Brown, black and grey small quilt using the Northerrn Lights block

Northern Lights

Pattern available from my Shop

Northern Lights – single block
This is one of the simplest blocks possible, consisting of four small units; two half-square triangle units and two four-square units. Both these units can be quick-pieced.
Although its very straightforward, a number of different designs can be made from it, depending on which way round the little blocks are arranged.
Northern Lights cushion
Northern Lights cushion

Four blocks together make an effective cushion cover.

Can you see how the blocks have been placed carefully, so that the direction of the half-square triangle diagonal always goes out from the middle?

In the small quilt below, made from flannel and plaid fabrics, all the blocks are arranged the same way round, giving an overall diagonal feel.

Northern Lights

A simple diagonal grid of hand quilting was chosen to complete the quilt – notice how this grid changes slightly in the border.

If the little blocks are arranged in groups of four, with the diagonals circling round in each set, then this is the effect:

Green and cream quilt
Northern Lights Blocks arranged in rings

I love the dark green fabric in this quilt – if you look carefully, it has ducks on it, so I named this “Ducks in Rings”.

However, if the blocks are arranged all the same way round within the sets of four, and the sets rotated so that the diagonals radiate out from the centre, a completely different effect is obtained:

Blue and Pink Northern Lights quilt
Northern Lights – arranged radially

This “scrappy” little quilt was made with the fabric left over from my favourite bed quilt “Solitaire“.

And, this variation, in which the four square units are rotated so that the Light squares run down the diagonal, is known as Buckeye Beauty:

Muted green and apricot quilt
Buckeye Beauty – yet another variation on Northern Lights.

This one was made as a cot quilt when a friend of mine at work who likes soft colours, had her first child, Henry. I needed to finish it quickly, so again used a simple grid design for the quilting – vertical & horizontal this time, and stitched by machine.

On an antique quit I own, the blocks are arranged in groups of four – giving yet another possibility:

Four red and cream patchwork blocks arranged next to each other
Northern Lights antique coverlet

Isn’t it amazing how many things can be done with one simple little block? The reason that it is so flexible is because it has a diagonal character, which changes as the block is rotated. have a look at other quilts on the Wall Hangings page to see how this works with other blocks.

This pattern is available for you to buy as a download.
It includes:

  • quick-piecing instructions to make the blocks quickly and easily
  • 8 different ways of arranging the blocks to make different designs
  • suggestions for using the block to make a cushion cover, a wall-hanging, a cot quilt or a small wallhanging

Northern Lights is a good choice for a scrap quilt. A bit of planning will be far more effective than a completely random selection of fabrics though – why not have a look at the Scrap Quilts page for some guidance on colour choice?