Sunday, May 25, 2008

String Quilting (Primers and Patterns!)

In honor of this Memorial Day weekend, I am expressing my hope for freedom and peace, with liberated string quilting. I have always believed that each of us is connected by energetic and spiritual heartstrings and that those heartstrings stretch and reach between each and everyone we love or have loved, whether living in this physical dimension or not.

My belief is that any kind of quilt made with strips and strings... of any kind, represents the heartstrings between myself, as the quilter, and those I then give the quilts to. I have always loved piecing with strips and strings and with heart-felt and love-filled patchwork!

Thus, when I first began one of my other blogs, I had named it Patriotic Heartstrings. At that time, it was simply my thoughts and photos of patriotic quilts that I had been making on my own, and then as part of my Salem Community Quilter's group. When Mary began her wonderful HeartStrings Quilt Project, it seemed like the perfect project for me. A way of using my own on-going project of creating quilts for wounded veterans, with Mary's use of string quilting to create strip pieced string quilts for a variety of different causes, charities and groups.

I joined in the fun of creating my own patriotic quilts using the liberated string quilting that goes back in time to many of the earliest quilters and brought into more modern times by such quilters as Gwen Marston and Evalyn Sloppy. My own patriotic quilts have been primarily donated to wounded veterans at Madigan Army Hospital in Washington state and to the Salem Veteran's Outreach Center, here in Oregon. They were my way of using Mary's Heartstrings Quilting Project in liaison with my own Patriotic Heartstrings: "Liberated Stars and Stripes...

So, today, I am joining with Mary and the Heartstrings Quilting Project group in a virtual quilt-along as we string piece blocks and quilts over the holiday weekend. For those of you reading now, who have never tried this, it is incredibly easy and a quickly rewarding process. As I am often asked about the process, and have discovered that readers who sew... but do not quilt... do not understand the process, I am including a simple photo tutorial to inspire others to try it and join in the fun!

String quilting, whether done straight across, or on the diagonal, is simply the sewing down of a variety of strings, or strips of alternating fabrics of many colors into blocks. Diagonal strings have a tendency to stretch on the bias, so underlying foundation blocks are more essential for them, but not required in simple straight piecing.

By simply cutting foundation blocks out of scrap fabric, one can add strips and pieces of varying sizes, piece by piece until the block is 'all filled up.' To create a pattern in the final quilt top, I am using blue for the first center strip. But any repetitive color can be used as an anchoring strip.

1. To begin, I used a 10" foundation pieces and a variety of cut strips of many colors. Others prefer blocks as small as 6" or as large as 12 1/2"...the choice is yours. Larger blocks multiply spatially a lot quicker! Lay down a center strip of any color, diagonally across the foundation piece. (I iron a fold into the center of both the foundation block and this first string piece for matching the two pieces' center alignment.)

2. Sew down the second strip, right sides together.

3. Press each seam open after sewing.

4. Sew down each succeeding strip, one by one, ironing after each new seam.

5. When strips fill the foundation block, iron flat, then align and trim to size desired.

6. Lay out completed blocks on your design wall or floor ;) and select arrangement and desired size of quilt top.

7.Finally, you would attach block seams in rows as desired, using additional strips to fill in size differentials around center panels or other additional blocks, sashings or cornerstones.

Join in and try this today, it's great fun and a wonderful way to create heartstrings between you and a loved one!

Note: for additional links on string quilting check out:

String Quilting Patterns:
Amish Stripes and Strings Instruction Sheet (PDF file)
Click HERE to Download Happy String Flowers for Baby (.pdf)
Basketweave Strings
Bonnie's String Quilting Primer
Chinese Coins ~ Coins Border
Chinese Coins ~ Easy Version
Chinese Coins ~ Easy Version #2
Chinese Coins ~ Uneven Version
Kaleidoscope String Quilt Tutorial
HeartStrings Quilt As You Go Blocks
Lattice Quilt
Out on a String
Spiderweb Quilt
String Block tutorial here for the instructionsString Diamonds
String Quilts
String Tumblers
String Fish Aquarium
Strips & Strings Log Cabin
Strip Twist
Strings ~ Half Square Strings
Strings ~ Hearts
Strings ~ HeartStrings - Red Centers
Strings ~ HeartStrings Quilt
Strings ~ Patriotic Star
Strings ~ Purple Project Quilt #1
Strings ~ Purple Project Quilt #2
Strings ~ Rectangle Strings
Strings ~ RWB Coins
Strings ~ RWB HeartStrings Block
String Quilting
String Quilting: QuiltsvilleString Spiderwebs
Strip Twist
Victoriana Quilters Free (String Quilting) Charity Quilt Pattern
Wonky RWB Rails (PDF file)

*Comfort Quilts
*String Pieced Prayer Pocket Pillow Tutorial

For an even more complete list of free patterns check out:

Free Quilt Patterns: Updated 2013 (and preparing for 2014)


  1. These blocks look great!

    I've got just 16 blocks done so far but hope to get more done tomorrow. My son has been here visiting but I've been stealing away now and then to make a few blocks.

  2. I make lots of string quilts, but I've never thought to put in a non-string focal block as you have done. What a great idea!

  3. thank you for all the string links. I'm very inspired right now :-)

  4. Fab quilt! I"m a huge fan of log cabins and anything made with bits and strips, so this is wonderful! Thank you for sharing those great sites!

  5. Great post, great resource.

  6. Anonymous10:39 AM

    I really must give this a try. Thank-you for the clear instructions you have provided us.


Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon. Leave a comment and your blog will be visited, as well!