The New England Quilt Block

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

The New England quilt block is the definition of sweetness and simplicity.

The New England quilt block tutorial starts here.

A smattering of half square triangles (we'll use the 8-at-a-time method for efficiency) and solid squares and rectangles. 

And seriously. I have no idea how the New England block got it's name. Maybe for Massachusetts' Mayflower? I dunno.

Regardless, it's a terrific little design to add to your quilt block garden. 

Let's begin.

General Instructions

Click the image to pin the New England block instructions for later

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

As always, I've prewashed and starched my quilt fabrics before cutting. Click the links for more information to make your own decision.

You need to make the choice that works best for yourself and your own quilting situation. 

Step 1: Cutting

New England Block designNew England design

In the New England sample, I've chosen a directional stripe for my light fabric—Patches 1, 3, 5 and 6.

Since the block is completely symmetrical, there is only one change to make to cutting the rectangles—cut two in each direction of the stripe. (More on that a bit below.)

Cutting Chart for New England quilt block

Learn more about my favorite, new quilting tool, the Magic Pressing Mat. A valuable addition to your quilting tools—regardless of the piecing technique you use.

Here are all of the patches.

Notice the four #5 rectangles (lower left). To keep the stripe design running in the same direction all through the block, two were cut with the stripe running between the short edges. Two with it running between the long edges.

All the other patches will take care of themselves if you're using a directional fabric.

Cut patches for the New England blockHalf the #5 rectangles are cut the lengthwise design of the stripe; half are cut crosswise to it.

Step 2: Assemble the units

Half Square Triangles (HST)

Make 8

Half Square Triangle unitMake 8

My go-to technique for HST, when there are multiples of 8 in the block, is our 8-at-a-time method. Click here to learn more about it.

Start by marking the back of either your #1 or #2 square—whichever one is easier for you to see the lines on.

Here I've marked the #2 with pairs of diagonal lines with a Quick Quarter ruler.

If you don't have this ruler, just mark two single diagonals from each pair of corners with your every rotary ruler.

HSTs are markedI don't usually bother to mark the center diagonal when I use the Quick Quarter ruler. 'Saves a step.

If you marked the pairs of lines, stitch directly on them. I love my open toe applique foot for this—it's easy to see the lines.

Sewing HST unitsGotta love an open toe applique foot for this sewing!

If you marked the single diagonals, then install your quarter inch foot and stitch 1/4" away from both sides of both lines.

Press the pair of squares as sewn to set the seams and flatten any distortion created during stitching.

Use the table below to find the MidPoint Measurement. We use this number to cut the unit into four equal sized squares.

HST Dimensions

Block Size
Trim HST to…
5" 2⅛" 1½"
7½" 2⅝" 2"
10" 3⅛" 2½"

For this 5" sample block, the MidPoint is 2⅝". Place that line of your ruler along the edge of your patches (black arrow). 

The edge of your rule should run through the center. Cut the patches in half. (blue arrow)

Cut the HST unit in half from top to bottom.Black arrows points to 2⅝" line of the ruler on the very edge of the patch.

Turn your mat a quarter turn (or your patches a quarter turn). Align the same 2⅝" line with the edge. Cut in half again.

You now have four squares with two pairs of diagonal stitching running through them.

Ready to cut in half for HSTFour squares equal to the MidPoint Measurement.

Cut them apart between the sewing lines to create 8 HST.

Press, SA to the dark.

HST need to be trimmed to size

Refer back to the chart above. Find the 'Trim HSTs to...' measurement and trim yours to size.

The New England HST after trimmingFour HST have the stripe running top to bottom. The remaining four have it running side to side. Perfect for our design.

Corner Units

Make 4

If you did not use a directional print, make all four of the corners the same—you don't need to worry about the design of the fabric.

For directional fabrics, to keep the stripe running from top to bottom, we need to make two full corners with the patches oriented as shown below...

Sew one set of cornersMake 2 of each subunit

...and two full ones with the patches oriented this way.

Sew another set of cornersMake 2 of each subunit.

Now join the subunits together, keeping the strip running in the same direction.

Finishing the corners

Press SA to the dark or twirl to reduce bulk.

Step 3: Assemble your New England quilt block

Arrange the patches into the New England design. Here I've made the effort to keep the dotted stripes running all top to bottom. (Remember I cut the rectangles in two different directions.)

Arrange the patches into rowsPoints point out for our New England block

In all the rows press the SA toward the #5 rectangles to reduce bulk.

Stitch the units in each row together, pinning as necessary to keep things in place.

This is the finished New England block. Sweet, isn't it?!

Stitched New England quilt blockThe New England block is done!
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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