17 January 2007

String Quilts


Several years ago I stumbled on the book Spectacular String-Pieced Quilts: A Pattern Book. and fell in love with the "Diamond Strings with Lattice" and then these diamond beauties entered my life. Serendipity? I think so. You can view several of the String Quilts from the book at the String Pieced Gallery at Quilt Town USA.

String quilts seem to be the rage on the Stashbuster's ring at the moment. For my non-quilting readers, a string quilt is made with the very last bits and pieces or 'strings' of a fabric that are normally sewn down onto a foundation of either muslin or paper. If the string is not long enough then it is pieced together to make it long enough.

The first clickable image is a string pieced block from the 1930s or 1940s. This is one of 25 that has attached itself to my UFO stash. This block is unusual in that it is a diamond, whereas currently string blocks are either rectangular or square. Look closely and you can see how the quilt maker pieced together fabrics to make the strings long enough to go across the widest part of the diamond.


The second image is the back of another of these blocks. I have circled a couple of areas of interest. The top circle shows some needle and thread holes left when some embroidery was removed. The lower section shows not only more needle and thread holes, but bits of green embroidery floss and a bit of an iron on transfer of a daisy. This quilt maker used an old piece of embroidery as her foundation. She must have removed the embroidery so it would not be felt through the fabric. These blocks are all hand pieced.

I have three shoe boxes full of 1930 and 1940s fabrics. If I were inclined to, I could make more of these blocks. But do I want to? I suppose it would be a good take along project. I could even make them the same size as these as I have the quilt maker's original template also. Also, there is that unusal setting I just mentioned. Hmmmm...

Oh, yeah. Just what I need. Another project.

The string blocks I'm currently working on have a foundation of Kabinet Wax paper that I've cut into 5x10" pieces. My 'strings' are all the small leftover bits that I have saved from previous quilts and put into a clean 5-gallon paint bucket for later stitching onto these papers. The papers will be removed when the quilt top is sewn together. For my intended plan I need 144 of these blocks.

It's like an archaeological dig when I delve into this paint bucket. "Oh, that came from Ryan's quilt. That is some of the WOW fabric I just overdyed and where in the world did that red fabric come from? It's very 1970s now isn't it? And there is that very ugly black with sliver glitter fabric." In a sense this type of quilt is also an "I, Spy" quilt for children, especially if, like me, you put everything in it. I love these types of scrap quilts. They not only tell a story in the fabrics but a history of your quilting.

Update: Pam asked if I was collecting original 30's fabric or if the string diamonds were given to me. I didn't intentionally start out collecting 30's fabric but that's what has happened. I have only purchased one bit of fabric and that was a yard and half of 'that' green. I'll show a pic soon, I promise. The rest of my original 30's fabrics have been given to me. One batch contained these blocks.


  1. I love,love, love string quilts. made one last year for our guild challenge. i truly admire the diamond blocks but don't think i would try to tackle it.

    thanks for sharing yours!!

  2. Neat... Thanks so much for the quilt town reference, i love to look at "other" samples. I too have a string UFO - String stars. but I cut strips... (Feels a bit like cheating)

  3. I'm thinking that I just may have to joint the fray of string quilt piecing. Last winter I made several quilts using only scraps, thinking they would make great charity quilts. I found they were much harder to part with because of the 'memory lane' factor. The scrap quilts turned into keepers and the new purchase quilts became the donated.

  4. Those little diamonds are so great. Are you collecting original 30's fabrics and just found them or did someone give them to you?

    You could just make the 25 or so into a small wall hanging or table centre. It would be nice to have them made into something.

  5. I haven't made any string quilts but it is on my list of quilts I want to make. That diamonds with lattice is really pretty.
    Are you using all of your fabric scraps, or are you picking and choosing what goes together? My problem is that my fabric is so different - pastels vs brights vs blues vs fall colors, etc.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing that string diamond. I think string quilts, humble as they are, might just be my favourites. They really appeal not just because of the random colours, but because of the notion of using up every little scrap. I like 'true' string quilts like the diamond, where the strings are uneven because it was just what was to hand, and that wasn't necessarily a nice even strip (or even a long enough strip).