Bear Tracks Quilt Block

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

by Julie Baird

The Bear Tracks quilt block tutorial starts here

Skill Level: Beginner

Type: Nine Patch

Momma Bear said, "The Bear Tracks quilt block is JUST RIGHT if you're a beginning quilter!"

She's one smart cookie!

With just half square triangles and cut squares, it's a nice little block to practice your new skills. No special tools to buy either and no paper piecing. Sweet!

You may have heard this block called by another name like:  Duck's Foot in the Mud, Maple Leaf Quilt, Tea Leaf,  or Tea Leaves. Quilting's like that!

Want help setting the blocks when you're finished? Check out the three quilt layouts at the end of this page.

Are you ready?

Let's get started.

General Instructions

Bear Tracks quilt block patternBear Tracks design

Seam allowances (SA) are pressed toward the darker fabric unless otherwise stated.

When pressing, first press the sewn unit in the closed position to set the seam. This melds the thread into the fabric. Open the patches and press from the front.

This block is made with two fabrics with enough contrast so that the points show.

Choose a finished block size and cut your patches.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Bear Tracks Quilt Block

~ Traditional Piecing ~

Patch Fabric Qty Finished Block Size
3” 4-1/2”6”12”
2D31-1/2”x1-1/2” 2”x2”2-1/2”x2-1/2”4-1/2”x4-1/2”
3**D21-7/8” x 1-7/8”2-3/8”x2-3/8”2-7/8”x2-7/84-7/8”x4-7/8”
4**L21-7/8” x 1-7/8”2-3/8”x2-3/8”2-7/8”x2-7/8 4-7/8”x4-7/8”
Unfinished Block Size3-1/2”4-1/2”6-1/2”12-1/2”
Trim HSTs to...1-1/2”x1-1/2”2”x2”2-1/2”x2-1/2”4-1/2”x4-1/2”
Grid Size1” 1-1/2”2”4”

**Try adding an additional 1/4" to the length and width of this patch when cutting and then trim the unit to size after stitching...makes for perfect HSTs...every time!

Step 2: Assemble the units

With right sides together (RST), sew a light #1 to a dark #2.

With RST, sew a dark #2 to a dark #2. (Yeah, that sounds kind of silly...but that's how this block is made!)

I'm using a quarter inch foot with a flange on the righthand side for this step

Press. These two 2-piece units are complete.

To make the half square triangles (HST), draw one diagonal line on the back of the two, lighter #4 patches. I've used a red pen here (black arrow below) so it's easier to see. In a for-real quilt, I'd use a mechanical pen because the line stays nice and fine the length of the line.

Stitch a quarter inch away from both sides of the line.

A more traditional quarter inch presser foot is easier to use for this step

Cut the two sewn units apart on the diagonal line to create four HSTs. If you added a bit to the patch-size as suggested in the cutting instructions, cut these HST to size now.

That number is located at the intersection of the row labeled 'Trim HST to...' (highlighted in yellow) and the column for your finished block size. In this example the block is 6" finished, so the HSTs are trimmed to 2-1/2" square.

NOTE: If you plan on making lots of Bear Tracks, my choice would be to use the more efficient, 8-at-a-time method of making HSTs. Click here to learn how.

Step 3: Assemble your Bear Tracks quilt block

Lay out the cut squares, pairs of squares and HSTs for your Bear Tracks into rows and columns. Double check that the HST units are placed in the right direction. It's too easy to get them mixed up.

Press the SA of the two dark #2s towards the left, opposite of the light/dark pair. The seams then nest to make it easy to match them.

The units are ready to stitch into a Bear Tracks quilt block

Stitch the units in each row together. I find that when I pin my SAs are more accurate, especially at the ends.

Stitch the units of each row together

Press with the SAs in the direction of the arrows.

Press in the direction of the arrows so that your seams will next for the final step

Stitch the rows together, again, using pins if you find them helpful. (I most certainly do!)

After a final press, (check out our Best Pressing Technique) your Bear Tracks quilt block is finished!

Your finished Bear Tracks quilt block, ready to be pieced into a quilt!Bear Tracks

Ideas for your Bear Tracks quilt blocks

To keep things simple, we'll use the same background or 'L' fabric for all the blocks.

First let's set the blocks edge-to-edge in groups of four, rotating each one a quarter turn to form 'wreaths'. To maintain symmetry, use even numbers of blocks in the rows and columns.

Bear Tracks quilt blocks set edge-to-edge

Same layout with the addition of sashing and cornerstones. This looks much like the traditional Bear's Paw quilt block.

Bear Tracks quilt blocks set with sashing and contrasting cornerstones

And finally, instead of sashing, a strip is added to two adjacent sides of the block, log cabin style so the the design appears to float. Each row contains two positions of the block.

Bear Tracks quilt with sashing on only two sides of each block

There's more blocks to sample...

To find them, just click here to go to our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library. You're sure to find one that's "JUST RIGHT"!

Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

For even more blocks to make...

These are my go-to resources for quilt block ideas. 

Maggie Malone's 5500 Quilt Block Designs is my all-time favorite quilt block resource!

Can you tell?

It's in color.

It's got a ton of blocks.

What's not to love?

Next on my 'must-have' list is Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

Unlike the Maggie Malone book, the blocks in this volume are hand-drawn and in black and white—no color—personally, I prefer colored drawings to work with.

This book is no longer in print. If you can come by a copy expect it to be wickedly expensive.


BlockBase is the computerized version of the Encyclopedia.

It can be used with Electric Quilt and is a Windows based program.

Finally there's The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer.

Lots of detail and in color, it is a beautiful volume. That said, I check it out of my local library on a regular basis instead of purchasing it—can you see the library sticker on it's spine. Yep, it's from the Plainfield Public Library.


Simply because I own the previous three references and find this the least user-friendly of the group.

And it does make a fabulous coffee table book!

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