Santa Fe Quilt Block Instructions

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

by Julie Baird

Skill Level: Beginner

Grid: 9x9

A Santa Fe quilt block is an nontraditional design made with very traditional piecing techniques.

Santa Fe quilt block tutorial

A few connector corners are thrown in for good measure and simplicity. That's all there is to it.

I DO know the way to Santa Fe and I'm going there now and won't let you lose your way.

Come with me and learn to make this interesting nine patch patchwork design!

General Instructions

These abbreviations are used in this tutorial:

  • SA - seam allowance
  • RST - right sides together
  • BAC - background fabric

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

Starching your quilt fabric before cutting, I believe, makes for more precise cuts and easier, more accurate stitching.

You'll see me switch between my favorite quarter inch foot with a guide and an open toe applique foot to make the stitching easier.

Step 1: Cutting

Santa Fe patchowrk designSanta Fe design

Strong contrast between the two fabrics gives this patchwork design more impact.

Solids, or fabrics that read as solids like tone-on-tones or low contrast, are good choices for the smallest block sizes so that the design doesn't get 'mushy' or disappear.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Santa Fe Quilt Block

~ Traditional Piecing ~

Patch Fabric Qty Finished Block Size
4 1/2" 9 " 18 "
1 Background 4 2”sq 3-1/2”sq 6-1/2”sq
2 A 5 1”sq 1-1/2”sq 2-1/2”sq
3,7 Background 20 1”sq 1-1/2”sq 2-1/2”sq
4 Background 1 1” x 5” 1-1/2” x 7” 2-1/2” x 11”
5 A 2 1” x 5” 1-1/2” x 7” 2-1/2” x 11”
6 A 8 1” x 2” 1-1/2” x 3-1/2” 2-1/2” x 6-1/2”
Unfinished Block Size 5 " 9 1/2" 18 1/2"
Grid Size 1/2" 1 " 2 "

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

Step 2: Assembling the Santa Fe units

Nine Patch

Santa Fe quilt block - 9 patch unit

Make 1

Arrange all the #2s and four of the #3 patches into a standard nine-patch arrangement with the #2s in the corners and center.

With right sides together, stitch the squares in each column together, pressing the SAs towards the darker #2s.

Arrange the squares for the center 9-patch

Stitch the rows together, pinning if it helps you to match the SA. Press the SA either in or out. The finished unit looks like this...

The finished 9-patch.

Santa Fe quilt block - O units

"O" Units

Make 4

With RST, sew a #4 and #5 together along the long edge. Then add the second #5 so that the fabrics alternate.

Stitch the #4 and #5 strips together, alternating light and dark.I prefer my quarter inch foot with a guide for stitching strip sets.

SA are pressed toward the darker fabric.

Straighten the edge of the strip set by lining up the seam lines with the marks on your ruler (arrows). Trim away just a smidgeon with your rotary cutter.

Straighten the short edge of the strip set.While you do have extra fabric, there's no need to cut more than a silver to straighten the edge.

Find the Finished Block Size in the chart below and cut four segments from it at the Subcut Width.

Subcutting Chart for the Santa Fe Quilt Block
Block Size
Unfinished Sewn
Width of Strip Set
4-1/2” 2” 1”
9” 3-1/2” 1-1/2”
18” 6-1/2” 2-1/2”

With RST, sew a #6 to each side of the #5/#4/#5 patch as shown below. Make 4. SA are pressed towards #6.

Add a #6 to each side of the #5/#4/#5 patch.

Mark the backside of sixteen #7s with a diagonal line. Position a marked #7 in each corner.

Sew the #7 squares to the O unitPosition the marked #7 in the corners for stitching (above, left). Press the #7 squares open towards the corners (above, right).

I prefer to use my open toe applique foot for stitching on drawn lines like this because there's nothing between my eyes and the needle.

Stitch the #7 squares to the O unitUsing an open toe applique foot for this stitching.

You can trim away the excess in the corners of the #7s as shown below. Leave a 1/4" seam allowance. (below, left) All you can see (just barely) on the back are the stitching lines. (below, right)

Trimming away just the excess #6 from the O block

Or you can cut away the excess of both the #6 and #7 patches leaving the same 1/4" SA. From the back it looks like this...

The O block after trimming away ALL the excess #6 and #7

Repeat these steps for a total of 4 "O's".

Step 3: Assembling your Santa Fe quilt block

If you'd switched to an open toe applique foot, switch back to your favorite 1/4" foot now.

Arrange your cut squares and pieced units into rows like this. The 'O' units look a little off kilter right now. That's OK. The upcoming seams square off the block a bit and make it look 'right'.

With RST, stitch the units in each row together. SA are pressed toward the solid cut squares and the nine-patch to reduce bulk.

Stitch the units into rowsPinning helps make it easy to match the points of the O and 9-patch blocks.

Helpful Tip:  I find it much easier to ensure the match of the points of the "O" block to the squares in the 9-patch if I use pins. [Click here to learn about the technique I use...]

You can see the head of one of my perpendicular 'matching' pins in front of the needle bar below.

Give your Santa Fe quilt block one final press. If you've left the back layer of the corners in your "O" units, your block might be a bit lumpy. Try my favorite pressing technique to squash that lumpiness into oblivion!

Here is our finished Santa Fe!

Santa Fe quilt blockThe Santa Fe is finished!

Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

For even more blocks to make...

These are my go-to resources for quilt block ideas. 

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.


BlockBase is the computerized version of the Encyclopedia.

It can be used with Electric Quilt and is a Windows based program.

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.

It does make a fabulous coffee table book though.

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