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Finished vs. unfinished quilt block sizes

Question:

When a finished block is indicated as 6.5" is that the size prior to putting the quilt together or after it is put in the quilt. Like should it first be 7"?

Reply:

It sure can get confusing!

Yes, the unfinished size is the actual size of the block from raw edge to raw edge after you have pieced it and before you have assembled it into the quilt.

If the pattern says the block is 6.5" finished, its unfinished measurement is:

6.5" + .5" = 7" unfinished


That extra .5" is for the seam allowances that will disappear into the seam once the blocks are joined.

Thank you for your question. I'm working on some new patterns and because of it, I'll be adding both finished and unfinished block sizes for greater clarity for the reader. Thank you!

Piecefully,

Julie Baird
Editor

Comments for Finished vs. unfinished quilt block sizes

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4 patch
by: Anonymous

I would like my 4 patch to finished at 10 1/2". Is that possible?

What confuses me is I keep hearing once you sew the blocks sides together you lose a half inch. Why not one inch? If you are sewing all four sides around your block. 1/4" bottom, 1/4" top, 1/4" left and 1/4 " right side. That equals 1" all around.

From the Editor:

It's a 1/2" from the length of the patch and a 1/2" from the width of the patch—that's why it's 1/2" and not 1".

For your 4-patch block, finishing at 10-1/2" square, its unfinished size is 11" x 11" (adding 1/2" to each dimension.

To compute the dimensions of your 10½" finished 4-patch:
  • Yes, you can do it because 10½" divided by 2 is a rotary-cuttable measurement
  • The math is: 10½" ÷ 2 = 5¼". You'll need seam allowances to stitch up the 4-patch and seam allowances to sew it into a quilt so we add 1/2" to both the length and the width, or 5¼" + ½" = 5¾".
If you're cutting strips and then subcutting your patches from that, cut your strips 5¾" wide and then subcut into 5¾"x5¾" squares.

I hope this helps.

This mental math of understanding finished vs unfinished gets better as you make more quilts. Once you have a firm grasp of the concept, you'll ALWAYS have a firm grasp. Promise!

~ Julie

Quick-Pieced Flying Geese Units
by: Anonymous

So I am another one that is soooo confused. lol!

I have 4 squares that are to be 2 7/8" and one square that is to be 5 1/4". In the instructions for making No Waste Flying Geese quilt blocks, it says:

Cut the small squares 7/8" larger than the "finished height of the unit" and the large square 1 1/4" larger than the "finished width of the unit".

This just throws me off. I'm trying to define "UNIT" and when explained above about finish and unfinished, I get it BUT this is saying "finished" HEIGHT for the 4 squares and "finished" WIDTH for the large square.


From the Editor: No problem! Let's see if I can get you unconfused.

First, I've gone back into the tutorial and removed the word 'unit' or 'units' and replaced them with 'block' or 'blocks'. My bad.

I always think of Flying Geese as 'units' because they're used in so many other blocks. I hope that helps a bit.

The Formula did originally use 'height' or 'width' of the "finished Height (or Width) of the Flying Geese +" and then whatever seam allowance was called for. It didn't contain either 'unit' or 'block' and so I didn't add it.

I did add: "Before doing any cutting, identify the finished size of the Flying Geese you need to make" in red.

A quick review of the basics:
  • Finished Size is the size of a block after all of it's edges have been sewn into a quilt with a 1/4" seam allowance.
  • Unfinished Size is the edge-to-edge measurement of that same block BEFORE any of its edges are sewn into the quilt top.
Finished Size is what patterns are drafted with. Anytime you see a block drawing in grayscale here on the Generations Quilt Patterns website, all those patches in the block are finished sizes.

Different techniques for the same block (usually) require different sized patches.

In many of the tutorials on the site, you'll see me recommend cutting oversized patches and 'trimming to perfection' after stitching is complete. That means I'm adding something other than the standard 1/4" seam allowance. (Usually used in blocks with several stitched bias edges.) 'No Waste Flying Geese Quilt Blocks', the tutorial you are working on, offers this use of oversized-patches as an optional cutting chart.

To hopefully make things clearer in the tutorial, I've added a grayscale drawing of a finished Flying Geese with the Sky and Goose fabric placement noted. It's right above the large green box with the cutting formula in it.

Remembering that this tutorial works only when the finished FG is half as wide as it is tall. (If you print either of the cutting charts offered on that page, you'll see a column for both 'Finished Size' and 'Unfinished Size'.

Finally, any time you are using a formula to determine what size to cut your patches for a quilt block, you always start with the finished size of the block. That's because you are adding the seam allowances as required by the technique you choose to use.

Does this help?

I hope so!

Once you have a firm grasp on the relationship of finished to unfinished block sizes, you'll own it. It'll become second nature.

Thank you for writing. I think the changes I've made to the tutorial make it better. That wouldn't have happened without you!

