The Quarantine Quilt – Week 4 – The Broken Dishes Block

Welcome to Week 4 of the Quarantine Quilt Project!  This week’s quilt block is one of my favorites – the Broken Dishes block!  This is historically one of the oldest quilt block patterns, dating back to around the start of the 1800’s!  It is unsure where the name came from, but some like to say it represented the broken dishes that resulted from bumpy pioneer wagons on their way to The West.  But wherever it came from, it is a beautiful pattern that is easy to do, and is a great way to practice lining up those half square triangles (HST’s)!

If you missed the Intro post, make sure to catch up here!  You also have some good practice lining up your corners and sewing more precise seams from the 16 square block and the knot block.  And you have learned all about half square triangles from week 3!  So let’s get started on the broken dishes block!

Here’s what you will need:

  • fabric – 16  4 1/2″ squares (8 from white or other main fabric, 8 from other fabrics)
    • for my block, I picked 4 different fabrics so that I could have 2 squares of each for a total of 8 squares, then the other 8 squares are white
    • you could also have maybe 8 squares of white or your main fabric, and 4 squares from two different fabrics
  • a 4 1/2″ square template – you can again make your own, or you can buy a plastic quilting version
  • a 3 1/2″ square template – you will already have this from the last couple of blocks
  • seam gauge
  • Pilot Frixion pen, or other marking tool
  • ruler


1.  Cut out your 4 1/2″ squares.  Make sure you are using the bigger 4 1/2″ template – we will be cutting them down to the smaller size once we make our half square triangles (HST’s).  When you are done, you will have 16 squares total.  8 of mine are white, and then I have 2 of each of the four colored fabrics.  (All of these instructions for putting together the half square triangles should seem very familiar from Week 3!) 🙂

2.  Start making half square triangles (HST’s).  To make a HST, take a white square and one of your other fabric squares and place them right sides together.

First we are going to draw a line with our marking tool and ruler from one corner to the other.

Now we are going to use our seam gauge to measure 1/4″ away from the line you just drew on both sides.  These are going to be our sewing lines actually.

If you would like to keep your squares more secure, you can pin them together. Make sure they are lined up and sew down the two outer lines (but NOT down the center line!)

This is what it will look like…

Now cut down the center diagonal line in between the two lines you just stitched.

And now you have two half square triangles!  Don’t worry about the little thingies hanging off the corners – we will be trimming them down later!

Continue with the rest of your squares, combining a white square with a colored fabric square, always sewing right sides together.  Mark your diagonal line, mark your sewing lines 1/4″ away from that diagonal line on both sides, sew on those lines, and cut down the diagonal.

You will then have 16 of these…

Take them to the iron and press the seams on the back first, then on the front so that everything lays nice and flat.  I like to press my seams toward the darker fabric especially when I am using white as the other color, so that you can’t see through it as much.

3.  Trim down the HST’s.  If you were doing a whole quilt of broken dishes blocks or half square triangles of this size, you would only need to trim off the little bits hanging off the corners so that the squares would be even.  But we are going to trim ours down a little more because we are wanting all the different blocks in our sampler quilt to end up being the same size.  Each little square will need to be 3 1/2″ to match the squares in the other blocks we’ve done.

So take out the 3 1/2″ square template and place it on top of your HST so that both corners line up right on the diagonal.

If you are using a plastic template, you could use a rotary cutter to trim these and that would go a lot faster!  Or you can do what I did here and trace around your template, then cut out the square with scissors.

Do the same thing for the rest of your HST’s, trimming them down to 3 1/2″, and just make sure when you line up your template that those corners are right on the diagonal!

Then you will have 16 finished HST’s that are 3 1/2″ square!

4.  Lay out your HST’s in the block.  So before I show you the broken dishes block pattern, I want to show you how fun and versatile HST’s are!  They can be arranged in so many different ways to make so many different blocks.  I took the same four HST’s and arranged them these four ways and there are even more combinations, especially if you use different colored HST’s!

But for our project today, we are doing the broken dishes block which looks like this…

You can decide how you would like to lay yours out, but generally you use two of one fabric and two of another.  So then I decided to repeat that same one twice, so that the completed block will look like this:

Since most of the hard work of making the HST’s is done, the way to assemble this is to break the block into four 4 square pieces, then sew the top 2 together, then the bottom 2, then top and bottom together.

Let’s get started assembling!

5. Assemble the first 4 square section.

We’ll start with joining the squares on the top row, just like we have done before.  Place the edge you want to sew with right sides of fabric together.  With your seam gauge, mark out a 1/4″ seam allowance and connect the dashes to form your sewing line.

Sew on this line and the you have finished the top!

Do the exact same thing for the bottom two squares.

Now we need to press the seams with an iron.  If you can, try to press the top to one side and the bottom to the other side so that they will line up better when we sew them together.

Place the edge you want to sew right sides of fabric together, making very sure the seam in the center is lined up together.  This is the one that will be the most noticeable if it doesn’t line up.

Measure and draw your 1/4″ seam allowance and pin at the center to keep everything together in the right place.

Now you have completed one section!  Press your seams!

6.  Assemble the other three sections in the same way.

So now all that’s left is connecting the two top sections together, then the two bottom sections together, then top and bottom rows, and it’s done!

7.  Connect the top sections together and bottom sections together.  Place sections right sides together, paying close attention to which side you are supposed to be sewing (it can be easy to lose track of it!).  Mark your 1/4″ seam allowance, and line it up first at the center, then pin in place and sew.

You will then have assembled the top part and the bottom part.  Make sure you press the seams before moving on to the last step!

8.  Join the top and bottom together.  Do this in the same way, placing right sides together, and lining up that very center point very carefully and pinning.  Mark out your seam allowance and sew!

Press your seams and the broken dishes quilt block is done!!!

Happy sewing!!!


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