Bear's Paw Quilt Block Pattern

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

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The Bear's Paw quilt block is a classic!

It's also a great design for beginning quilters to practice piecing with half square triangles (HST).

With all kinds of pointy-goodness to add movement to the design.

In these instructions you'll learn how to make half square triangles (HSTs) in batches of 8.

Efficient with your time and extremely accurate, I'm sure you'll love this method—especially because it requires no specialty tools or rulers.

Grab two fabrics and let's begin.

Bear's Paw quilt block tutorial

General Instructions

All seam allowances (SA)  in our Bear's Paw are 1/4". Press them toward the darker fabric unless otherwise noted.

When you are instructed to press, first press the pieced unit flat to set the seam. Then open the patch, pressing from the front. 

I recommend starching your quilt fabric before cutting to increase your stitching accuracy.

You'll see these abbreviations in this tutorial:

  • RST - Right sides together

  • HST - Half Square Triangle(s)

The newest quilt fabrics to tickle your fancy...

Click the images below to see the full collection. We share any commercial and/or free patterns that showcase them, too. (For inspiration, of course!)

Step 1: Cut the patches for your Bear's Paw

Bear's Paw quilt block designBear's Paw design

Sample Size: 7" finished / 7½" unfinished

Grid: 7x7

Attributed to: Ruth Finley

Design Type: Uneven 9-patch, small center

AKA: Cat's Paw, Chinese Block Pattern, Duck's Foot in the Mud (Nancy Cabot)

A single Bear's Paw quilt block requires 16 HSTs, so we'll use the very efficient  8-at-once method. This saves time, both marking and cutting, and provides perfect results!

Patches #3 and #4 (used for this technique) are cut oversized. The HST units are trimmed to size after stitching.

I suggest you try one pair of patches first and then make any adjustment you need to the cutting sizes.

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Cutting Chart for a
Bear's Paw Quilt Block

~ Traditional Piecing ~

Patch Fabric Qty Finished Block Size
7” 10½" 14”
1 A 1 1½" x 1½" 2” x 2" 2½" x 2½"
2 A 4 2½" x 2½" 3½" x 3½" 4½" x 4½"
3** A 2 4¼" x 4¼" 5¼" x 5¼" 6¼" x 6¼"
4** Backgrnd 2 4¼" x 4¼" 5¼" x 5¼" 6¼" x 6¼"
5 Backgrnd 4 1½" x 3½" 2” x 5” 2½" x 6½"
6 Backgrnd 4 1½" x 1½" 2” x 2" 2½" x 2½"
Unfinished Block Size 7½" 11” 14½"
Grid Size 1” 1½" 2”

**These are the oversizes patches that will be trimmed to perfection AFTER stitching.

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Step 2: Assemble the corner units for a Bear's Paw quilt block

Start by constructing the HST units.

Make the back of each light #4 patch with a diagonal line between both pairs of corners. Layer a #4 with a #3 square, right sides together.

With your favorite quarter inch foot installed on your sewing machine, stitch a quarter inch away from both sides of each line.

Stitch on both sides of the drawn line to start your half square triangles

Repeat for the other set and you've stitched a total of 16 HSTs. Pretty nifty, eh?!!

After sewing, the unmarked side looks like this.

After 4 rows of stitches

Now it's time to cut this into the units.

The block in the photos finishes at 7".  

Find the Midpoint/Center for the 7" finished block—it's 2-1/8".

HST Dimensions

Block Size
Trim HST to…
7" 2⅛" 1½" x 1½"
10½" 2⅝" 2" x 2"
14" 3⅛" 2½" x 2½"

Place the sewn unit on your cutting mat, marked side up.

Align the 2-1/8" of your ruler (black arrow) with one of the edges and cut.That cut should go through (or at least pretty close to) the center of the drawn 'X'.

This is what the stitching looks like from the unmarked side

Rotate the mat a 1/4 turn and align the 2-1/8" ruler mark with the edge and cut again. You've now cut your patches into four 2-1/8"  squares.

Now cut along each of the drawn diagonal lines and you'll have...

One pair of squares yields 8 hst units after cutting

Press. For the 1" grid size (which is the size shown in these photos) I prefer to finger press seam open before pressing them from the front. Starch makes this very effective.

Trim to the size listed in the chart above (for this example it's 1-1/2" sq)

One set of #3 and #4 patches yields 8. Notice the small amount of waste.

Quite an acceptable tradeoff from perfectly sized HSTs, don't you think?!

After sewing, cutting and trimming one #3 and one #4 patch you have 8 perfectly sized HSTs

Repeat for the other set.

For more detail instructions on this HST-technique, click here.  (This link opens in a new window so it's easier for you to return right here.)

To create the corner sections for our Bear's Paw, stitch four of each of the 2 different units shown below. The arrows indicate the direction to press the seam allowances.

Stitch four each of the following two groups of patches

It's easy to get things all discombobulated when you sew these units together. I like to sew one and then keep it at my machine as the others are made.

Keep a correctly sewn pair of HST next to you at the machine as you sew the remaining 3 pairs

With RST, join a pair of HST to a #1 and press in the direction of the arrow for a total of 4.

Add the pair of HSTs to a #1 patch

Pressing the SA as suggested makes it easy to see where your stitch where your seam touches the point of the triangle.

Your seam should be just a hair to the outside of the point where the HST seams cross

To finish your corners, add the remaining subunit as shown below. Press your SA toward #1. Make 4 identical units. Now this is looking like a Bear's Paw!

Add the next subunit, nesting the seam allowances for easy matching

Step 3: Assemble the Bear's Paw quilt block

Arrange the sewn corners and #5 and #6 patches into the Bear's Paw design.

Layout both the cut and sewn units into rows

Sew them together into rows. Press the SA in the direction of the arrows.

Press seam allowances in the direction of the arrows

Join the rows together, pinning if you like. (I find I rip less when I pin.)

Stitch the rows can see that I'm a pinner...

One final press and your Bear's Paw quilt block is complete.

For the perfect finish, check out our Best Technique for pressing. It's fast, simple and the results are fabulous!

The finished Bear's Paw quilt block!

If you're truly inspired by this design, I recommend "Bear's Paw: New Quilts from an Old Favorite" from the Museum of the American Quilters Society.

Click on the image of the book (left) to go to, and learn more.

What about a different quilt block?

For a list of all the 215+ quilt block patterns on this site, start here.

If you know the name of the block, shorten your search by using these links:




Click here if you're looking for blocks with at least some paper piecing.

Click here if you're looking for the basic building blocks of quilting, i.e., Flying Geese, half square triangles, quarter square triangles, etc., along with several techniques to make each.

And finally, use these links to find blocks in these finished sizes:

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