April 18, 2016

Chart 47: Quick 4-Patches and Mrs. Smith, Block #72 in the 1930s Farmer's Wife Sew Along

Mrs. Smith is a 6-inch block with 53 pieces. That could look impossible unless you break the block down into the smaller sub-units. That is one of the real benefits of making a quilt that has so many different designs like the Farmer’s Wife Sampler. You learn to recognize the smaller units you have already made and are comfortable making.

You’ve seen me talk about the design grid before, like graph paper that is divided into squares. Mrs. Smith is an 8 x 8 grid design. You could easily color in the shapes used in Mrs. Smith in 64 squares – 8 x 8 on graph paper. You would not be surprised to see an 8 x 8 block made with pieced units 2 x 2 or 4 x 4.

But you may be surprised to see the units or sub-units that you will piece in Mrs. Smith. They are actually 3 x 3, 2 x 3 and 2 x 2, but even though this is today’s new block, there is nothing new in this block.

You have just made 4 patches in Post #46, Tracy. In Post #45, Fanny, which was made on a very similar 8 x 8 grid, you framed a 2 x 2 unit with a square and 2 rectangles just like you will in Mrs. Smith. The final style of sub-unit you need to make is similar to the mirror image parallelograms in Post #25, Joy and Post #26, Lillian or Lily. These are even easier. They just have mirror image parallelograms with small triangles at each end.

Speaking of Four Patches

Special tricks for making 4-patch sub-units aren’t critical when you are making one 6” block but when you need dozens of 4-patch units it’s another story. After years of promoting strip methods for 4-patch units, I was tickled to discover a way to make 4 patches faster with acrylic templates than the old-fashioned strip technique way.

Here it is excerpted from 5 is Fabulous!, the fifth volume in the Encyclopedia of Patchwork Blocks. The instructions are from the quilt called Bean Counter’s Star. Even with only 16 four-patch units it is worth learning.

Making Four Patch Units

This fun way of layering fabric and cutting squares to size with a template is faster and more accurate than the well-known strip technique—but you have to try it to believe it.


1. From the background fabric B (white), cut a piece 13-1/2 inches (3/8 yard) long by the width of the fabric. (This is just the size needed for this project, it is not a magical size!)

2. Put fabrics B and C (blue dots) right sides together and fold fabrics in half, selvage to selvage. The wrong side of the white background fabric should show on the outside.

3. Trim off the selvages. Starting at the just-trimmed edge and using Q-93 to measure the strip width, cut four strips, 3″ wide, on the lengthwise grain. The fabrics should be correctly stacked light, dark, dark, light for the next step. (Of course, you would use the appropriate square template and measure the Marti Way.)

4. From the stacked strip sets (4 layers of fabric), cut 16 sets of square Q-93 = four sets from each strip.


1. Make 16 Four Patches. Chain piece stacked pairs of squares in order. The top piece of each pair will alternate light, dark, etc. When pressing, flip over every other pair so that all the dark squares are on top (see diagram below).  Open and press; the seam allowances will automatically be pressed toward the dark fabric.

2. Cut apart in pairs, leaving one thread between pairs, as shown.

3. Rotate and place the right pair on top of the left pair, right sides together as shown, and stitch the edges that are still connected by a thread to make a four-patch unit. Four Patches should be 5½″ square, including seam allowances. Confirm size with T-102.

Want Some More Practice?

If you really want to practice making 4-patches, I recommend our Queen/Double 4-Patch Mosaic Quilt. You will also get a great workout with any of our Diagonal Set Triangle Rulers when you make this quilt. The easiest one to use when making this quilt is the small no-flip Diagonal Set Triangle Ruler, #8105. That ruler is also very easy to use for cutting the setting triangles for the Farmer’s Wife setting that Laurie used. See next week's post when we talk about cutting the setting triangles and making sure the long edge is on straight grain, preferably (surely you know what I’m going to say!) straight lengthwise grain!

My Mrs. Smith Block

Click the links below to download the Chart for cutting and making Mrs. Smith.

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W.


  1. Hi Marti, the 12" strips 1 3/4" wide do not fit the A7 triangle. Should be 1 1/4" i think, is that correct?
    Kind Regards Margot

    1. Hi Margot -- Yes, that's correct. Thanks for letting us know so we could correct the PDF and its download link. :)