Classic Blocks: Bowtie

Hello and thanks for checking in for a new episode of my Classic Block Series! This time, let’s make a very simple but effective one: the Bowtie Block.

This one is easy to see where it gets it’s name – because it looks just like a bow tie 🙂 But like most quilt blocks, it has several names – Dumbbell, Colonial Bow Tie, True Lover’s Knot and Peekhole. The Bow Tie block has been around since the mid to late 1800s, and was published by the Ladies Arts Company in 1895. From what I’ve been able to dig up on the internet, the Ladies Arts Company, founded in 1889, in St. Louis, MO, was the first company to publish a catalog with hundreds of quilt patterns, with a different name given to each design.

I have a sweet Bow Tie quilt that my mother-in-law gave me many years ago, and was my husband’s when he was very young. His paternal grandmother made it for him, and to this day he remembers snuggling up with that quilt whenever he was sick, and was even allowed to take it to the hospital for an overnight stay. In this version, the maker used a different fabric for some of the centers of the bowties, using squares instead of triangles – so the modern construction method I show here is much easier.

Let’s start sewing!

A few terms and things to keep in mind when making this block:

HST: Half Square Triangle (none of these used here, but a good term to know anyway)
RST: Right Sides Together
Please use 1/4″ seams unless otherwise stated.
Finished vs Unfinished size: finished size literally means just that – how big the block will end up when sewed into a “finished” quilt, and unfinished size means how big the block is before it’s sewn into a quilt. Unfinished blocks still have raw edges.

Once you decide what size block you want to make, use the diagram and chart below to cut out the size and number of pieces needed.

Finished Block Size4″6″8″10″12″
Unfinished Block Size4.5″6.5″8.5″10.5″12.5″
Piece A – CUT 22.5″3.5″4.5″5.5″6.5″
Piece B – CUT 22.5″3.5″4.5″5.5″6.5″
Piece C – CUT 21.5″2″2.5″3″3.5″

For the photos in this tutorial, I made a 6.5″ unfinished block, so I cut my all my Pieces for A and for B at 3.5″ and the two Cs at 2″.

Take your little squares, (the C pieces) and using your favorite marking tool draw a line on the wrong side diagonally from corner to corner. I used a chalk pencil, but even a regular pencil is fine if you mark lightly. Place the C pieces, RST with the background A pieces, on one of the corners. Sew right on your drawn line – second photo has a dashed line showing where to sew.

Next, place a ruler with the 1/4″ line exactly on your seam, then cut away the corner. This will give you a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Head to your ironing board, and press the triangle away from the main part of the block. This is what’s known as the “stitch and flip” method, and it comes in handy for various other types of blocks you might run into at some point.

Layout your pieces according to the diagram.

Take the pieces on the right and place them RST on the left pieces, and sew. The first photo shows this before pressing, and the second after pressing. You can choose how you’d like to press them – I pressed these in opposite directions so the seams would nest, but pressing open might be even better.

Then matching the seam intersection and pinning if you like, sew the two halves together, and press. All done!