond shapes emerge when you sew the frame to the inner pinwheel. The first step is selecting your fabric. Reference the guidelines below when selecting:

Background Fabric

  • (4) 2-7/8" x 2-7/8" squares for HST units (or choose a larger size and stick with it throughout the pattern)
  • (4) 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" squares

Hot Dark Fabric

  • (4) 2-7/8" x 2-7/8" squares for HST units (or increased size)

Lighter Print Fabric (the paisley is illustrated in yellow-gold)

  • (4) 2-7/8" x 2-7/8" squares for HST units (or increased size) 

The quilt block could be sewn by assembling eight rows with eight units each, and then joining the rows. But long, narrow rows often stretch out of shape. The block's center is very much like Sarah's Choice quilt block. You can minimize stretch by assembling the patchwork in chunks.

In this example, the arms surrounding the inner pinwheel are the same fabric type as the darker fabrics where they connect. You can improve accuracy by pressing to set seams before pressing a seam allowance to one side.

Assembly Directions

  1. Draw a diagonal line from one corner to the opposite corner on the reverse side of each 2-7/8" background square and two of the lighter print squares of the same size.
  2. Pair two of the marked background squares with two hot dark fabric squares, right sides together and all edges matched.
  3. Pair the remaining two marked background squares in the same way with the two unmarked light fabric squares.
  4. Pair the remaining light squares with the hot dark squares.
  5. Use the instructions in this quick pieced half square triangle unit tutorial to sew each pair together 1/4" from each side of the marked line. Use chain piecing to speed up assembly.
  6. When complete, carefully trim back units to exactly 2-1/2" square if you sewed with oversize patches.
  7. Test your quarter inch seam allowance before sewing the remaining patchwork.
  8. Arrange the four hot dark/light print units into two rows as shown, Figure 1. Sew the units in each row together. Press seam allowances in adjoining rows in opposite directions.
  9. Join the rows and press. The pinwheel you just made should measure 4-1/2" x 4-1/2". Use straight pins to match and secure patchwork throughout the entire assembly process.
  10. Arrange the remaining HST units around the pinwheel center as shown in Figure 2. Sew the components of each row together.
  11. Press the middle (wider) row's seam allowances toward the center. Press the top and bottom seam allowances away from the center.
  12. Join the rows and press, Figure 3. The partial block should measure 8-1/2" x 8-1/2".

Finish Sewing the Carpenter's Star Quilt Block

Carpenter's Star Quilt Block Tutorial
Carpenter's Star Quilt Block Assembly. Janet Wickell / The Spruce

To complete your block, it's time to cut the remaining fabric. Cut pieces outlined in the dimensions below: 

Background Fabric

  • (12) 2-7/8" x 2-7/8" squares for HST units (or size determined previously if trimming back).
  • (12) 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" squares
  • You could replace the smaller squares with (4) 2-1/2" x 4-1/2" rectangles and (8) 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" squares, but keeping all units in the block the same basic (square) shape is one way to balance the shapes for quilting.

Hot Dark Fabric

  • (8) 2-7/8" x 2-7/8" squares (or another matching size for HSTs)

Lighter Print Fabric

  • (8) 2-7/8" x 2-7/8" squares (or another matching size for HSTs)

Very Dark Fabric

  • (4) 2-7/8" x 2-7/8" squares (or another matching size for HSTs)
  • (4) 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" squares

Sew the Remaining Half Square Triangle Units

  1. Draw a diagonal line on the reverse side of each background square reserved for HST units (just as you did for previous units).
  2. Draw a diagonal line on the reverse side of four of the hot dark squares reserved for HST units.
  3. Use the same quick piecing technique to pair eight HST background squares with the same number of light print fabric HST squares.
  4. When sewn and cut apart you should have (16) 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" background/light print HST units. Trim back if necessary.
  5. Pair four marked background HST squares with four unmarked dark hot squares to create eight HST units of the same size.
  6. Pair four marked hot dark HST squares with the same number of very dark squares to create eight HST units.

Finish Assembling the Carpenter's Star Quilt Block

  1. Gather four background/light print HST units, two background/hot dark HST units, and two hot dark/very dark HST units.
  2. Arrange the units into two rows as shown at the top of Figure 4.
  3. Check angles carefully and then sew the patchwork in each row together.
  4. Press the seam allowances in the bottom row away from the center. Press the allowances in the top row towards the center.
  5. Join the two rows. Press new seam allowance towards the top row.
  6. Repeat to make three more identical sections of the quilt block.
  7. Sew one of the new sections to the top of the block and another to the bottom of the block as shown, Figure 4 right. One section must be flipped around.
  8. Press seam allowances towards the center of the quilt block.
  9. Gather three 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" background squares and one 2-1/2" very dark square of the same size.
  10. Refer to Figure 5, top left. Sew two background squares side by side to create a row (this is where a 2-1/2" x 4-1/2" rectangle could be substituted).
  11. Sew the remaining two squares side by side.
  12. Arrange as shown and press seam allowances in adjoining rows in opposite directions (bottom row towards very dark is best).
  13. Join the rows and press seams toward the row with the dark square.
  14. Repeat to make three more identical units.
  15. Arrange the corner units you just made with the two remaining units from Figure 4, placing them on opposite sides of the partial block as shown (one of the Figure 4 units is shown expanded, but is sewn together by now).
  16. Sew patchwork in each vertical column together. Press new seam allowances in towards the center.
  17. Join the vertical sides to the middle of the quilt, carefully matching all seam intersections.
  18. Press the quilt block. It should measure 16-1/2" x 16-1/2". If it is off a bit, try these easy ways to square up quilt blocks.