Saturday, February 26, 2011

Folded bow tie block

To give credit where credit is due: This method of making a dimensional or “origami” bow tie—one with the knot as a folded piece in the center—was taught to the Piece and Plenty Quilt Guild in Rolla, Mo., by Julia Ming-Hsiu Hsu of Brother Sewing Machines in 1997. As Julia traveled around giving programs, she probably taught this little pattern to many people. I wrote down the directions so I wouldn’t forget them, and I’ve been making these bow ties ever since. This method is different from some of the others I have found on the Internet.


Cut 2 squares for the background and 3 squares for the bow tie, as in the picture above. Choose a size depending on the desired size of the finished bow tie. 2½” squares yield a 4” finished block, 3” squares finish to a 5” block, and 3½” squares finish to a 6” block. Contrast is important in this block; make the bow tie dark and the background light, or vice versa. Both light and dark bow ties can be used in the same quilt; it depends on how you want your quilt to look. More about that another day.

On the wrong side of one bow tie square, number the corners as shown above (the red square on the left), but don’t use a Sharpie, as I have done here so you can better see my photos. Imagine there are two fold lines in this square—one horizontal and one vertical. To help you imagine this, I have drawn them on the light-colored sample square on the right, but you would NOT draw in these lines. This numbered square is the center of your bow tie, the knot.

Step 1

Fold the center (knot) square in half along fold line 1, wrong sides together. Layer this folded piece on a right-side-up background square, shown above, top. Take a bow tie square and layer it on top, right sides together. I put in a couple of pins here, because the layers tend to shift and slide. Sew all layers together in a ¼” seam, stopping about ¾” from the top edge (above, center). The bottom sample in the photo above is what the bow tie looks like at this point.

Step 2

In the photo above, I have turned my block a quarter turn to the right, shown in the sample at the left. The center sample shows how to open up the center square and refold it along fold line 2 so that corner 2 meets corner 1, wrong sides together. Have the second background square ready to layer on top, right sides together. Sew it as before, stopping about ¾” from the top edge. Open up the bow tie. It should look like this:

Step 3

Bring corner 3 to meet corner 2, wrong sides together, folding again along fold line 1, shown above. Sew a bow tie square on top of the second background square, right sides together, stopping ¾” from the edge, as before. The picture below shows how the bow tie looks now (on the left) and after it is opened up (on the right).

Step 4

Now open the center square. It should look like the example above, on the left. Bring corner 4 to meet corner 3, wrong sides together, shown in the example on the right. Fold the background square down over the knot piece and sew the final seam, again stopping about ¾” from the center, shown in the photo below, on the left. Open up the finished bow tie. There will be a small hole in the center on the wrong side.


From the wrong side, press all the seams in the same direction, shown above on the left. I press counter-clockwise because I am right-handed and iron from right to left. The seams in the middle will form a nice, neat, flat square with the little hole in the center. The finished pressed block is shown on the right.

If you are working with directional prints such as stripes and it matters to you that the pattern on each piece of the bow tie runs in the same direction, be careful how you place your squares. As you practice, you will be able to stop your stitching about 1/2" from the center instead of 3/4" and this will make the center hole smaller--not that it matters much. You will also be able to make these production-line style. I make 6 to 8 at a time, all step 1, then step 2, etc. I have 109 now. I plan to make a bed-size quilt, something I haven’t done in a long time, and quilt it in sections.

Next--different arrangements of the bow tie blocks.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Health issues

I’m back at blogging after a month of helping my daughter Genevieve deal with her harrowing health problems. Yes, she got out of the hospital in late January after her bowel surgery and post-op infection, and I took her home to Tennessee—one day before “Snowmageddon” struck central Missouri on Feb. 1. (The snow is all melted now, and daffodils are coming up!) But she didn’t stay out of the hospital. First she had a 36-hour hospitalization in Tennessee for IV fluids. Then on Feb. 10, she had an episode of severe pain and knew it was a bowel obstruction. Sadly, she has felt that kind of pain before. So it was back to “The Big House” in St. Louis for her second major surgery in 6 weeks. This time the bowel obstruction was caused by adhesions. It has been two weeks since that surgery, and she is still in the hospital, just now starting to eat solid food. My husband and I are wearing out the highway from our house to The Big House, making her walk the hospital corridors, and encouraging her to eat.

During the time I was at Genevieve’s house in Tennessee, I managed to get some sewing done. One of the things Vieve worried about was the Valentine’s Day party at Danica’s preschool—she wanted to give something nice to the teachers. Being a great grandmother and a pretty good quilter, I not only helped Danica sign her name to every Valentine, I made little quilts for the teachers. It was something small I could do for my daughter.

I have had bow ties on my brain ever since last summer, when I saw my friend Barb’s cute, cute bow tie quilt, so that’s what I decided to make for the teachers. I know an “origami” or folded method of making the bow ties—the knot of the tie is a folded piece in the center. I have looked for the directions on the Internet, searching for “folded bow tie” and “origami bow tie,” and I found many links. However, none of them match the way I make the block, so I will get it together in the next couple of days, take some pictures, and show you how to do it.

For the teacher gifts, instead of making the knots match the ties, like this:

I decided to mix it up a little, and move the knots around, like this:

I am not sure whether I like the mixed-up knots as well as I like the bow ties where everything matches. I decided that the mix-up is OK in these little quilts—the blocks still look like bow ties. (These are just 4-inch blocks. I started with 2 1/2-inch squares.) But in a larger quilt, the whole thing might be confusing—a jumble of squares—and the bow tie image might be lost. Anyway, these two cute 14-inch quilts were my way of saying thank you to the teachers for supporting Danica and Genevieve this year. When the going gets tough, the tough quilt, right?

Genevieve and Danica on Monday at the hospital:

Coming up—my method for making a folded bow tie block.