August: Yoshiko Jinzenji – Line + Color Block

 Yoshiko Jinzenji became interested in quilts after discovering antique Amish & Mennonite quilts in 1970 while living in Canada. Her life’s journey took her back to Japan and on to Bali where she was further influenced by local textile works.

Jinzenji’s exploration of quilting evolved into a unique minimalistic style that combines the traditions of North American quilting, Japanese patchwork and Asian dyeing & weaving. Never limiting herself to traditional cotton fabric, she embraces the use of upholstery cloth, silk, wool and a variety of synthetic and non-woven fabrics in her quilts.

The 2002 the publication of Quilting Artistry: Inspired Designs From The East displayed her ability to evoked a spiritual quietness through her minimalistic designs and brought her international recognition. Her quilts traveled to some of the world’s largest quilt exhibits and many of her quilts are now in permanent collections of art museums.

In Quilting Line + Color: Techniques and Designs For Abstract Quilts she published a book of quilts “inspired by the color white” with bold use of color and line. Modern quilters embraced the clean fresh look of her quilts with their minimalistic and alternate grid-work layouts in a refreshing color palette.

Painted Square I, 102” x 98”
Yoshiko Jinzenji, 2004

Painted Square II – 92” x 100”
Yoshiko Jinzenji, 2005

Section 1: Line + Color Block

Section 1: Line + Color Block 1

The Line + Color Block 1 is derived from a portion of  Jinzenji’s Painted Square II quilt and these instructions are for a 12” x  12” finished block.

  • Note: In Figure 1 the block is divided into 4 quadrants and the swaths of color highlight patch segments for use during piecing in Step 3A.

Fabric Requirements 

  1. Background:  1/8 yd Light Neutral
  2. Lines of Color:  1.5” squares of assorted fabrics
  • Fabric Tip: Start with 1 or 2 multi-color fabrics  to establish the overall color palette. Then add an assortment of solids, blenders, hombres, prints, and black & whites of different value, scale & volume.

Step 1: Cut Fabric

A. Referring to figure 1, cut the background patches from the light neutral fabric.

(A) 6.5” x 8.5”     (B) 6.5” x 3.5” (C) 5.5” x 4.5”    (D) 5.5” x 3.5” (E) 4.5” x 3.5”

Cut 1.5” squares from the assortment of fabrics for the 31 patches in the color lines.

Step 2 : Arrange Block  Pieces

A. Using Figure 1 as a guide, layout the patches for the color lines.

B. Add background patches A, B, C, D & E

Step 3: Assemble Quadrants  L1, L2, R1 & R2

A. Sew together the six segments of color line patches as highlighted in Figure 1.

Tips for piecing the color patches:

  • Set stitch length at 2.0 to keep seam ends tight.
  • Set your needle position for an accurate 1/4” seam and check the 1” patch dimensions as you go to maintain the proper overall length.
  • Option: Foundation piece the longer segments of squares (set stitch length to 1.8 for easier paper tear-away).

B. Arrange the six separate patch segments and background pieces into the quadrants, as in the Step 3b photo above.

C. Sew together quadrant L1

  • Press the 8-patch color line segment seams up.
  • Attach the segment to right edge of A, press seam toward A.
Quadrant L1

D. Sew together quadrant L2 

  • Press the 6-patch color line segment seams left.
  • Attach the segment to top edge of B, press seam toward B.
  • Press 4-patch color line segment seams up.
  • Attach the segment to right edge of the B unit, press seam away from B.
Quadrant L2

E. Sew together quadrant R1

  • Press the horizontal 4-patch color line segment seams left.
  • Attach the segment to the top edge of E, press seam toward E.
  • Press the vertical 4-patch color line segment seams up.
  • Attach the segment to the right edge of the E unit, press seam toward E.
  • Attach the E unit to the lower edge of C, press seam away from C. 
Quadrant R1

F. Sew together quadrant R2 

  • Press the 5-patch color line segment seams right.
  • Attach segment to the top edge of D, press seam toward D.
Quadrant R2

Step 4: Complete Block

A. Sew together quadrants L1 & L2, press seam toward L1

L1/L2

B. Sew together quadrants R1 & R2, press seam toward R2

R1/R2

C. Sew together L1/L2 and R1/R2 to complete block.

D. Press and square up as needed to 12.5” x 12.5”.

24”x24” quilt design from four Line + Color blocks set at successive 90 degree rotations.

