Friday, March 29, 2019

Making a Strip Pieced Sailboat

Today I thought I'd share how I did some improv piecing to make the sailboat in Seafarer. There's currently no pattern for the boat, though I could write one if there's enough interest.

improv string sailboat by QuiltFabrication

When making string blocks, a lot of quilters like to use a foundation upon which to stitch their strings to, mainly so they have a block outline to follow. I've done that before, using both paper, which I hated ripping out, and a lightweight fabric foundation, adding extra weight.

So this time, I decided to just wing it, and use a ruler as a guide. After each strip was sewn on, the seams were pressed to give me a better idea of how well I was filling the block space outlined by the ruler.

block size determined by the ruler

Some may think this is easy, rather mindless sewing, but not for me. Each strip in the block was planned out so that the appearance of large areas of either light or dark values wouldn't happen, causing a distraction. I find piecing string blocks to be just a challenging as any other block!

For the sailboat, I started with a darker ocean under the boat, as if it was casting a shadow.

boat and water complete with shadow underneath

After string piecing sails, the mast was placed with one side on the center line. From memories of my Dad's boat, I know that one sail is smaller than the other. With the help of a Tri-Recs ruler, the little sail is cut.

making the sails for the boat

And a corresponding angle is cut from ocean strips, to fill in the remaining block area on that side.

piecing the sail and the sea

Turns out, I didn't make the ocean strips long enough, so some of this set got replaced. But now I have two pieces with the correct angle to stitch together for the small sail side.

small sail for the sailboat

Before sewing it all together, it needs a quick check to see how it's coming together.

sailboat almost done

With a little bit of ocean to add in under the small sail, I can stitch it all together and trim, right? 

But the boat spanning the entire strip, from block edge to block edge, looks odd. The boat in this picture is close to what my Dad had,

                                     real sailboat
and the front of the boat does not go beyond the small sail. My boat needs some trimming! That's pretty easy - it's just like joining pieces together to make binding, double checking that the angle is right!

trimming down the boat

Ah, much better.

sailboat stitched and ready for trimming

Now to sew it all together, and trim to the 9.5" x 9.5" block size, keeping the strips horizontal, and the right side of the mast at the block point for maximum sail size on the right.

finished sailboat string block

Ta-da! Not bad for an improv sailboat, huh? Have you ever done any improv piecing to make a flower, animal, bug, or something else to fit into a quilt? If so, tell us about it in the comments below - I'd love to hear!

Happy Quilting Everyone!

Follow on Bloglovin


  1. Susan, All of those blues are so beautiful! What a clever quilt.

  2. Your jib is in great proportion to the mainsail and the boat itself!! I grew up sailing and currently have a 16' Albacore (mahogany, day-sailor). I want to try to make a block like will always remind me of my dad and his love of sailing!

  3. You are so so so talented Susan - love the block!

  4. Hi Susan! What a great explanation on how you made your improv boat. Both sails looks fabulous, and the mast is a necessary but usually missing piece from most quilting block boats. ~smile~ Roseanne

  5. Thank you for sharing this Susan. I’ve been thinking about making a wall quilt with 3 sailboats on a beautiful sunny early evening. Reflections of the boats are cast onto the water and and a sky with the colours of peach, lavender and blue to represent a sunset. Your idea of a string quilt and your description of how to piece the boat has been an inspiration. ����

  6. Those question marks were meant to be a thank you emoji

  7. You have inspired me! This is stunning.


Thank you so much for just made my day!