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

Northern Lights

Basic 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, and how many fabrics are used.

The Pattern available from my Shop includes all these options.

Cushion cover

Northern Lights cushion

Four blocks together make an effective cushion cover using just two contrasting fabrics.

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?

I used the same arrangement of four blocks in the centre of a small cot quilt for Eva, the first child of a friend of mine:

Eva’s Star

Compare the two – if you like the “scrappy” effect, have a look at the Scrap Quilts in the Techniques section to see how you can achieve a varied yet harmonious effect like this.

Possible arrangements

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

Brown, black and grey small quilt using the Northerrn Lights block
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 chose just two fabrics for this sample – the dark green fabric in this quilt 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” (as was Eva’s Star shown earlier).

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?

Buckeye Beauty

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. There is a technique pack about Grid Quilting in my online shop if you would like to learn how to do this.

Antique example

On an antique quilt 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 from my online shop.
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