Section 2:  Special Bonus Blocks 

This month’s 12” x 12” Line + Color Block is presented with 3 additional variations which can be combined to create a four-block mini quilt inspired by Jinzenji’s Painted Square II quilt. 

  • Blocks 2, 3 & 4 are assembled in the same manner as Block 1 in Section 1 by building patch segments and quadrants.
    • Refer to Figure 2 layout for placement of color lines and background patches. 
    • Refer to Figure 3 Block Plans for highlighted color line patch segments.

Fabric Requirements to make 4 Blocks

  1. Background: 1/2 yd Light Neutral (1/8 yd for each Block) 
  • Cut patches for each block per Table 1.
6.5” X5.5” X4.5” X2.5” X
Block 18.5” (A)4.5” (C)3.5” (E)
3.5” (B)3.5” (D)
Block 28.5” (A)8.5” (B)8.5” (E)
7.5” (C)
3.5” (D)
Block 312.5” (A)4.5” (C)
2.5” (B)3.5” (D)
Block 49.5” (A)4.5” (B)12.5” (D)
4.5” (C)
Table 1 – Background Patched Needed

  1. Color Lines:  1.5” wide lengths of approximately 25 different fabrics.  
  • Cut the 1.5” square patches needed for the each block:
    • Block 1 = 31
    • Block 2 = 16
    • Block 3 = 32
    • Block 4 = 26

And Finally . . .  here is a small gallery of quilts by Yoshiko Jinzenji

79” x 98”
Yoshiko Jinzenji 1998
Dew II (detail), 75” x 77”
Yoshiko Jinzenji, prior to 2002
Optical Quilt – Star Connection, 68” x 83”
Yoshiko Jinzenji, prior to 2002
Hieroglyphic Quilt, 96” x 101”
Yoshiko Jinzenji 2006
Spiral Block Quilt -Versification II
Yoshiko Jinzenji, prior to 2002

July: Gee’s Bend Quilters – Housetop Block

Gee’s Bend quilters create intuitively outside the conventions and academic rules of art and quilting. They inspire modern quilters with their bold improvisational approach to design, cutting & construction, along with their use of alternate gridwork & scale to capture both simple and complex geometries in their quilts. Even those quilts based on traditional quilting blocks and designs are liberated and unconventional through their unique approach to use of color and fabric patterns.

“Housetop” 74” x 80” By Loretta Pettway 1963

 This  mostly self taught community of quilters from a small rural part of Alabama has spanned generations. Their quilts that were created for utility from scraps of old clothing and other textiles became noticed and appreciated for their artistry in the later decades of the 1900s. But, they remained little known until 2002 when the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston exhibited the remarkable quilts from Gee’s Bend. The exhibit traveled to other museums across the country and the influence of Gee’s Bend quilts spread throughout the quilting world, influencing quilt designers and makers with their originality and spirit.

Over the years many of the Gee’s Bend quilters have made “Housetop” quilts creatively using variations of the log cabin block.  The July block of the month is inspired by Loretta Pettway’s 1960 quilt, which she constructed from clothing scraps.

July BOM – Housetop Block

The basic Housetop design is constructed like a Courthouse Steps block, however color placement creates rings in the design rather opposing steps.  The following instructions are for a 16” x 16” finished block, but the technique is easily adaptable to other sizes by rescaling the strip sizes or adding/subtracting rounds.

General tips for piecing a Housetop block:

  • Set your needle position for a scant 1/4” seam.
  • Pre-cut all the patches and lay them out on a design board to keep the proper sequence.
  • For each round – sew opposing patches (first A & B, then C & D) 
  • Press away from the center 
  • Pay careful attention to placement as rounds 1, 2 & 3 are symmetrical, but not 4, 5 & 6.

Fabric Requirements

This block has been designed using 8 colors – 2 turquoise and 6 shades of grey. 

Note: The number of fabrics can be reduced to 5 by using the same turquoise for colors 2 & 8, the same light grey for colors 1 & 4, and the same dark grey for colors 3 & 7. 

Step 1: Select & Cut Fabrics

  • Select fabrics and place in order or number for easy identification.
  • Following the Table 1 Cutting Guide 
    • Cut strips to overall lengths 
    • Cut patches needed
    • As you cut, layout patches around center patch to ensure proper placement.
Patch layout

Step 2 : Piece together block (refer to figure 1)

Note: For best results verify your needle position is set for a scant 1/4” seam.

