String Block Pillow Tutorial

on February 10 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 109 Comments

Elizabeth from Don’t Call Me Betsy shows you how to make a traditional string block pillow today. Learn more about Elizabeth in her introduction, and be sure to comment for your chance to win one of 17 great prizes this week!

Stringy Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend
I love string blocks. They’re so much fun! String blocks are a fantastic way to use up the scraps of fabric that you have been hanging onto without knowing what you’ll do with them. And I love making pillows; I love the near-instant gratification you get from finishing off a pillow. In this tutorial we’re going to combine the fun of a string block with the ease of a pillow, so if you’ve put off making a string quilt because paper piecing frightens you or because you think it will be time-consuming, this is the perfect project for you.


  • Lots of 3-12″ long strings for your 4 string blocks (approx. 16 per block for a total of around 48) in varying widths from 1″ to 2.5″
  • 4 – 1″x12.5″ strips of coordinating solid
  • 2 – 1″x8″ strips of coordinating solid
  • 1 – 1″x15.5″ strip of coordinating solid
  • 2 – 3”x15.5.” strip of coordinating solid
  • 2 – 3″x18.5″ strips of coordinating solid
  • 4 – 8″x8″ pieces of scrapbook paper *
  • 2- 18.5″ x 12″ pieces for the back of the pillow
  • 18.5″ square scrap of muslin
  • 18.5″ square scrap of batting
  • 18″ pillow form
  • Glue stick

* Note: If you don’t have scrapbook paper, you can use regular printer paper and trim it down a 8″ square.

1. Take your scrapbook paper and 4 of your solid 1″x9″ strips. You’ll be gluing one of the solid strips to each piece of scrapbook paper, right side up, in the center of the square. You can measure it, if you really want to, but I personally just eyeball it. Use just a few dabs of glue, you’re only using it to keep your solid from shifting. You can also try double-sided tape in lieu of glue, if you have that around the house.

2. Next, set your machine’s stitch length to 1.4-1.5– This will create perforations in your scrapbook paper that will make it easier to remove after we finish the blocks. I used a walking foot, but a regular foot will work just fine as well.

3. Next, pick your first string. To attach to the block, lay it right sides together, on top of the solid strip we glued down. Match up the raw edges and stitch a quarter-inch seam down the length of the fabric.

Press the fabrics open, gently pulling your string away from the solid, creating a seam that’s pressed toward the new string you just added.

4. Continue adding strings in the same fashion – lining up the raw edges, right sides together, and sewing a quarter-inch seam down the length of the string, then pressing, until you have filled one side of the block.

5. Then move to the other side of your solid string, and begin adding to it just the same way that you did on the other side.

6. When you’re done, the back of your scrapbook block will look kind of crazy, with fabric hanging all around the edges.

Trim your fabric down to match the edges of your scrapbook paper, ensuring you wind up with an 8″ square.

7. Repeat with all four pieces of scrapbook paper (or printer paper), yielding four string blocks. Next, we’ll work on taking off the paper. Remember when I told you that your seams would act as perforations? Fold back each perforation, one by one, and rip off.

The only part that may give you trouble is the center, where we glued the solid piece down just a little bit. Begin by trying to get the paper started– Stick your fingernail between the fabric and the scrapbook paper at a corner. Try to peel the fabric away from the paper.

Don’t worry if some of the paper sticks to your fabric, it won’t hurt anything, I promise.

You can also try to fold your fabric in half to try to force the paper from the seams. Once you get the paper started, you can stick your finger in between your fabric and paper and continue to pull them apart along the seam.

8. Now that you’ve taken all the paper off, we can assemble the pillow front. We’re going to be making a diamond shape with the solid in the center of each string block, so play around with the blocks until you’re happy with the layout.

9. Let’s add some sashing between the blocks to set them off and really make them stand out. We’ll be adding a 1″ x 8″ strip in the center of each of the two rows of blocks. Make sure to change your stitch length back to a standard 2″ or 2.5″, whichever you prefer.

