Lady of the White House Quilt Block

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

The Lady of the White House quilt block is a variation on the simple pinwheel design.

Simple strip piecing techniques and quick pieced half square triangles makes it a cinch to create it's whirly-twirly goodness.

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On this page you'll find instructions for three different block sizes, as well as links to our favorite quilting supplies and quilt block resources.

Time to cut up and sew!

General Instructions

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These abbreviations are used on this page:

  • SA - seam allowance
  • RST - right sides together
  • HST - half square triangle
  • RF - Rail Fence

SA are 1/4" and pressed towards the darker fabric unless noted otherwise by a blue arrow.

I like to starch my quilt fabric with a 50/50 mix of water and StaFlo liquid starch. Stiffer fabric is easier to cut accurately. Easier to press#8212;especially the strip sets. 

If you prefer fabric with body, without so much stiffness, then use Best Press.

Step 1: Cutting for a Lady of the White House

Lady of the White House patchwork designLady of the White House design

Sample block size: 12" (12-1/2" unfinished)

Grid: 12x12, 4-patch

I've used a solid and a batik for this block. A benefit of using batiks is that you can usually use either side. This print was no exception.

During block construction I worried there wasn't enough contrast in the fabric values. That the points would get lost.

This time, my worries were unfounded. 

Batik fabric has a higher thread count that your standard, every-day quilting cotton. For that reason I prefer Schmetz's Microtex Sharp needle. The result is better stitch quality. (If you have a Singer sewing machine, you must use Singer brand needles.)

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Lady of the White House Quilt Block

~Traditional Piecing ~

PatchFabricQtyFinished Block Size
12" 18" 24"
1 D 2 1½" x 14" 2" x 19" 2½" x 24"
2 L 1 1½" x 14" 2" x 19" 2½" x 24"
3 L 2 1½" x 4" 2" x 5" 2½" x 6"
4 D 1 1½" x 4" 2" x 5" 2½" x 6"
5* L 2 3⅞" x 3⅞" 5⅜" x 5⅜" 6⅞" x 6⅞"
6* D 2 3⅞" x 3⅞" 5⅜" x 5⅜" 6⅞" x 6⅞"
7 L 4 3½" x 6½" 5" x 9½" 6½" x 12½"
Unfinished Block Size 12½" 18½" 24½"
Grid Size 1" 1½" 2"
**I prefer to cut my squares extra large for HST, stitch, and then trim them to size. If you prefer to do the same, add a bit extra to the measurements for #5 and #6 above.

There is a chart further down in these instructions where you need it for trimming them to size.

These are some of the supplies I use to prepare and cut my fabric.

Step 2: Assemble the Lady of the White House units


Make 4


We use the Quick Pieced method for making our HSTs.

If you plan to make many blocks, you may want to use another HST method like 8-at-a-time or triangle paper.

Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the backside of the lighter #5 square. (I used my favorite Bohin Mechanical Chalk Pencil for this.

With RST, layer the #5 and #6 patches, aligning the edges. Stitch 1/4" away from both sides of the line.

Sew HST seamsSewing with a specialty quarter inch foot with markings on the left and right side of the foot. Love it!

Cut the patches in half between the stitching lines. Press. 

The stages of a HST unitCut in half on the drawn line (left), pressed with SA to the dark (middle), trimmed HST (right)

Use the chart below to check the accuracy of your sewing. Trim if necessary.

HST Dimensions

Block Size
Trim HST to…
12" 3½"
18" 5"
24" 6½"


Make 1 each: #1/#2/#1 and #3/#4/#3

With RST, sew a #1 to a #2 along the long edge. I like to start my stitching on a 'spider' (see blue arrow below). The first stitch onto the strips is always better!

Sewing #1 to #2

Pressing stripsets is easier when you do it as you add each strip—it's just so much easier to get at the SA. 

With RST, add the second dark #1. Press.

Use the chart below to check the accuracy of your stitching. Make any necessary adjustments before subcutting.

StripSet Measurements

#1/#/2/#1 #3/#4/#3
Rail Fence
Cut 2
Nine Patches
Cut 4
Nine Patches
Cut 2
12" 3½" 3½" 1½" 1½"
18" 5" 5" 2" 2"
24" 6½" 6½" 2½" 2½"

Straighten one short edge of each stripset.

Straightening the edges of the strip setsFor a true, straight edge align the lines on your ruler with the seamlines. Then trim.

Subcut these stripsets as indicated in the chart above. 

These are the patches after subcutting.

Patches after subcutting

Set aside the two big units until Step 3—they are our Rail Fence units.

The four narrower patches are used to make nine patches.

Nine Patch

Nine Patch

Make 2

Arrange your units to create two four-patches with dark corners and center.

Make nine patches

With RST, stitch the units together, pressing out from the center after the addition of each one.

Step 3: Assemble quarter blocks

A Lady in the White House block is simply a pinwheel block with a little extra.

Create two of each unit shown below, pressing the joining SA in the direction of the arrow.

Make 2 quarter blocks

And two of these...

Make two quarter blocks

To complete the quarter blocks, add a #7 rectangle to the left side of each pair.

Like this...

Create quarters - variation #1

...and this.

Create quarters - variation #2

All that's left is to assemble the quarters.

Step 4: Assemble your Lady of the White House

Arrange the quarters into the Lady of the White House design shown below. Nine patches and RF units alternate around the outside edges of the block. A pinwheel forms in the center.

Quarter blocks

Stitch the units into rows. All the SA in the seam nest to make matching seamlines easier.

Press SA toward the #7 rectangles.

Sew into rows

Once the rows are joined, this is the Lady of the White House from the front.

Lady of the White House Front

From the backside, you can see that seams joining the quarters have been twirled or fanned around the center.

The beauty of this 'twirling' technique is that for a quilt made of only this block pattern, all the seams nest. 

Putting a quilt like that together is a piece o'cake!

Lady of the White House - back side
Link to 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

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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