How about another fun, easy-to-make quilt block, which is suitable for beginner quilters? Bow quilt blocks are a perfect example of this! It is also called the bow tie quilt block. This one is a cinch to construct and can make a very pretty quilt. This is a vintage classic, which can be made in coordinating fabrics, or just as easily with scraps or charm squares.
Bow Quilt Blocks
This quilt block dates back to the 1880s. In the past, it has also been referred to as the Colonial Bow Tie, the Lover’s knot, and the Dumbbell. Another name for it was the Peek-hole, but I am having trouble working out the reason behind that one!
The simplest version of the bow tie (or hourglass) quilt block has already been discussed in quarter square triangles. This version, however, looks more like a real bow and is really not that much more difficult to make.
All the usual quilting supplies:
- Strong thread
- Removable marking pen
- Rotary cutter
- Self healing cutting board
- Quilting ruler
- Sewing machine
- Iron and ironing board
- Useful, but not essential -spray starch.
- Fabric- closely woven cotton fabric.
Bow Quilt Blocks - Cutting Instructions
For each block you will need:
- 3 colored squares for the bow
- 2 neutral squares for the background.
|Finished size||Colored squares||Neutral squares||Unfinished block|
|3” (7.5cm)||3x1 ¾” (3 x4.5cm)||2x1 ¾” (2 x4.5cm)||3 ½” (9cm)|
|6” (15cm)||3x3 ½” (3 x8.9cm)||2x3 ½” (8.9cm)||6 ½” (16.5cm)|
|9” (23cm)||3x5” (3 x13cm)||2x5” (2 x13cm)||9 ½” (24.2 cm)|
|12” ( 30cm)||3x6 ½” (3 x16.5cm)||2x61/2” (2x 16.5cm)||12 ½” (32.2 cm)|
Please note that cm conversions are rounded up, so may not be 100% accurate!
If you have some charm packs in your fabric stash, they are generally 5” (13cm)square, so would be perfectly pre-cut to make 9” (23cm) blocks.
Method 1 - How To Make Bow Quilt Blocks
- Take one of your colored squares and cut it in half, then in half again. You will end up with four small squares. You will only need two of these small squares for each block.
- Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on each small square, using a removable marker.
- Place your small block on top of a large neutral block, precisely in the bottom left corner.
- Sew along the diagonal line. Trim the square so that you just have a ¼” (6mm) seam allowance on the diagonal.
- Open out and press towards the darker fabric.
- Square up this square for accuracy.
- Repeat with the other neutral block and small square.
- Take one dark square and place it on top of the neutral square you have just made. Place right sides together. Sew along one side with a ¼” (6mm) seam allowance. Open out and press towards the darker side.
- Place the other neutral square on top of the dark square, right sides together, and sew along one side, again with a ¼” (6mm) seam allowance. Open out and press towards the darker side.
- Now line up the two rectangles you have made, matching seams carefully, and sew them together to make the bow shape. You seams should ‘nest’ nicely, as they are pressed in opposite directions.
Method 2 - How to Make Bow Quilt Blocks
If you really don’t want to waste any fabric or like to have a few spare blocks in your stash of leftovers, You can use the following method to construct your blocks. This will give you two extra teeny tiny half square triangles per block.
- Follow the method given previously, up to step 3.
- Now, instead of sewing along your diagonal line, draw another two lines, ¼” on either side of your original line.
- Sew along the new lines you have drawn.
- Cut along the central diagonal line.
- Open out both pieces and press towards the darker side.
- This square will need more trimming and squaring off, because of the double seam you have made. ie. two seam allowances!
You will use your large square to assemble your bow quilt block, using the steps above. Your extra tiny squares can be saved for another project. They would be really cute in a doll’s quilt, or as cornerstones on a quilt with sashing. You could use them to make small pinwheel blocks or sew whole rows of them together to make an interesting border for your quilt.
Using Bow Quilt Blocks In A Quilt
As is so often the case, the way you arrange your blocks makes a huge difference to the final appearance of your quilt. There are so many layouts for these blocks!
You can also consider reversing the colors within the quilt- that is, having neutral ‘bows’ on a colored background, combined with colored bows on a neutral background.
Here are some layout ideas:
- Bow blocks alternating with plain blocks. Your plain blocks could be a single color, or for example a fine floral. This layout highlights the bow blocks beautifully!
- Sewing them together all facing the same way. You could do this using a single color for the bows, or using diagonal stripes of color. This gives a bright and cheerful quilt.
- By rotating each bow block by 90 degrees, you can create this wonderful pattern which creates neutral circles on your quilt. In fact, the circles stand out more that the bows in this case!
- Sewn into larger blocks of 4 bows, alternating with plain blocks.
- Sewn into strips of bows each strip the same color, with rows of sashing in between.
Bow Quilt Block - In Conclusion
These are just some ideas, and you can play around with this block to create even more designs. You can also use it as one block in a sampler quilt, along with some of the other quilt blocks we have discussed.
It is one of the old classics of quilt blocks and is a lot of fun to make, as well as being pretty versatile. Try your hand at just one to start off with, and soon you will have a whole new quilt planned!
And talking of old classics, who remembers this one? What do you call a fish wearing a bow tie?...Sofishticated! Go and have some fun experimenting with bow quilt blocks!