I got to work on my green and orange string quilt for several hours this weekend (during a few of those, I was also enjoying my own personal Rob Reiner film festival: This is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride). The quilt is coming along nicely, but before I post that finished top (hopefully later this week), I wanted to share with you my first string quilt.
Like the green and orange quilt I’m working on, this quilt pattern came from the book String Quilt Revival by Virginia Baker and Barbara Sanders. This pattern is called Diamonds are Forever, and their version is featured on the cover of the book.
I loved the dramatic look of the black stars in the authors’ quilt, but after pulling the very few pieces of black fabric I had in my stash, I realized I’m really not a black fabric gal. So I chose two different blues to be my stars (at some point I ran out of the darker blue and ended up having to dye a new piece to match—as I’ve said before, each project is its own adventure).
The string fabrics I used are truly my scraps. After the quilt top was finished, I was surprised by how many browns and reds were used. But then I remembered the cowboy quilt I made for my nephew, the Spider-Man quilt I made for my husband, and the many redwork quilts I made along the way. Of course, there are still a lot of “my” colors in it, too (greens, orange, pinks, plus yellow and purple thrown in for fun).
And that’s fitting as it is the origin of string quilts. The first string quilts were often made from the last remaining bits of usable fabric from worn-out clothing. These pieces were often small, which made them perfect for string quilts. In those past quilts, newspaper was used as a stabilizer—the thing onto which all these tiny pieces of fabric were sewn so they didn’t shift around or stretch.
Instead of newspaper, Virginia and Barbara, the authors of String Quilt Revival, recommend using a non-woven, lightweight stabilizer called No-Show Mesh Stabilizer. It has no bias or grain, so it doesn’t stretch—which ends up being very important when you’re lining up so many small pieces—and it’s light enough that you can leave it in the quilt, instead of tearing it out.
So while that product sounded perfect, I, of course, first tried my readily available fusible interfacing. Don’t use fusible interfacing. Believe me. The blocks were a stretchy, sticky mess that I ended up throwing away. Listen to the authors on this one and use the non-woven stabilizer.
I know of two places that carry this particular stabilizer: the authors themselves and Nancy’s Notions. I first purchased a small roll from Nancy’s Notions, but once it became clear I was going to get hooked on string quilts, I purchased a larger roll from the authors. The stabilizer really is the key to having fun making these quilts. Once you purchase the roll, it will go a long way, and you’ll get at least a couple of fabulous string quilts out of it!
Next stop: The completed top of my green and orange string quilt!