We are now ready for the third part of the series, which is the four-patch unit. If you’ve been a quilter for any length of time, you probably make four-patches by sewing strips together, cutting them into pieces, and then sewing two piece-units together with opposite fabrics facing each other. I’ve done it that way for years, but after comparing notes with other quilters, we all found that some waving or unevenness appeared along the raw edges of the sewn strips. It might be slight, but it was evident just the same. So I came up with this method and have never looked back.
I love making four-patches this way owing to the consistently accurate results I receive. The special number to remember for this unit is 1 inch. For example, if you desire a 5-inch finished (sewn) square, add 1 inch to your measurement, making your cut squares 6 inches.
Begin by accurately cutting two squares, a light and a dark. It helps to add a little starch to the fabric and press before cutting.
Place your two squares right sides together and pin in place. If you don’t have a patchwork presser foot, draw a quarter-inch seam line down the left and right side of the light fabric.
Take the pinned squares to your sewing machine and sew a scant quarter-inch seam on the left and right side of the square unit.
A scant quarter-inch seam means a thread or two less than a quarter inch. When you open your units, there is always a slight roll-over effect at the seam, shrinking your measurement. Since piecing your quilt usually involves numerous units, accuracy at each stage of work is absolutely necessary for good results. The thing I would most emphasize is consistency.
Next, cut your sewn square in half. Remember, measure twice, cut once. Make sure you are cutting at the exact center, parallel to your sewn seams.
Open your two units and press. Turn one unit over and place on top of the other unit. Position it so that the light fabric is over the dark, and the dark fabric is over the light. Gently nudge the fabric until you feel the two opposing seams butt up against each other. I like to double check, holding one finger on the center point and lifting the top layer to make sure the seams are perfectly matched. Place two pins about a third of the way in from each side.
Draw a cutting line down the center, perpendicular to the seam line.
Sew a scant quarter-inch seam on each side of the cutting line.
Cut your unit in half along the center cutting line.
Open and press. You should now have two perfectly matched four patch units.
Square up if necessary (but you shouldn’t have to if you followed these directions carefully).
Note: If you want to make more than two units, just double or triple your measurements. For example, if my cut square is 6 inches, I would cut a double unit 6” x 12”, a triple unit 6” x 18”, etc. This is also a great way to use all those scraps that have been adding up. Have fun!