Ribbon Quilt Block Instructions

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

The Ribbon Quilt block tutorial starts here...

The Ribbon Quilt block is a quickie to put together when you use our 8-at-a-time method for making half square triangles. Just add a center square and you're done!

To save this tutorial for another time, just share it to your Pinterest boards with the pinnable image above.

General Instructions

These abbreviations are used in this lesson:

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

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

Step 1: Cutting patches for a Ribbon block

Ribbon patchwork designRibbon design

To ensure that the points of your star are easy to see, choose fabrics with a high contrast. 

In the sample block, I've used a cream for my Light fabric and an orange print (with no cream in it) for my Dark.

This block could easily be pieced using a variety of scrappy dark fabrics, too.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Ribbon Quilt Block

~ Traditional Piecing ~

Patch Fabric Qty Finished Block Size
4 1/2" 6 " 9 " 12”
1 L 1 5 1/4” 6 1/4” 8 1/4” 10 1/4”
2 D 1 5 1/4” 6 1/4” 8 1/4” 10 1/4”
3 L 1 2” 2 1/2” 3 1/2” 4 1/2”
Unfinished Block Size 5 " 6 1/2" 9 1/2" 12 1/2”
Grid Size 1 1/2" 2 " 3 " 4”

Step 2: Create the half square triangles (HST)

Ribbon Quilt block - hst unit

The Ribbon Quilt block is the perfect opportunity to use the 8-at-a-time method for making HST. We'll start with patches that are slightly over-sized and then trim to perfection once the stitching is complete.

To begin, on the backside of the #1 square draw a light diagonal line between each pair of corners. I prefer a mechanical pencil for this marking because the line stays nice and fine.

Layer the #1 and #2 squares with right sides together (RST) and stitch a 1/4" from both sides of each diagonal line. Pin if it helps you keep the layers together. (The red arrow below points to my 'spider'—a scrap piece of fabric that I begin my stitching on to prevent my machine from chewing up the point of the two squares.)

Stitch the HSTsA standard quarter inch foot works well for this stitching.

Give the squares a quick press so that they lay flat for the next step.  (It's helpful if you have a rotating or small cutting mat for this next step so that you turn the mat instead of moving the fabric patches.)

From the chart below, find your finished block's size and it's corresponding midpoint measurement. For our 6" finished sample block that measurement is 3-1/8"

Block Size
Midpoint Trim HST to...
4 1/2" 2 5/8” 2”
6" 3 1/8” 2 1/2”
9" 4 1/8” 3 1/2”
12" 4 5/8” 4 1/2”

Line up this midpoint measurement (red arrow) on your ruler with the edge of your quilt block.

Cut along the opposite side of your ruler. Ideally that opposite side lines up right with the middle of the drawn 'X'. If it's off a wee bit, don't worry, the original squares are generously sized.

Repeat for the other side of the patches so that you end up with four squares equal to the midpoint number. For our example, we have four 3-1/8" squares.

Then cut each in half along the drawn pencil line as shown below—scissors or rotary cutter, either is just fine.

Eight HST from two squares.8 HST from just 2 squares of fabric...not too shabby!

Press each of the HST units with the SA toward the dark fabric and trim to size as noted in the chart above.

Click here if you need more detailed instructions for this method of making HST.

Step 3: Assemble the Ribbon Quilt block

Arrange the HST and center square as shown below. The corners all have the lighter #1 pointing out.

Arrange the units into rows.

Stitch the units in each row together.

Honestly, this is the hardest part because it's so easy to get units switched around. If we organize the rows a bit differently, you can see that the top and bottom rows are actually pieced exactly the same.

The stitched rowsIt's much easier to see what's going on when the rows are laid out like this isn't it?

Now lay the rows out again like they are in the finished block.

Lay out the rows in orderPress the SA in the direction of the arrows

I used pins to help keep the points exactly lined up with the seam lines.

After joining the rows, this is the finished Ribbon Quilt block, all ready for a quilt!

The finished Ribbon Quilt blockFull of pointy-perfection!

Closely Related Blocks

There are instructions on this site for two other blocks that closely resemble the Ribbon Quilt block.

On the left is the Friendship Star made with quick pieced half square triangles. On the right is the Mississippi—made completely with the Connector Corners technique. No triangles. None at all!

Friendship Star quilt block tutorial Mississippi quilt block tutorial
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 Amazon.com.

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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