Martha Washington Star

Martha Washington Star

When you are travelling through the United States and especially through Virginia, one name is always prominent in street names, on monuments, on stamps and on one dollar bills: George Washington. The first president of the United States was indeed a great man who not only helped shape the first democracy in North America, but also had great impact on further political developments in the rest of the world.

As we women know, behind every great man there is almost always a strong woman. This certainly applies to George Washington: His wife Martha Dandridge Custis Washington must have had an equally strong and impressive character to bear so well the deprivations and hardships of being a politicians wife. ...

Therefore, for the fifth block in the American Impressions Block of the Month series we a block called Martha Washington Star (aka Martha Washington or Martha Washington’s Star). A block with this name was first mentioned in 1932. However under the name “Flying Cloud”,  this block was first published in 1906 in Clara Stone’s “Practical Needlework” .

Although this block is easy to make if you cut and sew with care and accuracy, it is by no means boring. The windmill enclosed by the shapes forming the star spices up what would otherwise be a very basic Sawtooth Star.

The Martha Washington Star can be used very well in sampler quilts (as e. g. in our American Impressions BOM Sampler!). Regarding grids; we have tagged this block both with a 4 by 4 grid and an 8 by 8 grid. Strictly speaking, only the latter is the correct one due to the further division of the block centre in the shape of the windmill already mentioned. Note: If grids are unfamiliar do read up about them in our Template Free Families section.

Finished block size:

12 inches (ca. 30cm)

For this version of the block, we used Civil War reproduction fabrics in red and dark blue contrasted with an off-white solid as background.

Fabric requirements:

  • Off-white solid background fabric: ca. one fat quarter - You will have some fabric scraps left over. Keep these for the other blocks!
  • Red fabric: a rectangle ca. 5” by 20” (ca. 12.5 cm by 50 cm)
  • Dark blue fabric: a square ca. 5” (ca. 12.5 cm)


As for all template-free blocks or projects on Quilt around the World, seam allowances of ¼” for imperial or 0.75 cm for metric are included in the cutting and sewing instructions.


For one block:

Piecing and Cutting Diagram

  • Square A: From background fabric, cut four 3 ½” (9 cm) squares.
  • Triangle B: From background fabric, cut one 7 ¼” (18.5 cm) square. Cut the square twice diagonally into four quarter square triangles.
  • Triangle C: From background fabric, cut two 3 7/8” (10 cm) squares. Cut the squares once diagonally into a total of four half square triangles.
  • Triangle D: From background fabric, cut one 4 ¼” (11 cm) square. Cut the square twice diagonally into four quarter square triangles.
  • Triangle E: From red fabric, cut four 3 7/8“ (10 cm) squares. Cut the squares once diagonally into eight half square triangles.
  • Triangle F: From blue fabric, cut one 4 ¼” (11 cm). Cut the square twice diagonally into four quarter square triangles.


Before you start cutting the pieces cut off the selvages. Make a cut exactly on the cross-grain to create a 'clean' starting point for cutting. If you want to cut squares for more than one block, cut strips of the appropriate width across the width of the fabric.


1 block

  • Set out your fabric pieces on your worktable.

Cut out pieces

  • Start with the windmill in the centre of the block.
  • Join one D triangle with one F triangle along one of the shorter sides. Repeat three times taking care that all DF triangles have exactly the same colour placement. You need not follow our windmill’s orientation. Just make sure that all DF triangles are identical.

Arm of Windmill

  • Join one DF triangle with one C triangle. Repeat three times.

Arm of Windmill finished

  • Set out the DF-C squares as shown:

Windmill unpieced

  • Join the units to form two rows:

Windmill: two rows

  • Join the rows to form the centre windmill block.

Finished Windmill

  • Set out two E triangles and one B triangle as show to form a Flying Geese unit:

Flying Geese Step 1

  • Join the E triangles to the B triangles:

Flying Geese Step 2

  • We always snip off the small triangles formed by the seam allowances to reduce bulk.

Finished Flying Geese

  • Repeat three times for a total of four Flying Geese units.
  • Set out all pieced block units and the four remaining un-pieced background squares as shown.


  • Join the units into rows.
  • Join the rows into a finished block.
  • Your Martha Washington Star is finished.

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