How to Sew a Wagon Wheel Quilt Block. The "Wagon Wheel" quilt design is one of the patterns used by the Underground Railroad to convey messages to escaping slaves. When displayed in the agreed upon fashion, the "wagon wheel" design said "prepare the wagon; get ready begin the escape." Part of the "compass and wheel" group of quilt designs, the pieced and appliquéd "wagon wheel" block has beautiful symmetry and is perfect for a pillow top or framed piece.
Cutting the Fabric
Choose fabrics for the quilt block. Cut the "spokes" of the wheel from two complementing colors or use a variety of colors and patterns to reflect the available materials, like sewing remnants or cast-off clothing. Work with fabrics that are 100 percent cotton.
Create tin or plastic templates for the wheel spokes, the center hub of the wheel and the four corner pieces of the block. Allow a 1/4-inch seam allowance for all pieces.
Use the spokes template to draw the design on the fabric. Plan 16 spokes for one quilt block. Stack several layers of fabric. Use a rotary cutter and mat to cut out the spokes.
Trace and cut the center hub from a solid, coordinating background fabric. Cut the foundation square from the same fabric.
Assembling the Block
Arrange the 16 spokes on the work surface. Pin two spokes together at a time along a long edge. Stitch each of the two spokes together. Press on the wrong side and block the seams.
Pin two of the two-spoke sections together and sew along the long edge. Press as above. Keep the outer edges even.
Piece two of the four-spoke sections together and then piece the resulting two eight-spoke to complete the wagon wheel. Press and block the seams.
Center the completed 16-spoke wheel on the square of foundation fabric. Pin all around the wheel to secure it to the foundation square. Set the pins in about 1/2 inch from the outer edge of the wheel.
Turn under 1/4 inch around the perimeter of the pieced wheel and stitch in place. Work carefully to maintain the rounded edge. Use small stitches, just pickup up the edge of the wheel with the needle.
Position the solid color hub in the center of the wheel. Pin in place. Turn under 1/4 inch around the edge and sew in place.
Layer the finished block with backing fabric and batting. Quilt through the layers, using a pattern that accentuates the spokes of the wheel. Frame the piece or use as a pillow top.
Use a 1/4 inch seam allowance throughout.