Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Diamond Strings!

"Diamond-in-a-Square" Strings!

(Click HERE for printer-friendly version)

finished size approx 61" x 69" A great lap size!
Sept, 2005: This quilt donated to Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts.

I am addicted to string quilts just as much as other scrap quilts. I love their whimsical appearance, riot of color and the freedom from having to match match match! Do you have a bin of over flowing small strips and strings? These little 6" blocks may be just the ticket to set your strings free!

These directions require the use of the Wondercut Ruler. The use of this ruler makes these string squares easy, fun and accurate with little effort! (terrific for anything needing a bunch of 1/2 square triangles in no time at all!)

Let's Begin!

This is my bin of strings! :c) What a mess! But so much potential!

Into this bin I toss odd shaped pieces from squaring up backings, tapered ends from trimming up yardage when rotary cutting, anything that I don't feel like cutting down into uniform strips, and anything less than 1.5". This is the END of my fabric food chain! The last stop on the road to being "useable". But strings, as humble as they are...can be beautiful and so fun and rewarding to work with!

This is my other friend, Kabnet Wax Paper!

See how beat up the box is?! I get this at Sam's Club or Costco. This is the kind of deli paper that you would find lining the food baskets at your local deli, the size is about 10X10 and is great for foundation piecing. It tears off very easily when it is time to remove the paper. Other paper I like to use....OLD PHONE BOOKS! The pages aren't as large, but the paper also comes off easily when it is time to remove it. For this project I do like to use paper foundations because my strings are not all straight cut strips of fabric. Some have torn edges, some have slightly curvy edges...and having a foundation means I am going to have a square of "manufactured fabric" from my strings that will lie flat. If you end up sewing without foundation and your strips are curvy, you could have bumps and waves.

It is okay to piece straight strips that you have rotary cut together the same way as this string piecing method, without foundation. That is your choice.

Step One!

Starting somewhere near the center of the paper...Place two strips right sides together and sew through all layers using a slightly smaller stitch length. Press the top strip open, and continue to add strips until the entire paper is covered. Smaller strips add a lot of interest, so even if you only end up with 1/4" of fabric showing....use it! My strings generally run from 3/4" up to 2". I don't like to use anything bigger than that for string quilts, they aren't as interesting and are better used for other projects using wider evenly cut strips.

Square the piece up by making your first cut across the strips following the edge of the paper. Then square the left and right sides along the edges of the strips, aligning a line on the ruler to the top edge you first cut. This ensures that three sides are SQUARE to each other. The 4th side isn't important because it will be trimmed off in the next step!

Using the Wondercut ruler, find the 3 1/2" marking and line it up along the edge of your string piecing as shown. Make 3 cuts across the width of the fabric, each using the 3 1/2" marking on the Wondercut ruler. With the Kabnet Wax paper I can get 3 cuts across the pieced section. If you are using other paper, you might be able to get more or less. When I have cut the strips, this is when I stop and quickly remove the paper. After this point the paper isn't needed, so it is easier to remove it now, a few pieced strips at a time, than to wait until all the blocks are made and have to deal with picking it out of seam allowances!

Take all your string strips back to the machine and stitch them end to end into one big long worm!

I like to piece them into approx 45" lengths. Then, using the same Wondercut ruler, cut strips of whatever background fabric you want to use for the triangles on the outside of the string square. In the quilt shown above, I used a white/tan shirting print. Here in this demo, I'm using a white on cream. If you are using bright fabrics or batiks, black or purple works WONDERFUL! Place your string strip on top of your corner triangle strip with right sides together. This time you are going to sew down BOTH long sides with 1/4" seam forming a long tube. Take your tube to your ironing board and press well. This keeps the layers from shifting when you cut.

Align the 3 1/2" line on the corner of the Wondercut ruler along the bottom edge of your strip, and make two cuts. Voila! you have one block quarter! Flip the strip and make your second cut. Continue to flip the strip and align the 3 1/2" line on the ruler to the bottom of the tube.....cut as many as you can down the length of the tube!

Take your stack of block quarters to the ironing board. I like to press towards the UNPIECED triangle because the piecing lays flatter, than it would if I were to try to fold all those seams back against themselves. See the 'dog ears' at the corners? Cut those off! Four block quarters make a block....and I got three blocks from the one string covered piece of Kabnet wax paper! You might want to piece several tubes first before starting to sew the block quarters together. This way you avoid putting the same fabrics together in the same blocks for a much more random look.


