Skip to content

Square-in-a-Square Quilt Block Tutorial

April is my month for the Bee There or Bee Square Bee. I’ve been waiting for just the right project to use my little stash of Jenean Morrison’s California Dreamin. I only had a couple little charm packs (literaly – only 15 squares in each) and some yardage. I pulled several bright Kona cottons to coordinate.

I love the Square-in-a-Square block for its simplicity, but it’s also terrific for learning to handle bias edges, and practicing great points. It’s also one of my favorites for using novelty or feature fabrics in the centers.  

The instructions below will make a 9″ finished (9.5″ unfinished) block. Start with the following:

Cut the 4″ solid squares in half diagonally.

Using a scant 1/4″ seam allowance, sew two triangles to opposite sides of the 5″ charm square. Remember that the diagonal side of the triangle is a bias edge. Sew with the triangle on the bottom (close to the feed dogs) to reduce stretching. You should have a little “ear” of fabric extending from both ends.


Press the triangles away from the center, and then repeat for the other two sides.

Press the triangles away from the center, and trim the “ears” from each side.

Cut the print 5 3/8″ squares diagonally.

Again sewing with the triangles close to the feed dogs, and the “ears” extending past the ends of the solid square, sew to opposite sides of the block. Carefully sew through (or just outside) the intersection of stitching lines. This will make perfect points for the center square.

Press the first two triangles away from the center, and then repeat for the last two sides.

Press the last two triangles away from the center, and admire your finished block!

Here’s a simple, random layout. 30 blocks plus 2″ and 4″ borders for a 58″x67″ quilt. Quick and easy, or with a bit more planning secondary stars and other designs will appear. Give it a try!

22 Comments Post a comment
  1. Rhonda #

    I love California Dreamin’. I made a quilt for my daughter with the whole line

    April 3, 2011
    • Isn’t it fun? I’m making for a niece. I already finished her sister’s quilt, so I’m looking forward to gifting them both at the same time.

      April 3, 2011
  2. VickiT #

    Thank you for the great tutorial. Sorry you had such a soggy Saturday. We had that on Friday which was the day our drivers side windshield wiper decided it wanted to wash the side door window. On the interstate. IN pouring down rain. NEAR CHICAGO ~ or actually Elgin , IL. Fun times. Tonight tornado watch until midnight and severe thunderstorm warnings now too. Why at bedtime do these start? LOL

    Anyway, thanks again for the tutorial.

    April 3, 2011
    • Goodness – timing is everything, isn’t it? Stay safe and dry!

      April 3, 2011
  3. I have so fallen in love with this fabric and your choices for the solids. May I ask what color Kona’s you used? I love them too!!

    April 27, 2011
    • Aw, thanks Jane!

      I’ll look up the colors when I get home tonight and send you a note.

      April 28, 2011
  4. Jo #

    Thanks for this! I bought a charm pack recently because I loved the colours but I couldn’t find a quilt pattern that appealed to me. This will work great!

    July 7, 2011
    • Oh, good! I can’t resist charm packs, but they sure are tricky to use sometimes. Happy sewing!

      July 8, 2011
  5. debi4weaver #

    Enjoyed reading this Square in a square. I’m a newbie, and so I love good photos to show me exactly what you are doing. Thanks for taking the time to show us this! I can’t wait to try your procedure!

    June 8, 2012
  6. I made a square in a square quilt that was quilted as you go… over 12 years ago. No idea now how I did it!
    It is now falling a part and I want to make another. Hearts were appliqued on each middle square.
    Am inspired to make another one having found this!
    Thank you

    March 1, 2013
  7. Maria Stanley #

    I was recently researching the correct size to cut squares for a “square in a square in a square” block that I was working on. I was very happy to find your site and to read your tutorial on the California Dreaming square, because it is the exact size that we were looking for! We have been very careful with measuring, cutting, sewing a consistent “scant” 1/4 seam..(we measured and marked with sewing guide tape on each machine). The first triangles go on perfectly, we are having a bit of a problem with consistency when we add the last triangles to the square. Three of the sides are even, but one side is slightly “off” . Any suggestions on why or how we can avoid this? (Squares are measuring within 1/8 ” of 91/2 when the block is finished, but some seem a little “crooked”). We would appreciate any help on this!
    Thank you, and I really enjoy seeing your beautiful quilts and reading your tutorials.

    July 13, 2013
    • For such a simple block, it can be a tough little cookie to sew. There’s so much happening with scant seam allowances, bias to straight grain seams, critical intersections and all that pressing. Here’s some suggestions to help identify the culprit:

        Pre-starch the squares before cutting to reduce the bias stretch later. It doesn’t have to be anything heavy, just a little Best Press.

        After the first round, check with a ruler to make sure it’s not only square, but the 4 intersections (on the sides) are 1/4″ from the edges. If they are too deep/shallow, you’ll skew the block slightly when you line up the next round. (Picture connecting 3 points if the one in the middle isn’t perfectly aligned.)

        After the first round, draw a 1/4″ seam allowance on two opposite sides. Sew two triangles on the marked sides, then on the non-marked. Check for size/square. (If either of the first two triangles are not perfectly parallel to each other, and square to the center, the last triangles get skewed.)

        Finger-press all the seams until the block is finished, and then give it a good pressing.

      I really think once you isolate where the problem is, you’ll be able to sew these blocks with out all the fiddly steps above. I look forward to hearing how it works, and am so grateful you visited my blog!

      July 15, 2013
      • Maria Stanley #

        Thank you for these tips! We have already cut the material for our remaining blocks.. Would there be any advantage to using the “best press” even though they are cut but not sewn yet….? We will do the extra measuring checks to ensure we are “square”.after the first round. I really appreciate you taking the time to get back to me….We will let you know how it goes from here! Many thanks!

        July 15, 2013
      • You could definitely press them still. Lay the pieces out carefully, spray, press and let them cool before moving. Good luck!!

        July 15, 2013
  8. Judy #

    Everyone wrote well wishes on 5 inch squares at my Granddaughters Wedding. Didn’t have the slightest clue as to how I was going to make this quilt for her. Lo and Behold I saw the square within a square and so far it looks great. Thanks so much……

    July 23, 2013
    • I would love to see a picture ~ what a great idea!!

      July 24, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Wrapping up a quilty weekend | Sleepy Owl Studio
  2. Be Square 12″ Block « Granny’s Gab
  3. Square in a Square Tutorial
  4. What is the block name?
  5. Need a 9 1/2 Block - Page 2
  6. Can anyone tell me how to make the pinwheels shown in this quilt? - Page 4

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: