A string quilt tutorial

I know what you’re thinking – do we really need yet another string quilt tutorial?

QOV string quilt

There are so many good ones out there already.  My answer is yes, because THIS tutorial uses a technique that manages all that pesky, annoying bias AND is faster than a flip-and-sew technique.

This quilt is by no means my own design – I’ve seen a couple like this floating around Blogland and thought they were gorgeous!  I wanted to make a quilt for Quilts of Valor.  My quilt ended up 54 x 72, which is pretty close to the QOV recommended size.  I made mine in reds and blues, but you can choose whatever colors you like.

Start by deciding how big you want your blocks to be.  I wanted mine to finish at 9 inches, so I cut a template 9 ½ inches square, then folded it in half diagonally into a triangle.  The template is simply a guide and you can make it out of whatever you have on hand.

Next, cut strips of fabric in varying widths.  I cut mine at 1.5, 2, 2.5, and 2.75 inches wide, from selvage edge to selvage edge (44 inches long, in most cases).


If you feel you need a greater variety of colors but have a limited stash, check the wrong side of your fabrics.  The back of this light blue star print would have been great if I had needed it.  However, I decided to keep the star print front and center.  It is a star quilt, after all.

Sew the strips together in a random order.  Sometimes when you sew long strips together like this, the piece tends to curve to one side.  The way to prevent that is to alternate the directions you sew.  Instead of sewing from the top to the bottom on every strip, alternate it by sewing from the top to the bottom, then flip it around so the bottom is now at the top, and sew the next strip.

Press the seams.  I pressed my seams open on this quilt because I was feeling ornery.  Bring on the Quilt Police!  Also, I felt that pressing them open would decrease the bulk when I sewed the blocks together.


You want the strip set to be taller than your triangle by at least a half inch.  I’m too lazy to measure it; I simply put my template on top and eyeballed it to make sure it was big enough.


eyeballing the size

Don’t cut anything yet!  Repeat strip-set procedures for the blue fabrics.


Now that you have 2 complete sets of strips sewn together and all seams pressed, starch the snot out of them.   Starching everything before we cut it will keep that pesky bias in check.


love my non-aerosol starch

Place the red and blue strip sets right sides together, matching the bottom raw edges, and sew.  Don’t press this seam open.  It’s ok if the top edge of the red doesn’t line up with the top edge of the blue.   Leave the strip sets sitting with right sides together and align the folded edge of your paper template along the seam you just sewed.  I used a ruler to keep my cutting line straight.  Trim along the top edge….


Then move the ruler to the other side and repeat.


The first block is done!  Open it and carefully press that last seam open.  This is where that tricky, pesky bias will rise up and bite you in the caboose, but if you are careful and got happy with the starch earlier, you should be ok.


Here is my first block, all pressed and ready for its first day of school.  It’s not wonky; that’s the camera angle.  I could fix it in Photoshop but I’d rather be sewing, ya know?


p.s.  Please no laughing at my ironing board cover.  I’m proud of that cover, dammit; a lot of time and hard work went into making it look that ugly.  Note to the Quilt Police: kindly buzz off.

Back to the strip set.  Move your template over and cut again.


Now, at this point I can hear y’all asking about that upside-down triangle to the right of my ruler.  Hang on, we’ll get to that in a minute.  Carefully scoot it out of the way for now.


scooting out of the way

Flip your ruler around and cut that other upper edge, and repeat.  You should now have 3 complete “right sides up” triangles with a center seam sewn.  You should also have 2 “upside down” triangles with NO center seam.  Scoot these back into play, and put your template on top.


Add a quarter inch to the edge of the paper template, and trim with your rotary cutter.


It’s at this point in the tutorial that I realize I’ve ALREADY got a seam allowance built into my template, so cutting the blocks with an additional seam allowance was redundant at best.   What. Ever.

I can hear the Quilt Police snickering.

Wait a minute!  The extra allowance is so you can square up the blocks afterwards!

Yeah, that’s it.

All right, quit laughing at me and get back to sewing, you slackers.


Stitch the blue triangle to the red triangle at the long edge and press seams open.


You should now have 5 complete blocks!  See how fast that was?  Now go sew up some more strip sets.  Make sure to sew your fabrics in a random order.  This will help it look scrappy and ensure that you don’t have seams coming together all at the same place.  Cut out more blocks, and have fun playing with different layout variations.  I forgot to take pictures of the possibilities – stripes, zig-zags, a barn-raising-type pattern, etc.  My favorite is the star pattern, however.

qov 2

I really, really want to add another row to the upper and lower edge of this quilt to finish off those rows around the star, but will restrain myself.  It’s the correct size for QOV and that is what’s important.

If you make a quilt using this technique, please email me and let me know how it worked for you.  I’d love to see pictures!