more about strip quilts – a mini tutorial

I’ve made many strip quilts in the past and I’m often asked for a pattern. I don’t really think that a pattern is necessary – one of the things I really like about strip quilts is how you can change up the look by altering your strips and fabric placement – so this little tutorial is more about my method, rather than precise instructions. But hopefully it will provide a start for those of you who may be interested in making this type of quilt. (I apologize in advance for my excessively wordy post!)

To begin, I typically select a stack of printed fabrics I want to use for my quilt. Then I usually add in several coordinating solids. I find that I typically use about 7-12 printed fabrics, along with 2-6 solids, depending on the size of the strip quilt. I like variety in my strip quilts, and this provides enough fabric to use 1-2 strips of each fabric.

Next you’ll want to cut these fabrics into several strips, cutting selvage to selvage. To start, I usually cut 1 strip of each fabric – 2 of those I’m particularly fond of. I try to vary my strip widths – cutting widths from about 1 1/4″ to about 6″. I usually select a couple of my favorite fabrics to use as feature fabrics, and I cut the wider strips from those fabrics. As you can see in yesterday’s Strawberry Seas strip quilt, I cut wider strips of the mermaid and octopus prints because I wanted those to be a focus. In this quilt, I cut wider strips of the FMF seeds and dotted leaves prints.

[I tend to use narrower width strips of the darkest color, since I don't want it to be what you focus on - in this quilt, I've used smaller strips of the dark brown solid (in yesterday's quilt I used narrow strips of the darkest orange).]

Now you’ll start to lay out the strips to find a layout you like. I usually start with the wider strips, leaving space between each wide strip. Then I fill in with the remaining strips. Once you’ve laid them out, you may find that you need to cut a couple additional strips. I try to vary the placement of the fabrics and the colors, so often there’s a lot of rearranging of the strips until I find a layout I like. At that point I typically take a photo to make sure I still like the layout – it’s often easier to see the layout as a whole in a photo.

I stack the strips in a pile from top to bottom, and then I sew them together in pairs – sewing the first two strips together, setting those aside and then sewing the next two strips together. Repeat until all pairs have been sewn together, keeping your strips in the order you’ve set. You’ll likely find that your strips aren’t exactly the same length, especially if you’ve mixed in several different fabrics, and that’s ok. They’ll be trimmed up in one of the next steps.

Now you’ll want to repeat this process, sewing the first set of pairs to the second set. You’ll now have sections of fabric strips that each contain 4 strips. At this point I iron all the seams in each section. (I wait to iron until this point because I’m not a fan of ironing, and I find this method to be faster, but of course you could certainly iron after sewing the pairs together).

[I sew the strips together in pairs and then sections like this because I find that there's less distortion of the fabrics. It's been my experience that this method keeps the strips straighter and truer.]

Now you’ll trim each of these sections. I find the section with the shortest strip to determine the length you’ll cut each section to. For this particular quilt, I found that my shortest length was about 42.25″.

Cut the selvages off one side, and then cut the other side at your determined length – 42.25″ in this case.

Once all the sections have been trimmed to the same length, pin the first section to the second and sew. Repeat for remaining sections. Then sew each larger section to the next section until they’re all sewn together. Iron these seams and then stand back to admire your quilt top!

Tips:

  • Since you’re cutting your strips from selvage to selvage, the maximum width of your quilt will be somewhere around 42″ or so (assuming you’re using 42/44″ width quilting cotton). With a quilt of this width, I like a length of around 55″ or so (but of course this is all personal preference!).
  • Smaller is nice too (as in the Flea Market Fancy baby strip quilt I showed the other day). You can trim your strip sections to a shorter length and use the trimmings for a pieced backing.
  • When you initially lay out your strips, it can be hard to determine if you have enough strips to make a long enough quilt. Once you have your strip sections sewn into 4-strip sections, I like to lay out all the sections again and measure the quilt length, taking into account the seam allowances. If you find it to be too short, you could add in a strip or two to get to your desired quilt length.
  • I like to use a medium/large width strip for the top and bottom. This way if you need to trim up the quilt once it’s all sewn together, you’ll have enough space to be able to trim without ending up too close to the seam.

