String block

This a tutorial aimed at beginners so has lots of photos to help you. If you have any questions or feedback leave me a comment and I’ll come back to you.

Step 1 – Create a paper template for piecing

The block I am making for this is 8 1/4 inch square with a half inch centre plain strip but it can be amended to whatever size you like. I chose this size as it fitted perfectly on British A4 sized paper. The paper that I am using is just normal printer paper nothing special.

Start by drawing a 8 1/4 inch square onto a piece of paper. Once the square is drawn you need to draw a line down the centre of the square making two triangles. Measure 1/2 inch away from the centre line and draw a parallel line. Measure 1/2 inch away from the other side of the centre line and draw another parallel line. This will have created a one inch centre strip. Your template should look like the picture of mine below.

Step 1a - Draw out paper template

Once the block is drawn out on the paper cut the square out and you are ready to work on the fabric.

Step 1b - Cut out template square

Step 2 – Prepare the fabric.

Each block will have a centre white strip. Cut out a one inch strip of white fabric that is longer than the length of the centre strip on the paper template.

Step 2a - Cut a one inch centre white strip

  Next prepare varying sized strips of your chosen fabrics – I used strips ranging from 1 1/4 to 2 inches.

Step 2b - Prepare strips of fabrics for the strings

You are now ready to start working at the sewing machine!

Step 3 – Sew in the centre white strip.

Start by laying the centre white strip down along the centre strip drawn on the paper template. Place a patterned strip right side down on top of the white strip with the right hand sides lined up.

Step 3a Line up centre strip plus first string.

Line up the fabric and paper template ready for sewing down the right hand side with a 1/4 inch seam.

Step 3c - Sew a 1/4 inch seam down the right hand side of the strip.

 Once the strips are joined open out the two strips and finger press them flat.

Step 3d - Fingerpress the fabrics open.

Turn the block around so the patterned strip is on the left hand side and repeat the same steps to attach the patterned string to the other side of the white strip. 

Step 3e - Add a patterned string to the other side of the centre white strip.

You may find that the centre white strip has gone slightly off centre during the attachment of the first strip. Dont worry as long as it hasn’t moved over more than 1/4 inch. Make sure that the patterned strip is aligned to the straight line you drew on the paper template and make a 1/4 inch seam. The visible strip will still be 1/2 inch wide but one of the seams will be a little skinnier than planned.

Step 3f - If the centre strip has moved try and keep to the 1/4 inch seam

 Finally you will have a 1/2 inch centre white strip visible sandwiched between 2 patterned strings.

Step 3g - A white strip sandwich will have been created.

Step 4 – Adding the strings

Now you have the centre sandwich you just need to continue adding strings to the block to cover the whole paper pattern.

Step 4a - Continue adding strips

Whilst adding the extra strips stagger the start of the strips to adjust to the slope of the paper template. I personally don’t cut each strip to exactly the right size before sewing. I just stagger the start of the strip and sew the strips together to about 1/2 inch below the edge of the paper template.

Step 4b - Sew the two strips about 1/2 inch beyond the end of the template

The last strip that you add at the point should extend at least 1/2 inch beyond the width at the tip of the corner point or else you may find later on when straightening off the block that the tip is lost and you don’t get a sharp corner.

When you have finished adding strips to one side start adding strips to the other side until the template is completely covered.

Step 4c - Continuing adding strips until the template is covered

Step 5 – Trimming and finishing the blocks
Once the piecing of the block is completed lightly iron the front of the block to ensure all the seams are flat before trimming the block. After ironing lay the block right side down onto your cutting mat. Trim the excess fabric back to the edge of the template using a ruler and rotary cutter. Make sure you trim the block accurately or else you will have problems when piecing the blocks up together. 

Step 5a - Trim the block to the template edge

Once you have finished trimming you will have an 8 1/4 inch square block and a pile of trimmings. Try to salvage any decent sized pieces of the trimmings to incorporate into your next blocks. This is such a great block for using up your cut offs and scraps of fabrics but you will use a lot more fabric than you expect if you don’t utilise these off cuts.

Step 5b - Trim to a 8 1/4 inch square block

 The last job left is to remove the paper template from the back of the block. Its nice and easy but a bit monotonous so I get my kids to help with this job!
Lay your block right side down in front of you with the sewing strips vertical. Take hold of the paper corner on the right hand side and fold it back towards  the block. I find it best, once folded back, to rub up and down the sewn seam a couple of times to make a good fold.

Step 5c - Fold back the paper along the sewn seam

Next you need to put a hand down on top of the block for stability, take hold of the folded back strip and tear downwards.

Step 5d - Tear off the paper strip at the sewn seam

You may find that you get some little bits of paper remaining in the seam but I find they come out fairly easily with a little bit of wiggling.
Continue pulling off the strips across the rest of the block.

Step 5e - Complete pulling off paper strips across the block

Finally you have a finished string block ready to add to your quilt top.

Finished string block

Once you have a few blocks you can start playing around to find a design that your are happy with. You could have criss crossing centre lines, diamonds or go for diagonal stripes across the quilt….the world is your oyster!!

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