Types of Bowtie Quilts

by Shannon Stoney
The bowtie quilt pattern is a classic scrap quilt that can use up lots of your leftovers.

The bowtie quilt pattern is a classic scrap quilt that can use up lots of your leftovers.

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The bowtie quilt pattern is an old pattern from the 1930s. Back then, it was pieced as a scrap quilt using the scraps in the most economical way possible. Nowadays, quilters often piece the bowtie block in a way that is faster and easier but uses a little more fabric. There are also "dimensional" bowtie quilts. The block can be set in different ways for different visual effects.

Traditional Bowtie Piecing

A traditional way to piece the bowtie block is to decide on a size for the block as a whole. Draw this square on a piece of paper. Divide this block into four even squares. Two of these squares will be color A, and two will be color B. Then, draw a smaller square in the center of each block, but on a diagonal to the bigger square, like a diamond. This is the "knot" part of the tie. It will be the same color as color A so the two squares look like the "bow" part of the tie. Cut out all five pieces from your paper to make your templates. There will be one square template for the knot and four identical pentagons for the other pieces. Piece the knot to the two color-A pentagons first, then sew the two color-B pentagons to the center knot.

Faster Piecing Method

If you don't want to cut a bunch of pentagons to the exact dimensions, there's an easier way, particularly if you like to buy stacks of precut quilt squares. From each square of pattern color A, cut two 2 1/2-inch squares and two 1 1/2-inch squares. From background (plain) color B, cut two 2 1/2-inch squares. Draw a diagonal line, from corner to corner, across one of the small squares. Place the small square, right sides together, on one of the background (color B) squares in the corner of the big square. Stitch across the diagonal line. Fold the little square along the sewn line so that the right side is now showing. Press. Now you have a little triangle in the corner of the plain square. Do this on the other plain square as well. Arrange the four squares together so that the bowtie shape is visible. Stitch.

Dimensional Bowtie Quilt

Some quilters enjoy making the "knot" part of the bow stick out so that it looks more like a real bowtie. There are some fairly complicated ways to do this, but an easy way is simply to piece the four squares of the traditional bowtie quilt together in a checkerboard pattern, then fold a square for the "knot" part and applique it to the center of the square. You can even insert a small amount of stuffing under the knot to make it more three dimensional.

Setting the Bowtie Quilt

The way you set the bowtie blocks will make a huge difference in how the quilt looks. The older, more traditional set simply separated the blocks with borders along the sides and squares at the corners. This looks fine, and the ties can tilt to the left or right alternately. Another set alternates bowtie blocks with plain blocks of the same size; this works well if you like to buy precut squares all the same size. A more dynamic set uses no borders or plain squares but simply butts the blocks up against each other for an allover tessellation. This works best if all the "ties" are more or less the same color or value.

About the Author

Shannon Stoney holds a B.A. in English and comparative literature from Princeton University, as well as an M.F.A. in visual art from the Maine College of Art. She has been a fiber artist since 1985 and a fine artist since 1998. Stoney is also a writer and editor, with work published in magazines such as "Cite," "Spin-Off" and "Permaculture Activist."

Photo Credits

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