From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library
Skill Level: Confident Beginner
A Card Trick quilt block is made completely of half and quarter square triangles.
In fact, it's a perfect choice if you've just gone through our Beginning Quilt Block Patterns series!
With traditional color placements, you'll need 4 fabrics plus a background to achieve the look of layered 'cards'.
Choose four different colors based on a focus fabric, or use the 'cards' to showcase a favorite collection, i.e. fruit, flowers or even bugs!
If this block looks familiar, you may know it as the 'Winning Hand'.
On this page are rotary cutting and assembly instructions for 4-1/2", 6", 9" and 12" blocks as well as a downloadable Color/Fabric Placement page.
For the adventurous, there's two more coloring options shared, too.
Let's get started!
Due to the construction methods, you're frequently stitching on a bias edge.
To tame the bias and minimize its stretch, consider starching your fabrics—either before you start or as you piece. Just remember that the starch must be washed out when your quilt is complete.
Click here for more information on starching.
All seam allowances (SA) are 1/4". If you are having trouble stitching an accurate 1/4", take the Sewing Test to help correct it.
I strongly urge you to print a line drawing of a Card Trick quilt block and note your patch placements. It's very easy to get the patches mixed up if you don't.
Use Adobe for the download.
If you don't have Adobe, click here and follow the download instructions for the program. (Adobe allows you to access PDF files and it's free! This link opens in a new window.)
Finally, several common abbreviations are used through this page. They are:
We're ready. Let's get started.
If you sew a perfect quarter inch SA, use the dimensions in the cutting chart below.
Personally, I like to start with over-sized patches. Then after stitching, trim the HSTs and QSTs to the perfect size. I add an extra 1/4" for HSTs (Patches 1-5) and an extra 1/2" for QSTs (Patches 6-10).
Further along in our Card Trick block instructions, you'll find charts when you need them with the needed sizes of the HST or QST you have stitched. Trim or adjust as needed.
Choose whichever method works best for you.
My go-to thread for all my piecing is...
After the all the Card Trick squares are cut you have this:
...and after sub-cutting as instructed, you have this:
Keep the two different sizes of triangles separate.
After cutting it's VERY EASY to get them mixed up. They look different here, but at the machine I had to re-measure to make sure I was stitching the correct patches and sides together.
And finally after the block is stitched you'll have 2 each of the subcut 7A, 8B, 9C and 10D triangles leftover. That's because it's easier to cut QST patches from a square than from a right triangle.
With RST align one background triangle #5 with one #1A triangle.
Stitch together along the long bias edge.
Repeat for triangles #2B, 3C and 4D.
Press the units flat and then open with the SA towards the background fabric.
Use the chart below to check that your HST are the correct size. Trim if needed.
|Trim HST to...|
The four HST units look like this:
To make these you'll need triangles sub-cut from both sizes of squares.
Patches 1-5 are subcut once on the diagonal to create HST patches.
Patches 6-10 are subcut twice on the diagonal for the QSTs.
From the triangles cut from the larger squares, with right sides together (RST) match one background #6 with one #7A triangle.
With the background #6 on top and the flat edge feeding into your sewing machine first, stitch along the short side as shown in the photo below.
These edges are both bias. Do not pull on the patches as you stitch. Just guide them and let the sewing machine do the work.
Press each unit flat to set the seam...
...and then open with the SA towards the darker fabric.
Now align the long edge of this pressed unit with the long edge of a #3C subcut from the smaller square.
It can get pretty confusing, pretty fast. If you've marked all your patches, then use this chart to group them together correctly.
|Sew this…||…to this.|
Stitch. The pieced unit is on top with its SA towards you. (There's less chance for it to flip in the wrong direction this way.)
Follow your placement chart to assemble the remaining three unique 3-patch QSTs.
After stitching, press each 3-patch QST flat to set the seam and then open with the SA towards the larger triangle.
Use the chart below to check that your QST are accurate. Trim if needed, remembering to measure out from the center.
Center or Midpoint
|Trim to QST...|
|6"||1 1/4"||2 1/2"|
|9"||1 3/4"||3 1/2"|
|12"||2 1/4"||4 1/2"|
After trimming they look like this:
If you need a refresher on trimming QSTs to size, click here to review this technique in Quarter Square Triangle, Technique #1, Steps 6-7. The center or midpoint measurement for the 12" block made in this tutorial is 2-1/4".
Use one triangle each of 7A, 8B, 9C and 10D to construct the center QST.
With RST, sew a #8B triangle to a #7A with #7A on top. Feed the blunt edge into your machine first, just like you did with the QSTs above.
With RST, sew a #9C triangle to a #10D with #10D on top, again feeding the blunt edge first.
Press the units flat and then open with the SAs toward the #8B or #9C fabric.
With RST, sew these two units together. The seams nest to help you match them.
Press flat to set the seam.
Then 'twirl' or 'pinwheel' the seam allowance by giving a little tug on the seams at the center.
A few of the stitches will give way and you will be able to press this last seam in two directions as pictured below. Note that they are all pressed counterclockwise.
This QST should measure the same as the four QSTs you've already completed.
After trimming (if needed), it looks like this:
Again, if you need it click here for a review this trimming technique (Steps 6-7). The center measurement this 12" sample is 2-1/4".
Layout your Card Trick units according to your placement chart.
Stitch the units in each row together. Press the SAs as indicated by the arrows below. Use pins as needed to help you match the seams.
Stitch the rows together, using pins as needed.
One final press and your Card Trick quilt block is finished! (For a super flat block check out our Best Pressing Technique.)
A Card Trick quilt block can also be designed with two fabrics instead of the four that we used in our example. Such a block would look like the one to the left.
Just be sure there is enough difference in the 'card' designs so that they don't blend together into a lump.
While it doesn't look it at first glance, the color placement in this variation shows that the roots of our Card Trick are deep within the Ohio Star.
The star appears more clearly with this placement blue fabrics. Use your Color Placement page to create your own star formations.
Visit our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library for more instructions for blocks like this Card Trick.
To get your creative juices flowing, visit Quilt Design 101.
If you've made a bunch of Card Trick blocks and need ideas how to set them, visit Quilt Layouts 101.
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!