Resizing a quilt block is a great way to make your quilt patterns more versatile so you can use them in creative ways. Learn how to resize a quilt block using my free Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet and get inspiration for how you can use this helpful skill to create one-of-a-kind creations.
How and Why I Started Resizing Quilts
A couple of years ago, Lindsey of Pen + Paper Patterns, released Sewology – a block-of-the-month pattern. It featured all sorts of sewing tools and it was bright and graphic. I fell in love with it right away, but I didn’t need such a large sewing quilt. What I did need was a piece of art to hang above my sewing table. So I decided that I would reduce the pattern to a third of its size, making it an adorable wall hanging size.
I found that I LOVED making a mini version of the quilt for a few reasons: 1) Miniature things are cute. 2) It was an added challenge. 3) It let me use up little scraps of my favourite fabrics. 4) I liked that I was doing something different. Finally, 5) I like math – I know, I’m weird like that.
The sew-along for the block-of-the-month Sewology quilt had a Facebook group that I was a part of, and we all shared our progress each month. In the beginning, I was the only person resizing the quilt smaller. Others liked my idea and set out to create their own mini Sewology quilts, some at half size. I fielded a lot of questions on resizing the blocks smaller and was happy to share any tips I had. And that’s part of why I’m writing this blog post – to help teach others so you will love resizing quilt blocks as much as I do!
But Isn’t All the Math to Resize a Quilt Block Difficult?
Yes, there’s math involved. But no, it’s not that difficult. You don’t need to do it in your head because you can use a calculator. And you don’t even need to own a calculator because there’s likely one on your phone. So there’s no reason not to try!
It does help to have an idea of the relationship between fractions and decimals, but if you’ve done some quilting, you probably already have the basics from reading patterns and cutting fabric. The main thing is just to follow the steps in the proper order. That’s where my step-by-step Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet will hold your hand throughout the process. Helpfully, it even has fraction and decimal conversions at the bottom. You can download and print your own copy for free at the bottom of this blog post. I promise you – you CAN resize quilt blocks!
The Rainbow Ring Quilt Block
The quilt block that I’m using for this blog post (and a couple of follow-up blog posts) is a block I designed called The Rainbow Ring. It’s bright and colourful, and based on a colour wheel, though you can use any colours you want in the ring itself. Whether constructed as written, resized smaller, or even 2x larger, it’s easy to use up scraps to piece it together. It’s also very simple to sew as a beginner quilter because it doesn’t have any triangles, and you don’t need to nest any seams. The original size finished block is 7.5″ wide x 7.25″ tall.
You can get the Rainbow Ring Quilt Block Pattern for free in the post How to Make Quilted Coasters, or in the post How to Make a Mini Quilt.
Project Ideas to Resize a Quilt Block Smaller
Here are some ideas for when you might want to resize a quilt block smaller:
- Turn a large quilt into a wall hanging or mini quilt size
- Reduce a large bed quilt to a throw size, if you cannot just remove rows of blocks without affecting the pattern
- Turn a block into coasters or a doll quilt
- Reduce the size of a block so that there are more repetitions across the width in a quilt
- Turn a single-block quilt into a quilt with multiple smaller blocks
A couple examples are pictured below – taking a block and producing a smaller version of it, and reducing the size of a block in a quilt so that there are more, smaller blocks.
Project Ideas to Resize a Quilt Block Larger
Here are some ideas for when you might want to resize a quilt block larger:
- Turn a smaller block into a mini quilt or pillow
- Take a mini quilt pattern and turn it into a larger quilt
- Turn a baby or throw size quilt into a larger quilt if you cannot just add rows of blocks without affecting the pattern
- Create a quilt with 1 single large block, or to increase the size of the blocks so there are less repetitions across the width of a quilt
A couple examples are shown below – taking a small block and turning it into a larger block, and taking a quilt block and enlarging it to have fewer, larger blocks in the finished quilt, or a quilt with one large single block.
Choosing the Scale for Resizing Your Quilt Block
When resizing a quilt block, I recommend choosing a whole number to reduce or enlarge your block by – such as 2 or 3. Make it 2x smaller, or 3x bigger for example. If you start trying to make things 1.5x smaller or 2.25x bigger, the numbers you end up with won’t be that nice to work with.
If you are reducing your quilt block in size, you are dividing. For example, to make a quilt block that’s half the original width, you will divide by 2.
If you are enlarging your quilt block in size, you are multiplying. For example, to make a quilt block that’s twice the original width, you will multiply by 2.
How Small is Too Small
There is such a thing as too small when resizing a quilt block. For the smallest of pieces, remember that a cut needs 1/4″ seam allowances on all four sides, so it needs to be a minimum of 1/2″ x 1/2″ right there. In order to have any of that cut’s fabric visible after the seams are sewn, it needs to be larger than 1/2″ x 1/2″.
The smallest pieces I cut for my Sewology quilt (at 1/3 scale) were about 2/3″ square (which involved estimating cuts between 5/8″ and 6/8″). I recommend most cuts being no smaller than 3/4″ square. That will leave 1/4″ square visible after the seams are sewn. These tiny cuts are great for the small details in a picture-style quilt – eyes, button-holes, etc.
As with any quilting project, it is important to label small pieces after cutting (you can lay them out on a sheet of paper and write labels on the paper beside the cuts), and keep them somewhere safe. If they fall on the floor, you might think they’re scraps and toss them out.
How to Resize a Quilt Block
To resize a quilt block, you will need:
- Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet – (optional, but I think it will help you stay organized and not make mistakes) Get your copy free at the bottom of the blog post.
