Thursday, August 13, 2009

String Block Tutorial

I've recently seen other quilting bloggers post about string block quilts. Now that I've been sewing for a few years, I finally have enough scraps to start on some stash busting projects. I definitely wanted to try my hand out on the string block, and now it's one of my favorites.

Here's my two cents in a little tutorial to get you started on your own stash busting project.

This is a paper-pieced block, so start by cutting a square piece of paper to use as the foundation for your block. I used regular ol' printer paper, but you can use just about any paper you have on hand, just make sure it's not a thick paper. I've heard phone book pages work well too.

I have a lot of smaller scraps so I'm making my blocks a little smaller, at 6 inches square. You can make your blocks any size you want, up to 12 inches.Next, cut a strip of solid colored fabric (or a print if you'd like) that is long enough to reach all the way from one corner to the other, diagonally across the paper block. The length does not have to be exact, just make sure it fully covers both corners. You do need to make sure the width is exact though - making sure both side are cut straight and has the same width the whole length of the strip. The middle strips are the only ones that will line up when you put multiple blocks together. My white strips are cut 1 in. wide.

Draw a thin line down the center of the strip with a fabric pen or pencil. Using a fabric glue stick (or any washable glue stick) apply a thin amount of glue down the diagonal of the paper block. Dont go overboard on the glue or you will have a heck of a time removing the paper later.Next, lay the white strip of fabric on top of the glue line. Make sure the line drawn on the fabric crosses exactly over the corner. Press the fabric down to make sure it is fully adhered to the block. Here's a close up of how the line should pass perfectly over the corner on both ends.Now we will apply the printed fabrics on both sides of the solid to fill up the rest of the block.

To start out, cut a printed fabric to any width, just make sure both sides are cut straight and that it will reach all the way across the block diagonally.Lay the print facing down on the white strip matching up one long side.
DECREASE the stitch length on your sewing machine in order to perforate the paper when sewing. I set my machine at 1. (It definitely takes a bit longer to sew at such a short stitch length, but it will be well worth your time when you're rippin' off all that paper later. It will be MUCH easier and put less stress on the stitches and fabric. Believe me, I learned the hard way!) Sew a 1/4 in. seam down the edge of the fabric pieces, going through the fabrics AND the paper.Fold the printed fabric over and press.Do the same to the other side of the white strip.And just keep going to cover the rest of the paper block, making sure to vary the widths of the strips. Align the long edge of the next strip with the last strip on the block, just as before with right sides together using a 1/4" seam sewing through the fabrics and paper. Do this on each end of the block, moving away from the center.

Since each strip will have a 1/4" seam on both sides (making a 1/2" total taken away by seam allowances) I would recommend keeping your cut widths between 1" (so the smallest strip will have a 1/2" visible area) to 2". But if you are making a larger block size, like a 12" block, you could definitely use even wider strips.
Once your block is covered, flip it over to the back side and using the paper as a guide, trim the excess fabric.And voila! Your done! Pretty easy. But dont be too excited just yet to start rippin' away all the paper. Remove the paper only when all four sides have been sewn to an adjoining block or border. Then have fun, but be gentle. It should come off really easily if you used a short stitch length.

I love quilt blocks that you don't have a hundred corners to line up. I cant wait to make a bunch more of these! I used fabrics all from the same line (Sweet Escape from Free Spirit.) Make your blocks more scrappy by using any of your scraps from your stash. See examples here, here, and here.

I'd love to hear any questions or comments you may have. If you make anything from my tutorials, I'd love to see it! Post your pictures to the Zanie Zoo flickr pool.

My next tutorial will show you how to combine four string blocks to make a doll quilt. Here's a sneak peak so you get an idea of what it looks like with multiple blocks sewn together.


  1. I don't understand why you need the paper.