When perusing classic quilt patterns, sometimes you come across a seemingly complex design that makes you wonder, “How did someone come up with that?”
The tumbling blocks quilt pattern is one of these patterns.
Today, we will take a deep dive into how this quilt pattern’s history, and then we’re going to look at 19 unbelievable tumbling blocks quilt patterns that you can use to create your own quilt top.
What Is a Tumbling Blocks Quilt and What Is Its History?
The tumbling block quilt pattern (aka the baby’s block pattern) is a unique 3D design that you wouldn’t think would have been popular in the 19th century, but it was.
We can’t say for sure when someone first created this quilt pattern, but we know it was introduced as early as 1851 in Godey’s Lady’s Book.
Sometimes referred to as “cube work,” this type of design is known for its cubic movement and 3D effect.
Before people used this design for a quilt, it was prominent in different tile work and mosaics dating back to ancient Greece.
Awesome, right? This quilt pattern is a staple design in modern quilting, and you will see it in many modern quilting books and magazines.
What Was the Message Behind the Tumbling Blocks Quilt Square?
The Underground Railroad was a resistant effort during the 1800s to help enslaved African Americans who wanted their freedom. One of the most valuable tools that helped enslaved people know when it was safe to move was quilt patterns.
People in the resistance hung quilts on a fence or clothesline. The escaping people would know what to do or look for depending on the pattern. The tumbling blocks pattern was code for “pack your bags and get ready to move.” This background gives us a new appreciation of quilts and their importance to our history.
How Do You Make a Tumbling Block Quilt?
Before you start making a tumbling block quilt, you should decide if you want to find a pattern that uses “Y” seams or not. That’s going to be an essential factor. If you are up for the challenge of taking on “Y” seams, then you search for a traditional pattern.
If you choose to look for a tumbling blocks quilt pattern with no “Y” seams, you should look for that specifically before purchasing or downloading a pattern. Don’t worry; I have found a selection of both types. Here are the steps to create your own tumbling block quilt:
- Choose either “Y” seams or no “Y” seams
- Choose a pattern
- Follow the patterns instructions for fabric requirements and pick out fabric
- Cut all fabric
- Piece the fabric together to make the quilt top
- Create a quilt sandwich (quilt top, batting, and backing)
- Quilt as desired
- Bind the quilt and enjoy!
How Much Fabric Is Needed for A Tumbling Block Quilt?
How much fabric you will need will depend on the size of the quilt you are making and the pattern you choose. Most if not all patterns will give you the necessary fabric requirements for the size quilt you decide to create.
19 Eye-Catching Tumbling Block Quilt Patterns
I have cultivated a fabulous collection of tumbling block quilt patterns with “Y” seam and no “Y” seam instructions. There are also free and paid patterns so there should be something for everyone.
The above quilt is one of the many patterns available in this book all about tumbling block quilts. The book includes 16 different projects pieced without “Y” seams. The 16 projects in this book will give fabric requirements and instructions for each pattern.
If you are a fan of rag quilts, this pattern is perfect for you. This pattern is a free downloadable PDF and a great beginner project. The instructions will help you create a baby-size quilt measuring 44 ⅞”x 51”.
3. Arcade Game
This jaw-dropping quilt was made using the Arcade Game quilt pattern by Jaybird Quilts. This pattern has four different sizes to choose from baby, lap, twin, and king. This pattern requires no “Y” seams, which is great for beginners.
This pattern features jumbo tumbling blocks accentuated with these beautiful batik fabrics. You can make different sizes and color combinations from this pattern with four different sizes to choose from. This pattern is a paid downloadable PDF.
If you know you don’t want to mess around with “Y” seams for your project. You will learn how to create blocks that are sewn together using traditional methods. The creator of this tutorial tells you all the materials you will need to make these fun blocks.
This design is one of those quilts that you take a good, long look at it and think to yourself, “How did they do that?” The designer had the genius idea to mix nine-patch blocks with the tumbling blocks to make this gorgeous quilt. This pattern offers a throw size and a queen size.
If you are searching for a free tumbling blocks quilt pattern, this free tutorial is an excellent option for you. A comprehensive and well-written step-by-step tutorial, this guide will show you how to piece together these beautiful diamond shape blocks using “Y” seams.
Here is another fabulous free pattern that will show you in great detail how to create a tumbling block quilt using “Y” seams. This pattern includes templates for the diamonds shapes and fabric requirements and suggestions. The finished size of this quilt will be 45 ¾”x 53 ¾”.
9. The Cubes
This modern take on the tumbling blocks quilt pattern is like a breath of fresh air with its colorful palette and soft grey background. This pattern does not use “Y” seams and will show how to create a 63”x70” quilt top. There are also templates included in the pattern for cutting out the different pieces.
10. Tumbling Down
I love this pattern, don’t you? Taking the traditional block design and creating the effect of some falling away is unique and fun. This pattern has two sizes to choose from wall hanging ( 30”x39”) and lap (78”x59”.)
This quilt may look like a traditional tumbling block quilt pattern, but this pattern uses no “Y” seams. That makes this a fantastic choice for someone who likes the traditional look but wants a simpler construction. This pattern will help you create a king-size quilt.
12. Baby Blocks
Here we have another pattern that does not use “Y” seams, and the designer ensures us that you can put this quilt together quickly and easily. The pattern has two sizes you can choose from – 36”x36”, a small baby quilt, and 26”x46” table runner size.
13. Day Camp Quilt
If you want a quick and easy project, this pattern would be the right choice. Using large diamond pieces, you can quickly piece this quilt together in a day. This pattern uses “Y” seams, but the instructions are well laid out for beginners to understand. The finished size of the quilt will be 64 ½”x 74 ½”.
This pattern shows how to create these beautiful stacked blocks using English Paper Piecing. The pattern is a well-written tutorial with lots of illustrations to help you along the way. The finished block size is 12 ½” square. You could add this block to another pattern or make an entire quilt top using this one block style.
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15. Foxy Blocks
This is a fun option if you want to make a mini quilt but don’t want to cut out a bunch of tiny pieces. Instead of sewing pieces together, you will weave strips together to create the tumbling blocks design. The pattern will show you how to make a mini quilt measuring 12”x 20”.
This fabric selection makes this design look almost like stained glass. This double tumbling block design is made without using “Y” seams. The jelly roll-friendly pattern will show you how to make a 48”x 64” throw size quilt.
17. Rainbow Cube
This pattern will show you to make this large 33”x 33” square block that you can use as a centerpiece for a quilt or make a wall hanging. This pattern will use “Y” seams and does recommend a special template that you can purchase separately.
18. Colorfall Cubes
Here is another fun example of how you can mix nine-patch blocks with tumbling blocks to make something exceptional. This quilt pattern was designed by the same designer from quilt pattern #17. She recommends the same special template for this pattern. The finished quilt size from this pattern will be 34”x 47”.
Last but certainly not least is this booklet full of different patterns that utilize the tumbling blocks block and other 3D blocks. The above image is just one example of the modern beauties featured in this book. The book has 64 pages full of examples and projects that you can create.
This unique and seemingly complex quilt pattern is just as popular as it was over 150 years ago. Not only is it a modern and exciting pattern, but it also has a rich history of helping those who needed it most. I hope these examples have inspired you to create your own Tumbling Blocks quilt project.