Any questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll respond there!

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107 Responses to more about strip quilts – a mini tutorial

  1. 1
    Angie says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial and photos. I especially like your tips on sewing the pairs of strips together to minimize distortion, and also, the tip on using larger widths for the top and bottom. Hope you and baby are feeling well!

  2. 2
    Kelli says:

    Great directions. I always take a picture of my layouts either for quilts or scrapbook pages so I can make sure I like the look before I put it all together. Nice to know someone else does that too!

  3. 3
    jodi says:

    Thanks, Ashley! Being a “confident beginner”, I have a question: Someone mentioned to me that you should sew in different directions, like when you’re sewing the strips, do you start at the “top”, and then switch and start at the “bottom” so all your seams are not going in teh same direction? I think she said it prevents bowing of the strips? Your quilts are always so nice and even.

  4. 5

    Love this process tutorial. This is my kind of quilt! Not difficult technically, but a great way to showcase fabric and quilting. Something that you can actually make in a reasonable amount of time. Thanks for the great tips about colors/widths/etc.

  5. 6
    Sonia says:

    Thank you so much for sharing, your quilts are so lovely.

  6. 7
    Laura says:

    Thank you so much! This will be so useful in helping me know where to get started!

  7. 8
    Lisa Gapen says:

    Thanks so much! There also seems to be so much you can do to change these up- like cutting it in 2 and inserting a vertical strip. Or making a square piece and cutting into fourths before turning each piece and reassembling. My mind is churning with variations!

  8. 9
    jennifer white says:

    Thanks so much for this tutorial. I tried to make one of your strip quilts once. In my ineptness I did not realize I needed to cut the strips selvage to selvage. Well, you can imagine what happened! The strips stretched! I had to recut the whole thing and do a different pattern. I turned out well, but it was not what I set out to do.

  9. 10
    Janet says:

    This is great as I was about to start my first strip quilt today…perfect! One question about ironing the seams: do you press them to one side or open them up?
    Thanks so much; this is a great help.

  10. 13
    Rosalie says:

    Thank you for the tips! (and the pictures) Hoping to start my first strip quilt this weekend! Yay!

  11. 14
    Melissa says:

    Great tips! Especially using the bigger pieces on the ends so you can trim. Thanks!

  12. 15
    Rhonda says:

    How perfect! I was just going through your website last night to see if you had a tutorial for one. I have been seeing them off and on here and thought, “I really want to make one too!” They are so simple yet so cute! I was wondering how you do it…you must have read our collective minds. Thanks so much.

  13. 16

    I have fabrics all pulled for a strip quilt, but definitely have noticed distortion in past projects. Thank you for the tip!

  14. 17

    Awesome colors! I plan to use this technique soon. Just might fall in love with it as I love stripes & polka dots. Plus might fall in love with the “ease” of creating!

  15. 18
    Parkerbuttons (Stacy) says:

    I LOVE the pink-ness of this quilt!! I adore the swap I received from you and hope that you have also received your pink coriander :) thanks again, Ashley!

  16. 19
    Lieve says:

    Hello, I found out about your website a couple of weeks ago.
    I love your tutorial for the strip quilt. I will surely try it out!

  17. 20
    Lindsay says:

    Simple, yes–but I love the way this looks! Will have to try it when I have more yardage in my stash. :)

  18. 22
    Liz says:

    Thanks Alyssa!
    I love the look of strip quilts. I’ve seen table runners made of strips done in a QAYG method. Has anyone tried doing that with selvage to selvage length strips?

  19. 24
    Suzanne says:

    Thanks for sharing the recipe for making a strip quilt. I always appreciate the thinking behind the design. :-)

  20. 25
    hannita says:

    You always amaze me with your tips. I’ve done a strip quilt in the past but certainly did not put nearly as much thought into the design as you have here. I think it’ll go better in the future thanks to you.

  21. 26
    Alissa says:

    Since you go selvage to selvage how much of each fabric do you recommend getting?

  22. 28
    jan says:

    I’m going to make one of these for a baby BD–can’t wait! Thanks for all your tips: it’s so nice not having to reinvent the wheel. :-)

  23. 29
    Lourdes says:

    Thanks a lot… but if you could only add your preferred or suggested way of quilting it, it would be great. Thanks again.