Add a 1″x 8″ strip to the right side of the leftmost blocks for each row. Press well, then match the remaining raw edge of the sashing strip with the left side of the remaining string block for each row. Attach using a quarter-inch seam.

We’ll also add a 1″ x 15.5″ strip in between the two rows. Pin well, and make sure to match up the center solid sashing strips for each row. Use a quarter-inch seam and press seams open.

10. We’re almost done with constructing the pillow front! Next, we’ll add the wide sashing strips all the way around our stringy diamond. Add a 3″x15.5″ strip to the top and bottom first, matching up the raw edges, right sides together, and pinning well before seaming together with a quarter-inch seam. Press the seams open.

Next, add the two 3″x18.5″ strips to the left and right sides of the block, matching up the raw edges, right sides together, pinning well, and attaching using a quarter-inch seam.

11. Time for some simple quilting! Make a quilt sandwich with your pillow front, batting scrap and muslin scrap. Quilt as desired, I quilted mostly using straight lines, in a square motif, and a meandering stipple in the wide sashing areas.

12. Trim the quilted pillow front to 18.5″ square. Next, visit Julie’s super-thorough Pillows 101 post for the details on how to make the pillow back.

13. Ta da! A finished pillow. Stringy diamonds really are a girl’s best friend, especially when all you want to do is curl up with a good book.

Enter our Pillow Contest! Create a pillow this month and enter to win some fabulous prizes.

You can also comment on any post this week for your chance to win one of these great prizes below, courtesy of Robert Kaufman Fabrics:

1 fat quarter pack of Betty Dear, 5 Kona Cotton color cards, 1 fat quarter pack of Night & Day in the Summer Colorstory, 10 sets of 5 Kona charm packs

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109 Responses to String Block Pillow Tutorial

  1. Kirie says:

    The combination of aqua and red is wonderul!

  2. Oh my. Love love love.

  3. Kelli says:

    I’ve always wanted to try making string blocks. Definitely need to try this tute, thanks!

  4. Connie says:

    Terrific tutorial! The close-up pictures are the best. I was wondering what design you used for the quilting. The straight lines look good against the diagonal. This project is great for using up my scraps.

  5. Shannon Lowe says:

    What a great tutorial – and not as intimidating as I thought it might be! I am itching to get home from work so I can try it! THANK YOU!

  6. Chantal says:

    I have my fabric cut out to make this pillow! It is beautiful!

  7. Paula says:

    Very simple tute! Thanks for sharing. I tend to use my ‘what was I thinking’ fabric for the foundation, so no need to remove the paper. Speeds up the process.

  8. Connie says:

    Beautiful pillow and wonderful tutorial! I can’t believe what a different design you get by adding the contrasting color! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Janet K says:

    This is a great block tutorial – thanks!

  10. i like your quilting choices!

  11. Lynda says:

    This would be a great way to use up some scraps!

  12. thanks for the lovely string tutorial!

  13. Cruz says:

    Thanks for this great tutorial!

  14. Beth T says:

    As much technique as I learn here at Sew, Mama, Sew, I learn at least as much about color, and the confident use of it. Thanks for sharing your tutorial and your beautiful, inspiring pillow.

  15. Kelly says:

    Great tutorial! Gorgeous pillow.

  16. Claire says:

    I’m going to try it! Its such a cool way using the paper.

  17. Carla says:

    Awesome Pillow!! Thank you for the great tutorial! I’ve bookmarked it and added it to my to-do list! 🙂

  18. marilyn podoll says:

    I have lots of scraps just waiting for this ….great tute!

  19. Meg says:

    Thank you for such an excellent tutorial. I am inspired!

  20. dls says:

    Love pillows and this one is soooo pretty. Great tutorial, thanks for sharing.

  21. Jessica says:

    This is such a cute pillow! Going in my “to do” folder!