With triangles there will always be a bias edge along at least one side of the triangle ....(sometimes two). When the block quarters are
sewn together, and then the blocks sewn to the sashing, those seams stabilize the bias edges, just as sewing two bias edges of two half-square triangles together does. No matter what your method of half-square triangle construction is....whether you use thangles, draw a grid and sew, cut squares and slice them on the diagonal..which ever method you use, you are still sewing bias to bias. :c)
Just be careful. I didn't have any problem with these at all!

I don't mind bias edges, and sometimes I prefer them because they ease and nestle right where I want them to.

If you want to cut your background strips for the plain block corners on the bias to begin with, your edges at least for the solid triangles around the pieced center will end up on the straight grain. I find this leaves me with a more 'unweildy' stretchy strip of fabric, and then what do I do with the remaining fabric that I cut the bias strips from? The left over fabric that I started with will be harder for me to use too! (or want to use because the edge is a big angle!) I would rather start with straight cut strips and end up with block edges on the bias.

Because the string piecing strips finish on the diagonal, they will always have the bias on the outside edges. Our fore-quilters who have been making string quilts for centuries never seemed to fret about this! So let yourself go, forget about all the rules, and just give this a try!

For this quilt I made 42 6" blocks and set them 6 X 7. I set the blocks with 2.5"X6.5" cut black sashings, and added 2.5" cut red cornerstones. I added a 1.5" cut electric blue inner border and finished off the whole thing with a different grey/black print that had red in it and pulled the whole thing together. My objective was to make a vintage looking quilt from around 1900 using my own scraps and what I had on hand. I love how it turned out! Here is a close up so you can see the sashing/cornerstones/border fabrics I used:

Food for thought! Because these blocks are made with half-square triangle units, you can use them to piece ANY block pattern that uses half-square triangles! Try pinwheels! You can set them in any layout that works for log cabin blocks! Try barn raising! Play with them to your hearts content and enjoy the frugal giggles you get from using up the humblest of fabric scraps into something so beautiful!

This baby quilt with the cream background was made for my niece using the same method....only LARGER 1/2 square triangles. Try making them with 4.5" cuts or 5.5" cuts instead of 3.5" cuts! Bigger blocks, faster quilt! Same quilt, made for another neice, Lucie, using a double pink as the background.

Braided Diamonds! String Star Medallion!

Mirror Image Diamonds!

Diamond Strings Gallery


  1. Anonymous3:15 PM EDT

    hi Bonnie, I don't know what a dashboard page is so...Anyway, can I print out your string directions for our guild as our challenge this year is "Stash Busters"? I'll give you credit and I've already included your blog in our newsletter. Thanks Anne d.lrichardson@comcast.net

  2. This looks fun Bonnie thankyou for writing such brilliant instructions. In the middle of sorting through a huge bag of trimmings, scraps etc from previous projects. I have a feeling the strings will get used for this.

  3. Wow! I've been quilting for many years, but only really easy stuff. I LOVE this pattern, and am really going to have to try it -- SOON!!! {:-)

  4. Anonymous7:20 PM EST

    Thanks for this post. I've been wanting to try rows of fabric and this quilt is a great idea.
    Even though, I am still new to quilting: I feel confident I can complete this pattern with your instructions. I will let you know when how I make out!

  5. Anonymous7:01 AM EDT

    I am totally inspired ! Thanks for sharing...love that you can create so many different quilts with HSTs and the economy of colorful scraps. I'm stoked (as they say here in Australia). I have so so many scraps! Janine in Melbourne

  6. This is a great idea for all those little bits of leftover fabrics. Will definitely give it a go.

  7. This is a great idea for using up those leftover bits of fabric. I will definitely give it a go.

  8. Thank you. As a new quilter paper piecing is what I choosebecause no matter how complicated tthey
    Product comes out perfect. No cut points etc,etc,etc.

  9. Anonymous3:48 PM EST

    I have been piecing for over 24 years, and this method looks just what the DOC ordered! Thanks for the wonderful ideas!

  10. I have been piecing for over 24 years and I find this method to be a great way to "clean" out my stash that I have found hard to get rid of. Thank you!


If you are commenting as "anonymous" please leave your name at the end of your comment.

Did you know that ad space on this blog provides for all of the free patterns and free mysteries and challenges at no cost to you? Without ads, this blog would not be possible.

Thank you for understanding the many hours that go into this blog 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. :)