From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library
Skill Level: Beginner
The Hourglass quilt block is a block full of triangle shapes—but you don't have to cut a single triangle or deal with a bias edge to make this block!
Sometimes you'll see it referred to as a 'Cotton Reel'. Simply put, its really just a big ol' quarter square triangle. (Click here for other methods to make quarter square triangles.)
When used as an alternate block it forms a nice secondary pattern with almost any other block you put it with.
A terrific block to have in your quilting repertoire!
On this page you'll find instructions to make this block in 5 different sizes, along with illustrations and instructions for other blocks that use the same name.
Let's get to piecing!
Block Size: 3" (3-1/2" unfinished)
Grid Size: 1-1/2"
Abbreviations used on this page include:
SA are 1/4" and are pressed toward the darker fabric unless otherwise noted.
When you are instructed to press, first press the pieced unit flat to set the seam. Then open the patch, pressing from the front.
My preference is to make the Hourglass quilt block with oversized patches, stitch it and then trim it to size at the end. Perfect blocks make assemblying the top so much easier.
The dimensions in the chart below are for squares.
For the 3" finished block in this example, for Fabric A, 4-1/4" refers to cutting a 4-1/4" x 4-1/4" square.
Because I like to use oversized squares, I add 3/8" to each measurement, meaning I cut it 4-5/8" x 4-5/8".
Every two squares creates 2 blocks.
Cutting Chart for an~ Traditional Piecing ~
|Patch||Qty||Finished Block Size|
|Unfinished block size||2-1/2"||3-1/2"||4-1/2"||5-1/2"||6-1/2"|
Click here to see the cut patches. I've already drawn a diagonal line corner to corner on the lighter patch in preparation for the first round of sewing.
Layer the A and the B square with right sides together (RST).
Use pins to hold them together (especially as they get larger or if you've cut the patches the 'exact' size).
Stitch a 1/4" away from the drawn line on both sides.
The orange arrow above points to my anchor cloth. (I use this folded piece of scrap fabric to save thread and to ensure that my sewing machine doesn't 'eat the points' as the fabric is fed through.)
Cut the stitched unit apart on the drawn line with either a scissor or rotary cutter.
Press the units. First in the closed position (Fig. 1). And then open (Fig. 2).
If you start with the dark fabric on top, then when you open them, they are automatically pressed to the dark side.
Draw a diagonal line, perpendicular with the sewn seam on just one of the sewn units.
With RST, layer the two sewn squares.
The SAs nest to make matching the seam much easier. Use pins if needed.
In the photo below, notice how the SA is pointing towards the needle. That helps to keep the seams aligned during stitching. Stitch 1/4" away from both side of the line.
Cut the unit apart on the drawn line.
Press. First closed to set the SA, and then open. Below one seam is pressed to one side, the other is pressed so that the SAs 'twirl'. This is to reduce bulk.
To trim these units to size, find the midpoint or measurement of the unfinished block. This is simply the unfinished dimension divided by 2 or...
3-1/2" divided by 2 = 1-3/4"
Or use the chart below:
|Trim block to|
Match the 45 degree mark on the ruler with the diagonal seamline.
Match the midpoint of 1-3/4" with the intersection of the center seams (black arrow above). Double check your ruler positioning and then trim two sides with your rotary cutter.
Flip the block so that the two untrimmed sides are exposed. Find the midpoint, align the ruler and trim so that the block is the finished size PLUS 1/2" or 3-1/2".
This is your finished pair of Hourglass quilt blocks.
'Hourglass' is a unbelievably common name for quilt blocks. The ones shown below are know as Hourglass quilt blocks, too.
Use your cursor to click on the colored illustrations to go to instructions on how to make that particular version of the Hourglass or additional names for the block.
These are my go-to resources for quilt block ideas.
Can you tell?
It's in color.
It's got a ton of blocks.
What's not to love?
Next on my 'must-have' list is Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.
Unlike the Maggie Malone book, the blocks in this volume are hand-drawn and in black and white—no color—personally, I prefer colored drawings to work with.
This book is no longer in print.
If you can come by a copy expect it to be wickedly expensive. Once in awhile you can find it here on Amazon.com.
UPDATE: Electric Quilt, in cooperation with Barbara Brackman has announced they plan to republish the Encyclopedia sometime in 2020.
However, all is not lost if you can't find a hard copy.
BlockBase is the computerized version of the Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.
It contains designs for over 4300 blocks—pretty much every block published from the 1830's through the 1970's.
It can be used with Electric Quilt and is a Windows based program.
In fact, there are instructions included so that you can pull up the digital patterns within Electric Quilt (PC version for now) without having to open up BB program.
UPDATE: Electric Quilt has announced that they will be rereleasing the standalone BlockBase software for BOTH PC and MAC in 2020.
This is terrific news.
Finally there's The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer.
Lots of detail and in color, it is a beautiful volume. That said, I check it out of my local library on a regular basis instead of purchasing it—can you see the library sticker on it's spine. Yep, it's from the Plainfield Public Library.
Simply because I own the previous three references and find this the least user-friendly of the group.
And it does make a fabulous coffee table book!