  22. Sylvia says:

    Really cute pillow, thanks for the tutorial!

  23. MamaBee says:

    So pretty! I want to try this.

  24. Debbie says:

    This pillow looks great and best of all, it looks fun to make.

  25. Maya says:

    Using scrapbook paper is a really interesting technique.

  26. Katie says:

    *gasp* That pillow is stunning!!

  27. Joni says:

    Thank you for sharing. It’s so beautiful!

  28. I love doing this fun technique! Great colors!

  29. Jill B says:

    Beautiful! I want to try a string block.

  30. Celeste says:

    I love this pillow.

  31. JennE says:

    Love this tute! Great way to use scraps!

  32. Debra says:

    Super cute! Thanks for the tutorial!

  33. Brenda says:

    Really, really want to try this one!

  34. Joy says:

    I’ve been wanting to try string piecing…thanks for the tutorial!

  35. VickiT says:

    What a great looking pillow. Thank you very much for the tutorial as well.

  36. Sherry J says:

    thanks for the tutorial. awesome pillow.

  37. alisha says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I’ve been wanting to do a string block, but couldn’t figure out the paper-piecing. (Now I know I was doing it upside down — I thought the wrong side faced the paper.)

  38. Ann says:

    This is a great tutorial and a great way to use up those strips of fabric leftover from bindings, etc.!

  39. Kate says:

    Lovely! I have been thinking about making a string pieced pillow, so this tute will come in handy!

  40. Susan says:

    Thanks for the tutorial!

  41. Steph W says:

    What a fun project. Happy weekend!

  42. Amy says:

    I found that a little spray bottle with water in it helps getting the paper off if it doesn’t want to come off easily. Then you don’t need to tug and risk stretching out your block. It’s a lovely pillow!

  43. Heidi Anderson says:

    Great tutorial! I have always wanted to try this but thought it would be too hard. This doesnt look so bad!

  44. Rebecca says:

    LOVE string blocks! THANKS for the tute!

  45. Anya says:

    Great tute! Thanks!

  46. linda says:

    What, I wouldn’t have thought it was created in that way…cool…thanks for sharing!

  47. Sara says:

    Really pretty, thanks for sharing!

  48. SewLindaAnn says:

    I like the tutorial on how she does the string blocks. I’m excited to try the glue idea, it’s perfect! Now I just need to finish my potholders for the swap and I can start a pillow.

  49. CJ says:

    Pretty, pretty pillow. String blocks are on my long TO DO list.

  50. Kirsten N says:

    I would love to try these blocks too – great tutorial!

  51. JennyS says:

    Great Tutorial! I think I might have the fabric for this.

  52. angela says:

    love this tutorial!

  53. Laura says:

    Awesome tutorial and such fabulous pillows!!

  54. Cat says:

    very cool pillow

  55. Kim says:

    I love this one!! Great tutorial. You make it sound easy. I can’t wait to try it.

  56. Addy says:

    Thanks! I love this!

  57. Sharon T. says:

    Thanks for another great tutorial!

  58. Stephanie says:

    Nifty idea using the scrapbook paper to piece the strings. Just brilliant!

  59. Cat says:

    thanks for this tutorial ! it looks so easy…

  60. Crystal says:

    That. is. an. awesome. tutorial!! I’m sure that newbie-me can make one of these. I’ve seen string quilting mentioned but really had no clue about how to do it. Thanks so much!

  61. Kathy says:

    Excellent tutorial! Stunning result. Can’t wait to put it to good use. My mind is already envisioning color combos and prints. Thanks.

  62. alison says:

    Love the look of this pillow. On my never ending list of things to try!

  63. Barb in MI says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for the tutorial!

  64. Kate says:

    That is beautiful and what a great way to use up some of those scraps!

  65. Valerie H says:

    Oo tricksy! I love the idea of using paper to make it really simple. It’s still a lot of sewing though.

  66. Paula says:

    I love this. Can’t wait to try it. What an excellent tutorial.

