Friday, August 11, 2006

String Quilts - aka Telephone Book Quilts

I have always admired string quilts and wanted to make them. After a few false starts, using every scrap imaginable, I was disappointed that they didn’t exactly cut the mustard. It was the part about “using every scrap imaginable” that resulted in “didn’t exactly cut the mustard.”

My trash basket under my sewing machine is large – and I don’t empty it frequently, because ... well, you know, I might find a use for some of those scraps. Well, I DO use them. Digging through that basket is like an archeological dig - I find good things! And this is where I found many of the scraps for these 2 quilts.

After seeing Bonnie’s wonderful example at, I was inspired to try again. My first experiment was the pink quilt. I used an outdated telephone book as a foundation, trimmed the pages to about 4 inches wide (pick a size, any size!) x 9 inches (the size of the page) – and just started sewing down cute, pink scraps and any other childish scraps that sorta looked good. I pressed the strips down neatly as I went along - maybe after sewing down one strip on 20-30 pages. I can’t remember how many pages I used, but I remember sewing the pages together, end to end, and walking from one end of the house to the other, with the long strip encircling the entire house. I then neatly trimmed the edges to an exact 4 in. size. I faced it with a 4 inch (or whatever size you started with) strip of white, sewed down both sides, then layed my right angled ruler (Companion Angle) along the edge, with the blunt point of the ruler on one edge and started cutting triangles the width of your strip. You may have to unsew a few stitches after each slice. When you open it up, you will have a pretty good square. I pressed open at this point, and re-trimmed to exactly one size to assure accuracy. The edges are bias - be gentle.

I removed the paper after attaching the sashing. This paper removed easily. Don’t turn the fan on at the same time you’re engrossed with removing the paper! This project was a great idea for using up scraps, at a minimal cost, but it DID take time.

I was so thrilled with the result, I did the Turquoise Quilt, aka as Area Code 308. (I live in area code 308 – it was entertaining to read the names of acquaintances as I removed the paper foundation!) Same technique, but this time, half the strips were faced with white and half were faced with blue. I thought the plain white/blue pieces were a little large, so I sewed quick corners (2 different colors) on them, resulting in a whole new pattern. You can hardly tell it’s the same technique. Again, time was spent making this quilt, but not much money, and I used up a good selection of scraps.

There is no end of patterns you can make with this technique. After all, you are making half-square triangles. Try it once and you may be hooked.

I have one more, for the next time. In the meantime, I'm going to figure how to load photos in the right order!

Elaine Adair


Bonnie K. Hunter said...

Hi Elaine! Your blog looks great...and so do the quilts! Keep Stitching!


Shelina said...

I've never thought to use a phone book, but you are right, it would make the perfect foundation. I just threw away mine, but I may just be willing to give up some paes of the current one.

Patti said...

Your scrap quilts are marvelous! I use old phone book pages for sewing strings also - the paper comes off so easily, especially if you shorten the stitch.

Anonymous said...


Love your pages. I look them up occasionally. Nika had the great idea of recalling your blog at random.