    • 30
      ashley says:

      I think many different types of quilting would work well with this type of quilt. Most often I opt for a straight stitch, about 1/4″ away from the seams. Other times I’ve done an all over meandering. I think it would also be fun with straight lines running vertically rather than horizontally…

  24. 31
    Jennifer says:

    So cute!! What a great tutorial! Thanks for sharing. Man wouldn’t I love to raid your fabric stash!

  25. 32
    Lana says:

    Ashley, What batting do you use?

  26. 35
    Dolores says:

    Appreciate you doing this….I have been wanting to do a strip quilt and even though it seems simple a little guidance is great….you gave me lots to think about so this WILL be easy!

  27. 36
    Terri says:

    What a wonderfully simple project! I adore the colors you put together for this project. And I love the varying widths, especially the really wide and really narrow, which give the quilt more contrast and eye appeal. Thanks for sharing your methods here!

  28. 37

    This is a very good tutorial. Clear, concise directions, appropriate photographs. Great work.

  29. 38
    meg says:

    Thanks for the tut. Love your quilts and ideas. Very fun.
    What’s with all the Flea Market Fancy you’ve got laying around? Every time I think you’ve used the last of it you come up with a copious amount for a quilt. ;)

  30. 39
    Beth says:

    I always love looking at your strip quilts…hoping to make one of my own soon…thanks for the pointers!

  31. 40
    Amelia says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial Ashley! I’ll be making a stip quilt soon :)

  32. 41
    susan says:

    Excellent tutorial – thank you! Maybe a dumb question, but I struggle to get the sides cut evenly if the length exceeds the length of the ruler. Do you have any tips on this very basic skill? :)

    • 42
      ashley says:

      I use two large cutting mats side by side. However, if I only had the one, I think I would probably either fold the strip section in half and trim, or I might lay it out and use a washable marker to draw a line at the 36″ mark, then move that over and measure the remaining length from that point.

  33. 44
  34. 45
    patricia says:

    This was very helpful to me. Thank you so much for sharing your process! Have a super weekend.

  35. 46
    Erin Waters says:

    I really would like to make a strip quilt for my daughters’ bed…which is a full sized bed. If I just sew two full-length strips end-on-end, will that look ok? Not sure what to do about that.
    Thanks!

  36. 50
    Susan P. says:

    I’ve been making strip baby quilts for gifts (they’re fun & easy). For a few, I’ve sewn the strips vertically, added some solid black strips in the mix & ended up with some very “Amish” looking quilts (love the look).

  37. 51
    WendyLou says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this tutorial!!! What do you do when a print is *obviously* crooked? Do you keep to the integrity of the grain of the fabric and just let the print look wonky, or do you get creative with your cutting to make it look straight?

    • 52
      ashley says:

      I haven’t found that to be a problem too often (luckily!), but when I do, I’ll usually make a small adjustment to the way I cut so that it doesn’t appear super crooked. If that doesn’t fix it, I’d probably skip that fabric and save it for a different quilt.

  38. 53
    Clover says:

    fantastic! just what I have been waiting for. I love the look! Do you wash your fabrics before you sew or after?

  39. 55
    Sue says:

    I’ve been admiring your strip quilts and just started quilting this year. Thanks for the lovely tutorial, I’m going to try it soon!

  40. 56
    Jennifer says:

    I am brand new to quilting and this looks like the perfect beginner project! However, how do you do the batting and the other side? I am clueless! Thanks!

  41. 58
    slp.acp says:

    I love your work. You make the simple quilts beautiful. Thanks for sharing your talent. -slp

  42. 59
    Jane says:

    Great tutorial! I have always been intimidated by quilting but this might be something I could try. All straight lines! Well, maybe straight lines :)

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  44. 60
    Fran says:

    Very pretty little quilt. It is so much fun to read your replies to our queries. I also love Warm and White batting. The quilts lie so flat and they wash well with it. Just enough crinkling to look a bit old-fashioned.

