Learn to Make a Cotton Boll Quilt Block

Connector Corners make it Easy!

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

Skill Level: Beginner

Grid: 4x4

The Cotton Boll quilt block is quick and easy to make using the simple Connector Corners technique, sometimes called 'stitch and flip'.

Perfect triangles—but no triangles to cut and no bias edges to contend with. That's the beauty of this method.

If you like the technique, you'll find links at the bottom of this page to several other blocks that use this method of creating triangle-shapes within your quilt blocks—all without any bias edges!

General Instructions

Several abbreviations are used on this page:

  • SA - seam allowance
  • RST - right sides together

Seam allowances (SA) are 1/4" unless otherwise noted.

Open toe applique foot

I prefer the open toe applique foot for stitching on the drawn sewing lines. It's just plain easier to see.

I switch to my favorite 1/4" foot with a guide to assemble the units into the Cotton Boll block.

I also like to use a 50/50 mixture of StaFlo Liquid Starch Concentrate and water on my fabric before cutting.

It's my experience that starched quilt fabric makes cutting and sewing more accurate and finger pressing a dream.

Step 1: Cutting

Cotton Boll quilt block design

Though the sample block is stitched with just two fabrics, there's absolutely no reason why you couldn't make this a scrappy block.

Just be mindful of the contrast between the fabric values so that the patchwork design shows up.

All the numbers in the chart are for squares, i.e. 2-1/2" means cut a 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" square.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Cotton Boll Quilt Block

~ Connector Corners ~

PatchFabric QtyFinished Block Size
1 A 4 2-1/2” 3-1/2” 4-1/2” 5-1/2”
2 Background 8 1-1/2” 2” 2-1/2” 3”
Unfinished Block Size 4 1/2" 6 1/2" 8 1/2" 10 1/2”
Grid Size 1" 1 1/2" 2" 2 1/2”

Learn more about my favorite, new quilting tool, the Magic Pressing Mat. A valuable addition to your quilting tools—regardless of the piecing technique you use.

Step 2: Create the units for our Cotton Boll block

Cotton Boll quilt block units

Make 4

Draw a diagonal line on the backsides of all eight #2 squares. I prefer a mechanical pencil for this. The line remains the same thickness because the lead never dulls and thickens.

Be sure that the line bisects the corners exactly.

With right sides together, position a #2 with a #1 so that the drawn line touches two sides.

Stitch on the line.

Notice how I've alternated the direction of the patches so that they line up nicely at the needle.

Sewing the first connector cornerUsing an open toe applique foot makes it easy to see the line.

Add the second square in the same manner diagonally opposite from the first.

Stitch the second #2.Again, I've alternated the patches as they are fed into the machine so that they snug up to each other.

Press the unit flat as it was stitched.

It's time to trim away the excess and you've a choice to make.

The first option is to trim away the extra from just the smaller #2 patch, leaving a 1/4" SA closest to the corner. (below, left)

Or you can choose to trim away the excess from both layers, leaving behind the same 1/4" seam. (below, right)

Two different ways to trim away the excess fabric.

If you are hand quilting the finished quilt, trimming both layers is your best bet because there is less fabric for you to push the needle through while you quilt.

Since I rarely hand quilt anymore, my preference is to remove just the one layer, leaving behind the perfectly cut larger square. That way, even if I veered from the drawn line a bit, the unit itself is perfectly sized.

After trimming, press the units with the patches opened and in position.

Step 3: Assemble the Cotton Boll quilt block

Arrange the units so that they form an 'X' design.

Arrange the units into rows

With RST, stitch the pairs together matching the seams. Because I chose NOT to cut away the extra layer (you can just see it peeking out in the lower left patch above), I used pins to insure the match through the extra bulk.

Press the seams in opposite directionsSAs are pressed in the direction of the arrows.

The match turned out pretty good! SAs are pressed in opposite directions.

With RST, stitch the rows together. Again, I pinned to guarantee the match at the bulkier seams.

The finished Cotton Boll quilt blockThe finished Cotton Boll quilt block!

And it was totally worth the few seconds worth of extra effort.

This Cotton Boll quilt block is finished!

More blocks that use Connector Corners

As promised, below is a sampling of the free quilt block patterns found on this website that use this simple technique for creating triangle shapes out of nothing more than cut squares and rectangles.

Click each image to go to those instruction pages.

Autumn Leaf quilt block tutorial Big O quilt block tutorial Cotton Boll quilt block tutorial Crystal Star quilt block tutorial Double Necktie quilt block tutorial Evening Star quilt block tutorial Hour Glass quilt block tutorial Indian Hatchet quilt block tutorial Maple Leaf quilt block tutorial Maple Leaf Design quilt block tutorial Mississippi quilt block tutorial Ozark Maple Leaf quilt block tutorial Santa Fe quilt block instructions

For even more patterns, visit our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library.

For even more blocks to make...

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

Can you see the library sticker on the spine of Jinny Beyer's book? Yep. I check this copy out of our local library every few months for research.

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. 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!

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