Monday, October 13, 2014


I have always been fascinated with String Quilts.  This sample block I made for this tutorial though is a first for me. I have a difficult time with "random" as you have heard before if you follow my blog. To make this sample, I used some scrap strips I had leftover from a quilt I made one of my granddaughters, Sadie. Her favorite colors were yellow and orange. The blue middle strip was from another project.

I have a hard time throwing away scraps, which is a good thing if you want to make a quilt by this method.  When Blankets of Hope (my church's quilting group) used to have cutting sessions (most of the time we use cut 6 - 1/2 inch squares to make our quilts/throws), I would save the scraps.  When we decided to get all of our donated material organized by colors, I ended up with at least two bags of just scraps.  I told everyone that we might someday might some String Quilts. 
Jump ahead a few years and enter Linda to the group.  She showed interest in the bags of scraps and I told her to take a bag and have fun.  She ended up making two String Quilt tops for us to make blankets.  

Her quilt tops inspired me to do a tutorial which required me to actually make a block.

As I said Linda made two quilt tops for us.  Generally speaking String Quilts are completely random, but one of hers wasn't. 

In it she had the center diagonal strip the same creating an interesting design in all of this randomness. (I'm calling it a diagonal - diamond - border.)

The other one was completely random.

While I like both, I really like the pattern in the first one. That is why my sample block has the blue strip in the middle.  While Linda used a green and I used a blue print, any one strip will make that pattern as long as you always just use it for the middle strip. You might notice in the picture of the first one, that Linda had other strips that were also dark or bold, but because the strip didn't appear in the same place on the other blocks, they don't "stand out".

My directions will be for the first quilt top - the one with a "diamond - design -border". You can make the block any size you want. I made mine a cut 8 - 1/2 inch square that when put together with the other blocks will be 8 inches finished.

Let's get started:

Cut an 8 - 1/2 inch block from a piece of muslin or sheeting.

With the scraps cut a strip 2 inches wide and 13 inches long from the fabric you are going to use for the "border". (You might need to have more than a scrap to have enough fabric to make a number of blocks. Cut 2 inches strips and then cut the strips into 13 inch pieces. You will need one for each block. See total number of blocks below for different sizes.) Make a mark in the middle on both ends of the strip on the wrong side.

Lay the strip diagonally across the block matching the mark with the corner of the block. (I just turned the end up for the picture so you could see that my mark and the corner match up.)

Pin the strip down to hold it in place and then place the next strip you are going to use face-down on top of it matching the edges on one side (right or left - it doesn't matter which way to go first). Sew through all three thicknesses with a 1/4 inch seam.  

Set the seam by pressing on top of the seam first, and then flip out the strip and press the seam open. Lay the next strip right side down on top of the second strip and repeat. (Might be a little hard to see in the picture.)

Once you have finished one half, start on the other half by laying the strip on top of the blue center strip (in my sample) matching the cut edges and sew it down as you did before. When you are finished, the block will look like this with four strips on each side of the center strip which will be the "border".

Here is what it looks like on the back side.

Trim the strips edges off using the block edge as the cutting line.

Continue making blocks until you have the amount needed to make your quilt top. 

When you join the blocks together turn the blocks so that the center strips makes a diamond border. 

Things to remember when making a String Quilt:

1. While generally speaking String Quilts are totally random, you can make a striking design by having the center diagonal strip the same width and print. (doesn't have to be a dark print). The same width will make it easy to "quilt" it by "stitching in the ditch". Do not use the print anywhere else in the blocks.

2. The strips are randomly arranged and do not have to be the same width for the entire length of the strip. (In my sample, I made one of the yellow strips narrower on one end than the other end to illustrate this.) The strips also can be varying widths with each other. 

3. No two blocks should be exactly the same.  That's why this is a great project to make using up your scraps from all of your projects.

To quilt Linda's two quilts I "stitched in the ditch" along the block seams.  I need to stitch somewhere else because there is too much room left unquilted.  Linda did not always make the green center strip the same width.  If she had, I would have also "stitched in the ditch" on each side of that strip. I will probably match the green and just stitch diagonally across the blocks. The stitch will show, but hopefully not look too bad.  

Linda sewed together strips of material two inches wide for me to use for the binding. She even pressed them for me. How nice of her.

Now I need to get busy and get them finished.  We meet on the first Thursday of the month, so I will make sure I have them totally finished by then.  I will also update this post and add a picture of them finished.

I hope you have found this tutorial helpful.  If you have any questions, please let me know in a comment below. 

Suggestions for sizes for finished quilt sizes:

While I didn't give any requirements of material for a finished quilt, I will say a good size for a quilt with a finished 8 - inch square (block) would be:

             Blocks              Total # of Blocks       Finished size (inches)
Crib:       3 x 6                        18                     24 x 48

Twin:      8 x 11                       88                    64 x 88  

Full:       9 x 11                        99                    72 x 88

Queen:   10 x 12                    120                    80 x 96

King:      12 x 13                    156                    96 x 104


  1. I was wondering why you use muslim on the back rather than paper piecing? Doesn't it make the corners too thick?

    1. Thanks for your question. It actually doesn't. The muslin or whatever you are using ( you can even use interfacing) serves as a foundation to stabilize the strips. Using paper that you cut away doesn't give the block any stability. A nice thing about the foundation is depending how you are going to use the quilt, you might not have to use any batting. You should use a low loft batting anyway. I prefer the natural fiber batting for everything. Plan on machine quilting your string quilt because of the thickness but I didn't have any trouble at all machine quilting Linda's quilt. I hope this answers your question.