Why do we piece HeartStrings blocks on a foundation?

That’s a question I get fairly frequently so I thought I’d address it here on the blog.

First, I want to make sure that everyone understands that the fabric foundation is ONLY required for the blocks that are sent in for group quilts. Because we are piecing these blocks on the diagonal from strings they have a tendency to stretch. By using a foundation and trimming the final block to 9.5 inches, we can make sure that the blocks coming from different quilters will all work well with each other. You can read the guidelines for blocks sent in for group quilts on our website.

If you are making a HeartStrings quilt yourself, any PATTERN and any METHOD of construction can be used and we suggest you think about the organization that will receive the donated quilt and keep their requirements in mind as you make the quilt.

String quilts have traditionally been foundation pieced on fabric or paper but there are several books that describe techniques for making them without foundations. Some of these don’t actually start with strings and they involve cutting rectangles or strips from scraps or yardage.

Some of my favorites
Liberated String Quilts by Gwen Marston
Strips and Strings by Evelyn Sloppy

While technically not string quilts, I also like the Stack the Deck books by Karla Alexander and Cut Loose Quilts by Jan Mullen for their stack and slash type quilts. I made one HeartStrings quilt based on a pattern by Karla Alexander that turned out very cute and was donated to the Ronald McDonald House here in Minneapolis.

You can find patterns that use a paper or fabric foundation in the books String Quilts with Style by Aug & Newman and Spectacular String-Pieced Quilts by the editors of Traditional Quiltworks and Quilting Today magazines.

Online you can find instructions at Bonnie Hunter’s Quiltville site and I’ve posted some simple instructions at MaryQuilt.com.

So whether you choose to piece blocks according to our guidelines for group quilts or piece your own quilts with or without foundations, I hope you will join us in making and donating HeartStrings quilts to your local charities. Don’t forget to check out our photo albums for more inspiration.

2 thoughts on “Why do we piece HeartStrings blocks on a foundation?”

  1. I love that Liberated Strings book by Gwen Marston … if only I had her sense of freedom!!I’ve found that diagonal strings are definately easier with a foundation, straight pieced strings work fine without. As you say, use the group guidelines for blocks sent in, otherwise use what works for you 🙂


  2. One reason I like to use a foundation (frequently telephone book pages) is that I can start with any old length strip, and NOT MEASURE. I just lay it on that foundation, and whack it off when it reaches the edge of the paper (or muslin). I am confident this saves a LOT of time, not having to measure anything.


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