- Any quilt block pattern to resize – Note: This method only works for traditionally pieced blocks, not paper piecing
- Calculator, such as the one on your phone
You can follow along with me in this video as I demonstrate how to reduce or enlarge quilt blocks, or read the instructions that follow.
**The most important thing to remember when resizing a quilt block is to follow the steps in the proper order.
As I explain the steps, I’ll do calculations for ‘Cut A’ from my Rainbow Ring block as an example.
Step 1: First, decide how much you want to reduce or enlarge your quilt block by
In my case, I wanted to reduce my quilt block to half width to make coasters. That means I’m going to divide by 2. I write 2 in the blank on the worksheet by the division sign and circle it.
Step 2: Then, find the measurements of the first cut and convert to decimals
In my case, for the Rainbow Ring pattern, cut A is (Length) 7.5″ and (Width) 1.25″ in decimals.
Step 3: Next, subtract the 1/2 inch seam allowance
People often go wrong when trying to resize quilt blocks by charging ahead to the division or multiplication step without first removing the seam allowances. It is crucial to do this step first.
Why 1/2 inch? Because there is a 1/4″ seam allowance on all 4 sides of a block. 1/4″ + 1/4″ for the length = 1/2″. And the same for the width.
In my case: (Length) 7.5 – 0.5 = 7.0 and (Width) 1.25 – 0.5 = 0.75
Step 4: Then do your division to reduce OR your multiplication to enlarge
Remember, in my case I’m dividing by 2. (Length) 7.0 divided by 2 = 3.5 and (Width) 0.75 divided by 2 = 0.375
Step 5: Next, add the 1/2 inch seam allowances back on
(Length) 3.5 + 0.5 = 4.0 and (Width) 0.375 + 0.5 = 0.875
Step 6: Finally, convert back to fractions, rounding to the nearest 1/8″**
When we cut using a quilting ruler and mat, we regularly use fractions, including 1/4″ and 1/8″. Most decimals will convert exactly to a fraction, and my Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet makes this easy with a conversion chart at the bottom.
For example: (Length) 4.0 = 4″ and (Width) 0.875 = 7/8″
**Important: If a resulting decimal does not convert exactly to a fraction, then always round UP to the nearest 1/8″ to make your cut. If you round down for your cut, it will be smaller than adjacent cuts when you go to piece them. If you round up, you can piece them together, and simple trim off the tiny fraction of fabric that overhangs. For example, if you get 0.70, then I would round up to 6/8″ or 3/4″ to cut, and then trim down. Cutting 5/8″ (rounding down) would result in a piece that was too small.
I have more important notes about rounding fractions when resizing in my post about resizing a quilt to pillow size.
The same steps apply even if you are enlarging a quilt block. You would simply multiply instead of dividing in Step 4. If you use my Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet (and a calculator), it will seem more straightforward and methodical. When you reach the end, there is a place to note how many of each cut you need. The way I’ve circled the end result in red in the photo below makes it easy to see that I need to make 2 cuts that are 4″ x 7/8″. There is also a checkbox to check once you have cut those pieces so you can stay organized.
And that’s it! Just do a row of calculations on the worksheet for each cut in a quilt block you want to resize. Cut out your newly resized cuts, and piece them according to the pattern directions. It really is that simple and you’ll be making custom projects before you know it!
To read about why I love using flannel on my quilts, check out Backing Quilts With Flannel.
To learn how to make quilted coasters from resized blocks, and to get your free copy of the Rainbow Ring Block pattern, check out this post, or the post titled How to Make a Mini Quilt.
Get Your Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet
If you’ve been too intimidated to try tackling resizing a quilt block, I strongly recommend using my free worksheet. The step by step rows will keep you on track and doing the calculations in order so that you’ll be successful every time. What will you make with no limits to your creativity?
I want to hear from you. Have you ever resized a quilt block before? Or have you dismissed the idea because the math was too intimidating? Do you feel inspired to attempt it now? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,
Thank you for such an easy way to reduce the size of a quilt. I’ve hand quilted for decades but I want to make 1″=12″ scale miniature quilts for my granddaughters’ dollhouses. This way I can easily reduce the size of my patterns.
Thanks Barbara! I’m very curious to see how such a large reduction works out. They’ll be so adorable!! Let me know how it goes.
This is the easiest way I have seen to explain this. Many tutorials are for squares only and my block has all different shapes. I appreciate the worksheet. This was very clear. Thank you.
Thanks Cindy! I’m so glad you found this helpful!! It’s always nice to hear feedback.
Much appreciated. I dont have much of a problem with simple squares & rectangles, it’s hsts, hrts & hourglass type patches that get my brain. Sometimes it isn’t even resizing but figuring out a better way to cut & sew so fabric isn’t wasted in stitch & flip. Know what I mean? Many Blessings!
You’re welcome Deborah! And you’re right – there are often are better methods to save fabric. When resizing for 2 at a time HSTs or 4 or 8 at a time, you can’t resize them with this formula alone. But – this method can still help you figure out what the new finished size needs to be if you’re resizing. Once you know the new finished size, you can use other formulas to figure out the sizes to cut for those new fabric-saving blocks.
Thank you so much for this clear and concise video.
You’re welcome Cathy!
Ina Barnewold says
Thank you so much!!!!!!
You’re so welcome Ina! I hope you find these tips useful 🙂
i have resized a couple quilt blocks and they have turned out ok, but just a little off. and now i know why! i always forgot the seam allowance. i tried resizing it with it and it messed it up. brilliant worksheet!
Thank you so much Angie! Forgetting the seam allowance is an easy thing to do and will definitely affect the finished block. I’m glad you find the worksheet helpful 🙂