  45. 61
    Amy So says:

    Your tutorial gave me an ah-ha moment. I wouldn’t have trimmed at four strips…would have done it when the whole top was pieced, and then gotten frustrated because I couldn’t ever get it completely square at that length. Brilliant! I make a LOT of strip rag quilts so I will be using that idea very soon. Here’s my question:

    when you quilt the quilt, does it stay together with just the horizontal strips quilted? Do you do any vertical quilting? I would get anxious about the entire width of the batting within the strips not having any quilting across it. (I hope that makes sense.)

    Thanks!

  46. 62
    Marie says:

    Thank you for the inspiration. I’ve made these before but you inspired me to take out my scraps and make up a few doll quilts! Your strawberry quilt is stunning! xoxo

    http://greenlunns.blogspot.com/2011/03/doll-quilt-fun.html

  47. 63
  48. 64
    Robyn says:

    Thanks so much for this. After having a baby, I’m just now getting motivated to sew and quilt and knit again, so I love this idea. I’m not real big on complicated piecing at this time.

  49. 65
    Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for so many lovely things to look at! Your tutorials are great. Please could you tell us how you bind your quilts. I am useless at hand sewing them neatly and wondered if there was another way?
    x

  50. 66
    Judy Blinkenberg says:

    As a fair beginner, I’m always looking for the easier quilts to help me learn. Thank you very much for your help. It means alot.

  51. 67

    Thanks so much for these great directions! I shared this on my blog!

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  53. 68
    simone says:

    Thank you Ashley, for this wonderful tutorial! I am going to make one like this! Thank you for the tips you added too! Makes life so much easier.

  54. 69
    Patti says:

    Thank you so VERY much for this. Stumbled upon your blog and can’t thank you enough. Daughter is working on G.S. gold award and needs donated quilts. Has to teach a class and this one will be perfect for beginners. I think I’ll try one myself!

  55. 70
    Courtney says:

    Thank you for your great tutorial. I made my strip quilt and absolutely love it! I also linked to this tutorial in my post. Thanks for the great inspiration! Here is my version:

    http://www.thepaisleyabbey.com/2011/04/what-do-you-do-when-you-have.html

    :)
    Courtney

  56. 71
    Courtney says:

    Thank you for the wonderful tutorial. I made my first strip quilt and am in love with it. I posted a link to your tutorial in my post, I hope you don’t mind. Thank you for the inspiration!

    http://www.thepaisleyabbey.com/2011/04/what-do-you-do-when-you-have.html

    :)
    Courtney

  57. 72
    Desiree says:

    I love this tutorial! I am so excited to test this out. It is so modern. Thanks for the wonderful tips.

  58. 73
    Aly says:

    I love the look of strip quilts and would like to make one as my next project. The only thing is that I don’t have enough scrap fabric to use, so I’ll be purchasing the fabric for my quilt. Can you advise how much to buy?

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  60. 74
    Amy says:

    Thank you so much for posting your tutorial! I’ve long been an admirer of your quilts and was quite taken with the strip quilts. The tutorial came just in time for me as I was about to make such a quilt for a friend’s new baby boy. Your instructions made things a lot easier (I’m only a fledgling quilter!). If you are curious, this is what I came up with: http://littlewhisk.blogspot.com/2011/07/sewing-for-baby-quilt-for-baby-greg.html

    I can see how these quilts might become addictive! I was so pleased with how my attempt turned out that I am desperate to make more, playing around with different fabrics. We have just found out we have our own little one on the way, so providing all goes to plan, I can see plenty of these gorgeous quilts on my horizon!

    Thanks again. xox

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  64. 75
    Crystal says:

    I love this tutorial!!
    I’m in the middle of a strip quilt right now and came to check your post again for the process of starting to sew them together. Love your tip to sew 2 together at a time!

  65. 76
    Kristen says:

    Hi! I love your quilts – they have beautiful clean lines! I’d like to make this style “strip quilt” for my queen sized bed – but that creates a problem with the width. Have you ever done this type of quilt wider? I’m curious what type of creative solution you’d recommend. :)

    Thanks so much!!

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  67. 79
    Tammia says:

    Incredibly helpful. Thanks much for taking the time to write up these instructions–makes it easier for us novices! : )
    Your quilts are beautiful–thanks for sharing!

