Quilters always have scrap fabric!
An easy and fun way to use scraps is to string piece which is also known as string quilting. This tutorial will show how to make a string quilt block using a simple type of foundation piecing.
Make many of these blocks and assemble them into a quilt. Or add sashing around the blocks. Turn the blocks different ways to get a different look.
Find more tutorials, free projects and more in our Quilting Department. We also have many video quilting tutorials.
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What you need
- Fabric Scraps of various sizes
- Foundation Paper Piecing Paper (find a link to the paper we like below)
- Sewing Machine
- Rotary Cutter
Instructions for creating string pieced quilt blocks
Step 1: Prepare your fabric scraps
Grab your scraps and cut them into various widths from 1 1/4" to 2 1/2" wide. Do not cut them all the same width. The block will be more interesting if the strips are of different sizes.
Strips of different lengths will be needed. Shorter strips for the corners and longer strips in the middle of the block. The strips can be cut ahead of time which can make the sewing quicker. Or cut them as you make the blocks.
Before beginning, decide what type of blocks to make. The blocks can be totally scrappy by using all different colored fabrics in each block randomly. Or the blocks can be of a single color by keeping the colors together.
Below are two blocks made with a few similar shades of colors.
Below is a photo showing blocks keeping the colors together in one block. So there are green blocks, pink blocks, orange/yellow blocks, etc. For these, sort your scraps into color families or decide which colors you want to keep together. This will make it easier to sew the blocks together.
You may also decide to use a certain color like white, cream or black in the center of each of your blocks. Doing this will add another feature to your finished quilt as this line will be throughout. See below there is a white/cream strip in the middle of each block and that strip makes triangle shapes in the finished quilt when the blocks are sewn together.
The two photos above are some samples of quilt blocks I have been working on for my string quilt. For my quilt, I decided to put similar colors together into the blocks. I am also using a cream fabric for the center strip of each block.
I will add photos to this post of the finished quilt top when it is complete.
Step 2: Cut squares from the foundation paper
Cut the foundation paper squares to the desired block size but remember to add an extra 1/2" for the seam allowance needed to sew the blocks together. For example, for a finished block size of 6"; cut the foundation paper square 6 1/2".
The foundation paper we like is 8 1/2" wide so the biggest block we can make is 8 1/2" x 8 1/2". If you would like larger blocks, use larger paper.
Step 3: Stitching the block
Before starting to stitch, shorten the stitch length a bit from the normal stitch length. This will make the removal of the paper easier.
Begin by placing one strip, right side up, diagonally across the foundation piece from corner to corner. Pin or use a few dabs of acid-free glue stick to hold the fabric in place.
The photo below shows the first strip glued down to the center of the block.
Randomly choose the second strip of fabric and align the edge, right sides together, along one edge of the first strip.
Sew this strip to the first strip with 1/4" seam allowance.
Open the seam and press the quilt strip open toward the corner.
Add a second strip as shown above aligning the edge with the raw edge on one of the two strips. Remember that the strip must cover the entire paper backing so make sure it extends past the edge.
Sew the strip to the block with a 1/4" seam, open and press the seam.
Continue by adding strips, sewing, opening and pressing until the block is completely covered. Below is a finished block.
This is what the back of the block will look like. The fabrics all extend past the edge of the paper and the stitching lines are visible on the back.
Step 4: Trim the Block
Trim the block by flipping it so the paper side is up. Use an acrylic ruler and a rotary cutter trim off the excess fabric. Trim it to the edge of the paper.
The string piecing block is now complete. Below is a photo of the front of the block.
The back of the block is nicely trimmed and the stitch lines are visible.
Do not remove the paper from the blocks until after the quilt is assembled together. The paper keeps the blocks from stretching or distorting and helps in sewing the blocks together into a quilt.
Have fun creating string blocks and using up those scraps! See below for links to books, supplies, and tools for string quilting.
For other Learn to Quilt tutorials, follow the link. Find many other projects to use up your scraps by clicking the link to Scrappy Quilts and Projects.
Other Tutorials you may be interested in
Paper Piecing with Foundation Paper - This is another quilting technique using foundation paper. This technique for making quilt blocks makes it easy to make perfect points. Click the link for a full tutorial on how to Paper Piece.
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