Piecefully,

Julie Baird

9 patch
by: Dell

I would like to make a 9 patch block that measures 10 and a half inches unfinished. Could you please tell me what each of my squares should measure.

Thank you

Dell

From the Editor: After stitching all four sides of a 10-1/2" unfinished block with a standard 1/4" seam, the resulting finished size is 10".

Unfortunately, while you can divide 10" by 3 (a 9-patch is 3 units across and 3 down), the resulting number, 3.33333, isn't rotary-cutter friendly.

You have 2 options:
  1. Choose a different block size or type of block (a four patch or 5 patch would work), or
  2. Create and use templates to cut the patches. Simply drawn a true 10" square and divide it into an even 3x3 grid. Those square will be 3.3333" square. Cut out the template squares. When you cut your patches you'll need to remember to add a 1/4" to each side—to add the seam allowance back in to get the unfinished size. Not what you'd hoped to hear, I fear.
I wish I had an easier solution for you.

Piecefully,

Julie Baird

finishing size
by: Anonymous

The pattern that I am working on states that the half square triangles are "finishing at 1 1/2". Does this mean that I should trim them to 2" or to 1 1/2" before they are joined into the quilt.

From the Editor: Trim them to 2" square. Once all the edges are sewn into the quilt it will measure 1-1/2".

Piecefully,

Julie Baird

Totally confused!!
by: Anonymous

Let's take a 6-inch square block that has just been cut. It's my understanding that is considered an "unfinished" block (or square). From what I've read, a "finished" quilt block would then be considered a 5 1/2 inch square block, so if you sew a row of blocks together, the blocks would each be 5 1/2 inches.

Where I get confused is when three rows, for example, are sewn together, the middle row, and continuing rows as you sew more rows, will be 5 inches. I would consider that to be a "finished" block.

So when I read, for example, the "finished block is six inches," does that mean the "unfinished" block is 6 1/2 inches or 7 inches? I get confused whether they are talking about all four sides being sewn or just two sides being sewn.

Any help would be appreciated.

From the Editor: You are so-o-o-o-o-o close! Don't worry, because once you've got the concept, you've got it.

Your 6" cut or unfinished square turns into a 5-1/2" finished block once a 1/4" is taken away in the seam allowance from all four sides to stitch the patch into the quilt.

Once all four sides are stitched into a 1/4" seam, there's nothing else to take away. You won't sew another 1/4" seam into any of those four sides.

So for a block that is 6" unfinished/5-1/2" finished, when they are put into a quilt that's 6 blocks across and 9 block down, you multiply the finished size times the number of blocks in the row or column.

So we have:

5-1/2" x 6 = 33"
5-1/2" x 9 = 49-1/2"

When it doesn't have any binding on it yet, it will measure 33-1/2" by 50" unfinished. It's a 1/4" bigger on each side waiting for that last seam allowance to be taken out of the outside blocks.

Does this help?

Piecefully,

Julie Baird

Finished and unfinished block size.
by: Sarah

If the pattern says 8 and 1/2 inch Stars. 8 inch finished in the quilt. Does that mean I have to add half an inch to all my pieces I cut? So my stars will have to be 9" originally then I trim them down to 8-1/2"?

From the Editor:If you have a purchased pattern and the designer has written it as you shared—8-1/2" and 8" finished—then it is safe to assume that the directions are correct. You needn't change the cutting size.

Personally, I do make a block following the instructions in the pattern for several reasons:
  1. To check that all the patch sizes are correct
  2. To decide if I like the technique the designer has used. Many times I'll change the technique to one I like and make the sample block with that first.
  3. And finally to check that the pressing instructions make sense for piecing both the block and the quilt together.
Probably more than you wanted to know, but there it is.

I hope this helps.

Piecefully,

Julie Baird

FINISHED OR UNFINISHED
by: Anonymous

The pattern says it's a 12" block. Does that mean a finished 12" or unfinished 12"? A bit confusing.

From the Editor:

While I'd have to see the pattern to be sure, I'd assume that they're talking about finished block size if it's on the outside of the pattern.

~ Julie

6 inch or 6 1/2 inch!
by: Anonymous

That is JUST so wrong!! I have now trimmed 25 of my 100 6 1/2 inch square to 6 inch due to using some complicated patterns thinking that's what it meant by finished 6 inch and now realize it's suppose to be 6 1/2 inch as I'm doing easier patterns now. VERY frustrating! Just say one or other or be more explicit in stating needing a 1/4 inch seam for the finished pattern.

From the Editor:

I suspect that what happens is that the designer is no longer a beginner and forgets how confusing terminology can be.

That is why you'll see the finished and unfinished or (edge-to-edge) measurements referenced in the tutorials on this site

It can get very confusing.

~ Julie


Finished Quilt Size?
by: Karen's Kreations

I have 65 9"x9" quilt blocks I want to put together but don't know how to figure what size quilt I will end up with due to not know what design to put it together. Any ideas anyone can help me with?

