Stitch, Laugh, Repeat! Master the Follow the Leader Quilt Block

Sized for 5", 7½", 10", 12½", and 15" finished blocks

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Follow the stitches! 🧵 Our Follow the Leader quilt block is a playful masterpiece based loosely on the morphing of a Friendship Star and a Pinwheel.

Worried about pointy-points and precision?

Fear not!

By sewing on a line, you'll effortlessly create sharp, perfect points that sit exactly 1/4" from the edge—no sweat involved! Get ready for a piecing experience where every step is guided, every stitch is an accomplishment, and every moment is filled with playful confidence.

After all, sewing should feel like a game of 'Follow the Leader', filled with joy and peppered with self-belief.

You've got this. 💪

The Follow the Leader quilt block tutorial in 5 sizes starts hereThe Follow the Leader quilt block ~ Let the games begin!

As always, beginner-friendly, illustrated instructions are the backbone of the tutorial. There are free goodies, too, available for you to download to help you. They are:

It's time to follow along.

General Instructions

Several abbreviations are used on this page. They are:

  • SA - seam allowance
  • RST - right sides together
  • HRT - half rectangle triangles
  • BW - Brave World units
  • Bac - Background fabric

A 1/4" SA is used in this tutorial. 

Highlighted in yellow, pressing instructions are easy to spot.

To press, first press the patches in the closed position as they came off your sewing machine. This sets the seam, melding the fibers of the threads into the fibers of the fabric.

Download and print paper piecing patterns

Print the paper piecing patterns you need

To download the pattern, use the most current version of Adobe.

For accurate results, on Adobe's Print Menu page, under 'Page Size and Handling' set 'Custom Scale' to 100%. Then print.

Click here to see what it looks like on the Print Menu page.

Find your finished block size from the chart below. Print the corresponding number of pages for a total of 4 BW and 4 HRT-A units.

Print the Patterns
Brave World Units (BW)
Half Rectangle Triangles-A(HRT)

Block Size
Brave World Units Half Rectangle Triangles
to print
BW Size Copies
to print
HRT-A Size
5" 1 2" 1 1" x 2"
7½'' 1 3" 1 1½" x 3"
10" 2 4" 1 2" x 4"
12½'' 4 5" 2 2½" x 5"
15" 4 6" 2 3" x 6"

After printing, use the 1" square graphic on the printed page(s) to double check that your patterns printed at the correct size.

Not sure which paper piecing paper to use?

Click here for "Does it really matter which paper piecing paper you use?" to help you make the best decision for your needs.

The newest quilt fabrics to tickle your fancy...

Click the images below to see the full collection. We share any commercial and/or free patterns that showcase them, too. (For inspiration, of course!)

Step 1: Cutting patches for your Follow the Leader quilt block

Follow the Leader quilt block design

Sample Block Size:  7½" finished / 8" unfinished

Grid:  5x5   

AKA:  Twist and Turn, Crazy Ann

Design Type:  Pinwheel  |  Uneven 9-patch, small center  |  Paper piecing

Label your patches. We use their numbers in this tutorial.

To print a copy of the block design and cutting chart to use at your cutting table, click here.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Follow the Leader Quilt Block

~ Paper & Traditional Piecing ~

(Patches shown Width x Height)
PatchFabricQtyFinished Block SizeSub
5'' 7½'' 10'' 12½'' 15''
BW-1 Dark 4 1¾'' x 1¾'' 2¼'' x 2¼'' 2¾'' x 2¾'' 3¼'' x 3¼'' 3¾'' x 3¾'' no
Bac 4 2⅜'' x 2⅜'' 2⅞'' x 2⅞'' 3⅜'' x 3⅜'' 3⅞'' x 3⅞'' 4⅜'' x 4⅜'' Symbol for a half square triangle
BW-4 Dark 2 3⅜'' x 3⅜'' 4⅜'' x 4⅜'' 5⅜'' x 5⅜'' 6⅜'' x 6⅜'' 7⅜'' x 7⅜'' Symbol for a half square triangle
1 Dark 2 2⅞'' x 3¼'' 3⅜'' x 4¼'' 3⅞'' x 5¼'' 4⅜'' x 6¼'' 4⅞'' x 7¼" yes
2 Bac 2 2⅞'' x 3¼'' 3⅜'' x 4¼'' 3⅞'' x 5¼'' 4⅜'' x 6¼'' 4⅞'' x 7¼" yes
3 Bac 1 1½'' x 1½'' 2'' x 2'' 2½'' x 2½'' 3'' x 3'' 3½'' x 3½'' ---
Unfinished Block Size 5½'' 8'' 10½'' 13'' 15½'' na
Grid Size 1'' 1½'' 2'' 2½'' 3'' na

90% Faster Than Rotary Cutters

Subcutting patches

Layer the #1 dark rectangles all right side up, aligning all the edges. Do this for the #2 backgrounds, too.