  68. 80

    Thank you for the helpful and inspiring tutorial! I had just finished cutting my strips for my first quilt (a baby size strip quilt) when I found this and it was extremely helpful. I’ve been posting about my adventures with my first quilt and linked to your tutorial. Thanks again! Best, Allison

    P.S. Here is a sneak peak of my finished quilt top in my most recent post: http://threadandmetal.blogspot.com/2012/03/first-quilt-piecing-and-quilting.html

  69. 81
    Debbie says:

    I made one of these out of dog fabrics for my nephew. In the class for it, we layed out the backing and batting and sewed the strips onto them one at a time, therefore when the last strip was done it was quilted (finished!). A row cut into fringe on each end gave it a finished look with binding on the sides. Very quick gift to make.

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  71. 82
    Jennifer T. says:

    Thank you! I’m still working on branching out from symetrical quilts and your tutuorial really helped me to feel comfortable with the cutting and sewing process for a strip quilt with various sizes. I love how my quilt turned out and feel much more confident to try more random patterned quilts.

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  73. 83
    Janna says:

    I love the quilt, but want to make it for a twin size bed. So the width would need to be around 70-80″ wide. Is this possible? Would I just try to sew two of the same strips together? Would the seam in the middle look weird? Any advice would be appreciated.

    • 84
      Jennifer Fariss says:

      a good rule of thumb is to divide the strips into thirds. For this particular quilt, I would cut one of the pieces in two and use the other piece for the middle. I would be sure that I flipped the pieces so nothing matched. So that is more like 25-25-50, but it will sure look better than a seam down the middle.

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  75. 85
    Linda says:

    I also would like to know the answer to #81′s question please. I’m thinking the strips would have different lengths to make it look better than just one seam straight across. Also, would you mix up the fabrics instead of one fabric sewn together? If you sew the pieces together, would you make a straight seam or would you miter the seam? I’m a very new quilter so I realize these may be silly questions for the majority of people, but I really am not sure. Please give me some help! I LOVE this quilting thing that I’ve recently gotten into and can’t seem to learn it fast enough!!!! I appreciate anything you can tell me. Thank you so much.

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  77. 86
    Geraldean Tankersley says:

    I would love to see how the strip quilt is assembled. Thank you.

  78. 87
    JenK says:

    Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. Several years ago I made a “strippy” quilt, following the instructions in a kit I bought at a quilt show. Unfortunately, they didn’t say anything about sewing the strips in different directions, so after about 12 strips there was severe bowing and I had to rip out every seam. I read somewhere on-line to sew each new strip in the opposite direction — I tried that and it worked perfectly. I appreciate your sharing an alternate method for avoiding the dreaded bend and I shall try this soon when I make another one of these fun quilts to hang above our new bed.

  79. 88
    Julie says:

    Can you tell me the direction you quilt your strip quilts when you’re following the seam lines? Some say to alternate from left to right, then on the next row right to left. Others say to always go in one direction to avoid creating diagonal creases from the fabric being pulled in opposite directions. (Even with a walking foot they say.)

  80. 89
    Julie says:

    And thank you for all your inspiration and help here. Your work is always impeccable!

  81. 90
    Wendy says:

    I really want to make a strip quilt for my son, but want it to be a Queen size. I have only done quilting on a small basis and have no idea what is the proper procedure to make a larger strip quilt. Can you please tell me how to plan for a quilt that size? Thank you so much! Your quilts are such an inspiration!!

  82. 92
    chris says:

    Love your colors.So sweet.

  83. 93
    Amber Adamson says:

    Are you only top stitching in the ditches of your seams or are you also doing other top stitching? I would love to know how the quilt was assembled. Also, do you top stitch all the same direction or reverse on each row? Thanks for the help!!!

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  85. 94
    Jessica says:

    Planning to make my first strip quilt soon! Does it matter what kind/brand of fabric is used for the strips? Also what kind of batting do you recommend using?

  86. 95
    Kathryn says:

    Can you tell me how I would make strips wide enough for a king quilt, since the strips have to be cut selvage to selvage , rather than lengthwise? Also, what’s the best way to cut the strips , as to get even consistent strips? Thank you!

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