Thank you

From the Editor:

Take the finished size (that's what the blocks measure AFTER they're stitched into a quilt.

Then lay them out in rows. Multiply the number of blocks in each row by the finished size.

Repeat this for the number of rows (the columns).

Add the finished width of your binding times two to each measurement to arrive at the finished size of your intended quilt.

I hope this helps.

~ Julie

Finshed and unfinshed?
by: Maura

Don't know why I make myself nuts. Anyway first time paper piecing.

so my blocks, which no 32 of them, should be 10 1/2 inches and then when I sew them all together , they will be 10P right.

Thanks
M.Capiak

From the Editor:

If after paperpiecing your blocks they are 10 1/2 inches from edge-to-edge (unfinished size), then yes, after sewing them together, they should measure 10".

You've got this!

~ Julie

Finished vs. Unfinished Question
by: Anonymous

Boy, this is SO confusing to me, new quilter.

OK, * Unfinished is raw edges after cutting then * Finished is when the cut piece is sewn into the quilt.

So, my question is "If" the finished (sewn it quilt) is measured at 6" ~ I have read you are to cut your piece at 6 1/2 due to 1/4 sewing allowance. This is where I get confused if you are cutting a square you have 4 edges to sew into your quilt. Does that mean you cut 1/4 more inches on each side? If so, that would mean you would cut 7"? 6 and 1/4 for each side.

Thank you

From the Editor:

You're almost there!

For square and rectangular shapes you add 1/2" to each dimension, always. Both shapes have two pairs of parallel sides.

If you start with a 6-1/2" cut/unfinished square and sew the top and bottom edges to other blocks, the finished size measuring the square from top to bottom is 6".

At this point, the left and right sides are unfinished because they haven't been sewn to anything else. They are still 6-1/2".

Sew units to the left and right, now the whole square has a finished measurement of 6".

Does that help?

~ Julie

BLOCK SIZING
by: Anonymous

I would like a chart that says if you want to make a 9" block cut your blocks (what size) so it will finish at 9". All block sizes should be on the chart. 10" 12" 14" whatever so you know what size to cut so you can finish it at the proper size. I too am a novice quilter and it takes so much time to do trial and error for blocks that I usually use as corner blocks on a border. I still work and don't have a lot of time to devote to doing all this and I love to quilt but this is so time consuming, it appears someone could make a chart so we would know. Also, if you use 1/2 square or 1/4 square triangles does that measure differently? I am sure I am not the only confused quilter out there! Perhaps I am just thick headed!!!

Thanks,

Sonya G.

From the Editor:

Sonya, for those other shapes (not squares and rectangles) I do have cutting charts for a number of different shapes. You'll find them on the Beginner Quilt Block Patterns and Units page.

Honestly, I'd never thought to produce such a chart for squares and rectangles. No matter how you slice it, you always add 1/2" to the width and to the height of those two shapes.

I hope this helps.

~ Julie

finished vs unfinished
by: Anonymous

I am amazed that these quilting patterns that we pay so many money for do not make things more clear. They should specify both sizes as it is very confusing.

A beginning quilter, especially if they are self-taught, is going to have a mess in their quilt because things don't measure correctly. I always thought finished was before it was sewn into the quilt.

Lost a lot of points that way.

Block size
by: Anonymous

If the pattern just states the "block size is 10 1/2" do u trim it to that size before piecing the quilt?

It does not state finished or unfinished.

From the Editor: Without seeing the pattern, I can't reliably answer the question.

However, you can determine this for yourself. Get some graph paper and draft out the block using the cut sizes in the pattern. Remember that for squares and rectangles the finished size (you draft with finished sizes) is 1/2" less for both length and width. (A patch cut 2-1/2" x 3" will finish at 2" x 2-1/2".)

Another quick check is if there is any sashing around the block.

If the blocks are squares (most pieced patchwork is) then the length of first piece of sashing that attaches to a single block is the dimension of the unfinished block.

I know that's a lot of words. However, put a block in your hand and walk through it. That should make sense.

I wish I could be of more help.

~ Julie Baird

Challenging block size!
by: Linda Lou

This is very challenging! I have followed the pattern to a "t" and when I see the sashings on I am going to barely have enough material for the seam. So sad to put all this effort in and hope your seam stays inπŸ€”

finished vs unfinished quilt blocks sizes.
by: Anonymous

So if a pattern says it is a finished 6" block and they give you all the cutting measurements. It then is a 5.5" block when trimmed?

PS You are right, very confusing.

From the Editor: No. If the block is 6" finished, that's the size that shows after it is pieced into your quilt top.

To stitch it into your top you need to have a 1/4" seam allowance on each side. Add 1/2" to the finished size (6" + 1/2"); it is a 6-1/2" UN-finished block.

The unfinished size is always larger than the finished size because of the seam allowances needed to 'finish' it.

HTH,

~ Julie

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