Tuesday, November 25, 2014

String Block Swap Tutorial

I'm in another block swap, this one with a few members of the Education Team who come to Houston each year for Festival.  There are 7 of us doing this one, and we only have to make 6 blocks for each person so this project will go fast.  I've written about an earlier string swap here.  Those blocks just cover the paper with no need to worry about where the center line is.

One of the team says she wants Red and White blocks--can you imagine?  So here is a quick tutorial on making blocks that are exactly half one color, half another.

Our blocks are to be trimmed to 6.5" inches when sewn so start with a 7" square of lightweight paper.  I use telephone books--the paper is thin and the ink does not run.  I'm hoarding old phone books because one day there won't be any more such things.

I dug through my bag of strings I've been saving for these projects.  First, I gathered various red and white fabrics.  Then I folded the 7" page on the diagonal to find the exact middle.  I took one long red and one long white, placed them right sides together, and placed the edge along the fold on the paper.

Here is the first seam sewn and pressed open:
Next, I worked on the red side, adding red strings one at a time, until the paper was covered.  Here is the second red string in place before sewing, face down on the previous red string:

When I get to the corner, I like to use a half square triangle as that puts straight of grain fabric on two opposite corners.  All the other edges will be bias so this helps minimize stretching when you piece with the blocks:

Now that the red side is done, it's on to the white side:

Notice all the strings are longer than the paper underneath.  You will be sewing with a small stitch and do not want to have to remove a string that is too small so bigger is better.

Now that the paper is covered it's time to trim the block to 6.5", being very careful to get the midpoint exactly right.  See the 6.5" ruler?  I have placed the center diagonal line exactly on the center red/white seam.  Even though the seam wasn't sewn exactly straight down the middle, the outer corners are spot-on so that the corners will match exactly when the block is sewn to others:

Yeah, it works!

And here you have it, the finished red and white 6.5" string block.  We do not remove the paper on these--the new owner gets to remove her own paper. 


1.  Use a small stitch, less than 2.0.  If it's so small the paper is perforating and falling off while you are sewing, it's too small.  My stitch is about 1.7.  Longer stitches make it difficult to remove the paper--no one likes that job.

2.  Use a light neutral thread--darker thread will show in the white seams and you don't want to have to change threads between the white and red sides, do you?

3.  Be sure each string is long enough to fit before you sew it.  When you flip it open it has to cover the paper completely--believe me, you really don't want to have to rip one out because it is too short.

4.  Use fabric of first quality and fabrics you really like.  Some of these reds and whites are leftovers from my Red and White--By the Numbers quilt--I'm enjoying working with these fabrics again.

So, that's all there is too it.  Each person is deciding what colors she wants--some may want completely scrappy, one wants black and white, some may say brights, some say pastels.  We're just getting going and the deadline is April 1, 2015 so there is no rush to get these done.  But I will anyway--I like to check DONE on my list of things to do.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. 

Let's quilt!



  1. I love your string blocks! Some day I will get join in on one of your swaps!! :)

  2. Telephone book-who knew? Lots of good tips in there for making string blocks that I did not know-thank you! And have a great Thanksgiving!