Improv String Tutorial

Posted by TracyM on Monday, December 24th, 2012

Hello everyone, Happy Holidays! This is Tracy from 3LittleBrds. I am home today getting ready to spend Christmas with my family, but I wanted to take a quick break and show you a fun block I have been working on recently.

It happened quite by accident. Months ago... it was actually before any of the previous tutorials I have done, I asked the folks at Riley Blake if I could do a Spiderweb block using the Tuxedo collection. At the time, the tutorials for that collection were already spoken for, but they assured me that they had another black and white collection coming in the fall. That sounded great to me! 

As fall approached, Julia sent me an email letting me know that the new black and white collection was the gorgeous Mystique by Lila Tueller! Unfortunately, the fabric samples would not be here in time for the Halloween tutorial we had originally planned. 

Well, that is okay! But as I waited for the fabric to arrive, I decided that this couldn't be your basic Spiderweb string piecing tutorial! We need something a little different! So, I played a bit and here is what I came up with... 

Improv String
 I call it an Improv String and it reminds me a bit of a Christmas Star or a diamond. It is fun and easy. Here, I will show you how it is done. 
I began with an 8 1/2 inch block...
8 1/2 inch square
I used my sizzix 8 1/2 inch square die to cut my squares and forgot completely to take a photograph! It went so quickly and I was having so much fun, it just slipped my mind! You can use any size square if you like, you will see.
Next, rotary cut the square in half from corner to corner so you have two, half square triangles. Next you will mark your block so you know where to lay your fabric strips. With the triangle point up, measure one inch down the right side and mark a small dot. (image below)
On the bottom edge, fold the block in half and finger press to mark the center point. Measure 1 1/4 inches to the right of center and make a mark. (image above)
Next, lay a strip of fabric on top of the triangle, right sides together and line up the fabric with the marks you just made. 
Line fabric up
This part is as fussy as you want to make it. You can line it up perfectly with your marks every time and your blocks will be identical. I wanted a scrappy and improvisational look, so I was not exact every time. 
Now, stitch this fabric down to your base triangle. 
stitching line
When you finish, iron and flip the strip. 
You can trim your fabric, or sew another strip on and wait until the block is complete to trim - your choice!
Add another strip and stitch in place.
add another strip
Continue stitching and adding more strips until this side of your triangle is covered. Once it is full, turn your block over and use the back of the triangle as a guide to trim and make perfect triangles.
Half of your triangles should have the strips go to the right and half should go to the left side, so they look like this.
Both triangles
Lay them on a design board, if you have one, or next to your sewing machine to make sure you like the arrangement. The strips will all pinwheel around the center of the block.
Improv String
The center of the block will be quite thick... so remember, the iron is your friend and so is steam! 
Improv String
With an 8 1/2 inch block, two yards of gray fabric made six 15 1/2 inch (unfinished) blocks. This process can be done with any size base block. If you used a 10 inch Stacker for your base triangle, this quilt would be done so fast! 
Play around and let me know what you think! If you upload your block to Pinterest tag me @3LittleBrds and follow me if you like

Category: Quilts


  1. I love it , I am going to give a try.thank you for the tutorial
    by Nargis
    June 04th, 2013 at 8:48 p.m.

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