Path and Stiles Quilt Block

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

Skill Level: Confident Beginner

Grid: 9x9 (9-patch)

The Path and Stiles quilt block is a fabulous skill-builder for the beginning quilter. Just half square triangles and a bit of strip piecing.

It doesn't get any easier.

Path and Stiles quilt block tutorial begins here...

Nesting seam allowances make joining the units together a piece of cake!

Path and Stiles is also known as 'Stiles and Paths' (go-figure?!!), Far West and Shoo Fly. (Click the link for a more common Shoo Fly design.)

Let's get started!

General Instructions

Path and Stiles pinnable image

Several common abbreviations are used throughout this tutorial:

  • RST - right sides together
  • HST - half square triangle(s)
  • SA - seam allowance
  • BAC - Background fabric

All SA are 1/4" and pressed towards the darker fabric unless otherwise noted.

Starching your fabrics before piecing helps keep your rail fence units more accurate.

The starched edge of the strips rides right up against the guide on my favorite quarter inch foot. (You must be able to adjust your needle position to use this foot.)

For stitching the HST, I prefer an open toe applique foot because there's nothing to obstruct your view of the needle as it pierces the fabric.

Step 1: Cutting patches for a Path and Stiles

Path and Stiles designPath and Stiles drawing

Choose 3 fabrics with a clear distinction between the values so all your piecing work shows.

The quick pieced method for making HST is used for this block.

If your SA is a perfect 1/4", use the dimensions in the chart below.

If you prefer to cut your HST patches a bit larger, then add a bit to Patches #1 and #2—they are marked with an asterisk (*). (In the sample block, these patches are cut larger.)

After stitching, cut them down to the perfect size. You'll find instructions in the tutorial for this right where you use them.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Path and Stiles Quilt Block

~~Traditional Piecing~~

PatchFabricQtyFinished Block Size
9" 13½" 18"
1* BAC 2 3-⅞" x 3-⅞" 5-⅜" x 5-⅜" 6-⅞" x 6-⅞"
2* Medium 2 3-⅞" x 3-⅞" 5-⅜" x 5-⅜" 6-⅞" x 6-⅞"
3 BAC 2 1-½" x 16½" 2" x 23" 2-½" x 29½"
4 Dark 1 1-½" x 16½" 2" x 23" 2-½" x 29½"
5 Dark 2 1-½" x 4" 2" x 5" 2-½" x 6"
6 BAC 1 1-½" x 4" 2" x 5" 2-½" x 6"
Unfinished Block Size 9-½" 14" 18-½"
Grid Size 1" 1-½" 2"
*These patches are used for HST. You may wish to cut them a bit larger and then trim to perfection after stitching.

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.

Step 2: Create the units for a Path and Stiles

Half Square Triangles (HST)

Make 4

Draw a diagonal line on the back of the #1 squares, marking only as dark as you need to see.

With RST layer a #1 and #2. Stitch a 1/4" away from both sides of the drawn line.

Prepare your HSTWhile the line looks pretty light in these photos, it is dark enough to see easily at the sewing machine.

A funny thing happened on the way to making this block...

Don't you just hate it when your quilting tools 'walk away'.

As I prepared the sample block for this tutorial, I marked the center diagonal line—with all intentions of stitching a 1/4" away on both sides.

Unfortunately, my trusty-quarter-inch foot seems to have made an escape from my sewing machine tool kit.

Thank goodness I had my Quick Quarter Ruler on hand. I marked my sewing lines instead and stitched them using an open toe applique foot.

It's a good thing to have more than one 'go-to' method.

Stitch the HST unitsUsing an open toe applique foot makes it easier to see where you're sewing!

Repeat for the second pair of #1/#2.

Press flat to set the seams.

Cut apart on the drawn lines.

Press again. SA toward the dark.

If you cut your patches oversized, trim to the dimensions in the chart below that correspond to the finished block size.

If you cut patches exactly, measure to confirm that your HST are the correct size. Adjust as necessary.

For the 9" finished sample, the HST measure 3½" x 3½".

Block Size
Trim HST to...
9" 3-½" x 3-½"
13-½" 5" x 5"
18" 6-½" x 6-½"

Below are the HST through the stages: Left cut apart on the drawn line, middle pressed and right trimmed to size.

HSTs, cut on the draw line, pressed and a final trim

Rail Fence units

Make 4

With RST stitch a #3 BAC to a #4 dark along the long side.

Stitch the first pair of strips togetherSewing with the light strip on top does make for a pretty boring picture. However, I find it much easier to keep my strips aligned with the darker/brighter one on the bottom.


I find I get a more accurate stripset by pressing after each strip is added. (It's easier, too!)

Here you can see how flat everything is while adding the third strip (#3).

Adding a second #3 strip

Measure your stripset to make sure it's the correct width using the chart below.

Block Size
Stripset Width Subcut
Qty 1
Qty 4
9 3½" 1½" 3½"
13½" 5" 2" 5"
18" 6½" 2½" 6½"

Straighten a short end with your rotary cutter and ruler.

Straighten the short end of the stripsetBlue arrows point to where I've aligned the ruler lines with the seam lines. A quick check confirms this strip set is 3-1/2" wide—perfect for this 9" finished sample.

Subcut the stripset into four square patches and one rectangular one using the measurements from the chart.

Rail Fence units are completeThe tiny patch on the right is used in the center 9-patch

Save the narrow subcut for the next step.

9-Patch Center

Make 1

With RST stitch a dark #5 to a BAC #6 along the long edge. Press.

Stitch a #5 to the #6 on the opposite side.


Use the chart below to subcut this strip set into two units.

Block Size
Stripset WidthSubcut

This is what you've got after straightening the edge and subcutting.

Arrange the patches with the leftover rectangle (below, middle) from the previous section.

With RST, stitch one #5/#6/#5 to both sides of the #3/#4/#3 from the previous step. Press after the addition of each unit.

Create the 9-patchLook, Ma! No pins! :D

If you find your nine patch is a bit lumpy, use this simple pressing technique to squash it into submission.

Step 3: Assemble the Path and Stiles quilt block

Arrange the units into rows; remember the Rail Fence units point into and out of the center.

Arrange the units into the designRail Fence units lead out from the center; the dark half of the HSTs is toward the center.

Sew the units into rows.

Press the SA toward the Rail Fence units. Your seams will nest when you sew the rows together. That makes matching them so much easier.

The rows are ready to sew together

Press these final two seams out from the center.

Here is your finished Path and Stiles quilt block.

Block is completeOur finished Path and Stiles

And here it is from the back side.

Path and Stiles from the backOur Path and Stiles from the back... My Mom always told me when I sewed clothes that the inside should be as neat as the outside—the same is true for quilt blocks!

If you choose to set your blocks in an edge-to-edge setting with no sashing, all the seams will nest. If you find a block that doesn't, simply rotate it a quarter turn.

It doesn't get any easier than that!

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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