From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library
Skill Level: Confident Beginner
The Broken Wheel quilt block (also known as Mrs. Miller's Favorite) is made from basic Square in a Square units with a bit of strip piecing thrown in for good measure.
Choose your favorite technique.
Cutting charts and instructions are included for both paper pieced and Connector Corner patches.
If you're a machine embroidery enthusiast, check out the 12" version. The center patch is 4" finished—the perfect spot to try out a new embroidery collection.
For inspiration, several kissin' cousins of the Broken Wheel are shared at the bottom of the page.
Or try your hand at coloring your own blocks with the coloring page for the design.
Let's get started!
We use several abbreviations on this page:
Seam allowances (SA) are all 1/4".
Cutting directions and instructions are included for both paperpiecing or using Connecting Corners to complete the corner units. You'll need to choose one method.
Starched quilt fabrics are easier to work with in my humble opinion. Yours cuts are more accurate. Your seams easier to fingerpress. Try it to see if you agree.
Skip this Step if you choose Connector Corners.
You'll need the most current version of Adobe installed on your computer to download the pattern.
On the Adobe Print Menu page, under 'Page Size and Handling' set 'Custom Scale' to 100% before printing for accurate results. Click here to see what it looks like on the Print Menu page.
Choose your finished block size below, note the number of copies you'll need and click the corresponding unit size.
|PRINT the Paper Piecing Patterns|
| # of|
copies to print
| Link to|
Choose fabrics with good contrast. That way all your piecing shows.
In the cutting charts below, the yellow one includes some paperpiecing; the blue one uses Connector Corners instead.
To make the tables below easier to read, when you see a single number for a patch it means cut a square that size.
For example, the Center.1 patch for a 6" block reads 1 7/8". That means cut a 1 7/8"x1 7/8" square.
Cutting Chart for a~ Paper Piecing ~
|Patch||Fabric||Qty||Finished Block Size||Sub|
|Center.1||L||4||1 7/8”||2 5/8”||3 3/8”||na|
|Corner.2-.5*||D||8||2 3/8”||2 7/8”||3 3/8”**|
|6||L||1||1 1/2” x 11”||2” x 15”||2 1/2” x 19”||na|
|7||D||1||1 1/2” x 11”||2” x 15”||2 1/2” x 19”||na|
|8||L||1||2 1/2”||3 1/2”||4 1/2”||na|
|Unfinished Block Size||6 1/2"||9 1/2"||12 1/2"||---|
|Grid Size||1"||1 1/2"||2"||---|
*Remember to subcut these patches
**No, this is not a typo.
There is no subcutting.
Cutting Chart for a~ Traditional Piecing w/Connector Corners ~
|Patch||Fabric||Qty||Finished Block Size|
|1||L||4||2 1/2”||3 1/2”||4 1/2”|
|2 – 5||D||16||1 1/2”||2”sq||2 1/2”|
|6||L||1||1 1/2” x 11”||2” x 15”||2 1/2” x 19”|
|7||D||1||1 1/2” x 11”||2” x 15”||2 1/2” x 19”|
|8||L||1||2 1/2”||3 1/2”||4 1/2”|
|Unfinished Block Size||6 1/2”||9 1/2”||12 1/2”|
|Grid Size||1”||1 1/2”||2”|
Square in a Square (SiaS) Corners
For each technique:
For both techniques, I prefer an open toe applique foot for stitching on the printed or drawn lines.
If you used the yellow chart, click here for instructions.
If you used the blue chart, click here for instructions.
Install your favorite quarter inch foot.
If you paperpieced, return to your normal stitch length for piecing.
With RST, stitch the #6 and #7 strips together on the long edge.
Press toward the darker #7 strip.
At your cutting mat, straighten a short edge by aligning a straight line on your ruler with the seam line (red arrow) and trim.
Subcut this strip set into four equal-sized units. Choose the subcut width from the table below.
| Width of strip set|
|6"||2 1/2”||2 1/2”|
|9"||3 1/2”||3 1/2”|
|12"||4 1/2”||4 1/2”|
After cutting, you have this.
Arrange the units into rows. Remember that light #6 patches are on the outside edges.
Sew the units in each row together. To get good match points between the corner and side patches, I insert a pin from the backside through the point of the square on the front (red arrow).
Insert the pin at the seam, a 1/4" away from the edge in a side patch. Stitch.
Complete two sets of patches like this.
Stitch the patches in the center row together. Press.
Pin and stitch the rows together. Press these SA toward the outside edges of the block.
Your Broken Wheel quilt block is finished.
Here's our Broken Wheel from the backside so you can see the pressing.
There's a whole gaggle of blocks that use the same basic Broken Wheel design.
Yep! Same name, even though all the lights/darks are swapped.
AKA: Block Circle, Johnnie Round the Corner, Single Wedding Ring, Squirrel in a Cage and Wheel
Squirrel in a Cage
Darks/lights are again reversed.
AKA: Letter O, Wedding Ring
Fabrics are swapped in the side and center units.
New Hampshire Granite
A third fabric is added.
A fifth Square in a Square is added to the center along with fabric placement changes.
In these last two blocks, the grid the block is drawn on is modified.
Fabric placement exactly like the Squirrel in a Cage. However, this block is drawn on a 5x5 grid.
Click here for instructions to make it.
The Broken Wheel
This version by The Kansas City Star is drawn on a 8x8 grid.
The word 'The' is actually part of its name.
The common Pinwheel block ALSO goes by the name 'Broken Wheel'.
Click here to download and print a coloring page for this block to try your hand at.
Print as many as you'd like for your own personal use!
These are my go-to resources for quilt block ideas.
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. Once in awhile you can find it here on Amazon.com.
UPDATE: Electric Quilt, in cooperation with Barbara Brackman has announced they plan to republish the Encyclopedia sometime in 2020.
However, all is not lost if you can't find a hard copy.
BlockBase is the computerized version of the Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.
It contains designs for over 4300 blocks—pretty much every block published from the 1830's through the 1970's.
It can be used with Electric Quilt and is a Windows based program.
In fact, there are instructions included so that you can pull up the digital patterns within Electric Quilt (PC version for now) without having to open up BB program.
UPDATE: Electric Quilt has announced that they will be rereleasing the standalone BlockBase software for BOTH PC and MAC in 2020.
This is terrific news.
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!