BLOCK Friday: Virginia Reel Quilt Block – Fons & Porter

Romantic Trails QuiltHave you ever made a Virginia Reel quilt block? If you have, you’ve probably used those blocks in a quilt, like Romantic Trails by Tammy Vanderschmitt. They have such a unique look to them, it’s impossible to mistake them for anything else. You may have heard of a Snail’s Trail quilt block, which makes up each quadrant of the Virginia Reel quilt block. Our friends at McCall’s Quilting offer easy-to-follow instructions for the Virginia Reel quilt block. Take a look:


From peach solid, cut:

  • 2 (1-9/16″ x 7″) strips
  • 4 (2-3/8″ x 2-3/8″) squares. Cut squares diagonally to make 8 half-square triangles (Piece A).
  • 4 (3″ x 3″) squares. Cut squares diagonally to make 8 half-square triangles (Piece B).
  • 4 (3-7/8″ x 3-7/8″) squares. Cut squares diagonally to make 8 half-square triangles (Piece C).

From green print, cut:

  • 1 (1-9/16″ x 7″) strip
  • 2 (2-3/8″ x 2-3/8″) squares. Cut squares diagonally to make 4 half-square triangles (Piece A).
  • 2 (3″ x 3″) squares. Cut squares diagonally to make 4 half-square triangles (Piece B).
  • 2 (3-7/8″ x 3-7/8″) squares. Cut squares diagonally to make 4 half-square triangles (Piece C).

Virginia Reel Diagrams

Piecing the Block:

  1. Using Diagram I as a guide, piece together green print (1-9/16″ x 7″ strip) to peach solid (1-9/16″ x 7″ strip). (Repeat for peach print and peach solid strips.) Press seam allowances toward dark fabric. Sub-cut pieced strips into (1-9/16″ x 2-5/8″) rectangles. Sew rectangles together to make 4 four-patch units.
  2. Using Diagrams II, III, and IV as guides, make square-in-square units beginning with the half-square triangles (2-3/8″) (Piece A). Sew piece B half-square triangles (3″) to unit. Complete the quadrant (Snail’s Trail block) by sewing piece C half-square triangles (3-7/8″) to unit.
  3. Turn quadrants to layout Virginia Reel pattern. Referring to Assembly Diagram, sew quadrants together to make block.

Let's Dance QuiltNow that you know how to work up a Virginia Reel quilt block, you might be itching to work them right up into a quilt! Apart from Romantic Trails, the fat quarter friendly quilt above, we have a couple of other suggestions for quilts featuring this fun quilt block…

How about the Virginia Reel block in batiks? Batiks are great to work with because generally, they don’t have a right or wrong side, they have more threads per inch in each direction than other fabrics commonly used for quilting, resulting in a tighter weave, making them less prone to fraying and stretching. Plus, they’re preshrunk from the dying process. Pretty cool, don’t you think? So, batiks are always a wonderful choice and Bea Lee chose them for Let’s Dance. A colorful quilt with tons of personality! We can thank batiks and the Virginia Reel quilt block for that.

Another quilt featuring this traditional quilt block is called Tornado. This quilt uses color in an unique way — the quilt blocks appear to be floating on a light background. And, a closer look at this quilt reveals that it has been made from fabric scraps. Tornado is a stash-busting project, adding another layer of interest to an already interesting design. You can always choose to go with fat quarters here, if you’d prefer. If you’re looking for that same “floating” effect, make sure to grab light and dark prints for your fat quarters. 

Tornado QuiltThe Virginia Reel is one of those quilt blocks — up there with the Log Cabin, Cathedral Window and Ohio Star quilt blocks — that is on the must-make list. Give this block a whirl with the Romantic TrailsLet’s Dance or Tornado quilt! Keep this in mind, however, as you start on your Virginia Reels: there are several ways to create this block. The information above is just one of them and you may come across another technique that suits you. Quilting is a personal journey, so enjoy!

If you choose to make one of these quilts, or wouldn’t mind sharing previous experiences with the Virginia Reel block, leave your comments here. Do you have pictures handy? Share them with us on the Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting Facebook page! We always love to hear from you in any capacity.

Carrie Sisk, Online Editor, Fons & Porter

Happy Quilting!

Carrie Sisk, Fons & Porter, Online Editor

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