Finished Block vs Unfinished Block – Understanding the Difference

By Alanda / September 15, 2017

Finished vs Unfinished Quilt Block

If you are new to quilting, you may come across some terms that you may not be familiar with. That’s understandable since the quilting world has a language all it’s own and it can be a little confusing when you first start out. One question we get asked often is: “What is the difference between a finished and an unfinished block?”. It’s a good one to get a handle on because and understanding of the differences can help immensely especially when following a quilt pattern.

Most patterns will give you both the unfinished size and the finished size of the block. This helps you keep track of how big your block should be once you have sewn your fabric bits together.

Some patterns will only mention a size such as 5″, 9″, 12″,  and in this case it is usually referring to the finished size of the quilt block. So unless the pattern mentions the word unfinished, it usually means that only the finished block size has been included.

Finished and Unfinished Quilt Blocks

What is the Unfinished Size of a Block?

  • The unfinished size is the size after you have sewn all your fabric pattern pieces together to form a block, and before it has been added to any other blocks.
  • So it is a block with raw edges on all four sides.
  • The block in this video tutorial is a 9″ unfinished block.
  • You will generally make a stack of unfinished blocks before you start constructing your quilt.

What is the Finished Size of a block?

  • The finished size is the size of the block once other blocks have been added on each side.
  • This can also be sashing pieces added to a block
  • It can also be where you have sewn the block to other blocks and a border piece.
  • So anytime the block is enclosed by other components on all sides, it becomes the finished block.

What is the Difference in Size?

  • When you sew two blocks together you lose a ¼” inch seam allowance on the side where you have sewn the blocks together.
  • So when you sew a block to each raw edge of your original block you lose a quarter of an inch on each side. This means that you are going to lose a ½” from the size of your original block once all the other blocks have been added.
  • In this example the finished block will measure  8½” (9″ – 1/2″)

This applies to all blocks regardless of their size.  If you start out with a 5″ unfinished block, it will become a 4 1/2″ finished block once its has been enclosed with other blocks.