Saturday, April 25, 2015

Creating a String Quilt

Creating A String Quilt

String Quilts have a long tradition. Since they use small strips (strings) of fabric, they are a good use for fabrics left over from other projects.

Assembling a string quilt isn’t hard—in fact, if you like playing with fabric, it is a lot of fun. I can’t tell you how many yards of fabrics you need, I’m afraid—this is a project where you pull out the scraps and create as you go.

Before beginning, think about the type of block you want. For this demonstration, I was learning how to do a star, but simply cutting straight strips will work as well. You can choose to make the center of each block of the same fabric and strip width to tie the quilt together visually like this:

or you can go with a completely random block—the choice is yours. Take a look online for images. You will be astonished at the variety.

Also, think about size. I usually make a 10” block (I got a good deal on some 10” piecing papers), but either smaller or larger will work.

Think about a foundation. As I mentioned, I use paper, but many people like to use fabric (usually muslin) squares. The advantage to this method is that the foundation becomes a part of the quilt, rather than requiring removal as paper does. I prefer paper since it doesn’t stretch out of square, but many people have good results by starching their foundation squares.

What you will need to begin:

Strips of fabrics

Foundation material of your choice

Sewing machine (I suppose you could do this by hand, but that’s not something I want to tackle!)

Cutting mat

Ruler (a 6”x24” is what I use in these photographs)

Rotary cutter (You can use scissors, though it will be a slower process.)

Iron and Ironing board

Washable glue stick (optional)

About the fabrics—you may use leftovers from other projects, buy new fabrics to cut, or check out thrift stores for old clothing to cut up. I advise using 100% cotton fabrics, but I know people have made quilts with cotton blends as well. Avoid anything stretchy or meltable—you will be using the iron for this project.

About the tools—I love my cutting mat/rotary cutter/ruler combo—it takes so much less time than scissors and markers—however, unless you plan to do more quilting/crafting, you may not want to invest the money. Quilters got along without my handy gadgets for many years, and they made gorgeous quilts.

Safety alert—Rotary cutters are razor-sharp! Take your time and pay close attention to your cutting. 


To create a string block:

Place your foundation flat on the table


Choose your center strip. Note: in this case, I am making a star-shaped block, so my center strip is shaped like a kite. A straight strip about 2” wide will work perfectly, if you want to make a straight block. If you are planning to make a quilt that ties together in color like the picture I showed earlier, all your center strips will be the same width and color.

I like to use a glue stick (washable) to anchor this first strip across the center of the square, though that isn’t required

 Choose your next strip. It can be any width greater than ½” (though I’d stay between 1” and 3” when learning to do this). 

 Place your strip on the edge of the center piece, right sides together.

 Stitch along the edge using a 1/4” seam allowance and a short stitch length (this will help with paper removal later).

 Press your narrow strip away from the center.

 Add a second strip on the other side of the center, just as you did the first and press it in the same manner.

Continue adding strips, until your paper is covered.

 It doesn’t look great right now, but it is time for the magic. :)

 Turn the whole piece over.

 Using a ruler and rotary cutter, trim the block using the edge of the paper square as a guide. 

 When you have trimmed all four sides, turn the block over.

 Viola! You now have a beautiful string block!

 You can remove the paper at this point. If you have used a short stitch length, the now-perforated paper will peel off easily. (You can wait until after putting the blocks together to remove the paper, if you wish. It is your choice.)

Putting your blocks together

When you put four of the squares together, the star appears. (Or the X if you are using a constant color/fabric/width strip in the center.)

 There is very little matching when sewing these together. Note, however, that in this case, I was careful to match the edges of the black (just above the colored strips in this photo), so the star doesn’t appear jagged. If you have used a constant color/fabric/width in the center of your blocks, make sure it matches in that same place, so your lines will be smooth.

 Sew the blocks together in fours.

 Sew the large stars together to form your quilt.

I chose to add a border to mine, but that is up to you.

Here are closeups of some of the fun fabrics I used:

This shows the backing and binding I chose:

String blocks are a lot of fun to make—I hope you will try them.


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Happy Quilting,
The Eclectic Abuela