Saturday, November 13, 2010

Grandmother's Fan Tutorial

The following tutorial looks at how to make a Grandmother’s Fan quilt block. This is a traditional block that was very popular in the 1930’s and reflects the sunburst motifs of Art Deco. It is much like a Dresden Plate block but allows for a little more tolerance as it is only a quarter circle. This tutorial includes making the templates for a 10" finished block. The applique is done with vliesofix and machine top stitching.

Materials for 1 block:
10 ½” Square of background fabric
5 fat eighths or
5 fabric scraps measuring at least 6 ½” x 3”
7” square for centre
Vliesofix (about 10” )
Thread to match centre
Thread to blend in with fan
Template plastic
Point turner

Step 1 – Cut Rectangles
Cut the fabric for your blades into rectangles measuring 6 ½ x 3”. If you are using fat eighths cut a 3’ strip across the fabric, and then cut the rectangles. Square up the left over rectangle and keep for the boarder.

Step 2 – Make Points
Fold each blade in half and stitch ¼” from the end. Clip the inside corner and turn the point. Press the blade to create a 45 degree point. Take care not to break through if you are using scissors to turn the corners. A plastic point turner is very useful here.

Step 3 – Create Template
Using the dimensions below, trace the shape onto some template plastic. The sides are at a 9 degree angle. Score the outlines with a sharp object i.e. compass or edge of scissors, and cut out along the score lines. I found plastic with an imperial grid (inches and ¼ inches) on it to be very useful. A transparent ice-cream container lid would work also.

Step 3 – Trim Blades
Tuck the template into the point of the blade and trim the sides. I mark the sides of the base on the blade and then line up a ruler from hip of the blade to the waist before cutting.

Step 4 – Assemble Fan
Arrange a fan of 5 blades. Alternating light and dark or different colours helps to give each block a balanced look. Starting with a backstitch at the outside and stitching towards the waist, sew the blades together. Press the seams to one side.

Step 5 – Back the Fan
Trace around the fan onto some cardboard and cut out the template. Using this template, trace a fan shape onto vliesofix and cut out. The template is especially handy if you are making more than one block. Iron the vliesofix onto the back of the fan.

Step 6 – Locate Fan
Finger crease the background square to create a diagonal line. Remove the vliesofix backing and Line up the fan with the central point on the crease line. Press the fan into place. Depending on your stitching, the edges of the blades may extend a little beyond the background fabric. This can be trimmed before joining the blocks together.

Step 7 – Fix Fan
With the blending thread, edgestitch the fan into place. In this example I have used cream thread.

Step 8 – Create Inner Circle
Cut a 6” circle out of cardboard or template plastic. Trace circle onto vliesofix and cut out. Iron the circle of vliesofix onto the centre fabric. Cut the circle out with a half inch seam allowance.

Step 9 – Edging Inner Circle
Baste around the circle, ¼” from the edge of the vliesofix. Place the template over the vliesofix and pull the threads tight. Press the circle to give a smooth edge before removing the template.

Step 10 – Quarter Circle
Cut the circle into 4. Leave the vliesofix paper on the back of the quarters.

Step 11 – Trim Up
Remove the vliesofix backing paper from one quarter. Place one quarter over the block. Hold this up to the light to check to see if any of the fans extend beyond the seam allowance of the circle. If needed, trim the inner ends of the blades so that they cannot be seen through the circle.

Step 12 – Finishing
Place the quarter circle in the corner of the block and press into place. Edge stitch, using a thread to match the circle, and you have finished.

Design Tips

This pattern can be adjusted for different size blocks. Drop me a line if you need help with the dimensions.

There are a number of ways the blocks can be set out - on point, all facing one way, radiating out from a point or my favourite - alternating like butterfly wings.

The proportions of blade to centre circle are traditionally 2:1 i.e 6" blade, 3" centre

The finished block size of 10" work well with using the remnant squares (2 1/2" finished) in the border.

Using an odd number of blades in each quarter helps to keep each block balanced. For example, if you are alternating 2 blade colours, each block will start and finish with the same colour.

I would love to know how you get on with your blocks and if there are any parts I can help with drop me a line too.


  1. Thank you for this Tutorial, I have linked it to my blog.

  2. Great Tutorial! A Grandmother's Fan has been on my TODO list for a very long time. You make it look SO easy!

  3. Thank you! I am fixing to do a fan block but the blades are not pointed like the Grandmother's Fan. I needed a bit of insight as I have thought about the "how to's". Much appreciated!

  4. I started a Grandmother's Fan quilt 27 years ago; made 4 blocks, and then put it aside. Guess what. I unpacked it all and I'm going to finish it now! I have only made one complete quilt before, and that was about 10 years ago. I cannot remember what seam allowance I used, but it looks like about 1/4 inch. Is that the standard seam allowance for quilting? Thanks!

    1. Yes 1/4" is standard for quilting. However, you could measure your the seam allowance on your first block to make sure your seams are uniform.

  5. I have looked for so long to find a tutorial for a fan quilt and I was so excited when I came across your page! Thank you so much, now I can finally start on my quilt.

  6. My friend is looking for instructional help for a 7 blade fan - she has many blocks already completed so maybe needs to know .... not sure what she's looking for. Can you refer to a site for that?

  7. I did my fan quilt using atop stitch on the machine with a gold thread and fancy stitch to do edge of centerpiece and outer edge of fan looks wonderful

  8. Help.
    My base block is 10...I need measurement for much do I reduce the pattern you have here?

  9. Thanks. So happy to join the fun!

  10. excellent instructions! I would like to make a 12" block. I need help figuring out the size of the blade. I do not want a pointy top, just straight across. I know my block is 12.5" square. I don't know what size to cut my circle. Please help.


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