  1. Add Round 1, 2 & 3 patches:  
  • Sew patches A & B to left and right sides of the center & press 
  • Sew patches C & D to bottom and top sides of the center & press
  • Repeat for Round 2 patches and then Round 3 patches.
  1. Add Round 4 Patches 
  • Pieced the two patches (color 5 & color 4) to make the C side patch 
  • Sew patches A & B to left and right sides of the center patch & press
  • Sew patch C to bottom side of the center patch & press
  • Sew patch D to top side of the center patch & press
  1. Add Round 5 Patches
  • Sew patches A & B (color 5) to left and right sides of the center patch & press
  • Sew patch C (color 6) to bottom side of the center patch & press
  • Sew patch D (color 5) to top side of the center patch & press
  1. Add Round 6 Patches to Finish Block
  • Sew patches A & B to left and right sides of the center patch & press
  • Sew patch C to bottom side of the center patch & press
  • Sew patch D to top side of the center patch & press
  • Square up block to 16.5” square to finish

And Finally . . .  here is a small gallery of Gee’s Bend Housetop quilts. 

June: Denyse Schmidt – Big Cross Block

In 1998 Martha Steward used the adjective “modern” to describe Denyse Schmidt’s quilts and her modern approach to quilting helped inspired a new generation of quilters which infused the quilting community with a wonderful vibrant energy.

With a background in graphic design and an eye for color, Schmidt brought contemporary flair to traditional quilting designs, reinterpreting and updating them through clever use of improvisation, negative space, alternate gridwork, asymmetry and scale.  Techniques that helped define the modern quilting design aesthetic as it grew into its own and which now seem so familiar. 

She exhibits a broad range of styles in her body of work, which includes quilt designs created using everything from the simplest strip piecing to complex Hawaiian appliqué, but most often a strong geometric motif is present.

“Drunk Love in a Log Cabin” 
is an early Denyse Schmidt design.
“4 Crosses” by Denyse Schmidt

This month’s block “Big Cross” combines two of Schmidt’s familiar motifs, log cabin piecing and improvisational crosses.  Constructed like a wonky nine-patch to form the cross shapes, it is well suited to everything from scraps and improv design to precision piecing and a planned fabric and color palette. 

Big Cross Block

The following instructions are for a 12” finished block, but the technique is easily adaptable to any size you want to make.

 Fabric Requirements

  • 6” x 24″ piece for the four Background patches
  • Assortment of at least 12 fabrics in 1″-1.5” wide strips to make the five log cabin-style Cross patches

Helpful Tools 

  • 12.5” Square template
  • Add-a-Quarter Ruler
  • Washable gluestick

Step 1: Design the Nine-Patch Pattern

  • Use a 12” square of paper or scrap fabric to arrange the shapes and sizes of the nine pattern pieces that form the cross and background patches. Add slight angles to the cuts to create an improvisational style.
  • Label each pattern piece by Rows/Columns 1A through C3.

NOTE:  The pattern pieces do not include the 1/4” seam allowance.  

Step 2: Construct Row 1 

Piece Cross Patch 1B

  • Piece the middle “Cross” patch 1B, using any strip piecing method you choose.
  • Add pieces until the patch size a bit larger than you need. 

NOTE: Use your pattern piece1B plus add the 1/4” seam allowance on each side to determine the size. 

  • Pin or adhere pattern piece 1B to patch.
  • Use a ruler to add 1/4” seam allowances and trim to size.

Cut Background patches 1A & 1C

  • Pin or adhere pattern pieces to the background fabric.
  • Use a ruler to add 1/4” seam allowances and trim to size.

Arrange patches 1A, 1B & 1C to create Row 1. 

Row 1 patches
  • Sew 1A to1B then 1B to 1C.
  • Press seams to left.
Completed Row 1

Step 3: Construct Row 3

  • Repeat Step 2 instructions substituting pattern pieces 3A, 3B & 3C.
Completed Row 3

Step 4: Construct Row 2

  • Audition strips that will be adjacent to other Cross patches to ensure a pleasing color distribution. 
  • Piece three Cross patches 2A, 2B & 2C using any strip piecing method you choose. 
  • Add pieces until the patch size a bit larger than you need.

NOTE: Use your pattern pieces 2A, 2B & 2C plus add the 1/4” seam allowance on each side to determine the sizes. 

Row 2 patches
  • Pin pattern pieces 2A, 2B & 2C to the corresponding patches.
  • Use a ruler to add 1/4” seam allowance and trim each patch to size
  • Piece together patches 2A, 2B & 2C.
  • Press seams to right.
Completed Row 2

Step 5: Complete Block

  • Arrange Rows 1, 2 & 3 in proper order.
  • Sew Row 1 to Row 2 and Row 2 to Row 3.
  • Press seams & trim to 12.5” square.
Finished Block

And here is a very scrappy variation of Big Cross block.