  67. Dawn S. says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! I’ve been saving selvages, I just might have enough to try this soon! 🙂

  68. Ms. Fine says:

    Gracious. I always thought it was much harder than this. Maybe this is like Ginger Rogers though… it looks easy but in practice??

  69. Kristi says:

    I love it! Now what I know what I am going to be doing tonight!

  70. Margaret says:

    Great pillow and great tutorial…very versatile pattern.

  71. Jennifer says:

    Great use for all my leftover binding strips!

  72. Angie says:

    Very cute pillow. I love the quilting on it too. Great job!

  73. Meg says:


  74. Marcia W. says:

    Love those strings !

  75. Lauren says:

    I can’t wait to try this!

  76. Brooke says:

    Great tutorial, Elizabeth! You made this look so easy that maybe I can even do it! =)

  77. Jessica says:

    I had no idea how people did quilting like this!

  78. Laura Reich says:

    Oh, that’s awesome! I had no idea this is how people accomplished such beautiful pillows.

  79. Yup, Your right, It makes me want to try this tutorial this weekend!

  80. Rebecca says:

    Beautiful! I want to try this!

  81. Krystina says:

    Great tutorial! String blocks have always scared me, but this actually looks do-able!

  82. Andi says:

    Thanks for another great tutorial! I’ve never made string blocks before and it looks like fun!

  83. Bethany says:

    Beautiful pillow…and thanks for the great tutorial!

  84. Marcia W. says:

    Good tutorial for stringy blocks – must try this method. Thanks.

  85. Keri says:

    lovely tutorial!

  86. sharonj says:

    Love string blocks, great for using up all of those scraps! This is a excellent tutorial, very clear instructions. Thank you.

  87. Cassandra says:

    Oh wow! That almost looks doable. What a fantastic tutorial. Thank you!

  88. Wendy says:

    Great tutorial, I’m going to try it!

  89. Colleen says:

    Thank you for the great tutorial. Love the pillow – its very happy looking!

  90. Susan says:

    Ahh another wonderful creation by Elizabeth D.!

  91. Robyn says:

    what a great tutorial! I almost believe I could do this!

  92. Maryann says:

    Love this!!!!

  93. Sara says:

    i love the sashing between the string blocks. i’ll have to try that next time.

  94. Tong says:

    so pretty!

  95. Susan C. says:

    I’ve been wanting to try a string block, and this is the perfect type of project – low-commitment, high-impact!

  96. Erin d. says:

    I love this and love her blog…thanks for introducing me to her!!!

  97. Tara says:

    I wonder if anyone in my office would know if I busted out my sewing machine and just made one of these really quickly?… This tutorial makes it look so easy!

  98. Wendy D. P. says:

    beautiful string pillow!

  99. patricia says:

    This is not as complicated as it looks. This is a gorgeous pillow. I will have to make one of these. Thanks for sharing.

  100. Valerie says:

    Cute! Easy, too … I love it ~ thanks!

  101. Kate F. says:

    I’d always assumed that strings blocks would be complicated, but this doesn’t seem to hard.

  102. Jenny says:

    gorgeous pilllow

  103. Becky t says:

    oh gosh this is wonderful and looks so easy to do

  104. Vanessa says:

    Great tutorial, thanks!

  105. Sarah McGrath says:

    Oh fantastic tutorial! Dying to try it!

  106. Debbie Hicks says:

    Your tutorial is wonderful. I have done this using muslin as the base to stitch pieces onto. I draw a diagonal line corner to corner and then begin adding “strings.” You wouldn’t have to trim paper off afterwards and dull your needle.

  107. Desirée says:

    wowie what a great pillow, thanks for the tutoral!

  108. Joanne says:

    Very pretty pillow and neat tutorial! I especially like the pale blue x across the pillow.

  109. Jeni says:

    This is my favorite pillow so far! I can’t wait to make my own! Thank you!

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