The height of the rectangles should be along the left and right sides. The width should go across the top and bottom.

This orientation is important! When the rectangles are arranged this way, the angle we cut is correct.

With a pencil, make a mark at the edge, 5/8" in from the upper-left corner and 5/8" in from the lower-right corner.

Match the edge of your ruler with these marks at the top and bottom edges of the #1s and #2s. Cut in half.

Repeat for both sets of rectangles. ALL RIGHT SIDES UP.

Cut the #1 and #2 patches in half using the tick marks as guidesSubcutting the #2 background rectangles

After subcutting, you'll have 4 identical triangles for #1 and #2.

Four identical triangles from subcutting #1#1 dark rectangles after subcutting

Cut the BW-2, BW-3, and BW-4 squares in half once on the diagonal.

BW-2, BW-3, and BW-4 are cut in half once on the diagonal

Our subcutting is complete.

Step 2: Assemble the units for a Follow the Leader block

Position the wrong side of the #1s and BW-1s on the unprinted side of each pattern, using a dot of Elmer's Washable Glue Stick to hold them in place.

Position BW-1 and #1 in position on the unprinted side of the paper pattern

After all 8 patches are glued, put the glue stick away. We're done with it for this block.

Next, set up your sewing machine for paper piecing as outlined below.

General Sewing Machine Setup for Paperpiecing

  • Reduce your stitch length to 16–20 stitches per inch (1.3-1.6 mm). This perforates the paper and stabilizes the seam when you remove the pattern. [Learn more about stitch length here.]
  • Reduce your machine's speed or just plain slow down. Sew only as fast as you can stay on the stitching lines.
  • Install an open toe appliqué foot (sometimes called an 'embroidery' or 'satin stitch' foot) if you have one (it's easier to see where you're stitching with one installed). 
  • If your machine has a needle stop up, use it. The stitching goes faster when you don't have to lift the presser foot with every seam.
  • As you stitch each seam, start and stop a generous 1/4” before and after the solid stitching lines. ALWAYS. Future lines of stitching secure the ends.

After adding each patch, press the unit as it was sewn to set the seam and then open. The SA is automatically pressed towards the last patch added.

Before adding the next patch, take a look to make sure the one you just added covers the space plus seam allowance that it is supposed to.

Steam is optional and usually curls the pattern. 

If that bothers you, don't use steam. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't.

It truly depends on my mood.

Remember, as you follow this paper piecing tutorial, the printed and the fabric sides of this block are mirror-images of each other.

At last!

Let's sew!

Half Rectangle Triangles (HRT)

Make 4      

The HRT unit from the fabric and the pattern's a mirror imageFrom the fabric side (left) and pattern side (right)

NOTE: The two sides of this unit are the reverse of each other. Don't let that confuse you as you stitch.

With RST, align the long bias edge of #2 (background) with #1.

Since #1 is so much darker, I'm going to scooch #2 a couple of threads past the edge. This is so the darker fabric won't accidentally shadow or show through the top of the block when it's finished. 

This simple trick also helps us avoid having to come back and trim away a bit from the darker patch.

Position #2, RST with #1

Sew on the line between #1 and #2, starting and stopping past the outside edges of the HRT. These units are candidates for chain piecing to save a bit of time.

Once sewn, give them a good press at the ironing board.

Now to trim to perfection.

Align the 1/4" mark on your ruler with the solid rectangle that represents the finished size of the patch.

With your rotary cutter, cut away the excess fabric. Repeat for all 4 sides of all the HRTs.

Trim the HRTs to the proper size

Here we can see the HRT, from the pattern side (left), from the fabric side, still a hot mess (middle) and after trimming to exactly the right size.

An HRT, stitched backside (left), stitched fabric side (middle) and trimmed (right)An HRT, stitched backside (left), stitched fabric side (middle) and trimmed (right)

Piecing perfection without having to purchase an expensive specialty ruler…

…and remember where you put it…

…and where the instructions are!


Brave World Units (BW)

Make 4     

Brave World unitBrave World unit (BW)

With RST, align a short edge of #BW-2 with #BW-1. If you're new to making this unit, flip this #2 open while holding the SA to check it's positioned properly. 

Position BW-2 right sides together with BW-1

Sew on the solid line between BW-1 and BW-2, starting and stopping a good 1/4" before the line begins and ends (red arrow).

Sew on the line between BW-1 and BW-2

Press. If you've starched your fabric, you can fingerpress this seam instead of jumping up to the iron.

