Got Scraps? Make These Blocks!

I taught a series of classes in Atlanta that used Kaffe Fassett fabrics. As you can imagine, we had leftovers! After about 5 workshops I developed an easy way to use them up. (Who am I kidding? You will NEVER make a dent in your scrap bag!)

This is called "string piecing" and has been a technique in the quilt world for well over 150 years. It was used by frugal quilters who saved every single scrap piece of fabric and then made her own "fabric" by stitching on a foundation.

Here is the first quilt I made. Notice that the blocks are rectangles. And they are foundation pieced using newsprint! You can buy what I call "Doodle Pads" at Target, school supply aisles in grocery stores, and don't forget the Dollar Store. I have even used tablets that measure 9" x 12". No problem. They fit together when you use the same size!

Scrap Buster blocks make an awesome quilt: 49" x 59"
Any size scraps will do. Let me show you! Draw a diagonal from one corner to another as shown. There are TWO blocks with strips going in opposite directions as shown below.

Rectangles of paper (I'm using 9" x 12" paper for these samples)
Now let's see some of the steps:

1. Select a strip that is longer than that center line.

First strip
2. Select a second strip and place it right sides with the first strip. Pin in place. Make sure edges extend beyond paper.

Audition strip


2nd strip aligned and pinned.

3. Now it's time to sew. 1/4", but you don't have to agonize about this. This will be close to an improvisational quilt.
Stitch
4. Press open and keep adding strips until the surface of the paper is covered. You stitch and flip, going from one side to the other. Finish those corners with a rough cut triangle.

Entire paper is stitched
5. Now to trim
Trim away excess beyond paper on all 4 sides.
And how does this look from the front? Lovely, huh? I pieced these this week using 9" x 12" paper.
First block trimmed
And the second block? Notice that the diagonal in the first block goes from top left to bottom right; the diagonal in second block goes from top right to bottom left.
Two blocks side by side
And four blocks together:

Four Blocks (9" x 12")
Now it's time to remove the paper. I'm going to do that while watching Dancing with the Quilt Stars on TV! Take care to support the stitches at the edge of paper. You don't want to open the seams.

Got one done.
Paper removed from string pieced block

I no longer have the quilt shown at the top. It was gifted to a family member who was recovering from surgery. I may keep going with these blocks to make another one quilt. Here is a picture of a quilt one of my students made. She took it even further to make a bed sized quilt.

Bed sized quilt by Anne Forman of Atlanta, GA
If you feel you need a real pattern with supplies and more diagrams, you can find it here: String Pieced Scrap Buster Quilt in my Etsy store.


Comments

  1. I have a few granddaughters that would love the pink one.I think I need to get some doodle pads😜

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  2. Perfect. I have enough scraps to fill the Atlantic. Looks so easy and no matching up.

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  3. --- I use white gift wrap tissue paper cut to size for the foundation paper. I use a quilt ruler and DEDICATED rotary cutter used for paper cutting only.

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  4. Hi Debby! What a nice tutorial for making string blocks and quilts. I haven't give it a try yet but it sure is a fabulous way to bust your scraps!! ~smile~ Roseanne

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  5. This is great - I have enough Kaffe "left overs" to do this. Thanks!!

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  6. I just finished my stack of 72 string blocks using the 7" x 9 1/2" pages from last year's
    local phone book. I LOVED using up my scraps! Can't wait to get them sewn into the top!

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    1. I would love to see your creation! Send me an email with your photo when you get the top done. You come through here as "unknown" so I have no way to email you. I'm so glad you enjoyed the process!

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  7. It is not clear to me how you remove the paper foundation you used, and what the back looks like once you do so. Any pictures of this to share?

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    1. IT helps to spray some water on the back where the paper is - the it will tear away without loosening the seams. the while still damp press with a iron.

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  8. My grandmother made quilts like this for years. She never threw anything out. But she left the paper on the back. She also used a shorter stitch length. Those quilts are still being used. The last one she made was in 1971, 50 years ago.

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    1. My mother in law taught me how to do this as my first introduction to scraps and quilting. We used a Christmas Stocking drawn on paper as a pattern.
      Used red and white fabric scraps. I still have the stockings made in 1978.

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  9. I was shown how to do string quilts and quilt as you go using blocks cut from old sheets. Could also use old table cloths, old fabric napkins (from garage sales or clearance sales). Makes the quilts a little thicker and don’t have to worry about the paper.

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    1. I also use inexpensive muslin. I prefer the muslin backing as it helps keep the strings stabilized and I don't worry about paper tags, on the back of the blocks, wetting my fabrics and I prefer the minor extra weight. I use all my scraps and string blocks for camping quilts.

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  10. i have made many string quilts. rectangles, triangles, hearts cut on a very lightweight interfacing and placed on a background square and satin stitched around , make a small square and cut out appliques from the string square (birds for one) the possibilities are endless and beautiful i have made baby quilts, lap quilts, twin size and queen size. loved it

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    1. Yes, I have used lightweight interfacing and muslin. Works great.

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  11. I will try this on muslin instead of paper! Great idea.

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  12. Thanks Debby for the exciting new way to do this. I made one patchwork quilt. This would be my 2nd one. I didn't understand about the paper thing til now. I will try it. Armand in Dade City, Florida

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    1. Stitching on paper to use up scraps has been going on for a few hundred years. It's a way to stabilize odd shaped pieces. Glad you were inspired!

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  13. I have checked out several sites on how to do a pieced quilt. I still don't understand why you have to sew the strips onto paper. Why not just sew strips together with a regular seam, then cut to shape & size?

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    1. Stitching on paper to use up scraps has been going on for a few hundred years. It's a way to stabilize odd shaped pieces. It also "tells" you when your unit is complete and it's ready to trim to size. This is one way and there are others.

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  14. I use used dryer sheets for foundation and leave them attached. The squares are rectangular but smaller. Don’t put your iron on the dryer sheets!

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    1. Yes, NEVER iron on the dryer sheet! Ask me how I know.

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  15. I made a quilt like this using cut flannel squares as the backing. I didn't have to remove the flannel, and it acted as batting for a lightweight quilt. It worked great!

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    1. Clever idea, Mary! The back with the flannel was like one of those "rag quilts" with the ruffly edges. I've made a few of those.

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  16. Obrigada adorei.sua demonstracao vou arumar. O material. Vou fazer

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  17. I used thin 12 x 12 inch scra book paper and increased the number of stitches. Worked great for me.

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  18. I used scrap book paper. When I was finished I trimmed squares up since not all paper is equal. Also helps to set stitches so they are closer. That helps when removing paper.

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  19. Sewing strings into a square allows one to choose from a fabulous variety of layouts that a rectangle does not allow.

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  20. I USE FLANNEL AS A BASE SINCE I ONLY DO QAUG QUILTS. WHEN PUTTING THE BLOCKS TOGETHER LASTER, I DECIDE TO DO A RAQ QUILT OR DO SASHING.

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  21. Beautiful. I use this method a lot for baby quilts. I accumulate scraps as I work ON other quilts and make blocks whenever I have spare time. As soon as I have enough, I assemble a quilt QAYG or backed with Minki without batting. If I use the minki, I use fabric (usually old sheets) as foundations instead of paper. When I have a few ready, I donate them to a hospital for the NICU.

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Thanks for stopping by Debby Kratovil Quilts! If you had a question and don't get an answer from me, please feel free to email me at: kratovil@his.com