May: Amish Quilters – Modern Center Diamond Block

Amish women embraced the American craft of quilting and their focus on simplicity, utility and promoting community is an undeniable influence on the Modern Quilting  Movement of the last 10 years. Examples of Amish made quilts can be found from as early as the mid-1800’s, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that “Amish Quilts” gained an identity. While Amish quilts incorporate many quilting techniques and patterns; a simple design ascetic, which focuses on piecing geometric shapes with a bold use of solid color fabric, is the hallmark of “Amish Quilts” which inspired quilters and collectors in late 20th century and helped renew interest in quilting.

 The large scale Center Diamond (aka Diamond In A Square) pattern is one of the earliest Amish quilt designs. It is typically made in a medallion layout and can be seen in many  variations, from most simple in two colors and plain sashing to multiple colors with cornerstones or sawtooth borders and insets. 

This month’s block is an updated version of the design with a modern twist. It incorporates a 60-degree diamond set inside a 90degree pieced diamond set in a square background. No worries about points not matching up because the diamond points do not intersect the square, so it can be cut with precision or improvisation. These instructions are for an 8” block with an option for 9”, but it can easily be scaled up or down to accommodate any size block you would like to make. 

8-inch “Modern Diamond In A Square” Block

Select & Cut Fabrics

Step 1: Fabric Cuts for 8” Block 

  • Solid for A:  (1) 3.5” x 6.5” rectangle or 3.5” strip to make multiple blocks
  • Print for B1a & B1b: (1) 4”  x 5” rectangle
  • Print for B2a & B2b: (1) 4” x 6.5” rectangle
  • Solid for C1a & C1b: (1) 5.5” square
  • Solid for C2a & C2b: (1) 5.5” square

 Block Variation: Cut 6” squares for C1 & C2 sections to make a 9” block using the same size diamond unit

Step 2: Cut 60-degree Diamond A

  • From 3.5” x 6” rectangle or 3.5” strip align long edge of fabric with 60-degree line on cutting template and cut right edge (see photo Step 2a)
  • With the long fabric edge still on 60 degree line, align newly cut edge with the 3.5” line on your template (it is helpful to mark the line with tape) and cut left edge (see photo Step 2b)
  • Press or mark center of all four edges of the diamond
Step 2a
Step 2b

 Step 3: Cut B1a & B1b from 5”  x 4” Rectangle

  • Place B1 rectangle on cutting mat oriented 5” H x 4” W
  • Along top edge mark 1.25” in from from left edge
  • Along bottom edge mark 1.25” from right edge
  • Cut diagonal line between the points (upper left to lower right) to create sections B1a & B1b
  • Press or mark center of diagonal edges of B1a & B1b
Left B1a – Right B1b

Step 4: Cut B2a & B2b from 6.5”  x 4” Rectangle

  • Place B2 rectangle on cutting mat oriented 6.5” H x 4” W 
  • Along top edge mark 1.25” in from from right edge
  • Along bottom edge mark 1.25” from left edge
  • Cut diagonal line between the points (upper right to lower left) to create sections B2a & B2b
Left B2b – Right B2a

Step 5: Cut C1 & C2 sections from 5.5” Squares

  • Cut two half square triangles (HST) from each 5.5” square 
  • Press or mark center of the diagonal edge of each HST

Create the Diamond Unit

Hint:  the narrow ends of the B1 & B2 sections all orient toward the points on the long axis of A and the wide ends of the B1 & B2 sections all orient toward the points on the short axis of A.

Step 6A: Attach B1 Sections to A 

  • Position Diamond patch A so it is oriented 7” high & 4” wide (long axis is vertical)
  • Match centers of lower right edge of A and B1a, sew together
  • Match centers of upper left edge A and B1b, sew together
  • Press seams toward B1a & B1b
  • Trim both sides even with A

Step 6B: Attach B2 Sections to A/B1 Unit

  • Position A/B1 Unit as in step 6A
  • Match lower left edge of A/B1 Unit and B2a, sew together
  • Match upper right edge ofA/B1 Unit and B2b, sew together
  • Press seams toward B2 sections

Step 6C: Square-Up Diamond Unit

Note: It may be helpful to mark the center point of patch A and a reference for the center & edges of the diamond unit on your cutting template

