Technique: String Pieced Quilt

Posted in: Tutorials — By on April 8, 2011 2:28 PM

I’ve wanted to make a quilt for quite some time now.  The reason I’ve never really attempted a quilt is because I know I would get bored halfway through and then I’d have a half finished quilt to add to my to sew pile, which is a whole other story.  But we have a guest bed that will actually have it’s own room after my “future husband” and I finish our renovations.  This guest bed needs a quilt!

In comes the first string pieced quilt of 2011.  Actually my first quilt ever!  I whipped up this baby in a mad sewing frenzy all in about 5 days.  …phew!

String Pieced Quilt

What I love about this method is the haphazard-ness too it.  I am not a super finicky sewer – a few uneven stitches here, a lump there – these things give my work character!  I’m not perfect and don’t pretend to be and besides, what fun is sewing if you’re always trying to make things perfect?

A few tips before we begin:

  • I found quilting cotton to be expensive!  You can use bedsheets for your backing – just make sure they are in good condition.  I had to use two different sheets because one was threadbare at the bottom and the other I had already cut into for another project.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your plans.  I made up this pattern based on what size I wanted my quilt to be, but the actual pattern changed a lot during the process.  Make sketches of what you want your quilt to look like.  Add sashing and borders or sew the long pieced strips together.
  • Start small – I really should follow my own advice!  When you get to the actual quilting you’ll know why I say this.

So, are you ready to tackle this quilt?  It’s really easy and super satisfying to sew.

You will need:

  • quilting cotton fabric (the amount depends on what size of quilt you want to make.  If you have no idea, don’t decide on a quilt size until you’ve made your foundation strips.  I made this quilt based on the fabric I had on hand then bought more for the sashing (the parts in between the colourful strips).
  • Inexpensive fabric for your foundation strips – I used an old sheet.  Just make sure it’s not going to show through any fabrics you’re putting on top.  Use it with the right side facing down if you need to.
  • Quilt batting – again, the amount you will need will depend on the size of your quilt.  You’ll want to have a few inches more than the finished size of your quilt.
  • Cotton thread
  • Quilting ruler
  • Rotary cutter

Step 1: Pick your fabrics!

I started collecting fat quarters at fabric stores I visited, sewing shows or wherever I could (I have a bit of a fabric collection problem).  You’ll be cutting your fabric up into strips.  You will need different amounts of fabric depending on the size of your quilt.

Pre-wash, dry and press your fabrics. I’ve consulted a variety of sources on pre-washing your fabric and I decided to wash each piece of fabric individually in the sink with Soak in warm water making sure that the water was clear after each wash.  Then I put everything in the dryer.
TIP: Dry the fabric until it is still a little bit damp and then press it with your iron it.

Step 2: Cut your foundation strips

String Pieced Quilt: Cut your foundation Strips

You can make your foundation strips any size you want. Mine were long and thin – about 7″ high.  Cut as many strips as you want to make.  You can also do squares (see Required Reading), but I’m only showing the long strip method, because that what I used.

Step 3: Cut your fat quarters into strips

String Pieced Quilt: Cut your fabric Strips

Cut your fat quarters into strips about 3″ to 4″ wide. The edges don’t have to be perfectly parallel to each other – unless you want them to be.  They should also be taller than your foundation strips.  This will make sense in a minute.

Step 4: The fun part – Sew your strips together

I really like this method of piecing because it’s quick and requires little accuracy.

Do this for each foundation strip that you have. (click the image to see it larger)

How to make a String Pieced Quilt Block

  1. First lay your foundation strip down on the table (you remembered to iron your fabric, right?)
    Starting in the middle, place your first strip face up onto your foundation strip.
  2. Put your second strip on top of the first with right sides facing.
  3. Sew along the edge of your fabric strips.
  4. Open up the fabric piece.  You can press here if you want to…  I didn’t want to.
  5. Lay the next fabric strip face down over the 2nd strip and sew that down.
  6. Repeat steps 3-4 as many times as it takes to cover up your foundation fabric.
    Watch your angles as you go along.  You don’t want your strips to angle too far in either direction, so you’ll have to make adjustments as you go.
  7. Press everything down if you haven’t already.
  8. Trim your strips to the size of your foundation.  Make sure the edges are square.

Step 5: Sew your strips and sashing together

This is where your design comes in.  Decide what you want your quilt to look like and sew the pieces together.  It’s as easy as it sounds.  When you’re done, trim the edges to make sure they are square.

Step 6: Layer your Fabric

How to make a String Pieced Quilt Block Layering

Once everything is sewn together for your quilt top, lay everything out on the floor so you can pin it together and prepare for quilting.  Lay your backing fabric down first (face down), then your quilt batting, then your quilt top (face up).  You have to be really careful not to have any folds or creases in your fabric.  Use safety pins or baste the quilt layers together.  Your batting should be a bit larger than your quilt top.

Step 7: Quilt

Quilt your layers together using cotton thread.  I simply quilted where the sashing and strips met. It would have been nice to quilt a bit more, but this thing is massive!

Step 8: Finish

You can finish the quilt any way you’d like.  I wanted to use binding, but decided instead on just turning the edges under and hemming.  It was a really quick and easy project for me and I didn’t feel the need to bind it, so I didn’t.

And there you have it!  An easy string pieced quilt.  I think next time I’ll do a much smaller lap quilt or something so I can have more fun with the quilting part.

Required Reading:

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