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 and my sample block is trimmed to a 6” square.

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 using the String Improv block

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