  • Trim Diamond Unit to 5.5” square 
  • Press or mark centers of the four sides of the Diamond Unit
Squared-up 5.5″ Diamond Unit

Add Square Around Diamond Unit

Step 7A: Attach C1 Sections to Diamond Unit

  • Position the Diamond Unit with the long A axis vertical
  • Match centers of C1a and lower right edge of Diamond Unit, sew together
  • Match centers of C1b and upper left edge of Diamond Unit, sew together
  • Press seams toward C1 sections
  • Trim on both edges even with Diamond Unit

Step 7B: Attach C2 Sections to Diamond Unit

  • Position the Diamond Unit with the long A axis vertical
  • Match centers of C2a and lower left edge of Diamond Unit, sew together
  • Match centers of C2b and upper right edge of Diamond Unit, sew together
  • Press seams toward C2 sections

Step 8: Square-Up Block to Size

Note: It may be helpful to mark the center point of patch A and a reference for the center & edges of the diamond unit on your cutting template

  • Trim block to 8.5” square (or 9.5” if making 9” block)
Completed Block

And finally. . . a few ideas for using the Modern Diamond In A Square block

March: Weeks Ringle & Bill Kerr – Transparency Bungalow Block

The collaboration of  the husband and wife team of Bill Kerr & Weeks Ringle since the late 1990s helped usher in the Modern Quilt Movement we enjoy today. With a nod to traditional quilt design, self described “Modernists” and champions of quality workmanship, they have taught and inspired quilters to use artistic design principles and color theory to choose fabrics and create innovative quilts which reflect today’s culture and are relevant to life in the 21st Century.

 In 2005 Ringle & Kerr featured the transparency quilt “Boomerang” in their book Modern Quilt Workshop. Creating the illusion of transparency using fabric became popular with modern quilters and in 2011 their book Transparency Quilts  was published which featured the quilt “Bungalow” from which this month’s block is based.

4″ x 8″ Bungalow Block

The key to creating the illusion of transparency with fabric is color value. 

  • To audition fabrics, place them together side by side to find pleasing combinations with differences in value. A color wheel and other color tools are very helpful at this point (Figure 1).
  • You can squint at the fabrics to better see the values or use your digital camera to create grayscale photos.
Figure 1: Common tools for evaluating color & value.

Step 1: Select Fabrics for a Block 

It only takes 4 fabrics to create a basic transparency block (see figure 2): 

  • Darker value fabric A
  • Medium value fabric B (will be the “transparent” mix of fabrics A & C)
  • Lighter value fabric C (will appear to cross fabric A & create the transparency)
  • Background fabric D in a neutral or contrasting color.
  • Using a Gray Scale Value Finder is a quick way to ensure there is one or two value levels between fabrics A & B and B & C.
Step 1

Step 2: Cut Fabrics for Finished Block Size 4”x8”

  • Darker fabric A:  Qty 2 – 6.5”x 1.25” 
  • Medium fabric B: Qty 1 – 6.5” x 1.5
  • Lighter fabric C: Qty 2 – 1.75” x 1.5” 
  • Background fabric D: Qty 2 – 6.5” x 1.25” & Qty 4 – 1.75 x 2”
Step 2

Step 3: Create Center Section

  • Stitch together the five 6.5” long strips in order D1-A-B-A-D1 (see Figure 1).
  • Press seams away from center toward the long edges.
  • Square up with ruler and trim length to 6”.  
  • The center should be 6” x 4.5” at this point.
Step 3

Step 4: Create Two End Sections

  • To make 1st end section stitch three patches on the 1.75” sides in order D2-C-D2 (see Figure 2).
  • Press seams toward center patch.
  • Repeat for 2nd end section.
Step 4

Step 5: Complete the Block

  • Stitch end sections to center section.
  • Press seams to outside.
  • Square up block as needed, it Block should be 8.5” x 4.5”.
Step 5

  Design Option: Use grey for fabric C to create a less monochromatic color scheme.

And Finally . . . Here are some quilt design ideas for the Bungalow Block.

February: Nancy Crow – Color Block

Nancy Crow, one of the foremost quilt artists of our time, has inspired quilters for 30 years to break from tradition and explore color through her exhibits, lectures & workshops. She pushed the boundaries of quilt making, using free-form cutting and unmeasured shapes to develop her improvisational construction process.

In the early 1990s Crow experimented with color relationships and created her “Color Block” series which were constructed with improvisational piecing and hand-dyed fabrics in saturated color.

Block design inspired by Nancy Crow’s 1994 Quilt “Color Block #66”.

