Nancy’s Quilting Classroom: Designing Quilt Blocks for 2-Block Quilts

I started designing two-block quilts in the early 1990s. Since then, I’ve designed dozens and dozens AND dozens of two-block quilts – some were easy block quilt patterns and some challenging. Using two quilt blocks is one of my favorite go-to methods for quilt designs. Needless to say, I love playing with blocks to create a visual puzzle.The first step to successful block selection, and creating secondary patterns, begins with looking at a block and visually dividing it into units. Most blocks are based on a grid, which is defined as the number of squares into which a block is divided. To identify the correct grid, count the number of divisions across the block. For example a Four-Patch block has two divisions; a Nine-Patch block has three divisions.

Basic Grid Categories - Quilt Pattern Block Designs
Notice that with additional divisions, a two-grid becomes a four-grid and a four-grid becomes an eight-grid. The same with Nine-Patch quilt blocks. Blocks that work well in a two-block quilt design fit together like puzzle pieces. When you use two different blocks with a similar grid, the lines flow in an unbroken fashion from block to block.

When I designed “Bountiful Stars” from Love of Quilting March/April 2016, I started with an 8-pointed star block and modified the quilt block by adding a half-square triangle unit to each of the side triangles. I paired the modified star quilt block with a King’s Crown block.

Modified 8-pointed Star block - Quilt Blocks
Modified 8-pointed Star Block
King's Crown Block - Quilt Blocks
King’s Crown Block

Using the navy print in both quilt blocks, connects the blocks visually and allows you to see a multitude of secondary designs.

Bountiful Stars - Quilt Pattern Block Designs
Bountiful Stars

Using EQ7, a quilt design software, allows me to easily modify any block or draw original blocks. More on how you can do the same below…

I used a modified Art Square block and a modified Four-Patch block to create “Hollywood Squares” from Easy Quilts Spring 2016, available as a quilt kit if you like the fabrics I used.

Modified Art Square Block - Quilt Blocks
Modified Art Square Block
Modified Four Patch Block - Quilt Blocks
Modified Four Patch Block

This time, I didn’t use a common fabric to connect the blocks.  The high contrast between the cool, blue prints and the lime green prints — along with the white background — creates a lot of movement. Your eye travels around the quilt, looking for various secondary designs.

Hollywood Squares - Quilt Pattern Block Designs
Hollywood Squares

For the first block in “Jelly Beans,” (also available as a quilt kit) from Love of Quilting May/June 2016, I added a frame around an Uneven Nine-Patch block to create an original block. Then I paired it with a second original block.

Original Block A - Quilt Blocks
Original Block A
Original Block B - Quilt Blocks
Original Block B

Here again, the blocks don’t share any of the same fabrics. However, the white background fabric unifies the design. The real secret to this visual puzzle is rotating Block B 90° in every other row AND adding a pieced inner border. The pieced inner border creates an illusion of where the blocks start and stop.

Jelly Beans - Quilt Pattern Block Designs
Jelly Beans

If you’d like more information about designing Two-Block Quilts, take a look at my on-demand webinar, Creating Fabulous Two-Block Quilts. Armed with information, you’ll design Two-Block quilt patterns with confidence!

Two Blocks webinar on demand

If you want to learn more about how to create your blocks and quilt patterns using EQ7, register for my live Beginning EQ7 Webinar on 8/31/2016.

Beginning EQ7 Webinar - Quilting Video Tutorials

For more in-depth information, take a look at  my upcoming Craft University course Design Quilts with EQ7 and Nancy Mahoney, starting on 9/19/2016, with preregistration open now. And, if you registered for the EQ7 webinar (above), as a special thanks, you’ll get 20% off registration for this course (below) with coupon code BEGIN20.

Designing Quilts with EQ7 - Quilting Video Tutorials

I challenge you to stretch your imagination and have fun pairing up two different quilt blocks to create your own unique quilts.

Nancy Mahoney, Fons & Porter Guest Blogger


Happy Quilting!



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Nancy Mahoney

About Nancy Mahoney

Author, teacher, fabric designer, and award-winning quiltmaker, Nancy Mahoney has enjoyed making quilts for over 30 years, during which time an impressive range of her beautiful quilts have been featured in many books and in over 180 national and international quilt magazines. Nancy enjoys combining traditional blocks and updated techniques to create dazzling quilts. She doesn’t consider herself a specialist in one particular area, although Nancy’s favorite techniques include precision machine piecing, quilt design, and machine appliqué. When she’s not designing and making quilts, Nancy enjoys traveling to guilds and events around the country, sharing her quilts, teaching her piecing and machine appliqué techniques, and visiting gardens. Visit Nancy on her website,, for more quilting information and fun!