These blocks are for a tiny quilt that will be donated to my quilting guild for a silent auction. I used the "A Little Tangy" pattern from Scrap-Basket Surprises, reducing the block to 2 1/2" finished. Using the strings I've been playing with, I cut 1 1/2" strips to make these little cuties. They're making me so happy, I just had to share a picture!
As a result of cutting lots of 2 1/2" strips, I've accumulated lots of "strings" along the way. You know -- those narrow little pieces that you can't bring yourself to throw away if you had to. As if I didn't have enough projects to work on, I've been playing with these little blocks.
I keep a stack of cut pieces beside my sewing machine to use as "thread savers." Instead of cutting my thread at the end of chain-piecing, I feed something through the machine and cut off my chain, leaving the "thread saver" in the machine. And since I have a short attention span, it also keeps me from getting bored!
If you'd like to make your own string blocks, go grab your strings and leftover strips and Jelly Rolls, and come back here!
Back yet? Great! Now take a look at your great big pile of strings and scraps. (Let's not pretend I'm the only one.) Depending on the size of your pile of scraps, you can probably find at least two or three different "themes." Sort your scraps into smaller piles of fabrics you think might look good together. I showed a few ideas in a previous post. Click here, then scroll down to the bottom pictures.
Once you've sorted your fabrics, separate the "strings" from the "chunks." The chunks are larger pieces that can be used for squares. Press the chunks and strings to remove the wrinkles.
Decide what size you want your blocks to be. Mine are 6 1/2" unfinished. When they're sewn together, they'll be 6 inches. If you prefer, you could make your blocks larger or smaller.
Using your "chunks," cut a few squares in different sizes -- any size you like. For my blocks, I cut them anywhere from 1 1/2 inches to 4 inches. You can even cut them in 1/8-inch increments.
Select a "string" you'd like to use for your first row. I don't use strings that are less than 3/4" wide at any point. This ensures that I have enough width for at least 1/2" that will be used by the seam allowances, leaving me with 1/4" for the strip that actually shows in the block.
Place your string on top of the square. Using scissors or a rotary cutter, slice a piece of the string a little longer than the square. Then place the string on the right side of the square and cut another piece as long as the square and the first cut string.
Sew the shortest cut "string" to the top of the square, sewing the side with the straightest edge to the square. If your string is a little wonky, make sure you can see the edge of your square underneath, and use your square to guide along your 1/4 " seam mark on your throat plate. The seam allowance of the string isn't as important as the seam allowance of the piece that you're sewing it to. You'll want an accurate 1/4" seam on the foundation since it already has an accurate 90-degree angle.
Press the seam allowances toward the string that you just added to the square.
Place the second string on the right side of the block. Don't worry about trimming the end of the first string. You can snip it off with scissors after the second string is sewn to the square. Place the second string along the edge of the square as shown. Use your 1/4" foot to get an accurate seam allowance.
Press the seam allowances toward the string. The seams where the strings are joined to the squares should be 90-degree angles since you started with an accurately cut square. But everything else about your block will look very wonky -- like this:
Now it's time to trim to make it square again before adding more strings. Using a square ruler, find a marking on the ruler to place along the seam line (see red arrows). It doesn't matter which markings you use. Eighth-inch markings are just as good, as is placing the seam between eighth-inch markings. You'll just want to make sure that you trim the same distance from the markings on the top and right-hand side of the block. Make sure your fabric extends a little beyond the edge of the ruler, and make sure that you trim the same distance from the seam. In the photo below, I used the 1-inch mark.
In the next photo, I've placed the seam between eighth-inch marks so that less fabric will be trimmed from the block. Notice that I've used the corrner of the ruler where the lines follow the lines of my block. It's easier for me to square it up using the lines as a guide.
Trim away the excess fabric from the top and right-hand side of the block. You'll have a good 90-degree angle again and you'll be ready to add more strips the same way you added these. Don't worry about trimming the other sides of the block. We'll trim them later.
