Jack in the Box Quilt Block

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

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Skill Level: Beginner

The Jack in the Box quilt block is simple to make using either the Connector Corners technique or paper piecing for perfect pointy points.

You'll find both techniques available on this page in three different sizes.

As always, if you choose to paper piece, the pattern downloads are free and located on this page, too!

This block is also called Whirligig.

Let's get started!

General Instructions

When you are instructed to press, first press the pieced unit flat to set the seam. Then open the patch, pressing from the front. Seam allowances are pressed to the dark fabric unless otherwise noted.

Regardless of the technique you choose, try our favorite method for getting flatter blocks. Click here to learn about this simple and effective pressing technique.

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: Choose a technique, a size and then cut your patches

Jack in the Box quilt block designJack in the Box design

Sample Size: 7½" finished / 8" unfinished

Grid: 5x5

Attribution: Ruby McKim

AKA: Whirligig (Carrie Hall and Rose Kretsinger)

Design Type: Uneven 9-patch, small center, Pinwheel

The blue chart is for paper pieced Jack in the Box quilt blocks.

After deciding on the size, you can download the necessary patterns right from the chart—third line up from the bottom.

You'll need the most current version of Adobe installed on your computer to download  the paperpiecing 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.

 There is a 1" square on the page to help you confirm it is printed correctly.

Note, too, that the 'Patch #'s' are sometimes words. This is to make it easier to keep track of the units between both methods.

The pink chart is for the Connector Corners technique.

Choose your method and cut from the appropriate chart.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Jack in the Box Quilt Block

~ Paper Piecing ~

Patch Fabric Qty Finished Block Size
1A41-5/8” x 2-3/4” 2-1/8” x 3-3/4” 2-5/8” x 4-3/4”
2, SkyB82-3/8” x 2-3/8”2-7/8” x 2-7/8”3-3/8” x 3-3/8”
GooseA13-5/8” x 3-5/8”4-5/8” x 4-5/8”5-5/8” x 5-5/8”
5A41½" x 2½"2” x 3½"2½" x 4½"
CenterB11½" x 1½"2” x 2”2½" x 2½"
Print Jack in the Box
2" 3"4"**
Unfinished unit measures... 2½" x 2½"3½" x 3½"4½" x 4½"
Unfinished Jack in the Box
block measures...
5½" x 5½"8” x 8”10½" x 10½"

**Print two copies for a total of 4 units.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Jack in the Box Quilt Block

~ Connector Corners ~

Patch Fabric Qty Finished Block Size
1, GooseA81½" x 2½"2” x 3½"2½" x 4½"
2, SkyB161½" x 1½" 2” x 2”2½" x 2½"
5A41½" x 2½"2” x 3½"2½" x 4½"
Center B11½" x 1½"2” x 2”2½" x 2½"
Unfinished unit measures...2½" x 2½"3½" x 3½"4½" x 4½"
Unfinished Jack in the
Box quilt block measures...
5½" x 5½"8” x 8”10½" x 10½"

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Step 2: Assemble the Jack in the Box unit

Make 4

This is the Jack in the Box unit we'll use to make our Colorado Beauty

Connector or Folded Corners

Click here for detailed instructions using connector corners to make the units.

When you are finished, click the 'Back' button on your browser bar to return here.

Paper Piecing

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!

Cut the four patterns from the downloaded page(s) just outside the dotted lines.

With a dab of Elmer's Glue Stick, the one that goes on purple and dries clear, stick the back side of #1 to the unprinted side of the pattern. Use the dashed placement lines to position it.

Position Patch #1 using the dashed placement lines as a guide

This patch should extend approximately an 1/8" past the outside edges of the unfinished block.

With RST add a #2. It doesn't matter which side is first. Just be consistent. That way if you've making a boatload of these blocks, you can get a rhythm going. You should be able to see through the pattern to use the dashed placement line.

Stitch, starting and stopping a good 1/4"  before and after the solid line. (see arrows)


Add the second #2 and press.

Add a 'goose' triangle. Use the placement line to help you position it.

Stitch, starting and stopping past the edge of the unfinished block.

Trim to a quarter inch seam. In the photo below, just the excess green dot fabric will be trimmed away.

Trim to a quarter inch seam

Press the goose.

Add the sky triangles one at a time, pressing and then trimming away any excess after each is added.

Before trimming, the Jack in the Box unit looks like this...

The Jack in the Box unit ready for trimming

To trim, align the 1/4" mark of your ruler with the solid outline of the block. Trim with your rotary cutter. Repeat for all sides.

Trim the unit to size

Repeat to make the three remaining units.

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.

Step 3: Assemble your Jack in the Box quilt block

Lay out the Jack in the Box units and cut patches into rows like this. Pay careful attention to rotate the pieced units a quarter turn clockwise as you move around the block. The geese point out from the center.

Lay out the cut and pieced units into rows

With a 1/4" seam allowance, stitch the patches into rows. Press with SAs in the direction of the arrows, away from the pieced Jack in the Box units.

Press the seam allowances in the direction of the arrows

Sew the rows together with a 1/4" seam. After one final press, your finished Jack in the Box quilt block looks like this!

The finished Jack in the Box quilt block

Maybe it's because I'm making this at Christmastime, but this block really reminds me of a bow? You, too?

Common Variations

There are a few variations on the basic design. The one thing that doesn't change is the strong movement created by the central pinwheel motif.

Colorado Beauty quilt block design

Colorado Beauty

In this first variation, the unit is the same, but the cut square and rectangles are removed.

Click here for instructions to make a Colorado Beauty block.

Seesaw quilt block design


The rectangle has lost a HST.

Click here for instructions to make a Seesaw quilt block.

Land of Lincoln quilt block design

Land of Lincoln

The pieced rectangle is flipped end to end and the goose has lost one of it's sky patches.

Lucky Pieces quilt block design

Lucky Pieces

Two HSTs are substituted in for the goose!

Same name, different block...

Another block called Jack in the Box

This version of the Jack in the Box quilt block is closely related to ours—the only difference being the HSTs that have replaced the pieced rectangles.

What about a different quilt block?

For a list of all the 220+ quilt block patterns on this site, start here.

If you know the name of the block, shorten your search by using these links:




Click here if you're looking for blocks with at least some paper piecing.

Click here if you're looking for the basic building blocks of quilting, i.e., Flying Geese, half square triangles, quarter square triangles, etc., along with several techniques to make each.

And finally, use these links to find blocks in these finished sizes:

For even more blocks to make...

Click here to learn about my favorite quilt book resources that inspire my patchwork designs.

For you, are quilt block designs like potato chips...

...you can't have just one?!!

Check the amazing resources I rely on for all the quilt block designs you see on this website. 

To see if they're worthy of a spot in YOUR quilting library, CLICK HERE.

This article was printed from Generations-Quilt-Patterns.com

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