Economy Block 17 Free Designs

The economy block has quilters excited! As I wrote in January, quilters have found the fun in this square-in-a-square, or diamond-in-a-square block. It’s a great way to showcase novelty prints with fussy cutting, or just enjoy the color play between patches.

Once you’ve made a few of these great blocks, what should you do with them? For some ideas, take a moment to google Images for economy block quilts. I’ll wait…

Yeah. Not much variety there in design, huh? Almost every picture has an array of economy blocks side by side. The only difference is coloring.

As terrific as they look, there is more you can do with them than that. Here are SEVENTEEN ideas. They all use the same coloring, so you can focus on the secondary designs instead of color differences.

And remember, you can make the economy block ANY SIZE with my tutorial and cheat sheet.

The first one uses an unpieced alternate block. They get more complex — and more interesting — after that!

Unpieced alternate blocks

Hourglasses, turned in alternate rows

Square in a square, or diamond in a square…

Four patches


Electric fans


Double 4-patches on point, turned in alternate rows

Four X variation

Jewel box, turned in alternate rows

Economy blocks doubled down?

Checkerboards, turned in alternate rows

Broken dishes

Old maid’s puzzle, turned in alternate rows

Four patch art square, turned in alternate rows

Straight set with sashing, no alternate blocks

On point set with sashing, no alternate blocks

Feeling inspired to play with these great blocks? Which is your favorite?


36 thoughts on “Economy Block 17 Free Designs

  1. Laura Justice

    I am so excited for your post. I am using an adorable line work skunk by TulaPink for my center block. I can’t wait to finish.

  2. holly vonderbrink

    I want to make the economy block bigger but I have 5 inch centers I have to use.That makes maybe a 10 inch block but not really because I cant round up to 5 and one half.They are already cut.May be a crazy question but can i enlarge the block some way?

    1. cindythequilter

      If you read through the article on Economy block Any Size she does give a chart where it tells you what size to cut your squares to get the right size triangles. If your center is 5 inches you will end up with a finished 9 inch block.

      1. Melanie McNeil Post author

        Thanks for answering, Cindy. Holly, Cindy is right. If your centers are already cut 5″, you get a 9″ finish block. If you want to make it larger, you could increase the center square by piecing more on or framing them with more fabric, to make them 5.5″ unfinished, or 5″ finished.

  3. Leisa

    Generationsquiltpatterns has a nice foundation piece for the economy block (free). I had some 3.5″ (cut) blocks that I was just disappointed with and that let to my being confounded on what to do with. As they were the perfect size for a 6″ (finished) square in square, I printed out the foundation pieces on newsprint, and went about creating the loveliest blocks (that were no wasted!) that perfectly used the material. I then added yet another “square”–a white outer. This allowed for the pieces to float in a coherent background. Yes, it was time consuming, but I approached it as a skill builder for foundation piecing. I was so happy with the built skill and the end product. And I found that the piecing satisfied some heretofore unexplored OCD impulses! Thank you for showcasing these designs.

  4. cindythequilter

    These are totally fascinating! I have bookmarked and actually am going to do the jewel box turned variation. I just finished a jewel box quilt as a commission for the granddaughter of a previous coworkers who passed from cancer. I am using her shirts/t-shirts. I still need to make a matching yet different quilt for the sister (other granddaughter). This is absolutely perfect. I am so glad I found your page and thank you for all the inspiration!

  5. Quilting is in my Blood

    Hi Melanie, I took a look at your blog after you liked my quilty bucket list post. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I’ve done a lot of economy blocks in my mosaic work but have not yet tried them in my quilting. I actually will soon as it is this month’s assignment in Meadow Mist Design’s Midnight Mystery Quilt-along. I saved this post and will definitely refer back to it. Take care, Mary.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Hi Mary, Thanks for stopping by. It’s a fun block for layout, very versatile. Yesterday I looked at another quilt design that colored/valued the patches differently and gave it a completely different look. It’s easy but fiddly no matter how you do it. Paper piecing will give you a lot of control but has its own steps to deal with. My way gives a great block, but there is a lot of trimming. (I try not to do trimming on other blocks!) Or you can cut the patches exactly to size and hope for the best. I never had much luck with that.

      Good luck with the block and let me know if you have questions.

  6. Thread crazy

    The square in a square is a neat design that has endless possibilities. I started to purchase one of those rulers but decided I could do the figuring a bit quicker so decided to spend the $ on fabric instead…!! Good post.

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      Yes I do. It’s taken me a while to balance the enjoyment of designing as I go with visualizing ahead with the software, if that makes sense. But I feel like now I can do both.

  7. Doni Boyd

    Thanks for all the ideas! I bought the ‘square in a square’ ruler oh-so-many-years-ago; I used it once – but I’ll have to study up on it again and start some fun!! doni @Oregon coast

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      Hi Doni! It was fun playing with it. Get that ruler out or use my tutorial and do it the “hard” way. πŸ™‚ And then look at these ideas again, or ANY other 4-patch/grid blocks for something completely different.

      Have fun!

  8. Nann

    I took a Square in a Square workshop earlier this year. I need to make use of the specialty ruler. Your design ideas will help me do that.

  9. Joanna

    I vote for the jewel box and the electric fan as they have lots of movement and you could really get into color changes with them. As another commenter said though, I wouldn’t relish the precision needed to make these blocks look good. I once made a quilt in flannel with this block and I paper pieced it to get the points to behave. Thanks for showing how fun it is to play around with block settings.

  10. denmck

    Going crazy on the Economy blocks, LOL. I love them all! I’ve finally finished the back for mine and got it pinned and ready to quilt. Sometimes the most fun is the experimenting. Great job!

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      I like that one, too. Problem with the economy block — it’s easy, but it’s rather time consuming. You either must be PRECISE and ACCURATE, or take the extra time to trim. I love the idea of it, but haven’t made many of my own. πŸ™‚

  11. Debbi

    I really enjoyed this post and seeing the different design possibilities. I like the square in a square alternate block or the jewel box in alternating directions. Think I’ll have to make one of these!

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      They are fun, aren’t they? Not sure I could pick a favorite. Some of the simplest ones are really cool, and some of the complex ones are kind of fascinating!

      Thanks for taking a look today.


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