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Economy Block Tutorial + Quilt Inspiration

It’s week 4 of the Riley Block classic quilt block challenge. This week we’re making Economy Blocks – which are definitely among my top favorite quilt blocks. In fact, I’ve already been on an Economy block quilt-making kick this year, with two finishes since January. Plus I’ve got lots of Economy Block Quilt inspiration for you. See below for pictures!

Classic Economy Quilt Block Tutorial

This is such a great block for playing with fabric, making a scrappy quilt, and the centers are perfect for featuring fussy-cut prints. It’s a really simple, no-waste block (hence the Economy name). 

As with the blocks from previous weeks, the other Riley Blake Designers and I are sharing instructions for two sizes: 6″ x 6″ and 12″ x 12″ finished blocks.

6″ x 6″ Economy Quilt Block tutorial:

Fabric Requirements for 6" x 6" Economy Quilt Block

Fabric Requirements: 

  • Center Squares – 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ square
  • 2 Squares 3 1/4″ x 3 1/4″ – cut both squares on the diagonal to get a total of 4 triangles
  • 2 squares 4 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ – cut both squares on the diagonal to get a total of 4 triangles

Center the long edge of two of the smaller triangles on opposite sides of the center square and sew in place using a 1/4″ seam. (This is one of the very rare times I don’t recommend a scant 1/4″ because it can make your block slightly too big. Use an exact 1/4″ seam allowance.) Triangle tips will overhang the outside edges of the square.

Helpful tip: to make sure the that your triangles are centered, fold the long edge in half and make a little crease with your finger nails at the center. Do the same on all four sides of the center square. Match up crease marks to easily center the triangle.

Press seams toward the outside triangles. Trim dog-ears overhanging the square. Repeat the process with the remaining 2 triangles, pressing seams toward the outside.

Find the center and carefully square up the block to 4 3/4″ x 4 3/4″ by trimming equally on all four sides. (Be careful to leave a 1/4″ for seam allowance at each point.)

This next step could seam unnecessary, but I promise you that taking this extra step will ensure the accurate sizes of your quilt blocks, which will make a huge difference when you go to piece your blocks together.

Repeat the same process with the final 4 triangles, sewing two sides, pressing toward the outside, sew remaining 2 triangles, press.

Square up pressed block to 6 1/2″ x 6 1/2″.

TIP: if you prefer extra fabric for squaring up, cut squares for middle triangles at 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ and squares for outside triangles at 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″.

6" x 6" Economy Quilt Block Tutorial

And there you have a perfect 6″ x 6″ finished (6 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ unfinished) Economy Quilt Block.

12″ x 12″ Economy Quilt Block Tutorial

12" x 12" Economy Quilt Block Tutorial

Fabric Requirements: 

  • Center Squares – 6 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ square
  • 2 Squares 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″- cut both squares on the diagonal to get a total of 4 triangles
  • 2 squares 7 1/4″ x 7 1/4″ – cut both squares on the diagonal to get a total of 4 triangles

This is clever because you can either cut a 6 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ fabric square for your center OR you could use a 6 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ unfinished quilt block. Like the ones we just made above. How great is that?? 🙂

Repeat the process as before, adding 4 triangles to the sides of the existing block

and then square-up sides. Square up first addition for 12″ block to 9″ x 9″.

Add final set of triangles to all four sides.

Square up final block to 12 1/2″ x 12 1/2″.

And there you have it! Economy blocks are so much fun to make – they’re a great way to show off a fabric collection that you love, but can’t decide what to do with it. Like this quilt:

This Economy block crib quilt was made with Citrus and Mint’s Pemberley Collection using an 8″ x 8″ Economy block (tutorial here).

As I mentioned, Economy block quilts are perfect for fussy cutting novelty fabrics for the center block. Here’s an example where I used Jill Howarth’s Dorothy’s Journey, a Wizard of Oz-themed collection from Riley Blake.

Modern Solids Economy Quilt block mini quilt

And lest you think Economy blocks look too traditional, here’s an Economy block variation mini quilt using only solids that gives the block a modern vibe.

Foundation Paper Pieced Economy Quilt Block Pin Cushion

And here is a mini 4″ x 4″ Economy block that I made into pin cushions. To help these little guys stay accurately pieced, I foundation paper-pieced them using this template I found on Pinterest. I copied the diagram and resized it to the size I wanted (in this case 4″ x 4″). 

Another favorite source of Economy block inspiration is Rita from Red Pepper Quilts. She’s made may beauties and her fabric choices are always amazing.

So there you go! Economy Quilt Block inspiration galore!

Classic Quilt Block tutorials - featuring Sugarhouse Park Fabric by Amy Smart

And here are the 4 blocks thus far of the Riley Blake quilt challenge. I’m using fabrics from my Sugarhouse Park collection, with a few pieces of Gretel thrown in. 🙂 

You can find the previous blocks linked below (and this time I promise the links are right. Doh! So sorry if you hit a dead end last week!!) If you’re sewing along with us make sure to use the hashtag #RBDBlockChallenge! You can see the blocks here.

Week 1 – Churn Dash 

Week 2 – Log Cabin

Week 3 – Friendship Star

  Economy Quilt block tutorial - 6" and 12" sizes - by Amy Smart of Diary of a Quilter

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Silvana Lanza
    April 21, 2020 at 12:35 am

    Stupenda la mini trapunta e i puntaspilli deliziosi!!!!!

  • Reply
    lthseldy
    April 21, 2020 at 4:35 am

    Thanks so much. Really clear directions.

  • Reply
    Lynette Caulkins
    April 21, 2020 at 8:46 am

    Thank you so much for making a great tutorial post for us on these. Economy blocks are one of those that can be hit or miss for me on accuracy. I do have one question, and please forgive me if I’m simply being dense (my brain has been super scattered these weeks) – I can’t figure out what the extra step for accuracy is that is referred to right above the photo where the red points are going to be added.

    • Reply
      Lydia Qiu
      April 21, 2020 at 8:56 am

      Thank you, Amy, for the wonderful inspiration during this special challenging time! I always love your posts!

    • Reply
      Amy
      April 21, 2020 at 11:49 am

      Hi Lynette! Good question – sorry for the confusion. It’s referring to squaring up the block in the paragraph above. I hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Florence Bowser
    April 22, 2020 at 8:02 am

    have been making free reusable fitted facemasks for people in my community for about three weeks now and have tons of scraps left over-these economy quilt blocks give me an idea of what I can do with a lot of them. Thanks so much

    • Reply
      Amy
      April 22, 2020 at 4:52 pm

      Hmm, that’s an interesting idea! I don’t have the answer, but let us know if you find out!

  • Reply
    Lori
    April 24, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Is there a link to the total fabric requirements needed to do the weekly classic Riley Blake block challenge?

    • Reply
      Amy
      April 25, 2020 at 9:39 pm

      There’s no official pattern for this challenge – just playing with blocks each week. I will be putting mine together at the end, but won’t know until then the amount of fabric used. I’m just pulling pieces from my stash to make blocks at this point.

  • Reply
    Joy Darby (The Farmers Mrs)
    April 26, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    Just read today’s Newsletter and loved the economy block shown, – Like many other quilters, I’m making the most of the sewing time and am presently working my way through a collection of ‘cat fabrics’ that would rival a small shop.. This block with it’s centre square is perfect. Love it.
    JoyD

  • Reply
    Shari
    May 16, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    This has always been a favourite block. Just a note – diagonal is not spelled correctly in your graphics. Thought you would like to know.

    • Reply
      Amy
      May 16, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      Doh! That’s what I get for working too fast. Thanks so much for the heads up!

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