TYSS: Nine Patch and Snowball

First – ACK! I apologize for the time between posts. Things got a little hectic here. For the record, I am spending the weekend writing a few sampler posts so I have them ready to go and can just post them when it is time.

The first full, non-filler block we will do is the Nine Patch and Snowball. As with the Nine Patch fillers, you will reference the previous Skill Builder posts for instructions on assembling the units.

For those who, like me, are playing a little fast and loose with their fabric placement (rather than using a limited palette and placing their fabrics according to the sample layout), keep in mind that the relatively large, unbroken space in the Snowball unit is a great opportunity to use larger scale fabrics. If you have a favorite fabric that you’d like to feature, here’s your chance.

Nine Patch Units

The nine patch units finish at 6″, which means each square will finish at 2″. Remember, “finish” means the size it will be in the completed quilt. The nine patch units will measure 6 1/2″ when they are completed, before sewing into the block.

Jeanne and I provided instructions for three different ways to make this block. Read the two posts and decide which method you want to use. I do NOT recommend using the “Two Large Squares” method for this block because you need two identical blocks (that method creates one block with four background squares and one with five). I’ll post the cutting information here, but you’ll need to go to the Skill Builder post(s) for the assembly instructions. As always, I recommend you read through the Quarter Inch Seam Skill Builder post.

Skill Builder Series: Post 6A – Nine Patch

Skill Builder Series: Post 6B – Nine Patches and Strip Piecing

If you are using the “white and bright” illustration as a fabric placement guideline, the nine patch units in this block are blue. You may choose to make both nine patches from the same fabric, or make them from several different fabrics.

Option 1 – Strip Piecing

Skill Builder post 6B
Best for all squares made from the same fabric.
Jeanne’s post will create two 6″ finished nine patch units, exactly what you need for this block, so you can follow her instructions exactly for the blocks.
Cut (1) background strip 2 1/2″ wide, width of fabric. Subcut (3) 12″ segments.
Cut (1) block fabric strip 2 1/2″ wide, width of fabric. Subcut (3) 12″ segments.
Sew strip sets, then subcut into 2 1/2″ segments.

Option 2 – Traditional (Individual Squares)

Skill Builder post 6A
Best if all of the squares are made from different fabrics or if you want to fussy cut the squares to feature the design of the fabric.
Cut (8) 2 1/2″ squares of background fabric
Cut (10) 2 1/2″ squares of block fabric

Once you’ve created your nine patch units you’re ready to move on to the snowball unit.

Snowball Unit

Snowballs are fantastic alternate blocks, as discussed in today’s Skill Builder Series post. The instructions for assembly are in that post; here are your measurements:

Block fabric: Cut (2) 6 1/2″ squares.
Background fabric: Cut (8) 2 1/2″ squares.

If you are using the “white and bright” illustration as a fabric placement guideline, the Snowball units in this block are green. You may choose to make both Snowballs from the same fabric, or make them from two different fabrics.

Block Assembly

After you’ve made your Nine Patch and Snowball units, lay them out as a four patch.

See how the corners of the Snowball unit appear to come in to the center too far?

That’s how they are supposed to be. Remember, you’ll be sewing these units together, and your seam line is where they have to line up, not the edge of the units.

Flip the right units over on top of the left units.

If you like, you can measure 1/4″ and draw a line at the seam intersections where the Nine Patch and Snowball meet.

Place a pin through each of those points, lining up the blocks and pinning in the seam allowance just to the side of the alignment pins.

Remove the alignment pins.

Sew the blocks together, being especially careful as you approach the points where the seams should align. You don’t want to sew directly ON the line; instead sew just a hair to the outside. I could have gone a bit further to the outside in this example.

Press toward the Snowball unit, repeat with the second set, and then sew the two sets together. The center intersection where the blocks meet should nest neatly together. Pin just to the side of the intersection, in the seam allowance. Sew, and you’re finished!

I sewed the final seam without marking and pinning the Nine Patch & Snowball seam intersections, and you can’t tell the difference. If anything, the last seam was MORE accurate!

If your initial cutting and seams are accurate, the final assembly should be accurate as well. Pinning is a personal choice at that point. I tend not to pin very often.

Any questions?



  1. I have to admit that I have been working ahead. Your skill builder series is so good and the color worksheets make the spacing and the size of the blocks really clear. I have finished 8 of the blocks. I though about using a large print for the snowball, but I didn’t like the way it looked so I used a solid. I’m thinking of embroidering something in the block (something else I need to learn). The reason I zoomed ahead is that because of adjustments I made after reading your skill builder series, I’ve finally achieve consistent seams. I was so happy that I couldn’t stop sewing. Thank you so much.

Comments are closed.