Kumasi Cross


  • 70cm approximately of assorted scraps in plains and patterns for strings
  • 70cm of old sheets or calico to use for the foundation
  • 50cm in total of green fabrics (I used 4 tones)
  • fat 1/4 of green fabric for the border
  • 53 x 137cm (21 x 54") of wadding
  • 90cm of fabric for backing and binding
  • A5 sheet of template plastic

Finished Size

19 x 52in

Skill Level


You can download a pdf copy of the original magazine pages for this project here, Kumasi Cross

String patchwork is one of my favourite techniques - easy to sew, it is an ideal way to use up scraps and to include seemingly disparate or ‘ugly’ fabrics. The maxim ‘more is better’ definitely applies here, so try and assemble a good selection of fabrics. Quilt shops often have bargain bags of small scraps. I tend to have a small carrier bag permanently hooked on the back of my chair, into which I throw all my small scraps of fabric. The colour scheme for Kumasi Cross was inspired by various photos of women and textiles across Africa; the wonderful blankets of the Maasai, the exuberant commercial fabric prints common throughout Africa, Kente cloths and Asafo flags. It is best sewn by machine as the patches are trimmed to size later. If hand sewing, make sure that you start and finish seams within the edges of the calico foundation, to prevent cutting through stitching at a later stage. I made this wall quilt long and skinny to fit a stairwell. However, simply make as many blocks as you like! For a large project such as a bed quilt, you could scale up the block on a photocopier.
TIP! Many string quilts dating from the first half of the twentieth century were sewn onto foundation pieces cut from newspapers or other paper. This is another option, in which case, the paper is removed once the blocks are sewn.

Preparing the templates

  1. Using template plastic, trace off the templates. Note that these templates include a 1/4" seam allowance, so cut out on the line.
  2. Draw round the template A onto the foundation fabric and cut out 25 foundation patches.
TIP! The strings are small scraps of fabric - strips, rectangles and wedgeshaped pieces. As the patches are stabilised by sewing onto a foundation block, you can ignore the direction of the grain lines.

Sewing the blocks

Figure 1: Placing and sewing the fabric
Figure 1: Placing and sewing the fabric strings
  1. Iron all your string fabric
  2. Starting in the middle of the foundation fabric, sew on strips of fabric. The first string should be laid on the foundation, right side facing you. Lay the second fabric, right side down and sew allowing a 1/4" seam allowance. Flip back the second string and finger press. Do not cut off any excess fabric. Lay on a third strip and sew. Continue until you cannot see any of the foundation fabric. It is best to use irregular shapes and angles. Do not try to make it neat and parallel!
TIP! The final strings should not be too small as you will lose 1/4" on each side because of the seams.
  1. Iron the block on the reverse and then trim off the excess fabric to the edge of the foundation patch. Make 25 blocks like this.
  2. Using template B, cut out 50 triangles in plain fabric. I selected randomly from the four greens, so that either side was different. Sew to either side of the string pieced patch with a 1/4" seam. Press seams open or towards B if it is a dark fabric.
  3. Trim all blocks to the same size.
  4. For the top right and bottom left blocks cut two 6 1/4" squares from plain fabric. Cover the corners with a small triangular patch, so that a continuous chain is formed. (Draw a diagonal line 2 3/4" across one corner of the square and sew a triangle on this seam line.
  5. Arrange blocks in a pleasing combination of 3 x 9, remembering to balance any strong patterns or colours. Refer to Figure 2 for the layout.
  6. Sew the 3 blocks into strips and then the 9 strips together. Pin where the string pieced sections meet to ensure accurate points when sewing. Iron.
  7. Cut 2 borders 2 1/4" x 50" and 2 1/4" x 20" (joining the fabric if necessary). Sew on the long borders, followed by the shorter borders. Iron and trim off any excess.

Option As a variation on a straightforward border, I cut the border at intervals and inserted scraps of patterned fabric.

Figure 2: Layout DiagramFinished Quilt
(Left ) Figure 2: Layout Diagram

(Right) Finished Quilt

Quilting and Finishing

TIP! As an alternative to tacking, you could quilt using a small quilting hoop specially designed for machine embroidery. Whichever method you use, it is important to keep an even tension as you quilt.

  1. Cut and join the backing fabric to give a piece 21 x 54". Layer the quilt top, wadding and backing fabric together. Pin and tack thoroughly.
  2. Kumasi Cross is machine quilted using a freeform circular pattern. The plain green triangles are quilted as are the points where the string sections meet. Each circle is a different size with the quilting extending into the border.
  3. Trim any excess wadding and backing fabric.
  4. Cut the binding strips 1 1/4" wide and a total length of 150". Press along the centre and press a 1/4"seam on one edge.
  5. Pin and sew the binding onto the front of the quilt, slip stitching by hand onto the back..
‘Alfresco’ wall quilt 65 x 65cm (251/2 x 251/2
‘Alfresco’ wall quilt 65 x 65cm (25 1/2 x 25 1/2")

Colour options

The quilt shown here is exactly the same block looking completely different when sewn in softer colours which are graduated from light to dark. The corner triangles are sewn in two close tones of turquoise.

First published in Popular Patchwork June 2000