Broken Wheel Quilt Block

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

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The Broken Wheel quilt block tutorial starts here

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!

General Instructions

We use several abbreviations on this page:

  • SA - seam allowance
  • RST - right sides together
  • SiaS - Square in a Square unit

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.

Step 1: Printing the paper piecing pattern

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
Block Size
# of
copies to print
Link to
PDF Pattern
6" 1 2”
9" 1 3”
12" 2 4”

Step 2: Cutting

The Broken Wheel block designThe Broken Wheel design

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.

Includes some paper pieced units (Patches 1-5)

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Broken Wheel Quilt Block

~ Paper Piecing ~

Patch Fabric QtyFinished 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”** Symbol for a half square triangle
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.

Includes Connector Corner units (Patches 1-5)

There is no subcutting.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Broken Wheel Quilt Block

~ 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”

Step 3: Sewing the units

Square in a Square (SiaS) Corners

Make 4

Corner units for a Broken Wheel block

For each technique:

  • The #2 thru#5 shapes are exactly the same
  • The numbers refer to both the patch and order of piecing

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.


Make 4

Side patches

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.

Sewing the #4 and #5 strips togetherMy favorite 1/4" foot has a guide on the right-hand side - perfect for sewing with starched fabrics.

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.

Straighten the short edge.Trim only as much as you need to get a nice straight edge.

Subcut this strip set into four equal-sized units. Choose the subcut width from the table below.

Block Size
Width of strip set
after stitching
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.

Four side units ready for the blockThe #6 and #7 patches are identified in the upper left unit

Step 4: Assemble the Broken Wheel quilt block

Arrange the units into rows. Remember that light #6 patches are on the outside edges.

The cut and sewn patches are arranged in rows for stitching

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).

Pin to match the points of the SiaS to the seam in the sidesFor the best match, insert the pin perpendicuarly into the patch.

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.

Make two of these rowsSeams are pressed to the center

Stitch the patches in the center row together. Press.

Sew the rows togetherPress the seams in the center row that join the patches away from the center.

Pin and stitch the rows together. Press these SA toward the outside edges of the block.

Your Broken Wheel quilt block is finished.

A finished Broken Wheel quilt blockPerfect Pointy Perfection!

Here's our Broken Wheel from the backside so you can see the pressing.

The back of a Broken Wheel blockSeams are pressed away from the corner units to minimize bulk.

Variations on a Theme

There's a whole gaggle of blocks that use the same basic Broken Wheel design.

Variation of a Broken Wheel

Broken Wheel

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.

Squirrel in a Cage

Rolling Stone quilt block

Rolling Stone

AKA: Letter O, Wedding Ring

Fabrics are swapped in the side and center units.

New Hampshire Granite

A third fabric is added.

New Hampshire Granite Block

Friendship Quilt Block

Friendship Quilt

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.

Rolling Square

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.

Rolling Square

The Broken Wheel quilt design

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.

Did you know...???

The common Pinwheel block ALSO goes by the name 'Broken Wheel'.

How will you color yours?

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!

Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

For even more blocks to make...

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

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