String Blocks…Anything goes?!

Last week I did a post about how I sort out my scraps…for this I was referring to the small scraps that work for string blocks or crumb blocks.  If you missed it, read about it here.  I have buckets for scrap pieces that are cut into strips too.  I’ll tell more about them another day.  Today’s post is more about strings.

I talked about sorting into two buckets a white based and a cream based tote.

I had a wonderful response to that post.  MANY people commented and wrote to me thanking me for the explanation.    Today I have a follow up to that post.  This one focuses on string blocks.

I’ve made LOTS of string blocks.  Here are just a few of the string quilts I’ve made….

Roll Roll Cotton Boll….

Talkin’ Turkey….

Jamestown Landing….


Blue Skies…


Read more about any of them HERE.

I’ve learned so much form my first string to where I am today.  For a long time I thought “Any string goes!!”.  But I’ve learned it doesn’t…at least not for the look I’m going for.

Let me show you some of the red string blocks I’m working on right now for Bonnie Hunter’s pattern Hunter’s Star.  I’m loving these.  I love the quilt and can’t wait to see this together.  If you take a look at these blocks you can see for the most part, the reds would be coming out of my “cream based scrap box”.  The fabrics are darker…they even have cream accents in many of the fabrics.

Well as I was sewing on these I thought about the size of the quilt.  I realized that I’d need to make another 24 blocks if I wanted to enlarge it.  About then I remembered that I had bought a bag of scraps at the thrift store and in the bag were some red string blocks.

Well thanks to my recent sewing room clean up, I knew EXACTLY where they were.  I pulled them out.  I realized that the corners had blue on them and that these blocks were bigger than mine.  I cut off the corners and added a piece of red.  When I trimmed them I them the opposite blue corner wouldn’t be included in the block.

I took them to my cutting station and something didn’t look quite right.
Can you see the thrifted blocks on the left and my blocks on the right?

See how the thrifted block is mixed with “white fabric based” and “cream fabric based” scraps??
My blocks are “cream based”.  
If I put one of the thrifted blocks with my blocks it looks like this….
I know if being picky…but I feel like the thrifted block looks different than mine.

Like I said, I know it’s picky but I won’t put the thrifted block in my quilt.  Here’s why..

1-I think they are more white based.  My neutrals that I used are cream based.  I’m afraid if I only put these eight blocks in that look like this, they will stick out.

2-The thrifted block have five strings to each…my others have six or seven.  Again, will they stick out?

3-Although some people don’t mind if their reds are all mixed together, I will admit, I do mind.  This would bug me.  I have OCD tendencies about some things…this is one.

I’ve made a few rules for myself when I make my string blocks.  I try to have a variety of prints and pieces that solid or read as solid.  When selecting the next string I try to make sure that it is different than the one already there in one of the following ways…

1-tone is different
2-print is noticeably different
3-strip size is noticeably different

I am WELL aware that a group of you are reading this and rolling your eyes saying- “Oh Jo, you’re too picky”.

I also know that people often compliment me on color selection and ask me about my view on it…so this is the general thought process that I follow.  This is why I sort my scraps like I do…I want to quickly get to a string/crumb bucket and be able to start sewing.  I don’t want a big mixed up box and try to work from there.

I think this is one of the reasons I can sew as many quilts as I can…it’s organized the way I use it.

For those of you who have been interested in how I sort and use scraps, I hope this gives you the next step in scrap sorting…

34 thoughts on “String Blocks…Anything goes?!”

  1. Jo thanks again for posting about color. Color is so hard for me especially reds, there are so many shades of red! You make it very easy with your cream and white base comparisons! Before I would have mixed them because I didn’t know better! Now I know! I personally think it looks so much better! Thanks again! Maybe someday someone will actually compliment me on my colors!!!

  2. My next new project will likely be from Lynn Harris’s book, so I’m thankful you are going into such detail about strings. Thanks!!!

  3. Thank you again for such a helpful post! I have been using your “white” versus “cream” sorting method since you posted it and it’s nice to see it “in action” with your string blocks.

  4. I sort all my fabrics this way…ever since your first post about it. I can’t thank you enough for clarifying the process. Like you, I would choose not to add the thrifted blocks to the quilt, for the same reasons. My friends think I’m crazy, but I am happy with the final results.

  5. Jo, you need to do what works for you. Some of those blocks would bother me too, but not all of them. For the one block, it’s more that the center has a large print, which contrasts with your blocks. I love scrappy quilts, but there is a limit to what I will do. We each have our own style. Stick to your. You make awesome quilts!

  6. Thank you, this definitely helps. Color is always a challenge for me. Do you apply the same rule with neutral’s or do you mix creams & whites?

  7. Jo, Thanks so much for the post. I totally get it. I can see where it would really make a difference in the quilts you make. Hope to get some string blocks done soon.

  8. Thank you Jo for this post. It is certainly great information for me to use. I am in the process of organizing my sewing room and my fabrics. This information along with your other post will help me a lot. I have a problem defining neutrals but this information is a big help in that department.

