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.
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