Monday, March 2, 2015

String Blocks

I've been saving strings of fabric for years to make string blocks.  It's a process that is really popular now and allows you to use very small pieces of leftover fabric.  Bonnie Hunter uses string piecing in a lot of her quilts and her blog is loaded with ideas for this technique, check her out here.

Last fall our guild quilt show committee formed a swap group to make string blocks.  I wrote about that here and this is a tutorial.

At Houston last fall, seven of us in the Education Department decided to do this too.  These blocks start out with paper cut 6.5" and we are only making 6 blocks for each person.  Everyone got to decide what colors and design they wanted.  The deadline is March 31 to have them in the mail to each person so when the calendar turned to March yesterday I decided I'd better get BUSY!  I am also going to demo this process and show the many quilt designs you can get with these blocks at International Quilt Festival in Chicago, March 26-28, 2015.  Don't miss the Chicago Show!

Here are the sets I have done: 
Bert wanted random black and white
Carol wanted scrappy
Vickie wanted scrappy with a 1" finished black strip in the middle
Tanya wanted various greens with a bright light 1" finished green in the middle

Melissa wanted scrappy


Judy wanted red and white from the diagonal out--still have to finish hers

This was a great way to run my Featherweight sewing machine after cleaning, oiling and lubricating it.  The motor needs to be run to help get all the oil/grease through the machine and this was the perfect way to do it. 

Here are a few tips:

1.  I use telephone book pages, lightweight and no cost, and, no, they don't put ink on me or the fabric.

2.  Use a small stitch, 1.5 mm or about 15 stitches/inch--this makes paper removal easy.  Leave the paper on so the recipient can decide if she wants to make them smaller and she can trim them.

3.  If doing a design that puts a specific color in the center, it helps to start with paper larger than needed to allow for trimming the block to get that center in the center--I cut those papers 7"

4.  If doing a design with a specific color in the center, I pinned that fabric in place first.  Then I added strips to both sides.  Otherwise, I use no pins in the process.

5.  I usually piece with gray thread.  For the half white/half red set, I'll use white thread on the white half and sew all 6 of those first.  Then I'll change thread to a gray and do the red side of all 6 blocks. For all the other blocks, I alternated sides, and pressed the blocks after adding to both sides.  You don't have to press until the blocks are done but I like to press and getting up from the machine is my aerobics.

This process can be messy because I have a big bag of saved strings:

So when I start this project, I keep going until I'm done or can't stand it any more.  The larger strips I save are kept much more organized than this, but for strings, they just get tossed into a big tote bag until I'm ready to piece string blocks--then it's a sorting frenzy.

So I'm almost done and that's what's on my design wall today.  Check out Judy L's blog to see what others are doing.

Let's quilt!



  1. The green string blocks are dynamic! I used to use the fact that we don't get telephone books (no telephone at the RV!) as my excuse . . . but timing is everything, right? Just today at work, there are a stack of phone books they're ready to toss! I think I may confiscate one or two!!! :)

    1. That is where I got most of mine! Have to hide them from my husband or he will throw them out.

  2. Your banner at the top is so YUMMY!
    I favor the black/white and the green string blocks. I have always wanted to make one of these quilts - great visual stimulation going on here.

  3. A string quilt is on my list to do as I have been saving strings as well. Love the different look of each one.

  4. The blocks you've made and posted for me are wonderful. I'm looking forward to putting them up on my design wall and playing with them.

  5. Your string blocks just sing. I've been doing this longer than I care to admit, and they still are one of my favorite blocks to make. My husband loves that he can use the and I don't mind if he wears it out. There are always more strings to make another one.

  6. I love string piecing also. There is so much you can do with simple blocks. I prefer the organized blocks - some type of scheme - which really makes a dynamic quilt. I love the black and white and the red and white.