How to Make a Shoo Fly Quilt Block: A Quick Guide

The Shoo Fly Quilt block is one of the most frequently seen quilt blocks out there. It is used to make attractive quilts with a rural feel to them, reflecting this block’s origins.

The Shoo Fly quilt block is a terrific block for the beginner quilter because it contains only half square triangles and cut squares—the most basic of units of patchwork.

The key skill for this quick quilt block tutorial is creating half square triangles that are true along the diagonal and finish at the correct size with the point intact at both ends.

Materials Needed for the Shoo Fly Quilt Block

  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • 6 ½” and 12 ½” ruler
  • Sewing machine set to ¼”
  • Pencil
  • 1 fat quarter of light fabric
  •  12” x 15” piece of dark fabric
  • 6” x 12” piece of medium fabric

Shoo Fly Quilt Block Tutorial

Fabric Cutting instructions for the Shoo Fly Quilt Block:

  • 4 light squares  4 ½” square
  • 1 dark square 4 ½” square
  • 2 light squares 5 ½” square
  • 2 dark squares  5 ½” square

Form accurate half square triangle blocks

To complete the Shoo Fly Quilt Block you will need to form half square triangle blocks that measure 4 ½” square. 

You could do this with the quick Half Square Triangles method explained below (if you are having any trouble following it check out our detailed tutorial on making half square triangle quilt blocks).

The general rule when using this method is to add ¾” to that measurement and cut your fabric squares.  Because you are still learning and may make mistakes the squares you will cut will be 5 ½”- a full inch larger than the finished block size.

To form the half square triangles you will place a light 5 ½” block with a colored 5 ½”’ block, right sides together. Match the edges and corners carefully.  

Draw a diagonal line  from corner to corner on your light block.   

Stitch on either side of the diagonal line with a ¼” seam allowance.  Place your drawn diagonal line on the edge of your ¼” presser foot and adjust your needle if necessary.

After stitching both lines, gently fold back the darker color along the sewn line and press in place.   

Repeat for the darker color on the other side of the block.

Smooth both pieces flat with your hands so they are again right sides together.   Cut on the drawn diagonal line.    

Trim the blocks by lining up the diagonal line on your 6 ½” ruler with the diagonal line on the block.  Trim two sides square, then spin the block and line up the 4 ½” lines with the cut edge. Trim the other two sides so you end up with a 4 ½” block.

Arrange the blocks according to the Shoo Fly Quilt Block layout diagram.  Sew together by attaching rows, just as you would assemble a 9 patch block. 

Shoo Fly Quilt Block layout diagram

Trim your assembled blocks to 12 ½” square if needed.

History of the Shoo Fly Quilt Block

As Quilting in America explains, the Shoo Fly Quilt Block (also known as the Hole in the Barn Door Quilt Block) gets its name from a wild plant with domed flowers called clover broom or shoo-fly.

This quilt block was first seen in 1850 and became popular in the late 1800s. The arrangement of triangles and rectangles around a center square resembles a hole through which flies could enter the home.