A string quilt is a wonderful scrap busting quilt pattern. This quilt pattern can use up many scraps of all sizes. This string quilt pattern idea will spark your imagination into making your own string quilt.
String quilts are made from string quilt blocks. We have a detailed video and photo tutorial on making foundation pieced string quilt blocks.
The string quilt blocks are made with strips of scrap fabric which are from 1-1/2" to 2-1/2" wide. The scrap fabric is sewn together on a paper foundation to create the block. The string quilt strips are of varying widths and help create the scrappy look for this quilt. The entire top of this quilt was made with fabric scraps.
This is a stress-free quilt method! Since the strips do not match up in size, strips are selected and randomly cut without measuring specific widths. This makes this an easy quilt to make.
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WHAT YOU NEED to make this string quilt
- Lots of Scrap fabric! Various sizes.
- Foundation Paper Piecing Paper (find a link to the paper we like below)
- Sewing Machine
- Rotary Cutter
- Quilt Batting
- Backing & Binding Fabric to fit your finished quilt
INSTRUCTIONS For making a string quilt
STEP 1: Decide the string quilt pattern to use
For my string quilt, I decided to put a cream or white piece of scrap fabric in the center of each block. This will make a diamond pattern over the quilt when it's complete.
Use a Focus Fabric or Not?
The focus fabric can be light or dark depending on the look you want to achieve. Your string quilt blocks can be made with or without a focus fabric in the center. The blocks below have a focus fabric of cream/white in the center.
Decide on your color scheme
Decide on the color scheme of your quilt. For my quilt, I decided to make each block in a specific color family. So, I have orange, red, blue, purple, pink, and brown blocks. My fabrics were sorted into piles of colors and then I selected fabrics from these piles when making each block. To keep the scrappy look, try not to repeat using the same fabric twice in the same block. The same fabrics can be used in multiple blocks.
Our quilt guild made a beautiful string quilt and it had a color theme. The community service organizers asked everyone to bring any scrap fabrics they had in orange, red, and yellow theme. During a guild meeting, we worked in teams to piece the blocks needed to create a beautiful quilt top. This quilt also had the cream-colored center strip in each block. The finished blocks are shown below. Thank you to Julie Sanchez for allowing us to share this photo.
Photo Credit: Julie Y. Sanchez
So, if you have a lot of scraps in a certain color family, this could make a fabulous string quilt.
The quilt blocks could also be pieced completely randomly. Just select random fabric scraps in various colors and make a totally scrappy block and quilt.
Another idea which takes more planning ahead of time would be to have a feature fabric in the center (cream, white, dark) of the block and then piece half the block in one color family (ie. purples) and the other half in another color family (ie. oranges). Then when you place the blocks together into the quilt, arrange the same colors together so the inside of the diamonds are the same color. This would really bring out the diamonds in the quilt pattern but it would take more planning as you would need come up with a block layout ahead of time so you know which combinations of blocks to make.
Summary of Ideas:
- With or without a center feature fabric
- String Blocks with fabrics from the same color family
- Whole quilt in one color family
- Whole quilt scrappy
- String blocks with each half in different color families.
STEP 2: Make String Quilt Blocks
After deciding on the look of your string quilt, then start piecing the blocks. I found it helpful to sort my scrap fabrics into color groups. This made it quicker to make the blocks.
We have a full string piecing video and photo tutorial which will show how to make the blocks for this quilt. Do not remove the paper from your blocks.
The number of blocks needed will vary depending on the size of the quilt desired and the size of the blocks.
The quilt could also have solid color strips between the blocks as sashing. This could reduce the number of string pieced blocks needed.
I made 8" blocks and my quilt ended up with 80 blocks, 8 across and 10 down. This just fits the top of a queen/double sized bed.
Once the blocks are made, lay them on the floor or design wall and set them into the desired pattern. For my quilt, I just made sure I didn't have too many of the same color family all grouped together.
STEP 3: Sew together the String Quilt Top
With the blocks laid out in the desired pattern, sew together the blocks into rows. Use 1/4" seam allowance to sew together the blocks. Once the rows are sewn together, then sew the rows to one another to make one completed quilt top.
Photo of the completed quilt on the bed at the retreat center we attend.
The paper backing should still be on your quilt until you get the entire top sewn together. The paper helps stabilize the blocks and makes the blocks easier to sew together.
STEP 4: Remove the paper backing
Now that the quilt top is completely sewn together, carefully remove the backing paper from all of the blocks. This is a good activity to do while watching your favorite TV show or movies.
The paper should tear easily away at the seams. Tweezers can be used to get those little pieces. Some people suggest wetting the paper to get the small pieces out.
STEP 5: Make a quilt sandwich
Make your quilt sandwich by layering a backing fabric (right side facing down), batting, and then your quilt top (face up). To learn more about making the quilt backing, visit our tutorial, Learn to Quilt - How to Make Quilt Backing.
Once you have the layers, pin baste them together. To learn how to pin baste, visit our tutorial, Learn to Quilt - Layer and Pin Baste.
STEP 6: Quilt the layers
The quilt is now ready to be quilted. This is the process of sewing together all of the layers of the quilt into one so they won't separate during use. For some instructions and ideas on how to quilt your top, visit or tutorial, Learn to Quilt - Quilting the Top.
For my string quilt, I decided to use my embroidery machine to quilt an all-over pattern across the entire top. I selected a fun daisy design for my string quilt. The daisy design and technique used is described in the book "Edge-to-Edge Quilting on Your Embroidery Machine". This book describes how to get a continuous quilting design all over by using the "pretty darn close" method of matching up the designs.
For this method, you hoop your quilt starting near the top, center of the quilt. The design is stitched and then the hoop moved down, down, down until the whole column is stitched. After each hooping, the design is stitched.
After the column is completed, the next column is started with the pattern in the opposite orientation. The ends of the pattern can be matched up so the start of the next pattern is "pretty darn close" to the previous one. With an all-over design on a quilt like this one, you do not notice that the design isn't completely continuous and joined up.
I thought this was a great way to get a more detailed all-over design on my quilt as I'm not the best at machine quilting patterns. If you are interested in this book, please look at the end of this post for links to purchase it. The book comes with 10 designs included. Expansion packs of designs can also be purchased.
STEP 7: Binding the string quilt
After the top is quilted, the next step is to trim your quilt around and then to add a binding. For my quilt, I used a flanged binding method. This method can be fully sewn on by a sewing machine.
Another method that can be used is a quick binding. This post, How to add a binding to your quilt (no hand sewing required), will show you how to make this binding.
If you need help making your binding, check out this post on How to Join Quilt Binding Strips.
The STring Quilt is Finished!
The string quilt is now finished but don't forget to add a label to your quilt! For some other ideas on binding & labeling, visit our post, T-Shirt Quilt - Part 6: Binding & Labeling.
Below is the finished quilt made by our quilt guild as a community service project. Thank you to Pam Bent for allowing us to share this photo.
Photo Credit: Pam Bent
We hope you enjoyed learning how to make a string quilt. Dig out all of those fabric scraps and make a string quilt for yourself!
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