Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tutorial: Practically Perfect Pinwheel Points

Perhaps there are already a gazillion pinwheel-block tutorials out there. Or perhaps pinwheels are such a standard in the quilter's repertoire we're supposed to be born knowing how to do them so the points all match up in the center.

I'm currently midway through a twin-size HST pinwheel quilt for my three-year-old's Big Girl Bed (which she'll need sooner rather than later!), and I feel like I've figured out how to get the points to (mostly) reliably match. If you're at all like me, and you weren't born with innate pinwheel-block knowledge, I hope you find this tutorial helpful!

Again, there's probably a dozen ways to make a pinwheel, but here's how I do it:

For my pinwheels, I'm using four different prints per block, so I have four charm squares and four 5" white squares (click through any of these for larger pics):

Mark a diagonal line on the white squares--you can either use one of those little rulers to directly mark the sewing lines:

or you can simply mark one guide line from corner to corner:

Pin one print square to one white square. I like to point my pins in the same direction.

Sew a scant 1/4" seam on each side of the diagonal line, or sew directly on the lines if you marked your sewing lines:

I like to sew the second seam in the opposite direction of the first--I think it cuts down on distortion (see how the pins are going the other way?):

Cut your triangles apart on the diagonal between the seams:

And you'll have enough triangles to make two pinwheels:

Press all your seam allowances to the print fabric, and trim your dog ears. And maybe break out some chocolate, if you like:

Lay out your pinwheel. If you're doing a whole quilt of them, you'll want to make sure you've got them all going the same way, so I like to keep my pile of finished blocks visible, to double-check:

Line up your HST units to sew the top and bottom rows together--the seam allowances should 'nest' together nicely:

I like to make sure my pins are pointing to the side where the seam goes, so as not to get confused and sew the wrong way:

Once the top and bottom are sewn together, I press the seam allowances toward the print fabric again, and your halves should look like this:

Now when you flip the top and bottom right sides together, you should be able to feel all the seams nest together:

And when you pull them back, you can see how all the points line up together:

This is the time to pin the dickens out of your block! I keep my finger on that point where the seams are nested all together, and I pin first on either side:

and a few more for good measure:

Don't forget to keep your seam a scant 1/4":

Press this last seam open, to reduce the bulk (I use a rolled-up towel so as not to catch the rest of the block with my iron):

Voila! Practically perfect!

One last press, and you have a pinwheel block! Congratulations!

Using charm squares lets you square the block to 8.5 inches, for an 8" finished block. I've managed to get some of my pinwheels ABSOLUTELY perfect, from matched points to the outer block corners, and I'm certainly getting better with practice. They're lots of fun to make, and I hope you give them a try!

This was my very first tutorial--any and all feedback will be most appreciated. Thanks for reading!


  1. Great job on the tutorial! Both the photos and the descriptions were clear.

  2. Great tutorial! Easy to read and follow. Lots of pictures to follow and not to text heavy. And it refuels my desire to make a HST quilt. I was thinking charm packs and I think you just confirmed my direction on it! Thank you!

  3. Nice job! I too have struggled through pinwheels until somehow I felt an Ah-ha! moment creep up - that nesting is so important...

  4. It's grrrreat!

    Sorry! I just had to do my Tony the Tiger impression. :) It is a great tute!

  5. Great! Concise with great photos.

    I think I detest trimming HSTs almost as much as I detest basting. But I LOVE how they look.

  6. Brilliant tutorial, especially the instructions to break out the chocolate :0)

    You photos and instructions are very clear and the pinwheels came out perfect - certainly very helpful.

  7. Yay, you did it! Great job, I love a tutorial with lots of photos! I have a set of charm packs that I wasn't sure how to use, but I think you have inspired me! Thanks!

  8. I am going to try your tutorial tips! Your square looks beautiful. I have tried unsuccessfully to make a pinwheel quilt and have my points come out. I have tried numerous tutorials. It just doesn't come easy for me though I love to quilt. Thanks for the tutorial.