Thursday, January 2, 2014

... a courthouse steps quilt block tutorial


this is a mini-tutorial for a courthouse steps block for the love circle of do. good stitches. this is a very straightforward traditional block but i wanted to point out a few details for our group.


  • please use any cool color of your choosing for each block (blue, green, purple, or grey) and make two 11-1/2" square blocks. i used blue for my sample block.
  • use a variety of fabrics in shades of that color that are dark and light value (or high volume/low volume, brights/pastels, whatever term you prefer).
  • the center block will always be a dark value fabric.
  • try to use a good number of solids along with prints that read primarily one color.
  • this is a great block to use up scraps, though you can also pull from your stash.
  • all strips are 1-1/2" wide in a variety of lengths.
  • you can cut your fabric strips in advance according to the measurements (below), or you can use strips that are slightly longer than specified and square up when done (this is how i do it to ensure the most accurate piecing).
  • use a scant 1/4" seam allowance to allow room for error.
  • i find it easier to press seams to the side on this block to avoid bulk, but feel free to press however you like.
  • this is a simple log cabin block variation where instead of going around from the center square you sew the pieces across from each other.
  • the most important thing is that the two sides contrast in terms of value. if you're unsure of the value of a fabric, try taking a photograph in black and white and you can see how it compares to other fabrics.


start with a 1.5" square piece in a dark fabric. cut two 1-1/2" square pieces in light fabric and sew on either side of dark square. this piece should now measure 1-1/2 x 3-1/2". always check to make sure your block is the right size and square up after adding each new set of sides.


sew two 3-1/2" strips of dark fabric to the long sides of this unit. when done, it should now measure 3-1/2" square.






continue alternating dark and light strips on either side. after each round of dark and light it will measure 3-1/2", 5-1/2", 7-1/2", 9-1/2" and finally 11-1/2" square.


feel free to add some piecing to your strips. you can see that i added some small bits to the text fabric in the last round of dark fabric. i also pieced two lengths of light fabric together in one round, and another is made up of two horizontal pieces in a middle round. this is optional, but feel free to be creative if you like!

if you want to cut your fabric in advance*, here is what you'll need for one block (all strips are 1-1/2" wide):

for the dark fabrics:

  • 1 1-1/2" square
  • 2 3-1/2" strips
  • 2 5-1/2" strips
  • 2 7-1/2" strips
  • 2 9-1/2" strips
  • 2 11-1/2" strips

for the light fabrics:
  • 2 1-1/2" squares
  • 2 3-1/2" strips
  • 2 5-1/2" strips
  • 2 7-1/2" strips
  • 2 9-1/2" strips

*again, i like to cut my fabric as i go and cut a little longer than i need to allow room for error and then square up as i go. but if you feel like your cutting and piecing is very precise, feel free to cut in advance.


  1. I had to laugh when I saw this for our Jan block because I am currently slogging through some courthouse-step-esque (not the same thing) blocks of my own right now. I am paper piecing and have been wondering if I would have preferred regular piecing. So, now I have a reason to find out! Good idea to allow for some piecing in the strips. Keeps things unpredictable!

    Happy New Year, Ara Jane!

  2. Loving this block, Ara Jane! So fun to make, and a great scrapbuster!

  3. I LOVE your blog! I'm stationed in Germany and having a hard time with the language barrier. I've just decided to learn how to sew and doing some Google searches I stumbled onto your page. I bought my first sewing machine and while buying anything over here (15.00 for a yard) is ridiculously expensive, the tutorials are great. I think I can manage some of your projects!

  4. Your girls are so beautiful and sweet! They have the cutest names, too! x Teje

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