3 – D Blocks using the Y-Not technique

As mentioned in my post, I found a quilt pattern on the web by Rebecca McCreary called Y-Not Tumbling Blocks (which has since, been taken off the web).  She developed a cutting technique that allows you to piece tumbling blocks without Y-seams.  I took that technique and made a small sample to see how I liked using it.  There are a couple of differences between what I made and how she planned and made her quilt.

1.  I wanted my blocks to stand up straight. So when I followed her pattern, that made the dark color end up on top.  She preferred her dark to be on a side, therefore turned her quilt blocks to accomplish that. The result is her blocks slant in a downward angle. I didn’t catch that at first. This made me realize that if I preferred the straight blocks and wanted the top to be light or medium, I would need to sew my strip sets together in a different order.

Straight and Angled

2.  I did not make large strip sets as in her pattern since I was testing this out.  Because of the 60 degree angle you will be sub-cutting from the strip sets, she staggered the edges when sewing her strip sets together.  I did not do that for my test but  I can see the logic to staggering the edges when you make larger sets to avoid too much waste.  I made my two strips sets as follows:

Set A = dark strip, medium strip, dark strip

Set B = dark strip, light strip, dark strip

To achieve blocks with a light top, you need to sew a light, dark, light set, then a light, medium, light set

Strip Sets

Cutting Strips:

Dark strips = 2 3/8″ x width of fabric

Light & Medium strips = 3 1/2″ x width of fabric

Sew one dark strip on each side of a medium strip, then one dark strip on each side of a light strip to get your sets.  Press the seams on the light set towards the dark, and on the medium set towards the medium fabric.

Cut the light strip as follows:

Line the 60 degree line on your rotary cutting ruler with the bottom of your strip with the ruler leaning to the left:

Cut Light Strip 1Cut Light Strip 2

After making this first cut, flip your strip so that the cut edge is now on the left.

Cut Light Strip 3 Flip

Line the 60 degree line of your ruler with the bottom of the strip, at 3 1/2 inches from the edge, to cut a 3 1/2 inch strip.

Cut strip 3 half inches

Continue cutting 3 1/2 inch strips from the strip set.

Cut Light Strip 5

Using the medium strip set, make your first cut using the 60 degree mark on your ruler but the ruler should lean to the right, opposite of the way you cut the light strip.

Cut Medium Strip 1

Cut Medium Strip 2

Flip your strip so that the cut edge is on the left then begin cutting 3 1/2″ strips like you did on the light strip set only in the opposite direction.

Cut Medium Strip 3 FlipCut Medium Strip 4

Take the medium and light 3 1/2 inch blocks and lay them out horizontally on your cutting board.  We are now going to cut off the ends to make them into rectangles.

3 D Strips 0173 D Strips 020

We will cut off each end at a 90 degree angle leaving 1/8 of an inch from the edge closest to the center strip.  I found that I had a mark on my ruler that was 1/8 inch long (at the half inch point in the center of my one inch sections) and just touched it to the edge of my center strip for a nice cut, like so:

Cut Strips eighth inch

Cut off one end, flip the strip, then cut off the other end.  Do this on the light and medium blocks.  Your rectangles will equal about 3 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches.

Cut Rectangle 1

Lay a light set and a medium set together to make a V shape.

Rectangles together

Place them right sides together and line up your points by nesting your seams.  Since you pressed them in opposite directions when making the strips, the seams should bump up together nicely.  Sew them together using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Nest Seams


Rectangles sewed together Rectangles Sewed together 2

Press your sewn seam towards the medium fabric.  Sew the rest of your rectangles into pairs to make more blocks.  Then sew your blocks together in horizontal rows the width that you desire, making sure that you keep the blocks all going in the same direction.

Row 1

Join your rows together, flipping alternating rows so that your points face each other.  Again, you should be able to nest your seams because you pressed them all towards the medium fabric and are flipping alternating rows over.


Points Facing

Here’s the basic result.  I ended up adding some more rows/blocks to the ends to make it bigger, but you get the picture!


I hope my sewing and cutting tips help if you decide to try out this technique.


54 thoughts on “3 – D Blocks using the Y-Not technique

  1. Barbara

    What are some measurements for cuttingvti make larger blocks. Would I simply add the same amount ( 2, 3, or 4 inches) for each cut?

  2. Musatta Carrozza

    Bought fabric for my quilt. Using light for the tops instead of dark. Bought 3 yds light fabric, 2 yds med and 2 yds dark. Have enough for 99 “v” blocks and will invert alternate rows. Figure 9 across and 11 down. Will fill in borders with another coordinating fabric for this queen sized quilt. So far…so good. Directions are clear. Did make a booboo and cut a center strip 3 3/4 inches instead of 3 1/2 inches and did not discover until cut. My husband helped me rip each piece and cut off the extra 1/4 inch and resew them to save the project!

  3. Musatta Carrozza

    Trying my first full sized quilt. Enchanted with the tumbling block design. Searched internet but this technique makes the most sense. Will be buying my fabric today. Need shades of orange for the dark paneled bedroom.Thank you so much!

