Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Phone book" blocks

Here's a subtitle for you . . . Keep on Making the Phone Books! (Wink)

Where would I be, without those great pages from the phone books? Nice and thin, and they tear so nicely . . .

OK, I will tell you what I'm talking about. Pull up your chair, grab a cuppa and a snack, and be forewarned -- it's a picture-heavy post and tutorial!

You see . . . (pulls chair closer, looks furtively over shoulder, then whispers) ....I have a guilty secret. Whenever they drop off phone books at our driveway, I scamper out, tuck them under my arm, and tiptoe back into the house. I hide them in my quilting stash.

My family thinks they don't print them any more -- they haven't see one in years. (Grin)

It gives me a never-ending supply of foundation papers for these blocks!

Ain't they bee-yewtifull?!!

Well, many of you may already know how to make these, but some of you might not -- it is for those "phone book block" rookies that this tutorial is created!

I always like to give credit where credit is due, and many years ago I got this from a Bonnie Hunter post. I don't do things exactly as she did, but that's where the concept came to me.

Let's get started!

The first thing you want to do is grab some pages ripped from an old (or new, if you are desperate) phone book, and cut them to size. You can see from this photo that I cut mine at 5.5 inches square. That way (if I am keeping a quarter inch seam everywhere) I end up with five inch blocks. I like 'em that way, but you can make your squares any size you choose!

Now, grab some strips of fabric from your scrap bin, and lay one of them down on the paper, right side up, like this:

Now grab one more. No fair peeking and picking and choosing.....this is supposed to be a happy-scrappy project, and it will look fabulous when we complete the block.

Yes, it will. Trust me.

Just close your eyes, stick your hand into the scraps, and bring one up!

Place your new strip on top of the other so that the right sides are together and the edges line up, like this:

Now stitch (with a really short stitch length) a quarter inch from the raw edges . . . will seem kinda crinkly and funny going through fabric AND paper, but you'll get used to it. Don't be concerned if the paper wants to poke up or anything -- as long as it doesn't tear, you're good!

Now you can finger press and this is what you have:

Yay! Now on to the next step.  Line up yet another strip (right sides together, OK?) along the edge of the right-hand piece . . .
Here -- check it out in this photo and it will make more sense:

Kapeesh? Now you will sew along those edges, a quarter inch like before!

Get the picture? So, you keep on going across the paper until you have completely covered it, and it looks something like this:

Kinda messy, but oh, the potential!

Flip that bad boy over, like this:

And then use your ruler and rotary cutter to trim it up:

Now you have this!

The paper on the back is making it curl up a little, which is why the top corners look a little bit wonky. (Grin)

UPDATE!!!!  Phyllis was a sweetie and reminded me that I had left out a step -- since you use a short stitch on these, this is the point at which the paper tears off so easily!! That is why I LOVE my phone book pages!
Tear them off and then....
Now you can start laying them out and playing with them...

I decided that a table runner of these blocks was the order of the day. But I kinda thought that it was a little too busy, with no spot for your eye to rest on . . .

Back to the stash!

Ahhh, found a piece of Maya, by Anthology....look at this now!

Me likee!

I took some of my blocks and alternated the directions of the strips, and put four of them together with quarter inch seams:

(This is a great way to play with your scraps from your favorite projects!)
I cut a rectangle from the orange, about 10.5 long and 5.5 wide, and assembled the runner:

Voila! She is finished!
Here are some eye-candy pictures for you:

I need a handkerchief! I'm drooling over these fabrics!

My favorite way to use these blocks is to put them "on point" and use some setting can get some fun projects that way, from totes to lap quilts!

I hope this tutorial will inspire some phone book tearing and slicing and some fabric play-time!



  1. I love phone books too - everyone passes their old ones on to me. Hmm, I like the idea of on point and I do have a bucket of scraps......

  2. what a wonderful idea, now I know what to do with those old phone books I have that I never use. I'll have to give it a try. Thanks!!!

  3. Beautiful. I wondered why they still make phone books. Now I know -- the publisher must be a quilter, lol. :)

  4. I never thought to use old (or new) phone book pages... thanks for sharing!! I used pages from Sears catalogues... the other day my DH found a Christmas Wish Book stashed away and was wondering why in tarnation I was keeping it because it was 3 years old!! lol

  5. What a neat idea! I'm new to quilting and this looks easy enough for me. One you tear off the paper after sewing strips together?

  6. As I'm so new to the quilting world, this is a new concept to me. LOVE your tablerunner! The pop of orange is perfect for the fall season. Thank you for taking the time to write and photograph this tutorial.

  7. I have just recently discovered the joys of piecing on phone book pages. I started at the back of the book, hoping that Hubby won't need anything that starts with Z. :-)

  8. Great tutorial! Just one question...what is the advantage of using the paper? I have used paper for paper-piecing, but that has a printed pattern. I'm curious why you wouldn't just sew the strips together without paper? Sorry for sounding like a dunce, but I've never heard of this before.

    1. You can use uneven pieces or you can do a diagonal layout. When using small strips the close stitching makes them more secure seams.

  9. That's a great repurposing idea ("intended" purpose for you) lol. I would have thought of these pages being like newsprint and the ink would end up all over your fabric. So I pulled out a phone book and found out NO that is not the case. I just might have me a new supply of stabilizing paper for applique, if it doesn't prove to be too thin. I usually use photocopy paper but sometimes that is too heavy. Thanks for the new inspiration and recycling plan!

  10. Telephone books can be used for Log Cabin blocks also. Draw the logs onto the sheets and stitch away.

  11. I have not tried this with a phonebook...OMG! I KNOW this will work better than printer paper!!!

  12. What a great idea! Never thought about that!

  13. Great idea! I will have to give this a try. Love your fabrics!

  14. I wondered why they still printed phone books! Do you have a problem with the ink transfering to the fabric?

  15. I don't understand why you need foundation paper for this project at all? It's just strips sewn together in straight lines, presumably no bias edges, then ironed and I missing something?

  16. How fun.....I would say stinking it!!

  17. I would never even thought of this! How clever. And frugal. :)

  18. What a great new recycling idea! I can't wait to use it.

  19. So clever! Beautiful blocks- so cheerful and colorful (do I recognize some of those fabrics? ha ha.)

  20. Can I mention what I have been using instead of paper? I save the dryer sheets and when I have enough, I cut them into squares (or use them as rectangles too) and use that for the foundation piece...don't have to tear them off, they are very light weight and they wash just fine....

  21. Can new dryer sheets be used?

  22. Absolutely! Then after you tear them away, a nice scent will probably remain!


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