Hourglass Quilt Block Pattern Tutorial

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Hourglass quilt block tutorial

Skill Level: Beginner

Grid: 2x2

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!


General Instructions


Block Size: 3" (3-1/2" unfinished)

Grid Size: 1-1/2"

Abbreviations used on this page include:

  • SA - seam allowance
  • RST - right sides together

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. 


Step 1: Cut patches for an Hourglass block


Hourglass quilt block design drawingHourglass design

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.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for an
Hourglass Quilt Block

~ Traditional Piecing ~

Patch Qty Finished Block Size
2”3”4"5”6”
A13-1/4” 4-1/4” 5-1/4” 6-1/4”7-1/4”
B13-1/4” 4-1/4”5-1/4” 6-1/4” 7-1/4”
Grid Size1”1-1/2”2”2-1/2”3”
Unfinished block size2-1/2"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.

Step 2: Stitch the Hourglass quilt block


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.

Stitch 1/4After drawing a diagonal line from corner to corner, stitch 1/4" away from both sides of it.


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.

Cut the sewn patches in half


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.

Pressing flat

Draw a diagonal line, perpendicular with the sewn seam on just one of the sewn units.


Mark the sewn HST


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.

Sew 1/4


Cut the unit apart on the drawn line.

Cut the sewn patches in half again


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.

Twirl the SA on the HourglassTwirling the SA on the Hourglass


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:

Hourglass Dimensions

Finished
Block Size
Midpoint
Measurement
Trim block to
2" 1-1/4" 2-1/2"
3" 1-3/4" 3-1/2"
4" 2-1/4" 4-1/2"
5" 2-3/4" 5-1/2"
6" 3-1/4" 6-1/2"

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.


A pair of finished Hourglass quilt blocksA pair of finished Hourglass quilt blocks


Same name, different block


'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.

Hourglass quilt block variation 1 Hourglass quilt block variation 2 Hourglass quilt block variation 3 Hourglass quilt block, Cat's Cradle variation 4 Hourglass quilt block variation 5 Hourglass quilt block, Economy variation 6 Hourglass quilt block, Old Maid's Puzzle, variation 7 Hourglass quilt block, Big Dipper, variation 8 Hourglass quilt block variation 9 Hourglass quilt block variation 10 Hourglass quilt block, Buckeye Beauty, variation 11 Hourglass quilt block variation 12




Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library


For even more blocks to make...


Maggie Malone's 5500 Quilt Block Designs is my all-time favorite!



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