March 14, 2017

Week 1: Long Time Gone Sew Along | Bow Tie Quit Blocks

You Have to Love a Guy Who Wears Bow Ties

The first blocks are 10-inch Bow Ties. They are easily made with Set Q, the Basic 2-1/2 inch square and it’s most common component parts. This is the only block where I will use Set Q, but it is a really useful set that includes a very nice “how-to” booklet with dozens of blocks to make and quiltmaking tips. The Set Q pieces are generally considered petite — lovely for smaller wallhangings, tote bags and table d├ęcor. Having said that, “Did you notice these are the biggest pieces in the entire quilt?”

Marti and Bow Ties

For some reason, I’m quite drawn to Bow Tie quilts. Here is a picture of my favorite Bow Tie quilt. It is the epitome of the “make do or do without” philosophy that many people associate with the origins of patchwork. Both the embroidered date (closeup outlined in pink, below) and the fabrics suggest it was a quilt completed in 1888. (Click the images for larger views.)

Yet on closer examination, we see it was a top that was probably completed in 1888 and made into a quilt during the Depression in the 1930s. The telltale pink, green and blue fabrics in the backing that was brought to the front for binding tell that story. But now, the rest of the story -- It is tied, not quilted and where a seam in the patchwork has broken loose, you can peek in and see that a worn out quilt is what is being used as batting! I can't see enough to identify the pattern.

Here is a top I bought 10 years ago. It has 640 2-1/2 inch Bow Tie blocks. You could make it with Set Q. I paid less than 10 cents apiece! The Bow Ties are hand-pieced and were joined by machine with the alternating white squares.

Here is a snapshot of the well-used quilt made around 1910 or so that we use as a throw on a couch at home. Each bow tie is 4 inches square; you could use Set B to make this one.

There are 4 or 5 more in our antique and vintage quilt collection—like a little subset collection of Bow Tie quilts. Funny thing is, if you asked me, I would claim I’m not really fond of Bow Tie quilts!

Cutting 8 Bow Tie Units for Two 10-inch Blocks

Each block is made of 4 Bow Tie units. Use templates Q-93 and Q-d to cut and Q-a to remove one corner from Q-93:

1. Pick 8 combinations of contrasting background and Bow Tie fabrics. Make sure you are happy with the mix.

2. Cut 2 stacks of 3-inch wide strips, keeping the Bow Tie fabrics in the same order as their corresponding backgrounds (see diagram). Stack as many layers as you feel comfortable cutting; I usually cut in sets of 4. You can cut as many layers as you like, but more importantly, you will have the stacks in the same order to carry to your machine and chain piece. (Strips are shown offset for illustration purposes only; stack your strips evenly.)

From each stack of background fabrics, cut 2 Q-93 squares. Center Q-a on the Q-93 background squares and trim off one corner. (Again, strips are shown offset for illustrations only.)

From each stack of Bow Tie fabric, cut 2 Q-93 squares and 2 Q-d triangles. (The small triangles replace the small 2 inch squares in the pattern.)


Before Putting Your Fabrics Away

Cut a few extra strips for your stash of scrappy fabrics to use later on. You don’t need any strips for these blocks, but cutting a few strips while you have fabrics out will keep the mix of fabrics interesting in upcoming blocks.

Each time you have fabric pressed and flat and your rotary cutter in your hand, cut some nice 1-inch wide strips as long as the length of the fabric, and some strips 1-1/2 inches wide by length of fabric before you put the fabrics away. Do this with fat quarters and Layer Cakes, too. "File" them in an orderly manner so they won't get wrinkled or lost.

This is an easy way to create a nice scrappy stockpile of strips, and you will be happy to have some already cut when we get to blocks that need a lot of strips. There are other widths you will need that I will talk about as we go along.

Making the Bow Tie Blocks

1. Chain piece Q-d triangles to altered Q-93 background squares. Press toward triangles.

2. Cut apart -- keep pairs together and in order.

3. Chain piece Q-93 bow tie squares to matching Q-d triangles from Step 2. Keep pairs together.

4. Continue chain piecing pairs as on page 4 of the Long Time Gone pattern. Press toward unpieced squares. The seam allowances will nestle as you sew halves of the block together.

5. Join matching pairs and finish with a nice swirl press.

My Bow Tie blocks

Here are my blocks and a few 1-inch strips for my stash, both light and dark.

More About Bow Tie Blocks

Click here to see my blog post that featured a 6-inch Bow Tie block made with Set Q in the Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sew Along. We included a bonus 8-1/2 inch block and a PDF for a 6-inch Dimensional Bow Tie. You can also see that block in Volume 2 of our Encyclopedia of Patchwork Blocks.

Visit these other Long Time Gone Sew Along blogs, too, for tutorials, contests and other info:

Use the hash tag #LongTimeGoneSAL to share photos on Instagram.

Long Time Gone by Jen Kingwell. Copyright 2016 by Jen Kingwell Designs. Available on the From Marti Michell website,


  1. Fabulous tutorial! Thank you for sharing some history around the bow tie block - I loved seeing the different quilts. I also love the blocks you've made and can't wait to see more.

    1. Thanks, Angie! You and Nicole made some pretty cute blocks, too. This is going to be fun!

  2. I have looked for the conversion chart for the templates for Long Time Gone and cannot find it,could you help. Thanks

    1. There aren't PDF downloads for this sew along. We're posting weekly tutorials about using From Marti Michell templates to cut the pieces, so you just have to read the blog. If you'd like to save it to your hard drive for reference, tell it to print and in the print dialogue box, see if you can find an option that says "open as PDF". If your printer has that capability, select the PDF option and the blog article will open in another window. You can save that to your hard drive and read it whenever you want. :)

    2. Some of the Long Time Gone blog articles will have "bonus" PDFs that you can download, and if you're interested in them, be sure to download them to your hard drive, too. :)