Christa’s Quilt Along 6.2 – String of Pearls Block Sewing

Welcome to part 2 of my String of Pearls Quilt Along. Last time we cut out all the pieces for this graphic modern quilt. Be sure to visit my flickr group to see all the fabulous pictures everyone is sharing of their progress. I still have a couple of String of Pearls kits left.

Today we will begin sewing! It took me about 4 hours to complete all of the steps shown below. Remember to work at your own pace and have fun with it!

String of Pearls BlocksStep 1 – Framing the Pearls (1 Hour, 45 Minutes)

Using 1/4″ seams, begin by sewing a short 1.5″ x 5.5″  black strip to either side of your 5.5″ pearl squares. (If you used smaller squares to begin with, that’s fine – just trim down your accent strips.)

For efficiency, you can “chain sew” them. This means after you sew the first unit, don’t cut your threads. Just add the next pearl square and black strip and keep sewing until you’ve sewn one side of all 36 pearl squares.

String of Pearls Chain PiecingString of Pearls Chain PiecingTake the whole bundle off the machine, clip in between each set, and then sew the rest of the strips to the other side of the square. Repeat for all 36 squares.

Using a seam roller (or your finger), “finger press” your seams open.

Press Seams OpenHint: by pressing seams open, it will reduce bulk. It’s easier to line up the pieces without having to worry about the direction of your seams and your blocks will lie flatter, too!

Add the longer 1.5″ x 7.5″ black strips to either side of your squares, chain piecing both sides as above. If your blocks shrink up, check your seam allowances, or trim as you go.

Sew the Side StripsGive the blocks a final pressing and you’re ready for Step 2.

Finished PearlsHint: just sew a few blocks a day or work one one section at a time so you are not overwhelmed with sewing. This is supposed to be fun!

Step 2 – Sewing the Background Strips (45 minutes)

Grab your 2 grey half strips that are 3.5″ wide. Sew them to either side of a skinny half black strip so that you have a strip “band” that looks like this:

Skinny BandIt should measure 7.5″ wide by at least 20″ long.

Next, repeat the process using the rest of your 3.5″ wide full-length strips. The longer ones need to measure at least 40″ long. Remember, use 2 grey strips for every black strip. You should have a total of 4.5 sewn strip bands.

Strip PiecingSewing the Bands

You can chain piece as you go for efficiency. Do not worry if your strips do not end up the exact same length. You will be trimming them before you make your blocks.

Hint: to help prevent your bands from bowing, always sew with the black strip on top, in opposite directions each time.

Wider Background StripsNow repeat this process using the 5.5″ wide grey strips. Again you should end up with 4.5  strip bands that measure 11.5″ wide. Isn’t strip piecing fun?

Step 3 – Pressing Your Seams Open  (45 Minutes)

Press the seams open on all of your bands. Yes, this takes a little longer, but the blocks will lie flatter and it will be easier to match up the sewn pieces. Trust me. 🙂

Seam Roll FirstPress With an Iron

Optional – use a wooden seam roller to open your seams before you press them with a hot dry iron. This will help keep them straight. Press again from the front with your iron.

Step 4 – Cutting the Background Units (45 Minutes)

From the narrower fabric bands, cut a total of 72 (2.5″ x 7.5″) units. If your bands have shrunk up a little, that’s ok. You can square up your pearl blocks to match. Be sure to use a comfortable, sharp rotary cutter.

You should be able to get 16 cuts per 42″ long band with a little bit of scrap at either end.

Cut Smaller UnitsHint: for faster cutting, fold each strip in half so that you are cutting through  2 layers. Just take care that they don’t slip as you cut.

From the wider fabric bands, repeat the process, cutting a total of 72 (2.5″ x 11.5″) units. If any adjustments are needed, wait until the next tutorial when we will sew them on.

Wider BandsRemember to work at a nice even pace and stop when you need a break. Nothing feels worse than rushing and making mistakes. This is supposed to be relaxing, not stressful. 🙂

Ready for the next lesson!

Ready for the next lesson!

Now it’s your turn – show me whatcha got! Please share pictures of your progress on my flickr group: Christa’s Quilt Along.

Quilt Along Schedule – links will be active at the completion of each step:

String of Pearls Quilt Along


Grab my Quilt Along button!

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11 thoughts on “Christa’s Quilt Along 6.2 – String of Pearls Block Sewing

  1. Ann @Bright Side of Balance says:

    I’m excited!! Nearly caught up just need to sew the bands and then see if i have enough black and background fabric to make more blocks. I was using yardage and cut one 5.5 x WOF strip of 12 different fabrics! Twice as many squares!!!!

  2. Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation says:

    why have I never heard of a seam roller?? That would make life easier! Your quilt is going to be spectacular, and your tutorial is so easy to follow! You should link up your progress at Needle and Thread Thursday when you get a chance!

    🙂 Kelly

  3. Kerry says:

    Having a crap day. Washing machine leaked water everywhere. Then I come on here
    and see this great tutorial and it has made me smile. Thank you Christa. The black
    really enhances the blocks.

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