With RST, position BW-3. Check it's in the correct position and stitch the seam as before.

Position BW-3 right sides together with BW-1

Press at the iron.

At the cutting mat, pattern side up, pull the paper away from the stitches in the center of the block. The paper will tear a bit.

Be gentle, it doesn't take much to pull the paper back a bit past the upcoming stitching line.

Pull the paper away from the seams in the center of the BW before trimming BW-2 and BW-3

Line up your ruler with the solid line between BW-4 and BW-2/BW3. Use your thumbnail to crease on the line.

Fold back the paper pattern and align the 1/4" markings on your ruler with the fold.

Trim away the excess fabric past this 1/4" SA.

Trim away the excess BW-2 and BW-3 with your rotary cutterIt's a bit difficult to see, but the 1/4" line is on the folded edge of the pattern.

You've just created the perfect positioning line for your final patch.

With RST, line up the long edges of BW-4 with the freshly trimmed edge. (No need to nudge it because it's darker than the unlaying patch.)

Position BW-4 right sides together with BW-1/BW-2/BW-3

Stitch on the line, starting and ending past the dashed lines that surround the block.

Give your BW a good pressing with the iron.

All that's left is to trim this little beauty to perfection. 

Just as we did for the HRTs, line up the 1/4" mark on your ruler with the solid line that surrounds the block. The ruler's edge should be just about at or on top of the outside dashed line. 

Trim away the excess. Repeat for the three remaining sides.

Trim away the excess past the 1/4" seam allowance

Continue until you've finished the 4 BWs.

Return your sewing machine to your everyday settings.

We stitch the remainder of the block with traditional techniques.

Install your favorite quarter inch presser foot. Adjust the needle position if needed. Return to your normal piecing stitch length.

Remove the paper pattern from all your patches. It has served its purpose.

Using precut patches means all the outside edges of each unit are on the straight of grain just like any traditionally pieced quilt block. The paper no longer serves a purpose.

Sayonara, paper!

Step 3: Assemble the Follow the Leader block

Arrange your stitched BWs, HRTs and cut center square into the Follow the Leader design. Darker squares in the four outside corners, The HRTs all pinwheel clockwise around the block design.

Lay out the pieced HRTs, BWs, and cut center square to create the Follow the Leader design

With RST, sew the units in each row together. 

Use pins to match the points on the outside edge. The more vigilant your were about sewing on the line, the easier it is to get a good match here. That's the magic of paper piecing—along with not needing a specialty ruler for a shape you just don't make frequently.

The SAs are pressed toward the BWs in the top and bottom rows and towards the center in the middle row, all to avoid creating excessive bulk.

Stitch the rows together

With RST, stitch the rows together. Pin as you need for a good match.

You can see my pinning below. Again, sewing on the line makes this an easy match,

Pinning the rows together before sewing

One final press at the ironing board. The least two seams are pressed away from the HRTs.

Our Follow the Leader block is complete.

A finished Follow the Leader quilt block

Here it is from the backside. All the SAs are away from the HRTs and toward the BWs.

Finished Follow the Leader quilt block from the backsideYou can see where the lighter fabric was 'nudged' out a couple of threads past the seam line to prevent shadowing.

For a three fabric version of this block, take a gander at our Crazy Ann quilt block tutorial. 

So what's this about shadowing?

As you can see in the picture of the finished block above, the light seam allowances 'shadow' through the top of the quilt block.

Use a white batting in a quilt with this background fabric and those SAs will disappear immediately.

The reason SAs show here is the picture was taken while the block was on the purple cutting board.

Congratulations, Quilter Extraordinaire! 🎉

You've followed the stitches, embraced your creativity, and pieced this little beauty.

Stand tall, relish in your accomplishment, and bask in the pieced glory of your finished block. Your stitches, like a well-led parade, showcase your skill and creativity.

Keep following your quilting instincts to more stitching triumphs! 🚀✨

Spin into quilting bliss—make your head dizzy with delight!

Find a new Pinwheel quilt block pattern to stitch up

You've finished your pinwheel quilt block, and you're ready for more!

Browse our collection of 29 pinwheel quilt block patterns. All have instructions and cutting charts in multiple sizes. If templates or paper piecing is used in the tutorial, there's a free download for you of those materials.

Eeny. Meenie. Miney. Mo.

Which pinwheel quilt block will you sew?

For even MORE blocks to make...

There's more quilt blocks to make

...visit our Free Quilt Block Pattern Library, with over 220+ blocks to choose from in multiple sizes.

Free downloads are included in all sizes for any blocks require paper piecing patterns or templates.

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