BLOCK Friday: Courthouse Steps Quilt Block

The Courthouse Steps quilt block is a fun block that is a great starting point for beginner quilters and a timeless block that seasoned quilters use time and again in their projects. And, of course, it’s eye-catching!

I’m a firm believer that knowing about the blocks that we use in our quilts makes the experience of creating a quilt more meaningful and connects us to our quilts in a way that we would otherwise miss out on. With that said, let’s see what this block is all about.

The Courthouse Steps quilt block is a variation on the Log Cabin quilt block. To get a better sense of what we’re working with, we need to take a closer look at the Log Cabin block. The Log Cabin quilt pattern was borrowed from ancient Egyptian and Roman materials and tile work. The design has thrived throughout the centuries, and during the 1860s, Log Cabin Quilts started picking up steam in the quilting world when they began appearing at state fairs, according to the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.

First Steps Baby Quilt PatternPennsylvania Puzzle Quilt Pattern

As I mentioned earlier, somewhere along the way, the Courthouse Steps quilt block, along with the Pineapple quilt block, were conceptualized as variations on the Log Cabin quilt block. Here are a couple of examples of the Courthouse Steps block being used in the First Steps Baby Quilt (left) and the Pennsylvania Puzzle quilt (right).

When comparing the Log Cabin and Courthouse Steps quilt blocks in her book 201 Quilt Blocks: Motifs, Projects, and Ideas, Louise Bell explains that, although constructed similarly, the light and dark tones in traditional blocks have different placement within each block. As you most likely know, “…in Log Cabin adjacent sides of the central square are in light or dark tones, while in Courthouse Steps opposite sides of the central square are light and dark,” (p. 54). This is the traditional way to lay out the Courthouse Steps block. Fons & Porter, using the traditional concept, has come up with a way to pay tribute to your favorite sports team or honor school colors. We call it Courtside and it’s a really fun way to support school pride or curl up with a cozy quilt on game day during football season.

Courtside Quilt Pattern

This quilt could even be made as a raffle prize at a local high school! If you’re looking for a quick quilt project, this pattern is so easy! Chain-piecing makes this a breeze and can be completed in a weekend or two.

As you know, with any quilt block, the order in which you sew each piece to the next is imperative to how the block lays. Louise Bell is back to talk about piecing the Courthouse Steps quilt block, “With right sides together, piece two dark strips to opposite sides of the center square. Then piece two pale strips to the top and lower edges. Continue adding dark strips to the sides and light strips to the top and bottom, until the block is the required size,” (p. 55). If you would like to try your hand at a Courthouse Steps block, or revisit an old friend, we want to help! Here’s a free quilt pattern called Autumn at the Courthouse – a fall wallhanging that uses dark scraps in autumn colors and just one light print to tie them all together.

Still looking for some guidance on how to create a Courthouse Steps quilt block? Check out Eleanor Burns’ Courthouse Steps Quilt Pattern Tutorial for more information.

Happy Quilting!

Carrie Sisk, Fons & Porter Online Editor

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