Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tutorial Part 3 - Making the String Pieced Squares

Guess what got delivered yesterday?

Oh, the irony.

This is my favorite part--the part where we piece the string units of the Double Pinwheel String Quilt. The part I actually did in between the other parts because I liked it so much. The relaxing and fun part. Have I used the word "part" enough in this paragraph? Part, part, part, part. Okay, I think so. Part.

Basically, you just sew, flip, and press until your paper is covered.

Paper? Yep, we're going to piece these on lightweight paper, which will be removed later while you watch Pride & Prejudice for the umpteenth time--or maybe that was just me. Phone book pages work great for this.

What kind of fabric for the strings? Anything your heart desires, just keep it 100% cotton. I used scraps. I think the beauty of string piecing is in the randomness. That means if you're an overthinker like me, you get permission to dial down your brain and just grab and go.

Let's get this party started!

Step 1: Cut a variety of fabrics into strips, or "strings." (I'm going to use those terms interchangeably here). Your strings should be between 1 and 1-1/2 inches, generally, just make sure each string is a uniform width from top to bottom. We are going to sew the strings on straight, not wonky. (Nothing against wonky; I just have a feeling it wouldn't work well here. If you try it and it rocks, by all means, let me know.)

Step 2: Grab your phone book and carefully tear out 32 pages. Trim each page to 8-1/2 inches square.

Step 3: Take one of your strings and place it right side up in the center on the diagonal of the paper. To keep it from shifting when you sew on the next string, pin along the left edge of the center string. This is probably the only pinning you'll need to do, just on this center string before you sew the first seam.

Step 4: Take a second string and place it face down (right sides together) on top of the center string, matching the right edge. Cut your fabric strip so it extends just a bit beyond the paper where you'll be sewing it on. Using a 1/4-inch seam, sew through both fabric and paper along right edge.

TIP: Use a shorter than usual stitch length when sewing the strings. This perforates the paper closer together and makes removing it easier. Backstitching at the beginning and end of your seam also helps keep the stitches from loosening at the edges when the paper is removed.

Step 5: Remove the pins on the center strip. Open the strip you just sewed so the right side is up, and press seam with a dry iron (no steam).

Step 6: Repeat this process on the opposite side of the center strip. Add a strip, stitch, flip open, and press.

Continue adding strips until the paper is completely covered.

Step 7: Turn fabric-covered square over and trim to 8-1/2 inches square, using the paper as a guide.

Step 8: Cut your string-pieced square in half, on the opposite diagonal as the strings are pieced, from corner to corner. Your ruler should be at a right angle to your seams, in other words.

You will end up with 64 string-pieced triangles. Aren't they pretty?

Now we're going to sew the string-pieced triangles to the blue and red units we made in Part 2. Leave the paper on yet for the next step. It helps stabilize the seam you are about to make.

Step 9: Pin a string-pieced triangle and a blue and red unit, right sides together, along the long edge of the triangles. This is a bias edge on the blue and red unit; try not to stretch it as you're pinning. Stitch.

Press seam toward blue and red unit.

Step 10: Remove paper from back.

TIP: It helps to fold the paper back against the stitching lines before gently tearing it away, like removing a check from a checkbook. This is a good project to do while watching TV, pretending to listen to your spouse or kids, etc. Not while driving though. Or bathing.

Step 11: Trim each one to 8 inches square.

TIP: Position the unit for trimming on your mat as shown, and trim the red pinwheel side (right side) first, then the lower edge. For some reason, this seemed to work best.

When you're done, you should have 64 of these for your quilt.

Next: Part 4 - Putting it all together!


  1. This is such an awesome tutorial. I'm eager to get started--but I'm forcing myself to finish up some UFOs first. It will give me time to ponder colors though. Your red and blue looks so striking, but I'm eager to see the quilt in another set of colors. I'm thinking maybe purple and orange. Hmmmm?

  2. This is all well and good but I was hoping I could remove the paper while bathing. And then, as long as the paper is already wet, I could multitask some paper mache!

    Seriously, this is a very cool project. :)

  3. Awesome. I can't wait until I can start making my own quilt. Your quilt turned out so amazing.

  4. I love the tutorial. It makes it all seem very easy.

    Funny: I found myself looking at the phone books pages, since they were orthos, to see if I recognized any names from our PI days at QBSMC.


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