  9. I’m right there with you, Jo. Several of my early quilts have one fabric that I wish I could replace. They are the wrong tone, and stand out. I’m trying to be more aware of this as I make scrap quilts now. I recently made a couple of log cabin scrappy quilts and noticed that when I was done, all that was left in the bin was the cream based, civil war like prints. I guess I lean more toward the brights. I might just empty out what’s left in those sting bins and start fresh… and stop buying fabrics I won’t use.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. Jo I am so grateful for this information on scrapes. Keeping it organized like you is going to be a big help. I have learned so many tips from you. What a great teacher to help us out with our strings. I will look at my strings another way from know on. I have often felt their was something wrong with my colors but with your advise it makes sense. thank you for the suggestions and tips. The color photos where an eye opening.

  11. I am very grateful for your posts regarding color. And they came at the perfect time, when I am asking myself how to go about getting a certain “look” in my scrap quilts. I love scrappy quilts, but I’ve noticed that some definitely have a color theme and I wasn’t sure about how to achieve that. I am a rule follower, and I just need some rules to follow! I also have never enjoyed the color choosing process. I can do it if I must, but get most of my enjoyment from the actual construction of the quilt. So thank you, thank you, THANK you!

  12. I’m with Kris P–Early in my quilting “journey” I made a Civil War quilt that has a couple of blocks that really stand out because the neutral is too light. Your use of color is amazing and I’ve really enjoyed your posts about cream based vs white based.

  13. This is a helpful and thoughtful post. And really, beauty is in the eye of the maker, so make it your way and be glad you did. It took me a while to learn that last part, but I’ve learned that usually the most important opinion on a choice like this is my own in the end.

  14. Thanks for this post. I think so much like you – I call it controlled scrappy. One additional thing I do is when making the BH mysteries, I don’t like backgrounds/lights that are too busy. Unlike Bonnie, I mainly stick to a variety of tone on tones because I find the pattern design is lost or muddled due to the distracting background. This is evident when I compare my finished mystery quilt with others belonging to quilting friends who use busy background fabrics. Just my two cents worth.

  15. This post was very helpful & so timely for me, especially that I’m thinking about making a red quilt – dominate color – for my son sometime this new year. In seeing your pictures I realized the reds that I use just like you state would have to be either white or cream based in one quilt. So before I begin another quilt I will first sort some more. Again this was another useful post about color & I thank you very much. Happy New Year to you & your wonderful family!

  16. String quilts are some of my favorites to make. Sometimes I care if the colors go together and sometimes I just use the “anything goes” method. I can understand being OCD on some things though, and you definitely should follow your instincts if you want to be happy with the finished quilt.

  17. What about your the fabrics in the Pumpkin Patch quilt? We’re those all cream based? I ask because I gathered my orange scraps and they are definitely a mixture of white and cream base. It’s my first strip quilt!

  18. Jo, thanks for your description of sorting color by white-based or cream-based. I’ve studied color for many years and yours is the most easily understandable description of differences in character I’ve seen.
    To tone down the white-based reds and the whites in those prints, try over-dyeing them with dilute tan dye. A tablespoon of liquid RIT in the sink with all the string blocks should do it. Soak, rinse well, soak again with Retayne and rinse with plain water. I’ve used this method to turn bright white cream or ivory and been very happy with the results.

  19. Thanks so much Jo for this advice in sorting string scraps. I appreciate having loose rules to follow, so this should help my selection process go much faster. (and yield better results!)

  20. Roberta Campbell

    I’ve been intrigued by the “scrap” quilts and string methods for so long but totally afraid to jump in ! I took
    a couple workshops from B H in 2014 but after the classes my confidence went right away. I keep pushing
    but have never quite made it the the “jump in” point. I think after these 2 posts of yours I’m going to make the jump ! It might be a bit chicken but I ordered a mixed pack of oranges from QT’s and am going to try with them. B’s mystery clues have 2 opportunities to try the strings,so fortified with printouts from your 2 color posts I’m making the plunge. Thanks, I think .

  21. Jo, Thank you for sharing your process. I make string quilts and try to let my self go and not make them too matchy-matchy. I like a little surprise here and there in a quilt, but as I’m pulling strings I tend to be picky about the colors I choose. It takes me letting go of perfectionism to make a string quilt that I think it interesting. It’s funny you talk about OCD because my husband hates string quilts. He says he wouldn’t be able to sleep under one because they’re too busy. I wonder if I made one more like your style if he would still feel that way. Knowing him, it wouldn’t make a difference since he likes orderly and organized, not scrappy in anyway. Too bad for him because I adore scrappy!!!

  22. Virginia Grenier

    That’s the beauty of quilting. We can each work in the way that we are most comfortable. There is no absolute right or wrong – just like or dislike. If you dislike it – it doesn’t work for you.

    Clearbrook MN

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