Tumbling Block Tutorial
Ten Easy Steps

The tumbling block tutorial is a one patch design repeated over and over.

This easy quilt uses fabrics with high contrast for a strikingly three-dimensional effect.

When only one patch is used over and over in a quilt your selection of fabrics in light, medium and dark tones gives the strikingly three-dimensional pleasing effect for the overall design.

The way the patch is assembled is also a contributor for achieving the right effect.

The tumbling block has been around for a long time and is considered to be an easy quilt pattern

Tumbling Block Tutorial

Since the tumbling block tutorial is a one patch design it is perfect for beginner quilting. Once you learn how  the patch goes together you only get better with each block.

You will have an irregular edge along the outer perimeter which can be filled in with a slightly different patch to fill-in the gaps.

By filling in the gaps you get a straight edge which is easier for a beginner quilter to add a binding or a border to extend the width and length.

We recommend that you use a design wall to lay your pieces out to keep the colors straight and it also makes the job of arranging the single patch a lot easier. If you don't have one we show you how easy it is to make one.

A design wall allows you to do just that, design your quilt before you actually sew the patches together.

Be prepared to move the patches around until you are satisfied with the right image. This tumbling block tutorial and the design wall are partners when understanding how to lay out the blocks.

Tumbling Block Tutorial in Easy Steps

quilting ruler

Our Free quilt pattern for the tumbling block quilt was created using the  EQ7 software.

But we strongly suggest that you first use this tumbling block tutorial and make a wall hanging before making a whole quilt.  The tumbling block tutorial is worth your time to read and practice with. 

Now let's show you how to get that single hexagonal patch which you will need for your tumbling block quilt.

The Easy Six Ruler made by EZ Quilting is a must have quilting ruler when making the pattern in this tumbling block tutorial. This ruler is also used to make a six pointed star so it is money well spent.

Most quilting rulers can do more than one function. You would be surprised to know how many rulers I have wore out over the years.

Keep the bottom edge of the ruler lined up with the bottom edge of the fabric strip and then slide the ruler to the right until the fabric fills the diamond; cut;  continue to slide the ruler to the right to cut as many diamonds as needed.  Nothing could be easier.

quilting templates

You can also make a template out of Mylar or cardboard that includes seam allowances and holes punched at each of the seam intersections.

A paper hole punch can be used to punch a small hole exactly at the quarter inch seam if you make your own template.

The tumbling block tutorial uses a diamond with 60-degree and 120-degree angles. The pointed angle (top in the picture) is the 60-degree angle and the flat angle (side in the picture)  is the 120 degree angle. 

If you are making your own template the markings on your cutting mat will show you how.

A Six-pointed star pattern also uses the same 60/120 angles.

A longer and narrower diamond is used for eight-point stars (45/135) which can be seen right here.

Once the Mylar template has been made using the 60/120 angles, use a stiletto (looks like an awl of sorts) to make a hole at the seam intersections or a paper punch. You can get a stiletto at any store where quilting supplies are sold and a hole punch at an office supply store.

This hole will be used to mark a small dot on the wrong side of each fabric piece. This is an important step so don't skim over it.

Once you have the seam intersections marked the stitching job becomes much easier when piecing together...almost effortless!

All pieces are the same size with like amounts cut from three different tones of fabric; light, medium and dark.

quilting templates

Mark the seam allowance on each piece of fabric.  It may be necessary to use a white chalk pencil on the dark tones but a soft lead pencil should work for the light and medium pieces.

Some quilting instructions can be skimmed over but this one is very important. The trick is to make sure that you do not back-stitch into any of the seam allowances which will cause a pucker of fabric in your last seam.

You must stop stitching at the dot and secure the stitches with two back stitches!

When you press, one seam will overlap another, adding bulk to the finished project. Pressing direction for the seams isn’t critical with set-in-seams but strive to press toward the darker fabric.

Be sure to apply the up and down pressing motion when pressing the seams to avoid stretching the fabric parts.

quilting templates

Place two pieces of your tumbling block pattern with right sides together and pin exactly through the endpoint markings. Turn each set over to make sure the pinning is accurate on both sides.

Lower your needle exactly at the starting dot. This is usually done by turning the fly wheel; once the needle has been inserted, remove your pin; lower the presser foot; take two stitches forward; back-stitch two stitches ONLY; and proceed to sew the length of the seam.

This is a slow and accurate job so reduce your speed to the lowest point. As you advance toward the end dot, remove the pin to make sure the needle enters through the dot. Do not go beyond the end dot!

To sew beyond the dot means that you are in the seam allowance which will distort your block size and cause the other seams not to match up. Accuracy is very important with set-in-seams.

quilting templates

This is one time when you will want to use the pinning skill. This is so whether you like to "pin" or not. I strongly recommend that you take the time to "pin"!

Pin the third patch of the set to the two-patch making sure you pin so the new piece will be on top for stitching.

Pin exactly at the starting and stopping points and verify for accuracy by turning the unit over.

Stitch the seam as before, starting from the inside corner and sew to the outer edges; secure the seam by back-stitching two stitches both at the starting point and at the ending point.

Pin along the last remaining seam with the pins situated so you will be sewing the seam from the inner corner to the outer edge. Stitch as in the same manner as you did for the two previous seams.

10 Steps to a Perfect
Tumbling Block Quilt Pattern

  1. Either purchase a Easy Six ruler or make a Mylar template as talked about above. Then make three additional templates: a horizontal half-diamond, a vertical half diamond, and a quarter-diamond. Be sure you add a quarter inch seam allowance to each template.
  2. Trace and cut an equal number of light, medium, and dark fabric diamonds for your tumbling block quilt pattern.
  3. Pin and stitch along seam lines, from point to point stopping exactly at seam allowance. Do not extend stitching into seam allowance. Accurate matching of points and angles is essential.
  4. Be sure the light, medium, and dark fabrics fall on same side of each block.  This is important to keep the visual image flowing correctly.
  5. Sew the medium and dark diamonds and press the seam toward the dark diamond.
  6. Then add light diamond, matching point and angles. Pin and sew along one side starting at inner corner to outer point.
  7. Repeat along second side starting at center point and advancing to outer edge of hexagon. The point where the seams meet must be smooth without any bunching.
  8. Assemble the completed hexagons into rows making sure light medium and dark are in same position.
  9. Stitch blocks into rows then join rows together always pressing seams toward darker pieces.
  10. There you have it...a perfect tumbling block quilting pattern that simply by rearranging the blocks to achieve a different effect.

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