Tuesday, July 30, 2013

August do. Good Stitches String Blocks

Hello Good Stitchers! It's my month as quilter for the Nurture circle again.  I know I gave you guys a pretty easy, quick block back in May, so maybe you can forgive me for this month's block being a little more intense ;)  Honestly, I got my blocks done in a couple hours, so I don't think you'll have too much trouble.

I got so excited, I made 3 of them!
(Edit: See the finished quilt here!)

This month we are making scrap string blocks with blues, grey, yellow, and low volume fabrics.  I'm including another palette to give you color ideas, but unlike last time you don't need to worry about sticking really close to the particular hues, it's just to give you a jumping off point.

I'm so glad Louise introduced low volume fabrics to our group in last month's block (here's a handy link to her tutorial with explanation.)  I had already been planning to do this block and struggling with how to best explain them, and she did a great job!  Louise's post illustrates a technique for trialing your low volume fabrics using a camera. I talk about a few other techniques here. Whatever works for you, works for me!

So, step 1 for this block is to get into your strings and pull the colors you need.  Look at the blocks I made in the first picture on this page for a guide to your color selections.  For the "focus" strings we are going for all shades of blue and teal (minus super bright, primary color blue), a little bit of grey, and a little bit of yellow.  When choosing these fabrics please think of a more grown up, slightly "mellow" palette rather than a bright, juvenile one.  (I hope that makes sense.)  You'll also need low volume fabrics for the "background" strings.  Try to choose almost all prints, but you can throw in a few solids, too. 

Making a mess is the first step in scrap quilting

Get into your scraps and make a mess! "Strings" in quilting means a lot of different things to different people, but for purposes of this project a string is a piece of fabric that is between 0.75" and 2.5" wide and at least 4.5" long unfinished (but usually much longer).   When I pull fabrics for a scrap project I dump out the appropriate scrap container and sort it.  In this initial sort I am usually not too picky, pulling anything that looks like it might work. Then I can pick out the best fabrics when I get to sewing.

The white piece will need to be trimmed a bit, but the two together easily add up to 13" long.
Step 2 is to start sewing! Match colored and low volume strings of approximately the same width (you may have to trim one of them a bit), making sure that the combined length of the two strips will add up to at least 13", and sew them together along their short end.  Remember, scrap quilting is all about making do with what you have, so try to avoid cutting new strings for this project.  After sewing trim the new, combined string to about 13" (err to the side of too long, rather than too short).

Match strings of the same width and sew along the short end
Once you have sewn up a handful of strips take some time to iron them, pressing the seam toward the darker fabric.  You can start putting them up on the design wall at this point and playing with them.  The determine how many you need to make arrange the strings in a stack so that their edges just touch and measure the height.  Subtract 0.5" x the number of horizontal seams (one less than the total number of strings) to get the height that your block/column would be if you sewed them together.  Since I am asking for (2) 12.5" blocks you'll need to have a column of at least 25" finished.

Column of strings starting on the wall.  At this point the stack was 22" tall.  There are 12 horizontal seams (12*0.5"=6"). So sewn together these strings would make a blocks about 16" tall (22"-6"=16").  I need to make some more!
Step 3 is to step back and admire your work. Once you've sewn up a bunch of strings is a good time to take a break.  I like to leave these up on my design wall for a while so I can look at them throughout the day. Each time you see them is an opportunity for things that don't blend well to jump out at you. Since we're working for scraps it's likely that some of your fabrics just won't "go" with the rest of them once you see them all together. That's totally fine! Just pull them out and back in the scrap box they go.

Up close, scrap projects like this can look busy and messy. It's hard to see the design and nothing looks like it goes!  Getting some distance is a good way to see the big picture. Another thing I like to do is look at the wall with my glasses off.  Usually, the colors that don't belong immediately become obvious.  Since I know that everyone is not (ahem) blessed with being horribly near sighted I tweaked one of the pictures I took to show you what I see.

The nearsighted quilter's design wall :)
See that teal and grey string in the lower left that's jumping out in the pic above?  The grey is too dark, it's not reading as white.  The string group looked much better with that one gone, but I probably never would have noticed it if I hadn't done the glasses-off test.  (For those of you not blessed with myopia, my mother says you can get this same effect by crossing your eyes a little bit, kind of like how you do those Magic Eye illusions.)

Once you are happy with the colors of your strings step 4 is to start sewing them together, keeping the darks on one side and lights on the other.  Remember we are basically going for a random look, so don't stress too much about the order.  I recommend sewing all your strings into one long column and then cutting your 12.5" blocks from it.

You can press as you go if you feel like you need to, but I don't think it's necessary to press until you're done with this step. Also, please don't press the seams open. In this kind of quilt I worry that it will make the seams more likely to split. Don't stress about seams that aren't perfectly straight, trust me, it will look GREAT all together and you'll never notice.

Stay-stitched to keep the edges from unraveling
Step 5, you're practically done!  After ironing your column of strings, line up your ruler with the horizontal seams and cut (2) 12.5" blocks from it.  If your column was more than a couple inches too long, don't hesitate to send along the extra as well :)  To protect your blocks during shipping and assembly please sew a line of stay-stitching about 1/8" from the edge on the sides with many seams.  And that's it! Thank you for helping to make what I think will be a stunning quilt!

3 string blocks on the wall
(Edit: See the finished quilt here!)


  1. I like this block a lot I just hope I have some scraps or fat quarters in this color scheme... I'm low on blue.

  2. My blocks are done and I will get picks uploaded today and in the mail this afternoon!

  3. This is going to look great!

  4. Kat, since I have charm squares moreso than strings, is it OK if I piece things together if they come from the same fabric to get the length? Thanks!

  5. I found your tutorial. I'll be making one now. Thanks for putting it on here.