The Diary of a String Piecer

I told you all that Kelli and her kiddos were at my house and Kelli and I were trying to get some pieces sewn together for an upcoming deadline quilt we have that will be published with American Patchwork and Quilting.  It happens to be a string quilt that we are both really excited about.

Being Kelli has the kids it’s not often that we get to sew together anymore…and honestly, this time wasn’t really sewing together as we took turns sewing and ironing as we had to be careful with the kids and the equipment.  It was progress though and someday the kids will get a little older and we’ll be in a better place to sew together again.

Kelli and the kids left.  I left the mess for a day then decided it was time to clean things up out of the dining room and wrestle the machine back up to the sewing room.  I decided while it was out to finish the remaining pieces we needed.  It gave me a little time to think…

As you can guess from the picture below, our project needs string pieces. As I was sewing I was thinking back to the first time I ever did string piecing…


To be honest, I thought what a stupid thing to do…cut all this fabric apart to sew it back together.  Weird…but that was what the designer called for so I did it.  At the time, I didn’t save strings and didn’t have a string box.

The quilt I was working on was Roll, Roll Cotton Boll.  It was the Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt in 2011.  Oh, did I ever moan when it was time to make the string pieces.  I was actually a little frustrated because they were introduced later in the mystery.  Had I known at the time they were coming, I’ll be honest, I might not have made the quilt.

RRCB-1But after it was finished, I was in love.  I love that I was able to use up and sneak in some undesirable fabric.  I loved that the strings made the quilt look more interesting.  I loved the movement the string pieces gave to the quilt.
RRCB-2At this point.  I was hooked.  At the time, there was still one thing I didn’t like.  I cut up perfectly good fabric to make strings.
RRCB-3You can read all about my quilt HERE.

That all changed though.  I started rethinking my scrap storage and purposely started collecting strings.

Nowadays I don’t cut up perfectly good fabric for strings unless it’s an ugly one I am culling from my collection.  I save anything that is smaller than 1 1/2″ and throw it in my string bucket.  Sometimes larger pieces make it in.  Binding leftovers are cut in half and thrown in.  Scraps from blog readers and thrown in.  Leftover odds and ends that I don’t feel like trimming down get thrown in.

I’ve actually evolved into having several string/scrap bins.

I have two for dark colors like you see in the tote above.

I have two with bright colors…

I have one for batiks.
There is one for recycled shirt fabrics too.

I try and try to whittle them down with the hope of only having one tote for brights and reproduction fabric but try as I might, it never works.

I like to keep them all separated by color this way.  It saves time when I’m piecing to not have to dig through the colors that won’t work in the project I’m stitching.

After Roll, Roll Cotton Boll, I had become head over heels in love with string piecing.  My next project was Orca Bay.  Again, it was a Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt. The blue pieces in this were string pieced.

Ocra_Bay_Front
You can imagine my delight when… Bonnie Hunter released her book String Fling.  You can find it HERE on Amazon.
I went on and made every quilt in the book.  You can read the blog post I did when I showcased every quilt from the book HERE.  For now, I thought I’d show you a couple of my favorites…Blue Skies…

Blue-Skies-19-1
Pfeffernusse
I made this one after buying a big box of brown and neutral calico prints at a garage sale for $1.  I went on and later gifted this one to the granddaughter of the lady whose sale I bought the box from.  I’d love to remake this one.

Pfeffernuse-1-1
My Pineapple Crazy quilt was in the book too but this one really isn’t string pieced.  It’s paper pieced.


Santa Fe String Star
I could easily make another of this too.  Oh, I love this quilt.

Santa-Fe-String-Star-19

Tulip Fields
This was all done in Fall colors.  It’s so pretty for Fall.


Daylilies (More about the quilt HERE) was the quilt from the book I was least excited to make.  It required applique and I’m not an applique gal but I was so close to making every quilt in the book so I just did it.  This one was in batiks.  So fun.


In the end, I loved it!  It was worth stepping out of my comfort zone to complete.  I sewed all of the string pieces on my treadle sewing machine.  So FUN!!

You can see that my first experience with strings back when I made Roll Roll Cotton Boll, really made me turn a page and embrace a new to me quilting technic.

I’ve embraced it so much that even now as I’m designing my own quilts, I often design them with strings.

Here is my Stained Glass quilt that will be featured in Quilter’s World in an upcoming 2023 issue.

…and now, we have the new quilt we are working on that will be out in a 2023 issue of American Patchwork and quilting.

I just love string piecing.

I do have Bonnie’s follow-up book, String Frenzy.  Find it HERE.  This is another book I would love to make every quilt in the book of.


To date, I’ve made two Geese on String quilts from the book…a purple version…


…and a pink version. These were gifted to my childcare kiddos.

I also made this cutie.

pumpkin-patch-1
I would love to get back to this book and make the rest of the quilts in it but for now, I’m saying no.  I still want to get my UFOs under control and my sewing room back in shape…plus I have my own designing to do.  It’s always something but you can bet that I still take the book to bed at night and page through dreaming about the someday quilts I’d love to make with more strings.

…and that is the diary of a string quilter.

How about you?  Are you a string quilter?  I’d love to hear.

26 thoughts on “The Diary of a String Piecer

  1. Jean

    I am definitely a string quilter and have made several of the Bonnie quilts that you have done. Your string saving system is almost identical to mine. It’s amazing how fast you can accumulate nice strings that would have otherwise been thrown away.

