Missouri Puzzle Quilt Block

From our Free Quilt Block Pattern Library

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The Missouri Puzzle quilt block is a veritable playground for the beginner quilter! 

Half square triangles, 9-patches and Rail Fence units. Enough to practice on, but not enough to gag a maggot!

Cutting instructions for three sizes are included. The 30" block size offered is large enough to be a table-topper on its own.

Quick pieced half square triangles and a bit of strip piecing. What could be simpler than that?

Let's begin.

Construction Instructions

Seams are all 1/4" and pressed toward the darker fabric unless otherwise noted.

Several common abbreviations are used in this tutorial:

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

Starching your quilt fabric before cutting helps, in my humble opinion, with more accurate cutting, piecing and pressing.

For this block, it's so much easier to fingerpress open seams when the fabric is starched. [Learn more about it here.]

When instructed to 'press', first press the patches in the closed position—just as they were sewn. Then open the patches and give them another good pressing.

For even flatter blocks, try my favorite pressing technique. It's ridiculously simple, but worth the extra step.

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

Step 1: Cutting patches for a Missouri Puzzle block

Missouri Puzzle designMissouri Puzzle design

Sample Size: 15" finished / 15½" unfinished

Grid: 15x15

Attributed to: Mrs. Danner

AKA: Mexican Block (The Country Gentleman), New Mexico (Hearth & Home)

Design Type:  Uneven 9-patch, small center, 25 squares

Patches #1 and #2 in the Cutting Chart are used for HST. If you have a reliably accurate 1/4" seam allowance use the measurement in the chart.

Personally, I like to cut my HST a 1/4"-3/8" larger, sew the unit and trim it down to perfection. I've noted those patches with an asterisk (*) in the chart.

Choose the size that works best for you.

Patches #3-#6 are used in stripsets. They are a bit longer than needed so that you have enough to straighten the edges before subcutting.

Missouri Puzzle cutting chart

Step 2: Assemble the units

Half Square Triangles

Make 12

HST unitMake 12

For the sample Missouri Puzzle, I've used a Quick Quarter ruler to draw both the center line (dashed) and stitching lines (solid), once on the diagonal of all the light #1 patches.

If you don't have a Quick Quarter, you can use your everyday ruler to draw a single diagonal line.

Mark the HST patchesThe center line is dashed. The stitching lines are solid.

Stitch on all the drawn solid lines. (If you drew only one line on each, install your quarter inch foot and stitch a quarter inch away from both sides of the line.)

Sewing HSTs


Cut all six #1/#2 pairs apart between the stitching on the dashed line.

Use the chart below. If you cut generous patches (like I do), you'll need to trim to the size indicated for your finished block size. (For the 15" finished sample, the HSTs are trimmed to 3-1/2" square.)

If you cut the exact dimensions in the Cutting Chart, use this same measurement to check that your units are accurate. Trim away any dog ears.

HST Dimensions

Block Size
Trim HST to…
7½" 2"
15" 3½"
30" 6½"

Nine Patch

Make 4

Nine-patch unitMake 4

To create a nine patch, we sew two different stripsets (SS). 

One is made from two #3 strips and one #4. The other is made from two #5 strips and one #6.

I prefer to sew a pair together, then press to set the seam and then press the unit open. Finally, add the third strip. I find there's less chance of creating a tuck at the seam allowance.

If you starched your quilt fabric before cutting, you can fingerpress open this seam before the second pressing. That virtually eliminates any chance of a tuck.

In the photo below, I'm adding the second #3 to the #3/#4/#3 SS.

Sewing strips togetherThat hairy little thing behind my presser foot is a 'spider'—it's a scrap of fabric I sew onto first before sewing onto my patches.

Give your units a good press.

Find your finished block size in the chart below and it's corresponding 'Strip Width'. Measure your SSs to confirm they are, indeed, the correct width.

Make any adjustments you need before subcutting.

Strip Set Dimensions

Block Size
Width after
SubCut Width
#3/#4/#3 #5/#6/#5
7½" 2" Eight - 1"  Four - 1"
Four - 2"
15" 3½" Eight - 1½" Four - 1½"
Four - 3½"
30" 6½" Eight - 2½" Four - 2½"
Four - 6½"

It's time to straighten one short end on each.

The photo below is a bit deceptive.

Line up a straight line on your ruler with ONE of the seamlines in ONE of the SSs.

Then trim off a complete slice.

Repeat for the second SS.

Straightening the short edge of the stripsetUnfortunately this photo looks like I trimmed both at the same time. That is incorrect. Each was trimmed by itself. They were just both on the mat at the same time.

Referring to the chart above, now find the widths to subcut your units. There are TWO different widths for the #5/#6/#5 SS.

After cutting you have the units below.

After subcuttingIn total you'll have eight #3/#4/#3 (left), four #5/#6/#5 rectangles (middle) and four #5/#6/#5 RF squares (right).

With RST sew a #3/#4/#3 to a #5/#6/#5.


Add another #3/#4/#3 to the other side of the #5/#6/#5.


Repeat for a total of four nine-patch units.

I do pin to hold everything together as I stitch.

Sewing units into 4-patchesAdding the second #3/#4/#3. Can you tell—pins are my friends!
Rail Fence unitMake 4

There is no additional sewing needed to make the the RF units. They were already cut from the #5/#6/#5 SS—Ahhhh! The magic of strip-piecing!

Step 3: Assemble the side and corner units


Make 4

With RST, sew a RF to a #7 square.

Press with SA toward the #7.

Repeat for a total of 4.

Set aside.

Sew a RF to a #7 square


Make 4

With RST, stitch two HSTs together (below, upper left). The seams  nest together to make it simple to get a pointy-point.


With RST together, stitch a HST to a 9 patch (see below, lower left for positioning).


SA are pressed in the direction of the black arrows.

With RST, join these two pairs. The SAs nest together. Use this to help you match everything up.

Pin, if needed to help you hold things together in place.

This last seam that joins the two pairs together is pressed toward the nine patch.

Repeat for a total of four.

Pressing directionsPress this last seam toward the nine patch side for all four corners for our Missouri Puzzle.

Step 4: Assemble the Missouri Puzzle quilt block

Arrange the cut and pieced sections as shown below. Pay special attention to the HSTs. They form both the 'points' of the star and the corners of the block.

Units arranged in rowsOur Missouri Puzzle is ready to assemble.

Stitch the rows together, pinning as needed. If you followed the pressing directions, the seams in the Rail Fence units will nest to make matching them a snap.

Press SA in the direction of the arrows, towards the RF units in each row.

Ready to stitch the rows together

The Missouri Puzzle after all the stitching is complete.

The Missouri Puzzle is a puzzle no longer!

Quilt Blocks related to our Missouri Puzzle

There is a whole family of blocks with similar layouts to our Missouri Puzzle block.

If the title is underlined you can click the image for instructions to make that particular patchwork design.

The New Mexican Star designThe New Mexican Star
Balance designBalance
an unnamed design"Unnamed"

If you need a different size block...

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

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

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

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