Thursday, January 28, 2010

All strung out- a string quilt tutorial

I just finished my first string quilt and thought it would be fun to write a little tutorial since I did it a little different that other tuts I've seen. As this is my first tut please be patient, I'm still learning.

String quilts are a fantastic way to use up lots of bits and pieces and actually are a lot of fun. Here are a few pictures of my completed string quilt and coordinating pillow.

Finished String quilt

String quilt back

Matching pillow for my sofa

I have seen some great tutorials on paper piecing string blocks (like this one) but I don't like to pick the paper out so I decided to give it a go using fabric as the foundation square instead of paper. Happily, this works great. The quilt has a fantastic drape because of the extra weight and I LOVE it.

The white strip through the middle of each block is actually the foundation square mentioned above. You do not have to use white for your foundation, just be aware when picking a foundation (i.e. a dark color or bold print) that depending on the strips you choose, the foundation may show through. Also most of the foundation fabric will be covered so I would tend toward a less expensive fabric like a broad cloth, muslin or Kona cotton.

After picking a foundation fabric you will want to decide what size to make your blocks. The blocks in my string quilt are about 10". For this tutorial the blocks are 8 1/2" however, the technique is the same no matter what size the block so just figure out what works best for you.

Cut squares from your foundation fabric. Fold each in half diagonally and press. Unfold and with a marker, mark 1/2" to either side of the fold, as seen below, making 1" between the lines. These are placement lines for your first two strips and will be completely covered because of our seam allowances so a sharpie will work. The space down the middle will be the 1/2" white strip on your block. Set foundation squares aside.


Cut or gather a pile of strips for your "strings". Mine vary from 1" to 2 1/2" and were pulled completely from my stash and scrap pile.


Place the first strip right sides together on your foundation, matching one raw edge up to one of the placement lines you drew earlier. This strip should cover, or come close to covering, both placement lines.


With a 1/4" foot, sew down the raw edge that is matched to the placement line.


Press open (revealing the other placement line).


Continue placing your strips, matching raw edges, stitching and pressing. Build out to the point until one side looks something like this.

One side down

Now it's time for the other side. Repeat the process, matching the raw edge of one strip to the placement line, right sides together and with the other raw edge near the finished side.

Now for the other side.  Match strip edge to the marked line and stitch

Work out until the entire foundation fabric is covered (except the 1/2" strip in the middle). Something like this...

String block before trimming

Before trimming I like to starch and press the block. I find that starching takes a lot of the stretch out of the block and it trims nicer. Finally, trim and square your block to size. Because we are working on a bias, you may find that your foundation block may not be an 8 1/2" square. This is to be expected and I just trimmed my squares to 8 1/4". If this odd number bothers you, make your foundation squares 8 3/4" and trim to 8 1/2" when complete.

Block front:

Finished string block

Block Back:
Back of the string block using a fabric foundation

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Buggy Barn Convoy

I have been working at a local quilt shop each saturday. She has me arrange different things in the store, help customers and (my favorite thing) make quilts and things to display in the store. When I first saw the new Convoy pattern by Buggy Barn I knew I wanted to make it for Monkey.

(cute huh? Click on the picture to take you to where you can buy the pattern)

Luckily Karen, the shop owner, thought it would be a great quilt to display so I got to work. I've also been wanting to do something special for one of my friends so I ended up making two.

Now, I will be honest. Up to this point I had only done 1 Buggy Barn pattern 8 years ago and it was not a good experience. I understood the method but no matter how careful I was and how many times I checked my 1/4" seam allowance, my blocks were always too small. Despite my bad experience, I jumped into Convoy feet first and to my surprise it was a delight. (For those of you who haven't done a Buggy Barn, or don't know what they are, you basically stack a bunch of fat quarters, Cut them all at once using a template, do a little switch-a-roo with some of the pieces and then put it all back together. It is quite fun build the blocks and see how your fabrics go together.) Anyway, Buggy Barn must have done some tweeking to their patterns because my trucks and tractors went together like a dream.

Overall I thought the Convoy pattern was great however I do have a few suggestions should you decide to give it a try.

First, by following the pattern you will end up with 7 extra trucks and tractors. If you have a use for extras or are planning on making the bumper pad this is great. If not, carefully read the pattern before buying your fabric so you will know exactly how many fat quarters you will use. I would suggest getting 8 for the trucks and 7 for the tractors. This would make two extra blocks, but also gives you a little flexibility incase you don't like how one of them comes out.

Second, the pattern calls for wool for the tires. I didn't want to pay $30 a yard for wool so I ended up getting a textured cotton (see close up of the tires below). It kind of looks like tire treads and worked great. I used Heat n Bond light to bond the tires to my blocks and then went around them using a free motion stitich.

Third, the pattern says to piece each row, then add the road and then put on the tires. WHAT A PAIN! Stitching around the tires when there is all that bulk is not fun. I would suggest carefully measuring out your seam allowances, adding about
1/8" and bonding the tires. This makes them MUCH easier and faster to stitich.

That's it. This was a great pattern and I'm excited that Monkey will have a manly quilt drag around and snuggle. :-)

Here's a picture of my (almost) finished product.

From Pattern Review Photos
P.S. My fabric is the Tranquillity line by Sandy Gervais for Moda