Friday, April 5, 2013

{Tutorial} Ziggy Strings

Welcome to the first tutorial for Scrap Attack {String Fever}!  If you're just arriving, checkout the quilt-along and join us for a festival this May!

When I first envisioned my Ziggy Strings quilt, I was actually channeling a herringbone style.  I drew thin neutral strips to divide each block on diagonal and imagined them connecting neatly to form a sashing background.  I'd use foundation paper to ensure the neutral strips met up easily.  Otherwise, the blocks would be filled out with colorful scrappy strips of random sizes, left to meet willy nilly.  I wanted to create deeply angled V's using the long, rectangular blocks with the colors connecting from one row to the next.

or as herringbone

The best way to emphasize the herringbone style would be to make individual V's, with different colors.  And I thought a dark sashing like Kona pepper would do nicely to spice things up.  But once I put my ideas on paper, I realized I wanted continuous color zigzaging in rows across the quilt. You know, like a classic zigzag quilt, but with strings.  I still think the individual herringbone V's would rock though.  Maybe you can make that one for me?

Ziggy Strings tutorial

Here's where I'm at today.  I've connecting a few finished blocks there, if you look closely.  I'm not sure if I'm going to continue in that manner, or add thin white sashing vertically and horizontally to space the blocks out as a broken zigzag.  So, see how I've left space between most of the blocks?  That could be white sashing.... or not.  We'll see.

Ziggy Strings without extra sashing

Lots of ways to use these blocks!  You'll have to choose your own adventure.  Do note that if you sew all the blocks together without sashing, the colorful V's will be nice and sharp, but the thin neutral diagonal strips will have dull points (see above).  Making sharp points on the neutral strips is doable, but would would have made the V's not so deeply angled.  Right now, I 'm all about the angle!

Ziggy Strings tutorial

Ziggy Strings Tutorial

  • Legal-sized copy paper (48 sheets)
  • Glue stick
  • Dull machine sewing needle (or prepare to dull the one you have!)
  • 1 yard solid neutral fabric
  • Colorful fabric strips ranging from 1 - 3" wide.  Choose 7 different colors for a continuous zigzag quilt, like mine.
::Finished Size::  Each block finishes 8" x 12".  An 8 x 6 block layout (48 blocks) makes a 64" x 72" throw quilt.


Trim regular legal copy paper to 8.5" x 12.5".  You just have to trim one edge, so this shouldn't be such a terrible chore.  I borrowed a paper cutter! Be exact as the papers are going to be a foundation guide for making blocks.

You're going to be sewing through paper, which will dull a new needle quickly.  Fit your sewing machine with a dull sewing needle, if you have one.  I save a needle marked "paper" for these tasks.  Set the machine to a shorter-than-normal stitch length, such as 1.5.  The short stitch length will perforate the paper, making it easy to remove after completing the blocks.

Grab some crayons, pastels, or whatever to draw your color layout.  If you are doing a continuous zigzag, you can simple draw 7 squiggly lines representing your color order.  If you are doing individual V's more like herringbones, you should sketch out the quilt, representing all blocks accurately, so you can color in V's one by one.  Refer to your color layout as you make blocks.


Cut your neutral sashing fabric into (48) 1.5" x 15.5" strips.  If cutting from a 1 yard piece, it's most economical to cut 36" long strips, not 44" long strips (width-of-fabric or WOF).   If you cut 1.5" strips from selvedge to selvedge (WOF) you will only be able to make (2) 15.5" strips from that cut and much will be wasted.  Instead, cut along the 36" length of the fabric (the lengthwise grain) to cut (24) 1.5" x 36" strips.  Bisect each into (2) 15.5" strips with just 5" of waste.

Prepare your colorful fabric strips by trimming them straight on each long side.  No need to trim them to a certain width or length. The paper foundation will help with that!


Consulting your color diagram, choose which block you are making.  Note if the diagonal sashing strip is slanted from the top left or top right corner.  The blocks across a row must alternate in slant direction!

Fold the end of a neutral sashing strip symmetrically to make a fold at center.  Make a similar fold in the opposite end so that center is marked on both sides. Place the sashing strip diagonally on a foundation paper so that the center of the strip aligns with the corner of the paper.


Use your glue stick to baste the strip in place.  I like to apply the glue to the paper at one corner and run the glue lightly along the paper all the way diagonally to the next corner.  Then, press the strip in place firmly.

Choose two colorful fabric strips that are long enough to cover the paper when placed alongside the sashing.


Place one of the chosen strips right side down on the neutral strip, aligning the raw edges.  Sew a normal 1/4" seam.  You will sew right through the paper!


When you open that first seam, both fabrics will hold fast to the paper.


Before getting up to press the seam, sew the other colored strip to the opposite side of the neutral sashing. 


Now press seams open from the right side.  Do not use steam, which would warp the paper.  If your strips were really long, it can be annoying to have excess fabric trailing from the block.  You may want to it trim off, being sure not to trim too close to the paper.  These extra bits can be used for future blocks!


Choose two more strips, one each color. Again, the foundation paper will show you how long the strips need to be.  Foundation piecing makes working with scraps easy!


When you have a barely-long-enough piece, just make sure that the new strip extends about a 1/4" off of the paper along the new seam line. Always start sewing about a 1/4" away from the paper to make sure that the diagonal seam fully covers the paper.


Again, sew strips onto both sides before getting up to press seams open.  This is purely a time-saving measure.  To further economize your time, make several blocks at once, so you can sew lots of seams before getting up to press!

Continue adding strips in this way until you have completely covered the paper.  The very last bit at the corners is a great place to use triangle scraps!



Now flip the block over and use the foundation paper as a guide for trimming your block to 8.5" x 12.5".


Some of your trimmings are large enough triangles to use as corners for future blocks! 