“It is impossible to measure Nancy Crow’s impact on the evolution of today’s innovative quilts. Her example and encouragement have nourished the creative spirit of countless artists.”

Hilary Morrow Fletcher, Quilt National Director
  • This block is constructed like a traditional log cabin  with logs pieced in courses around a center patch. (If needed, log cabin block instructions are widely available on the Internet or in quilting books.
  • For less rigid design lines set aside your ruler and cut freehand with a rotary cutter or scissors.
  • This sample is an 11” finished block, but you can adjust the log widths, number of logs, or the border widths to make larger or smaller blocks. 

Fabric List

  1. Fabric to build center patch and logs:
    • 2” x 6”-9” strips of assorted solids:
      • (4) Blue
      • (4) Green
      • (3) Red/Purple
      • (3) Orange/Yellow
      • (4) Neutral
    • 2” x 36” of black
  1. Fabric for pieced border:
    • 3.5” x 3”-9” strips of assorted solids:
    • (1) Blue
    • (2) Green
    • (3) Orange/Gold
    • (2) Neutral

Constructing Pieced Log Sections

  • Piece together random size patches from the 2” strips, alternating colors & neutrals with black to make log sections.
  • Press and trim sections to varying widths 0.75” and greater.
  • Design Tip: Sew together and audition several sections to find pleasing color combinations of adjacent logs. 

Making The Block

Step 1: Create the Center

Piece together several color and black patches to make a center patch for the log cabin. Press and trim to approximately 2.5” square (or slightly rectangular).

Design center patch layout
Piece patches in two sections
Sew sections together
Trim center to about 2.5″ square/rectangle

Step 2: Construct 4 Log Sections

  • Refer to “Constructing Pieced Log Sections” above.
  • Piece sections for the 1st course of 4 logs.
  • Layout around center to find best placement.
Course 1 Layout

Step 3: Add 1st Course of 4 Logs

  • Sew right section to center patch, press & trim.
  • Sew bottom section to previous set, press & trim.
  • Sew sew section to previous set, press & trim.
  • Sew top section to previous set, press & trim.
Log 1-1 Added on Right
Log 1-2 Added on Bottom, Log 1-3 Added on Left
Log 1-4 Added on Top

Step 4: Add 2nd Course of Logs

  • Repeat Steps 2 and 3 to add a the 2nd course of log sections. 
  • At this point the overall size should be about 7”-8” square(ish).
  • If needed, add all or part of a 3rd course of logs to increase size.
Course 2 Layout
Log 2-1 Added On Right
Log 2-2 Added on Bottom
Log 2-3 Added on Left
Log 2-4 Added on Top

Step 5: Add Border Sections

  • Piece together random size patches from the 3-1/2” strips to make border sections.
  • Attach border sections (following the log cabin pattern for placement) and press.
Right Border Added
Bottom Border Added
Left Border Added
Top Border Added

Step 6: Trim to Size

  • Trim completed block to 11.5″ square.
  • Tip: For added interest, trim slightly off-center to produce differing border widths.
Completed Block

January: Gwen Marston – String Improv Block

Gwen Marston realized the liberation of improvisation and minimalism in quilt making in the early 1990s and spent nearly three decades sharing her techniques and design approach through myriad workshops, classes, retreats, books and lectures. 

String quilts were a favorite theme of hers and a fun aspect of this improvisational block is you can make it any size that suits your design and it can be made super scrappy, with a few selected fabrics, or anywhere in between. 

String Improv Block

Note: The general block instructions were featured in September 2014 American Quilter magazine.

Fabric Needed:

  • Background: White solid or a tone-on-tone/reads-as-white print.
  • Strings: Medium tone solids or prints. 

Step 1: Cut 6-1/2” background square and place on point.

Step 1

Step 2: Cut 2 or more slightly irregular diagonals through the background square.

Step 2

Step 3: Cut strips in various 1” to 1-3/4” widths to make a string for each diagonal cut.

Step 3

Step 4: Sew a strip onto each side of the center section and press.

Step 4

Step 5: Trim the strips at the top edge with a ruler and rotary cutter.

Step 5

Step 6: Continue to add background sections and strings, press & trim as you go, until all the sections are attached.

Step 6

Step 7: Trim block to 6″ square.

Step 7

And Finally . . .

Here are some quilt design ideas for the String Improv block

String Quilt design by Gwen Marston
Black, White & Bright based on Gwen Marston’s String Quilt design
String Quartet design by Cynthia Steward
Chamber Music design by Cynthia Steward