Mar 7, 2013

String Quilting

In the same week, one of my online message board groups has been discussing 'strings' and 'string quilting', my own blog readers have mailed me letters asking me how I make my patriotic string quilts that I feature on several of my blogs, and I have actually been working during an online quilting bee on making additional strings for another project for donations.

The three different readers who  wrote me at my blog email addy wanted help in getting string quilting blocks to surround a pre-made quilt panel such as the ones I use for patriotic quilt donation.

So, I decided it's time to post about this fun style of quilting once again!  For those of you who have never seen Gwen Marston's "Liberated String Quilting" book..this is a lovely example of how easy and fun it easy to make string quilts.

Example abound every where you look, once you begin to recognize them! I used this example when I posted about making Ojo de Dios "The Eye of God": In Craft or Quilt

This one, below, is one that Julie Silber found and posted on facebook.  Notice how it can look so wonderfully liberated and yet it is a much older quilt with many of the characteristics in appearing as a traditional quilts and quilting

Or arranged to create designs...I love hearts, of course! So, I've made lots of these. Unfortunately, many before I was taking photos for a future blog, but here are some of my heart string quilts:

And then, the ones that I was asked about this week.  String quilts that are created when the strings are arranged pre-purchased panels...I love the military ones and make them for donation to wounded warriors or those in service to our country. I was so happy to make and donate these to a wounded warriors program.  Some of them, I have made in the same style multiple times..I love them that much!

Then, of course, there are bed quilts. A string quilt is an easy way to make a large quilt ...easily and quickly!  Here is one that I made queen sized, but it ended up king it goes down to my bed ruffles. I covered it up with a more decorative quilt to match my bedroom, but this inner quilt one of FIVE..that I sleep sooo warm...I just love sleeping under it at night!

 And leftover bits and pieces of strips and strings can be used in super simple baby quilts. You don't need a foundation fabric if they're not sewn on the diagonal..but still you are using leftover strips and strings!  These are baby quilts I made in a day!

And then, of course..there's the Bento.  Still made from remnant strips and strings...irregularly pieced and cut and resewn togehter.   I didn't own a pattern or have any real idea of how to make this I winged it as I went along.  My version is named  "Bento'ed Out of My Box" with a I made this one... for making the wonky squares here:

And my rainbow brights?  Oh, I still love this quilt I made a few years ago! I held onto this one for myself !


Still using string quilting, only with some some scrappy "a mile a minute" style blocks........

the original name for 'making fabric' that so many are using now. You just take scraps and sew them as fast as you can...a mile a minute...until you have blocks the size you want!

I've made a lot of these, and I love making them.I've even made string quilts for donation to children in foster care or other group care or homes like this one, below:


But you don't have to start out with a super sized quilt, or a wall quilt or even a baby or child one.

It can be as easy as .....
Making a simple set of potholders:

or making pillows.....

 And can even make a somewhat wonky but wonderfully liberated cancer support ribbon quilt! A wall hanging? A small lap quilt for chemo care? Or just to show your love and support!


So, for all of you who wrote this week from one of my static blogs "Patriotic Heart Strings" where I post links to patriotic quilts and's the 'skinny' of simple string quilting..with or without center panels to make them in a hurry for donation to your favorite charity or cause or person!

 Making a string quilt block:

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.

And as for the 'skinny' on string quilting... strings for these quilts are usually somewhere in the 1" to 2  1/2" range unless you're working in miniature or super sizing something! Smaller than 3/4" is too's easier to start big and sew a wide seam to miniature them for things like small format art quilts etc. And bigger than 3" like in my pillows, doesn't really look like strings much, anymore!

So to cut and sew simple strings for string quilting..and it is ALWAYS better to use up your scraps, first..before decimating brand new pieces of fabric just to 'make' fabric..which in the old fashioned days was always called patchwork, anyway! So, to string these along you....

Start by simply cutting foundation blocks out of ANY scrap doesn't have to be white! and then adding..from the center out to each diagonal end....strips and pieces of varying sizes, piece by piece until the block is 'all filled up.'

To create a pattern in this final quilt top, I am using blue for the first center strip. But any repetitive color can be used as an anchoring strip. And if you wish, you can be totally random, as well..with no center 'anchoring' color!

1. To begin this block, to make its final quilt, 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.

 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.

To add around a center panel or block, you need to either pre-plan your block sizes, or wiggle and jiggle and trim, as I did!  (See tips section near bottom of post.)

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, if you so desire!


Tips and Ideas:

The idea for turning a series of blocks into a quilt is as easy as simply placing your finished string quilted blocks into a pattern or arrangement..with, or without a center panel such as shown in this one.   I remember it took a bit of recalculating to get my string blocks to fit around the center panel as I had miscalculated my sizing. But I think, I used a 13" piece of fabric as my foundation blocks for under the strings I sewed onto them and then cut them down into either 12" or 12 1/2" blocks.  Keeping in mind that the 1/4" seams on each side of the block takes away from making them fit that center panel.

The use of a plain foundation fabric keeps the diagonal strings from stretching out. Some people use old phone book pages, then remove them after stitching, but I prefer using an inexpensive piece of cotton fabric or sheeting for my blocks. It creates another layer of quilting and doesn't require as much batting then. And in summer climates, the foundation pieced blocks is all you would even need for extra batting required. These are referred to as 'summer quilts'..lighter and thinner.

So, basically, foundation piece strings onto blocks, arrange them around your purchased center panels, add batting and quilt or tie with crochet cotton at different intervals. Mine is machine quilted in a simple meandering pattern ..the famous little puzzle piece shaped machine quilting.

All of my military panels were purchased years ago...from Walmart...and I make and donate a lot of them, so I bought quite a few at the time. But I think they still sell them there. Mine came in groups of six and  in different branches of the military, some in all army, some just generally patriotic. I'm not sure if Joann's or similar carry them anymore. A really large quilt shop might, but smaller ones tend to keep newer fabrics in stock and then move them out as fast as they can.

It does make a unique quilt and each one looks so different depending on how you cut up your finished blocks! 

 See more links, patterns and ideas at my post:     String Quilting:Tutorial and Free Patterns

 But here are some other great ideas that I also found:

Last images from Google free credit available for these..sorry..I didn't make this group!  The idea is that you can create stars, triangles, diamonds etc!

 Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands as she shares a quilting journey through her life in Salem, Oregon and Douglas, Alaska . Help us change the world, one little quilt at a time!


Unknown said...

Awesome blog and quilts! Thanks for sharing. :)

MulticoloredPieces said...

Hi, Michele. Enjoyed your string post. You've picked lots of interesting examples. One of my favorite techniques!
best, nadia

Mary Johnson said...

I try to watermark my images these days but still find lots of earlier ones online that don't have it including my pink ribbon quilt and three other ones you've shared here. There are instructions on my for the rectangle string quilt and the string hearts.

jovaliquilts said...

Love string quilts, and the one that makes a star is such a great idea! BTW, one of those bottom ones from google images is my quilt: . i made it in a class I took from Ami Simms.

libbyquilter said...

a great post using one of my favorite techniques. you certainly are a busy woman and that first green string quilt pictured is wonderful~!!~


Valerie the Pumpkin Patch Quilter said...

What a great quilt show and tutorial - thank you for sharing! I have been saving my strings but have yet to make a string quilt. You remind me that I need to get on it!

Wendy said...

Some great quilts and some great ideas! Thanx much! for the info and tut.


Lynne said...

Wow, Michele! What a helpful and inspiring post -- thank you!