Valor Quilt Bee is an online, ongoing, EASY-GOING quilting bee to coordinate far-flung individual contributions of blocks for Quilts of Valor tops. These quilts are presented to U.S. servicemembers who have been injured/afflicted on deployment. It is open to everyone who wants to participate. Join the FUN! (To be added to the group, just leave a comment on any posting if your email is turned on in blog land, otherwise send email to: )

February 23, 2011

Origami BowTie Blocks Tutorial

I want to share a short-cut technique that was demonstrated at the last meeting of my local quilt guild. I'm giving you dimensions to make a 9" finished-size block since that works wonderfully for our Valor quilts. And, of course, you can use any color combination, but I'm writing for the block pictured.

Rating: Moderately experienced quilters will find this easy and fast when you learn the trick. It makes a fun challenge for beginners who are adventurous.

How do you get this without having to sew ANY biases, and with EASY PEASY SUPERFAST cutting?

Step 1: Cut several blocks out Speed Racer style

Stack your print red in double layers, then add your solid red in double layers, then add one layer of the white.

(I staggered them so you could see what's going on, then put them back in line with each other after the pic was snapped.)

Square up your end and cut however many 5" rows you want.  If you're working with 42" fabric, you'll get about 4 blocks out of each row.

Now take one row, square up the selvage end, and cut every 5 inches. Each resulting stack of squares makes 1 block.

(Yes - mine are cut at 3 1/2" to make a 6" block, but for your first time through, it will probably be easier to handle a larger size.)

That's it! You're finished with all the cutting for this project.

Step 2: Sew the Funky Unit

Take the white square and fold it in half WRONG SIDES TOGETHER.

Lay one PRINT RED face up.

Layer the folded white piece with the raw edges lined up at the top of the print square.

Lay one SOLID RED square on top, face down.

Pin the LEFT SIDE.
This is where you will stitch, NOT THE TOP.


Sew the line and open the unit out.

Now lay the remaining SOLID RED square face up.

Layer the folded white piece on it much like the first time, with the sewn-on pieces hanging off on the left.

Lay the remainig PRINT RED square on top, face down.


Sew that seam so that you will have this unit when you open the right side out as well:

(Notice that each side has opposite red types.) 

Step 3: Sew the cross seam to form the finished block

This is where you get to be all manipulative. There's a trick, though, to avoiding unwanted pleats in the corners of your centerpiece: Go With the F.   :)

Pick up the unit so all the raw edges are at the top. Open each red end out so you get an I shape.  Now you can match opposite partners to each other. Pin one top red corner together as shown below.

Open out the white edges:

Then match and pin the center seams. (I make the seams lay down in opposite directions so they'll lock with each other, while making sure the bottom seam will point away from the feed dogs while sewing.)

Make a good pocket in the white portion, at least 1/3" deep:

Then pinch the folded edge. (Watch that the diagonal pull below doesn't ride into the 1/4" seam allowance area.)   Carefully line up the raw edges of the red with the white edges, and pin so that the 1/4" seam allowance is protected.
Now you get to flip it around and repeat this process for the other side. And here's where the key comes in: GO WITH THE FLOW - LET IT BEND!  :D

Because the white is straining against the diagonal, you cannot get the red cross seam to line up straight across while it's all folded right sides together. Don't sweat it: go with the flow and it'll work out just fine. I promise!

After you get a good pinch pocket established and ready to pin, BRING THE RED RAW EDGES DOWN AROUND THE BEND TO THE WHITE EDGES. Don't try bringing the white up to the red. (It really helps to have the end pinned first.) Now pin that point so that its 1/4" seam allowance is protected also.

This is how pronounced that bend wants to be:

But it's no prob for us quilters!  We're quite good at pivoting, you know! Simply sew to the midpoint, make sure your needle is down, lift the foot. . .  

. . . spin the unit straight for the second half, put the foot back down,
 and finish the seam.  

You'll end up with this funny-looking thing, which will make you think,
"Oh man, how could this possibly come out right?"

But it does!  That funny-looking unit opens up to this pretty origami bowtie block and presses up very nicely so that it looks just like it does at the top of this tutorial! 

Voila! You just made a Bowtie block in only 3 stitched seams instead of 7. And I love the pockets around the center diamond. Think of the possibilities - you could tuck the funnest little things in there, peeping out so cute. . . Or you could just leave them. . . Or if you're particular about such things, you could stitch them down before or during quilting.

Cutting for different sizes  What is your desired finished block size?

Take that number and divide it in half. Add 1/2 inch to this number. That's the size to cut out the 5 squares!


  1. I'd like to be added to your followers here.
    Thank You, Connie Frick

  2. Welcome, Connie! Email coming. :)

  3. Oh dear - Connie, I don't have a way to contact you. The anonymous posting status keeps it from linking me to your email. You can contact me at if you'd like to keep your info private from blog land!

  4. Thank you for a great tutorial, what a clever idea! It reminds me of one of the Farmers Wife blocks, Bowtie.