    Reply
  2. Bonnie in SE CT

    Hi Jo, I find string quilting very addictive! I have a spider web quilt in progress and I have also made pot holders with strings. It’s is so relaxing and exciting to find the right colors and using up those odd pieces in the process! Live long and string on!!

    Reply
  3. Kim from TN

    I have both of Bonnies string books but have not made one yet, someday. I do love to read through the books and think of different colorways to make them. I look forward to seeing your newest string quilt when its published.

    Reply
  4. Linda Swanekamp

    I love the wonderful texture and value modulations of string quilts. I need to make another. I will pull out my books and do some browsing. Thanks for sharing, Jo, all those lovely quilt photos.

    Reply
  5. Kate

    Al your string quilts are beautiful! I have never done a string quilt but have wanted to make one for some time. I do not have the scraps like some of you do because I gave lots away before moving. I think I’ll start cutting my fat quarters into strips to use that way.

    Reply
    1. Rosalie

      Kate, just put the word out to a bunch of quilters and you will be inundated!
      I love to string piece. I call it mindless sewing.

      Reply
  6. Dee in Ohio

    I agree with you and love the movement string piecing gives a quilt. I just finished Bonnie Hunter’s string hunter star quilt. I think it give so much depth to the quilt instead of just using two fabrics all the same

    Reply
  7. Pamela Dempsey

    Yes, I love string piecing quilts! Bonnie’s Punkin Patch is my favorite and your brown background is so beautiful! I made a table runner like your pumpkins and I love it. I backed it with glow in the dark skeleton fabric and use that side for Halloween . I really enjoyed your spiderweb with red background videos and am working on one with lime green,so fun. Thanks,Jo for your blog and videos, I enjoy them so much

    Reply
  8. Allison C Bayer

    Yes! Bonnie helped me learn a new technique for all the strings I was saving, but didn’t have a use for — just couldn’t bear to toss them! I’ve made Roll Roll Cotton Bol (made with a group of friends), Orca Bay (my first on-line mystery with her), and Pfeffernusse as a class with her. I love strings and have passed on the love to others when they see me working on them. I so admire you making EVERY quilt from the book. I wonder how many have done that? Hmmmmm . . .

    Reply
  9. Jan McCann

    Jo, how about designing a string pattern that doesn’t use tiny pieces? Which is my objection to
    Bonnie Hunter’s patterns. I love your quilts and color ways you choose!

    Reply
  10. Judy

    I love string piecing. I think I have made about 20 quilts using this technique. I am currently preparing a presentation for my quilt guild in November, maybe I can convince some of my fellow quilters to try string quilts as well.

    I love looking at your string quilts, so nice to see quilts from a book done in different doorways. I too take quilt books to bed to read.

    Reply
  11. Rose Marie

    Learned string piecing from Miss Bonnie, too but from watching quiltcam archives. Don’t have either of her books, but I have made a Spiderweb baby quilt from her free patterns. Love piecing string blocks.

    Reply
  12. Linda

    Wow…it would be so fun to have those bins of scraps…..I need to work on getting more scraps…..your quilts are so wonderful…

    Reply
  13. Holly

    I have never heard of string piecer until today. I have 5 bins op pieces that would be enough for a quilt or 2. Your quilts are gorgeous. Thank you for doing something fun with all the scraps.

    Reply
  14. Pat Bozarth

    Jo, what shelving do you use for storing fabric tubs? They look nice & sturdy in picture. I’m relocating my fabric to one spot & organizing it. Thanks!

    Reply
  15. Linda Small

    Jo,
    Can you or a reader tell me if Bonnie Hunter’s string books require a foundation fabric? That would be a deal breaker for me.

    Thanks,
    Linda in PA

    Reply
    1. Jo Post author

      Hi Linda
      You do not need foundation papers if that is not your thing. She recommends telephone books and that is typically what I use but nothing is required.

      Reply
  16. Colleen

    Yes! I’m definitely a string quilter. I love the mindless sewing of strings :) I’ve made several Bonnie Hunter quilts: Four-Patch and Furrows, Lozenges, Scrappy Mountain Majesties, and My Blue Heaven. There were many more on my radar but I’ve found, as I get older (75), I don’t need to make big quilts any more. I have 26 tops completed that need quilted, as it is, and my shoulders can’t do it. So, I do string wallhanging quilts for myself as I watch Youtube videos or listen to a book. Love your videos :)

    Reply
  17. Michelle

    Jo, *You* are the one who inspired me to try string piecing. I have been saving small pieces for years because I hate to throw any pieces of fabric I’ve bought away. When I saw your Day Lilies version of BH’s pattern, I knew I wanted to do it. I finished it a month or so ago & it’s now on my bed. It made me realize how much bright, cheerful fabric I’ve used over the years. It won’t be right away, but next up for myself is Pfernusse; I love that one, too!

    Reply
  18. Laura

    (I have 3-4 of Bonnie’s books & a couple of patterns; started on Winston Ways, then fell out of like w my colorway and fabric choices.)
    I support the others’ suggestions that you consider getting your patterns written, and selling pdf copies, online. Maybe do a survey to determine which of your unpublished designs garners the most votes, and experiment with offering that one digitally first. You may recoup the fee paid a pattern writer, within the first 15 patterns sold. Then, gradually offer more.

    I’m making 6.5 & 10.5” string blocks in single colors from the strings and bits rejected by my quilting pals. Equally addictive as potato chips, but much more satisfying. For now, these are going into my “parts department”. This may be the project that works for my long camping roadtrip. Maybe I’ll trade blocks for scraps along the way, since I won’t be able to haul the weight of a fabric stash, or a quilt-load of blocks all the way out and back home.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.