54-40 or Fight


  • 1.5m blue for the inner border, star centres and 4 patch blocks
  • 2m peach for the star background
  • 60cm purple for the star points
  • 60cm hunter green for star points
  • 1m pink for the centre blocks and binding
  • 2.50m flame for the outside border and setting triangles
  • 188 x 236cm (74 x 93in) of wadding
  • 3.6m of backing fabric

Finished Size

70 x 89in (178 x 226cm)

Skill Level


You can download a pdf copy of the original magazine pages for this project here, 54-40 or Fight

Have you ever wanted to try 54-40 or Fight but have been put off by the thought of all those tricky points and templates? Now is the time to have a go with this easier method using sew and flip techniques. This historical block dating back to the Civil War in America has been given a fresh look with Tonga Batiks from Timeless Treasures.


The star blocks are made from three different units, the 4 patch corners, the star centre and the star points.

The four patch corner blocks

  1. Cut twenty four 6in squares each of blue and peach. Stack two blue and two peach squares in a neat pile and carefully rotary cut in half, in each direction (Figure 1).
  2. Sew into 4 patch blocks alternating the blue and peach. Trim each patch to 4 1⁄2in square. Repeat with the rest of the squares so you have forty eight 4 patches.
Figure 1: Making the four patch blocks
Figure 1: Making the four patch blocks

TIP! Don't cut too many at one time - four is a good number to work on. It may help to lay the pieces on a piece of fleece or flannel after you have cut them to keep them in order for piecing.

Sew and flip general instructions

  1. Refer to Figure 2 and place the strip right side down on your square across one corner and sew. Fold back and press.
  2. Turn to the wrong side and trim any excess fabric. You can remove the extra fabric from behind the triangle but it does help to stabilise the bias edges. It only needs to be removed if you are hand quilting when you would find it a bit thick to sew through. When using sew and flip you need to remember that when the strip is folded back it must cover the entire corner of the block. So for the first few blocks you may need to pin and fold back to check. This quilt uses two styles of sew and flip. The centre blocks have the sew and flip on all four corners and the star points have the sew and flip creating the points. You will need to align the strips accordingly. To make sure you don't cut off the star points, you must leave at least 1⁄4in from the edge of the block.
Figure 2: Sew and flip instructions
Figure 2: Sew and flip instructions

The Star Center

  1. Cut twelve 4 1⁄2in squares of blue. Using the peach, cut three strips each 3in wide across the width of the fabric.
  2. Referring to Figure 3, sew and flip peach to each corner of the blue square, trim to 4 1⁄2in square.
  3. Repeat for all the blue squares.

The Star Points

  1. Cut forty eight 4 1⁄2in squares of peach. Cut six 3in strips of green and six 3in strips of purple across the width of fabric.
  2. Refer to Figure 4 and sew and flip two green points on twenty four peach squares. Trim to 4 1⁄2in square.
  3. Sew and flip two purple points on twenty four peach squares, trim to 4 1⁄2in square.
Star Centre and Points
Figure 3: Star Centre (left)
Figure 4: Star Points (right)

Assembling the blocks

Assemble the units into rows following the photograph. Make sure that the star points are going in the right direction and that you have the blue squares in the corners of the block. Join the three rows to make the block. You will have twelve blocks. Press well and leave flat.

Assembling the Quilt

  1. From the pink, cut six 12 1⁄2in squares.
  2. From the flame fabric cut three 18 1⁄2in squares. Cut each diagonally in half twice to give twelve side setting triangles (you only need ten).
  3. From the flame fabric cut two 10in squares. Cut each in half once diagonally for four corner triangles. Note - cutting triangles this way gives the straight grain on the edge of the quilt but means you must take care when sewing to the blocks as this is a bias edge and has more stretch.
  4. Assemble the quilt in diagonal rows ensuring that your green and purple blocks are in the right place. Refer to the photograph for reference on placement. If you want your points to exactly meet the border, then trim the flame triangles 1⁄4in from the corner of the star block. This is the more difficult option as all your blocks must be 100% accurate. The easier choice is to leave the triangles as they are and your blocks will appear to float on the flame fabric.

Inner Border

  1. From the blue cut seven 3 1⁄2in strips across the width of the fabric. Piece together into one length.
  2. Measure through the centre of the quilt from top to bottom and cut two borders strips this length. Sew one strip to each side of the quilt.
  3. Repeat for the top and bottom borders by measuring across the quilt through the centre including the two borders you have just added.
  4. Press the border well taking care not to stretch the fabric.

Note - measuring through the centre in this way helps keep your border flat.

Outer Border

Cut eight 6 1⁄2in strips of the flame fabric across the width of the fabric and piece into one strip. Add the border as above, sides first then top and bottom.

Preparation for Quilting

Working from the wrong side of the quilt, trim any loose threads. Carefully press the entire quilt top. Measure the quilt top and cut the wadding and backing at least 2in larger all round to allow for shrinkage. Piece the backing fabric with a horizontal seam. Carefully tack or pin the three layers together, trying to ensure no tucks or folds appear at any point.

Quilt as desired. The large pink squares could have a simple star quilted in the middle to fill the square and the 54-40 or fight blocks could be quilted around the edge of the star points. Or you could quilt a more elaborate star as Sandi has done. How much quilting you need will depend on the wadding you have chosen.


  1. Cut four strips 2 1⁄2in wide across the width of the fabric from the pink and the peach. Piece together into one long strip alternating colours and using a 45 degree angle on the join.
  2. Fold in half lengthways and press. Line up the raw edges of the binding and the quilt top. Pin and stitch to the sides of the quilt. Fold to the back and slip stitch in place. Repeat with the top and bottom edges, folding the corners in neatly.

Other Ideas

Wouldn't three of these blocks look lovely in Christmas fabrics for a stunning table runner? Or why not make one block on its own for a cushion?

First published in Popular Patchwork October 2001