Staggered Strips Quilt Block

Hello crafty friends,

Today I have another quilt block tutorial to share with you. I'm calling it the Staggered Strips Block. The effect is a stack of different bright patterns framed by a common background. For my blocks' background I chose a tree bark pattern, but you can definitely use a solid with fun results. This tutorial illustrates how to make a 6x10 block. However, because of the simple construction, you can alter these directions to make blocks of any size.

I tested quite a few ways to construct this block before I found the simplest steps to get the random design I desired. For those of you who tend to be more uptight about pre-planning your blocks with exact measurements, this process might be a little uncomfortable. But, try it anyway. The outcome is worth it. And, sometimes, it's good to get out of our comfort zone. Plus, this is a great remnant buster - get rid of those little bits of fabric that you have left over from ancient projects!

Here are the directions for making one block:

Begin by cutting your background fabric (A) into 1.5" strips and 2.5" strips.

Trim the 1.5" strips into eight various lengths from 2" to 4". (For best results try to get some really random lengths in there like 3.25" or 2.75".) Set those aside. Do the same for the 2.5" strips but you only need six lengths of that one.

Take your bright pattern fabrics (B) (great place to use random scraps if you are looking for something funky) and cut them into 1.5" strips and then trim four pieces random lengths from there in the same manner you did with the background strips.  Repeat the process making three 2.5" wide strips.

At this point, organize your 1.5" and 2.5" strips into piles. Take your pile of 1.5 strips to your sewing machine. Choose a colorful pattern (B) strip and grab 2 lengths of background (A) fabric that will go on either side of it.

The idea is to come decently close to the 6.5" horizontal measurement that you will need in the end, but an inch or two on either side that will need to be trimmed on your strip is all part of the process. You might want to choose a long background strip for one side and a short one for the other mixed in with strips that are more evenly distributed. You want your center row of bright blocks to playfully stagger up the middle.

An example of how you would choose the proper lengths. To make a finished strip that is close to the measurement you want.
With a 1/4" seam allowance, sew the two A fabrics on either side of the B fabric.

You can definitely use the faster chain piecing technique when sewing a bunch of these strips together. How I would recommend doing that is to get your pieces all matched the way you would like them and then make them into stacks in the correct order so you will ensure that your strip in the end will be long enough or, on the flip side, not too long.

Repeat the process for the 2.5" strips. Press the seams to the side of the darker fabric.

Now you have the strips you need to construct your block. Each block is made up of four 1.5" strips and three 2.5" strips. (On my quilt I wanted the order of these to be random so each block is different, but you could do it more orderly if you'd like.) Take your strips and lay them out in the order you think they look best.

Please Note:
  • Keep in mind that the design should look like a wonky stack of colored blocks up through the middle. 
  • Take special care when pinning your two strips to sew together that you match up the fabrics where you want them. You are most likely sewing together two strips that are different lengths.
  • Make sure you have a clear vision of the desired width of your block when putting your layout together. You want to make sure that you leave yourself enough background fabric on the sides to be able to seam to the block next to it on your quilt and leave enough of that background fabric so that it doesn't look strange.
Stitch your strips together with a 1/4" seam allowance.

Press your seams to one direction. Like this:

Wrong side of finished block. You can see the seams are all going upward.
Now it's time to trim your block down to size. Use your rotary cutter to trim down the sides of the block to the 6.5". Make sure you have a good idea where both sides should get trimmed for best balance before you cut. This will help to ensure your finished block looks like you imagined.

Mine is wonky and woodsy!
Good luck and happy sewing!

P.S. For more quilty fun,  please check out our pinwheel block tutorial and scrappy log cabin block tutorial.


  1. That looks really cool :) I keep wanting to try quilting but I can barely sew a straight line! Plus I don't think I have time or room for yet another hobby ;)

    1. Oh are young! We have plenty of time to turn you into a quilter :)

    2. You can't sew a straight line here's a tip for you. Take a pad of post-it-notes (3") and stick it on the quarter inch mark. Now you're material will glide to the pressure foot and you've got a perfect 1/4" seam and a straight line. Thats how I'm teaching my grandaughter to sew.

  2. Your talent is staggering! (um, haha?)

  3. Replies
    1. You know, the quilt I am working on (that includes all the blocks I have posted lately) has a woodland theme. I thought I would be tired of it by now...but I'm totally not! I have plans in the works for another iteration of the theme. Bark and all! :)

  4. I love strip piecing for quilts, have made several, and yours caught my eye immediately! Thanks for sharing, and your tutorial is great! Hope you don't mind that I'll be pinning it right away!

    1. Pin away my away :) And thanks for the kind words!

  5. do you by any chance have a photo of the finished quilt? The final block you show looks awesome!

    1. Thanks for the kind words....but not yet! However, keep checking back because I have been cranking away on the quilt and hopefully will have some in-progress pics to share soon. This design incorporates lots of different blocks so it's difficult to go too quickly and sort of "assembly line" some of the sewing. You can see the beginning of my creative process here:

  6. Love the idea! I think I'll make some placemats with this pattern! Thanks for your creativity and for sharing it!

    1. Placemats are a really fun idea for this block! I'd love to see some finished pics when you're done :)

  7. Please help! I want to learn to quilt, but don't know where to begin. My wonderful family gave me a sewing machine for my birthday and I have been saving all types of fabric (old jeans, shirts, dresses, etc.). I get a little scared when I can't comprehend what RST, selvage edge, etc. means. :) Do I just jump in "head first" and see what happens or is there a way to get started?

    1. Hello there Anonymous! First, I would suggest getting your feet wet with a couple books. Me and My Sewing Machine by Kate Haxell is a great resource to help you understand how your machine works. (I cannot stress to you enough how important that is when starting out.)

      Then, I would look at some of the books out there that have step-by-step techniques and projects for beginning sewists. If you are completely new to sewing, you will want to get comfortable with basic skills in books such as that before you jump into making something as ambitious as a quilt. Those little projects are really confidence builders.

      When I first started sewing I took some classes at my local community college. I learned so much and it really set me on the road to learning to sew "the right way".

      Good luck! I'm excited for you!

  8. I always use ELeanor Burns, Qiad ( quilt in a day) for beginners. You can find her books at the library