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How to Make 12-inch Courthouse Step Quilt Blocks
This is a courthouse steps quilt block pattern that finishes at 12-inches by 12-inches. Courthouse steps blocks are a variation of the traditional log cabin quilt block. The difference? Instead of sewing strips around the block's center in a circular motion, two patches are added to opposite sides of a center square first, and then two patches are sewn to the remaining sides of the center. The same back-and-forth motion continues as the quilt block grows in size.
If you are not familiar with log cabin block assembly, be sure to read up on a traditional log cabin quilt block pattern before beginning. The tutorial includes ideas for layouts, color choices, and speedier piecing, along with graphics for that version of the block.
Take a look at this small pitcher applique quilt, portions of courthouse steps blocks are used to frame on-point quilt blocks.
Cutting for One 12-inch Courthouse Steps Quilt Block
Remember that the words "dark" and "light" are usually different for everyone—one quilter's lightest fabric might be dark for another layout. Color also controls how visible a piece of fabric is in the design—cool colors often recede, and warm colors often pop in the design. It is important to know color value basics and the color wheel to help you choose fabrics.
This contrast layout that is illustrated is a suggestion. Perhaps you would prefer to have lights on three adjacent areas of the quilt block, with only one of the block quarters a darker value. Choose contrast to suit your needs. And use scraps if you like because there is no need to repeat any fabric in a single quilt block.
Here's how to replicate it:
- Block Center, Piece 1, Darkest: (1) 3-1/2" x 3-1/2" square
- Patches 2 and 3, Light: (2) 2" x 3-1/2" bars
- Patches 4 and 5, Dark: (2) 2" x 6-1/2" bars
- Patches 6 and 7, Light: (2) 2" x 6-1/2" bars
- Patches 8 and 9, Dark: (2) 2" x 9-1/2" bars
- Patches 10 and 11, Light: (2) 2" x 9-1/2" bars
- Patches 12 and 13, Dark: (2) 2" x 12-1/2" bars
Be sure to sew an accurate quarter-inch seam allowance, and have a regular or mini iron nearby to press seam allowances.Continue to 2 of 2 below.
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Sew the Courthouse Steps Quilt Block
Use the illustration as a guide to sewing courthouse steps quilt blocks.
All types of log cabin quilt blocks should be pressed after each log is added. Since each pair of two new logs for courthouse steps does not touch, it is fine to press seam allowances after both are added to the block—a time saver.
Some quilters like to keep a small portable iron near their sewing machines to make pressing a much easier step. Clover's mini iron is a favorite because it is tiny, easy to grab, plug-in, and use without much fuss.
Steps to reproduce it:
- Start with a center square.
- Sew a 2" x 3-1/2" light patch to one side of the center square.
- Sew the third piece, which is the same size and color value to the opposite side of the center square. Press both seam allowances towards the new strips—continue pressing new seams towards newest strips.
- Sew the fourth and fifth dark patches to opposite sides of the quilt block, positioning them to flow above and below the first, second, and third patches. Press seams.
- Sew the sixth and seventh light patches to the block next—refer to the schematic above. The new patches are adjacent to previous light patches. Press.
- Continue adding new patches to opposite sides of the block in the same way. the darker eighth and ninth patches are first and are sewn next to previous darker patches.
- Follow with the 10th and 11th light patches and finish with the 12th and 13th darker patches.
- Once you are familiar with the technique, cut patches for several quilt blocks and chain piece units for speedy piecing—the technique is explained in the traditional log cabin pattern. You can sew strips on two opposite sides of the growing center before stopping to press.
Remember that chain piecing saves time and is a perfect technique to use with log cabin quilt blocks.