Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bow Tie Quilt Block Tutorial...A "Charm" ing Block

The bow tie quilt block dates back to 1898. I found one quilt in the book "Vintage Quilts...Identification and Pricing" by Maggi McCormick Gordon that was dated 1900.

This block is very easy and can be made in period fabric or jazzed up with your favorite modern fabric.

I used 5 inch squares, so all your charm packs you have tuck away for a project will work great for this.

For each 9 1/2 inch block (9 inches finished size when sewn with other blocks) you will need...
  • 3 - five inch colored squares
  • 2 - five inch neutral squares or background fabric. I used white.

Take one of the 5 inch colored squares and

cut it in half, then half again. You will end up with 4 squares at 2 1/2 inches square.

You will only need 2 of the smaller squares for each block.

Place one smaller red square in the corner of the 5 inch white square as shown below in the picture...right sides together.

There are 2 ways to sew this section...and there is a bonus block with each method.

Pencil method...

take a ruler and draw a pencil line from corner to corner diagonally.

If you don't want the bonus block, you're done. Just need to sew on the pencil line.

For the bonus block, take a quilt ruler and place the 1/4 inch line on the pencil line...see it under my finger

now draw another pencil line. This will eventually be your cutting line.

The first line, from corner to corner is thread so you can see.

The second stitch line for the bonus block is sewn 1/4 inch away from the second pencil line. I use a 1/4 inch presser foot.

I am pointing to the second pencil (cutting) line here. You need to sew 1/4 inch away from that.

My 1/4 inch presser foot is lined up with the line.

Two stitch lines sewn. The pencil line is your cutting line

"No Pencil" method...

You will sew from corner to corner, but use your machine lines as guide. Start at one corner and have the lower corner point follow the "zero" line on your machine.

If you don't have lines on your machine, you can "eye" this to the lower corner, because the square is small.


For the extra bonus block you need to sew 1/2 inch away from the first stitch line. I use my machine top as a guide. Mine has the 1/2 inch line to the left of zero, but no guide line all the way up to the needle.

So I use a rubber band as a removable guide.

Line it up at the 1/2 inch mark on the throat plate.

Now sew the second line. Guiding your first stitch with rubber band

Done...without a pencil line.

Pencil line method...

No pencil line method...

Cut on pencil line...

Guesstimate cutting up the middle on the "no pencil line".

See your 2 little bonus half square triangles?

Press all seams.

then open up and press to the red or colored fabric.

If you want to be super accurate, you can square up all the squares.

The little bonus half square triangle blocks are 1 1/2" when trimmed.

These would make an adorable doll quilt, pinwheel blocks, sashing squares, borders etc...

You can click HERE for another post I did on extra half square triangle blocks for more layouts

Now take one solid colored square and place on top of one white square...right sides together.

and one of the white squares on top of the red shown below.

Pin to secure, then sew a 1/4 inch seam on the right side of the squares.

Press seams...

Then fold back and press to the dark fabric.

Line up rows in configuration below.

Fold top row over onto bottom row, right sides together.

Match seams.

Pin to secure.

Sew 1/4 inch seam.

Press up and iron flat.

Isn't she cute?

There are so many layouts for this block...not to mention if you reversed the color pattern. Meaning a small white square on a larger colored square.

If you go to your "search" area on your computer and type in bow tie blocks, bow tie block layout or bow tie quilts...there is so much inspiration.

Have fun with this block,


  1. So cute, and I also have to say a HUGE thank you on the rubber band idea. Brilliant!

  2. Great tutorial! I really want to make a quilt. i've done a little in my past but nothing bigger than a pillow. I want to do a twin size and this looks doable!

  3. Oh, boy. I love it! Every time I think I have a favorite quilt block I see another one that I fall in love with. Thank you so much, you taught me a lot in that one post.

  4. Darling bow tie and great tutorial! This would be a fun design to use up odd scraps. Love your tips on the different ways to stitch the lines! So clever, as always!


  5. Three different bow tie quilts have been handed down to me. They are all scrappy, and must have been popular with my family! Thanks for a good tutorial.

  6. Amazing tutorial, Karen!!!! And I love the bonus ideas!!!! I´ll add it to my tutorials:patchwork board on pinterest!!!!

  7. Great tutorial Karen! Love the rubber band idea. I currently use painters tape as a sewing guideline, but a rubber band would be so much easier to move. Thanks for the tip:)

  8. I wish I'd know this way, way back when, when I made a bow tie quilt. It was only my 4th quilt, and it had inset seams. Your way is MUCH easier.

  9. Great tutorial, Karen.....your pics are really good!

  10. Excellent tutorial, and I really love your idea for pre-making the hst's with the scrap corners. Great idea!!! Otherwise, I'm sure I'd never use those tiny scraps, but I would definitely save them for another small project, or sashing squares or something...

    Thank you!!

  11. I always wondered how they came up with this pattern. Thanks for posting the directions.

  12. great tutorial--thanks for giving me a way to use up those 5" squares!!

  13. Wonderful post! Now I wanna get started on a bow tie quilt, darn it! LOL!
    And the little hsts are sooo cute!

  14. That's such a great classic block and you've explained some great tips, thank you.

  15. Thank you. A great tutorial. I will keep it in mind for my next project.

  16. Karen, están geniales las explicaciones de este bloque. Un beso

  17. An excellent tutorial, Karen, and a great idea to make the bonus mini square.

  18. I have been making bow tie blocks on and off for years. I read your instructions because you always have some little but wonderful idea hiding in your stuff. Not disapointed. Wicked wonderful idea using the rubber band. Thanks yet again for sharing a terrific idea.

  19. I'll have to remember the rubberband tip. I don't sew the seam on those cut off triangles right away. I use them as leaders and enders. I have a stack of them by the machine all the time, and sew off onto them to keep the thread from getting bunched up underneath.

  20. Great tutorial.I love this block.

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  22. I had a great idea while working on my latest practice block (I am doing a lot of that before I feel I am good enough to REALLY make something to show others).
    I have a little basket next to my cutting mat and put in all the itsy bitsy pieces in it. When I feel there are enough there, I iron them on to a fusible (in some sort of crazy design).
    Without wasting more cloth, I practice free motion quilting on the squares made up of all the wasted little pieces.
    Waste not, want not...:)

  23. I have never made this block but I plan to with some 30's reproduction. Thank you for the tutorial. I'm a confident beginner and appreciate your help!


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