Add anther row of strings the same way you added the first row. Make sure that your cut pieces are long eneough to extend at least evenly with the square, preferably a little longer. Trim after adding each row.
Continue to add strings until your block measures a little larger than the size you need.
Now it's time to trim the block one last time. Since I have a 6 1/2" ruler, I use that to trim my block all at once. That way, I can move the ruler around to see what the block will look like. Sometimes I may want the outside rows to be skinnier and my square bigger. Sometimes I like to use almost all of the outside rows and make my square smaller. Place the ruler on top of the square. Line up one or more of your seam lines with the lines on your ruler.
Trim around the ruler on all sides. You now have a perfect square!
This project goes a lot faster when you work on several blocks at once. I like to sew all the blocks, iron them, then trim all of them at once.
If you make any of these blocks, send me a picture if you'd like. I'd love to share them here.
After my last post, a couple of the comments included a request to see my scraps and stash that have been cut into 2 1/2" strips. I snapped a couple of pictures to show you how I store these strips. I fold the lengthwise strips in half again so that they measure around 10 or 11 inches, then stack them so the folds are facing the same way.
Then I store two stacks in a clear plastic shoebox-size storage container. These are only a few of the boxes, but it'll give you an idea what they look like. My strips are also sorted by colors (a box for each color). It may seem a little fussy, but it works for me. The strips fray and wrinkle a lot less this way. If my strips aren't from a full width of fabric, I fold them until they fit the container.
These are my "bright" strips. I don't have a lot of bright fabrics, so I store these together in one container.
These are some contemporary fabrics. All of the strips didn't come from my sraps -- I have a lot of leftover Jelly Rolls in this box.
I forgot to take a picture of this before I unrolled it. These neutral batiks were a gift from Mary at Quilt Hollow. Aren't they yummy? These will be added to one of my batik boxes after I drool over them for a little longer. Thanks so much, Mary. I can't wait to tell you what I'm doing with these!
A few batiks.
During the past week, I've worked on a few of these little blocks, too. I'm working on a tutorial to share, but it's taking a lot longer than I anticipated. To all of you who share tutorials on your blogs, THANK YOU! I never gave any thought to how much time it takes to photograph each little step as you go. It's coming soon, I promise!
In the meantime, if you'd like to get a head start, go ahead and sort your scraps into piles of whatever you'd like to use. I'm working on more than one quilt at a time as I run across more scraps and strips. These are some ideas for fabric combinations:
Mostly Kaffe Fassett scraps, with a few other things mixed in.
Lime green! I don't have a lot of these scraps, so I'll mix them with
My scraps (and a lot of my stash) have been cut into 2 1/2" strips and stacked neatly in plastic shoebox-size storage containers. After cutting these strips, there is almost always a tiny strip left over. This is what happens when you save all of those tiny strips, and throw other leftover strips into the mix.
What a mess! And this is only one bag. If I told you how many bags are stashed in my play room, I'm sure there would be an intervention.
I began sorting the strings and strips and ended up with a manageable pile of pieces that I thought looked good together.
After a few minutes of "no rules" sewing, I ended up with these.
It was actually quite fun. I sewed the strips onto the blocks as they were -- no pre-trimming. I'll show you some different fabric combinations later. If you're interested, I'll be happy to do a tutorial showing how the blocks are constructed.
I can't tell you how happy I am that this wasn't my finger! I tried to remove the needle from the safety pin, but it won't come out! Guess I'll be changing my needle. :)
This is a project I'm working on now. I'm loving these fabrics!
And this is my next project -- all cut and ready to sew.
Oops again. I forgot to tell you that I have a quilt in the January/February issue of McCall's Quilting. I made this quilt using a Jelly Roll and a single background print, and it went together in no time. It isn't too late to pick up a copy at your local quilt shop or news stand.
Thank you all for your friendship and endless inspiration over the past year. I hope 2010 will be a great year for you!