When your block is neatly trimmed it's time to remove papers.  I usually make a stack of blocks and remove papers while watching TV.  Or, you might have a little one who would love this task!


Just fold the paper back along the seam line and rip it off.  Start at the outer corners,


working your way to center.


Ta da!

If blocks are sewn together without adding sashing, your colored portions should meet up in nice sharp V's easily from precise foundation piecing.

Ziggy Strings blocks

Have fun!  If you do one row (8 blocks) per week, you'll have your Ziggy Stripes quilt complete well before the Festival of Strings.  I'm not sure if I can hold myself to just one row per week.  We'll see!

making Ziggy Strings

I'd love to see what you string up at the Scrap Attack flickr page!


  1. Rachel, you are so freaking awesome! Your tutorials are the best. Just sayin.

  2. Oh I love this! I've always planned to do a string quilt with legal paper and make them into diamonds, but this is way cooler! At the moment, inspired by your quilt along, I've started making log cabins from all my white and light scraps. It's so slow compared to running squares through, but so thoughtful and therapeutic. :)

    1. I was totally tempted to make them into diamonds. This tutorial would work perfectly for that, actually. Thanks for pointing that out! Glad your log cabins have been therapeutic. Hugs, my friend.

  3. I designed my scrap attack quilt last night and it has zigzags. Thanks for the tutorial! I was totally going to do it HST way by making squares out of strings, cutting and stitching HST together. This looks so much more sane.

    Can't wait to get started on the quilt , right after I finish sewing Apollo's birthday quilt top together!

  4. I'm in the process or finishing a scrappy quilt and can't wait to start on this one! I have garbage bags FULL of selvages and stripes that I am determined to use this year and get down to just a couple of bags instead of one bag of each color! LOL!! Thanks for a great tute!

  5. Rachel , I have only recently found your blog, What have i been missing!!! Thankyou for the simple down to earth instructions,so I can spend less time figuring patterns out and more time sewing! I am keen to start this tutorial but already have a hand quilting project (for night time) and a zig zag half sewn (for day time) and another already cut and pieced but waiting in the background for .....More Time ! Keep up the great work !

  6. Thanks for the great tutorial and another inspiring idea. I will keep playing with my strings before I decide.

  7. Thanks for sharing how you designed your quilt. I especially love the pic of your hand notes and coloring!

  8. I want one--I really love this look.
    How about dark sashing? Contrast with your white v's?

  9. Love this Rachel! But I have a question.. you said above "If blocks are sewn together without adding sashing, your colored portions should meet up in nice sharp V's easily from precise foundation piecing." I do not understanding how "sashing", the white fabric down the middle that you started with, would make other strips not meet up. I am missing something...per usual!

    1. Yes, it is tricky to anticipate. I didn't notice what would happen until I had made block or two. Try it or look at the images of the blocks above. It's one of those things you might need to see to visualize.

  10. I learned to do foundation piecing in a class I took. I was told to leave the paper attached until the quilt was sewn together. That way you don't stretch any of your seam edges.

  11. Thank you Rachel! I love your take on the zig-zag pattern! I've been on a quilting slump and this is just the project to get me started. I went to the fabric store and purchased fabric for this project, now I need to purchase the legal-sized paper.

  12. Lovely tutorial and of course I want to make this. Thank you so much for putting this together for us!

  13. This looks pretty easy and duable. Nice tut! Thx.

  14. Great Idea! My middle son is desperate for a herring bone quilt and this one is great for using up the huge piles of scraps I have in buckets!

  15. fantastic tutorial, and I really like the effect!

  16. Love your blog Rachel....if I could add something on your tutorial it would be to sew with a short stitch and misting with some water before you rip the paper away. Makes it even easier:)

    1. meant to say "short stitch length"

  17. I really like it without the white sashings, makes for a very striking zig zag. thanks for taking the time to do the tute for us!

  18. Great tutorial - I have done a string quilt B4 but not with rectangle blocks -- thanks for that thought...Now to start developing piles of 'strings'...

  19. You are really brilliant ya know! Love this

  20. Is it possible to use plain old printer paper for a block like this? (I don't have any money to buy fancy paper, but we always have printer paper.) Thanks for this tutorial! It looks really cool.

    1. Sure. If you use regular 8.5" by 11" paper the zigzags won't be nearly as steep, but you can still make them!

  21. Your color combination is very pretty. I like this block being stretched out a bit. I am putting this on my to-do list.

  22. I love it! The colors look great together. I'm going to be saving some strings so I can try this. :)

  23. i am so totally in love with this design! i am itching to dig into my scraps and start one, but i have a few quilts and things i'm currently making for my soon-to-be-born guy that i must finish first. at least you've given me some incentive to finish them soon! :)

  24. Nice tutorial - ok right handed people only - - I know, just do the opposite cutting. I would love to see a left handed tutorial and have it say, now if you are right handed, just do the opposite, lol

    1. Haha - I do that ALL of the time - even have a page on my blog for Left-Handed Quilting - ;))

  25. Looking forward to trying this one tomorrow. Love your blog. Thanks for all the great information and fresh ideas.

  26. Thanks for this tutorial. I just finished my ziggy quilt top which I will photograph and post. How to get it to you? Also, I put a link to your tutorial on on the Quilt and Lose Team. We are trying to lose weight and quilt at the same time.

    1. P.S. Instead of using paper, I used lightweight batiste fabric for my foundation. Makes a sturdier block and don't have to tear off paper. Also, at the end of each row, I added a little corner of white which makes the white strips go to a point.

    2. Thanks for sharing those tips, Carol! To share the quilt photograph with me (which I'd love to see!) you can add your photo to the Stitched in Color flickr group:

  27. Have made string quilts, but will try this one next. Thanks Rachel....really like your blog.


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