  4. Maria De Rouen

    I first saw this method on “Simply Quilts” with Alex Anderson over a decade ago. At that time, I was not interested enough to try a quilt. And then a few years ago, when 2 of my sisters, my sister-in-law, AND my cousin were all pregnant and due within an 11 month time period, I decided this would be the perfect gift for all of them. It was a great idea, but by then the show was off the air. It took me quite a while to find the very simple pattern and method to create the tumbling block motif using the light, medium and dark strips, for free. I am not normally a quilter, therefore I didn’t want to have to spend twelve dollars for the book that contained one pattern that I had seen for free on TV. Thank you for posting this, as I am sure I am not the only person searching. I have since made several of these, ranging in size from burp cloth, to queen size duvet cover (for my uncle who saw it as an M. C. Escher style pattern. I made his out of upcycled sheets, don’t tell him, lol). I even made several crocheted versions, which I’ve posted on Ravelry (https://www.ravelry.com/projects/CreoleDiva/baby-blocks-crocheted-afghan-2, https://www.ravelry.com/projects/CreoleDiva/baby-blocks-crocheted-afghan). The whole world is a better place when we share with one another.

  5. Kathlyn

    Thanks so much! So far these are the clearest instructions for me that I’ve found. Now I feel I’m bold enough to try this. Thanks again.

  6. Theresa

    I am currently making this. Very easy except there is a lot of wasted material. I have found that if you mark the three pieces of fabric at 60 degree mark and then start sewing together before starting the angle cuts you save a little more. Just a thought. This is a very nice pattern. Thanks for sharing.

    1. pampemberton

      When I had cut a few blocks I laid them out to have a look and mine looked like a chevron too but then I noticed that each row had to be alternated so they started with opposite blocks to make the pattern look right maybe that’s where you went wrong as until then I hadn’t realised even though it does show that in the pictures .

  7. Isabelle

    I’m impressed. Never imagined it to be so tricky!… i pictured simple equal diamond shapes!… but is childish!… it works with marble or metal, but NOT fabrick thzt needs seams!…

  8. Joan Odell

    Thank you so much for posting your instructions! I have been looking for a tumbling blocks pattern that I can follow, as a very new quilter. Now I am anxious to try this. I hope that your instructions will stay posted for a few months while I finish the quilt I am making and get materials to start on this one.

    1. denmck Post author

      I have no plans to take the instructions down so take your time! I haven’t been able to post much this past year but I’m getting ready to do a new tutorial this weekend. Have fun!

  9. Pingback: Tumbling Block Quilt Pattern | Free Quilt Patterns

  10. Shaunda

    I like your method. Id like to make my blocks bigger but how would I cut the rectangles. I figured the strips an inch bigger but for the cutting from the strip is my problem.

  11. Noemi

    I felt lucky finding a tutorial like this. Thank you. I used your 2 3/8” for the dark strip and 3 1/2” for the medium and light strips. My WOF : 58” . I got 12 cuts at 60 degree of each set. I made rows of 6 pair of cuts without trimming them before. Using your instructions I trimmed one cut and I got a rectangle of 3 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches. I don’t know why.
    So, I decided to trim them all together at once at the end of each row.
    My quilt is approximately 34 x 37 inche. Cutting 3 medium + 3 lights + 12 dark trips. I wish I could show you my quilt.

    1. denmck Post author

      So happy this worked out for you! If you would like you could e-mail a picture and I could post it here as well. Let me know if you want to do that.

    1. denmck Post author

      As detailed in the instructions, each strip set uses different sized strips. So you would have to trim down some of the 2 1/2″ strips to make them thinner if you want to use them. If your thickest strip is 2 1/2″ those will all need to be the medium and light color values. Your dark color values will need to be 1 3/8″. The colors don’t have to be the same, you just have to make sure you pick dark, medium, and light values.

  12. Cindy

    Super easy but you end up wasting a lot of material, but it’s worth it for the ease of how it all goes together.

    1. denmck Post author

      Tell me what size you want the finished quilt, including the width of any outside borders, and I’ll see if I can figure it out. 🙂

        1. denmck Post author

          Peggy – I’m no math wiz but I think I figured this out pretty closely for a Queen Size quilt measuring 80″ x 90″. The following should get you really close:
          5 1/2 yards for the dark color strips – cut 80 strips 2 3/8″ by 42″
          2 yards for the light color strips – cut 20 strips 3 1/2″ x 42″
          2 yards for the medium color strips – cut 20 strips 3 1/2″ x 42″
          If this is a little shy of the size you want you can just add your border to make up for the difference and I think you’ll end up with a really nice quilt.

    1. denmck Post author

      Cutting Strips:

      Dark strips = 2 3/8″ x width of fabric

      Light & Medium strips = 3 1/2″ x width of fabric

      Is that what your were asking?

  13. lallee

    Have always wanted to make a building block quilt but hated the Y technique as found it too fiddle. Will now try this method of cutting and sewing and maybe finally get the quilt I want to make. Thank you for such a clear tutorial. Always love to learn new techniques.


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