Arithmetic Block – Everything Blue Block Hop

#arithmetic block +  (actually +,-, ÷, and x) and tutorial              `Do your math`- Erykah Badu


I drafted this pattern last spring, intending to write up a block tutorial in time for my July Bee Month at the Threadbias Bee Biased block swap, but it didn’t happen until now.

I was first inspired to make this block after President Clinton’s DMC 2012 convention speech on balancing the budget and trickle-down economics where he coined the Twitter trending hash tag of #arithmetic in a brilliant oral quip that still persists today in current discussions around Obamacare and balancing the budget today. I’d been contemplating a numerical operations type quilt block for awhile, I love mathematical and physical science expressions, and the juxtaposition of quilting with technology and social media. I’ve been really into letters, symbols and glyphs in quilts lately, so I just knew I had to make this block. The button below is a link to the Clothworks Block Hop this block is proud to be a part of!

Clothworks button

Clothworks has been asking some local community members to make blocks for a charity quilt and they gave out free fabrics from Marsha McCloskey’s new fabric line, “Everything Blue” when I realized I was finally going to get that tutorial written!  “Everything Blue” has several meanings for me:  first, McCloskey’s son and I went to the same school in the late 80’s and I remember her contributions to the school’s fundraising including a quilt the year I was there. I already loved patchwork and embroidery even though I didn’t finish my first quilt until 2000. But it was blue and white prints that I first began buying in the early 90’s and many of the florals I used in my dresses in the eighties found their way with those lovely blue calicos into my daughter’s baby quilt that I completed with pride. At the time, I lived near  In The Beginning, a heavenly quilt shop near my home that I eventually began to work at part-time, that hosted feathered star workshops taught by Marsha, and she published the “Blended Quilts” series with Sharon Yenter of In The Beginning. It was a great pleasure to make this block and practice some of my floral blending techniques on this block featuring Marsha’s Everything Blue floral prints. In the meanwhile, I came across this quilt last week in the Modern Quilt Guild flickr group! I had considered this same design before I decided to stick with the old fashioned division symbol, but if you want to skip the appliqué, there’s a possible option for you to modify my block. You could also draft circles for fusible applique.

I didn’t get to request this block of my swap mates in July, but now I might have to make another blue one for myself, and in fact, maybe I need a rainbow of them! Thanks to Clothworks for inviting me to blog about my block! You will notice I chose to hand appliqué my circles for the division patch, you of course are welcome to use a modern fusible technique, but if you are new to hand-appliqué, this is a really great way to try it out with out over-committing, I sewed these two circles in less than half an hour, so you might be able to sneak them in during a single episode of Doctor Who (or whatever you are watching right now, I am so open to any recommendations while I wait for the first episode of Whedon’s “Agents of S. H. I. E. L. D.” to air).

Here is the tutorial below, but I will make a separate page/pdf link to it shortly.

Arithmetic Block  – this is a FREE tutorial, enjoy and share photos at but please do not charge for any patterns which use this tutorial or any photos!

Finished Block size 12 inches, unfinished 12.5 inches:


Fabric required:  4 fat quarters, two lighter value and two darker values. This block can be made from 4 fat eighths (9″x11″ pieces of fabric) if you cut carefully, backgrounds use the most fabric. Numbers in () indicate the # of each to be rotary cut.

Light Background Fabric: Add – (5) 3″ E squares, cut one square into (4) 1.5″ C squares, Multiply – (8) 1.75″ J squares, (2) 1.5″x6.5″ D rectangles, (2) 1.5″x4.5″ A rectangles

Dark Background Fabric: Subtract – (2) 1.5″X6.5″ D rectangles, (2) 3″x4.5″ F rectangles, Divide – (2) 1.5″ C squares, (2) 3″x6.5″ G rectangles

Dark (+ Add and x Multiply Symbols): (2) 1.5″x2″ B rectangles, (1) 1.5″x4.5″ A rectangle, (4) 2.5″ K squares

Light (- Subtract and ÷ Divide Symbols): (2) 1.5″x4.5″ A rectangles, (2) appliqué circles

Arithmetic Block Diagram 


All seams are 1/4″ seams pressed open unless otherwise noted.  See diagram below for appliqué pattern and seam pressing. This is usually as far as I go on a pattern and then I just make up my own construction, pressing seams after I sew them, so do what works best for you!


(1) Add: Sew B to C and then attach E squares to each side, sew C squares to each end of the A rectangle and then sew the larger rectangles to each side of the narrow center one.

(2) Subtract: Sew each F rectangle to either side of A, and then attach narrow D rectangles

(3)  Multiply: Place J squares over opposite corner of K squares, sew down the diagonal (mark with a pencil if needed), trim seams to scant 1/4 ” and press open gently. When attaching these squares to each other, I pressed all seams open until attaching the A and D rectangles, when I pressed away from the center:


(4) Divide: Sew C squares to ends of A rectangle, then attach large H rectangles.  I wait to add appliqué (see step 6) until the entire block is pieced to help with placement.

(5) Trim inside edges of blocks if needed before sewing Add to Subtract and Divide to Multiply, press seams toward Subtract block and Divide block, sew remaining units together and press final horizontal seam open.

(6) Trace circles from thread spool end onto the fabric for the Divide (÷) symbol (see my photos for tracing and placement)

Appliqué  Directions


Trace around a thread spool end, keeping the pen vertical while you trace to keep the circle even and broad. I will cut around the line and turn under a scant 1/4″ as I go, use the alignment with the bottom “Add” seam above the top circle to center your first circle.


If you are new to hand appliqué, be patient with yourself and go back and look at my circles… they are definitely not perfect, but they are good enough! I bring up the needle as shown, right in the center of where I’ve finger-pressed the seam under, take one invisible backstitch and then come up again from underneath, right at the seam edge.  I am right-handed so I sew from right to left so I can see my stitches. I take little 1/8″ or smaller stitches, and try to keep turning the seam under every two to three stitches.  The biggest cause of stretching or shrinking circles seems to come from not pinning, or pressing the block as you go.  Some people take invisible stitches and some take tiny stitches over the edge of the pressed seam, I kind of do both depending on how my seam feels, just matching my thread and keeping stitches small. You can press over pins, but press the block and the pinned circle before stitching, especially if you stop and start again later after it has been folded or put away. I hope you like my first tutorial!