Nearly everyone has at least a few pairs of old blue jeans hanging in the closet or maybe a skirt or two. It's easy to recycle denim garments to make a blue jeans quilt. Don't hesitate to introduce other fabrics into the quilt alongside the denim, such as the flannel plaids in Candace Moore's colorful example above.
Each pair of jeans doesn't yield lots of fabric, but you can quickly build a stash by checking the racks at local thrift shops for jeans that are soft and faded, but not totally worn out.
Look for bib overalls, too, especially kid's overalls with cute bibs that would be a fun addition when incorporated into a quilt block or used on the front of a denim tote or purse. And don't forget to pick up denim skirts since they do have quite a bit of usable yardage.
Before You Begin
- Wash the jeans and other clothes and dry them.
- It can take forever to rip seams apart, and the task is not usually worth the effort for the small amount of fabric you'll gain, so grab a sharp pair of fabric scissors and cut out around the seams to remove the usable fabric. Throw the seamed areas away or save them to use as embellishments.
- Inspect the denim and discard fabric that's thin or stretched out of shape. Be sure to take a close look at the knees and seats, since those areas are prone to wear.
- Keep the back pockets and the fabric around them intact if you'd like to use pockets to embellish a few special blocks.
- Press all of your denim pieces and you're ready to cut patches for the quilt.
You Don't Need a Special Pattern for a Denim Quilt
Making a denim quilt isn't a lot different than sewing any other quilt, but the fabric's heavier weight makes some projects easier to assemble than others. It's usually best to keep denim patchwork simple, avoiding small patches that add lots of weight and bulk within their seam allowances.
- Quilt batting can make the project even heavier so consider omitting it entirely.
- You can make the quilt a bit lighter by using a regular cotton quilting fabric for the quilt backing, rather than denim.
- Your choice of fabrics depends on how the quilt will be used―it might be best to make a sturdy quilt entirely from denim if you intend to use it outdoors as a picnic blanket.
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Make a Denim Quilt From Recycled Blue Jeans
Heather Banks, who specializes in quilts made from recycled fabric, purchased the denim quilt shown here from the granddaughter of the quilter. It was made in Nebraska and is a good example of a quilt that makes the bulky side seams an important part of the design.
Each block is made from three strips of the same size, with the seam patch placed in the middle. Clever placement of color makes the quilt look a bit like a Bricks and Cobblestones quilt, but it's actually more similar to the blocks used in the Rail Fence.
- Use different colors of denim in the quilt to achieve a dramatic difference from patch to patch.
- Instead of varying the denim, add other fabrics. Denim trim with raw-edged seams surrounds each flannel square.
- Sew with blue denim patches of different shades (or choose patches that have been faded to different levels) to achieve a subtle variation between quilt blocks.
- Think about the different ways that ceramic tile is applied to floors and choose a similar arrangement for your denim quilt blocks.
- An easy rag quilt pattern would be perfect sewn in denim, but omit the batting layer to reduce weight. Follow the instructions will help you get started
- Many denim quilts are sewn with recycled denim blue jeans, which are usually made from denim that's much heavier than fabric on a bolt. Mix the two types of dei[nim for a unique look.
- Denim shirts and other garments are usually stitched from lighter weight fabrics.
- The lighter weight your denim, the easier it will be to work with denim patchwork.
- Nearly all denim quilts are heavy, something to keep in mind as you plan the project.
Pre-Wash New Denim
Wash new denim fabric at least twice for a softer look and feel, and be sure to press denim before using it in a quilt.
Denim Sewing Advice
- Most recycled denim tends to fray, so it's not a bad idea to sew large, plain blocks together with 1/2-inch seams.
- New, lightweight denim isn't as prone to fraying, so go ahead and use 1/4-inch seams if you're making blocks with smaller pieces.
- Sew with cotton thread or purchase jeans thread, which is available in many colors.
- It's best to sew denim fabric with a special denim needle (refer to your sewing machine manual for suggestions).
- Some quilters like to set their sewing machines to sew about 10 to 12 stitches per inch when working with denim (15 per inch or so if you're making a frayed edge quilt).
- You'll find that a walking foot helps keep the edges of denim fabric from shifting as you sew.
You probably don't want to hand quilt a denim project―it would take forever to get the needle in and out of the heavy layers. Luckily, casual denim looks great with simple machine quilting, so grab a walking foot and finish the quilt with straight stitching.
Consider adding large meander stitching to large areas to dress them up a bit.
You might also choose to tie the quilt with plain or decorative cotton yarns.
Binding a Denim Quilt
You usually can't get enough long pieces from recycled denim to make binding strips, and assembling short strips produces binding with lots of heavy seam allowances that will create bulky strips around the quilt.
New denim and heavy cotton twill are both good binding options for denim quilts. The two layers of a double-fold binding will help keep the edge intact.
Denim is a wonderful, casual fabric that looks great no matter whether it's sewn together in structured blocks or random pieces. Experiment with denim fabrics to see what works best for you and remember, there are no rules.
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Yellow Rose Denim Mug Rug
Sues from Backpocket Designs put a small piece of denim to good use by crafting this denim mug rug and highlighting the blue denim with a yellow rose, green leaves, and strips of fabric along one side.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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