Make use of even your smallest scraps with this mini string quilt blocks tutorial. String blocks have long been used by quilters to use up fabric scraps. But with my mini string blocks, you can use even your tiniest scraps!
How small is too small to save a fabric scrap? I wrestle with that problem more often than I’d like to admit. And the reality is, I’ve found myself saving some pretty tiny fabric scraps. My current minimum size is 1” x 1”. That’s pretty small, especially when you factor in seam allowances.
I sort most of my normal size fabric scraps into bins by color, but my tiny fabric scraps all get tossed into a bin together.
And the thing is, I generate waaaaay more tiny fabric scraps than I have time to sew up. The bin where I store my tiny fabric scraps was overflowing. It was time to do something.
I decided string blocks would be a fun way to use them up. They’re easy to sew and require no planning, no color matching, no matching points. Just pull scraps out of the bin and sew them up!
What is a String Block?
For those wondering what a string block is, it’s a type of quilt block that uses narrow strips of fabric. You sew the long narrow strips of fabric down to a foundation block in a stitch-and-flip method, continuing to add strips of fabric until the foundation is covered. Voila! A string block! Okay, it’s slightly more complicated than that. But not much.
You can make string quilt blocks in any size you like, though usually people make them pretty big. Which makes sense if you’re making a full quilt and using up long narrow strips of fabric. But for this project I needed tiny blocks because my scraps were tiny.
These mini string blocks are 2.5” square. When you factor in seam allowances, they’ll make 2” squares in a patchwork piece. And it so happens that 2.5” is the same as a mini charm square of pre-cut fabric. So any tutorial that uses mini charm squares can use your mini string quilt blocks. How lucky is that!
To give you a sense of scale, the stripes in those blocks are ½” and 3/8” wide. Started with 1” and 7/8” wide strips of fabric.
To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how this would all work out. It was kind of an experiment to see what strings quilt blocks would look like on such a small scale. And on an individual basis, they’re kind of plain looking. But put them all together and WOW!
What can you make from mini string quilt blocks?
ANYTHING! But since these mini string quilt blocks are 2.5”, just look for any tutorial that uses mini charm squares. Instead of the mini charms, use a mini string block instead and you’ve got an adorable piece of patchwork!
These mini string quilt blocks are easy to make. The stitch-and-flip method removes any need to match corners. Just stitch, flip, stitch flip till your block is covered!
I should tell you that even though they’re easy to sew, these little blocks do require a lot of cutting and sewing. So keep that in mind when planning what you’ll make from them. It might take a while to make a project that uses a lot of mini string blocks.
On the other hand, these little blocks are so gorgeous when they’re sewn together that it would totally be worth it. And if you make the blocks in an assembly line fashion in sets of 4 or more at a time, it can really speed up your sewing time.
I pieced some of mine together to make a beautiful pillow wrap. (Get the tutorial here.) I’ve still got a few more squares to play with, so look for another project that uses them too.
Got lots of small scraps like me? My scrap fabric coasters are another great way to use up those tiny fabric scraps!
How to sew mini string quilt blocks
-- Quilting cotton scraps cut into strips, some 1” wide and some 7/8” wide
-- Foundation -Quilting cotton or muslin 2.75” x 2.75”, 1 foundation square per block. (You'll trim it down to 2.5 when making the block.)
-- Glue stick
All seam allowances 1/4". RST = Right Sides Together
Place a strip of fabric diagonally across the foundation piece, right sides up. I use a little bit of glue stick to keep this piece from slipping.
I like to make sure my diagonal strip is centered across the foundation. The easiest way to make sure you’ve got your strip centered diagonally is to place a bit of glue on the back of your fabric strip, and then place the foundation on TOP. This way you can make sure the corners of the foundation are at the centers of your fabric strip.
Now, place another strip of fabric RST on top of the first fabric strip, lining up raw edges along one side. Sew down this edge.
Flip that second piece over at the seam and press. There will be bits of fabric sticking out past the edge of your foundation. Just leave them for now. You’ll trim them all off later.
Now, place ANOTHER strip of fabric RST on top of that strip, with raw edges aligned. Sew down this edge.
Flip this piece of fabric over and press. See where we're going with this?
Continue adding strips of fabric and flipping them over until the entire block is covered.
Remember, you haven’t trimmed any of the extra fabric off the edges so it probably looks like a hot mess.
Now, you get to trim the block. This is where the magic happens!
Turn the block over so the wrong side is facing up.
Trim all the extra pieces of fabric from around the block. Then, trim the block down to 2.5” square. Look at how cute your mini string quilt block is!
The reason we started with a slightly larger block than needed is that the foundation tends to shrink and warp a little with all those seams being sewn across it on the bias. Starting with a slightly larger foundation allows for that shrinkage.
Now go and make a bunch of these mini blocks to create some adorable mini scrappy patchwork designs!